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Promoters aim to bring drag racing events back to EPCAL in 2022

Drag racing is set to make an encore in Calverton.

Two events — “Race Track Not Street, organized by Peter Scalzo, and “Scrambul Runway Challenge” organized by Andre Baxter — both plan to return to the Enterprise Park at Calverton in 2022.

Both promoters made presentations before the Riverhead Town Board Thursday about holding new drag racing events in 2022 after their initial events were held last fall.

Supervisor Yvette Aquiar asked board members to support her recommendation that any drag racing event done at EPCAL be sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association, something Mr. Baxter’s event did not have.

“We are self-insured and we have to limit any liability,” Ms. Aguiar said, adding that NHRA would put a lot more safety protocols in place.  

“After last year’s events, there were a lot of lessons learned,” the supervisor added. 

Ms. Aguiar said the drag racing events last year were a boost to the local economy.

Mr. Baxter’s latest event, called “Scrambul: Cold Fusion,” is scheduled for March 5-6. He anticipates 1,000 people per day, including 500 spectators.

It would run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, according to the application.  

Mr. Scalzo had initially planned to start on April 23 and then run four consecutive weeks and then shut down out of respect for bird breeding areas, which had been a cause for concern that led to a delay for the events last summer.

However, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that the bird breeding season will run from April 15 to Aug. 15, according to Jeff Murphree, the town building and planning administrator. 

Mr. Scalzo said he would have to adjust his plans.

He said they will only run 16 events, instead of the originally planed 24 events, on weekends from Aug. 20 through Oct. 16.

His application anticipates 2,456 people per event, of which 2,200 are spectators. Unlike last year, when Mr. Scalzo’s events were held on the western, 7,000-foot runway at EPCAL, this year he is proposing to use the eastern, 10,000-foot runway’s taxiway.

“There will be no racing on the 10,000-foot runway,” he said. “Racing will only be on the taxiway.”

The taxiway is 222-feet wide, and has water and sewer district connections at the site, he said.

The switch is due to the fact that the town has an agreement with Insurance Auto Auctions to store flood-damaged cars on the 7,000-foot runway and its taxiway, an agreement originally approved in 2014. IAA still has some cars there, Mr. Scalzo said.

“They would supersede any agreement that I had with the town,” Mr. Scalzo said. He said this affected their plans last year as well, since they wanted to continue drag racing into the month of October. Mr. Baxter is also seeking to use the taxiway on the 10,000-foot runway.

The 10,000-foot runway is also an active runway, whereas the 7,000-foot runway is not.

The lack of concrete barriers along the length of the racing area had been a concern for town officials prior to Mr. Baxter’s event, but they ultimately concluded the event could proceed as long as spectators were not lined up along the racing area. Mr. Baxter said he did not believe it was “fair or necessary to mandate an NRHA sanction.” 

“I don’t think that’s going to make the event safer,” he said.

Mr. Baxter said the concrete Jersey barriers are recommended by NHRA but not required.

The NHRA uses Jersey barriers to protect spectators and equipment, not drivers, he said.

Mr. Baxter said he has already run two events, one with Jersey barriers and one without. He said cars that hit a barrier are often totaled, whereas when there are no barriers, the drivers have enough space to straighten the car and avoid collision.  

“I’m very comfortable with the NHRA and the guidelines that we use,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said.

Mr. Scalzo said his events would be sanctioned by the NHRA, as the series last year was.

“That’s a guarantee,” he said.  

He said there is not a NHRA sanctioned track that doesn’t have Jersey barriers or guardrails.

“We’re presenting wholesome family entertainment for the entire community and we’re providing a venue where we can help cure the illegal street racing,” Mr. Scalzo said. 

The Town Board is planning a public hearings on the events, although a hearing notice has yet to be issued.