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Latest drag racing series set to begin Aug. 20 in Calverton

Take heart, gearheads — or anyone else feeling the need for speed. Drag racing is returning to Calverton.

Almost a year to the day when drag racing returned to Long Island for the first time in 17 years, the Race Track Not Street at EPCAL racing summer series will start Aug. 20 at Enterprise Park. Engines will roar again (although not too loud, with mufflers required). It will be the first of eight summer drag racing events, to be followed by eight fall dates, starting in September. Six events were run there this spring.

Promoter Pete Scalzo said each of last summer’s seven events — an eighth was rained out — sold out.

“I expected a big turnout,” he said. “The eye-opener to me from being in the motorsports business for almost 40 years is I had never ever had the support from the business community like I’ve have had here on Long Island. They have been absolutely unbelievable. They are so happy that drag racing is back.”

In retrospect, Scalzo said, he is thankful the Town of Riverhead imposed some restrictions last year, such as not permitting day-of-event ticket sales and requiring mufflers for the racing vehicles.

“After 17 years of no racing on Long Island,” he said, “we would have had 10,000 people show up [looking for tickets], and then the naysayers would have been able to say, ‘See, we told you so. There’s going to be traffic issues and this, this and that.’ We had absolutely no problems whatsoever.”

Last summer, 1,100 spectators and 225 racers were permitted for each event, but the number of spectators allowed this summer has been doubled to 2,200, said Scalzo. “I really doubt it, but I hope we sell out,” he said.

The maximum racing speed allowed on the one-eighth-of-a-mile strip will be 125 mph, he said.

The same 7,000-foot runway will be used for the track, but the layout will be different to prevent congestion, with the pits also being set up on the runway. The taxiway will be strictly set aside for spectator parking. “It worked out absolutely beautiful when we did our spring series,” said Scalzo, who also noted that a new timing system and new scoreboard will be used.

For the second straight summer, National Hot Rod Association-sanctioned Race Track Not Street will showcase “Beat the Heat,” which pits drivers against off-duty police officers. Those are scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10.

“Back in the day, it would take a lot of skill, a lot of money to go fast,” Scalzo said. “Today these cars, the Dodge Demons and the Mustangs and the Camaros, are so fast from the factory. That’s great, but the point is, where do they race them? Where do they test them? Where do they play with them? That’s why you need a drag strip.”

Scalzo, who has been involved in drag racing since 2006, said a drag strip can help prevent illegal and dangerous street racing. “What we do here gets the kids off the streets,” he said.

One doesn’t need a fancy race car in order to participate. Minivans and pickup trucks are allowed (no motorcycles, though.) Said Scalzo, “Anything can run out here.”

What is the feedback Scalzo has received from drag-racing aficionados?

“That I am God and they love me,” he said in jest. “Everybody is thrilled.”