Auto Service World
News   May 23, 2003   by Auto Service World

Industry Continuing to Battle Street Racing

While the sport compact performance market continues to outstrip all growth predictions, concerns regarding street racing continue in the automotive performance industry.
In the U.S., Racers Against Street Racing (RASR), a grass-roots enthusiast group that promotes legal alternatives to illegal street racing, will take its program to driver education classrooms throughout the country, hoping to nip the trend before it gets started.
“Young drivers today are surrounded by media messages that depict street racing as glamorous and OK,” said Christopher J. Kersting, president and CEO of SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, which administers RASR. He noted that it’s a rare day when there isn’t news about the unfortunate results of a street-racing incident in this country.
“We want to get a head-start on educating new drivers about the dangers of street racing and aggressive driving stunts that put them, and others, at risk of serious injury and death,” Kersting said. “SEMA is delighted that new drivers are embracing the opportunity to improve the performance and appearances of their vehicles. RASR is launching this program so that enthusiasts will take their racing activities to organized events at racetracks.”
The RASR program, currently being tested in driver ed classrooms, consists of a curriculum and video.
It addresses the realities of street racing, informs the students about local street-racing laws, and provides information about local legal alternatives.
The classroom lesson is augmented with a graphic videotape produced for the MTV show “Flipped.” Several members of RASR who compete in professional drag-racing competitions nationally are featured in the TV show. The RASR program says “It’s all about time slips. You can brag that your car will go a quarter-mile in ten seconds, but you can’t prove that boast without an official time slip from a racetrack. That’s your real proof.”
Around the U.S. and Canada, some local racetracks are offering “street legal racing night” programs to young drivers who want to race their cars and come away with the proof of their vehicle’s performance and their driving proficiency.
Few have gone as far as the police in Irwindale, Calif., though. There, the local police are involved to the extent that they are giving “tickets” — to go race at the Irwindale Speedway at no charge. Other venues with programs for enthusiasts include Old Bridge Township Raceway Park (Englishtown), N.J., Firebird International Raceway (Phoenix), San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, and Interstate Dragway, Moorhead, Minn. In Canada, tracks in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta have instituted programs.
Besides the racing opportunity, some racetracks add other lifestyle attractions to their street-legal race events. These include car shows, climbing walls, live music performances and foam play pits.
Gregg Guenthard, RASR’s director, said, “You don’t have to be a champion racer like John Force or Stephan Papadakis to be a winner at the motorsports track. You can get your adrenalin rush with your own daily driver car. These tracks provide a controlled environment for the drivers and their vehicles.”
Several corporate members of SEMA’s Sport Compact Council are financial sponsors of the outreach program to their young customers and customer- prospects.
Founding sponsors include North American Honda, Motorsports Direct, and Polk Audio, and industry sponsors include Advanced Clutch Technology, APC (American Products Company), NOPI, Pep Boys, and RELCO/Reliable Automotive. SEMA, whose Sports Compact Council houses the RASR program, is also a founding sponsor. The spokespeople for RASR include professional drag racers Ed Bergenholtz, JoJo Callos, Abel Ibarra, Lisa Kubo, Len Monserrat, Craig Paisley, Stephan Papadakis, Angela Proudfoot, and Chris Rado.

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