More than 200 cars raced on one of the Calverton Enterprise Park runways Aug. 21 in the first installment of "Race Track, Not Street" series of drag-racing events in Calverton. Photo: Alek Lewis

Over 1,000 spectators watched as street cars raced down an unused runway at the Enterprise Park in Calverton during the inaugural weekend of the “Race Track, Not Street” drag racing event. 

The eight day, four weekend long series of races began on Saturday with an opening ceremony where Supervisor Yvette Aguiar issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 21 “Drag Racing Day” in Riverhead and honored Long Island Needs a Drag Strip, a Facebook group created in 2019 that has over 20,000 members advocating for the creation of a motorsports park on Long Island.

“Thank you all for coming out and everybody that was believing that this could be done. We did it,” said John Cozzali of Long Island Needs a Drag Strip. “It was a joint effort. It wasn’t just Long Island Needs a Drag Strip volunteers, it was all you people out here that supported us, that kept the dream alive, and we thank you.”

The group presented awards to Aguiar thanking her and the town board for “making history bringing drag racing back to Long Island” and to Peter Scalzo, Maree Moscati and Tom Wilson for making history by organizing the event.

A diverse set of 207 cars, old and new, raced on the track Saturday, Scalzo said. There were no complications.

In attendance were members of the town board, Rep. Lee Zeldin, Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. and County Legislator Leslie Kennedy, among others.

“It’s a long time coming and I’m just really grateful that after all of that hard work by thousands of Long Islanders that the Riverhead Town Board, under the leadership of a new town supervisor, made today a reality and this is a sight that hopefully we’re gonna see forever,” Zeldin said.

Olivia Meyer, winner of the Riverhead Idol contest, sang “God Bless America” during the presentation of colors. Long Island native Sal Valentinetti, who came in fifth place in the 11th season of America’s Got Talent, sang the national anthem. 

Aguiar drove down the track in a shiny red classic 1939 Hudson to break the ribbon in the opening ceremony. In the passenger’s seat was Lisa Pickersgill, the daughter of former Business Improvement District President Ray Pickersgill, who died of COVID-19 last year

The first race was between 6-year-old Jason Dobie and 7-year-old Billy Madden, two junior racers.

The second race was between Councilman Ken Rothwell and town hall Network and Systems Administrator Henry “Chip” Kreymborg. Kreymborg was victorious.

The rest of the series will feature night races on Saturdays, from 4 p.m. to 10:45 p.m., and day races on Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the weekend of Sept. 11. Spectators can begin arriving at 8 a.m. for the daytime events and 1 p.m. for nighttime events. 

Today’s event was canceled because of Hurricane Henri and will be rescheduled to the rain date of Sept. 18 as a daytime event, Scalzo said. The other rain date is a daytime event on Sept. 19. 

Tickets for racers are $50, which includes admission. Tickets for adult spectators cost $25, while kids age 10 and under can enter for free. General parking for spectators is free and bleachers are set up next to the track for seating. Spectators wishing to park in the pit area next to the track and tailgate during the event will need to pay $15 per vehicle.

Tickets must be purchased online on the event’s website and cannot be purchased at the door.

Rules and regulations for both racers and spectators are posted on the event’s website. The event is sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association.

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Alek Lewis

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]