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

More drag racing could be coming to Riverhead next year, as “Race Track, Not Street” promoter Peter Scalzo has submitted event applications for 12 weekends, each featuring two drag racing events at the Enterprise Park in Calverton.

The 24 events would take place in three series, one in spring, one in summer and one in fall. Scalzo submitted three “large-event” permit applications to the Riverhead Town Clerk this week. The events would take place on Saturdays from 1 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

“Race Track, Not Street Spring Classic” proposed dates: 

  • April 23-24
  • April 30-May 1
  • May 7-8
  • May 14-15
  • Rain dates: May 21-22, May 28-29

“Race Track, Not Street Summer Classic” proposed dates:

  • Aug. 20-21
  • Aug. 27-28
  • Sept. 3-4
  • Sept. 10-11
  • Rain dates: Sept. 17-18

“Race Track, Not Street Fall Classic” proposed dates:

  • Sept. 24-25
  • Oct. 1-2
  • Oct. 8-9
  • Oct. 15-16
  • Rain dates: Oct. 22-23

Scalzo said in a phone interview the events were intentionally scheduled around bird nesting season, which delayed the prior drag racing events.

The event would take place on the taxiway of EPCAL’s active 10,000-foot runway, as opposed to the 7,000-foot runway Scalzo used during this year’s events. The 2022 events would be an eight-mile race similar to this year’s. However, the application also states the event can become a quarter-mile race if the town allows the use of a traction compound on the taxiway surface.

Scalzo said he chose to submit the application for the new events taxiway on the 10,000ft runway to avoid any conflicts with the town’s option agreement with Insurance Auto Auctions. The group entered an option agreement in 2014 with the town to store flood-damaged vehicles. on the 7,000ft runway. IAA exercised the agreement after Tropical Storm Ida last month right before Scalzo’s last weekend, although his event wasn’t affected. Scalzo had filed an application to continue his racing series in October but withdrew his application after the option agreement was exercised.

His application also states that if the taxiway of the 10,000-foot runway is unavailable, he would be open to using the 7,000-foot runway. A part of the taxiway is owned by Riverhead Building Supply; and the business needed to be included as a part of an insurance agreement with another drag racing event on the 10,000ft runway, the “Scrambul Raceway Challenge.” 

The applications also request a larger number of attendees than his prior events. This year’s events were limited to 1,100 spectators per event, however the events ended up allowing 1,300 after a miscommunication with the town. The new applications request 2,200 spectators per event.

All but one of Scalzo’s eight scheduled dates in 2020 were sold out, although one day was rained out due to Hurricane Henri. The event was sponsored by businesses across Long Island and also by the Facebook page Long Island Needs a Dragstrip, made up of vocal advocates of drag racing at Calverton. 

The future use of the runway for drag racing may also be dependent on the deal with Calverton Aviation & Technology, which signed a $40-million land deal with the town in 2018. The town is unable to close the deal without a final subdivision approval and that is hung up because of the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s requirements the town hasn’t been able to meet for two regulatory permits. The town sued the DEC in February, seeking to have the agency’s “notice of incomplete application” set aside, but the case remains pending. 

Critics of the land deal have also raised concerns about the financial condition of CAT’s parent company, Triple Five Group, whose mega malls have suffered in the COVID-19 pandemic, but a letter from a public accounting firm presented to the board in July said the company still has the money to pay for the land.

The status of drag racing events may also depend on the upcoming town board election. Councilwoman Catherine Kent, a Democrat running against incumbent Yvette Aguiar for the Supervisor seat, abstained from the approval of the drag racing events. Meanwhile Aguiar is an ardent supporter of the drag racing events and said she would support making them a permanent fixture if the deal with CAT falls through. Aguiar has also obtained reelection endorsements from “Race Track, Not Street” and Long Island Needs a Drag Strip.

The previous drag racing events have been scrutinized by some locals who live in neighborhoods surrounding EPCAL at town board meetings as being loud and disrupting the peace of their neighborhoods. The Riverhead Police Department found no violation of town code related to noise during the events.

Support local journalism.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

SHARE
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.