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

The sponsors of last year’s drag racing events in Calverton are seeking approval to bring their events back to the Enterprise Park runways again this year.

Peter Scalzo and Andre Baxter both pitched their proposals to the Riverhead Town Board at the board’s work session this morning. Scalzo plans 12 weekends of races running in April and May and August through October. Baxter plans one weekend in early March.

Baxter and Scalzo, who held separate drag racing events on the town-owned runways last summer and fall, have submitted new applications to hold events this year.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said a fifth application was submitted by New York King but was incomplete and would not be considered by the board.

Both events would be held on a 10,000-foot runway, which, while rarely used, is still an active runway. The runway suspended its operations for Baxter’s event last year, which was held on the 10,000-foot runway. 

Scalzo’s events last year were held on the 7,000-foot runway; however, he said he wanted to hold this year’s events on the 10,00-foot runway to avoid any possible conflicts with the town’s option agreement with Insurance Auto Auctions. IAA signed an agreement with the town in 2014 to store flood-damaged vehicles on the 7,000-foot runway and exercised that option after Tropical Storm Ida, which was right before Scalzo’s last weekend series. Although his event wasn’t affected, Scalzo had filed an application to continue his racing series in October that was withdrawn after IAA exercised the option.

Scalzo’s events would also nearly double in size, increasing from the previous 1,300 people to 2,200 people. He said the event will also support space for 200 spectator vehicles, which he said was in high demand during the last event. Scalzo’s application notes that if the 10,000-foot runway is unavailable, he would welcome having the events on the 7,000-foot runway.

The event would hold one, eighth-mile race, which would be on the runway’s taxiway. Parking, spectators and vehicle prep will be on the actual runway, according to Scalzo. These events would look and operate similar to his previous “Race Track, Not Street” events last year and would be sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association.

“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

Baxter’s series, “Scrambul: Cold Fusion,” would consist of three races on the runway: one quarter-mile race from a dead stop, one half-mile race from a dead stop and one half-mile race from a rolling start, according to the application. Races during the event would run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 5-6, according to the application. 

Aguiar praised the prior events during the discussion. She said they had little impact on the area’s traffic and brought a boost to local businesses.

During the discussion, the town board mentioned imposing certain requirements for future drag racing events. Police Chief David Hegermiller said anything not mentioned in the event application should be decided in an agreement with the town and proceeded to list off certain  requirements, including maximum speed, noise levels, vehicle inspections, protective gear, the presentation of agreements with safety organizations, and compliance as an NHR-sanctioned event. 

Baxter objected to any requirement for NHRA sanctioning. He said NHRA sanctioning isn’t necessary for safety. He said NHRA is only one of hundreds of sanctioning bodies in the country.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said NHRA sanctioning made the events feel much safer because the organization requires jersey barriers on all sides of the track and between the racing vehicles. 

Baxter said the jersey barriers are for the safety of the spectators, not the drivers, and would be positioned behind the starting line, similar to his previous event.

He said that jersey barriers can be potentially more dangerous in certain cases for a driver. A driver who loses control with the barriers in place can total their car, he said, while a race with the barrier’s absence gives the opportunity for a driver to correct their course. 

“The evidence shows that our event went smoothly without any incident and we didn’t have jersey barriers there at all,” Baxter said. “And other events, similar events, that are run throughout the country also don’t have jersey barriers and there have not been, to my knowledge, any death or serious injuries that have occurred.”

“And actually, if you look back at the NHRA history and events that have jersey barriers, a large percentage of deaths that occur at drag strips or racetracks are when cars collide with the barriers themselves,” he added.

Councilman Ken Rothwell asked if the NHRA will sanction any event, or if it was a highly selective process. Scalzo responded by saying that anybody can apply, but that it was his opinion that it wouldn’t be affordable for a one or two weekend event to be sanctioned because of the cost. The conversation ended without a decision made about whether or not Baxter’s event needed to be sanctioned.

Another issue relates to bird nesting season, which is from April 15 to Aug. 15. The board postponed last year’s drag racing events to avoid the season, however, Scalzo’s spring event would not avoid the season as he originally anticipated. Scalzo said he could possibly change his dates, but does not want to do any events before April, as it may be too cold. 

Rothwell had concerns about the volume of Scalzo’s event’s PA system, which he said got loud. Scalzo said if the noise is an issue in future events that he will turn down the speakers.

The board agreed to take up a resolution at its next meeting to schedule public hearings on the applications.

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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]