June 26, 2014

Drag racers find safe haven at Texas Motor Speedway

TMS The racetrack offers venue for safe, competitive drag racing.

They show up in their Camaros, Challengers and Corvettes. But some are behind the wheel of their pickup or SUV. Still others will be pushing their four-cylinders to speeds they’ll never reach on the clogged highways of their morning commute.

Each Friday, hundreds of drivers — young and old, mostly men, but a few women — line up for drag racing on the eighth-of-a-mile strip of pit road at Texas Motor Speedway.

The track started Friday Night Drags in 2009 to curtail illegal street racing. An average of 135 people die each year in racing-related accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“We have EMT firefighters out here so it’s safe,” said Scott Garrett, who has helped run the event since it began. “We do advertising, social media and do radio spots to get people out here. It grows by double digits year after year. The younger people can learn a lesson and do it out here in a safe fashion.”

Shelly Russell has been coming every year with her 1999 Ford Mustang.

“My husband taught me everything about racing,” she said. “I come out every year and love it, met a lot of people and enjoy it so much. We enjoy a day of safe racing.”

Adam Gerety has raced every night except this season’s opener, and hopes the event will teach kids who are beginning drivers to stay off the streets.

“It’s a lesson for my son, the older he gets,” he said. “He knows I go out here and race cars, I don’t go out and race, I come here. My son doesn’t street race and that’s leading by example. So having a venue like this, everyone has a place to go.”

Though Gerety is among the many experienced drivers, there are a few like Tyler Mitchell, 17, who are just starting out.

“It’s my second year racing,” Mitchell said. “It’s a fun thing to do. I love tournaments like this, especially when you have a car that can compete. It keeps the street races off the street and it does a lot of good.”

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