Gone Racin'... To the Toyota Performance Challenge
Roger Rohrdanz and I were invited to attend the new Toyota Performance Challenge on December9-10, at the Pomona Raceway Dragstrip, courtesy of Toyota and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). This was a joint effort by Wally Parks of NHRA and Michael Dobrin and Joe Tetherow from Toyota. Over 30 editors, writers and photojournalists, from all over the United States attended this event which was to showcase the new import cars from Toyota, and the need to use the power and speed of these cars on safe and sanctioned tracks. The highlight of the two day Challenge was the opportunity for the writers and journalists to get into the cars and challenge each other over an eighth mile course, with the competent staff of NHRA there to help us. We had the "Christmas tree" lights, coaching from the starter, and in case of accident or error, the fabled NHRA Safety Safari to come to our rescue. Practice runs began with caution as the writers and journalists got used to the cars, but as the day progressed, it became evident that the speeds would improve. The best times set the field for the finals, and one by one the drivers squared off to see who would be the champion. These cars are fast, easy to handle and powerful. Which raises the question, "with such fast cars, where can they be driven in a manner that is safe and legal." It is no secret that many of our youth buy these cars with the intent to illegally street race each other, with the resulting accidents and deaths causing anguish and resentment towards the car makers and racing in general.
That was one of the reasons that NHRA and Toyota created this Challenge and based it at the Pomona Raceway, known for it's professional and safe racing. The question that should be raised is this. "Why aren't there more tracks for our youths to bring their powerful import cars to race at. Where are the police, fire marshals, mayors, city, county, state and local civic leaders, in this fight to bring safe tracks for our youth to show off their cars? Where there are such tracks, the police have created a number of programs and options to fight illegal street racing. One is the "Beat the Heat" program. An offender is offered the option of racing the police at a sanctioned drag strip, or receiving a ticket, And maybe even having his car impounded. Given that choice, the youth head out for the nearest drag strip and race their cars against the police. It doesn't matter who wins, because the police are forming a bond with our youth and accustoming them to use sanctioned and safe tracks instead of the streets to race on. The problem is that there are few tracks to race on. In the greater Los Angeles basin, home to some 15 million people, there are only 5 tracks, Palmdale, Irwindale, Pomona, Rialto and Fontana, spread out over an area of a hundred miles or more. There are far too many illegal street racers for these tracks to handle, and too little support from the communities to create more tracks for our youth to use. Criminalizing illegal street racing just won't work. It never has and it never will. Young people have always had a fascination with cars and speed, and putting them in jail simply won't stop this serious problem.
Toyota and NHRA are to be commended for their efforts, and we hope the Toyota Performance Challenge will be an annual event and one that will be expanded on to include not only the writers and photojournalists, but community and government leaders, our youth, the police and other concerned people around the country. The impressive performance of the cars demands the same in the facilities to use these cars wisely and safely. They are excellent street vehicles, and equally impressive racing machines. Toyota has great credentials in the automotive world, and their input is vital. We look forward to being invited back to the next Toyota Performance Challenge and to see the next line of performance automotive vehicles.
Gone Racin' is at www.oilstick.com