The History and Consequences of Street Racing


Do you consider yourself an aggressive driver? Have you ever blocked another driver from passing you or go after a driver who cut you off? You may think that this behavior is simply sending a message to the other driver to be more courteous, but think again: in Arizona, you could be cited for driving in this fashion.

What is drag racing

In basic terms, a drag race is an acceleration contest from a standing start between two vehicles a measured distance at a specially designed drag race facility. The accepted standard for that distance is either a quarter-mile or an eighth-mile. Upon leaving the starting line, each contestant activates a timer which is, in turn, stopped when the same vehicle reaches the finish line. The start-to-finish clocking is the vehicle’s elapse time, this serves to measure performance and also serves to determine handicaps during competition.

Who Can be Charged with Street Racing?

In most cases, persons participating as drivers in a street race may face criminal charges. Depending on the circumstances, they can also be held liable for civil consequences if injuries or property damage results from the contest.


In some jurisdictions, spectators can also face the same criminal consequences as the drivers in an illegal speed contest. A spectator is usually defined as someone who is present at a street racing location for the purpose of viewing, observing, witnessing or watching the event.

Also, any person who engages, aids in, assists with preparations, or participates in a speed contest can be cited as well.


asphalt-bleachers-city-209207Street racing has a long history, dating back to the prohibition days of the 1930s. In some parts of the U.S., smugglers would modify their vehicles to achieve better power and handling from their engines and suspension. Many historians feel that the prohibition era in the United States was the origin of stock car racing and even drag racing, as well. The 1950s saw the full emergence of street racing with such Hollywood movies as “Rebel Without a Cause” in 1955, which associated street racing with the powerful angst of youth culture. This pairing of counter cultures has culminated with the popular “Grease” movie in 1978, which featured an exciting street race scene.

Hot Spots

There are strong racing cultures in many parts of the world. Some cities and urban areas have become classified as street racing “hot spots.” These are places that stage coordinated races, that are organized and scheduled well in advance. Race planners have even been reported to have monitored GPS positioning of police vehicles to avoid detection. These street racing hot spots also are associated with illegal gambling and underground gang activity. Southern California and Dallas are two street racing hot spots in the United States. In California, there are more outlets for race enthusiasts to safely and legally participate in the sport. However, in Houston, authorities are fighting to control a race culture with few sanctioned race venues. Officers for Harris County there reported receiving roughly 100 service calls related to street racing in their county during 2007, many including fatal accidents. Street racing hot spots like Tokyo and Hong Kong have even gained worldwide attention. However, their notoriety is partially due to the gruesome and horrific accidents that typify a street racing hot spot.


birthday-birthday-cake-cake-767660Some critics of street racing question the allure of such a dangerous sport. Yet, some participants enjoy being a part of such an unsanctioned racing environment, without rules or restraints. A community of car enthusiasts can grow from a street racing hot spot, providing a social scene for an under-served demographic. There are no age restrictions and street racing can provide entertainment for young drivers who are not yet admitted into bars and clubs. Many drivers take pride in the modifications made to their cars and enjoy displaying their upgrades to street racing enthusiasts. This has caused a significant rise in the aftermarket auto industry, as drivers and enthusiasts alike purchase more accessories for their rides.

Illegal Gambling

Street races are often wagered on by both the participants and the observers. Most street racing wagers are the result of personal arguments and disputes which get settled on the road. As a prize, the winner of the race gets cash or can even win his opponent’s vehicle. This is termed “racing for pinks” where the winner keeps the losing vehicle as a trophy. This racing theme helped inspire the Speed Channel’s original series called “Pinks,” where contestants race for vehicle ownership.

Drag racing in Arizona

The legal definition of drag racing in Arizona law is very specific. It is defined as either:

  • Operating two or more vehicles from a specific start point and accelerating to reach a second point (side by side racing):
  • Operating one or more vehicles over a common course in order to compare speeds
  • Racing is defined as the use of one or more vehicles to outrun another vehicle or preventing a vehicle from passing

Penalties for drag racing

Arizona law provides that this type of racing is a class one misdemeanor. Penalties for violation of the law can be severe:

  • First offense: punishable by up to six months in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a %84 surcharge. In addition to the criminal penalties, the defendant’s driver’s license can be suspended for up to ninety days and he can be fined $250 and ordered to perform community service.
  • Second offense: up to one year in jail, or four months to 2.65 years in prison, plus revocation or driver’s license, a $500 fine, and community service.
  • Third offense: up to 5.75 years in prison.

Legal street racing events

accident-action-automobile-1486188Arizona State cannot officially endorse any speed racing. However, Red Mountain Funding, a  family-owned auto financing company in Mesa, offers a unique list of Arizona’s local street racing festivities. Whether you are looking to participate in the race or simply want to spectate on the fun, always remember to drive responsibly.

These are all the track or speed racing events in Arizona:

  • Arizona Drag Racing Association
  • Arizona No Prep Racing
  • Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park


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