Borrowing a line from Kevin Costner, the mayor of Flint, Michigan is hoping “If he builds it…they will come” to the eighth-mile of former public roadway that he cordoned off for a new drag strip within the city limits recently. However, neighbors living in the surrounding neighborhood are less than excited about the idea of hundreds of would-be street racers pouring into their seemingly quiet lives and hope that the whole notion will simply go away.
With the smell of fresh asphalt still in the air, the eighth-mile drag strip runs on a freshly paved stretch of Bluff Street between Chevrolet Avenue and Stevenson Street on the edge of the city and Williamson said it will be open for racing in the weeks ahead.
Mayor Don Williamson is no stranger to the drag racing scene and owns a drag strip in Brainerd, Minn., at the Brainerd International Raceway and Resort.
Despite a shared desire to take amateur races off of the streets, the idea of building a track has raised concern among many.
“I don’t believe it’s going to be safe enough to do it in a residential community,” Councilman Sheldon Neeley told the Flint Journal, pointing out that there’s a neighborhood, elementary school and museum nearby.
And residents Tina Morris and Joyce WIlliams are telling reporters that the publicity for the street has already attracted illegal drag racers competing into the early morning hours.
On a positive note, Kettering University officials have no objections to the plan and expect some of their students to be among the racers.
“We have the usual reservations about young people and speed but our students are adults,” Kettering spokeswoman Dawn Hibbard told the newspaper.??"We can’t control what they do when they’re not on campus,”…or apparently what they do when they are across the street.
According to the newspaper, a national drag racing expert has stated that the Flint drag strip will be as good as 80 percent of the strips already operating around the country, citing the mayor’s past ownership of a Minnesota drag strip.??”This is not just some yahoo who saw ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ and said I ought to do that,” Jeff Burk, editor of the St. Louis, MO-based Drag Racing Online Magazine told the paper.??Street cars running on a such a short stretch likely won’t get faster than 85 mph and will have a smooth surface for racing, said Burk.
While the idea of racing through the streets of Flint is clearly a hit with the tuner-crowd, Williamson says that he’s anticipating there will be a $2.5 million investment to build a drag strip at the “Chevy in the Hole” (a nearby former Chevrolet plant) site in the near future. However, until that time, he feels that building the strip on the public roadway is the next best thing.
As for the legality of dragging on city streets, state police said it appears the city is perfectly legit in ignoring state laws that ban drag racing on public streets and restrict drivers to 55 mph on non freeways.
All the city needs is to issue itself a permit.
Under the city motor vehicle racing act of 1981, the city can supersede the law by closing the street in the same way Detroit gets around the law with Indy Car racing on its streets during the Grand Prix.