|Drag Racing in Connecticut|
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OLR Research Report
January 26, 1998 98-R-0009
FROM: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
RE: Drag Racing in Connecticut
You asked whether Connecticut has any regulatory structure governing drag racing competition; if there are any drag racing facilities in Connecticut; if there are no such facilities here, whether this is more likely due to lack of interest in the sport or prohibitive state regulations; and what other states have for drag racing facilities and regulation.
There are more than 200 commercial drag racing facilities throughout the United States, but none currently in Connecticut. The majority of these facilities are affiliated with the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) the largest national sanctioning body for the sport. Others are affiliated with the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA). A few appear to be affiliated with neither organization. Connecticut had one of the first commercial drag racing facilities in the northeast but it closed in 1985. There are currently four commercial circuit automobile racing facilities in the state, (Lime Rock Park, Thompson International Speedway, Stafford Motor Speedway, and Waterford Speedbowl) but none of them are for drag racing.
Motor vehicle racing is generally regulated under a state law requiring anyone intending to hold a racing event to get a permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). These same requirements would apply to any facility holding drag racing events. Since four racing facilities already operate under these regulations, it would appear that the absence of a drag racing facility in Connecticut is probably due more to economic and other issues, such as the existence of other such facilities in the region, rather than to prohibitive state regulations.
It is not practical for us to compare the motor racing regulatory practices of all other states to Connecticut since there are so many. After reviewing this report, you may find that a comparison may be unnecessary or that a selective comparison with only certain other states would be more beneficial.
CONNECTICUT MOTOR VEHICLE RACING FACILITIES
Drag Racing Facilities
There are currently no commercial drag racing facilities in Connecticut. Historically, most drag racing facilities in the northeast United States were operated by individual racing clubs, not as commercial tracks. But in the 1960s, several commercial facilities were opened in the northeast. One of them, Connecticut Dragway, was located in Colchester. It was a popular facility and operated regular racing events for more than 20 years, later under the name of Connecticut International Raceway, until it closed in 1985. Racers using Connecticut Dragway, apparently relocated to other relatively nearby facilities in the region following its close, most notably New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire; Lebanon Valley Dragway in Lebanon, New York; and Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.
Other Connecticut Racetracks
Connecticut has four major auto racing facilities. Lime Rock Park is located in Lakeville and is a 1. 53 mile closed course that predominantly hosts road racing events sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America. While most races involve sports cars, it also hosts a stop on the Busch Grand National North Tour, which is a NASCAR-sanctioned racing series. (NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, is the major national sanctioning body for stock car racing. ) It hosts a major national road race on Memorial Day weekend and a vintage vehicle festival on Labor Day weekend. Lime Rock has been operating for 41 years.
Thompson International Speedway is a 5/8-mile oval track located in Thompson. It holds events for several classes of stock cars including several feature races and is also a stop on NASCAR's Busch North national racing series. Stafford Motor Speedway is located in Stafford Springs and was converted from a horse racing track in the 1960s. It consists of a 1/2-mile oval track and primarily hosts events for NASCAR's modified stock car class. It is also a stop on the Busch North national racing series. Waterford Speedbowl, located in Waterford is the smallest of the three stock car tracks. It has a 1/3 -mile oval track.
STATE REGULATION OF CAR RACING (CGS § 14-164a)
Connecticut has a general law requiring anyone intending to hold a motor vehicle race, contest, or speed or skill demonstration to get a DMV permit for the event. The person conducting or managing the race or exhibition must apply for the permit at least 10 days before the event. The application must provide pertinent details of the event, including the kind and number of vehicles participating. Each permit costs $ 177.
The DMV commissioner must inquire as to the condition of the track or other location of the event and any appurtenances to it and, if he finds there to be no unusual hazard to participants or spectators, he may issue the permit specifying a date for the event. Racing events may be conducted at any “reasonable hour” of a weekday or after noon on a Sunday, as long no local ordinance conflicts.
The law requires a DMV inspector to be assigned to each racing event or exhibition with the person conducting the event responsible for a fee for services of $ 100 for four hours or less and $ 200 for more than four hours. If weather or track conditions make an event “unusually hazardous,” the DMV official may cancel or postpone the event or can require use of whatever type of tires he approves.
Participants in motor cross races must be at least 16 years old, except if they have written permission from a parent or legal guardian, in which case they may be no younger than age 13. (Motor cross races are defined as dirt track races by motorcycles designed for off-road use and with engine capacities of 500 cubic centimeters or less. ) The racing event requirements do not apply to vehicles with no more than three horsepower or go-cart type vehicles with not more than 12 horsepower when they are operated on a 1/8-mile track or smaller.
DMV regulations require each racing facility to submit certain information at least 30 days before its seasonal opening or first event. This information must include a copy of the certified letter, including postal receipt, sent to the town manager or chief elected official informing him of the event schedule and informing the local official that he may notify DMV immediately if any event conflicts with local laws or ordinances. The preseason information to DMV must also include copies of executed contracts or signed letters providing for: (1) police protection (at least two officials with police powers); (2) fire protection (including numbers of personnel and equipment); (3) ambulance service from a licensed ambulance company (name, personnel, and equipment to be provided): (4) a certificate of liability insurance for at least $ 3,000,000 for automobile and truck events or $ 1,000,000 for motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle events: (5) a safety evaluation report prepared by a Connecticut-licensed civil or general professional engineer stating that he has fully inspected the facility and finds it free of unusual hazards to participants and spectators; (6) a safety evaluation report from a licensed structural engineer certifying that the facility's outdoor bleachers or grandstands, if it has them, are structurally sound and free from unusual hazards (a second such report must be submitted before July 30 or as otherwise required by DMV); (7) a safety evaluation report from a Connecticut-licensed electrician certifying that the facilities have been inspected and are free of unusual hazards; (8) a map or drawing of all facilities; and (9) a copy of the track rules for each scheduled or proposed event.
Once he receives the preseason information, the DMV commissioner must inspect the facility and if he finds the facility and its appurtenances present no unusual hazards and all of the other required information is in order, he must approve the facility in writing. Thereafter, he must issue the individual event permits provided they are applied for on-time and include the required information, the permit fee is paid, the person responsible for the event provides a statement that no changes have occurred in the character or use of the facility since the preseason approval or the last permitted event, whichever is later, or, if significant changes have occurred, the person makes new submissions of safety evaluations, electrical system certifications, facilities map, or track rules, as applicable at least one business day before the event.
DMV requires each facility to comply with type-specific guidelines it may issue for the different types of tracks, i. e. , oval circuits, road race tracks, motorcycle/all-terrain vehicle tracks, acceleration and performance exhibition tracks, indoor facilities, and facilities for truck and tractor pulls. The regulations also specify other things such as minimum driver and vehicle safety equipment and use, minimum ambulance coverage, fire fighting equipment, police protection, fuel storage and vehicle refueling requirements, and restricted areas that only those with proper credentials may access. A copy of the current regulations are attached to this report for your reference.
DRAG RACING FACILITIES ELSEWHERE
According to one historian of the sport, as street racing became more widespread during the 1950s and, thus more of a safety and law enforcement problem, many enthusiasts began to form groups to pursue their interests on drag strips instead on the streets. But these were essentially amateur, club-operated facilities and not commercial enterprises. The growing popularity of the sport was helped by creation of the sport's first national body, the NHRA. In the northeast, racing clubs in Portland, Maine formed the New England Hot Rod Council, which is credited with starting the region's first competitions on a landing strip at the airport in Sanford, Maine. By the early 1960s, several commercial racing facilities such as Connecticut Dragway and New England Dragway in New Hampshire (built by the group that began racing in Sanford, Maine) began operations. (Ed Sarkisian, “The Early Days of Drag Racing in the Northeast”, Lebanon Valley Dragway Newsletter, 1995)
Today, there are at least 205 recognized drag racing tracks located in 45 states, although one is only for motorcycle drag racing and a few others conduct only junior racing events. Several new facilities either opened late in 1997 or will begin operation early this year. Tennessee and Texas have the most with 11 each. California, North Carolina and Ohio each have 10; Florida and South Carolina have nine; Georgia and Kentucky have eight; Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania have six; Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, and Oregon have five; Hawaii, Kansas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin have four; Arizona, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia have three; Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, and New Mexico have two; and there is one track in Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, Utah, and Wyoming. Of the five remaining states that apparently have no drag racing facilities, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and South Dakota, four are in New England. About one quarter of the facilities have 1/8-mile long tracks, the others are 1/4-mile long drag strips. Both lengths are considered standards for competitions.
There also apparently are at least 14 recognized tracks in Canada, two in Puerto Rico and Mexico, four in England, three in Australia, and one in Curacao.
There are many national, regional, and state organizations that play a role in drag racing, but the two most important sanctioning groups on a national level appear to be the NHRA and the IHRA. The NHRA, the sport's first and largest sanctioning organization, was founded in 1951 and has membership affiliations with 144 tracks, several of them outside of the United States. It sanctions several national and regional series of races, the most well known being the 23-event Winston Championship Series that culminates with the national finals in November at Pomona Raceway in California.
The IHRA was formed in 1970 and has 60 sanctioned member facilities. It also conducts the 22-event IHRA Snap-on Tools World Championship Series for several vehicle classes, culminating with the championship finals in October at Red River Raceway, in Shreveport, Louisiana.
ATTACHMENT: Connecticut Agencies Regs. §14-164a-1 et seq.