TUCSON – Illegal street racing can lead to injuries, expensive fines and jail time. However, Chris Harris, president and creator of Street Warriorz, is giving street racers a chance to experience the culture without the legal and safety complications.
Street Warriorz stages races on tracks where drivers can test their cars and driving skills against others in an experience similar to the “Fast and Furious” movie series.
“I just want to give people the opportunity to get off the streets and to the track,” Harris said. “They will have the ability to get off the street, avoid jail time, and avoid killing somebody or themselves.”
Street Warriorz, founded in Palm Beach County, Florida, held its first Arizona event Friday at Tucson Dragway.
Troy Palmer and Cody Cartier, two friends who live in Tucson, attended because of their love for the street racing scene.
“This is a lot like ‘The Fast and the Furious’ because when you hear Street Warriorz, it’s like Race Wars from the first movie when they are out in the desert,” Palmer said. “We are out in the desert watching things race each other that you typically don’t see.”
Illegal street racing has grown across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Phoenix police received more than 1,000 911 calls, made more than 160 arrests and investigated a handful of deaths related to street racing.
Friday’s races including drag and roll starts. Drag racing is a race between two or more cars over a short distance from a complete stop. Roll racing is similar to drag racing, but racers drive onto the drag strip to start the race. Roll races tend to start at 20, 40, or 55 miles per hour.
Besides watching the racing action, fans can see how each racer modified his or her car for races.
“I like the mix between utilizing the engine’s power with the aerodynamics,” Cartier said. “But the most impressive thing is people who make something from scratch, bring it here and do really well. I have a lot of respect and my jaw drops.”
Quinn Wright, who watched “2 Fast 2 Furious,” the second movie in the series, as a child, started racing his car at Tucson Dragway four years ago.
Layne Berry, on the other hand, made his debut at Street Warriorz on Friday. Although he was uncertain about the event when he arrived, he said his decision to come to Tucson Dragway was worth it.
“I came out here to hang out with my friends,” Berry said. “I’ve had a couple of other cars, but this is my first time out with my car. This is a cool experience.”
Although racers don’t win prizes, they do win bragging rights among other competitors.
“It’s exhilarating,” said Patrick Moore, track operations manager for Street Warriorz. “You get a shiver through your body. But when you are all done, you get that deep breath of fresh air coming out. It’s a great feeling.”
Despite the shivers, Street Warriorz is much safer than illegal street racing. Drivers don’t have to deal with traffic – or law enforcement – and Street Warriorz takes every precaution to ensure safety.
“When you come to the drag strip, you bring your vehicle to a tech inspection and they look over your vehicle to make sure everything is safe for it to go down the track,” Harris said. “At our events, crashes do not really happen much. When something does happen, the responders are there immediately.”
Besides exhilarating races, the Friday event included show cars arrayed in the parking lot, catching the eye of spectators walking in. While his friends raced, Tucson resident Brandon Tagg entered his Volkswagen hatchback in the car show. Although he didn’t grow up in Arizona, Tagg showed his passion for the Grand Canyon State with a paint design featuring a desert sunset.
“I wanted to do something with purple and black and saw a Volkswagen bus in Phoenix with a painted license plate,” Tagg said. “I wanted to do something like that, so I threw my own twist on it.”
After drawing a large crowd for its first Arizona event, Street Warriorz hopes to expand in Tucson and, eventually, beyond.
“We want to try to expand car culture to a community as a whole,” Moore said. “Our main goal is to come out here where it is safe, have fun, and have racers prove they are better than the guy next to them.”