Local News

Deserted Roads Attract Dragsters

Posted March 8, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Preventing drag racing on public roads is one of the most challenging activities the North Carolina Highway Patrol has to handle. Many of the states deserted, straight stretches of rural roadway beckon to dragsters -- and to the spectators who bet on the outcomes.

But drag racing can of course be dangerous, as witness a Nash County crash last December, in which two spectators were killed and six more injured when a driver lost control of his vehicle. He plowed into the throngs that lined the shoulder of the two-lane country road.

The vehicles involved -- none of them street-legal -- are often souped-up motorcycles and cars, with fuel tanks filled with nitrous oxide. At the starter's signal, the high speed tires are spun up so fast they can produce enough heat to melt the blacktop surface of the road. In a blink of an eye, the vehicles are hitting speeds upwards of 100 mph, sometimes hitting 150 mph or more.

Hardly what one thinks of as a Sunday afternoon down South, but that's when organizers schedule most of these events.

WRAL-TV5 reporter Robert Carver says the races aren't held just for sport -- the betting that accompanies each race can carry pots that amount to $100,000.

To ensure they aren't caught by Highway Patrol troopers, the drag racing organizers use scanners that warn them of any approach.

The patrol gets only about a dozen complaints a year, but finds it difficult to catch those involved. A stakeout of isolated roadway is not feasible because the contests are often staged months apart, and are publicized only by word of mouth.