Anti-street racing event debuts at MB2 Raceway in Sylmar – Daily News
The sound of screeching tires and the roar of electric motors filled MB2 Raceway at Sylmar on Thursday night as nine go-karts whizzed past.
It was not a typical race. Go-kart drivers included not only members of the community, but also off-duty cops and amateur race car drivers who raced for a cause.
This was the first “Beat the Heat” anti-street racing awareness event sponsored by Granada Hills-based MotorGospel Ministries. Scheduled for the second Thursday evening of each month, the event is the organization’s latest effort to encourage young people and others to run in legal venues rather than illegally on the streets.
“A 12-year-old tries to figure out whether to follow Vin Diesel, (who plays) an outlaw character in ‘Fast & Furious,’ or an LAPD officer” who legally runs in a sanctioned location, said Aaron Schwartzbart, president and pastor of MotorGospel Ministries. “It gives the opportunity to see the people behind the badge are human, to race against them and have fun.”
The “Beat the Heat” event is similar to the one MotorGospel Ministries sponsors monthly at the Irwindale Drag Strip, but go-karts are used here rather than race cars. And they can reach a younger demographic of aspiring street racers at MB2 Raceway, since you have to be 12 and 57 inches tall to drive an adult kart.
Schwartzbart said the events are also an opportunity to bring attention to the scourge of illegal street racing while mobilizing community support. A portion of the proceeds from those contributed by MotorGospel Ministries goes to the organization.
Jared Sheff, the racetrack’s general manager, said MotorGospel’s anti-street racing message goes hand in hand with what MB2 is doing to provide a safe space for racing, even if it’s with karts.
“It seems like every two weeks we hear about a kid dying (illegally) in a race or injuring someone else with their car,” Sheff said.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Traffic Division supports what MotorGospel is trying to do, but the department has not officially partnered with the organization of this event, Capt. Andrew Neiman said.
“A police officer who is off duty is allowed to do whatever he wants that is lawful, legal and moral,” Neiman said.
A 25-year-old man, his girlfriend and their unborn child were killed on July 4 after the boyfriend engaged in an illegal street race – which authorities said was improvised – with another vehicle in the Northridge and Reseda area, according to Los Angeles Police Department officials. Los Angeles County prosecutors, however, asked police to continue the investigation, and the driver had not yet been charged as of Friday.
Last year, five people were killed during illegal street racing in the Valley and three people were injured, according to Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Gregory Fouqua. Four young adults were killed in a speeding BMW sedan in Northridge in October 2017. Police say it was also the result of an impromptu run. The other driver has not been identified.
A special law enforcement team dedicated to cracking down on illegal street racing and parallel activities in the valley has made more than 100 arrests since its formation in July, Fuqua said.
LAPD officer Elizabeth Heinzman and her husband Matthew, also an LAPD officer, were among those who ran at MB2 while off duty Thursday night in support of MotorGospel.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for young people to meet officers who want to interact with them and show them a better way to have fun and introduce them to Irwindale which is another way for them to race legally and to show off their skills,” she said. said minutes before getting into a kart.
They can also get legal racing advice from Schwartzbart — a three-time champion race car driver, she said.
Jerry Warner “JW” Baxter, 24, of Sylmar is also an amateur race car driver for MotorGospel Ministries who raced Thursday night.
There’s a craving for danger that a go-kart track can’t solve, Baxter said. But having a place to run legally where one can develop their skills can be a deterrent against illegal street racing to some extent.
Unlike legal racing venues, illegal street racing does not give drivers the opportunity to learn racing skills because there are too many changing variables, including vehicular and pedestrian traffic, he said. declared.
Angel Rodriguez, 19, of Boyle Heights is an amateur race car driver with MotorGospel Ministries. Rodriguez, who was arrested last year for illegal street racing on a freeway near Torrance, had to pay $1,400 to recover his confiscated Lexus and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service, which he completed earlier this year at MotorGospel Ministries. He also spent 16 hours of “desperation” in a jail cell.
Rodriguez said that while programs like “Beat the Heat” are great for young people, he said they probably wouldn’t work for those in their 20s and 30s.
“I hate to say it, but it’s a little too late for people this age,” he said. “For them, it’s just prison that will teach them.”