Street racing has its origin in rather dubious circumstances. In the 1930s, some parts of the United States went in for prohibition. Bootleggers were not fazed by this and everybody used to use their car power to get past the law.
The forties and fifties saw this sport taking the limelight. This was the time that drag racing was becoming a commercial sport with a huge spectator base. Street racing came into its own and all across the country, this sport started gaining a following.The venue was usually a deserted road somewhere near the outskirts of the town.
The matches themselves were organized in the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant. A good example is Pasadena, California. The staging area or the area where the details of the race was decided was the Rite Spot drive-in, which was on the western border of the city. The race itself was conducted on a road which had almost no traffic, and was one by which the famous Rose Bowl could be accessed. Peter Joseph Massett (1936 – 2002) was one of the most successful racers of this track. Drag races usually were duels. The three types of street racing are:
- Drag racing with two or more competitors. The race track is in a straight line, and is a fourth of a mile in length. What sets the drag race apart is that the driver must be skilled enough to start with minimum wheel spin and gear shifting. Drag racing on organized tracks is legal.
- Touge racing: Japan’s gift to street racing. In Japanese, “touge” means mountain pass. The venue for these races is mountain roads and mountain passes, such as the Del Dios Highway in California and Mount Haruna in Japan.
- Cannonball Runs are illegal point-to-point rallies. They caught the fancy of so many that films were made on this kind of racing, the best known one being The Cannonball Run. There are only a handful of racers who participate and was first encountered in the United States in 1910, when this kind of racing was legal. Erwin George Baker drove cross country on many record breaking runs. No one beat his record for years. The term Cannonball was given to this kind of racing in honor of Baker’s feat.
Most of the time, street racing was an opportunity to show off one’s car. Speed has always given a hype and the young would take up impossible challenges which would boast the power of their vehicles, as well as their skill. Added to this was the excitement of racing without any entry fees, or rules, or politics of any sort. A community would usually gather around the racing arena and there would be a lot of camaraderie among both spectators and racers. Sometimes, wagers would be placed on the race. Both the participants and the spectators placed bets on the racer or car of their choice.