The Fast and the Frustrated

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The commercials aren't all hype, either: Maggiore says he's never seen so many race-worthy cars come stock off the assembly lines. "Why do you think they make Dodge Vipers with 600 horsepower now, or twin-turbo Vettes and twin-turbo Porsches? These things are readily available to anybody with the cash to buy them. Ten-second cars, right off the showroom floor."

Maggiore feels the street-racing epidemic is wrongly blamed on the teenagers. "It's the older guys with the Corvettes, Porsches, Mustangs," he says. "They're the ones who start the races with the kids in the imports."

"It's just that the kids are getting busted and getting into accidents because they're younger and driving stupid," adds Jim Harnish, an older pro race driver visiting the shop. "And sometimes, they just can't get away from the cops as fast!"

Mark Goerner, another pro driver who races for Team SRD, agrees. "It's not just the kids. I drive this car daily," says Goerner, pointing to his head-turning 2001 Acura Integra Type R. "And you wouldn't believe, every time I come to a stoplight, there's some woman in an SUV, or some old guy in a Cadillac, that peels off and takes off from the light."

"To be promoting that kind of attitude in commercials and selling race cars to anyone who can afford them -- and then punishing every little kid that's speeding -- is ridiculous," Maggiore says. "If you're gonna try to stop the street-racing frenzy, then do it all the way. Go to the source."

Derek Preston, a 31-year-old entrepreneur and the co-producer of Joyride, a raunchy but slick, locally produced DVD documenting "3,500 miles of street racing, 6 days of outlaw fun" -- not to mention hired exotic dancers stripping in a rented Jaguar -- believes he's seen the future of car culture entertainment, and it's The Fast and the Furious meets Girls Gone Wild.

"There's been a fairly well-established trail over the last four years with these type of entertainment products," he says. "These companies sell over 100,000 copies of their films, and they're very amateur. But there's a big entertainment appeal to seeing these scenes like in the big Hollywood movies really happening on the street."

Of course, the ultimate street-racing fantasy is still the indelible image of the huge impromptu roadside parties captured in the opening minutes of both Fast and the Furious movies: hot, exotic women waxing down customized candy-coated imports while stunnas show off their deafening sound systems and high-stakes racers line up to drag down deserted downtown streets for the pool of "two large" ($1,000) bills they all carry in their shirt pockets.

"The reality is, there's no street races like that," says Preston, who never once witnessed a real-life scene similar to the films on the rally's entire trek from San Francisco to Miami, including stops in Phoenix and Tucson.

"There's not a thousand kids standing around, they don't block off the bridges and have hot women waving flags for them. That's not how it happens. That's the fantasy. But that's what everybody wants to see."

At the SCO Nights at Firebird, held on a near-monthly basis, the racetrack does its best to replicate all the elements. Around the rest rooms in the parking lot, the super-customized "all show, no go" cars sit with hoods popped and windows down, showing off their elaborate in-dash DVD players and X-Box consoles.

Farther out in the lot, car audio installer Sounds Good to Me hosts a "DB Drag," where owner Mark Kelber sticks a microphone into each car that rolls up to measure the decibel level of thundering hip-hop blaring from each vibrating compact.

Lovely Asian beauties from R8cergirl clothing hawk rhinestone checker flag buckles for "the female import racer," and there's even a "Dream Body" contest on the stage by the snack bar -- which Paul Coggeshall's blonde bombshell wife DeeDee wins as well, making the trophy-hogging couple kind of the Jen and Ben of the local drag circuit.

There's only one thing missing, Preston notes: the outlaw undercurrent that makes the scenes in the movies so exciting.

"If we did a movie where we were just running around a track somewhere, who would care?" he says. "But seeing a Lamborghini doing 180 on the highway and the cops are chasing them -- that kind of thing is cooler, and it is more exciting.

"The reality is, people get killed doing things like that, and I strongly support the efforts of the racetracks to give these guys a safe place to race," he cautions. "But the appeal of breaking the law is very strong. Doing it at the track is fun, but doing it on the streets is what's exhilarating to these people."

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Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern