By Gregory R.C. Hasman
Via Wyoming News Exchange
ROCK SPRINGS — A Rock Springs auto body repair shop owner and a Rock Springs Police Department sergeant are looking to put together a series of drag races in Rock Springs, but not everyone agrees on its proposed location.
Alan Zanetti, owner of Zanetti Prestige Collision Repair, approached Rock Springs Police Sgt. Tim Robinson about coordinating a group of auto enthusiasts in an attempt to organize a legal street race or a series of street races during the summer.
“We’ve always wanted to drag race here,” Robinson said. “There’s a distinct car culture here in Rock Springs.”
“The potential is there,” Zanetti agreed.
The proposed plan for a summer series is to close off a section of Stagecoach Boulevard by Summit Drive, which would take place one Saturday a month from June to August.
Potential participants would have to be a paying member of the Rock Springs Drag Racing Auto Group, also known as the Rocket City Street Racers.
“Sorry, racing is not free,” according to the group. “The expense of insurance, safety, and support fall upon those who race.”
“We want it to be affordable, but we want to be able to cover our costs,” Robinson said.
The track would be an eighth of a mile, but the number of contestants who can compete in an event will depend on how much time would be allotted by the city.
People would be going about 60-80 mph “and that’s slower than the highway,” Zanetti said.
There will be no dragsters, “none of that stuff,” he said.
Drivers must have a valid driver’s license, helmet, pants, long sleeve shirt and closed-toe shoes. Their vehicles — which need to be street legal, registered and insured — will be inspected.
There will be closed pits, which will only be open to members and crew and those involved in running the events.
“We’re trying to do this safely, on the up and up,” Zanetti added. “We’re not trying to raise a ruckus.”
Pat’s Auto Service Owner Pat Hruska said he supports the plan, adding that “it’s a lot better than letting kids race in the street.”
“It would keep the kids out of trouble,” he said.
Zanetti and Robinson met with Rock Springs City Councilman Rob Zotti and pitched the idea to him. Zotti then brought it up to the Council at a recent retreat. At this point, the idea started to pick up speed.
There are people who have put their hearts and souls into their vehicles. The race would be an opportunity for them to show them off, Zotti said on Monday.
The organization sent out a petition that has garnered about 1,000 signatures.
Rock Springs residents Jesse Sloan and Luke Geffre said they did not see the petition, but Robinson said it was always located at Zanetti’s, so if residents were interested they could come down and sign it.
Sloan said he is not opposed to drag racing itself, but is against having it take place off Stagecoach Boulevard.
The area is also located near Stagecoach Elementary School and parks where children go out to play. Ironically, they are looking to have the races in an area where there are school speed zones, he said.
Rana McCallum said while she is also not against having drag racing in the community, as it would be “an enjoyable thing for people to be involved with during our summer months,” it is not an appropriate sport
for city roads located close to residential areas.
The proposed area has a lot of traffic and residents enjoy their daily summer exercise with their children and/or their dogs, she said.
“It’s also an area where the sound travels and racing would be disruptive to a very peaceful neighborhood,” McCallum said.
Sloan and McCallum said the race would also worsen a situation where residents currently race down Stagecoach throughout the year, and if the event is organized, people will take advantage and race down the street everyday.
“It happens more often than what anyone is aware of because of the time which it’s happening,” she said. “The tire marks are evident after a night of fun for these folks.”
Sloan said the city should do its research and patrol the area during the summer when people are illegally drag racing down Stagecoach Boulevard.
“They’ll see this is only going to increase,” he said.
Geffre said he wondered if there would be emergency services in the area in case something happens.
Robinson said there will be law enforcement, medical and fire personnel on scene, “but fire and ambulance are working anyway.”
“They’ll just be parked at the event instead of at their station,” he said.
As for law enforcement, the whole point is for them to be a part of the event. It’s really no different than other events such as the rodeo or the fair, Robinson said.
Sloan suggested that races take place in open and less populated areas like off U.S. Highway 191, Wyoming Highway 430 or at the Sweetwater Events Complex.
“If they build a road at the Complex, then it’s controlled by the county,” he said.
Geffre said the promoters should consider the airport as a potential location to host the races. The airport only has two flights a day, but in between flights it could use the runway as a drag strip, he said.
Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport Director Devon Brubaker said there is a procedure in place with the Federal Aviation Administration that allows for drag racing.
“It would be up to the airport board to make that decision if we were to follow that procedure,” he said.
Brubaker said he would not be in support of it, but depending on the circumstances and conditions he could be persuaded if the board decides it wants to pursue the option.
“There would need to be a very compelling business case to convince the airport board to move forward with that,” he said.
When asked about whether or not the airport was a feasible location to host races, Robinson said no, because it was his understanding that the magnetic compasses in the runways would prohibit it.
McCallum said any potential racing should be done in a secured area where there is proper seating for spectators “and far away from our peaceful residential areas.”
Zanetti and Robinson will make a presentation about the races at the Rock Springs City Council meeting on Feb. 19.
We just want the Council to say, “We’ll give you a day to see how it goes,” Robinson said.
If things develop, Zanetti and Robinson said they would work with the city, Sweetwater County and perhaps the Sweetwater Events Complex.
Converse County Commissioner Jim Willox was on the commission in 2015 when Converse County voted to end the lease at Douglas Motorsports Park, which hosted drag races. The facility had been located at the old county airport, now a subdivision.
The Commission decided not continue the lease due to a myriad of factors including safety, as Converse County was looking to build a new justice center on part of the subdivision, and finances, Willox said.
When asked what advice he had for the Zanetti, Robinson and local government officials Willox said they need to make sure there is an agreement in place where both sides understand their rights and
There are a lot of safety and insurance concerns. Promoters will have to address them when they find a place that will work, Willox said.
“We can definitely address those issues at the council meeting,” Robinson said.