Special to the Pahrump Valley Times - The cars come from all over southern Nevada to race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway dragstrip at Midnight MOPAR Mayhem and it’s tonight at 9 p.m. The program was designed to take illegal street racers off the streets.
There is no prize money, no ribbons or trophies, but they come from all over the county and southern Nevada to race. Upwards of 500 racers have come to race at “MOPAR Midnight Mayhem” and they have been doing this for the past 13 years at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
According to Chris Powell, director of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway complex, they race 20 times a year, which gives street racers a place to see what they can do and how fast they can go and it’s all about keeping illegal street racing down in the region.
Last year Channel Eight Las Vegas reported that the Nevada Highway Patrol said street racing was involved in roughly 400 of the crashes Nevada Highway Patrol investigated. In that same year, Metro said there were two deaths attributed to illegal street racing. Nationwide statistics show that 49 people are injured for every 1,000 who participate in illegal street racing according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Although the Nye County Sheriff’s Department said that illegal street racing is really not a huge problem in Nye County, the Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman, Trooper Loy Hixson said it does occur out on the rural highways away from the city.
Powell said MOPAR Midnight Mayhem all came about from a story in the Las Vegas Sun about illegal street racing some 13 years ago. In that story, there were some kids that would gather to race illegally in Las Vegas at about 10 p.m. at night. The story had some photos of them meeting at some convenience store at the outskirts of town. At the same time, the drag strip had just opened its doors in 2001.
“You just knew that when these kids raced that some unsuspecting law-biding citizen would be coming in the opposite direction or that with limited sight lines, speed, drug use and alcohol use — that someone was going to wreck,” Powell said.
Inspired by the Sun story, Powell went looking for the kids involved in the illegal street racing with the help of the Las Vegas Sun.
He wanted the kids to come race at the drag strip in a safe environment off the city streets. He found them and met them at the Sahara Hotel back in 2001. He said he had an awful time trying to convince the kids to race at the track.
“They were reluctant to do it. Partly, because we wanted them to do it at reasonable hours and they wanted to race late at night. We solved the problem because there was a young man at our race track and he volunteered to oversee the program late at night. That is why we called it Midnight Mayhem,” he said.
The kids eventually agreed and now the track has had as many as 500 racers come to the track with spectators reaching as many as 2,000. In the start, the track charged only $10. Spectators were only $5.
Some people wanted just to see how fast their car could go in a quarter mile. Others wanted to race another individual and still others came as a group to see who was the fastest.
Powell believes it has been a great program and has given back to the community.
“Kids who have grown up hearing about it are more likely to participate at Midnight Mayhem at the speedway instead of trying it out at the street. We offer a safe and controlled environment for kids of all ages to race,” Powell said.
Powell said the community has been supportive and the response from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has been very appreciative. They even provided a car and an officer to race. They championed the whole project and have been very supportive.
A Metro spokesperson said the statistics would probably support the program as decreasing illegal street racing, but they don’t have a task force that specifically fights street racing and does not keep stats readily available on the topic.
“We deal with Metro and issues all the time because of NASCAR and other large events at the speedway. Everyone there has been appreciative of the program. You can’t prove that you saved even one life. Logic tells you though that there are kids racing out on the speedway that might otherwise have had a crash if they had chosen to race on the city streets,” Powell said passionately. “This is not a money-maker for us. The money goes to offset the event itself. We do about 20 a year. We wanted to give back to the community.”
The mayhem will be on June 27. Gates open at the Las Vegas Speedway at 8 p.m. and racing starts at 9 p.m.-1 a.m. The entry fee is $15 and spectators are $5. For more info and rules go to www.lvms.com/dragstrip/midnight_mayhem.