A Beginner’s Guide to Street Racing in Philadelphia

[Editor’s Note: Don’t street race. It’s stupid and you won’t just hurt yourself when you crash. Find a track day at a circuit or a strip and enjoy hot nasty speed in a safe and legal environment. This post is meant to take a look at the current illegal street-racing scene in the author’s area.]

I’m not advocating street racing. It’s illegal, dangerous, and you will get caught. Don’t be a moron.

Here’s how people do it if they live near Philadelphia.

Why Philly?

For one reason or another, street racing is popular in Philadelphia. I’ve tried to nail down why, but I had trouble reaching a really cohesive hypothesis. I suspect it’s a series of simple reasons, and I’ll try to lay them out later in this post. The most interesting sort of illegal street racing is the drag racing, or “grudge racing” that goes on at night. I know about it because of a Youtube channel called Philly StreetRace Team.

On this channel, you’ll find a number of surprisingly well-produced videos – Mostly covering nighttime drag racing. I quickly caught onto the fact that to start, I had been to many of the locations where these races are taking place. I also began to realize there was money involved, and after a little more viewing, I noticed how quick some of these cars were. After a little poking around, I inquired with the nameless man who runs the Philly StreetRace Team Facebook page. He clarified things a little.

Step 1: Buy a Foxbody Mustang

He told me the Foxbody is by-far the favorite to go racing with. They’re cheap, they’re common, and the 5.0 can be modified into a competitive state. Most of the cars that tend to win are of the cheap V8 variety. Beyond that, not much is really known about these cars. That’s for a good reason, too.

Step 2: Don’t tell anybody what you’re running

Grudge racing is a perpetual arms race to get the car down a quarter-mile first. Telling your opponent the exact specs of your car isn’t going to help anybody except him. When I asked the man who runs the PSR Facebook page about the specs of some of these cars, he told me he didn’t know. Not only did he not know, but he said If I asked any of the drivers they wouldn’t tell me. This is because the racing is for a cash prize. This pot of cash can sometimes reach as high as twelve thousand dollars.

Step 3: Find a quiet spot

Some videos on the Philly StreetRace Team’s channel take place in well-known locations. A lot of them, however, do not. That’s because these guys aren’t in it for the thrill of being chased around by the cops, they’re in it for the racing. Well, the racing and the money.

If you want to get more than one pass done without a little intervention from the law, find a quiet spot on the outskirts of the city. It’s gonna be safer for everybody, no one is gonna phone-in a noise complaint, and it will take the cops longer to get there. Roosevelt Boulevard’s dozen, arrow-straight lanes may be tempting, but you’re going to get lit-up in a heartbeat.

Step 4: Don’t be stupid when the cops show up

Even if you’ve carefully followed all of my previous steps, you’re going to get caught. It happens to everybody, and the punishments vary. Sometimes it can be as little as a ticket. If you decide to run, things can get a lot worse.

I’m tired of my anonymous friend who runs that Facebook page not having a name. Let’s call him Rick.

Rick says that most of the time they go out, the cops eventually arrive. If it’s younger people and they try to run, you can get in serious trouble. He tells me a lot of the time, cops just leave older guys in properly-built cars alone. Rick said this was because they, “know they’re being safe”, but I suspect it’s more along the lines of “We’re getting tired of you doing this every weekend, please go to a different neighborhood.”

The police can sometimes be lax about handling the whole situation as well. One of the officers in a Philly StreeRace Team video, after stopping a car that’s being loaded onto a trailer, tells a group of attendees that “Whoever loses goes to jail!”

Step 5: Drive around at night until you find these guys

The group that organizes these events doesn’t want or need new members. I asked Rick if I could come to an event, and he told me no. He said they don’t tell anyone where or when these events take place–besides, of course, those people directly involved. They also discourage spectators. People typically gather to watch the events happen, but both Rick and the titles in the PSR videos invite the casual viewer to ‘keep their ass at home.’

Philadelphia’s Response

Drag racing on the street is likely one of the most extreme instances of disregard for the law one might witness in Philadelphia. However, everybody who lives in the city sees traffic laws completely disregarded every day. To many drivers in the city, stop signs have no meaning, traffic signals are frequently disregarded (that is, if they are working at all), and speed limits seem to suggest a minimum. Philly drivers consistently rank among the top ten for most aggressive and or worst in the country.

The police response time is also notoriously bad for non-violent crimes. Even if somebody calls to say there’s street racing, it will likely be a while before anybody shows up. It’s a situation that people take advantage of.

Many witnessing these events have a decidedly poor view of the activities. They’re concerned about injuries to racers and bystanders. Their worries are not unfounded. There have been a handful of accidents, injuries, and fatalities from street racing in the past few years. It is worth noting that none of these injuries or fatalities occurred during any formally organized races (like the ones Philly StreetRace Team conducts), but that doesn’t make local residents any less worried.

This situation may eventually become more difficult for these street outlaws, though. The city of Philadelphia is rapidly gentrifying along with many other cities on the east coast. The demands of these new residents and increased tax revenues (given to the police) may be enough to put an end to these activities. However, unlike drag racing, I wouldn’t put any money on it.

A further disclaimer:

Really, don’t do this. People have been dying in impromptu street races all over the country for years and years. Innocent bystanders get hurt, lives get ruined, it’s just not worth it. Track days are cheap, they’re all over the place, and you’re only gonna hurt your ego. Before you put your foot down, think about who is around you. You likely won’t get a second chance.

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18 responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to Street Racing in Philadelphia”

  1. William Byrd Avatar

    Any DC folks around for the “Metro” days? Some ill-thought-out decisions to be sure, but also some good memories.

  2. njhoon Avatar

    Having grown up in and around Philly I unfortunately know too much about this. If you really want to go see it, look at Septa’s 108 bus line close to highways, the other place is by the Oil Tanks in Tacony. That’s at least where it took place 20 years ago and judging from You Tube it hasn’t changed. People get killed doing this dumb shit, even worse the kill innocent people. I do know of a car that has a twin turbo LS that runs a 9.25 all day long that does it.

    1. pj134 Avatar

      They’re running by the stadiums/south philly a lot too. Probably a different group since they’re the ones making the news lately.


  3. caltemus Avatar

    Even with the disclaimers, this post makes light of street racing and the dangers involved. The title alone serves to glorify the crime. Seems like a poor choice for clickbait

  4. Wayne Moyer Avatar
    Wayne Moyer

    I miss living in the Philly suburbs especially Northeast Philly which is where Roosevelt Boulevard is. That road is intense. There is a logic to it that takes time to learn. It does seem like it would make for a great drag strip if it wasn’t already a race course. The fact that it connects to so many other of the areas busiest roads doesn’t help.

    1. pj134 Avatar

      Yeah it’s a fucking dumb road.

  5. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Everything you need to know about street racing:


  6. 0A5599 Avatar

    Holding $12,000 cash to give to the winner of a Philly based illegal match deliberately held in an unpopulated area away from cops? You’re either a potential robbery target, or you are prepared to not be one. Keeping unfamiliar spectators away reduces the chance of shots being fired that night.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      I posted that before I visited the Philly Streetrace YouTube channel.

    2. pj134 Avatar

      If you’re going to a street race in Philly and not carrying you should assume you are one of the few. Not justifying or glorifying, just saying.

    3. pj134 Avatar

      If you’re going to a street race in Philly and not carrying you should assume you are one of the few. Not justifying or glorifying, just saying.

    4. Philly StreetRace Team Avatar
      Philly StreetRace Team

      Not a single person has been shot in philly for anything racing related in a long time. The video you shared from our page is from 4 years ago and was not racing related. Also you’re very right when I hold a ton of cash for a race I don’t plan on being robbed or a victim! And you can bank on the fact I’m not holding money for people who don’t have my back.

  7. Tank Avatar

    I used to go up to Philly for it in the middle of the night over a decade ago. It was fine until the 2nd fast and furious movie came out. Then every kid from jersey with a Cavalier was wondering why their car wasn’t as fast… and things got stupid.

  8. 71 Cuda 383 4.88 Rear Avatar
    71 Cuda 383 4.88 Rear

    So let me add my 2 cents here. I was racing in the 70’s in Phila. We used front street and brought our muscle cars out on Friday and Sat night. From what I can remember it was going on before us. Started with the 60’s hotrods I think. We used to build Front Street drag cars with friends. That would be a muscle car and put a tall ass rear end in it so it could jump from light to light. (4.88 and above)
    It was really dangerous, and I know folks that got hurt pretty bad.

    1. Captain Al Avatar
      Captain Al

      Went to Front Street with my uncle in 1965, they were bringing cars in on trailers
      Some looked like funny cars
      It was unbelievable

  9. Linda Gonzalez Avatar
    Linda Gonzalez

    These drag racing jerks are selfish. They don’t give a crap about the people who live in the neighborhoods where the cars are like tertorists! My only hope is all these cats and drivers crash and burn! I won’t feel bad and neither will the neighborhood!

  10. Anon Avatar

    I hope all these niggers fucking crash and burn

  11.  Avatar

    Too many people don’t know what they are talking about. Not to make light of the dangers either. But racing front street, jfk, and other streets in that area in the late 70s through 80s was pretty safe. The roads were unused by cars and pedestrians. The only time I saw anyone get hurt was when idiots would try racing wheelies on their bikes or a spectator stupidly got too close.

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