Kind of a Drag, Looking Back on So Cal's Drag Racing History

It’s surprising considering California’s strictest in the nation automobile emissions standards, and seemingly highest in the contiguous 48 gas prices, but the car culture still pervades this state, and especially its southern region. Local So Cal NPR station KPCC has produced Last Drag, a short film about one aspect of that car culture – and one that sadly is perhaps on its last legs – that of drag racing. 

Describing drag racing as the most dramatic test of automotive perfection, the film notes that Southern California used to have a drag strip ever 35 or 40-so miles. Over the years that number has dwindled to but three, the rest falling victim to encroaching suburbia, skyrocketing land prices, and insurance costs. Still, there are plenty of folks who think an afternoon spent at the strip is preferable to one spent just about anywhere else. One remaining bastion of burnouts is the 1/8-mile Barona strip in San Diego County, the focus of the Mae Ryan-directed  film.

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An interviewee in the short, Racer Jim Woody Wood says he’s been dragging for 50 years and campaigning the same car for the last 40. Considering that kind of dedication, it would be a shame if at least one venue didn’t survive. Fortunately, the folks who run Barona claim, they’re not going anywhere.

With the recent closures of both the Irwindale Speedway with its eighth-mile strip, as well as the quarter mile at the Auto Club’s Fontana Speedway – both within weeks of each other – it’s great to see at least one track that’s still keeping its Christmas Tree lit.


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