Updated: Nov 3, 2019
While on a recent trip to the beautiful Island of Puerto Rico, it was hard to not visit the local racetrack that helped spark my love for classic Toyotas. On the island, Salinas Speedway is one of, if not the premier drag strip for anyone involved with the drag race scene. I remember as a child going to large events with my family watching Felo Racing with an AE86 powered by a 3TC, take on Siguel Racing's 13B powered Mazda RX7 in some epic runs. It was now as an adult that I make another trip back to see how things have changed and how some have stayed the same.
What's new? Maybe the pricing, I can't complain much however because for about $20 at the gates you have plenty of non-stop racing in all different categories; from full chassis imports to scooters...yes scooters. The entry fee helps keep the track open and gives a payout to the winners in each class. Food vendors also make a decent amount of money as some fresh Puerto Rican fried goods are available for purchase alongside some cold beers if that's your drink of choice, that ensures everyone has a good time while the chaos happens mostly in the burnout box.
The old is the passion, December anywhere should be focused on the holidays for the most part, but a last chance opportunity to win some races in a USA vs PR showdown simply can't be passed up. People from all over the island and even overseas venture down for this and other events, when it comes to import drag racing; Puerto Rico is a major player. While some may think of drag racing as a selfish man's sport, plenty of families show support as a unit, sons and daughters helping their moms and dads prep, fix, and line up cars before they take off. It is a different experience seen here than maybe any other location for any other type of motor sport; it's a family affair for small race teams on a tight budget.
Racing is what everyone came for however and that's what everyone received. Saturday is for qualifications and Sunday is the main event, and since I went on a Saturday I was expecting not too many people and maybe not too many cars as it was later in the day; I was wrong. Qualifying is probably the most important part of any form of racing, you have to make it to race, and people there know that so they came out looking to see their hometown heroes give it their all down the 1320.
For me personally, a team in my town of Santa Isabel had a 2JZ powered Celica that I looked forward to seeing run at the track, his car's name goes by a very polarizing name...wait for it...El Nazi. While we can go back and forth on how politically correct a name like that is, it is part of the sport's culture on the island to create names that are menacing and strike fear, while other names like "La Fea" or the ugly one give some comedic relief. The car itself is a monster, for a private team with little sponsorship, belting out a 6.93 at 201 MPH is very impressive as the goal of 5 second quarter miles looks to be in reach. Unfortunately for El Nazi, the driver hit the wall at a very high speed on Sunday which left his car out of commission until repairs could be done. With the driver safe and the car salvageable, I'm looking forward to following the team's progress as they attempt to get back on track towards their goal.
If you have the itch for racing, their is a category you could fit in at every level in drag racing. As previously stated even scooters run down the strip, but what's more fun is seeing the 3TC and 12A rotary powered cars of yesteryear go up and down the track. Billet parts, larger displacements, and massive turbos have relegated the underdog engines of the 90's to being obsolete for anyone attempting a world record run. Not to be outdone by the 2JZs and 4-rotors of the world, the classic sport compact scene is still very alive, vehicles are still running sub 10 and 9 second trips as they defy aerodynamics in vintage Japanese cars. The Toyota Starlet is almost unanimously the weapon of choice for most builders, it's lightweight, familiar, has a short wheelbase, and when you spray it with fresh paint and tub out the rear; it looks like an evil cartoon.
If anyone was waiting on results of the races that transpired, perhaps a trip to Salinas Speedway Facebook page could give you those important stats. What i was interested in doing here is having fun first, seeing some cool cars, and sharing my experience with you all. The smell of burning rubber, the smoke billowing up above the announcer's station, the sound of engines near the brink of self destructing; those are the things that stir the soul. I implore anyone visiting the humble yet majestic island of Puerto Rico to take the drive down to Salinas Speedway if you have the chance, it's proof that drag racing, the import scene, and classic Toyotas are still popular.