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Fresno Explores ‘Sanctioned Racetrack’ to Help Curb Illegal Street Racing



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A big dent has been made in sideshows and street racing in Fresno. Councilmember Mike Karbassi says this is due to an ongoing multi-agency operation against the deadly activities.

Now, city leaders want to give people the opportunity to take their fast-moving cars to a safe place and away from Blackstone and Herndon avenues, where the activity has been concentrated.

A tragic accident at Palm and Bullard avenues in late December that resulted from street racing claimed the lives of four people. It was a pivotal event that heightened law enforcement agencies’ resolve to battle street racing.

I’m a car fanatic and I know why our young people do things and they just need a safe place to do it responsibly,” said Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez at Thursday morning’s council meeting. Chavez says he describes himself as a reformed car racer from “back in the day.”

“I’m a car fanatic and I know why our young people do things and they just need a safe place to do it responsibly.”— Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez

Chavez tells GV Wire that he’s identified a potential site next to where Fresno Police Officers train for high-speed pursuits.

“There’s land available right next to it which would be a great venue,” said Chavez. “We’re actually going to consider that quite strongly for the city to have its own race track.”

After looking at using the Fresno Fairgrounds, this new option came up during a phone call Chavez had Wednesday evening.

“Obviously, we have to address the liability and everything that that entails,” Chavez said.

Karbassi says the street racers have gotten the message that Fresno is off limits and have since moved to other cities like Visalia. He acknowledged that pushing the problem down the road may not be a long-term solution.

“Hopefully, we will have a safe option in a sanctioned racetrack in the future,” said Karbassi. “We cannot let up enforcement. Herndon is an expressway, not a raceway. Our loved ones and young drivers’ lives should not be at risk because of the selfish behavior of irresponsible drivers.”

City Considered a Site In Mid 2000s

During Thursday’s council meeting, Mayor Jerry Dyer said this is an option the city has considered before. “We looked at an avenue out there at Central and Hayes in the mid 2000s,” said Dyer.

Dyer says he’s also working with someone now to locate rural areas that may be under city control.

“I do think it’s meaningful, and it will hopefully save lives in our city,” said Dyer.

Cruisin’ for Peace Initiative

Photo of Mike Karbassi

“Hopefully, we will have a safe option in a sanctioned racetrack in the future.” — Fresno City Council Member Mike Karbassi

Chavez says he’s scheduled a meeting for Monday night with members of the car club community, street racers, pastors, and others to discuss organized cruises so young people can show off their cars.

“It’s going to be a Cruisin’ for Peace initiative so to speak,” says Chavez. “We’re going to start on Kings Canyon and Willow and cruise all the way down to Fulton and then end up at Chukchansi Park.”

Chavez envisions a safe event throughout the spring and the summer with the first event taking place toward the end of April. He wants the events to pull the community together.

“We’re going to invite our street vendors to Chukchansi,” says Chavez. He says after the recent killing of a street vendor in his district this gives residents a chance to really come out and support them at the same time.

“We’ll have a little better idea of what’s possible after working with our car clubs,” explains Chavez.

City Banned Cruising on Kings Canyon

“I do think it’s meaningful, and it will hopefully save lives in our city.”— Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer

Back in the 1990s the city banned cruising on Kings Canyon, and there are still no cruising signs up along parts of the road. Chavez says part of his plan is to take the signs down in a symbolic gesture to the car community that the city is taking a 180-degree turn from where it’s been.

“We’re going to start chipping away at that stigma to really build that bridge between the police department and the people of southeast and southwest (Fresno),” said Chavez.

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama, during a Wednesday appearance on PowerTalk 96.7’s Trevor Carey show says he and Chavez have been collaborating to provide better outlets for young people.

“We’re trying to create some type of a positive avenue for some of these young people to come out and show off their cars,” said Balderrama.