Locals Drift and Drag at San Antonio Raceway

The State of Texas Racing, Volume 2: Paul Walker Memorial Weekend at San Antonio Raceway featured drift cars, drag racing and community spirit.

Drifting at San Antonion Raceway

San Antonio Raceway is a community-focused 1/4 mile drag racing facility outside of San Antonio. Last weekend was Paul Walker Memorial Weekend, which featured roll racing and drifting on Saturday night and drag racing and a car show on Sunday. The Drive was there to capture both days of the driving and writer Meredith Balderston joined to give her impressions of her first drifting event.

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It’s Saturday night and I’m standing in a parking lot 20 miles outside of San Antonio and somehow I’ve found myself in The Fast and the Furious. The parking lot in question has been turned into a temporary race course and, while speed is crucial, this course is designed for drifting, and it’s open to anyone willing to trash their tires to try it. Noobs and pros take turns on the course, revving up then sliding out around each curve, while a crowd looks on from all sides with no barricades to block views. Even from 50 feet away, the spectacle is exhilarating. From 20 feet, separated by nothing more than small traffic cones, seeing a car slide by with its headlights pointed more or less toward your body borders on terrifying.

On one side of the lot, a DJ booth pumps high-tempo heavy bass synth, enhancing the action movie vibe. Three drones zoom overhead trailing the cars and recording the races. Their flashing colored lights and whizzing sound give the scene a surreal sci-fi quality. I easily imagine far-fetched loves and rivalries born from the electrifying atmosphere. I just as easily imagine an outsider getting this taste of street racing and developing a hunger for it. Luckily San Antonio Raceway has made it accessible to pretty much everyone.

This, it turns out, is a huge part of SAR’s mission since reopening a year and a half ago. When owner Iain Grae bought the foreclosed track, he had been to a handful of drag races, but wasn’t deeply involved in the scene. After the original owners filed for bankruptcy, there was a volunteer day to tend to some maintenance around the grounds. According to Grae, 114 volunteers showed up. “Those lanes in the parking lot where the racers line up—those were all hand painted by volunteers.”

This show of dedication impressed Grae and convinced him to purchase the track. He sees the raceway as an important community space. “They’re willing to give their time, so I’ll give mine.” His hope is to open the track to as many people as possible, either as racers or as spectators. This weekend’s lineup reflects that. Besides Saturday night’s drift races, there’s a car show, rolling races, and a quarter-mile drag on Sunday, all open to the public.

“We’re trying to address every aspect of the car community, from drifting to drag,” says Josh Pardee, Event and Media Manager at the track. Both days have a respectable turnout, with everything from Harley Davidsons to a Chevy Tahoe taking their turns on the drag.

For those without the wheels (or suspension) for drifting or drag, many drivers offer ride-alongs on the course. Some charge a small fee to help cover the cost of replacing their tires. The average lifespan of a set of tires is six races, but this seems a relatively small price for an adrenaline rush and a chance at glory.

“It’s all about being the hero in your own story,” offers Grae. The San Antonio Raceway is full of heroes this weekend.

Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
Sideways cars, tire smoke and good cheer were plentiful at Saturday's Night Drift during San Antonio Raceway's Paul Walker Memorial Weekend.
The 1/4 mile drag strip is prepped and ready for Sunday's public drag races.
Late model Dodges are a popular option on the raceway's drag strip. This Challenger preps for a run in the burnout box.
A pristine Pontiac Firebird takes a solo run down the 1/4 mile.
Vintage Oldsmobile was represented, as well. This Cutlass warms up its tires pre-race.
Many bikes turned out for the Sunday drags. This Suzuki GSX-R in full drag configuration outpaced its 4-wheeled rivals.
A couple vintage dedicated drag racers were also on hand. They did some light runs, but added an electric feel to the day.
Track owner, and community organizer, Iain Grae shares the view from the tower. He also runs Cycle Ranch, a motocross facility 45 minutes southeast of San Antonio.
The Cutlass lifts it front tires as the light goes green during Sunday's racing.
Another Dodge pulls away from the start for a quick run down the 1/4 mile.
Countless Ford Mustangs made the trip to the track to test their times, but this Fox-bodied model shows it still has the torque to deliver loads of excitement.