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Midnight Madness Encourages Legal and Fun Street-Racing in St. Louis


Credit to Ben Henry

A BMW X5 and a Dodge Charger race for the fastest time on WorldWide Technology’s quarter mile drag strip.

A few Fridays out of the year, over 1,000 spectators and hundreds of racers pack the stands and tracks of Worldwide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois for “Midnight Madness”. Sponsored by Ranken Technical College and NOS Energy Drinks, it provides an outlet for illegal street racers to satisfy their need for speed in a safe environment. The event is headed by Jon Bisci, director of WWT’s media relations.

“We have the quarter mile drag strip and the drift course open for the event,” Bisci said.

The program was first started in 2000 in Las Vegas after the urban racing culture erupted and Las Vegas police were running out of options. The program aimed to regulate the dangerous culture and give the racers a legal way to show off their speed. It was then brought to St. Louis by Chris Blair in 2013 when he purchased the then-abandoned racetrack facility. 

“After the Fast & Furious movies, the street racing culture exploded. I was in Vegas at the time, and we had people going seven wide down the Strip,” Bisci said. “There wasn’t a place for young people to have safe and cheap fun in Vegas at the time.”

Sgt. Smith of the Madison IL Police Department works at the raceway as security.

“People come here and race so we don’t have to deal with it on major roads, it’s almost completely eliminated street racing in this area,” Smith said.

A major part of the program is that it is significantly safer than the underground racing culture that has claimed many lives.

“The faster you go, the more safety equipment we require you to have. Everybody needs a safety harness. At 14 seconds [in a quarter mile] we require a helmet, at faster speeds we require fire suits and roll cages,” Bisci said.

One of the racers at the event is Ethan Hassler, who has modified his 1972 Chevy Monte Carlo to be race-legal.

“I’ve put a roll cage and reinforced the chassis,” Hassler said. “I wear a helmet with an 8-point harness. It’s a lot safer now.” 

The race organizers also do their part to ensure that the race is safe for all involved.

“We have what we call ‘the Beach’, it’s a sand pit and aircraft nets [are used] to stop any cars that can’t stop on their own,” Bisci said. “We’ve also got fire and safety teams at the finish line, where most accidents happen and we have cleanup crews in a few places.”