What started as a Facebook group has become a loud, exciting, and energetic movement — and local lawmakers have taken notice.
The movement’s sole goal is to bring legal drag racing back to Long Island.
There hasn’t been a legal option for drag racing in Suffolk or Nassau counties since 2004, when the Westhampton Drag Strip closed after more than a 50-year run.
But on Tuesday, Suffolk County legislators announced they are creating a task force to help find locations in Suffolk County to build a 1/4-mile track. The Legislature’s presiding officer, DuWayne Gregory, is spearheading the committee’s efforts, which were announced Tuesday in Hauppauge.
Gregory said drag racing could generate over $100 million in revenue to Long Island.
“Long Island is losing tax dollars in sales tax,” said Gregory. “[Adding a drag strip has] enormous benefits from tourism, in terms of marketing Long Island, and supporting the hotel, motel industry, while encouraging extended vacations, and job creation in industries that build cars and support racing.”
He also said the Legislature’s support for finding a suitable location also comes as a public safety response to those who illegally race on public streets and highways.
Standing alongside Gregory during Tuesday’s press conference was Mastic native John Cozzali, who heads the group Long Island Needs a Drag Strip. (You might have seen the stickers on local cars.)
After creating the group nearly a year ago on Facebook, his membership has reached 14,000 members.
When Cozzali was introduced Tuesday, about 100 of his members — all wearing “L.I. Needs a Drag Strip” shirts — stood up to applause.
Cozzali told the packed room that money is leaving the Island in terms of his members heading to other states to race.
“It’s long overdue,” Cozzali started, “We need this. The economic value that it will bring back to Long Island is tremendous. A safe place for us to race … is very important.”
In addition to drag racing, Cozzali mentioned he’d like to see the drag strip — which would be privately owned even though county lawmakers are involved in the committee’s efforts — evolve into a motorsports park that would allow for quad and dirt bike riding.
The effort to bring this motorsport facility to Suffolk County received bipartisan support.
“Racing is probably the largest spectator sport in the United States. The crowd that stood behind us today is indicative of the popularity of the sport right here in Suffolk County,” said Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Islip).
The task force will include legislators, representatives from both the Department of Planning and Suffolk County Supervisors’ Association, along with Cozzali and his associates.
The committee will meet in a few days to begin their efforts of bringing drag racing to Long Island. Aside from locations, Long Island Needs a Drag Strip is also looking for investors to help bring this venture to life.
Photo: Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (at podium) introduces Long Island Needs a Drag Strip’s John Cozzali.