I-TEAM: 2 street racing crashes in 2 weeks spark more safety concerns

Racers say lack of local tracks partly to blame for dangerous street racing, crashes

Safety concerns are now arising with the latest headlines involving street racing and car meet-ups around Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Safety concerns are now arising with the latest headlines involving street racing and car meet-ups around Jacksonville.

In the past two weeks, News4JAX has brought you two headlines about crashes involving street racing. The latest involves a fatal motorcycle crash on the Northside.

Now the racing community is saying a contributing factor to this is all the tracks in Northeast Florida that have shut down for racers.

The most recent private track to close, which was utilized by hundreds of racers, was shut down a few years ago in Green Cove Springs and is now used to house semi-truck trailers.

Members of the racing community told the News4JAX I-TEAM that since that track closed, the nearest track is in Gainesville. Most drivers don’t want to travel that far and have taken to Jacksonville streets and parking lots to race or do tricks instead.

In just the past two weekends the I-TEAM has learned of two serious crashes, including the fatal motorcycle crash on the Northside on Cold Storage Road in an empty parking lot. The weekend before that, a large crowd gathered for drag racing on a rural road on the Westside. A video was shared with News4JAX of one of those races where a driver lost control and went through a fence, crashing into a parked semi-truck trailer at a business.

Drivers have been reaching out to News4JAX for months saying Jacksonville needs some sort of facility for these people so they don’t take to public streets or private parking lots.

RELATED: Doughnuts & street racing: Late night reckless drivers a nuisance for downtown residents | Manager says street racers have caused $60K in damage doing donuts in strip mall parking lot | I-TEAM: Complaints continue over car groups driving erratically in vacant parking lots | I-TEAM: Local car group speaks following street takeover complaints | Councilman’s message to car clubs: Get off public property or buy your own place | Video appears to show police cruiser peeling out in Jacksonville parking lot | Witness says police cruiser seen in video was trying to disperse crowd gathered for car club meetup | I-TEAM: Residents say drivers are turning this area of Jacksonville into a weekend racetrack | I-TEAM: Street racing concerns surface in another area of Jacksonville | Two motorcyclists die after doing stunts in parking lot, JSO says

“I’m not trying to make excuses for them, but when you shut down the safe and sanctioned areas that you do that in, they’re not necessarily forced, but they’re going to go find where they can do it,” said Jennifer Robards.

Robards said she and her boyfriend race at the only existing raceway still in the region in Gainesville. She thinks bringing a track to Jacksonville could help after the only local one in Green Cove Springs closed a few years ago.

“Not everybody would be going. Some people are going to do what they’re going to do, but I feel like a lot of it -- people might choose to go where they can be safe,” Robards said.

The I-TEAM hasn’t gotten many answers out of City Hall on this issue. In the months since we started looking into this, we have requested several comments from the Mayor’s Office on this issue and our inquiries have either not been responded to have been forwarded to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The only real answer we received was in January from City Councilman Kevin Carrico.

Carrico represents sections of Beach Boulevard where many parking lots have been used by these car groups. He said if the groups want a raceway to use, they will need to pay for one and have it built.

About the Author:

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.