WADE: Get Your Kicks On Route 66

Susan Wade

SEATTLE — Brian Devincenzi could sense a different vibe this time.

The political climate in his corner of Arizona was more agreeable, more cooperative and more receptive to his hosting the Kingman Route 66 Street Drags than it was when he last staged the event in 2011.

Crafting a textbook example of how state, city and local officials can partner with the business community and residents for fun and tourism-boosting, Devincenzi and his steering committee are bringing back the eighth and biggest edition of the event Oct. 25-27.

The Kingman Route 66 Street Drags once again will block off a section of the historic highway for three days of street racing — the legal way. All of the safety equipment and personnel spectators expect to see at a purpose-built drag strip will be in place.

With an old-fashioned flag starter urging on every pair Friday, the test-and-tune action in Grudge, Unlimited, Pro Street, Hot Rod, Pure Street, Sport Compact, Truck, Motorcycle and Jr. Dragster classes will run from noon to 9 p.m. (Gates open at 11 a.m. Friday.)

Racers will use a full timing system on the track and stage their cars with the normal staging beams, with yellow lights on top, but on Friday only, the Christmas Tree will have no other lights.

The unique event will continue Saturday with gates opening at 8 a.m. and time trials from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. A Celebrity Challenge will pit the mayors and police chiefs of nearby Bullhead City and Lake Havasu during Saturday’s lineup. Each racer will have two passes to make the Quick 8 in every class. Those Quick 8 will square off in Sunday’s 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. eliminations, vying for the champion’s cash prize and custom-designed trophy.

Those who didn’t make the Quick 8 will compete Sunday in the Grudge class, which allows them to match up against racers from different classes.

Tickets — priced at $10 Friday, $15 Saturday and $15 Sunday — will be sold at the gate. (The only tickets available for advance purchase are for the hospitality suite.) Grandstand seating will accommodate about 4,000.

NAPA Auto Parts is the presenting sponsor, but a host of local sponsors and dozens of volunteers are contributing.

Devincenzi said, “The attitude seems to be, ‘We used to have these things. We would like them to be back.’ That was the attitude of the city. They want you to know that this was a really good thing. This was good for us and it was a good thing for the entire community. We should bring this back. And I was the guy for the last eight years reaching over and tapping somebody on the shoulder or reminding them about it. They finally said, ‘You know what? We not only want it back. We want it back as an annual event.’

“It took a good seven years of trying to get their attention, trying to get them to readdress it,” he added. “One of the new city councilmen … seemed to champion the cause and took it to the city. We’ve got a city manager who has done event production, so he understands what events do. And his whole philosophy was, ‘Our community needs these. We need good things to happen.’ He was totally supportive.”

The assumption is that blocking off a section of a famous and historic highway would present special problems. Devincenzi said, “It didn’t, because everybody has embraced the effort.”

By “everybody,” he meant the city’s staff, which includes the Arizona Department of Transportation, the sheriff’s department, the police department, the fire department and the city works.

He said they see the incredible detail that he, budget manager Dana Marino and Dicken Wear, a motorsports journalist and well-entrenched automotive-industry engineer and entrepreneur, have gone to. Devincenzi said, “We have done an incredible amount of behind-the-scenes detailed work to make sure that we dot every i and cross every t,  and that’s why it’s working. That’s why the city is comfortable with it.”

Marino, who teasingly calls herself “the bad guy” for holding costs to a reasonable level, said, “In the past it has been a little, ‘Well, I don’t know if we can do that. I don’t know.’ Now it’s like, ‘What do you need?’ Everyone has just bent over backward to help us put this together. It definitely is a huge team effort. And I’m really, really proud of Kingman for standing up and seeing the vision that we have for this.”

Kingman has the longest original intact strip of Route 66 anywhere in the country and four-lane Andy Devine Road overlaps it. So it’s no small undertaking, shutting down a major artery for the three days of the race, plus time to establish the course and break it down again.

The bottom line is after this concerted effort, several hundred drag racers will be ready (as Nat King Cole sang) to get their kicks on Route 66.