Sounds of screaming engines, clouds of smoke and smell of burnt tires filled the air Sunday as Texarkana auto racing enthusiastics got their first taste of the "4-States Drift" at the Four States Fairgrounds.
Intermittent crowds braved near-freezing temperatures, bone-chilling winds and light rain on the figure-8 track designed by local driver and meet director Ray Harris Jr.
The event, the first of its kind held in Texarkana, featured drivers showing their skills by running near wide-open into turns, battling to burn their tires and control their vehicle as it drifted around the course. It was a non-competitive event, so drivers weren't graded and scores weren't kept to determine winners on the track located on the south end of the fairgrounds parking lot.
"Considering the weather conditions, I think we had an excellent turnout," said Harris, who has been involved in the sport about nearly six years. "We had drivers from all over show up—even as far away as Fayetteville, Ark., and Houston. A lot of competitors were from Little Rock, Hot Springs, Ark., the Shreveport-Bossier City, La., area, and we had several local drivers take part, too."
Harris said he hopes to host another draft event in Texarkana. "Maybe in March or April when the weather warm up," he said. "The response we got today showed me there's a true interest in the motorsport."
All types of cars, mainly two-door models that had been modified with roll cages and other safety equipment, scampered around the concrete track. Most ran one car at a time, but occasionally two cars (known as a tandem) would dash around the track simultaneously.
Casey Carr of Wake Village raced his 2004 Honda S2000, which he said probably produces about 250 horsepower. "I've been driving my car about seven years, but this was by my draft event," he said. "When you nail the accelerator, the motor will push you back into your seat and then you have break quickly and get control of your car as it's sliding into the curves.
"It takes a lot of skill by using your throttle, steering and knowing how to handle your car when you're trying to maintain control, but it's a lot of fun."
Veteran driver Chris Burgurder, 27, who builds drift cars at his Little Rock shop, was impressive in several of his rounds driving his white car that is powered by a powerful Corvette engine.
"We're building a lot of drift cars, especially since the competition has taken off in the Little Rock to Dallas area," Burgurder said. "We can pretty much customize them to whatever the customer wants. I really enjoy racing my cars."
Spectator Cody Wooten of Texarkana, Ark., said Sunday was his first exposure to draft racing.
"I came in not really knowing what to expect, but it been fun and I've enjoyed it. I think a lot of area racing fans showed interest in it."
Matt Taylor, of Texarkana, Texas, another spectator, said he liked what he saw.
"Some of those cars were going as fast as they could heading into the curves, which made it tough for the driver to keep from spinning out. They would be going so fast they would just slide around the track, leaving burnt rubber on the course (lined with orange cones)."
Harris build his car from the ground up, said his father, Ray Harris Sr., a choir director at an area church.
"You don't have to put $50,000 into a drift car to be competitive," said the senior Harris. "That's where a lot of your driving skill comes into play."
Ray Harris Jr. said he built his car himself, except getting a little help from a Hope, Ark., man. "I've put every nut and bolt into this car," he said. "I really enjoyed making it go as fast as it can and maneuver around the drift course."
Drifting can rip tires up, especially on hot, summer days. "I've seen some drivers use 12 or 16 tires at one event," Harris Jr. said. "Smoke will be billowing, especially from the rear tires, and it tears them up pretty quickly."
With Sunday's turnout, Harris Jr. said he hopes to hold more events in Texarkana. "I'm excited about it. I hope it really takes off."