Members of Save Auto Club Dragway said the venue deterred illegal street racing and provided a healthy and exciting lifestyle for racing enthusiasts.
Jim Willoughby, senior pastor of Echos of Faith World Outreach Ministries in Ontario, amateur drag racer and co-founder of Save Auto Club Dragway, said the dragway injected revenue into the local economy and provided a productive outlet for teens with its Junior Dragster program.
"We are here to voice our support of the dragstrip, as well as let you know how important this facility is to our community," Willoughby said. "With Auto Club Dragway now closed, there's no place for people to race their cars in a safe, controlled environment."
The quarter-mile drag strip was a popular attraction at Auto Club Speedway, formerly California Speedway, for 11 years.
A Superior Court judge last month suspended operation of the Dragway after determining an environmental impact report the county relied on when approving, in November 2010, a noise abatement plan at the Speedway for its drag strip and Fourth of July fireworks show was not sufficient.
Following the closure of the Dragway, photographer Kathryn Rau started a Facebook page called "Save Our Drag Strips." The response, she said, was overwhelming. She has tallied 1,555 members, and is adding more people every day.
She waved as inch-thick stack of papers, secured by a black bulldog clip, before the Board of Supervisors.
"I have in my hand a petition with 8,830 signatures of people, racers and race fans that want to reopen the drag strip at Fontana," Rau said. "Nearly 9,000 people want to see Auto Club Dragway succeed."
The closure of the Fontana drag strip came just two weeks after the
Heather Roberts, president of the Orange County Auto Theft Investigators Association, which works closely with the San Bernardino County Auto Theft Task Force (SANCAT), told the board there have been four street racing deaths in the Inland Empire since the Auto Club Dragway closed.
"That means one death per week associated with illegal street racing," Roberts said.
Mike Rice, Pacific Division director for the National Hot Rod Association, said the NHRA was established more than 60 years ago for the specific purpose of keeping kids off the streets and providing them with an exciting hobby.
"What I'm urging here today is your support to help us, and we will support you with whatever we can to get this track back up and running and to keep these participants off the streets," Rice told the board.
Board of Supervisros Chairwoman Josie Gonzales said the county's hands are tied due to the court's ruling. She said she does plan on contacting officials at the Auto Club Speedway to find out what their intentions are regarding the future of the Dragway.
"It's a shame what happened. I'm going to do whatever I can do to help them," Gonzales said.