Rogue Racers pt. 1: Underground car scene tries to distance itself from street racing

Two drivers race their cars along Highway 140 in Jackson County. Almost every Friday night in Jackson County, anywhere from 20 to 40 cars and drivers meet in parking lots to, simply, talk cars and try to distance themselves from the negative image of street racing. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

Medford, Ore. - On March 17th, Oregon State Police got a call about street racing along highway 140 in Jackson County.

Residents say it happens a lot during the summer, but drivers who know what happens out there say it's just a few Rogue Racers.

"One person can ruin the whole car scene," Chris Dion says. "It only takes one person to do a burnout in the wrong place, where they've seen them at car meets. I know 90 percent of these people would never take their car out to go racing. I mean unless it's on a track."

Instead of street racing on 140, many drivers meet in parking lots around Jackson County after business hours to simply hang out and talk cars.

"Having a place where we can actually come and meet is helpful for the community and it's helpful for us," Ryan Rodriguez says. "It gets people out of the house, it gets people busy, doing stuff, being active."

The meets usually have anywhere from 20 to 40 different cars show up and driver ages range from 17 to over 40 years old.

"You learn things, you hang out around people that have been doing this for years," Kevin Coburn, an Eagle Point High School student, says. "I've been doing it for a long time, but people have been doing it for decades ahead of I have so learn as much as you can, meet new people, it's always a fun time."

For the drivers who do want to race safely, many use the Medford Dragstrip.

"I don't want to have that [street racing] image," Dion says. "I keep my stuff to the track and that's it."

Beyond the track and parking lots, the meet-ups have helped build an 'underground' community. On April 9th, a South Medford High School senior incorporated this unseen car scene into his senior project benefiting his school's Sparrow.

"My teacher, just out of nowhere, showed me the Custom for Kids car show, and I thought about making one of my own," Paul Rodriguez says. "She's like it would be a good idea. Then, I talked to Ryan [Rodriguez] and that's when he helped me get everyone together and that's how it turned out today."

"We're going to try and help show the support that wouldn't be possible if it weren't for these meets," Ryan Rodriguez says.

Ryan Rodriguez, who's 38 years old, wanted to show support for the senior project - which raised over $200 for the Sparrow - because he loves when young people come out to the meets.

"It's nice to see younger kids coming out to these car meets than sitting at home, you know, perhaps doing drugs or just not being involved in anything," Ryan Rodriguez says. "When they come out here, they feel like they have a purpose or they have some sort of community to connect with, you know, on an actual one on one basis, not a social media basis."

While most of the drivers at the meet-ups don't street race, there are the few that do. One racer agreed to do an interview if kept completely anonymous in order to protect his identity.

"The Dragstrip is not always an option late at night," the racer says. "You don't always have a race all the time, it just kind of happens."

Because of these few racers, everyone else at the meet-ups gets lumped into the same stereotype - that a loud, flashy car must street race.

News 10 asked Coburn if he had ever been approached by law enforcement for his car before based on that stereotype.

"A couple times. I mean, to be honest with you, I've never even gotten pulled over before," Coburn says. "It's kind of crazy."

To those Rogue Racers in Jackson County, the drivers at the meet-ups have a message.

"Amongst those who do, I have no idea who they are and I don't associate with them," Dion says.

"On the track you're not going to get arrested," Coburn says.

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