“THE LAST RACE”

November 07, 2018 at 5:00 am

Find out how one community on Long Island is trying to hold on to its past while staving off developers. To learn more, click here. 

Aired on November 6, 2018. 

Transcript Print

RIVERHEAD RAISEWAY IS A RARE
PLACE.
FOR DECADES, IT'S HOSTED
SHOWDOWNS OF LOCAL RESIDENTS WHO
BRING THEIR STOCK CARS TO BATTLE
ON A QUARTER MILE TRACK, WITH
PASSION SPILLING OUT OF THE
COCKPITS EVEN AFTER THE RACE IS
DONE.
ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WERE
OVER 40 TRACKS ON LONG ISLAND,
WHERE STOCK CAR GLADIATORS COULD
VIE FOR GLORY.
BUT RIVERHEAD IS THE LAST ONE
STANDING, AND IT TOO IS
STRUGGLING TO HOLD ON AS REAL
ESTATE DEVELOPMENT THREATENS ITS
SURVIVAL.
OUR NEXT GUEST CAPTURES THE
RACETRACK COMMUNITY'S FIGHT TO
SAVE THE RACEWAY AND ITS CULTURE
IN THE NEW DOCUMENTARY "THE LAST
RACE."
HERE'S A LOOK.
>> WITH ALL THE TRACKS, 99% ARE
DEF
DEFUNCT, GONE.
>> THIS PIECE OF PROPERTY IS
WORTH MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
>> BUSINESS IS GOING TO SQUEEZE
THEM OUT.
>> IF YOU'RE SAYING, I'M TRYING
TO GET YOUR ATTENTION.
>> JUST A QUESTION OF TIME.
>> THEIR KIDS ALLOW US TO
DEVELOP THE PROPERTY.
>> WHEN RIVERHEAD GOES, THAT
WILL BE THE END OF RACING ON
LONG ISLAND.
>> MICHAEL, WELCOME TO THE
PROGRAM.
>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
>> A FASCINATING FILM.
NOW, HOW DID THIS FILM EMERGE
OUT OF YOUR HEAD?
ARE YOU PART OF THIS, WERE YOU
EVER PART OF THIS COMMUNITY,
THIS --
>> I WANTED TO BE A RAISE DRIVER
WHEN I WAS YOUNG.
I WAS RAISED IN A TOWN NEXT DOOR
TO A RACETRACK.
AND THAT'S WHERE I WOULD GO WITH
MY BROTHER AND PARENTS EVERY
TUESDAY AND SATURDAY FROM WHEN I
WAS 3 YEARS OLD UNTIL I WENT TO
COLLEGE AT 18.
THIS IS A PLACE THAT, TO ME, WAS
WHERE MY HEROES WERE.
OF COURSE, I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE
A RACE DRIVER.
AND THEN TRACK WAS CLOSED AND
REPLACED BY A COSTCO, AND
EVENTUALLY ALL THE TRACKS WERE
CLOSED AND THERE WAS ONLY ONE
LEFT.
THAT'S WHY I DECIDED TO
MEMORIALIZE THIS RACETRACK.
FIRST WITH PHOTOGRAPHY, WHERE I
SPENT FIVE YEARS MAKING THAT
TRACK MY STUDIO.
AND FIVE MORE YEARS AFTER THAT,
WORKING ON A FILM.
I REALIZED --
>> THE FIRST FILM?
>> YEAH, I THOUGHT IT WAS EASY.
>> OH WHO ARE THESE HEROES,
THESE MEN WHO PARTICIPATE IN
THIS KIND OF -- IN THIS RACE, IN
THIS KIND OF SUBCULTURE, AND THE
PEOPLE AROUND THEM?
WHO ARE THEY?
>> THESE ARE WORKING CLASS
PEOPLE.
THESE ARE MECHANICS, AND TOW
TRUCK OPERATORS THAT WORK REALLY
DIFFICULT JOBS DURING THE WEEK.
BUT AT NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT, THEY
WORK ON RACECARS.
THEY GET HOME FROM WORK AND WORK
ON THESE CARS, EVEN IF THERE'S
NO RACING.
IN THE WINTER THEY WORK EVERY
SINGLE NIGHT, AS WELL, FOR THEIR
CHANCE TO COME TO THE RACETRACK
ON A SATURDAY NIGHT AT 6:00 TO
RACE IN FRONT OF 2,000 FANS THAT
WEAR THEIR T-SHIRTS, WITH THE
HOPE OF WINNING A TROPHY AND
HAVING SOME DIGNITY.
>> YOU NOT ONLY CAPTURE THESE
GUY'S PASSION FOR THE RACE,
THEY'RE REALLY SKILLED PEOPLE.
>> THEY ARE.
THEY'RE HM LIKE PHYSICISTS.
BESIDES BEING SKILLED MECHANICS
AND CRAFTSMAN WITH THEIR HANDS,
THEY ARE -- WHEN THEY GET ON A
RACETRACK, THEY'RE RACING AT
OVER 100 MILES PER HOUR ON A
QUARTER MILE TRACK WITH 30 CARS.
AND YOU'RE ALLOWED TO MAKE FULL
CONTACT, SORT OF.
SO THEY'RE SMART.
YOU KNOW, EVERYBODY WANTS
MEANING IN THEIR LIFE, EVERYBODY
WANTS TO FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE A
VALUE.
WHEN YOU'RE AT A RACETRACK AND
SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS, PEOPLE SAY,
YOU ARE MY HERO.
THAT MEANS A LOT TO EVERYBODY,
NOT JUST THESE GUYS.
>> WE TALK ABOUT THESE PEOPLE
BEING DIGNIFIED.
TWO OF THE MOST INSPIRING
CHARACTERS ARE THE RACETRACK
OWNERS, JIM AND BARBARA.
THEY'RE IN THEIR 80s, THEY MOVE
AROUND IN WALKERS.
THEY KIND OF LOSE MONEY.
IT'S A LOSING BUSINESS?
>> CORRECT.
>> YET THEY SIT ON LANDS THAT'S
WORTH MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, AND
THEY REFUSE -- THEY TRY TO KEEP
SOLDIERING ON.
THEY WANT TO KEEP IT OPEN.
WHY?
>> WELL, IT'S INTERESTING.
I FOLLOWED THEIR LIVES FOR THREE
YEARS.
YOU SEE BARBARA AND JIM COMING
FROM MANHATTAN ON FRIDAY NIGHT,
87-YEAR-OLD COUPLE, SLEEPING AT
A HOLIDAY INN, WAKE UP AND
CHANGING INTO THEIR NASCAR
UNIFORMS AND THEY'RE PART OF THE
GROUP.
BARBARA SAYS IN THE FILM, MOST
OF MY FRIENDS THAT ARE RETIRED
THINK OF WHERE THEY'RE GOING TO
DINNER.
WE HAVE A LIFE.
WE'RE HOLDING ON TO YOUTH.
THE SHOPPING MALLS ARE
ENCROACHING.
THERE'S TWO WALMARTS IN THAT
DOWN, THEY STRIPPED ALL THE
FARMLAND AND FORESTS ARE GONE.
NOW THAT LAST PIECE OF LAND IS
WORTH $10 MILLION.
DEVELOPERS COME AND THEY SAY NO.
THIS COMMUNITY IS IMPORTANT.
WE FEEL RESPONSIBLE TO THE TOWN
AND WE'RE KEEPING IT OPEN.
>> WHAT HAPPENS TO THIS CULTURE
IF IT CLOSES?
>> IT'S NOT ONLY RACETRACKS.
THIS IS THE LAST REMAINING
RACETRACK IN THE COUNTRY THAT
RACES REAL STOCK CARS FROM THE
'70s.
SO WHAT DO WE DO WITH PEOPLE
THAT ARE BORED?
WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE THAT HACK
DIGNITY IN THEIR LIVES?
THAT'S A BIG QUESTION.
THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS I WANT
TO DO THIS FILM IS I WANT TO
KEEP COMMUNITIES STABLES.
A LOCAL COFFEE SHOP, A BAKER, A
SHOEMAKER.
YOU WANT VIBRANT COMMUNITIES.
>> MICHAEL, IT'S A FASCINATING
FILM.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
>> "THE LAST RACE" WILL BE IN
THEATERS STARTING NOVEMBER 16th.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, LOG ON TO
OUR WEBSITE.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, and Judy and Josh Weston.

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