WILLIAMS - Smoking tires and straining engines. These are the sights and sounds drag racing enthusiasts live for. One local resident hopes to bring the smell of burning rubber and spectacle of drag racing to Route 66 in the heart of Williams.
It won't be an easy task.
Jim Simmons said he hopes to organize a legal street-racing event to take place in September similar to the Kingman Drags held for the past nine years.
To put the event on, Simmons estimates it will take $50,000-60,000 in sponsorships. Fencing, concrete K-rails, insurance, ambulance, fire department and police coverage and security will all need to be factored in to the cost of the race.
Sue Atkinson, events coordinator with the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce, said finances will make or break the event. Liability insurance for the event is estimated to cost between $5,000-6,000. The 4,000 feet of concrete barrier K-rails needed to line the raceway alone will cost $21,000 to rent.
"They're brought in on flatbeds and we need forklifts and cranes to move them around," Atkinson said. "There is a huge production."
Simmons is currently talking to ADOT officials to possibly have the barriers donated or sponsored by the agency.
While the cost to put on a racing event and the logistics behind it are daunting, Simmons said a drag racing event is perfect for the city of Williams due to the city's heritage as a Route 66 town.
"I've always been concerned that we're on Route 66 and we're not using that," he said. "My brother and I and all my friends are all drag racers. For four years now, we've talked about putting on a drag race here. Because that's who we are. We're not just trains, we're Route 66."
Simmons has proposed the drags take place on Railroad Avenue with the start line located at First Street and drag racers heading east. Railroad would be blocked off and turned into a two-lane drag strip. Route 66 would be converted to a two way street.
Similar to the Kingman race, the drag strip would be 330 feet, a quarter mile, in length.
"If we have some really fast cars coming to the event, that keeps us around 100 mph," Simmons said.
Atkinson said she and Simmons have approached city officials as well as Williams Police Chief Herman Nixon and Mayor John Moore.
"They are all in support of it," she said.
Williams Police Chief Herman Nixon, meanwhile, said a meeting was held months ago regarding the possibility of a racing event in Williams but has not had further communication with organizers or the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce since that time.
"Last I heard they were going to have to go into negotiations with the city and that just hasn't happened," Nixon said.
Nixon went on to say that a drag racing event could be held in the proposed location but, again, logistics will be an issue.
"From a safety standpoint, it sounds feasible," he said. "The problem I see is they've got to have a 50 foot barrier from the street away from the stands. They probably could put the stands in, but I don't know how many people they're going to fit in here. That is going to be the issue."
Simmons said his main goal is to bring visitors to town. Beyond monetary sponsorships, he needs help organizing the event.
"I need a committee," he said. "The one thing I've heard from everybody is 'Jim, you need help.' Drag racing is the one thing I know how to do that will help the town if I don't go broke doing it."
Interim Williams City Manager Joe Duffy said further discussion is needed before the event can become a reality.
"With an event this large, they will need to come in for street approvals for closing roads," Duffy said. "They will need to bring it to council. With an event of this magnitude, there is a lot involved with it and I'm sure the chamber will be talking with us to get all the ducks in a row."
Simmons has been active in the drag racing community since he was 18-years-old.
"When 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits would come into Phoenix, my brother and my sister and me would all go out and push his car and do anything we could do to help him along," Simmons said. "We were big time fans. He's like God when it comes to drag racing. He's the father of drag racing."
Simmons has plenty of experience driving drag racing cars. He started out in a pro-mod 1969 Camaro.
"It ran 10:35 through the quarter mile which is about 130 something mph through the quarter mile," Simmons said. "It's fast. It will blow you back in your seat. It's great."
For more information on the proposed drag races, or to find out how you can help, call Jim Simmons at (928) 853-3854.