By WES RAMEY

There’s nothing like watching a professional race car driver push his or her machine to the edge; that fine line between control and chaos. But because the men and women behind those steering wheels are professionals, it always looks so simple and so easy.

Simple and easy definitely are two things... controlling an on-the-edge car are not. While it looks stress-free sitting in the stands at "The World’s Fastest Half-Mile" or along the fence at Thunder Valley, inside the cockpit things are anything but.

Because the professionals handle their cars with such ability, many people seem to think they can do the same thing, and often test their vehicles in the same way. However, they aren’t doing it in a controlled environment with safety personnel, fire-proof clothing, roll cages or five point seat-belts. These people do it on the street with nothing separating them from disaster but a false notion that they can’t be hurt. When everything goes wrong, it really goes wrong.

While it has been glamorized in movies and on television, the risks and hazards of illegal street racing are rarely illustrated. While many illegal street racing incidents occur without public knowledge, those that do make news do so because of the tragedy involved. 

Through unique programs, Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway offer drivers of all ages the opportunity to stay safe behind the wheel while having fun at the same time.

At Taco Bell Street Fights, anyone with a driver’s license and a street-legal vehicle can race down the same legendary drag strip that has made so many drivers famous. Street Fights continues to prove itself as the perfect place for anyone with the need for speed to flex their muscle in a safe environment. American muscle cars, import tuners, motorcycles and even grocery-getters heat up the track during each event. Spectator admission is just $5, while anyone can race for just $10.

Additionally, the North Entrance of BMS (the same place where the souvenir trucks park during NASCAR race weeks) plays host to four weekends of the Accident Avoidance Workshops each year. At the Accident Avoidance Workshops, young drivers and their parents learn advance maneuvering techniques to keep them safe on the road.

And don't forget the driving schools, like the Petty Driving Experience and Fast Track Driving School that visit Bristol Motor Speedway each year.

For many young drivers, the driving exercises in the AAW expose them to certain situations for the very first time. In one drill, drivers must attempt to bring their car to a controlled stop while driving through a large puddle of cooking oil. The drivers learn the best ways to avoid losing control even on slippery surfaces. (When you come to BMS for the IRWIN Tools Night Race, you probably will see the marks on the pavement on the creek-side of the souvenir trailer parking lot.)

We try to do our part to make sure we can see everyone back safe and sound for August race week. Please take illegal street racing off the road and put it where it belongs; the race track.