By on March 16, 2016

Miller Motorsports Park Circa May 2008

Is it curtains for modified street cars on the racetrack, or will a compromise save the day?

The first meeting of a congressional committee tasked with deciding the fate of drivers who race modified street vehicles took place on March 15, and a glimmer of hope emerged, according to Jalopnik.

Earlier this month, a bipartisan bill — Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 — was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate in a bid to make converted race vehicles exempt from proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Though racecars are already exempt under the Clean Air Act, the EPA had published draft legislation calling for environmental laws to be applied to the aftermarket products used to turn a regular vehicle into a track-only racer. The EPA sees the modifications as “tampering” with regulated on-road vehicles.

After the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) found out about the proposal and raised a big stink, a group of four congressmen crafted the bill at the center of yesterday’s meeting of the  Oversight Committee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The meeting, which included participation by SEMA President and CEO Christopher Kersting,  saw three experts discuss the impact the proposed EPA regulations would have on the motorsports industry. The EPA did not have a representative there, but Brent Yacobucci of the Congressional Research Service spoke to the regulatory side of the matter.

This is where things get interesting.

Yacobucci feels the whole controversy stems from two different interpretations of existing laws held by the EPA and SEMA.

While SEMA states that racecars have always been exempt from the Clean Air Act, the EPA’s stance is that there has never been an exemption for modifying the emissions systems of a road car, even if the car is now relegated solely to the racetrack.

Yacobucci opined that a change in the EPA’s regulatory language could solve the problem. If a driver were to remove the emissions label when they removed their vehicle from the street, that could make the subsequent modifications legal.

Even if the EPA doesn’t choose to go that route, another option would be for owners to report their non-street-legal vehicle to the regulator in the same manner as someone importing a race car.

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22 Comments on “Showdown Over EPA Racecar Regulations Begins in Congress...”


  • avatar

    There is no place to hide. No hobby or niche is too small for the government to keep their hands off.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      That’s the idea. Nice site btw.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxb49

      That’s the problem. The regulatory state is getting too big, while at the same time crippling the rights of Americans to sue for harm in court. A government regulatory agency’s occupation of a field typically limits a citizen’s right to recover for a harm in court. Unfortunately, that leads to many claims being tied up for years in a kangaroo court without real progress being made. Then the agency gets captured. Wake up America.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    The back issue seems to be all those “for off road use only” parts that end up on road cars, not to mention tuners.

    Look what happened to motorcycle exhaust manufacturers in california.

    The actual emissions harm is probably not measurable, but shutting down a multi billion dollar indistry is. Do w ereally need the epa to go forth on this, or are we seein yet more evidence of large agencies and gov in general just regulating more because thats what they do.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      The problem is too many people who ignorantly remove emissions equipment from their cars in the mistaken belief that they can drive faster that way. You can smell the raw gasoline in their exhaust as they chug along in traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Exactly. This is going after the 99% of those parts that are used on the street. Not the immaterial amount that may end-up on a racetrack.

        Besides, fartcan mufflers and foam filters make your car slower, you wouldn’t want that on a race car. It’s always funny when you listen to a “tuned” car accelerate, it sounds like a tractor trailer. It’s loud, but it doesn’t rev.

        The idea that the government is evil when they make you run a legal car is just as absurd as the idea that your Mom is a tyrant when she tells you to clean your room. By the way, aren’t you a little too old to be living in your Mom’s basement with delusions of being a fast and furious street racer?

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          If what they’re attempting to do is “going after” street cars, then “go after” street cars. As in, cars driven on the street.

          As long as all you’re ever doing in your car is driving around on a closed circuit, whether your car was originally, 2 decades, 4 owners and three engines ago, sold as a road car or a track car, is pretty much the definition of irrelevant.

          Of course, the only people with the EPA’s ears, are those who can afford an account with a lobbying firm. Meaning, can also afford an Atom or similar.

  • avatar
    ja-gti

    Finally! A government bureaucracy that cares enough to do something about the smog over Mid-Ohio and all those race car drivers suffering from black lung.

  • avatar
    NickS

    “emissions harm is probably not measurable” because we’d like to think it is not. It is measurable. The smog check, and various air quality monitoring stations in many regions are just two of the ways we measure it directly. And there are scientific and clinical ways we measure the effects too.

    The real issue here is that many (most) of the products from that industry are based on a flawed business model that uses a clean air act exemption intended for a very tiny market, in order sell to a much larger market that does not have that exemption. The value add of their product is not based on some brilliant innovation, but mostly due to bypassing regulations. Can they deliver to that market and still comply with regulations? They use that ridiculous disclaimer “track use only” to hide behind that exemption and escape liability. They are just exploiting a loophole. The party lasted a little too long without adult supervision, and naturally they don’t like it now.

    Owners should be able to use their car for track use, but there has to be a mechanism there to switch from road to track use and back. Doing this properly would require some outlay from the end user and would most likely involve a smog check station to exit the track back to public road use. I don’t know if this is the best solution, but something must be there to make this possible.

    And let’s face it, the whole tuner industry is not poised for long term growth. While there is a big enough market for ICE vehicles they can hope to survive. With PEV and ZEV they would need to provide a truly innovative product, not one that cheats. VW built a whole passenger diesel segment on that lie.

    The issue of jobs always comes up as a counter-argument to regulation, and sure it will disrupt an industry that should know and accept what it is based on. But let’s be honest here. The real issue is that our economy has no way of generating too many real jobs, and we are having to grasp at whatever arguments we can to not loose any more jobs than we have to. On that basis, I am all for keeping that industry going, but let’s admit that it is a subsidy or crutch or whatever else we want to call it.

    SEMA members know they are a bit like the cigarette/booze vendor who found a loophole to sell to a much bigger market but don’t care to admit that most of that market is made up of minors.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      You wasted a lot of typing trying to explain the truth to a group who is incapable of understanding you because they fervently wish something else.

      • 0 avatar
        Maxb49

        Quite the opposite is true. I am a person who generally supports environmental regulation. However, it is simply not warranted in this case because there is no significant national or even regional danger posed by a minuscule proportion of vehicles that may or may not be emissions compliant. The much larger (by orders of magnitude) proportion of vehicles that aren’t in good repair (due to worn fuel injectors, rings, etc) very likely poses a higger scaled threat than a few ultra low volume parts for car enthusiasts.

        Regulation is a double edged sword. It has it’s beneficial uses, but the primary goal of the regulatory agency is to promote its own self-interest (like anything else in life). Also, regulatory agencies ofteb close the door to the courtroom. Let’s not go down the monolithic nanny state route.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxb49

      “The real issue is that our economy has no way of generating too many real jobs, and we are having to grasp at whatever arguments we can to not loose any more jobs than we have to”

      True enough, but your proposed cure (bureaucracy) is a substantial cause of the ill.

      • 0 avatar
        NickS

        “True enough, but your proposed cure (bureaucracy) is a substantial cause of the ill.”

        You missed the point — environmental regulation has nothing to do with a cure for an anemic jobs economy. You call it a substantial cause of the ill because that’s all we have left to create jobs: to see if we could forego environmental regulation.

        Ultimately, it is up to us to decide how much regulation we want to forego in exchange for more jobs, but the link is tenuous. Businesses will still shift profits and jobs elsewhere with less regulation.

        Let’s also recognize that Americans are not exactly tripping over themselves to move to a crowded city in China covered in perennial toxic smog so they can find work there.

        When a company can post a gazillion dollars in profit and pay no taxes here, where do you think that shows up in the American economy?

        • 0 avatar
          Maxb49

          Actually, you missed my point. Some regulation is going to be necessary. We can’t dismantle ALL of the laws that keep American’s safe from industrial-era illness. But we are going to have to strike a better balance between regulation and economic growth. Environmental regulation DOES cost jobs. You can’t open a business in some states because the environmental approval process takes years. Too often, the approval process is a way for politicians and their appointees to hold business up for bribes (both legal & nonlegal). Streamlining the bureaucracy is one way to get it done. Don’t tell me it can’t be done, it can. Switzerland and Luxembourg did it. They have more wealth per person than we have. And they have clean environments.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Please Robodata4521.87623, may I leave the house now and go shopping for groceries?

    No! You have not sent in your body health metric information yet today. Check the app. Any problems contact BetterHealthForAll.gov

    Trump thinks he can shake the bureaucrats? Not a hope. Political electees of any stripe are mere floss on the coming corporatist/bureaucrat governing coalition. Everyone will be expected to be a good little doggie at all times.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Please stop framing this story as about “racecars” until you show that the emmisions control bypass devices SEMA members sell are used off road in any significant percentage.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      yep. go to any Mustang forum and see how many people are driving around with a catless “off road” X- or H- pipe.

      “Off-road.” nudge-nudge wink-wink.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      Yes, I’ll take a survey of auto hobbyists and see how many of them tell me, “Yes, I’ve installed a race-only part on my street car in violation of federal law.”

      If I count answers, then your argument would win. If I count winks and nudges, your argument loses.

      I’ve been in this hobby long enough to know that most of the “race only” parts end up on street cars. The EPA is right, but the enforcement they’re proposing is wrong. There does need to be a mechanism for catching offenders instead of punishing all racers.

  • avatar
    Rday

    I would bet that many so called ‘racers’ forget to hook up the emissions control devices on their cars after the races are over. they bypass the mufflers and other things too. It is time to update the law so that these law breakers don’t continue to get away with their fun and games.

  • avatar
    ja-gti

    Is air quality being adversely affected by the bypassing of some emissions equipment on part-time race cars or owners who mod their car? Is there actual data?

    Or is this just regulators looking to increase their influence (and therefore their budget)?

    Do people think that choices for car enthusiasts have to be further reduced, companies forced out of business, and the cost of pursuing a hobby further increased so that we can have clean air?

    How many race cars are there per regulation- compliant vehicle on the road? 1:10,000? 1:50,000?

    Why is this such a big deal to a federal agency that has much bigger fish to fry?

    Or must every American in the “land of free” toe the line with any and every bureaucrat that exists?

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