HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Late at night, while you're in bed, they race. This is the underground world of Houston street racing.
Illegal, dangerous, and seductive, they meet, typically in empty parking lots, and race all over the Houston area.
“It’s an adrenaline rush, actually. Whenever you're out there racing another car, it's hard to explain,” said a street racer who wanted to stay anonymous. “I guess when you're lined up next to them side by side, your heart is beating fast. Your adrenaline's going, and your palms are sweaty.”
Racers say on any given night, there could be several meets in Houston. And there is a hierarchy. Some races are exclusive.
“The thing about it is everyone is out there to make a name. Everyone is out there to be the one, to be the fastest one because to them it's respect,” said a racer.
Racers often spend tens of thousands on their car. A Mustang owner said he has $38,000 invested in it.
Auto shop owner Faisal Rahman knows the scene well. He said he's been involved for years.
“I've been doing it for quite a while. Started out as a hobby, then more of a passion, and then started getting bigger faster quicker. You always want to compete with the guy next to you. You build something bigger and badder and that's kinda how it goes,” said Rahman.
Rahman said as long as people have cars, street racing will never stop -- which is why he's hosted legal street racing events -- with police supervision -- to give racers an outlet.
“It's a passion-driven thing, and people are willing to take the risk, and they're willing to try because unfortunately, we're not provided with the opportunity. That's kind of the reason where my whole deal came and that was to provide people with the opportunity in the legal manner. That's more of the direction where I'm going now but still, I can't do that 7 days a week,” said Rahman.
It's an issue that does not seem to have a solution.
There are legal tracks where drivers can go to see whose car is faster, but racers say they don't like having to pay and wait for hours – sometimes without ever getting the chance to race --so they take it to the streets.
Racers argue that while they know what they do is illegal, that not many people get hurt or die from what they do.
“We try to be organized and responsible. We have our own means of being as safe as we can doing it. Now, there's no foolproof plan but I don't think there's a foolproof plan of being safe, even just driving down a regular public street during the day or night. You never know what's going to happen,” said Rahman.
Still, some drivers can be incredibly reckless. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office says there have been several deaths over the years that have left either racers or other drivers on the road dead or severely injured.
It's also an activity that can come with a hefty punishment.
According to the D.A.'s office, racers could face charges of street racing or reckless driving, which is a class B misdemeanor, up to 6 months in jail, and a $2,000 fine for their first offense.
But racers say their world is high-risk, high reward, and that means a complicated relationship with police.
“They're doing their job. Their job is to protect the public, and we're not supposed to be out there street racing but the thing is, street racing has been around forever, and it's going to continue happening. People are still going to do it,” said a racer.
Until the city finds a feasible solution -- other than just devoting more manpower -- street racing will continue on Houston highways.
FOX 26 News did reach out several days ago to the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff's Office for statistics on street racing arrests and past deaths. They said those numbers weren't easy to access and have yet to respond.