At sixteen, I was not really thinking about my future, or what I wanted to do. I was working at KXCR Radio and my life revolved around music, girls, and what I was going to do that weekend. I really wasn’t thinking too much about my future.
I recently met an interesting young man while dropping off a car at a local auto repair shop. Sixteen-year-old Richard Olague, Jr. knows exactly what he is going to do with his life, not only now, but in the future as well. He’s been racing cars for about two and a half years now.
The type of car Richard races is an X-Mod: think of it as a motor, surrounded by a well-built roll cage, some thin sheet metal, large tires and not much more. X-Mods are a staple of short-track racing throughout the country, on dirt tracks like you find in Las Cruces, El Paso, and many other cities and towns.
He offered to show me his car, and by show, he meant feel. When he started his car, the walls and floor began to vibrate. The raw power echoed, not only in the garage, but around the entire block; the vibration surrounded me, making my bones shake.
I had to know what makes a teen want to race cars…what made him want to start when he was fourteen? His answer; “My father used to race in the 90’s and into the early part of 2001.” So you could say the racing tradition was there in his blood.
“It’s pretty hard to win because I am racing people who have been racing for a while,” he says with a smile. “I want to beat them, beat the masters.”
“It’s a passion…a way of life for me,” he says. “I would rather be here, working on my race car, than going out.” And that is what he does. Most days, after football practice at Montwood High School, he can be found at his father’s shop on Yarbrough and Alameda.
Other than working on his car, football practice, and helping his dad, Richard also helps the Barnetts, of Barnett Harley Davidson. His first car, when he finished the eighth grade, was bought from the Barnett’s. The deal with his dad was to pass all his classes with A’s, and his dad would buy his first car. “I worked hard and passed with all A’s”
Most days, it seems to me, that a lot of teenagers are not exactly thinking about their future, but Richard seems to have his future well in hand.
When I asked him about his goals, he said his short term goals are, “Get up to the next level.” Long term would be NASCAR. “You got to keep working and not give up. Look for opportunities, when you get it, just take it.”
In case you are wondering, as I was, I had to ask how much it costs for the car? “If you want a good strong one, around $12,000 to $20,000. You have to be smart about it, where you spend the money.” This is why Richard said he is looking for sponsors.
His next race is April 20-22nd up in Las Cruces. He’ll be racing every fifteen days. “Once I get the Modified out, I’ll be racing every Saturday.”
If you want to follow Richard, or know about race dates, or times, you can call him, or his father, Richy at 915-860- 8607. I can promise you, we are going to be hearing a lot about this young man in the future.
Author: Steven E. Cottingham – Special to the Herald-Post
Friday night was the end of an era in the Borderland, as sure as the final baseball game at Dudley Field or the last frame of film shown downtown at the Capri Theater or at the Cinema Park 3 Drive In.
Friday night, September 2nd marked the end of racing at El Paso Speedway Park.
To some, that name means nothing. To others, its name means noisy Friday or Saturday nights and countless complaints to the county and officials. But to tens of thousands of others, it means home. And it means fun. And family.
For nearly 40 years, the lights, the sounds, the damp clay and the smell of race fuel and BBQ drew countless El Pasoans to far-east El Paso, even before there were traffic lights, strip malls or even paved roads to the track.
The end was a familiar one, and one that’s claimed long lost speedways such as Rodeo Field and Evans Oval. But to correctly view this track’s end, one must go back to the beginning…or the 2nd golden age of racing in El Paso.
In the 70’s, racing fans could choose from Sun City Speedway (formerly Sunland Speedway), either dragway in east or west El Paso, the Upper Valley Oval (when the owners felt the need to open) the old Optimist Speedway in Juarez and the mega-popular Horizon Speedway.
However the competition for fan’s attention would not last long, as inter-class grumbling over racing costs and rewards shuttered Horizon Speedway and complaints from residents of nearby homes and businesses doomed Sun City (aka Sunland) Speedway.
That was until former driver and businessman Willie Nunez followed in the tire tracks of Walter Gold and C.D. Evans.
On Friday July 13th, 1979 after nearly a year of frenzied construction, a name not seen on a racetrack since the 40’s was dusted off and re-introduced to Sun City race fans. Stories and ads in both local papers trumpeted the first Sunday afternoon races at the brand new El Paso Speedway Park.
Willie Nunez designed Speedway Park to be both fan and driver friendly. Pits were located along the front straightaway, and the racers had bathrooms and a concession stand in the infield. As for the racing surface, not only were the turns banked, but the back straightaway was higher and slightly banked so that the fans could clearly see the racing action across the track.
The racing public reacted quickly, with Speedway Park’s attendance doubling, then tripling in the span of just 3 seasons. While the grandstands were built to hold 3000 people, standing-room only crowds were the norm for most race nights.
Racing surnames such as Holden, Adams, Carney, Barnett, Lopez and countless others made the long treks on Friday and Saturday nights just to renew their rivalries. Occasionally, an Unser or Foyt would drop in to watch and, sometimes take on the locals.
For the better part of the ‘Big 80’s, Speedway Park (and SunBowl Speedway) operated along a now-bustling Montana Avenue. With El Paso Dragway racing on Sundays, the place for speed was far-east El Paso. But if racing history was any indication, trouble would not be far behind.
As homes, businesses and junkyard began to spring up around the speedways, so did the complaints. Development was now booming around Speedway Park and the Dragstrip and new residents and business owners cast disapproving glances toward the racing facilities.
While the racing in the Borderland was as good as ever, fan interest was uneven at best. Some nights featured near sell-outs, others had just over 500 fans in attendance. Occasionally the media would come by, but not often enough; even the newspaper stopped running the all-important racing results.
By the late 80’s and early 90’s, Speedway Park began to show its age as well, the once-bright orange grandstands fading out and the wooden decks warping. Some billboards swayed in the breeze as cars zoomed by.
Meanwhile, the perceived decline of Speedway Park led a group of investors to begin making plans for yet another “state of the art, dedicated, multi-motorsport racing facility – Rio Grande Speedway” just outside of city limits.
Undaunted, Speedway Park soldiered on as construction started on the new racing facility in the far, far west side of the Borderland. As the gleaming grandstands went up on the high-banked surface outside of Santa Teresa, new clay was brought to Speedway Park and the front stretch retaining wall was reinforced. The investment in the ‘old’ track was needed, but the feeling that the torch of Sun City racing was about to be passed was palpable.
By the time the 1998 season rolled around, racers again had a choice between two El Paso-area speedways. While the new management at Speedway Park lamented to the El Paso Times about the difficulty in promoting the track, Rio Grande Speedway quickly became a draw for the fans.
Despite the drive for most drivers and fans, consecutive sell-outs and close, quick races became the norm at the new west side track. Stung by the new track’s success, Speedway Park quietly closed mid-season, nearly 20 years to the day that construction started on the facility.
After just a year and a half of glorious, fast-paced and entertaining races, the lights in the middle of nowhere were cut for the last time and Rio Grande Speedway joined Desert Speedway (near Ft. Bliss ca 1940) as the two shortest-lived speedways. The drive, lack of water and the damage caused by the high-speed, concrete encircled oval brought new life to Speedway Park.
With the abandonment of Rio Grande Speedway, the final racing season of the 20th Century dawned at a re-born Speedway Park in 1999. The ’99 season would not only cap nearly 95 years of racing in the El Paso Southwest, but it would also set the stage for the next several seasons of racing in the Borderland.
And so it was on Friday night. A record crowd. A record car count. And an all-too-brief look into what was Speedway Park. It was the racer’s equivalent of an Irish Wake, with the last race concluding sometime after 3 a.m.
Talk of another speedway abounds, and the most likely location halfway between Las Cruces and El Paso, to maximize car counts and crowd draw. The Southern New Mexico Speedway is set to suffer the same fate as Speedway Park after next season, while the new track is built.
Until that time, it will be a long off-season. Many bench racing sessions will be held, with drivers now talking about Speedway Park in the past tense. All who raced there are now the old men – even the teen or young adult who drove that surface – and will talk longingly of ‘Ol EPSP.’
I, like many of you reading this, grew up at the speedway and grew with the speedway. It taught me lessons, it brought me friends – and the odd rival or two. It showed me how people from different backgrounds, when brought together by the shared love of a sport, could become a family.
It also taught me to never try and cut turn one too quickly or you’ll knock down a light pole and be called to the pit stand as a very embarrassed rookie. And that putting a semi-truck loaded with thousands of gallons of water sideways is just as fun as a sprint car (Thanks, Alton!)
So now we wait. And we remember. Together.
Unless there’s a farmer out there that would like to not plant next year, cut an oval into his land and make a few bucks on the side.
Staff Report May 27, 2016SportsComments Off on Gallardo Takes Checkers in Late Models, Modfieds; Arellano Wins Legends, Torres Tops Street Stocks
The Gallardos again dominated victory lane Friday night at Western Tech Speedway Park in El Paso.
Jake outraced Fito in the Late Model Feature to take first place, just as he did in the USRA Modifieds against Odessa’s Phillip Houston. In the Legends, Steven Arellano bested fellow El Pasoans Mike Zuloaga and Gunner Harris to take the checkered flag.
In the Street Stock Main, New Mexico drivers again took the podium places, with Jaime Torres, Jason Josselyn and Victor Colorbio finishing 1-2-3.
For more information and upcoming shows, visit Western Tech Speedway Park’s Website.
Staff Report May 21, 2016SportsComments Off on Garcia takes SuperTrucks, Flores X-Mods, Wofford 305Sprints and Torres tops in Street Stocks at Speedway Park
It was another great night of racing at Western Tech Speedway Park Friday night. With only four classes running, racers made the most of the competition across the platforms.
Fabens’ own Ismael Garcia beat veteran racer Sherman Barnett in the SuperTrucks, while it was again a battle of Las Cruces drivers in the XMods as Donovon Flores beat out Jimmy Ray.
Over in the 305Sprints, Wes Wofford’s trek down from Alamogordo paid off, as he beat Juarez’s Cesar Fuentes.
The StreetStock main was an all Southern New Mexico affair, as the top three spots were taken by drivers from the City of the Crosses; Jaime Torres took the checkered flag over Martin Robinson and Victor Colorbio.
Full results are below, courtesy Western Tech Speedway Park.
Staff Report January 24, 2016SportsComments Off on Historic El Paso Speedway Park welcomes Western Tech as title sponsor
Officials from the El Paso Speedway Park announced a new partnership today with Western Technical College that will see the family-owned and operated trade school become the title sponsor of the historic dirt race track.
“Western Tech is happy to support Speedway Park, whose roots run deep in El Paso like ours,” said Brad Kuykendall, Chief Executive Officer of Western Technical College. “This partnership provides an opportunity for growth in the industries we both serve—not only for our students but for auto and racing fans and enthusiasts.”
If you’ve got a passion, and now you want a career, this is the school for you. Western Tech is an accredited career school located in El Paso with a real-world approach that combines classroom learning with hands-on experience. It’s one of the many reasons Western Tech graduates find success in their careers.
“Western Tech has long been a shining asset to our community and the residents of El Paso,” said the track’s General Manager, Rue Stone. “As a premier sports and entertainment destination in the Southwest, this is a partnership that makes sense on so many levels, and one that we’re confident will benefit both the race track and Western Tech, as well as the thousands of fans who visit us each year.”
One thing that won’t change, Stone added, is the high-powered excitement that race fans have come to expect from the super-fast 3/8-mile-long clay oval located just east of El Paso.
Since 1970, Western Tech has provided quality training and education in a caring, professional environment that prepares new students and working adults with the skills they need to succeed and advance in their chosen careers.
More than just words in a book, what is special about Western Technical College is the manner in which they help students achieve their educational goals with a combination of hands-on experience, traditional classroom work and industry-specific career development.
This isn’t Western Tech’s first involvement with the world of motorsports. In 2013, Western Tech partnered with multi-time NHRA champion Don Schumacher Racing to create an internship program that has since seen graduates from the program go on to life-changing careers in the sport of drag racing.
“We’re always looking to add skilled and ambitious people to the DSR organization,” said team owner Don Schumacher.
Western Tech was recently awarded two School of Excellence Awards—one for each campus—from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Only 13 colleges received this prestigious award which, in part, measures the school’s graduation and employment rates.