EL PASO, Texas—The need for speed can grip the interest of a driver from the first time he sits behind the steering wheel of a vehicle, but finding a safe place to fill this need is often difficult.
The staff at the El Paso Motorplex understand these difficulties all too well, and on top of offering safe and International Hot Rod Association certified drag racing, they also reach out to service members by offering discounted rates to all attendees and racers with a military ID.
“From the first time I came to the track, it was always safety first,” said Sgt. Roger Bergerann, an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. “As a father and husband, it’s important for me to be safe, and even if I do go down on my bike, there are always medics on the scene.”
Bergerann said it is easy for even the most novice drag racer to get started. There are certified inspectors at the track who can describe everything needed to certify and race anything from the fastest dragsters to the family car.
Throughout the summer, the El Paso Motorplex usually offers racing on Friday and Saturday nights. Fridays are designed for beginners to learn all the rules and regulations, as well as giving more serious competitors a chance to test run their vehicles. Friday nights’ events are aptly named “Test N Tunes.” Saturdays are geared toward the more experienced racers, who compete in vehicles from varying classes with money invested into performance that can price more than $100,000.
“The one thing I always want to stress to anyone coming out or looking to come out is that we are a tight knit community, and family, that is always welcoming of anyone who comes out to join us,” said Ben DeLaVega, racing director for the El Paso Motorplex. “We also have a strong sense of pride in our local military community, with a lot of the staff being (military) retirees themselves. Anything we can do to help them drag their cars, but do it in a safe manner, we are happy to do.”
That community and family theme is also present in the driver pits, with family-run teams such as Jefferson Racing and their leader Dwight Jefferson, a man with more than 40 years of racing experience.
“Not only do I have a family racing team, but we consider ourselves as having family all over the pits,” said Jefferson, who has 12 and 19-year-old grandsons who drag race for Jefferson Racing. “Whenever we go on the track or travel to other races, everyone reaches out and helps each other; it really is a tight community.”
Jefferson added that on Friday nights he likes to help with the other more experienced drivers to welcome in people new to the sport.
“What I don’t like to see is someone come out here and struggle with their cars on the track,” said Jefferson. “When someone struggles, they get discouraged, and when they get discouraged, they quit.”
Additionally, Jefferson said lesser experienced drivers may chose to race on public streets instead of a certified track; when doing so they may try to do too much with their cars and lose control, causing potential injuries and innocent deaths.
“People are always going to want to drive fast,” said DeLaVega. “We take a lot of pride in offering people a safe place to do so at a reasonable price.”
The track is at 16400 Gateway Blvd. West in Clint, Texas. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/theelpasomotorplex .
— Staff Sgt. Jes Smith, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment