Let’s wave the green flag, tell the pace car to move aside, and watch the “alphabet soup” preliminary racers take a few left turns around the track. Car racing is a tremendously popular and exciting sport that really took hold in this country during the Prohibition era. When bootleggers had to outrun lawmen and tax collectors, they modified their cars to increase their power without drawing attention to themselves. Eventually, cars left the back roads and sped on to sanctioned racetracks.
In case you haven’t spotted it yet, Vado Speedway Park is just a short drive south of Las Cruces on I-10 at exit 155. This remarkable facility has been like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre — look, but do not touch — for far too long if you ask local racing fans. Since March, however, everyone involved with the speedway and its state-of-the-art features, including 16 VIP suites, is raring to put the pedal to the metal and burn rubber so fans can come take it all in.
Watching auto racing has long been a favorite activity for fans and families here in the Mesilla Valley, and Las Cruces business visionary Royal Jones has been involved in many facets of local racing for decades. The driver of the #131 car decided it was time after all these years to build a new venue for his beloved sport. Accessibility to the two major metropolitan areas of El Paso and Las Cruces was a large part of the decision when choosing a location for Vado Speedway Park. According to General Manager Chris Stepan, “The fairgrounds facility was home for many years, but when it came time for the new facility, we wanted to be more visible and easier to get to for our fans.”
Chris, who has been the driving force behind two annual Las Cruces racing events for the past 15 years, was excited for the opportunity to become general manager and promoter of the new venue. According to Chris, he and Royal had long been in talks about Chris having a larger role in the Mesilla Valley racing scene, but the timing never was quite right. Vado Speedway Park was just the thing at the right time to lure Chris south from Minnesota. Chris has more than 20 years of experience in racing and really enjoys the people and culture of Southern New Mexico. “Racing is a great way for the entire family to get together and cheer on their local motorsport athletes,” Chris comments. “After a year like 2020, we all need something to cheer for.”
Racing, like most sports, has evolved over time, and Vado Speedway Park features many types of car and truck events to keep up with the changing tastes of drivers, fans, and technology. The normal racing season lasts approximately 10 months, from February to November, with more than 40 different events for fans to watch. The diversity of events at the speedway allows consistent fans to see a variety of vehicle types throughout the season. On any given night at the 3/8-mile, semi-banked oval clay track, you may see anything from the Legends class to the Super Truck class to, of course, the Sprint cars. All these different classes of cars add their own type of excitement and nuance to the sport.
The owners and employees of Vado Speedway Park are committed to involving and positively impacting the Vado community and economy. Most of the employees are Vado locals, and racing fans will stimulate the economy of Vado with every race or event held at the racetrack. Chris and Royal also want to encourage fans from surrounding communities to come and enjoy racing during the 2021 Hot City Nights. This promotion will allow residents of surrounding communities to attend races at the new facility for only a $5 entry fee on the night that their city or town is featured. All you need is a valid ID from the community in which you reside. The schedule for Hot City Nights, as well as other special promotions, is available on their website, vadospeedwaypark.com, as well as the event calendar on lascruces.com.
Tickets are affordable for families: kids 5 years of age and younger are always admitted free and children ages 6 to 11 are admitted for only $5. Many kids are fans of cars, racing, and most anything to do with wheels, but most have the attention span of a funny car on a short track. To make sure everyone is happy, Vado Speedway Park has kid-friendly areas and games for young fans to play while the adults enjoy the racing. Also, if you are unable to make it out to Vado Speedway Park in person, the races are available through live streaming.
Vado Speedway Park is a great addition to our area for so many reasons that directly impact our community. This venue gives us a chance to come out and support local drivers and driving teams that are not racing for fame or fortune, but for the love of the sport. Spectators can physically feel the cars as they rumble around the track, and the excitement of man and machine in a battle of strategy and science is an irreplaceable experience.
Written by Daniel Gonzales
Photography by James Racing Photography
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com