A night at Presidio’s 4th of July drag race 

Photo by Hannah Gentiles for The Presidio International / Jonny Sanchez races during the Drag Races in Presidio on Saturday Night.

PRESIDIO – When Dafny Moreno sits at the starting line, revving her car’s engine, and getting ready to face off against her opponent to race an ⅛ of a mile at the Presidio International racetrack, she’s all nerves. “But as soon as the light changes, the nerves go away, and I just go pure adrenaline,” she said on Saturday right after earning her first victory of the night.

Dafny was competing in the City of Presidio’s Fourth of July drag race show held over the weekend, and she came home with a second-place finish.

Dafny just got her license. She’s 16 and about to enter her junior year at Presidio High School.

This was her third drag race ever. “I honestly know almost nothing about cars or trucks,” Dafny said –– she just loves the thrill of going fast.

For this race, Dafny was driving in her father’s silver Chevy Malibu. “It was sold to us by a man named Ismael Lujan who unfortunately passed, and I race it in his honor,” she said.

“I kind of want to do my dad proud. Since he started doing this he would take me to all of these races. I kind of want to just follow in his footsteps,” she said.

Photo courtesy of The City of Presidio Convention and Visitor Bureau /
Dafny Moreno (middle) holds her second-place trophy surrounded by her racing team and race organizer Robert Romero (left) at the Presidio International Raceway

On Saturday, hundreds gathered at the Presidio International Race Strip off of FM 170 to watch Dafny and dozens of other participants face off on the raceway. Fans backed their cars up to the edge of the track and then sat in their trunks or beds to watch the show, which started at 6 p.m. and ran until 1:30 am.

Throughout the evening, classic muscle cars stripped down to their engines raced against souped-up trucks and –– what appeared to be –– factory-bought Mustangs and Mercedes. As cars burned out on the starting line, the smoke from burning rubber mixed with the smell of Mexican food that was being served at a number of tents.

Mayor John Ferguson emceed and DJed the event throughout the evening, alternating between Americana anthems like “Rockin’ Down the Highway” and cumbia classics like “La Pollera Colorá.”

The drag race was not without its hair-raising moments. During the time trials, a blue Mustang going around 70 miles per hour slammed into the barricades on the side of the track and a side panel of the car’s shell flew over the barricade.

Sheriff’s deputies and EMS personnel quickly showed up on the scene. According to EMS Director Malynda Richardson, the driver didn’t sustain any injuries.

The mustang –– which still had its paper license plates, indicating it was recently purchased –– was soon towed away. The wreck did knock loose a piece of barricade, however, which caused about a half-hour delay until a backhoe showed up to push the askew barricade back into place.

Minutes before the official races kicked off, Abel Carrasco was busy overseeing his crew as they prepared their 1988 Monte Carlo for an upcoming heat.

Carrasco’s team, many of whom were family members, had stripped the Monte Carlo down to its frame, leaving behind only the bare essentials: the roll cage, the steering wheel, the e-brake, a larger canister of NOS and a fedora. “The fedora never leaves. It’s a good luck hat,” Carrasco said.

Carrasco’s moving company, Red Stone Operations, was sponsoring a few cars for the event. To display his American pride, Carrasco had strung up three large American flags to the top of his company trailer that he had brought down from Odessa. For Carrasco, the Fourth of July weekend is the best time of the year. “Look at all the beer we’re drinking,” he said while holding a White Claw spiked seltzer. “You can’t get better than that.”

Carrasco said Fourth of July is also a bit of a homecoming. Even though he was born and raised in Presidio, he moved away many years ago to Odessa to find work. “This is my hometown, so we come out here every time we get a chance. You feel at home when you come out here,” Carrasco said.

The same can be said for Hector “Tutti” Avena, who lived most of his life in Presidio but now resides in Midland.

Avena was helping organize the event and could be seen racing in some of the time trials in his dark green convertible Mercedes. Avena –– who referred to himself as a legend in Presidio –– said he and his friends were the first to start drag racing in Presidio 40 years ago. “We started on dirt and everything. We didn’t have anything to do here,” he said.

Presidio resident Juan Baeza said he comes to each and every drag race in town. He said there are fewer racers this year than there have been in years past, most likely due to the ongoing restrictions placed on the border by the federal government at the beginning of the pandemic. “Probably a lot of guys from Ojinaga who can’t come,” Baeza said while watching the time trials.

Around 10:30 p.m., the firework show began a few hundred feet away from the race track. Due to the distance, the fireworks ultimately played second fiddle to the races. The crowd did not seem disappointed, however. They were just there to see cars burn rubber.