Start your engines: improvements underway at Presidio drag racing strip

PRESIDIO — Over the past few weeks, locals have taken note of all the activity just north of town at the Presidio International Speedway. This time around, it’s not the roar of the crowd — it’s heavy machinery laying down new segments of track for the local drag racing strip. 

Unlike NASCAR stock car races that can add hundreds of miles to the odometer in competition, drag racing is all about measuring acceleration over a straight track measuring a quarter mile or less. The first generation of Presidio drag races were organized on a piece of city property in the early 2000s in an area that’s become known as the Industrial Park. After a series of what race organizer Alan Jimenez called “money fights,” the track was left to decay for over a decade.

In July of 2019, Presidio drag racing was given a fresh start with a little help from the city. Jimenez’s father, Alex Jimenez, and Presidio ISD Coach Robert Ramirez approached the Presidio Municipal Development District (PMDD), then headed by Brad Newton. PMDD provided a start-up grant of $15,000 and also offered the use of the city’s road construction equipment. 

“We requested $80,000,” Jimenez said with a laugh. “So we did what we could with what we had. Everyone loved it.” 

Presidio drag racing is “a family operation” for the Jimenezes.“Like 90 percent of my family is involved, including my grandma and my aunt,” he said. 

They’ve recruited other locals and the track has now become its own nonprofit organization, recognized for its contributions to the town’s cultural scene and the possibility of growing its tourism industry. “It really shows Presidio pride,” Jimenez said. “Everyone’s tailgating, everyone’s happy. It’s something new for the city.” 

Currently, the Jimenezes, Ramirez, and their supporters are hard at work resurfacing the track. It was originally built with asphalt because they were using borrowed street paving equipment from the city, but the team hopes to replace as much of the track as they can with concrete. 

As a track material, concrete affords drivers more control. “The fast cars can’t get a good grip on what’s basically a city street,” Jimenez explained. 

The Presidio International Raceway typically hosts a few different types of events for drivers from a variety of backgrounds. A fan favorite is the “Poor Man’s Race,” where anyone can compete in any vehicle. At the end of each event, a “Heads Up” bracket pits the fastest cars against each other. 

Drivers from all over the tri-county and Permian Basin compete in Presidio, and the organization would like to grow to live up to the “International” part of its name. “There’s drivers from Ojinaga and Chihuahua City that want to race, but because of border restrictions, they haven’t been able to come over,” Jimenez explained. For now, the typical Saturday night drag race hosts around 30 competitors. Fees for competitors are typically around $100 and entry for spectators is $10. 

The team is shooting to schedule the first drag race of the year in late May. They want to expand the schedule as much as possible, but their insurance limits them to one race a month. For now, they’re focused on making the necessary improvements to secure a long-term future for the track. 

“You can advertise or donate your time if you want to help,” Jimenez said. “We’ve had donations of materials and people come out and help us lay the concrete.”