Santa Maria Sun / Biz Brief
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 51
Spotlight on: Santa Maria Speedway
BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
A Friday morning spent clearing out cement that had been night-dumped by a rogue motorist fell under Ruben Munoz’s new responsibilities as promoter for the Santa Maria Speedway.
Ruben and his wife Katy took over operations and the lease from previous promoter Chris Kearns on Feb. 1. While the move may mean a new era of operations for the speedway, it’s just the next step in the husband-and-wife duo’s racing careers.
Katy has spent her whole life around racing and started attending races essentially right after birth at a track in Riverside.
Ruben’s wrenched on racecars since he was a 9-year-old in Lompoc. He said that his neighbor down the street, David Schuyler, was a mechanic who used to work out of his garage.
“I just walked over there one year and saw a racecar,” Ruben said. “I was hooked.”
He walked in, started helping, and never looked back. Since then, Ruben has attended school to work on cars, and has worked as a builder and mechanic with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and ASA Speed Truck Series circuits. He’s attended races at the Santa Maria Speedway since he was a kid, and now he takes his four children to watch.
In the last four years, Katy and Ruben have worked at the gate and as officials at the speedway. Once they got the scoop that promoter Kearns was out the door and off to faster pastures, they were worried the track would get shut down permanently.
“We have kids, and we have a lot of friends who have kids who are really into racing,” Ruben said. “It gives a family something to look forward to on a Saturday night.”
As they saw their connection to racing on the Central Coast slipping away, the couple made a choice to continue the speedway’s legacy and give it a stronger tie to the community in the process.
As promoters, the Munozes took over the track’s operations and fiscal responsibilities and the land’s lease under the roof of their new business, Dirt Oval Industries. The land is still owned by the family of the original promoter/owner Doug Fork, and the speedway continues to retain the name it started under 50 years ago.
Katy will take on the business side of things, and Ruben will manage the track’s operations. As for future changes at the speedway, having the inside scoop from working at the track made it easy for the Munozes to make a list of what needs to happen their first season. A little facelift, extending the racing season, a new food vendor, and bringing in a younger crowd are on the short list.
A new logo, new paint, new sponsors, and new bleachers are on the facelift docket. Ruben started work smoothing out the muddy parking area on Feb. 1 and already has his first season fitted with new sponsors and 24 race dates. That’s seven more weekends than last season, with the first weekend in April and the last in November.
Bringing in tastier morsels through a partnership with the Rib Line out of San Luis Obispo ought to spice up the track’s concessions’ income and give race fans a better meal ticket. Ruben said the track’s food was one of the things he heard the most complaints about.
“People were sneaking in food because the food wasn’t up to their standards,” Ruben said. “The whole experience [will] be that much better.”
While ribs, pulled pork, and tri-tip may tempt the palate of the racetrack’s current fan base, Ruben said their goal is also to bring in new fans. Through participating in community events and giving away tickets and goodies at football games, they’re hoping to grab the attention of high school students and families.
Once new fans come to the speedway, Ruben is confident they’ll become repeat customers.
“It’s our job as promoters to put on a good show,” he said. “If we can get them hooked when they’re young, they’ll be fans for life.”
It’s the stock cars, sprint cars, and flat-track motorcycle racing that will make youngsters lifelong fans. The pure adrenaline of it is enough to create a passion. And for Ruben, the mechanic, the lifeblood of the track culminates in one very particular moment of a race.
“You can spend all winter working on a car and in 30 seconds it’s destroyed,” Ruben said. “You start from scratch.”
Biz Spotlight is written by Staff Writer Camillia Lanham. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.
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