Albuquerque Dragway offers local venue for legal racing

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Every weekend, racing enthusiasts take to Albuquerque Dragway to prove and improve their labor of love and outdo their competition.

Drivers often sport the typical muscle car attire – the Camaros, the Challengers, the Mustangs – but their time and money make their rides anything but typical under the hood.

On the quarter-mile drag strip is where they see if all it pays off, pass-by-pass.

After each race – or pass – drivers are handed a ticket showing how fast they drove down the strip, how long it took and the data they use to further tune and improve their performance.

After 20 years of racing, Dan Giuliano, or Dr. Dan, knows all about this.

“You have to pay attention to all the details because one little detail, that one little thing, that you don’t do right comes back to bite you,” Dr. Dan said.

On Saturday, Dr. Dan raced alongside some folks who were living their driving dreams for the first time.

“It’s very exciting for me, ’cause I always see my son racing his racecar,” said Juan Morales, a first-time racer.

Officials, like longtime announcer Gene Grant, say that’s the beauty of Albuquerque’s only professional drag strip.

“Anyone can come. It doesn’t matter what kind of car you have, you don’t have to necessarily have a drag car to do it,” Gene said.

Gene has been announcing races at Albuquerque Dragway for a few decades now. He says the track was built in the 1960s and began operations in 1963 after several high-speed tragedies on Albuquerque’s roads.

“You gotta have a drag strip to beat back the street racing problem,” Gene said. “If you don’t have an alternative, your community is going to suffer from street racing.”

Unfortunately, that danger still exists today.

Recent speed enforcement operations recorded some drivers going well over 100 mph on Montgomery and on Gibson.

“We don’t need cars going over 150 mph on Montgomery. That serves no one. Innocent people, we need them to be out here. That’s why we’re here to provide that outlet, we don’t want it on our city streets,” Gene stated.

Both the Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office have conducted operations also aimed at reducing illegal street racing in the city.

Gene says the Dragway has put forth its own efforts to reduce that too.

“We try to reach out and provide events for them, one of them being Midnight Madness. We do a couple three times this season, meaning we open at midnight out here so racers can come out,” Gene said. You know, when you’re younger, you’re up at midnight, might as well lead where they are.”

No matter who is behind the wheel, Gene says you won’t find any sore winners or losers at the drag strip.

“It’s hard to be a repeat winner, you don’t see that a lot in drag racing, no one really dominates. There are so many factors that can make you win or lose,” Gene explained.

That close competition keeps people coming back to the start line year after year – and it’s not just muscle cars coming out to race.

Motorbikes, Jeeps and a plethora of other vehicles come out to the strip. As long as you can pass a quick inspection, you can race and that applies to electric vehicles too.

“The electric thing is coming on, we see a number of electric-powered cars out here, we have electric-powered motorcycles. Those Harley Davidson electric bikes come out here quite often, those perform well. We’ve got a lot of Teslas that come out. I got to ride in a Tesla once, we got up to 150 mph two times in a row with one of the racers that come out here. That was an interesting thrill for me too,” Gene said.

The top racers end the year with the annual “King of the Track” tournament, set for November 13 at 9 a.m. this year, to see who’s the fastest of the fast.