Las Vegas, N.M – A Highlands University employee won a regional championship for drag racing at the Pueblo Motorsports Park in Colorado Oct. 6.
Manuel Baca, Jr. a plumber in the university Facilities Services Division, brought home the top honors for the National Drag Racing Association Summit Elapsed Time (ET) finals, which featured 28 racers from New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas.
“What I like best about drag racing is the adrenalin rush and the competition,” Baca, a Las Vegas native, said. “I drive a 1967 Nova, which I built, for the competitions. My average speed on the quarter-mile course is 131 miles per hour.”
In Pueblo, Baca won a brass “Wally” award, which is considered the most prestigious trophy for the National Drag Racing Association.
Drag racing is a family tradition for Baca, with his uncles and father teaching him the sport. Baca has competed since he was a 16-year-old.
“Drag racing is in my blood. I was in diapers playing in the sand while my dad was racing back in the late 1960s,” Baca said.
His pit crew includes his girlfriend, Ernestine Mares, and his father Manuel Baca, Sr.
“My pit crew fuels my car and checks all tire pressures between rounds. They play a key role in my success,” Baca said.
Baca’s competition schedule alternates between Pueblo and Albuquerque.
“I compete about twice a month on the weekends,” Baca said.
He said that in New Mexico and the national level, the sport of drag racing is growing.
“The sponsorships, media coverage, and fans are increasing,” Baca said.
His sponsors are Las Vegas businesses MJB Plumbing, Ray’s Auto, and Smoke 25.