Torres turns hobby into race on big circuit

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 9, 1998

ANNA MONICA / L’Observateur / November 9, 1998

For a while, Donald “Donnie” Torres Jr., used his 1979 Chevrolet CamaroZ-28 to go back and forth to work. Then he realized it could be used torace. After all, he had friends who had race cars, and now that he hadopened a Chevron service station, advertising on the car could prove a financial write-off.

It wasn’t very serious or competitive at first. But all that has changednow, and Torres has been doing quarter mile drag racing for four years. Amember of the National Hot Rod Association, he races in divisional point races and national events and about two to three times a month races at the State Capital Dragway on Saturday nights. Most recently, he raced inMontgomery, Ala., for NHRA Division points.Of the seven NHRA divisions in the United States, Donnie represents Division Four when he races. In the “Super Gas” class he has earned onlyabout $1,000 this year on the divisional level. “Super Gas” is a 9.90 indexand depending upon the different tracks, sometimes the index has to be adjusted.

Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp., Competition Eliminator, Federal MogulFunny Car, FM Dragster, Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motor Cycle, Pro Stock Truck and Super Street are some of the very different race categories, and Torres is delighted to pull out-of-pocket expenses for a racer while providing good advertisement and exposure for a business.

According to Torres, advertisers seek sponsor drivers and cars with a good professional sense and attitude toward racing and who are capable of getting more recognition. “That’s what a driver wants. The more you win,the more recognition you get,” he says.

What does help are contingency stickers which racers get from companies when they buy parts. Prizes are awarded to winners and runners-up atdivisional and national event races.

Torres has another keen interest concerning racing. His attention and theattention of other racing enthusiasts in the area is turned to trying to develop a new drag strip near the airport in Reserve and away from any interference or interaction with any homes or other activity. The grouphas been soliciting signatures on a petition to build the racetrack and has the support of Councilman Ranney Wilson.

Optimistically, the project would be funded by private investors and allow the parish to reap financial benefits. It is considered that a drag stripwould create more safety on the streets, eliminating local street and back road racing which has been a problem. Organized racing in a designatedarea would be available and people would have a place to plan family activity on the weekend. So far, there are over 4,000 signatures on thepetition, and an optimistic guess is that racing could be in the parish by at least late 1999.

The Chevron station in LaPlace, race cars and dragging aren’t the complete world of this Reserve resident. His main focus is his family, whichincludes wife Lindy and children, son Ashton,7, daughters Morgan, 3, and Madison, 1. They are supportive of Donnie and make racing a family outingas much as possible. His parents, Donnie and Patsy Torres, support theirson to every extent possible, including taking over at the station on Donnie’s race days.

Before long they will be supporting their grandson, as well. Ashton alreadyis a Junior Dragster. The Juniors have their own league comprised of 8 to15-year-olds who take their racing seriously. They race for 1/8 of a mileand, like Ashton, have their own helmets, fire suits and know the rules.

Torres has good help in crew chief and Chevron employee, Kendrick Scott, who works all the races. Sometimes friend Lonnie Ellis, a member of anNHRA group called “August Bros. Racing,” goes along to help. Last weekenda national event race in Houston, Texas, the Matco Tools Super Nationals, took place. Torres and Scott could not attend, but at least 14 people fromSt. John Parish participated.Sometimes Torres can follow through when it comes time to race. But ifhe can’t take the present opportunity, assuredly he takes the next one.

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