Ed Rueda, like most people, dares to dream, however, Rueda is not afraid to live that dream. Diversity and charity speak to Rueda and catalyze his hard work. A huge fan of NASCAR, as a child—and even more so now—Rueda longed to see himself and his fellow Latinos represented in his favorite pastime …racing. Instead of waiting patiently in the passenger seat, Rueda sat behind the wheel and steered towards creating Rueda Racing. His brainchild will soon be a melting pot for NASCAR and he is out to make a difference. Not only does he want there to be more Latino faces behind mainstream NASCAR, but he also wants to make sure that his love for charity is well acknowledged. Rueda says that he was reared to have a spirit of giving and that is usually part of Latin upbringing. It’s very rare that you meet someone like him—willing to put his all into a business that he will barely seek financial compensation for. Rueda’s reward will be seeing a Latino presence in NASCAR giving to the deserving. Rueda simply states, “I want to be able to give anyone I want the opportunity to race.”
Words by: Danielle Young
When did you realize you wanted to be a part of NASCAR?
I was brought up around cars my whole life. In 1988, I went to a race in Sonoma, California. Once you got to a race, you get bit. The sound of the cars, the engines, the smell of the fuel was like a rush. I knew right then and there what I wanted to do. I worked for Toyota for 14 years as a MDT (master diagnostic technician.) You get to this level after training and 5 years experience.
After the first time, I frequented [the track] and made friends with Bobby Alison. He would give me garage passes—which is where cares are kept. I met Pierre Catello (my best friend whom I’ve known since 1990) and have seen him go from car chief to crew chief for Carl Edwards on the Nationwide Car.
What are some of the setbacks you’ve faced?
I tried to get jobs with race teams as team leaders or technicians. They wouldn’t hire me because I worked on domestic cars (Toyota). Pierre told me that I had what it took for NASCAR. His encouraging words made me start Rueda Racing because I wasn’t seeing Hispanics represented in the sport.
What has assisted you in your dream?
Mexicanos have a great passion in racing. Through my relationship with Pierre and Paul Andrews (crew chief for Michael Waltrip Racing), I have what I need to be competitive right out of the box. That’s number one with racing. You see people that have the money and not the resources like I have.
How have your parents been in regards to inspiring you?
I was born and raised in San Francisco and my parents were educators. My dad was a coach and through the years I saw my father cultivate and produce great and talented kids. [I learned that] schools only can do so much. My father has instilled his generosity in me. I have one son and one kid that comes to live with me every once in a while. He is a Chernobyl survivor. I have had him for the past 7 years. He has radiation damage from the nuclear disaster. His mother passed from cancer and his father now is very sick. I am a mentor/extended family for him. When he comes, he has one shirt, one pair of shoes, and shorts. When he leaves, he takes things that will last him through the year. I’ve had kids from Colombia and Spain living with me. They are always parts of my life. My family has always instilled giving back to the community.
Giving back has been a major theme recently. What else do you do to give back?
Eventually, I’d like to bring Latino kids into focus. I could show them that they can be racers, mechanics or whatever, as long as they put their minds to it. I want to show them that there’s more to life than gangs, violence and getting in trouble. I want to give them the opportunity to change their lives thru my program. I want to donate money to diff organizations (battered children/mothers, after school programs, etc). I want to help other people because a lot of people have helped me with my dream. This is my dream and nothing will stop me. Eventually I will succeed. We do the right thing and the good Lord will be right there for us.
What are your ultimate goals with Rueda Racing?
I want to have a racing team that is diverse and from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter who they are. I want America to know that my team is a reflection of what America is. It has taken a lot of great, diverse people to make America what it is. With the people that I have behind me, we can make a statement. There are a lot of great people in this spot [driving for NASCAR], but we are missing Latinos. I feel NASCAR isn’t dealing with this issue. If they want to tap into Latino culture, they need to change how they portray the Latino community in the media. 60% of us in this country are Latino. I feel their diversity program is for the haves and not the have nots. It’s always kids that know someone within the company. I want to give the opportunity to the person that has performed and has done what they need to do—as far as education is concerned—to compete because they have earned the right to it.
Of the underrepresented Latino drivers, who stands out to you?
This young kid, Jesus Hernandez, is in the lower series and hasn’t had the chance to move into the forefront.
What trials and tribulations have you faced in starting Rueda Racing?
I hired three different marketing people. Joe Gautier of SMG Management has been the only one that has been able to give me results. The other two offered me nothing. Corporate America is afraid of going with Hispanic drivers. When corporate America goes to NASCAR and wants to sponsor, NASCAR send them to their favorites—the big teams (Hendrix Motorsports, Rouch, Gibbs).
Are there any one man teams? What obstacles do they face?
Larry McClure [of Morgan-McClure Motorsports] has a great organization, but he is a one man company that lost sponsorship two years ago. That shouldn’t have happened because his history (been racing 20 years). It’s a one car team and it’s hard for him to compete because he doesn’t have the resources that big teams do. The same cars end up winning all the time. NASCAR should step up and help the little guys.
Your dream is coming true, slowly, but surely. How does it feel?
It feels great! I have come a long way financially. We’re starting to be known. People are knocking on my door, asking when we will race, but I don’t have the corporate sponsors yet. I feel once I get the sponsorship I need and they see what I’m doing—eyes will open and people will come. Corporate dollars would also help my organization in other ways, like giving money for kids’ education, keeping them off streets, etc. My culture is passionate and we know how to do what it takes. America will soon be able to see our passion and drive.
Why do you keep doing this?
There have been days I wanted to stop doing this, but my love for the sport comes first. There is nothing I would rather do that race. You never give up your dream. You have to go through it. The only way you are going to live your dream is to keep pushing. If it doesn’t happen, you didn’t want it bad enough.
Rueda Racing is obviously different. What do you think it is that makes you stand out?
Marketing skills—you go out and do outreach programs for sponsorship. We’ll go to cinco de mayo festivals, in east LA we’ll pull up in a semi and educate people on racing. We show them that it’s a team effort. We want sponsors to see other programs and venues that they can benefit from. We’re individuals and a company that cares for the people. I never forget my roots and where I come from. All the money that I make, I am willing to give every cent back. That is the way of Latino thinking—we help each other. I’m here to offer as much as I can because it’s how I was brought up. A lot of it comes from the way you were raised, what your family shows you. At the end of the day, you can’t take your fancy houses and cars with you in death. I want people to see how much of a difference I have made, how I gave. It’s all about giving.
Has this been done before?
Chip Ganassi Racing and Felix Sabates were the first Latino owners of a racing team. Ganassi was on his own 10-15 years ago. He didn’t have the resources. He had financial [support], but the people he surrounded himself with weren’t the best resources.
Armando Fitz is a one man team with one car. His sponsor is SuperKuts and he has no minority on his team. Ruben Parro drives with him part-time in the NASCAR Official Busch Series. If I had Ruben, I would put him in the Nationwide Car. Armando always speaks about diversity but never puts a Latino in the car.
What can we expect to see in the future for Rueda Racing?
Rueda Racing and DV1 (Diversity 1st Racing) will come out as a force to be reckoned with. We will work together to show corporate America the future of motorsports. It’s not just riding in race cars. We have different avenues that we want to pursue—NASCAR, Parkhurst Racing and Trevelene.
We’re looking for sponsors and the right sponsor for us–one that believes in the Hispanic community and one that is willing to help make this project move forward.