Pahrump Valley Speedway, which will host the 2018 edition of the popular Stormin’ Mormon Showdown featuring the Sam Stringer Memorial Super Stock Shootout on Saturday, has enjoyed a fascinating history since its inception in 1985.
The quarter-mile dirt track situated east of the heart of Pahrump was the creation of several dedicated race enthusiasts from the Pahrump area.
When Ray Wulfenstein got wind of the movement, he immediately jumped on board, offering use of his heavy equipment to help Jim Pike, Bob Bolling, Sam Stringer and Bobby and Buzz Woods in the construction of Pahrump’s entry into the world of dirt track racing.
Wulfenstein’s fierce dedication to the sport saw him win the 1969 and 1971 track titles at Craig Road Speedway, a quarter-mile paved oval that drew top-notch competitors, including short track superstars such as former NASCAR stars Mark Martin, Dick Trickle, Ernie Ervin and Jimmy Insolo; former Pahrump resident Phil Hayes; current NASCAR star Kurt Busch and his father, Tom, who both competed in Dwarf Cars at Pahrump Valley Speedway; and three-time CRS track champion Jimmy Sanderson.
After Wulfenstein showcased his talent at the Race of Champions at Daytona Speedway in Florida, he turned his attention to Pahrump. With the groundwork already started by other Pahrump residents, he headed up the hill to offer his help building Pahrump Valley Speedway.
Wulfenstein zeroed in on the remains of Caesars Palace Grand Prix, which was staged from 1981-84 on the Las Vegas Strip before hotel officials determined that the event was losing too much money. Wulfenstein, his son Jim, Pike, Bolling, Rick Ruud and others took off work and started hauling the walls from Caesars to the new track in Pahrump.
Wulfenstein, who also served as the track announcer on several occasions, watched along with others as the track was scheduled to close when investors bought the land to build a truck stop. The plan fell apart when the economy tanked in 2008, and the track remained what it is today.
Wulfenstein’s wife, Irene, died of cancer in 2014, and he was killed in a plane crash after visiting his getaway Oregon home in 2017. The family name continues to live on in myriad ways, including auto racing and construction.
Meanwhile, auto racing’s place in the sports history of Southern Nevada has been etched in stone, thanks to the efforts of Ray Wulfenstein.
“He was just a good jovial person,” Sanderson said. “Between Ray, Bob Ruppert and Gus Newman, they were the best.”
The ultimate competitor, Wulfenstein was a fearless visionary, according to his son, Jim.
“Dad would often tell me where every curb went before the property was developed,” Jim Wulfenstein said. “We were amazed at my dad’s vision every day. He was relentless, and it was exhausting watching him go.”
Saturday’s Stormin’ Mormon Showdown is expected to match or surpass last year’s event. An estimated 40 Modifieds are expected.
“We have some national champions coming to town for this one,” Jim Wulfenstein said. “This race is (International Motor Contest Association)-sanctioned, so it’s one of the premier events of the year.”
Top competitors who will compete in the event include Hunter Marriott, Cody Laney, Bobby Hogge, Brad Pounds, Robby Sawyer, Alex Sanford, Paul Stone, Robert Miller and Kyle Heckman, along with locals Bryan Wulfenstein and Jason Pike, to name a few.
The event will begin with heat races at 5:10 p.m. Among the highlights will be the $500 dash for cash sponsored by Silver State Trucking.