By Mike Henle
Pahrump Valley Speedway, which will host the wildly-popular 2018 Stormin’ Mormon Showdown modified feature and the Sam Stringer Memorial Super Stock Shootout Saturday, has a long history since its inception in 1985.
The ¼-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 the likes of top-notch competitors including short track superstars like former NASCAR start Mark Martin, Dick Trickle, Ernie Ervin, Jimmy Insolo, former Pahrump resident Phil Hayes, current NASCAR star Kurt Busch and his father, Tom (they both competed in Dwarf Cars at PVS); and three-time CRS track champion Jimmy Sanderson.
After Wulfenstein showcased his auto racing talent at the Race of Champions at Daytona Speedway in Florida, he then turned his attention to Pahrump, where he invested in a town that was crying for the creative mind and savvy of a fearless developer who knew how to turn the desert into a new vision that included various elements of real estate.
Like so many others who close the door on auto racing careers, Wulfenstein couldn’t completely stay away from the sport. With the ground work 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 the 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 second home in Oregon home in 2017. However, the family name continues to live on in a myriad of ways including auto racing and construction.
Meanwhile, the history of Southern Nevada auto racing has been etched in stone, thanks to the efforts of Ray Wulfenstein.
“He was just a good jovial person,” said Jimmy Sanderson, a three-time track champion at CRS. “Between Ray, Bob Ruppert and Gus Newman, they were the best.”
The ultimate competitor, Wulfenstein was a fearless visionary, according to his son, Jim.
“When my mom and dad were just getting started in Pahrump, my dad said to take the wheels off the trailer so that it couldn’t be repossessed,” Jim Wulfenstein said. “Dad would often tell me where every curb went before the property was developed. We were amazed at his vision every day. He was relentless, and it was exhausting watching him go.”
Saturday’s Stormin’ Mormon Showdown is expected to either match or surpass last year’s event. An estimated 40 Modifieds are expected along with about 20 Super Stocks that will include Stringer’s son, Josh. The Modifieds feature $3,000 to win while Super Stocks have $1,000 to win.
“We have some national champions coming to town for this one,” Jim Wulfenstein said. “This race is IMCA-sanctioned, so it’s one of the premier events of the year.”
Top competitors that will compete in the event include Hunter Marriott, a Missouri charger who is known for his victories; Cody Laney; Bobby Hogge; Brad Pounds; Robby Sawyer; Alex Stanford; 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 Modifieds $500 dash for cash sponsored by Silver State Trucking.
- 4:30-5:00pm- Hot laps (15 car sessions, 3 laps)
- 1. Super Stocks
- 2. Modifieds
- 5:05pm- First Modified Heat on Track
- Invocation: TBD
- National Anthem: Kendra McCauley
- Start Your Engines: Grand Marshal Sheri Stringer
- 5:10pm- Heat Races
- Modified Heats Round One
- Super Stocks
- Mini Dwarfs
- Modified Heats Round Two
- Mini Dwarf A-Mains
- Modified B-Main
- Intermission/Modified $500 Dash for Cash sponsored by Silver State Trucking (Top Four Points Earners from Heats)
- Modified Feature Draw (Frisbee Draw: Top Twelve points earners from Heats)
- Main Events:
- Mini Dwarfs- 15 Lap Mains
- Super Stocks- 30 Laps
- Modifieds- 40 Laps
- Invocation: LDS Bishop Steve Jolley
- Trophy Presenter: Miss Pahrump
- Grand Marshal: Sheri Stringer