Reporting Maggie Newland
MIAMI (CBS4) – The Homestead-Miami Speedway is mourning the loss of founder Ralph Sanchez. Sanchez died Monday morning after a long battle with cancer.
Friends and family describe him as a “visionary” who didn’t know the meaning of the word impossible.
Sanchez was born in Cuba in 1948 and came to Miami during Operation Pedro Pan. He spent part of his childhood in an orphanage.
“During those years in the orphanage, he just had these crazy dreams of making Miami a crazy great place like Monte Carlo with fast cars racing through the streets,” explained his daughter Patricia Sanchez Abril.
And it wasn’t long before he made those dreams a reality. He founded the Grand Prix in Miami in 1983 and a decade later the Homestead-Miami Speedway. The groundbreaking on the track took place a year after Hurricane Andrew ripped through Homestead.
“His hope in life until the day he died was that the Homestead Speedway would bring a lot of blessings to a lot of people,” said Sanchez Abril.
“The Homestead-Miami speedway at the time was a catalyst for rebuilding a community devastated by Hurricane Andrew and continues to be an incredible economic engine for southern part of Miami-Dade County,” said Albert Garcia, Vice President of Operations at the Speedway.
Garcia was 21 when he started working for Sanchez. Garcia remembered Sanchez for his loyalty.
“Far above and beyond his contribution to auto racing which were significant, what he meant to this community and his family is probably what I remember most,” said Garcia.
His daughter says her dad always put his family first. Even as he battled cancer, he published a book about his life so his grandchildren could grow up and remember him.
She says one of her father’s mottos was “always make good on your promises.”
Sanchez Abril says her father leaves a legacy that makes her very proud.
“He genuinely wanted to enrich the communities that he was part of whether it be the racing community or downtown Miami in 1983 or Coral Gables or Homestead. That’s what he was all about.”