Miami auto racing legend Sanchez dies

April 2, 2013 at 8:43 AM

MIAMI, April 2 (UPI) -- Ralph Sanchez, the auto racing promoter who brought the Grand Prix and Homestead-Miami Speedway to Miami, has died at age 64.

The Cuban exile died Monday after a prolonged bout with cancer, The Miami Herald said.

Sanchez made South Florida one of auto racing's premier destinations after establishing the Grand Prix of Miami through Bayfront Park and along Biscayne Boulevard, and later through Tamiami Park, the Herald said.

"Miami set the bar for street races. Ralph created that ambiance and atmosphere. The Miami Grand Prix was an international event, and it boosted Miami's image worldwide," said Derek Bell, who shared a 1985 Grand Prix of Miami win with Al Holbert.

When progress and development in the Miami neighborhood where Sanchez ran the Grand Prix pushed the street race out, he received government support to build a permanent racing facility in Homestead, the newspaper said.

Al Garcia, vice president of operations at Homestead-Miami Speedway, said Sanchez was always willing to take risks for the love of auto racing.

"But when he had a dream, a conviction, he'd make it happen," Garcia said. "And when Ralph got that glimmer in his eye, you could tell something special was happening."

Sanchez is survived by his wife, Lourdes, son Rafael, daughter Patricia and two grandsons. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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