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|Power of Peace Project|
Favorite TV show:
|“Think and Grow Rich”|
|DTM E30 M3|
Ryan Whitinger recalls one of his favorite racing memories competing against Sandro Espinosa at a Road Atlanta event one December. Both men were racing hard, trading leads in Spec E30 and enjoying the friendly competition.
“It got to the point we were having so much fun, we were motioning back and forth, giving each other fist pumps (during the race),” Whitinger said. “We were screaming at each other. It was such an incredible race.”
Then on Turn 12, Espinosa made a rare miscue, and hit a wall. Whitinger remembers driving by with the checkered flag and seeing Espinosa sitting on the wall clapping and cheering for him.
“He was really excited for me and more excited for the race that we had,” Whitinger said. “He was not upset with his car being destroyed, because it was totaled at that point.”
Ask anyone who has raced in Spec E30 in the Southeast Region and inevitably they will bring up Espinosa’s name. Funny, outgoing, life-of-the-party are all adjectives friends use to describe him. Espinosa is a skilled driver, friends say, pointing to both the Eastern and Western States Spec E30 championships he won this year. Last year Espinosa won the Spec E30 class at the Eastern States Championships at Road Atlanta.
Spend some time with Espinosa and you’ll learn he doesn’t race for championships. He’s at the track for the camaraderie.
“I believe they are my friends, and you hang out and talk,” said Espinosa, who turns 40 in November. “It’s more of a social thing, instead of just, ‘I came here to win.’”
The Spec E30 class is the largest in the Southeast Region thanks to the affordability and competitiveness. The class is a tightknit group that Whitinger describes like this: “We go for a party and a race breaks out.”
Espinosa’s engaging personality has made the Atlanta resident the unofficial leader of the class. He promotes camaraderie among the racers, reminding them they are amateurs and to stay safe on the track.
“If we have an issue with a new guy, we approach it as a group,” Espinosa said, adding, “We’re together every day we’re at the track. We paddock together. We have lunch and dinner together. We drink together. It’s all as one group.”
Espinosa grew up in Monterey, Mexico, watching Formula One and he idolized the late racer Ayrton Senna. When he came to the United States in 1994 at age 18, Espinosa called Skip Barber Racing School to see about racing an open-wheel car.
“They told me how much it would cost, and I was like, ‘I don’t think I’ll be available to afford that,’” he said. “But, it was always in the back of my mind.”
A few years later, Espinosa founded Apex Masonry, which does masonry construction for hospitals, manufacturing plants and large apartment complexes. Putting in long hours to steer the company through the economic downturn, Espinosa maintained dreams of car racing.
A friend suggested track days through a local Porsche club and eventually they found NASA. Espinosa met a racer in the Spec E30 class and was instantly sold. “A few months later I just bought one. I was just all in,” he said.
Espinosa competes in 18 NASA regional and national events a year, racing in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. He doesn’t work on his own car because of time constraints, instead turning the car over to a shop by owned by a high school friend to prep it for each race.
Espinosa’s approach to some regional races might seem unusual to outsiders. During a weekend race, Espinosa will forgo qualifying on Sunday morning so he can start at the back of the pack and race against all of the Spec E30 competitors. Despite the starting position, Espinosa will generally finish first or second.
“Some people are surprised at this, but if they spent a couple of weekends with us, they’d get it,” said Spec E30 racer Scott Gress in an email. “Some of us don’t even bother to look up the race results. The fun is the great battling during the race, the finish order just isn’t that important.”
Espinosa said he means no disrespect by the back-of-the-pack-to-the-front approach, and fellow Spec E30 racers understand that.
“Just taking off and being by yourself is the most boring thing ever,” said Espinosa. “So I start from the back and just have fun with all of my buddies. I push them and get them to be more comfortable with racing close.”
When it came to competing at the Western States Championships, Espinosa knew that starting in the rear would make it next to impossible to capture the checkered flag. Espinosa had a little experience during the Mazda Race of NASA Champions, and he was able to hold off challenger Raymond Zanotto by a fraction of a second to win the Spec E30 class. Espinosa then raced at Virginia International Raceway for the Eastern States Championships in September where he beat his good friend Whitinger, and Californian Larry Fraser.
Espinosa enjoyed winning the Western and Eastern States Championships, but it’s not what defines him on or off the track.
“I don’t think winning the Championship makes me a successful person. I consider success raising a family, raising productive, hardworking kids and being happy with your marriage.” Espinosa said. “Winning or losing a race is not going to change any of that.”
Whitinger, who was runner-up at the Eastern States Championships, said Espinosa is more competitive than he lets on.
“He’s very serious when he gets behind the wheel, no doubt about it,” Whitinger said. “In reality, he’s having a ball. If you pass him, he gives you a fist pump that you can see in the mirror. If he passes you, he’s waving to you as he goes by. It’s a sight to behold when you are watching from behind.”