Businessman H. Wayne Huizenga joined Sánchez as a track partner before the facility opened two years after construction began with a NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series race in November 1995. In 1997, Penske Motorsports (PMI) and International Speedway Corporation (ISC) became partners with Sánchez and Huizenga. Less than one year later, PMI and ISC purchased Sánchez’ remaining interest in Homestead-Miami Speedway. ISC became the sole operator in 1999. The facility will host season-ending championship races in NASCAR’s top three touring series for the 12th consecutive year in November (15-17).
Al Garcia, the vice president for operations at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the longest tenured track employee, worked for Sánchez starting in 1984. Garcia remembers him fondly: “He was charismatic, yet tough as nails. Above all, Ralph was very loyal. You have to give him credit for pursuing his dreams in racing and foregoing what had been to that point been a lucrative career as a developer. I am very proud to have known Ralph and to have worked alongside him.”
Sánchez was born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba in 1948, more than a decade before Fidel Castro assumed power. He was placed aboard an airlift from Havana to Miami after his father became fearful for his son’s safety because Ralph had been recruited to distribute opposition flyers and deliver supplies to forces fighting the Castro regime.
Upon his arrival in Miami, he lived with an aunt and uncle before the couple moved to Nicaragua. Sánchez then resided in a Catholic orphanage until he turned 18. Eventually, Sánchez’ parents, his brother and grandmother joined him in Miami via freedom flights in 1966 and 1967.
Sánchez earned an accounting degree from Florida Atlantic University, became a real estate salesmen, before moving on to become a land developer, and then a motorsports promoter.
Plans for memorial services have not been finalized.