'Freakin' Rican' sets plans to ride again
The purple and turquoise body of the Freakin' Rican sits on top of a bar at The Winner's Circle in Conroe.
Freakin' Rican is a car, more specifically a replicate of a Corvette.
And Freakin' Rican, "the fastest Puerto Rican in the world," is also Sal Ramos, a 58-year-old Conroe resident.
Ramos has a lengthy racing history, feeling the need for speed on motorcycles and in stock cars, modifieds and nitro-funny cars which can go as fast as 330 miles per hour.
"We're always pushing the envelope, trying to go faster," Ramos said.
But something went horribly wrong Nov. 22 when Ramos was test-driving a car, one built to travel 1,000 feet in four seconds.
"All of a sudden it was like daylight, just a flash, an explosion," said Ramos, who estimates he was going 300 miles per hour at the time. "I went end-over-end like five times.
"But here's the worst part. I never lost consciousness. I was bleeding like a stuck pig but I stood up and said 'hey, I'm okay."
He clearly wasn't.
Ramos had shattered his skull and underwent surgery in downtown Houston.
He said he's got several more surgeries to go which means the fate of The Winner's Circle , at 6540 Texas 105 W. in Conroe, is unknown.
Ramos opened it October 2009, with the intention of it being a racing museum and events venue. Since the accident, it has not been open, and Ramos isn't sure where he's going with it.
One thing he does know is there's got to be a reason he's still alive.
"Evidently God said 'no, it's not your time yet,'" Ramos said. "With that in mind, there's got to be a message, people I'm supposed to touch."
Perhaps the message is in illegal street racing.
"I want to talk to kids about that and do something about it," Ramos said. "Get them off the street and onto a track where it's safe. Maybe some of them will listen to me, because I started out street racing, back before it was killing people."
Ramos' father is Puerto Rican and his mother is from India.
Born in New York and raised in Connecticut, Ramos said he began street racing as a youth, at a time when it was considered safe.
In 1972, Ramos built a motorcycle and raced professionally until 1980.
"When I started winning," he said, "people started looking at me."
Shortly after, Ramos got into racing cars, this time on the track instead of the street, in the stock and modified divisions. Then he got into nitro cars, an expensive venture that can quickly turn into a money pit.
"It costs about $157,000 just to test race a couple of times," Ramos said. "Every time you get on the track you have to replace certain parts, you have a minimum of six people working on your car. Then if you don't qualify (for the race), it's like throwing money out the window.
"So you have to be creative, marketable and personable."
That's how you land sponsors, Ramos said, which helps cover the cost of racing.
La Quinta in Kingwood has sponsored Ramos for five years.
"Sal came in, gave us all his information, and we decided it was something we wanted to be involved in," said General Manager Giovanni Sedita. "When we did a big grand opening, he came out with his racecar, set it up out front. He's very interesting, as well as interested and involved in the community."
In January 2009, Ramos helped with a barbecue fundraiser that raised $6,000 for a youth brain cancer survivor in New Caney.
That same month, he appeared at a Kids Night Out event at Texas Roadhouse in Kingwood.
Now, as Ramos continues recovering from his accident, he's looking ahead to the next time he'll get behind the wheel.
"I'm not quitting," Ramos said. "It's my profession. My motto is 'Live Fast Stay Young."
Sal Ramos, 58
Community Connection: Conroe resident
Fast Fact: Ramos is known as "Freakin Rican, the Fastest Puerto Rican in the World"
Quick Quote: "We're always pushing the envelope, trying to go faster."
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