How One Race Changed The Course Of His Life

Antique race car
Emeka Ochiagha
August 13, 2021

Dewey Gatson could feel the engine humming. It vibrated through his body, the same way his adrenaline did. In his stock Ford two-seater, Gatson was about to compete in the most important car race of his life.

Racecar driving found him. When his family moved to California, Gatson found work as a mechanic. That led him to working for racing teams, and soon he fell in love with the sport – the speed of it, the flair of the racecars. But the sport didn’t love him back.

When he began competing, Black people were not allowed to race in any American Automobile Association events. 

But he was determined. He started calling himself Rajo DeSoto, and telling people he was from Portugal, so he could get access.


But his career opened up on one fateful day at the Los Angeles Speedway. The world was just a blur around him as his four wheels glided around the track. He left the rest of his competitors in his dust, winning by over two laps!

This race would give him the notoriety he needed to make racing a livelihood.

Despite being barred from so many races because he was Black, Gatson had the determination to see his dreams be realized. We too must emulate that drive as we pursue our own dreams!

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