Crowds gathered at Qualcomm Stadium Friday night for a legal auto racing event that also served as a tribute for the victims of an illegal street racing crash that happened 10 years ago.
In August of 2002, San Diego teenagers Rebeca Martinez, 17, and Mike McGlory, 19, were killed in a street racing crash in Sorrento Valley.
Their car, going 100 mph, slammed into two trees and exploded near Sorrento Valley Road and Industrial Court.
A decade later, local community organization Race Legal is remembering the young victims who lost their lives, and spreading the word on safer, legal auto racing alternatives.
Race Legal focuses on keeping streets and communities safer by offering a sanctioned track alternative to illegal street racing. The organization aims to save the needless loss of young lives by redirecting illegal racing behavior to the safer sport of drag racing.
Race Legal held a tribute for Martinez and McGlory in Qualcomm Stadium’s west lot from 6 p.m. to midnight Friday. On Saturday, the tribute continued at the victims' crash site.
Martinez’s mother, Patty Klein-Martinez, was in attendance and said the pain from the loss of her young daughter still stings.
“It's seems so fresh. Just like it was yesterday,” said Klein-Martinez.
As a mother, she can’t help thinking about the things she’s missing out on 10 years later. Today, her daughter would’ve been almost 28 years old.
“I feel cheated too because I will never get to plan a wedding. I didn't get to see her graduate from college,” said Klein-Martinez.
This year, San Diego saw another deadly racing crash involving teenagers.
Race Legal executive director Lydia DeNecochea said her organization has made strides in illegal street racing, but will continue their work promoting safe alternatives.
“I don’t think we’ll get all the racers, but we are getting the majority of them and the important thing is we have had some years with zero deaths.
Race Legal said street racing has become less deadly since Martinez and McGlory died in 2002.
That year, there were 16 street race-related deaths. So far this year, there have been four.
But DeNecochea fears that number will rise if the Race Legal organization keeps losing funding.
“Our funding has been nonexistent and we’ve been in the red, but we continue to struggle and continue to race,” she added.