Sonoma father, son shared passion for drag racing that ended in tragedy

Drag racing was a passion of James Kenneth Rambo. His son said the two of them built the car that Rambo died in when he crashed into a K-rail at Sonoma Raceway.  

"This was a race-prepared car so he was definitely a drag racer. This wasn't his first time out here. He had some experience with drag racing and had built this race car for that purpose," says Sonoma Raceway Spokeswoman Diana Brennan.

Investigators say just after 6 p.m. Wednesday night. Rambo was driving his blue 1976 Ford Pinto more than 100 miles per hour when the accident occurred.

It appears he hit the brakes moments before the collision. "Shortly after he crossed the finish line. His car veered left and he hit the guardrail on the left-hand side and died of his injuries shortly after," says Brennan.  

Investigators say Rambo was the only driver on the track of the quarter-mile drag strip. The popular race has been going on for 30 years.  Wednesday night's accident marks the first on-track death in the three decades of the Sonoma Raceway's program. 

Brennan says the event was created to discourage street racing while giving people a chance to fulfill their need for speed in a controlled environment. All drag racers must have a valid driver’s license and pass several requirements before being allowed on the track.

"It needs to have the correct seatbelts as a safety net. A driver will have to have all the safety gear a helmet and a racing jacket to make sure the driver is as protected as possible," says Brennan.  The Wednesday night event will continue, although raceway officials say they will review their safety guidelines.