Alan Ampudia and the Enduring Legacy of Papas & Beer

Landon Buford

A couple of hours south of San Diego, at the gateway to the splendor that is Baja California, a family was running a beloved restaurant brand at the same time that their sons were falling in love with off-road racing.

Alan Ampudia was born in Ensenada, Mexico, on December 13, 1990 to Patricia Ampudia and Rodrigo Ampudia Sr., a Short Course and Baja 1000 legend. The 29-year-old has two brothers, the older Rodrigo Ampudia Jr. who is now 36 and the younger Aaron who is 27.

Their father started Papas &Beer Racing in the 1980′s in the Baja Desert. Racing was something that he would pass down to his kids. If the name sounds familiar that makes sense, because Papas & Beer is also the name of the family’s restaurants, which are located in Rosarito Beach and Ensenada.

Photo Credit: Alan Ampudia

The popular restaurant was established in 1983, a joint venture between Rodrigo Ampudia Sr. and his uncle Rogerio Ampudia. Back then there was a dearth of venues with great music, a wide variety of drinks, and delicious food. Somewhere for young people to party and make unforgettable memories. So, the two entrepreneurs decided to get to work on making their dreams a reality and never looked back.

“We never imagined what we would accomplish and didn’t think that it would be so successful for these many years. We were always living each day and giving 100%, full of passion and innovative vision, in which we were adapting as time went on. Our themed parties were a success from the start, our anniversary party each year is where we would give all our customers the party of the year, thanking them for their loyalty,” said Ampudia Sr.

“We would also have a party each month for all the birthday people of that month, which we still due to this day, 37 years later! All of this is an accumulation of many elements that have kept us in business for 37 years. And we keep being a place of choice for our clientele!”

A Family Affair 

Photo Credit: Alan Ampudia

Alan has been interested in racing since he was born but started riding dirt bikes at the age of four. He would transition into racing in short course race and Baja racing at the age of 16, after suffering an injury.

“Interest in racing since I was born. My father used to race in the 80s and when I was born in 1990, I grew up with up along with my brothers," said Ampudia. "I started racing dirt bikes at the age of four and did that for ten plus years up until I got hurt. After that, my parents made the decision that I would not be riding dirt bikes anymore." 

“Then I transitioned into cars which my older brother, Rodrigo [Ampudia Jr.] was already participating in. So, I was 16 after racing short course, which is like a stadium type of racing. I participated in short course races for like a year, and then moved into the Descar, which is what I do now.”

In 2015, Ampudia Sr. struck a deal with Lucas Oil to bring Short Course Racing across the border. According to Alan, it took five years for the partnership to be complete.

Photo Credit: Alan Ampudia

“We have been racing short courses since the start, which it started on the east coast, Midwest, and then made its way to the west coast. That was when the core [Championship Offer Racing] started in the early 2000s, and then the owner of the series went bankrupt and he had to shut down the series. That is when Lucas Offer Racing Series started, and my older brother Rodrigo was racing it fulltime,” Ampudia said.

“I would participate here and there, but he was heavily involved since the CORE days. Lucas Oil started sponsoring him and we kept a close relationship and they still sponsored us to this day. My father brought the idea of bringing racing across the border to Lucas Oil and make it happen for the people racing across the border in Mexico. It is a pitched that my father worked on five years trying to broker the deal and finally they said yes.”

These days the older Ampudia helps with the logistics, while their mother focuses more on the apparel and all the cooking for the family business.

When asked if he and his younger brother Aaron felt any pressure growing up to live up to his father’s legacy, he shared they were more focused on following in their brother Rodrigo’s feet steps.

“Not necessarily pressure because he was so successful in all his classes and won a lot of races down in Baja. There was not any social media when we were growing up, but my brother Rodrigo was the one winning a lot of races down in Baja. He started getting recognized and won some major races during his rookie season, so when Aaron and I began racing we felt like we had to live up to our brother and father’s reputation. We looked up to them and they are our mentors to this day,” shared Alan.

“We are a tight knit family, so it is weird competing against each other right now. I feel like if I were to switch to the short course full-time, Rodrigo would whoop my ass. He has been doing for so long that is difficult to beat him as opposed to Baja racing where you have 12 hours to win a race. So, you can make mistakes here and there, but it is short races there is no room for error. It was not like we need to fill my father and brother’s shoes, but we knew what to be competitive and put ourselves in winning situations.”

Standing Out 

Photo Credit: Alan Ampudia

Last year, Alan won the Baja 1000 overall championship and every time he is asked what it felt like, he shared that he still does not know how to answer that question. He did share that he considers it to be the Super Bowl of his sport and it is also considered to one of the most dangerous and toughest races in the world. It is also considered the longest point-to-point race. It’s 1,000 miles in one day and you are not allowed to stop.

Alan has been successful in the Baja 1000 in different classes, but this was the first time that he actually won the overall all race, and it felt different. He said because it means that you finished with the fastest time.

When asked what some of the emotions were that he felt when his son won the overall Baja 1000, Rodrigo Ampudia Sr. said he felt joy.

“I felt really proud and was full of joy and happiness to be able to accomplish our dream of winning an overall Baja 1000,” said the elder Ampudia.

The Baja 1000 is scheduled for November 17-22. The COVID-19 pandemic has it made it difficult to train for this year’s race. There are normally four races in the sport a year, but because of the pandemic there is only two this year, the Baja 500 and Baja 1000. Alan attempted to buy gym equipment from Amazon, but it was all sold out. So, he had to find different ways to stay active until his apartment gym reopened. He also shared that he played a lot of video games to pass the time.

AlanAmpudiaPhoto credit JP Desert Shots
Photo Credit: JP Desert Shots

When asked how important is to have Mexican representation in the Baja 500 and Baja 1000, Ampudia shared that “it is pretty cool.”

“We are born in the states, but Spanish is my first language, and I didn’t really learn to speak English until I was in the eighth grade. That also goes for my younger brother Aaron and we were raised in Ensenada. That is where our roots are and where we went to school,” said Ampudia.

“We would later transfer to schools in the states to try to get a better education, and learn the English language. We consider ourselves Mexican Americans and are proud to be both. And the fact that all our races are in our hometown of Ensenada, it is super cool to have the backing of all the locals, and we were the first individuals from Ensenada to win an overall Baja 1000. It was sweet to share that with our dad who has been racing for a longtime, but never won a trophy truck racing event, and the same can go for my Co-Driver Steve Covey. He came out of retirement to drive with us for the trophy truck event.”

During the pandemic, they had to close their doors at Papas and Beers like many businesses across the country throughout the quarantine period.

Venues have started to open back up, which has not given him and his brother Aaron a lot of time to train because they are helping at the restaurant. 

While they were able to weather the storm of the pandemic, they still had to close their doors for a time. 

The normally raucous environments have been quiet but the hope is that the fast-paced lifestyle returns soon, especially this weekend with the Baja 1000. 

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