Gordie Rivera, who raced in NHRA Pro Stock in five decades, passed away Feb. 14 of a heart attack. He was 73.
Rivera, who was based out of Yuma, Ariz., began racing in 1969 with a ’35 Ford coupe that was the B/G class runner-up at the 1969 Winternationals, and started competing in Pro Stock in 1973.
“After seeing Bill Jenkins win the 1972 Winternationals with a small-block Vega, I built one for myself to race with the following season,” Rivera told NHRA National Dragster in 2012. “Jenkins was my inspiration for getting into Pro Stock.”
Rivera’s first car, like Jenkins’ car, was a small-block-powered Vega, and he progressed to a strong-running Monza based out of his business, Gordie’s Speed Shop (later known as Gordie’s Speed Center) in Yuma. He followed with a series of GM-based cars over the next four decades, and competed at his final event in 2012, at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. He was almost always primarily self-funded and raced with his sons, Gordie Jr. and Doug, as his crew.
Rivera competed at more than 250 NHRA national events. His lone final-round appearance in NHRA national event competition came at his homestate event, the NHRA Arizona Nationals, in 1990, when he was runner-up to Bob Glidden. He finished in the Top 10 standings four times, including a career-high fifth in 1985, which was quite an accomplishment because the four cars ahead of him were well-funded drivers: Glidden, Warren Johnson, Bruce Allen, and Butch Leal.
In addition to his sons, Rivera is also survived by his wife, Debbie.
Services will take place Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. at First Christian Church, 3261 S. Avenue 6E in Yuma.