Danny Miguel’s ‘Mexican Express’ Highlights World of Drag Racing

Mexican Express, directed by Long Beach native Danny Miguel, is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

The documentary is three years in the making and details the experiences of brothers Fred and Rick Esparza discovering and competing in the world of drag racing in the 1960s. 

While living in Westside Long Beach, the two brothers found a race car at a corner market and decided to refurbish it and eventually compete at Lions Drag Strip, a raceway in Wilmington.  

“The Lions Drag Strip was a big mecca of drag racing,” Miguel said. “Back then, everyone from all over the nation would travel just to go over there and race, to be part of something special.”

The documentary includes archival footage of the drag racing competitions and interviews with the two brothers among others. It also details the two brother’s experience growing up on the Eastside before moving to the Westside in the late 50s as teens. 

“The story is very first person about what these brothers’ experiences were and how racing changed their lives,” Miguel said. “The race car was the beginning of it, but the harbinger of things to come.”  

Miguel was originally approached by his friend and fellow filmmaker, Ed Moy, to be the cinematographer for “Mexican Express”. Miguel grew up on the westside and wanted to put more of a spotlight on this sector of Long Beach. 

“I don’t know a lot of big-scale projects that were filmed in the west side…so that kind of inspired me,” Miguel said.

Two weeks prior to shooting the documentary, Moy asked Miguel if he wanted to be co-director, which he accepted.

Miguel found making a documentary a process different from his previous works which were narrative and fictional film projects. 

“I challenged myself with narrative films,” Miguel said. “It’s kind of harder because you’re dealing with actors, locations, and permits. With a documentary, it’s a little more free form…How can I give this 3D experience versus like I’m watching a document; like I’m watching information.”

After production on the film was finished, Miguel was presented with the offer to be the sole director of the film. 

“Ed asked me, ‘Hey man, you did so much work. I’m going to give you the reins. I’m going to give you the limelight. You’re the director now.’ ”

Miguel acknowledged that he was given “full range but Moy’s voice is definitely in the movie as well.”

“The journey for me was bringing their journey behind the camera as they revisit their stomping ground 40 years later, their market where they found the car, to a container facility where the drag strip once existed,” Miguel said.  

To view “Mexican Express”,  click here.

By Brandon Nakao