WILLIAMSBURG — There are kids that dream of becoming a surgeon when they grow up, and there are others that want to compete as a race car driver. Ron Hugate decided to do both.
Born and raised in Williamsburg, Hugate lived in the Historic Triangle until around the age of 25. He studied Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, attended medical school at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and then went to Penn State University where he began the long journey of interning and completing his orthopedic surgery residency.
Today, he finds himself practicing as a board-certified orthopedic surgeon that specializes in orthopedic oncology, hip preservation, complex joint reconstruction, and limb salvage, in Denver. When he’s not providing orthopedic care to those that need it, however, he races cars.
“I finished medical training in my early 30s, and as soon as I had money and time, I got my racing license and started doing local events,” Hugate said in an interview with WYDaily. “Over the years, I kind of spread out and started doing national events. Next year, I might be doing some European events as well.”
Hugate pays visits to Virginia whenever he competes in the World Racing League (WRL), a competitive amateur racing league that strives to offer a professional-level experience to drivers, mechanics, and teams by bringing together both garage and factory-built cars for multi-class endurance racing.
This weekend, Hugate made one of his trips to Virginia. The competitive driver is racing for his team, Round 3, at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) where he’ll drive in an 8-hour endurance race.
“I would say that it’s the premier endurance racing league in the country right now. By far,” said Hugate. “Here at VIR we probably have 70 or 80 entries. We’re not talking about guys that are bringing their cars and towing it behind their pickup truck. These are all race teams with legit race cars. I mean it’s a high-end amateur racing series.”
The race is a two-day event that takes place this Saturday, Sept. 3, and Sunday, Sept. 4.
“One of the things I like about endurance racing is that you have to change drivers, you have to get fuel, you have to do pit stops. There’s a lot of comradery and teamwork, and there’s a lot of strategy,” Hugate said.
“I race with a few teams, but Round 3 is one that I’ve been with ever since they started,” added Hugate. “I was one of their first drivers. They’re a couple of really good guys that I met.”
Sometimes when he’s in Virginia, he’ll visit Williamsburg and reminisce on the days when he would drive around with his brother. The two used to drive their father’s Mustang.
“When I was growing up we’d also go to NASCAR events,” said Hugate. “I went with my family and my grandmother to the Richmond 500 to watch Richard Petty and kind of the ‘old-school’ guys out there. That was an annual trip that we did.”
“From that time I always liked fast cars,” added Hugate. “There’s two broad formats for racing. One is sprint racing, where you have like a 40-minute race, and you don’t change tires and you don’t change drivers. You just go as fast as you can. I met Brad and Buz McCall [Owners of Round 3 Racing] in that format when I was racing against them. I guess I was good enough that when they started this endurance racing venture they invited me to be one of their drivers. So I drive with them actually quite often.”
When the race is over, and the weekend comes to an end, Ron will travel back to Denver and will resume being a surgeon that provides a much-needed medical service for his community.
He offered words of advice to both kids and young people who may be interested in getting into competitive racing.
“If you want to race, get in at a level that you can afford. You’ll be surprised, there are some fast go-karts out there,” said Hugate. “Find a budget that you’re comfortable with and jump in. Do a lot of practicing like you would anything else, and then once you get good at it, just jump in. As you get better and as your income grows as you get older, you can get into higher and higher levels of racing if you want to but you can start and have a ton of fun with other kids your age, or there are even adult racing leagues as well. Find a track, find a budget and maybe find someone that knows what they’re doing to teach you a little bit.”
For more information on Round 3 Racing, check out the team’s website.
More information on Hugate’s medical practice can be found at Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center’s website.