Deke Houlgate, West Coast auto racing promoter, dies at 91

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — Deke Houlgate, a longtime West Coast sports publicist whose clients included such auto racing greats as Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Richard Petty and Johnny Rutherford, has died. He was 91.

He died Sunday at his home in Carlsbad north of San Diego of COVID-19-related illness, son Greg said Thursday.

Houlgate began his career in sports after graduating from the University of Southern California in 1954. He started as a copy boy in the sports department at the Los Angeles Times, and later worked as a general assignment reporter and assistant director of special events at the newspaper. He also worked as a reporter at the Las Vegas Sun and Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.

In 1962, Houlgate opened his own public relations firm. He promoted Riverside International Raceway and the early years of the Virginia Slims women’s pro tennis tour in Los Angeles. He worked for automotive designer and driver Carroll Shelby. Eventually, he promoted events across motorsports, including Indy car, stock cars, drag racing and motorcycle racing.

Besides his youngest son, Houlgate is survived by Olga, his wife of 66 years, and two other sons, John and David. He was preceded in death by his oldest son, Deke III.