NHRA National Dragster Challenge this weekend

The Garden Island Racing Association will host its final race of the 2003 season this weekend as the National Hot Rod Association’s National Dragster Challenge gets underway at the Kaua‘i Raceway Park in Mana on Saturday, Nov. 1.

GIRA officials encourage race patrons to “come early, stay late” as gates will open at noon with time trials starting at 1 p.m., and the elimination rounds beginning at 6 p.m.

Saturday’s “night races” will see racers competing in four classes for prizes and trophies with the year’s point championships being decided at night’s end.

Drag racing is an all-day affair, and Saturday night’s event may run past 10 p.m. depending on the number of racers turning out for the event.

An entire side of the quarter-mile raceway is reserved for spectators who are able to set up in one place for the entire race, enjoying the many offerings from the food vendors that are also set up on the spectator side of the event.

Opposite the spectator area is the pits where fans have direct access to the teams, many being able to watch from as close as five or ten feet as pit crew mechanics “twirl the iron.”

The pit experience is heightened by the body-shaking rush created when a team test-fires its engine as the air is shattered by the roar created as the driver blips the trottle.

Many drivers or their pit crew members even have time to answer questions about their machines.

Saturday night’s race will probably see some of the cars that can top 200 mph down the quarter mile, but there is also room for racing unmodified street cars.

To even out the competition, racers are handicapped with slower cars getting a head start so the race is more competitive, the amount of lead being determined during the time trials.

This weekend’s race will also decide the outcome of the cumulative points winners in three classes, each of the races being close enough to be contested.

Chris Loew of Kapa‘a, driving a ‘69 Chevelle sponsored by Speedie Lube currently leads the Pro ET point competition with 545 points followed by Joshua Peralta of Kalaheo with 475 points, Peralta piloting a ‘67 Camaro sponsored by Auto Performance Parts & Service.

Bill Winningham of Kapa‘a holds the Street ET with 585 points over My Paden of Kilauea’s 520 points, the Kilauea lady challenging aboard her ‘98 Jeep Grand Cherokee sponsored by Speedie Lube. Winningham drives an ‘86 Toyota Tercel.

Walt Barnes, driving a Real-Net Advertising sponsored ‘94 Mustang, is tied with Riley Takayama, piloting a ‘69 Camaro sponsored by Matsuda Brothers and Taba and Auto Value Parts, for the lead in the King Auto Center Super Street ET.

Barnes and Takayama have set a points record with 665 points each, exceeding the season-high points from previous years.

For more information about GIRA and drag racing on Kaua‘i, call 652-3493. The GIRA is a not-for-profit corporation that promotes safe motorsports and responsible street driving. GIRA hosts NHRA-sanctioned drag racing including classes for street-legal cars, imports, Junior Dragsters, and pro race cars.

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