Races rev up Kaua‘i for holiday weekend

MANA — He stood on the dark, black asphalt and watched as monster-cars, with engines pushing out thousands of horsepower, exploded down the quartermile track at speeds of 200 miles per hour. 

“I started this sport when I was 17 because I liked to go fast,” Walt Barnes, now 56 and sporting a thin, snowy-white beard, said Saturday afternoon as surrounding cars revved their engines. “I now do it for for the community, but I guess I still like to go fast.”

And then Barnes discarded his brimmed sunhat, attached a black helmet snugly above the collar of his blue polo, jumped into his 2008 factory-stock Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 and blistered down the quarter-mile at 150 miles per hour.

Barnes was just one of many that participated in or attended the Second Annual Rudy Ramos Interdependence Day Races at the Kaua‘i Raceway Park in Mana.

The hot sun only got warmer down on the track, but that didn’t seem to bother spectators who decided the best way to celebrate the holiday weekend was with ringing ears and the smell of burnt rubber filling the air.

For Barnes, the former president of the Garden Island Racing Association, racing on Kaua‘i and the Fourth of July are synonymous.

“It’s our biggest event of the year,” Barnes said. “Each Island has their specialty races. Ours is the Fourth.”

This weekend’s races, which continue through July 4, couldn’t have started any better, current GIRA President Bobby Barros said.

“I have absolutely no complaints,” he said. “Considering the season, we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Barros, who races a 1967 black Camaro and a 1985 El Camino, also black, had to spend the races this weekend out of the driver’s seat. As the races are volunteer run, Barros and the dozens of other volunteers kept plenty busy putting on the event.

“There is just so much stuff that we have to do, but this is my passion,” Barros said. “The biggest thing is safety. We know this sport is dangerous and safety comes before anything.”

Although Barnes has kept plenty busy helping put on the races, after his run on Saturday, he was just happy to be back on the track. Barnes is back after taking a year off to work on a race car he’s building. And while his time on Saturday might not have been the best of the day, after 39 years of racing, he still comes back to these events, excited each time.

“Like most sports there’s a lot more that goes into it than people think,” Barnes said from his pit, “but for the fans, sitting around here and watching the cars go fast is all they need.”

• Tyson Alger, Sports Editor of The Garden Island, can be reached at 245-3681, (ext. 237), or by email at talger@thegardenisland.com or on twitter at twitter.com/tysonalger

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