Jr. dragsters keep rolling despite track closure

LIHUE — Kauai Raceway Park is closed for resurfacing and repair, but Kelsie Iida-Vierra still managed a first place finish.

“We went to Maui to race,” Iida-Vierra said Friday night while helping the Garden Isle Jr. Dragsters during the Pep Rally for Life at the Kukui Grove Center.

T’Ryane Sakamoto, Iida-Vierra and Kyle Rapozo have been racing on Maui while the Kauai drag strip remains closed and is expected to open in time for the 2014 season in March.

“I got first place on the second night of two nights of racing,” Iida-Vierra said about an August race in Maui. “Normally, I average 7.90’s ET, and on Maui, I hit 7.9240 ET with speeds at 81.96 miles per hour.”

Iida-Vierra said Rapozo made the trip to drive and qualify for his license so he would be ready for the opening of the Kauai Raceway Park.

T’Ryane doesn’t remember what she ran during the race, but was proud to announce she earned Best Reaction Time during the Maui tour.

“My car is still on Maui,” T’Ryane said. “We’ll bring it home when the track opens.”

T’Ryane was one of several Jr. Dragster racers who, along with Board of Directors, joined the Teens Night Out! Pep Rally for Life, an event that Jonell Kaohelaulii, the Kukui Grove marketing director, said is a young person’s version of the mall’s successful First Friday campaign.

Devon Almarza, 9, has been driving a Jr. Dragster for just a year, but was enthusiastic about bringing his car out to the mall.

“It’s just been in storage,” said Almarza, who was helped by his grandparents, Steven and Patti Niau. “When the track opens, I’m going to have a new car because I’ve outgrown this one.”

The Garden Isle Jr. Dragster program is open to young people from 8 years old to 17 years old, Iida-Vierra said.

While the track is closed, the Jr. Dragster program developed it’s Shared Car Program, a first for Kauai.

Under the program open to youth from 8 through 18 years old, anyone who would like to experience the thrill and excitement of racing a Jr. Dragster in a controlled, alcohol and drug-free environment is encouraged to call.

Ryancie Sakamoto, 10, describers herself as a supporter, helping sister T’Ryane with a carnival-type game.

She qualifies as a fan club member who wants to get in on the fun, but doesn’t care to be in the driver’s seat.

According to a G.I. Jr. Dragster flier, the fan club member gets the opportunity to get close and personal with the program’s drivers while participating in fun and exciting activities.

Membership for the G.I. Jr. Dragster fan club will be accepted starting in March, 2014 when the new season opens.

The mission of Garden Isle Jr. Dragster program is to instill in Kauai’s youth, the knowledge and importance of academic excellence, safety, good sportsmanship, teamwork, respect for authority, and their family so they may become well-rounded, strong and happy children who grow to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

Email gardenislejrdragsters@hawaii.rr.com, or visit www.facebook.com/gardenislejrdragsters, or contact board of directors Tracie Sakamoto (652-7105), Daryl Gerardo (639-1332), or June Lawrence (635-3786) for more information.

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