LIHUE — It’s been almost a year since Danika Braun put pedal to metal, and she doesn’t plan on slowing down.
“We were at the races. My stepdad asked me if I wanted to race, and I said, ‘Yeah,’ ” Braun said. “(I like) going fast.”
The 10-year-old from Lihue was introduced to drag racing in July of last year by her stepfather, Sonny Suniga.
“We went out to the Fourth of July races. … Even before that, I would ask her, ‘Would you want to drive this?’ She said, ‘Yeah, I would,’” Suniga said. “We all went as a family. Then she asked, ‘When is it going to be my turn?’ Then boom. We went looking for one.”
Her half-scale dragster is capable of reaching speeds up to 77 mph.
Suniga said at first, he and his wife Kristan were nervous watching Braun on the racetrack.
“We didn’t know she was going to actually go for it. When she went, it was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” he said. “(Surprised) she actually went down the track.”
When they got the new dragster, Suniga told her to take it easy.
“We told her just do half-track and see how you feel,” he said. “She blew through it. She went full bore.”
She got her Jr. Dragsters licence in August.
Braun’s first taste of real racing was during Labor Day weekend last year. Most recently, she competed during Fourth of July weekend at Kauai Raceway Park in Mana. She placed fourth in the 890 class, clocking a time of just under nine seconds.
“It’s like pulling you,” Braun said of how it feels when drag racing.
What makes her nervous, however, is watching the lights before taking off.
“I’m nervous I’m going to get a red light, or get a bad reaction,” she said.
Braun said she idolizes local racer Kelsie Vierra, the previous owner of the dragster Braun races in now.
“(I like her) because she always wins,” Braun said of Vierra. “Not always, but she always gets Wally trophies.”
Suniga added: “We’re good friends with the dad, Ohu. He helps us a lot.”
Braun said Vierra has given her plenty of racing advice.
“She gives me tips on what to think about when I’m going down,” Braun said. “(She said), ‘Don’t think about anybody else.’”
Lastly, Braun thanked her parents, her dad David Braun Jr., Mama and Papa Braun for bringing the tow cart, and special thanks to “Papa C.” She also thanked her various sponsors: Aloha Kia Kauai, Metalhaus, Vierra Racing, Street Image and S&S Business Machines.
Suniga said through her racing, both sides of the family — Brauns and Sunigas — have been united.
“This whole thing brought the families together,” he said. “I never did talk to her dad before until she started racing. Now, everything is all cool.”