Hot Cars And Fast Food — Smokin’

“I raced my car for six years before the motor blew up,” Brad Chikahiro says of his 1989 Honda CRX. He’s been racing for 13 years, but lost his car last season. “I need to build a brand new motor, and you’re lookin’ at about 10 grand.”

This isn’t unusual at Kaua’i Raceway Park in Mana. The quarter-mile asphalt track is west of Kekaha, just past mile marker 28.

Once a month, the Garden Island Racing Association hosts drag races sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

From March through November, seven classes compete for prize money and points, culminating in an end-of-season award ceremony. On this spring afternoon, deep, throaty rumbles send powerful sonic vibrations that penetrate your core, and bring a smile to your face.

Smoke fills the air as Brian Dow’s 1965 Ford Mustang, loaded with a Chevy small-block engine, does a burnout moments before the first “Muscle V8” time trial.

Chikahiro watches from behind a grill. Hamburgers, steak, chicken and hot dogs spit over the fire and send up a meaty smokescreen. He graduated from the culinary program at Kaua’i Community College, and now he and two friends operate Oso’s Good Grindz.

“I’ve always wanted a restaurant,” says Oso’s owner Nicole Orsatelli. She turns and points to Holly Comisap, who holds 2-year-old Jaedyn in her arms. “Her granddaughter was at Kapiolani Hospital for a little over a year, so we decided to start a food booth to help with medical bills. Now we send a portion of our proceeds to Kapiolani and the Ronald McDonald House.”

A fence divides the track from the crowd. Spectator cars and food trucks line the blacktop.

A couple of teenage girls watch from the stands – one strums an ukulele, they both sing in harmony. Boys play with Hot Wheels while mom and dad watch the races, a group of girls walk by with scoops of homemade ice cream from Yamato’s Ice Cream truck.

On the track, Kevin Rapozo’s tricked-out drag-ster screams down the strip at 179.71 mph in 7.44 seconds. He won March’s “Top Gun” class, which requires times of 9.99 seconds and quicker. Rapozo holds the state record for 5.80 seconds on a quarter-mile, at 250 mph, and the Kaua’i track record at 6.15 seconds.

Kapa’a-raised Kainoa Nakazawa, owner of Killah Steaks, opened his food truck because he wanted fresh food.

“I went to the University of Hawaii, and there were these little steak shops everywhere, and they were a quick, fresh, affordable way to eat,” he says.

“It’s fast food, but way better. I surfed all the time, and I would get so hungry. When I moved back, I thought, ‘Kaua’i needs something like that.'”

Nakazawa’s truck is usually parked across from the McDonald’s in Kapa’a, but not on race day. Soza drops a 2-inch-thick tritip steak on the grill for a few minutes before it’s chopped and seared in a saute pan. A fresh salad is tucked next to two scoops of rice, and a table holds squeeze bottles of salad dressing, Killah Sauce and teriyaki sauce.

Eleven-year-old Zailea Lawrence is thinking about speed as she lines up her car for the second round of “Jr. Dragster ET” trial runs.

Later tonight, her grandfather Manny Lawrence will race his 1957 T-Bird against an Altered Fiat driven by Riley Takayama in the “Top Gun” eliminations.

Dance music and savory aromas spill from the Mele’s Kusina food truck. The menu features A’akukui Ranch hamburgers and poke bentos made with local fish.

A kalua pork sandwich with Mele’s Barbecue sauce, garlic waffle fries and a scoop of mac salad slides from the window, and a lady orders slow-roasted pork with brown gravy.

As twilight descends, a pot of stew bubbles on a camp stove. Auntie and Uncle have parked their truck so the bed faces the track. Their bodies outlined against a purple sky, they sit in camping chairs and watch the finals.

Kaua’i Raceway Park 639-3965 Next race is Saturday, June 2

Complete schedule at dragrace-kauai.com

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