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Drag racers rev up in Kekaha

KEKAHA — The Garden Isle Racing Association (GIRA) fired up its 2023 season with roaring engines and success at Kekaha’s Kaua’i Raceway Park on Saturday.

On the spectator’s side, families camped out along the fence running next to the track, while vendors sold toy cars, T-shirts, shave ice, spam musibi and more.

But the real action was on the track, where constant engine revving and tire burning filled the air with the pungent scent of gasoline and rubber.

GIRA, a National Hot Rod Association sanctioned organization, races eight classes — Top Gun, Super Pro, Pro ET, Muscle V8, Sport Compact, Street, Bike ET and Junior Dragster ET.

David “Racer-X” Debutiaco, a decades-long motorbike racer who established himself in Maui’s scene before coming to Kaua’i, explained how he discovered drag racing as his passion.

“I used to go to the track back in the late 60s with my brother, Andrew,” Debutiaco said. “And I fell in love with drag racing. The noise, the smell — just the people and how they actually set their vehicles up. I was young, thinking ‘later on in life, that’s what I want to be doing.’”

It’s not just Debutiaco who’s found his calling on the track, though. In the junior dragster class, boys and girls ages 8 to 17 race one another in scaled-down dragsters.

“A lot of these kids get an adrenaline rush when they get to ride in junior dragsters,” Debutiaco said. “The beauty of it is, you can see the cars are really nice, and a lot of the kids are doing a lot of involvement with the paint and taking care of it.”

Debutiaco continued, emphasizing that finding a child’s passion in racing can encourage good behavior and keep them from engaging in reckless behavior on the street.

“The junior dragsters, they have to have good grades,” he said. “They can’t be doing poorly in school. And it’s just a positive thing for the parents too, because they want to help the kids.”

And because GIRA conducts bracket races — which emphasize consistent performance over raw speed, and can be costly to implement — Debutiaco noted that individuals interested in racing, young and old, don’t have to shell out their life savings just to compete.

“You can take anything,” he said. “And depending on whatever you do with it, you can make it extremely fast. It just depends on how much work you put into it.”

While many of the racers entered the track with nothing but a gold trophy on their mind, GIRA president Tony Richi stressed that above all, the organization wants to create an exciting event that the entire family can enjoy.

“We’re here to have fun,” Richi said during the racer’s meeting. “And we’re privileged that we have a racetrack on a little island like Kaua’i.”


Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or
Source: The Garden Island

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