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Hawaii’s Winningest Drag Racer, Roland Leong, Enters Hall of Fame

Hawaii’s Winningest Drag Racer, Roland Leong, Enters Hall of Fame

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Elana ScherrVehicle and Driver

Great issues appear from the Hawaiian islands: chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, surfing, and successful racers. Danny Ongais, who raced every thing from Prime Gas to F1 John DeSoto, motocross legend and Roland Leong, famed Amusing Car tuner, share more than their island birthplace: as of August 2022, they are now the only wheeled inductees in the Hawaii Sports activities Hall of Fame.

We’d say they ended up the only motorsports representatives at all, but that would depart out Thomas Gentry, powerboat racer.

Leong is the most modern inductee, officially becoming a member of the record in 2020, but owing to COVID only celebrating the honor on August 25, 2022, when the Hawaii Sports activities Hall of Fame finally held its substantially postponed banquet. We were on hand to cheer as Leong took the phase, launched by his to start with driver, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme. It was the first time the two men experienced been in Hawaii with each other considering the fact that they achieved in 1964.

Avenue Racing on Oahu

Leong grew up on Oahu, racing cars on the streets, substantially to the dismay of his parents. “My dad had a master’s diploma from Harvard. My mother was also a faculty graduate, incredibly rare for a girl in the ’30s. They were highly regarded businesspeople. I did not graduate significant school and I wanted to be a drag racer. They were not happy.”

Leong’s father did not speak to him for several years, but his mother came close to and supported him as he moved from avenue racing to working a dragster at the island’s only observe, Kahuku Dragstrip. Leong held the fuel dragster history of 8.50 at 180 mph when he achieved Prudhomme, who was piloting the Greer, Black, Prudhomme nitro dragster, transported more than to make exhibition runs on the island’s new, bigger dragstrip. The two strike it off, irrespective of the actuality that Prudhomme could barely realize Leong’s combine of Hawaiian slang and accented English. It didn’t make any difference talking automobiles was a prevalent language.

Later that yr, Leong was in California, performing for a chassis store and building a top fueler of his possess. The first drive did not go properly. “I guess I was supposed to only go fifty percent observe? I did not know that,” suggests Leong, with the uncomplicated cadence of a much-advised tale. “I failed to know where by the parachute deal with was, and by the time I uncovered it, I might pushed off the dragstrip. [Engine builder] Keith Black wasn’t pleased. He mentioned he couldn’t assist me if I drove, since he didn’t want to notify my mothers and fathers I might been killed in a automobile.”

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Elana Scherr

Black advisable Prudhomme, as their companion in the G-B-P motor vehicle was calling it quits. Prudhomme begun driving for Leong and took the new car or truck, appropriately named “The Hawaiian,” to victories at the NHRA Pomona Winternationals and the Indy U.S. Nats along with innumerable match race rounds. “I usually explain to Prudhomme he is blessed I wasn’t worth shit as a driver or he would not have had a vocation,” says Leong. “Sometimes I think of how odd we have to have looked in ’65, on the highway throughout The usa, a Chinese-Hawaiian and a Black man, typically the only kinds in a cafe. We never experienced any trouble, nevertheless. I guess persons liked the motor vehicle also much to get worried about who was with it.”

Prudhomme left Leong the future year, a final decision he suggests he regretted as he viewed the Hawaiian repeat victories at the Winternationals and the U.S. Nats with a unique driver guiding the wheel. Leong would turn out to be notorious for his changing roster of hotshoes. “Not all people experienced the exact want to win as I did,” he states with a shrug.

“The Hawaiian”

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Hawaii Sports activities Corridor of Fame

In 1969, he created a Amusing Motor vehicle, noting that the bodied gas vehicles had been more preferred with the followers and experienced a lot more chances to match race than the lengthy, bare rails. Leong’s “Hawaiian” cars and trucks won consistently, together with the well known Bakersfield March Satisfy in ’67 and ’83, and another U.S. Nationals earn in 1991 with a motor vehicle that would later on established a document as the very first Funny Vehicle more than 290 mph. His previous calendar year as a staff proprietor was 1993, but he continued performing as a employed crew chief, which include rejoining his old buddy, the Snake, to tune the Copenhagen Humorous Motor vehicle with a youthful driver named Ron Capps powering the wheel. They finished next by a narrow margin to John Drive in the championship in 1997.

A person may look at that a good occupation, but Leong continued to tune nitro vehicles right after leaving the NHRA “big exhibit,” doing the job for nostalgia racers managing in the NHRA’s heritage series. As a result of it all, Leong has stayed buddies with a lot of of his teammates, which include Prudhomme. Now 78 and 81 respectively, the Hawaiian and the Snake however act like they are in their early twenties as they were when they achieved, pointing out hot cars and trucks and ribbing each individual other about their many failings. “You know, Snake and I would have lunch each individual day in Van Nuys,” stated Leong. “He was operating at a paint store, and I convinced him to go on the highway with me in ’65, so he stop, and he has not had a genuine work since.”

That is a single way to describe Prudhomme’s 389-spherical successful occupation, but then, Leong has recognized him since right before he was a big shot, back again when they were being both equally just children speaking vehicles in Hawaii, never imagining they’d be again for a Corridor of Fame induction approximately 60 a long time later.

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Elana Scherr

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Elana Scherr

Leong was inducted as aspect of the 2020 course, along with surfer Ben Aipa and racquetball winner Egan Inoue. The 2021 inductees, honored at the same celebration, involved volleyball champ Reydan “Tita” Ahuna and sporting activities promoter Larry Cost. The Hawaii Athletics Corridor of Fame is a state-run museum recording the accomplishments of Hawaii’s athletes in all kinds of sport.