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HomeAutomobile NewsHawaii's Winningest Drag Racer, Roland Leong, Enters Corridor of Fame

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

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Elana ScherrAutomobile and Driver

Good issues come from the Hawaiian islands: chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, browsing, and profitable racers. Danny Ongais, who raced all the pieces from Prime Gas to F1; John DeSoto, motocross legend; and Roland Leong, famed Humorous Automobile tuner, share greater than their island birthplace: as of August 2022, they’re now the one wheeled inductees within the Hawaii Sports activities Corridor of Fame.

We’d say they have been the one motorsports representatives in any respect, however that would go away out Thomas Gentry, powerboat racer.

Leong is the latest inductee, formally becoming a member of the checklist in 2020, however as a result of COVID solely celebrating the dignity on August 25, 2022, when the Hawaii Sports activities Corridor of Fame lastly held its a lot postponed banquet. We have been available to cheer as Leong took the stage, launched by his first driver, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme. It was the primary time the 2 males had been in Hawaii collectively since they met in 1964.

Avenue Racing on Oahu

Leong grew up on Oahu, racing vehicles on the streets, a lot to the dismay of his dad and mom. “My dad had a grasp’s diploma from Harvard. My mom was additionally a university graduate, very uncommon for a girl within the ’30s. They have been revered businesspeople. I didn’t graduate highschool and I wished to be a drag racer. They weren’t happy.”

Leong’s dad didn’t speak to him for years, however his mom got here round and supported him as he moved from road racing to working a dragster on the island’s solely monitor, Kahuku Dragstrip. Leong held the fuel dragster document of 8.50 at 180 mph when he met Prudhomme, who was piloting the Greer, Black, Prudhomme nitro dragster, shipped over to make exhibition runs on the island’s new, larger dragstrip. The 2 hit it off, even though Prudhomme may barely perceive Leong’s mixture of Hawaiian slang and accented English. It did not matter; speaking vehicles was a typical language.

Later that yr, Leong was in California, working for a chassis store and constructing a high fueler of his personal. The primary drive did not go effectively. “I suppose I used to be purported to solely go half monitor? I did not know that,” says Leong, with the straightforward cadence of a much-told story. “I did not know the place the parachute deal with was, and by the point I discovered it, I might pushed off the dragstrip. [Engine builder] Keith Black wasn’t happy. He mentioned he could not assist me if I drove, as a result of he did not wish to inform my dad and mom I might been killed in a automobile.”

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Elana Scherr

Black really helpful Prudhomme, as their associate within the G-B-P automobile was calling it quits. Prudhomme began driving for Leong and took the brand new automobile, appropriately named “The Hawaiian,” to victories on the NHRA Pomona Winternationals and the Indy U.S. Nats together with numerous match race rounds. “I all the time inform Prudhomme he is fortunate I wasn’t price shit as a driver or he would not have had a profession,” says Leong. “Generally I consider how odd we should have regarded in ’65, on the highway throughout America, a Chinese language-Hawaiian and a Black man, usually the one ones in a restaurant. We by no means had any hassle, although. I suppose individuals favored the automobile an excessive amount of to fret about who was with it.”

Prudhomme left Leong the following yr, a call he says he regretted as he watched the Hawaiian repeat victories on the Winternationals and the U.S. Nats with a special driver behind the wheel. Leong would change into notorious for his altering roster of hotshoes. “Not everybody had the identical want to win as I did,” he says with a shrug.

“The Hawaiian”

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Hawaii Sports activities Corridor of Fame

In 1969, he constructed a Humorous Automobile, noting that the bodied gas vehicles have been extra well-liked with the followers and had extra alternatives to match race than the lengthy, bare rails. Leong’s “Hawaiian” vehicles gained often, together with the well-known Bakersfield March Meet in ’67 and ’83, and one other U.S. Nationals win in 1991 with a automobile that may later set a document as the primary Humorous Automobile over 290 mph. His final yr as a group proprietor was 1993, however he continued working as a employed crew chief, together with rejoining his previous buddy, the Snake, to tune the Copenhagen Humorous Automobile with a younger driver named Ron Capps behind the wheel. They completed second by a slender margin to John Drive within the championship in 1997.

One may think about {that a} stable profession, however Leong continued to tune nitro vehicles after leaving the NHRA “large present,” working for nostalgia racers working within the NHRA’s heritage sequence. Via all of it, Leong has stayed mates with lots of his teammates, together with Prudhomme. Now 78 and 81 respectively, the Hawaiian and the Snake nonetheless act like they’re of their early twenties as they have been once they met, mentioning scorching vehicles and ribbing one another about their varied failings. “, Snake and I might have lunch day by day in Van Nuys,” mentioned Leong. “He was working at a paint store, and I satisfied him to go on the highway with me in ’65, so he stop, and he hasn’t had an actual job since.”

That is one technique to describe Prudhomme’s 389-round profitable profession, however then, Leong has identified him since earlier than he was an enormous shot, again once they have been each simply youngsters speaking vehicles in Hawaii, by no means imagining they’d be again for a Corridor of Fame induction almost 60 years later.

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Elana Scherr

leong hawaii sports hall of fame

Elana Scherr

Leong was inducted as a part of the 2020 class, together with surfer Ben Aipa and racquetball champion Egan Inoue. The 2021 inductees, honored on the identical celebration, included volleyball champ Reydan “Tita” Ahuna and sports activities promoter Larry Worth. The Hawaii Sports activities Corridor of Fame is a state-run museum recording the accomplishments of Hawaii’s athletes in all types of sport.



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