View from the Stands (11/18/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
On July 20th this past season Knoxville Raceway had its first driver entrant from the state of Hawaii, 30 year-old Keoni Texeira. A native of Honolulu, he ended up moving to Moulton, Iowa this past year for work but he had a dream of racing himself. Iowa is known as the “Field of Dreams” after all. A chance meeting and making contacts with the right person one night and a deal fell into place for him to race a 305 sprint car a few times this season. He raced three nights in 2013 where he qualified well each night, never worse than fourth, and finished eighth and 11th in his two features. Night three on August 3rd he crashed in his heat race and was done for the season. After a successful dirt racing career with over 20 wins back home in Hawaii, his local track closed, but he was determined to stay in racing somehow.
EA: The first question has to be, how did a guy end up leaving Hawaii for Iowa?
KT: I started racing in Hawaii when I was 18 years old back in 2001 in a mini-stock class and then moved up to a midget. 2005 was our last season for racing in Hawaii when Hawaii Motor Speedway closed. One of the guys I used to race with was Dean Freitas and he wound up shipping his car to California in 2007 and we went there in March and raced at Chico, Placerville, Marysville, and I enjoyed it so much that two months later I decided to move to California to pursue more racing. It wasn’t a good time to move though, the economy went downhill and sponsors were hard to come by, so I started working on cars instead of driving them. I wound up working for Corey Kruseman and his driver development program where I was a crew chief there for five different drivers. At the beginning of 2013 I moved to Iowa to work with one of the development drivers we had, Katlynn Leer and her midget team, now at 15 years old she has been selected for the NASCAR D4D (Drive for Diversity) program.
EA: How did you end up in a sprint car this year?
KT: I came to Knoxville to watch the races for the first time this May at the World of Outlaws show and I watched from the Hall of the Fame. I wound up meeting Mark Christopher from Alaska that night in a suite and sat with him, we started a conversation, Mark offered me a slice of pizza and later an opportunity to drive a car, so I couldn’t pass that up. Hopefully we can do well for him.
EA: So until this season it was a long time between driving cars?
KT: Yeah until this year it had been 7 years since I raced anything.
EA: How was California then for the years you were there?
KT: I was living in Woodland Hills and working with Corey Kruseman and his cars, and also I was working at Nelson Racing Engines and their Super Car program so that kept me busy.
EA: Super Cars?
KT: Nelson Racing is a high end shop. They make engines and cars that are street legal, but barely legal. An example is that a customer might have a restored 1969 Camaro and we would put a $60,000 engine with 2,500 horsepower in it that they could drive on the street, but also have fun with on the drag strip!
EA: So what’s the plan from here, are you going to stay in Iowa?
KT: It looks like it, I’m doing some contract work for Cargill and Mark wants to keep racing the 305 next year with me. We are hoping to compete for the Knoxville track championship. We have two J&J cars and I’m working on sponsorship. We also plan to have a contest for race fans to win a trip for two to Hawaii next year. (Details about the contest will be announced later.)
EA: That’s dedication to move so far from home to stay involved in racing.
KT: Yeah it was a shot in the dark. I love racing and there wasn’t anything left back home so I chased it here. I never expected this to happen to have the opportunity to race at Knoxville. I came to Iowa to help run and build a midget a team, trying to keep all the work in house to keep costs down, then I stumbled upon this and it’s a blessing. We’ll just see where it goes from here.
EA: Who helps you with the car? You’ve never driven a winged car before so surely someone gave you some help.
KT: I have to thank Jeff Woodruff for all of his help this past season. We started the team in his shop. Having his help definitely helped shorten the learning curve for me.
Texeira has to be pinching himself, because not too many people just show up at the races for the first time like that, meet the right person, and find a partner that is willing to help you put a car together and go racing. And then if there was one crew chief in the Knoxville pit area you could hand pick to help you and give you some pointers, it would be Jeff Woodruff. Keoni has paid his dues over the years and made a big commitment to move so far away from home and the nice weather, to pursue a career in the racing industry. From what I saw of him on the race track this past summer he looked fast considering he had no experience in a winged sprint car before. I’m excited for him and it’s a feel good story from this past year that I hope continues for him and perhaps we will see him win some races in 2014 at Knoxville Raceway!
*Eric can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @_EricArnold.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Knoxville Raceway.