Import car show attracts young racers and fans

Edelith Obas

Spectators lined across the fence to catch a glimpse of one of their favorite drag racers at an event called Battle of the Imports Drag Racing and Car Show in Famoso last weekend, organized by the International Drag Racing Association.
Throughout the state, racers made their way for a weekend featuring import cars that have been modified.
A variety of import cars showed up to race each other, each one with a distinct look, like bright colors and engines so loud fans wore earplugs.
For one weekend this event drew attention to mostly young adults interested in drag races, car shows, car models and the bikini contest with the live DJ.
Michael Choi, 30, is one of the representatives for the International Drag Racing Association.
“When it first started in 1990 everyone thought it wasn’t going to last,” he said.
This organization has been around for nearly 13 years promoting, organizing and sanctioning drag racing events and car shows. It has grown substantially in the last 10 years, making it a billion-dollar industry.
“If they have any kind of interest whether its 1 percent or 100 percent just give it a try, it’s not hard, everyone’s nervous or scared at the same time,” said Choi.
Choi maintains that drag racing often attracts people between the ages of 16 to 24.
“This whole import scene has something to call their own,” he said. Some like drag racing, some like car shows, while some build drag cars and some build show cars.
The cost to get started is, $12,000 to 25,000, around the price of a car, he said.
About 90 percent of the sport is supported through personal income and not sponsors.
“They learn the lingo, the terminology and get use to the starting line, the scoreboard and the timing system, and track,” he said.
The hip-hop clothing, the car they drive, the choice of music they listen to and the people they hang out with is affected by this interest. Many start a car club.
“Everyone should get their feet wet somehow,” he said.
Heather O’ Conner, 31, who represents car club Girl Poison, said she felt at home.
Conner, the sister of racer Jimmy O’ Conner, was at the “Battle of the Imports” to race.
“We’re trying to get more women out there,” she said.
The next couple of years we’re going to see a whole new generation out there with women drivers. Pretty soon we’re going to be dominating.”
The fastest car at the event was the Acura NSX owned by Adam Saruwatari, 28, from Rio Grande.
Saruwatari’s run this weekend was 7.71. He has been racing for seven years now.
Bakersfield College students Michael Andrews, 20, and Ofiel Garcia, 21, also participated in this event.
Andrews drives a 2000 Honda Civic. He enjoys racing but is not pursuing it as a career.
Garcia, who already blew up two motors in his car, drives a ’97 Honda Civic with modifications such as a 2000 front end, Ferrari side bends, TV and PlayStation 2 .