Profile On: Keoni Texeira!
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Keoni Texeira #50 305 Sprint Car
by Joanne Cram
If anyone gets the long haul award for weekly racing at Knoxville Raceway, Keoni Texeira takes the cake with a 4,000 mile spread between home and Iowa. He is now living in southern Iowa so he can be close enough for weekly racing at Knoxville and other 305 tracks, but remains a Hawaii native.
A sprint car racer from Hawaii? How does this happen? Most people don’t know that up until 2005, the island of Oahu had its own dirt track that raced open wheel karts, dirt track midgets, and sprints, so a Hawaiian sprint car racer isn’t all that unheard of. Keoni grew up on the island with family and friends drag racing and dirt track racing at Hawaii Raceway Park in Kapolei, Oahu.
Keoni says he was hooked when as a kid he used to watch the TNN showings of the Outlaws on TV. He knew some day he would be racing. When he was 19 and had enough of his own money saved up, he began racing mini stocks. He was in mini stocks for 2 years, running for fun and experience, not for competitive points. He took a year off in 2004 and began helping a friend out on his mini stock.
Then in 2005, Keoni got back behind the wheel racing midgets for John Farout and Chuck Garner. Both teams were fairly successful and things went well, with Keoni winning several races that season. It was short lived however, when word came that the property that the track resided on was being sold for development. Keoni’s dirt track racing career on Hawaii was close to being over, and he was looking for options. Even with the track not closing down, Keoni reflects back on how high the cost was to race on the island. Everything was close to double the cost as it is on the mainland; parts, fuel, oil, you name it. If you broke on Saturday night, you’d better have a parts list ready to call in on Sunday morning in hopes that it would show up by Thursday afternoon to put the car back together in time for the next race.
In 2006, Keoni found himself sitting and not doing much race related, but had a good career going with as a diesel mechanic for Cummins. With the racing community and friends out of dirt track racing options, by 2007 they were itching to get back in the dirt. Keoni’s friend Dean Freitas decided to build a winged sprint car to race some of the west coast California races with Keoni’s help. He flew over in late March and stayed through April. By May he had asked Cummins for a transfer to California, it got approved, and he was on his way to California for work, but looking for an open wheel ride or experience.
By June, Keoni had met Cory Kruseman and in November was offered a job to work on the driver development side of Kruseman’s racing operation, maintaining the cars during the weeknights. Keoni was also working for Hot Rod Speedworks, where he worked on muscle cars and hot rods. He still had friends that would fly in now and then to Chico and Marysville, and Keoni would help out on their cars for those occasions too.
In 2009, Keoni met Tom Nelson of Nelson Racing Engines, who would become a huge part of Keoni’s racing future. He was still at Cummins, but a change in work situations brought about Keoni’s employment with Tom. He continued to work with Tom on the side, even after Keoni started his own business in 2010. These couple of years were packed with a busy schedule of working and racing; still driving some kart stuff for Kruseman and working on his midgets.
2011 continued with a crazy schedule of working three jobs and weekend race work. Keoni was overseeing Kruseman’s asphalt USAC and dirt programs as well as the driver development programs. This was one of the most fun years for Keoni. They won a lot and he learned a lot from the younger drivers in addition to them learning a lot from him.
2012 brought about more challenge, as Keoni’s good friend, Tom Nelson was seriously ill, so Keoni took over his Nelson Racing Engines program. While running the engine shop, Keoni still managed to fly out to Indiana for the USAC Ignite Series nine times to help with another development driver. By the end of that same year, Keoni moved to southern, IA to continue working with this program and designing/building his in house midget chassis. Keoni helped the team’s program and ran the USAC Ford Focus class and earned several quick times, heat wins, and snagged his first and only USAC Ignite feature win at Antioch, California.
When the season ended, Keoni found himself still in Iowa, unsure of his future racing plans. He helped with a few of the Ignite Series and Powri shows. Earlier that year at the Tulsa Shootout, Keoni had met Bob Baker from the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, who invited Keoni to come up and take in a race or two since he was living just over an hour from the Sprint Car Capitol of the World. He came up to Knoxville for an outlaw show and was invited to take in the action from a Hall of Fame Suite, where a chance meeting would again take Keoni’s racing career down a whole new path. Mark Christopher was in the suite with Keoni, and after spending the evening of racing together, hired Keoni to drive his #50 305 at Knoxville. Keoni’s winged sprint car debut was a 305 show at Burlington in mid July. He started last and got 3rd in his heat, then went from 24th to 12th in the feature. (Non-regular drivers of many of these races tag the rear of each race). Mark was happy with the debut and sent Keoni racing at Knoxville. Keoni qualified 4th quick, and got 8th in his first Knoxville 305 event. The duo decided to focus on 2014 at that point, and Keoni wrapped up his 2013 season.
2014 has brought Keoni a lot of opportunities to get seat time in the 305; racing at both Knoxville Raceway and other 305 shows around the state. He’s had a career best finish of 5th in a Knoxville feature this year, and is hoping to be named the 305 Rookie of the Year at Knoxville Raceway. There is a lot of great competition in the 305 class, with several drivers having many more years of seat time under their belts. The Flyin’ Hawaiian is piloting a J & J/Gaerte this season, and has MC Racing, Chuck’s Corvette Hawaii, Winchester Ag, and MPD to thank as sponsors. Brian Stansberry has been an asset on the crew as well.
Keoni continues to commute from Southern Iowa Iowa each weekend, where during the week he contracts for Cargill on railroad operations. Working full time and trying to race on the side, Keoni jokingly says he doesn’t have much time for hobbies, but likes to golf if there’s ever any down time to be found. The toughest part of his arrangement right now is the lack of a crew and trying to get in the right mind set to race each time he goes on out the track. Maintaining the car each week by himself and not having a lot of consistent help before and after the races can be a challenge, but he wouldn’t trade the experience!
Special thanks to Jeff Woodruff for giving great advice and helping out with parts, and Larry Woodward.