Couldn't agree more, Wheelz! Matt is the real deal! Looking forward to hearing how his new engine is progressing!
My pick for Racer of the Week is John Ishibashi, from Kalaheo, Kauai, Hawaii. John was recommended to me by our friend Michael Baba Balbarino, whose 808_FUEL page has the most extensive and thorough coverage of Drag Racing and all motorsports in the state of Hawaii. Thanks, Michael!
John's '68 Camaro Top Gun race car is a marvelous hot rod, with one of the most beautiful paint jobs I've ever seen on a race car. John told me it's a relatively new paint scheme, as he told me a couple of years ago he crashed this car and after he repaired and rebuilt the car he had a local boy, Rylan Kapuy, lay down the base graphic colors. John’s friend, Richie Rapozo, color sanded and laid on the glassy clear finish which John said is similar to the previous paint scheme. He then flew in Alan Perreira of Sandy, Oregon to stripe and letter the car. To my eye, it's one of those cars you just keep looking at. The design, structure and color combination is perfect. It's one of my all-time favorite race cars.
John has had the Camaro for upwards of 37 years. It was his car in high school. Over the years he has upgraded and added to the car. For a while he put it aside and raced other cars, but he told me it's like going back to your first love, and he feels right driving it. His brother, Peter, motivated him to fix the Ninja after the crash and take it back out as his #1 race car. He attributes this decision to his brother's advice who was his crew chief and number one supporter ever since John started racing until his untimely passing a little over a year ago. Peter didn’t get to see the rebuilt Ninja, but he was definitely there in spirit when John returned to the track only for a second time after the crash and won at Mike Balbarino’s 1st annual Nostalgia Race on Kauai. I'd say he definitely made the right call.
The 565 cubic inch engine has powered John to numerous wins, and a best ET of 8.35 at a top speed of 167 mph. His hard-working crew includes Mike Foster and Jose Diogo. John has figured out how to get good freight deals on getting new parts and equipment shipped over from the mainland. That is one of the factors that makes drag racing such a special pursuit in Hawaii. The parts cost the same as they do in the lower 48, but it's the freight charges that run the price up, and John and other Hawaii racers have had to put more money together in order to keep their cars running the same as everybody else's...there are ways to avoid or cut down on costs, and John figured that out.
John thanks his wife, Del and his girls, Kristyn and Brittney, for their unending support of his racing efforts. He said he couldn't do this if it wasn't for his strong family bonds. They have been standing behind him all the way. The family comes out to the track when he races and cheers him on; as with drag racing all over the world, this is a family activity and it's handed down through the generations.
He still tows the car on an open trailer. It looks great and it's old-school. He told me almost everybody uses enclosed trailers these days, but there's something special about a race car showing up on an open trailer. It brings back memories of the days of old. I can't think of a better way to show that car!
John, we wish you good luck, safe racing and the best of times in the future.
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