Drag racing: Taroma thrusts at top speed as Big Island Auto Club gets back on track

  • Kiah Taroma will shoot to go faster than her personal-best of 177 mph at the Big Island Auto Club's Race 4 Cause on Saturday at the Hilo Drag Strip.

Kiah Taroma grew up around the Hilo Drag Strip, and it became a lifestyle by osmosis, watching family members burn rubber for a quarter-mile.

But in her youth and spare time, she swatted softballs and brought home championship medals year after year.

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The 2010 Waiakea graduate was part of the school’s four-year BIIF title run (2007-10) as a slugging catcher.

The Warriors just polished off another four-year BIIF championship run (2015-18) and will likely be the favorite for a fifth straight crown.

Taroma received a car racing education from her father Ralph “Augie” Taroma and uncles Greg Wong and Royden Wong in his Crazy Rat 1968 Camaro.

Last month, she had the fastest car with a time of 7.82 seconds at 174 mph as the Big Island Auto Club opened its racing season.

“That was just lucky,” Taroma said. “Everyone was testing their cars out on the new track. We just made a test hit, and it ran a good number.”

The BIAC’s next races are the Race 4 Cause scheduled for Saturday, followed by the Burn 4 Hope on Sunday at the Hilo Drag Strip.

OVERSET FOLLOWS:Taroma’s fastest time is 7.74 seconds at 177 mph. Her goal is to run in the 7.60-second range. For comparison’s sake, Japan’s bullet trains zip it at 200 mph.

“I love the adrenaline rush, but just being in the car and hearing the sound of the motor and burning rubber is what I love most,” she said.

Her car is a ’68 Camaro, an all-iron rocket with a fiberglass hood and trunk, powered by a 665-cubic inch motor. The transmission is a Bruno Lenco, which has several levers to shift gears. It’s a cool looking muscle car feature.

The Hilo Drag Strip recently reopened after two years of renovations, drawing board time for Taroma and the family racing crew.

“We used that time to brainstorm about how we can get the car to run better,” she said. “I’ve been racing since I was 16. I’m not sure how many wins I got, but they were all a great memory.

“My favorite was a Labor Day weekend race. We had a Door slammer shootout on Saturday and Sunday, and I was able to win both days. It was the biggest blessing for me and my family and crew.

“The new track is coming around good. We can tell in our times that it’s improving.”

Even when the Batmobile is ripping it down Gotham at 330 mph with a booster, the Caped Crusader doesn’t need a Super power to avoid crashing. Batman just needs to concentrate, and it’s the same thing for Taroma.

“Knock on wood, no, I’ve never crashed,” she said. “I’m always alert to be safe and keep the car straight.

“I was a catcher, so you need to react quickly, just like in racing to cut good lights and being able to react to the car in any situation.”

After Taroma graduated in 2010, she got a full-ride scholarship from College of Southern Nevada, where Callen Perreira (now at UHH) was the coach.

She suffered a bad hip injury, came home a year later and went to college back at home. Taroma helped her dad when he was racing and took over the seat a few years later.

Taroma does have a few slow-paced hobbies, like fishing, diving, and hunting.

But racing is in her blood, just like baseball is in the DNA for the Wong family (Kaha, Kolten, and Kean). Her uncles are not related to the Wongs.

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“I plan to race as long as I can. It’s my passion and life,” Taroma said. “I enjoy it as well as our whole family and friends. It’s also close family friends who race, and we’re all like a family, helping each other.

“The best thing about racing is just being in the car. It’s my happy place and also being with my uncles and having a good time. That’s something we enjoy.”