Ken and Chiyo Hirata Named Honorary Legends for the Hollywood Casino Joliet Route 66 Classic
Joliet, Ill. — August 7, 2013 — Route 66 Raceway is proud to announce Ken and Chiyo Hirata as the Honorary Legends for the Hollywood Casino Joliet Route 66 Classic at Route 66 Raceway, Saturday, Aug. 17. As the Honorary Legends, the Hiratas will be recognized for their contributions to drag racing history and also select the “Legend’s Choice” winner, awarded to the owner of the Hiratas’ favorite car at the event.
Ken Hirata, a Japanese-American, grew up in rural California dreaming of one day working on cars. His dream was put on hold when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 and he and his family were moved to an internment camp in Arizona. Hirata's family lost both their land and possessions and never returned. At age 16, Hirata caught a train to Cleveland, Ohio, where he bought his first car, started drag racing and met his wife Chiyo before being drafted into the United States Army in 1950.
As a car owner, Hirata stunned the drag racing world by winning the first Top Eliminator race at the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis in 1963. In 1965, he won the U.S. Nationals for a second time and bought the property where the family businesses are located today. Hirata sold his winning car in 1969 to tend to his businesses, but he could not stay away from drag racing. In 1973, he purchased a top fuel car and went on to qualify for the top fuel world finals in Amarillo, Texas.
In 2003 Hirata was inducted in to the NHRA Hall of Fame after first receiving the NHRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This year, Hirata was inducted to the Don Garlits International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Today, along with his wife Chiyo and son David, Hirata owns Hirata's Lowell Body Shop, Lowell Automotive and Radiator, Hirata's Motorsports and Hammer'd Restos & Customs in Lowell, Ind. Hirata and his wife remain active in the world of drag racing as they travel to support their son David, winner of the NHRA National Event in Norwalk, Ohio earlier this year. David is a five time national event and five time divisional event winner. David will race the Injected Nitro Top Alcohol Dragster at the Classic later this month.
A tribute to all things vintage, the Hollywood Casino Joliet Route 66 Classic will feature nostalgia match racing including funny cars, pro stocks, gassers and a jet dragster finale in a quarter-mile blast down memory lane. Car enthusiasts are also welcome to display their classic car in the Show ‘n Shine.
Tickets for the Hollywood Casino Joliet Route 66 Classic are only $20, while kids 12 and younger are FREE with a paid adult. Parking is also FREE and each ticket serves as a pit pass. Racers can take their classic car down the drag strip with a time trail run card for just $25 or participate by showing their classic car (model year 1979 and older) for FREE. Run Tuff Eliminator, a category of drag racing competition made famous from the 1960-80s will also be featured.