NOSTALGIA FUNNY CAR DRIVER
THE RIAN KONNO STORY
A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. For Nostalgia Funny Car drag racer Rian Konno, the determination to become a success literally took sweat and hard work to live out his dream of driving a Nitro Funny car. This Hawaiian native can pinpoint the exact location, time and place when he developed this passion for drag racing. The date was November 3rd, 1991, at Pomona Fairplex in Pomona, California. At the age of 18, Konno knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
For Rian Konno, there was always an interest in performance vehicles. It began with Classic American muscle cars, but after that warm, November day and a dose of Nitromethane, he wanted to pilot a Nitro race car of his own.
To this teenager, driving a Nitro powered race car seemed liked a far-fetched pipe dream. He was an overweight kid with very little knowledge of cars, let alone any connection to the world of drag racing, but was determined to pledge his life to the sport.
Rian embarked on a quest to make himself not only knowledgeable of the world of professional NHRA drag racing, but familiar with high performance automobiles. He took automotive classes at a community college, learned how to weld, worked at numerous auto parts stores, repair shops, fabrication shops, as well as machine shops.
For the next 7 years, Rian was steadfast in making himself the best candidate to work on a professional race team. In 1998, Rian Konno attended a convention in Las Vegas where he was presented with an opportunity to work as a crew member on a Funny Car team that was based not far from Konno’s Southern California home. His career in drag racing had officially begun.
For the next 6 years, Rian traveled the national 24 event professional drag racing circuit working on several different professional teams including Tom Hoover Racing, Jim Dunn Racing, and Don Prudhomme Racing.
Rian was making a decent wage, but felt his drag racing career was stagnant. Working on the car was no longer calming his drag racing itch. He desired more. The only way Konno felt he would increase his knowledge and progress in the sport, was to get behind the wheel and drive.
Between living on the road following the hectic race schedule, not adhering to a healthy lifestyle, and dealing with weight issues all his young life, Rian Konno would have not been a first choice to pilot a professional race car, for Konno weighed about 240 pounds, fairly hefty for 5'9". He believed you don't put parts and pieces on your racecar that aren't in the best condition, which includes the driver.
In order to become a more desirable candidate to a car owner, Rian decided losing weight would help him achieve his dream. For one year, Rian dedicated his life to losing weight by rationing his food intake and stopped eating after 3pm. People thought he was crazy, until they began seeing results. After that year, he was 60 pounds lighter. That 60 pound loss received a lot of attention, including a drag racing TV announcer, who did a story on Rian during a race broadcast. Konno’s determination to succeed at becoming a race car driver created an opportunity to meet his current car owner, Tom Lemon.
For 5 years, Tom, Rian and the team campaigned a Top Alcohol Funny Car, one step below a professional Nitro Funny Car. After running that car for about 5 years, with less than half the budget of competitors, they decided to convert the car into what is known as a Nostalgia Funny Car. It's a class with the mechanical technology of the 1970's and 80's, running on Nitro, with modern day safety features. It's a very popular class which revisits the golden era of drag racing. This “Golden Era” featured drivers acting as crew members by working on their cars as well as crowd pleasing on track performances and showmanship.
Running a Nostalgia Funny Car is not an inexpensive endeavor. Konno has worked part time with various race teams ranging from Top Fuel, Funny Car, Alcohol Dragster, and Pro Modified, in addition to his already full time non-racing jobs for the past several years in order to fund his racing dream. Rian continues to receive offers of employment on the road with professional teams, but the extensive travel and time away from home does not align with his own racing career.
Beginning this year, his 20th year involved in Drag Racing, Rian started working at Brad Anderson Enterprises, which is a major supplier for race car engine components keeping Konno in the motorsports industry and close to Tom Lemon’s race car. Brad Anderson is himself a champion Top Alcohol Funny Car driver. He understands Konno’s passion and is willing to be flexible with his work schedule to allow time off to pursue his dream.
A collection of photos renovated with passion