This month I had the pleasure of speaking with Darryl Wong of Speed Wong Racing. For the past 7 years, Speed Wong Racing has grown into a successful race car team on the West Coast. Speed Wong Racing started out quietly in 2003. It was simply a father and a son, neither of whom had any racing experience. They purchased one Legends race car on a whim. From that one car to today, Speed Wong Racing has grown to a stable of race cars and heavy transport trucks. I spoke to Darryl about Speed Wong Racing, cars and the business principles that have built this team.
ASIANCE: Speed Wong Racing was initially created by you and your son, Brian, seven years ago. Can you tell us what motivated you, a man with no prior knowledge of cars or mechanics, to get involved in this type of sport? Why racing?
Darryl: Before I had a family, I’ve always been involved with cars, motorcycles and off road bikes, purely as a hobby and self indulgence. We have three children and they’ve all grown up camping on the sand dunes and dirt, riding motorcycles and quads. It’s something we did as a family, so the idea of motorsports was not new. The sport of racing was. We sponsored a race team one time, 12 years ago.It was fun, made an impact on us no different than taking a trip to Europe would have. We enjoyed the experience and tucked it away as a great memory. When Jennifer was 17 and Kevin was 15, they were off doing their own activities with friends, leaving just Brian and myself dirt bike riding on weekends. When Brian was 13, we went to a race locally for fun, saw a car called a Legends racing and we both thought it would be fun to try it. We bought a car the next day and we got an instant introduction to racing.
She is one of the few women owners in racing and obviously, the only Asian. Her status as a young woman who has won a NASCAR race has helped our credibility in racing.
ASIANCE: Did you initially hire people to help you and your son learn how to race cars?
Darryl: The first race was a disaster and hilarious looking back. Brian had no clue what he was doing and was petrified as a 13 year old in a car on a race track with 25 other cars in front of a large crowd at Irwindale Speedway. He was the youngest driver there. Turns out he wasn’t really qualified to race, but the guy who sold us the car wanted the sale so he pushed for Brian’s race license. During practice a lug nut fell off because I didn’t tighten it. The other racers were great, trying to help us but also laughing at how unprepared we were. Mariko came out to Brian’s first race and sat with me in a special section near the track reserved for crew members. She asked how we got ourselves into this and if it was dangerous. I told her he was fine. In reality, Brian was too small to touch any buttons. We had a stick in the car so he could hit the switches. He had no experience and wasn’t qualified to be out there. Nonetheless, he was actually going around well for a few laps when the car next to him burst into flames. Mariko became hysterical wanting her baby to steer away from the burning car. She was furious that he was exposed to so much danger. The next day, I hired a guy to take care of the car and teach Brian how to drive. My career as a pit crew chief lasted one race. Brian’s career as a driver just began. Mariko has calmed down, now that we have professionals working on his equipment. Jennifer has grown to be involved as a team owner. Kevin supports the team and his brother whenever he can.
ASIANCE: Tell me about David Hung and Jennifer Wong. What do you think they have contributed to Speed Wong Racing’s success?
Darryl: David is everything I’m not and Jennifer rounds us both off with a completely different skill set. Together the three of us complement the management structure very well. David Hung is an investment banker, 30 years old, experienced beyond his years, very well connected in the international business world. He’s smart man who thinks before he acts, stores information like a computer chip and processes the right answers. The best part is, he’s a car guy and loves racing. I hate to admit it, but David is more of a car guy than me. David handles finance and CFO duties and contributes with Jennifer to marketing. Jennifer took a break from working for an international consulting company in Washington, D.C., to help us launch a new race team aimed specifically at linking China and the U.S., using racing as the marketing platform. We’re packaging a successor team to Speed Wong Racing, LLC, as World Stage Racing, LLC. Jen has a very unique perspective as a woman, someone who is focused on marketing and business, since she is not distracted by any attraction to cars. She enjoys racing, but she handles the public relations aspect better than David and I. She interacts (schmooze’s) endlessly with track officials, other teams, drivers and marketing people. She is one of the few women owners in racing and obviously, the only Asian. Her status as a young woman who has won a NASCAR race has helped our credibility in racing.
ASIANCE: Do you travel for your competitions? If so, what competitions have you raced in?
Darryl: We travel endlessly. One of Jennifer’s objectives in launching our new team World Stage Racing is to budget for a private jet! I’m half joking, but most of the well run teams have one. For years, we have raced 30 weekends a year. What we do differently from almost any team in America is, we race both sports cars (American LeMans, Patron Cup) and stock cars (NASCAR). Whereas, the average team races only one series and one car. We have raced several series and at times in more than one car. In the past 12 months, Brian has raced in Europe on 3 different trips, in Canada, in Phoenix, Iowa, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, Sebring (Florida), Long Beach, Monterey, Connecticut, Ohio, Wisconsin and Atlanta. At one stretch, Brian came home one week in a 7 week stretch. The tracks range from famous to the unknown. NASCAR is primarily an oval track race while the sports cars race on a road course that range from 2-3 miles long. Basically, in NASCAR you only turn left and in sports cars you go left and right! Pretty simple concept, a bit different going upwards of 180 mph.
ASIANCE: What type of cars does Speed Wong Racing currently race?
Darryl: This season we have raced three types of cars. A NASCAR in the West Series, a Porsche GT3 Cup car and a car that I can’t describe, what is called a LMPC prototype that is made in Europe and raced here in the U.S. for the first time this season.
ASIANCE: Haha, do you have a personal favorite?
Darryl: My favorite is the car that makes it back undamaged.
We are in a sport that Asians aren’t normally participants and never at the advanced level.
ASIANCE: Your crew has grown considerably since you first started out seven years ago. How many people does it take to operate Speed Wong Racing and who are the individuals that comprise your crew?
Darryl: Between the cars, we have only 3 men full time, but 12 others that work between full time and almost full time. They range from mechanics, transport drivers, engine specialists, tire specialist, fabricators, public relations, spotter, and our team manager. These great friends are all racing addicts, love what they do and support the team and our family tirelessly.
ASIANCE: Tell us a little about the reality series that is planned about your organization?
Darryl: Two years ago a dear friend who is a somebody at Disney/ ABC, suggested we explore the concept of a reality show based on our family. He heard a few stories, and witnessed a few interesting events at races, and thought it would make good television. Disney/ABC gave us tentative approval and we started telling our story. We think we’re a boring dysfunctional family, but we’ve always been told we’re entertaining. Kevin is the leader of creating real life fun and stories. Jen adds drama. Brian supplies the action and settings. Mix in that we’re the only Asians racing in NASCAR and we travel around the country, there are fun stories. We are in a sport that Asians aren’t normally participants and never at the advanced level. We meet great people and some not so great, but it’s all part of growing and experiencing life.
We were interviewed by several producers when Mariko decided she didn’t want her family exposed to the world, so the project was shelved. Of late, we have two subsequent inquiries, Mariko has relented slightly, so we’re still exploring. On a related but separate note, we have more interest in our second project of a reality show based in China, when we search, audition and interview for a Chinese race car driver.
ASIANCE: Where can people find out more information about your organization?
Darryl: We’re happy to meet more friends and fans. The best way to reach us is through our website www.speedwongracing.com, www.worldstageracing.com. Brian is at www.brianwongmotorsports.com and www.twitter.com/BWMotorsports
ASIANCE: Speed Wong Racing has the honorable title of being the first and only Chinese NASCAR team in America. And Brian is the only Chinese driver in the US experienced in both sportscars and NASCAR. What advice do you and your son have for other racing hopefuls who are reading this article now
Darryl: Racing is fun and is built around entertainment. Please don’t be intimidated by the sport. It really is about people, competition and camaraderie. Racers are like any other group of competitive men and women. The same basic rules of treating others like you want to be treated apply. All of us will be seen as just racers. The family of racers are friendly and will welcome the new competition. We hope to see you out there as a fan or in the car lined up next to us.
An actor and women’s safety advocate, Candace Kita is the author of “The Hottie Handbook: A Girl’s Guide to Safety.” As a safety specialist, Candace has been interviewed by People, Good Morning America, the Jay Leno Show, Inside Edition, the Los Angeles Times, 48 Hours, the LOGO Network and WHO Australia.