New Name, Same Game

K1 Speed takes over where Podium Raceway left them—in the fast lane.

There can be no better harbinger for the direction our city is heading then the changing of the sign outside Podium Raceway last month, when the nation’s biggest indoor racing company K1 Speed decided to take over operations at the Lexington Street facility.

If we were not growing the right way, why would the K1 Speed owners, who had never set foot on O‘ahu until mid-October, bother with this former NEX space on an abandoned military base?

The reason is the business model worked and that is great news for racing fans who have come to look at the 44,000 square-foot facility as the last bastion for testing their skills on the track.

Opened in 2011 by three local families, Kelly and Neil Tsutsui, Sheree and Mark Jeffries and Warren and Michele Cole, as a way of filling the void left when Hawaii Raceway Park closed on Kalaeloa, they used their combined construction acumen to renovate the space into a state-of-the-art race track and filled it with Italian-made electric carts capable of speeds up to 45 mph.

But after a solid three-year run, they decided it was time to head in new directions but they did not want to see their vision die and this is where their friends at K1 Speed came in.

“We have always been in touch with them more as a friendship than business to business,” says Susan Danglard, who owns K1 Speed along with her husband David.

“They came to us and said they were wanting to move on and try other ventures but they wanted Podium to stay and would love to have K1 as we are the leaders in the industry to take over and continue the success that they have had.”

K1 Speed began in 2003 with the Danglards partnering with former NASCAR driver Boris Said and in the past decade have grown to what will be 25 venues by the end of the year stretching from Miami to Seattle and now Kapolei.

Little will change about the facility, though a restaurant is in the plans over the next six months, but now when you race there you will no longer just be competing against local talent, but trying to beat the times of top drivers nationwide.

Other improvements include a new barrier system that retains its original position after impact, retrofitting the bodies of the carts and a new course layout. The one area they will not be changing is the employees themselves.

“We are keeping their staff, they had an awesome staff,” says Danglard. “This is the first turnover that we have taken that we kept every single person, that’s one thing I have to give to them (Podium). We were super lucky on that, usually we have to start all over and train and hire and it takes weeks.”