Keoni Texeira got a shock when he arrived in Iowa in December 2012.
“It was a little rough getting used to the climate and everything, the snow, basically,” he says.
Tropical climes turned to wintry chills for Texeira as he pursued his career in racing in the Midwest, a place he had never thought much about.
Texeira, from Hawaii, grew up racing there but faced a challenge when the tracks he raced at closed. In 2007 he moved to California to keep racing. But when the economy turned down and sponsors pulled back, he found himself unable to race. He took a job as a crew chief to stay involved with the sport.
A couple of years ago through work he met Katlynn Leer, a 12-year-old girl from Moulton, who was in California for a racing training program. He became friends with Leer’s dad, who eventually enlisted Texeira’s help with his daughter’s racing career.
Last year Texeira flew to Iowa about eight times to work on Leer’s car and attend races with her family. In December 2012 he made the move.
“Everything seemed a lot easier than living in California, so I figured I would give it a shot,” he says.
Texeira fabricates Leer’s racecars in-house to keep costs down.
Leer, now 14 and a freshman at Moulton-Udell, currently races midget cars in a series in Indiana.
The USAC spec midget car Texeira built for Leer is pink and black and bears the logo of the Avon Breast Cancer Foundation. Leer says she has had many family members affected by breast cancer. Her team sells T-shirts at the track and donates proceeds to the foundation.
Texeira says he enjoys helping the group of avid racers in the Moulton area.
“There is a little racing community out here,” he says. “I have helped out a few of the younger up-and-coming kids on the four-wheeler side to see what they can do and push them to where they need to be.”
Texeira had not raced for seven years, but his move to Iowa also meant he could start racing at the Knoxville Raceway.
Leer, who got started racing with go-karts when she was in elementary school, says she is looking forward to racing at Knoxville when she is older.
“I’ll drive anything I can get my hands on,” Leer says.
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