By Greg Gulas
The toughest task for a drag racer isn’t sitting behind the wheel and negotiating the track — it’s finding sponsors.
And if you are an African-American, it can be even tougher. Just ask Lorenzo “Killer” Brooks.
Brooks, a native of the Sharon Line section of Youngstown, began working on race cars at 14 and never stopped.
“My older brother, Tommy, was killed when he was blindsided by another car while turning around in his 1968 Chevelle in front of the McGuffey Center,” said Brooks, a 1975 North High graduate. “He wasn’t racing, but his heart was always with racing so I felt like he wanted to do this and I just picked right up where he left off.”
Brooks is an auto mechanic and owner of a landscape business and lawn-cutting service.
For the past four Halloweens, he and his wife, Lolita, host area children at his haunted forest in their Choice Court neighborhood.
Idle from the racing circuit since 2010, it’s fitting that playing goodwill ambassador with the haunted forest yielded a goodwill sponsor in Tri-Area Electric.
“I bought a 1960 Pontiac Starchief from Bill Leone Jr., restored it and then took it back to show them the finished product,” he said. “They really liked it and from that we developed a working relationship,” Brooks noted.
“They jumped on board, helped sponsor our haunted forest and were so impressed that they became the main sponsor of my racing team. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for their continued support and the support of our other sponsors. They’ve really looked out for me.”
Bill Leone Sr. called the partnership a no-brainer.
“Lorenzo [Brooks] is a hard-working, trusting individual; a straight shooter and we’re happy to be aligned with him,” Leone said. “We help him out and do as much as we can, but we’re always looking for new sponsors who are willing to assist with the team.”
Brooks’ other sponsors include Select Body Services, C&M Salvage, New Image Powder Coating and a recent addition, Tim’s Auto.
“I try to help him with the coatings that he needs and with his new Camaro, that meant applying the powder coating finish and high temperature ceramic coatings,” said Jimmy Kolbrick, owner of New Image Powder Coating. “Lorenzo is a real go-getter, someone that works hard in order to get what he wants.”
Added Select Body Services owner John Bondi: “We’re proud to be a part of Lorenzo’s sponsor team. He has the unique ability to get things done without an endless budget and that speaks volumes about his leadership ability.”
Brooks’ team includes his wife, son LeQuenten, Ron “Shorty” Womack and Sylvester “Little Syl” Barnes.
In one of Brooks’ last races on the Pro Extreme Circuit he topped 226 miles per hour [for the quarter-mile] in his 1993 Cavalier Predator.
He said anything goes on the Pro Extreme Circuit so his Camaro ZL1 has a Master Street chassis, is a chrome moly and built with titanium tubing in order to keep it as light as possible.
The motor is a 526-inch Brad Anderson, 3-speed Lenco with 300-plus horsepower and should reach 240 mph at top speed.
“I’ve had between 35 and 40 race cars over the years, but I’m hoping that this is the best one ever,” Brooks said. “Pro Extreme is the fastest door-slamming class in the world with safety always the main concern.
“I respect my machine and its horsepower and take representing the Mahoning Valley very seriously.”
In the early 90s, Brooks was ranked as high as No. 1 in Ohio and No. 9 in the world.
The winner of a variety of match and professional races, Brooks believes his two-year hiatus from the sport might charge his competitive battery.
His team’s goal of getting back on the track by mid-February remains very realistic.
“We’ve enjoyed some success over the years and we’re hoping to duplicate those successes when we get back on the track after the New Year,” he said. “I just want to make Tri-Area Electric and our other sponsors proud because they have been so very good to get me to this point.”