Big Willie Andew, Drag Race Legend Who Sparked Fast & Furious Culture, Dead at 70

Big Willie and ex-Mayor Richard Riordan.
Big Willie and ex-Mayor Richard Riordan.

William "Big Willie" Andrew, who tried to get kids off the streets and keep them out of gangs by organizing drag races on Terminal Island, died over the weekend.

The 70-year-old had been in poor health, reports

Instead of claiming turf, he told young people they should "run what you brung" on the track. And some credit him for creating the import-racing environment that sparked the Fast and the Furious tuner-car explosion of the 1990s:

He founded the International Brotherhood of Street Racers and the Brotherhood Raceway drag strip on Terminal Island in the years following the Watts riots of 1965. The idea was to give an outlet to Latino, black and Asian youths.

In fact, the year after the unrest, Andrew started hosting quasi-legal midnight races on Fridays.

In 1971 he and wife Tomiko, who died in 2007, established the raceway. And they would not only talk about it, they would be about it -- racing his and hers Hemi Daytona Chargers.

After helping launch the tuner scene -- just as it was exploding -- the track closed in 1995, but not without respect, love and credit going to the 6 foot, 6 inch "Big Willie."

According to

It can be argued that the import drag racing scene which exploded in the 1990s was born there in the decades leading up to it's mainstream popularity. Robinson was constantly working and fighting to keep the track open but ultimately the city stopped the operation of Brotherhood Raceway a number of years ago. Every now and again, rumors jump up that the track may reopen but they have not come to fruition at this point.

[@dennisjromero / / @LAWeeklyNews]

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