Published Ink Archive

Brian Olatunji Featured in Crain’s Detroit Business

April 4th, 2012 in Published Ink by

Original article by Dustin Walsh, Crain’s Detroit Business

BRAIN OLATUNJI – Vehicle integration attribute engineer, Ford Motor Co.; race car driver

Why he lives in metro Detroit: “I view Detroit as the epicenter of opportunity in our country. Young people not only can but do make an impact in our city.”

Claim to fame: Olatunji will star in a new reality show on Speed Network, following the careers of minorities trying to break into auto racing.

Next step: To be a champion in the National Hot Rod Association circuit. Brian Olatunji spent weeks last winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula breaking test models of the Ford Focus Electric. He’s a validation engineer for the automaker. But that’s just his day job.

This summer, the Speed Network will follow Olatunji on his quest to become a professional race car driver. Olatunji and his agent pitched the show to the auto enthusiast television network before inking a contract for a 13-episode pilot season.

The show, “Dreams To Champions,” follows minorities trying to break into the sport of racing. The first season will follow Olatunji and an 18-year-old driver from Mexico.

“Racing all revolves around television, and I’m looking at building a brand for myself,” he said. “It’s going to be a lifestyle show centered on my drive to become a champion in racing.”

Speed’s crew is filming now, and episodes will begin airing in July.

Olatunji has been drag racing for 16 years across the heads-up doorslammer and funny car series. Olatunji’s sponsors include Pepsi Co., the U.S. Army and Lucas Oil Products Inc. Between his engineering job and his passion for driving, Olatunji also helps youths in Detroit.

He’s vice president of 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit. He created and led a Saturday college prep program at Henry Ford Health System for the organization.

He also led the organization’s Project Success program, which sought to increase graduation rates of male students from Southeastern
High School
by 10 percent. The graduation rate of black males at the school was 38 percent before the program.

Randy Walker, vice president and chief diversity officer at Henry Ford, said Olatunji’s age and drive helps him relate to and push the youths he mentors.

“He’s the only person even close to the age of the people we work with, and every one of our young people look up to Brian,” he said. “He’s been present for every one of our Saturday programs, and he’s really helping these young people graduate and get ready for college. Brian is definitely a major catalyst.”

Olatunji also has his own nonprofit, the Leadfoot Foundation, which has provided scholarships and school supplies to area students for the past seven years. This year,
Olatunji will provide two $500 scholarships — one college scholarship to a student at King High School and one a student at his alma mater, Kettering University in Flint.

Brian Olatunji Featured in Rides Magazine

November 21st, 2011 in Published Ink by

View Rides Brian Olatunji Article in PDF Format

Heart of a Lion – Detroit drag racer Brian Olatunji is gunning for the top spot and has the courage to prove it.

Original Article by Marcus Amick

After seeing his lifelong dream of becoming a professional drag racer come true two years ago, 28-year-old Brian Olatunji now has his eyes set on snagging an NHRA U.S. National Championship. RIDES recently caught up with Olatunji in between one of his 175 mph track runs to learn what drives a kid—who grew up in the inner city of Detroit—to chase one of motorsport’s most coveted titles.

What inspired you to become a drag racer? My grandfather, John Broaden, was the first African- American manager of a major NHRA drag strip. I decided to take the road less traveled: racing. When did you first start racing? When I was 15. My folks knew the people who ran Milan Dragway in Michigan. I had an ’89 Chevy Beretta and would take it out on the racetrack.

What was the biggest challenge you faced turning pro? Balancing the demands of the business, working with corporate sponsors like Pepsi, Lucas Oil and the U.S. Army, while staying competitive on the track.

So what does a typical practice day consist of? Wake up, hit the gym and work out. At the track, it’s typically testing different parts to make sure everything is working in perfect harmony.

How do you mentally prepare for a race? Focusing on the perfect run—you have to have a mental picture of it.

You think it’ll be tough to win an NHRA national title? It’s the most prestigious race in drag racing, so the stakes are high. But it’s something that I do expect to win in my career.

View Rides Article in PDF Format

New Pittsburg Courier Brian Olatunji Feature

November 10th, 2011 in Published Ink by

BRIAN OLATUNJI says racing legends like William Durant, founder of the Chevrolet, have been an inspiration for him in the sport.

Detroit Drag Racer Talks Passion for Racing (VIEW ORIGINAL ARTICLE)

(REAL TIMES NEWS SERVICE) — Detroiter Brian Olatunji has a connection to Chevrolet that’s probably a lot different than most.

Since the age of 15, the 29- year-old Olatunji has been racing Chevys and now spends most of his time running an 1100 horsepower ’78 Chevrolet Monte Carlo as a professional dragster at speeds up to 175 mph.

Some of Olatunji’s first runs on the racetrack were in a ’89 Chevy Beretta at Milan Dragway.

“I’ve always raced Chevys,” said Olatunji, whose grandfather, John Broaden, was the first African-American manager of a major NHRA drags strip. ”There’s a legacy with racing that’s always attracted me to the brand that goes back to the foundation of Chevrolet with Billy Durant proving himself on the racetrack as a winner.”

Olatunji, who graduated from Kettering University (previously General Motors Institute) before turning professional three years ago as a NHRA drag racer, said Chevy has aided in his development as a racer on a number of fronts.

“The technical background that I have is a direct result of Chevy,” he said. “Since I was a kid I’ve always had a fascination with the products and ingenuity of the brand. I think it’s helped to make me a strong competitor on and off the racetrack. And given the fact that I’m from Detroit, I’ve always got a chance to see all of the new products first.

“The availability and knowledge of parts and technical expertise you get with Chevrolet are second to none.”

No surprise that some of Olatunji’s all-time favorite Chevrolets are representative of the brand’s legacy with high performance including the ’70 Chevelle SS, ‚68 Camaro Rally Sport, the current Camaro SS, a 70.5 Split Bumper Camaro and the first and most recent generation Corvette C6.

The dragster’s ties to Chevy also extends in the area of sponsorship with the support of Metro Detroit dealership Rodgers Chevrolet in Woodhaven along with Olatunji’s national sponsors that include Pepsi, the U.S. Army, Drive Train Specialists and Lucas Oil.

“Our association with Rodgers Chevrolet further cements what the brand has meant to our team and their commitment to help propel us to winning,” said Olatunji. “Chevy is synonymous with winners and it lets folks know that I have been affiliated with a winning brand.”

Olatunji’s success racing Chevrolets has inspired a lot of his efforts to give back off the track as well as be a board member for the 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit and an ambassador to the Urban Youth Racing School.

Brian Olatunji Given Kettering University Entrepreneurial Achievement Award

September 9th, 2011 in Published Ink by

Brian Olatunji ’05, president and CEO of Leadfoot Motorsports LLC, and Leadfoot Media, will receive the Entrepreneurial Achievement Award recognizing a specific contribution in organizing, managing and assuming the risk of business or enterprise.

Olatunji is pursuing his dream of becoming a world-class championship contending professional race car driver in the NHRA Nitro Funny Car Division through Leadfoot Motorsports, LLC, that he founded at the age of 19. He has since established Leadfoot Media as a marketing firm and subsidiary of Leadfoot Motorsports, LLC. The Leadfoot Media team have procured notable global powerhouse partners; Pepsi, U.S. Army and Lucas Oil.

Prior to Leadfoot Motoersports LLC, Olatunji worked for General Motors, and Faurecia Automotive, Inc.

He is currently vice president of the 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit and also the chairman of the Leadfoot Foundation, Inc, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to empower youth through mentorship and education initiatives. In 2011 the Leadfoot Foundation will host its sixth annual school supplies drive, which provides back to school essentials for Detroit area youth.

Previously Olatunji has been recognized by the Michigan Front Page as one of its top thirty professionals under the age of 40.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University in 1999. A native of Detroit, Olatunji enjoys adrenaline induced activities, traveling, reading, enjoying a great bottle of red wine and is currently learning the bass guitar.


Michigan Newspapper Articles, Fall 2011

November 21st, 2010 in Published Ink by

Ambassador Magazine Article

November 21st, 2010 in Published Ink by
Click to read PDF


Original article by Marcus Amick

To say that Brian Olatunji lives for speed is an understatement. When a lot of people are crowding around TVs on the weekend watching ball games, you’ll find Olatunji on the track in his 1100 horsepower 1978 Chevrolet Malibu race car topping speeds of 175 mph.

It explains his motto: “live fast, drive hard.”

“If I could, I would race every day,” says the native Detroiter. It’s a passion Olatunji picked up from hanging around the now defunct Detroit Dragway in Brownstown Township and the Motor City Dragway located in New Baltimore that his grandparents managed.

“My grandfather was the first African American manager of a major NHRA drag strip,” says Olatunji, who grew up on Detroit’s eastside near Mack Ave. and Conner St. “I decided to take the road less traveled: racing.”

His passion for racing is fueled by his competitive nature. “I love trying to control something that really is out of control,” he says. “There’s something about having that car on the edge and then not going over the edge.” Before turning professional two years ago, Olatunji attended Kettering University (previously General Motors Institute) located in Flint, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2005. “I knew I could not go to school for racing, so I went for mechanical engineering,” he explains.

He’s been racing for 14 years. “I started racing before I had a license,” he explains. “My folks knew the people that ran Milan Dragway. I had a car when I was 15 years old and I would sneak it out on the racetrack.”

Olatunji, whose major sponsors are Pepsi, Lucas Oil, and the U.S. Army, has been racing professionally for two years. The Metro Detroit dealership, Rodgers Chevrolet, is also one of Olatunji’s sponsors.

Olatunji’s everyday vehicles are a black 2008 Cadillac CTS Sedan and black ’89 GMC pick-up truck. “All of my cars are jet black. Even the primary color of my race car is black,” Olatunji explains. “I like the way black cars look — it’s bolder, looks more presidential.”

His first car was a 1989 Chevy Beretta. “I wanted a Beretta for a long time, since my childhood,” he said. “When I found one, it happened to be a stick, and I had never driven a stick. But I taught myself how to drive the car.“ When not racing, Olatanji spends a lot of time mentoring youth in hopes of helping them achieve their dreams.

He serves as chairman of his personal charity, the Leadfoot Foundation, the nonprof t arm of his marketing company, which is focused on empowering underprivileged youth by providing support in the form of educational programs and mentoring.

Olatunji is also the youngest Board Member ever in the 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit and an ambassador to the Urban Youth Racing School. “I try to show youth that the world is bigger than they think it is,” he says. “If I can do what I’m doing growing up as a kid in the inner city of Detroit, so can they.”

Olatunji’s dream vehicle? A silver 1956 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing with a red interior. “At the time it was their fastest production car,” he says. “It’s also a car you can take from Wall Street to Main Street.” Olatunji’s primary goal, however, is to capture titles in NHRA Top Fuel, NHRA Funny Car, NASCAR, IndyCar and Road Course racing.

Then again, what else would you expect from somebody who has spent almost every weekend of his life at a racetrack.

DRIVER: Brian Olatunji
MOST MEMORABLE DRIVE: “Getting behind the wheel of a NHRA Top Alcohol Funny car in 2004 and going 230 miles per hour. The sheer speed is unimaginable.”

USA Article

June 13th, 2009 in Published Ink by

What first brought our attention to Brian Olatunji was the brilliant graphics on his trailer, depicting Pepsi as a Sponsor, and the manner in which he professionally displayed his Car. The Trailer was parked on a corner near the front of the Dragway, and served as the main vocal point to Brian’s display. The car, itself, was angled towards the rear corner of the trailer where Brian’s Crew Chief and Mechanic, impeccably dressed in brilliant white shirts, stood to be available for questions about the car. Towards the front of the trailer were two Black Pop-up canopies with tables underneath. This is where Pepsi products were displayed and Brian’s assistants handed out his 8X10 Bio Cards and promoted Brian himself. Brian’s biggest supporter and promoter was his mother, Linda Whitley, who kept extremely busy stocking Bio Cards, talking to people, following Brian to the Staging Lane and keeping a watchful eye on all the activities.

But, the main draw to this display was Brian himself. For a young man, of only 27 years, Brian has already learned the importance of being personable and available to Race Fans. His hand shake comes out quickly and naturally, his smile is broad and contagious and Brian sincerely appreciates anyone who stops by and shows an interest in his passion……Drag Racing. Brian makes certain that he is always available for photos and so are his Assistants and Pit Crew. Everyone is all smiles and professional.

As for Brian, the man, well…..his Bio Card says it all. Here is are some highlights from Brian’s professionally designed, full color, uniquely graphics Bio Card……

Brian Olatunji is a native of Detroit, Michigan and has had a passion for fast cars all his life. While growing up, Brian spent a great deal of time around race tracks and grew to love the sport. Brian knew, that one day, he would own a REAL race car and pursue his dream to be on that track himself. As far as Brian’s educational history, Brian attended Kettering University, where he earned a Mechanical Engineering degree, with a management minor. As for Brian’s racing education….Brian attended the Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in Florida.

What are Brian’s plans for the future….well..he spells it out in his Bio Card. The end result to all this hard work and detailed planning is “to land a ride in a 330 mile-per-hour land shaking beast known as a Top Fuel Funny Car.”

From USA in Focus Magazine… of luck to you, Brian, in your Drag Racing career and the acquiring of your dream.