Duffy Girls Take Racing Community by Storm
Story by Michael Seguin
There are few things more powerful than the bond between family members. Well, other than a 496 Chevy Big Brock crate engine.
Duffy Girls Racing is a hobbyhorse of the Duffy family of Amherstburg, which consists of the parents, Brad and Sandy, and their three daughters: Chelsie, Carlie and Jordan.
For the Duffy family, racing entered their lives after Brad purchased a 79 Chevy Malibu in October 2011. He and his second oldest daughter, Chelsie, started racing together right away. “When you get suited up and you’re at the tree, you lose all sense of hearing,” Chelsie explains. “I don’t even hear the engine. I don’t see anyone. It goes to tunnel vision. It’s a rush. I love it. After my first race, I said, ‘Dad, can we go faster?’”
Two years later, Carlie, the youngest daughter, entered the junior league after they purchased a second car. Ever since, the three have become nearly glued to the asphalt of the Grand Bend Motor Plex, their home track.
And some might say racing is in their blood. Sandy’s father was John Banks Sr., the owner of Banks Alignment in Windsor. Banks won a world record at the Daytona 500 for flipping his car end-over-end 26 times in 1976, walking away with only a broken collarbone. He was admitted into the Checker Flag Hall of Fame in 2010.
“My Dad used to do the circle track, so we’ve always been interested in racing,” Sandy reports. “I grew up around it. He would do Daytona, Talladega, Atlanta—he did the circuit there. Every time I go to the track, everyone’s always telling me stories about him. When I tell them I’m his daughter, they can’t believe it. He was such a good racer.”
Duffy Girls Racing involves the whole family. Although they do not race themselves, Sandy and Brad are part of their daughter’s ten-person pit crew. Meanwhile, Jordan, the oldest daughter, proudly identifies as the team’s cheerleader, assisting with photography and promotions.
“I love going to watch them,” Jordan says. “It’s fun. It makes me proud. They’re really, really good racers. A lot of people know them. I work at Dominion Golf Course and everybody knows us. People will say, ‘Hey Jordan! I saw you in the newspaper!’ And they cut the clippings out and wave them at me.”
However, the real prodigy in the family might just be Carlie, the youngest daughter. Carlie won her first awards four years ago, at the age of 13.
“In 2015 I won a championship during the 330 Outlaw class,” Carlie explains. “And I won two Iron Mans. Those are the biggest awards you can win.”
“We know people that have raced 40 years and have never won an Iron Man,” Brad says.
“Going into the Labour Day weekend, Carlie was leading championship points,” Chelsie says. She ended up winning the competition, making her the champion of the junior 13-17 class.
However, despite the competition, the atmosphere at the Grand Bend Motor Plex is remarkably inclusive. “We all race against each other,” Chelsie explains. “But afterwards they come up and tell you what a good job you did. At the end of the day, we all pull together. Last year we did a transmission swap and we finished at midnight. And the guy that lent it to me let me keep it for the rest of the season. He didn’t even hesitate. We went to Indiana with it.”
“If something breaks, nobody is letting you sit there,” Brad states. “At the track, you’re a family.”
And family is what it’s all about. What is perhaps most remarkable about Duffy Girls Racing is not the tremendous amount of awards they’ve pulled in or the fame they’ve accumulated, but how it has strengthened their familial bonds. “What you see here, with us sitting around?” Brad says. “This is how we are. Constantly. I think that’s what get’s us a lot of respect at the tracks. Because people see that this isn’t just a show we’re putting on. This is how we actually are.”
“This is an expensive sport, but it’s a family hobby and it’s something to do every weekend with the kids,” Sandy laughs. “We’re amazed they still want to hang out with us!”
Still, expensive may be a bit of an understatement. The first year they raced, the Duffy’s put $14,000 into the cars, while taking home $2,500 for the whole season. However, since then, a number of local sponsors have stepped forward to help cover equipment costs, such as Integrity Tool & Mold, Briadco Fixture & Gauge, Dominion Bar and Grill and Shooters Roadhouse, among others. These donations have helped to cover the equipment costs.
In addition, the maintenance involved in the sport is staggering. “Sometimes you just work until the next weekend,” Sandy admits. “There’s a lot more that goes into it other than just driving.”
“It never stops,” Brad states. “We get home, and then we have to unload all the parts. Everything has to be washed, cleaned. The girls do all their own maintenance.”
And racing, as it turns out, is not just mechanically taxing. As Brad explains, the sport also involves a great deal of mental gymnastics. “It’s not like the days of Fonzie where they drop their arm and the first one to the finish line wins,” Brad states. “You got to put a number on this car and you got to run as close to that number as possible. Before a race you do two time trials. Say the first time, the car runs 8.15 seconds in a quarter mile. And then the next run is 8.16 seconds. Well, now you got to figure out where you want to dial the car for the first round of the race. If she’s got an 8.07 on the car and then gets an 8.06, she loses the race because she went too fast. There’s a lot of mathematics involved.”
“It’s a mental game,” Chelsie says. “It depends on your reaction time. You want to be dead on. If I put an 8.08, I want to run an 8.08.”
Despite their dedication to their craft, Duffy Girls Racing is also very involved in the community. They drive in the Christmas parade. This year, they served as judges at the second annual Cream of the Crop car show at the Tecumseh Corn Fest.
Regardless of what the future holds for the Duffy family, the local community will undoubtedly continue to be enriched by their example.
“I did twenty weeks of placement at school,” Chelsie recalls. “All I had to say to the kids was, ‘I drive a racecar.’ And then they started listening to me.”