Local teen Kelsey Lefebvre is speeding down to Woodburn, Oregon this weekend with her 1988 Chevrolet Camaro to compete in the 2017 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Division Six Summit Racing Equipment ET Finals.
The sports car event, an NHRA-sanctioned drag racing competition, will attract around 600 drivers and race cars. A drag race is a time trial between two vehicles over a short distance, usually a quarter of a mile, as a test of acceleration.
This will be Lefebvre’s second time at the ET Finals.
Lefebvre had been hoping to compete in the Sportsman class, after moving up to the category when she turned 17 this year.
“I lost at provincials – I didn’t do well at all – so I didn’t qualify for ET Finals in the Sportsman category,” said Lefebvre.
But the 17-year-old’s performance in last year’s Junior Street category caught the eye of Mission, B.C.’s drag racing team.
“Because I won in the ET Finals last year, Mission called my coach Andy [Closkey] and said they wanted me on their High School team.
“In the High School class, I’ll race against kids my age from all over, U.S. and Canada,” she explained.
Quesnel doesn’t have a formal drag racing team, as the city does not have a drag strip. But Lefebvre said there is a strong racing community here.
“My whole family does it, and my best friend and her little sister, plus Andy and his daughter… there are lots of us,” she said.
“We go to races in Prince George and Mission, Fort St John, Edmonton.”
Lefebvre, who has been drag racing since she was 15, will be competing to win a Wally – a prestigious NHRA drag racing trophy. Her Camaro can cover the quarter mile in about 14.7 seconds.
Andy Closkey, who will travel to Oregon to coach Lefebvre, is also racing in the event, in the Pro division. His 1965 Chevelle – named Strip-Teaser – runs at 9.8 seconds a quarter mile.
He says as a coach, he’ll primarily be making sure Lefebvre’s vehicle is up to snuff.
“A lot of my work in Oregon will be on making sure the car is right and I’ll make adjustments to it to bring the car to her.
“They are a good package already, so I would expect it will be just a few minor things,” Closkey said.
“Kelsey will be racing some cars she hasn’t seen before, so we’ll go over how the race will unfold and a little bit of strategy.”
Closkey, a high school auto shop teacher, has been drag racing for 25 years and has been to the ET Finals event a number of times. He said the competition there is top notch.
“For me, the best thing is the competition. Going fast is cool and I still like that, but it’s secondary now.
“The rivalry among the 10 or 12 teams is really good. Your team gets a section of stands and everyone cheers for their team,” he explained.
“The cars take off and everyone’s quiet for 10 or 15 seconds, then the win light goes on and the stands erupt… it’s a really neat feeling. I enjoy that. If you’re a car nut, it’s a good place to be.”
Closkey, 46, also recently qualified for the International Hot Rod Association Summit Super Series World Finals, which take place Oct. 20-21 in Memphis, Tennessee.