Fort Defiance graduate Quin Houff keeps up to speed with NASCAR drivers
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
Valley residents will see a familiar name again this year on NASCAR’s roster.
Quin Houff of Weyers Cave will pull into his second season as a NASCAR Cup driver in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 14.
“Not many drivers get the opportunity to make it to the top of stock car racing,” said Houff, 23.
On Feb. 8, Houff and his team will drive down to Florida and he will drive his first practices of 2021 in preparation for the Daytona 500.
Houff’s passion for racing began at Eastside Speedway in Waynesboro where he would go with his dad, Zane.
“I started racing at the age of 8 in go-carts,” Houff, a 2015 graduate of Fort Defiance High School, said. “It was just a hobby for me and my dad, and I couldn’t get it out of my blood.”
He soon knew he wanted to pursue race car driving as a full-time career.
“It took a lot of great people along the way,” Houff said of the road that led him to becoming a NASCAR driver.
Houff spent 2017 and 2018 in the Extended Series, which is the minor league version of race car driving.
He ran half of 2019 in NASCAR, about 17 races, but 2020 was his first full-time season as a NASCAR Cup driver.
Houff said that he already faced challenges as a rookie driver in 2020, then the COVID-19 pandemic presented other challenges.
Drivers had no practice time driving on tracks and no qualifying time on the tracks.
“As a rookie, that was great time that I lost,” Houff said.
Houff, who grew up cheering for Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Denny Hamlin, who grew up in Chesterfield, said driving on tracks without fans in the stands was “tough.” Empty seats in the stands felt like practice, not like driving in an actual race.
Now as a NASCAR driver, Houff said he cheers for and has respect for Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.
While his race shop is based in Salisbury, N.C., Houff still calls Weyers Cave home, where his parents Zane and Kate still live. Houff has a brother, Tucker, and sister, JoJo, also cheering for him from home.
Houff and his wife, Elizabeth, have a home in Staunton. The couple met when Houff raced Elizabeth’s father at age 15.
“I have a lot of ties here in the Valley. I get the privilege to travel all over America, but there’s nothing like seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Houff said.
NASCAR racing requires funding and funding comes from sponsorships. Right now, Houff’s sponsors include Mane ‘n Tail Shampoo, PermaTex and UNITS Moving and Portable Storage.
His future plans are to continue acquiring driving experience on the NASCAR tracks, prove that he belongs on the NASCAR tracks and “grow with the times.”
“As NASCAR as a whole, I’m really proud of what we’ve done, especially being one of the first sports [to reopen] in the pandemic,” Houff said.
NASCAR racing gave TV viewers at home something to get their minds off the pandemic.
Houff said he hopes to continue to be a Virginia name on the NASCAR circuit, as the sport experiences changes in the coming years.
Houff said that the sport is trending up and drivers are “making NASCAR a universal language” for new fans.
Singer Pitbull and former NBA star Michael Jordan have joined the list of car owners in NASCAR.
“I think NASCAR is in a very unique situation,” Houff said of the sport’s future possibilities.
Fans will see the racing schedule change from year to year, instead of the predictable schedule they have come to know.
And a new car will be introduced in 2022 which Houff said will be like nothing driven before in NASCAR.