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Haltech Heroes: Kelsey Rowlings – the girl they call “Drift Chick”

Before she gained notoriety as “Drift Chick”, Kelsey Rowlings was a promising young horseback rider. Her career in competitive horseback riding was cut short when she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an incurable, autoimmune disease causing one’s immune system to attack its own healthy cells.

Kelsey then decided to move to another form of horsepower – drifting. Being highly motivated and competitive, Kelsey learned quickly and soon drifting evolved from being an escape to a life-long passion.

Competing in Pro-Am competitions Kelsey worked her way up, earning a Formula Drift Pro 2 license in 2015. We caught up with Kelsey a couple of weeks ago to get a bit of insight into her drifting life.

Haltech: What was your first drift car and did you always have a soft spot for Nissans?

Kelsey Rowlings: The first car that I began to take to meets and drift events was a 1997 Nissan 240SX. Because it was my first car, I’ve always had a soft spot for the 240sx. Not to mention, once you’ve owned a few, you begin to accumulate a lot of spare parts. Sticking with the 240sx S14 chassis was an easy decision, but the engine was another story.

H: An LS swap seems to be what a lot of people opt for, but you decided to go another route. Why?

KR: Originally we were thinking of going LS, but I didn’t like that so many people ran that engine. My other thought was to go with a 2JZ, but we were concerned about reliability with running a turbo setup since we previously competed with an SR22DET powerplant.

After a discussion with Justin Pawlak and the reliability of his engine setup, we were drawn to the idea of a supercharged Ford 5.0 aluminator. Everything involved in the swap had to be custom made since no one had done the swap before, but it was definitely worth it.

H: Trying a completely new combo like this must have been challenging?

KR: The first two years competing with the Ford-powered car have been tough. It was the first time we have ever attempted to build a car like this and we had a lot of issues with our power steering cutting in and out. It was a problem we chased down for a couple years and prevented us from doing very well at competitions. Now that we finally have it working, we’re hoping to leave those moments in the past.

H: What would you say were the highlights of your career so far?

KR: So far, I would say the highlight of my pro career so far would be finishing 7th in the first competition of the season this year. It may not seem like much, but after struggling with the car for the past two years it’s a huge turn-around to start the season in such a solid position. We are hoping to improve on that and have a lot more career highlights this year!

H: In a stark contrast to many top-level FD teams, we hear your team is mostly made up of family and friends?

KR: Yeah, our team is pretty small compared to many teams in Formula Drift. My dad runs the team as “crew chief,” and is assisted by my friend Thomas Jaeger for anything involving the car.

I have one videographer, Jeremy Stoutamyer, who films and edits the footage from the events, and then finally my spotter, Pat Goodin, who is my contact with the Judges and offers insight from a judges’ point of view.

H: You compete in what still is a very male-dominated motorsport. How do you find competing against guys?

KR: Most of the guys I compete against are really nice and very welcoming. Drifting has always had more of a “club-like” or family feel to it. It’s one of the unique parts of the sport. Everyone just loves drifting and is pumped on it, so I think that having girls involved just makes it even more awesome. There will always be some “haters,” but that’s true with pretty much anything in life.

H: What’s in store for Kelsey Rowlings in the coming years?

KR: My future plans are to advance into Pro 1 and to turn drifting into more of a career. I also hope to get involved in other motorsports as well as stunt driving.

H: Thank you for your time, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you and we wish you all the best. Hope to see you in Pro 1 soon!

Kelsey’s Coyote powered 240SX uses Haltech’s Elite 2500 ECU with a Coyote Terminated Engine Harness and an IQ3 logger dash.

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