Bryce, Ray, Debbie, and Chad Guffey. photo by Cindy Steele
The Guffey Passion
by Barney Quick
There’s nothing like a shared passion to bind a family together, and no family is more intense about its passion than the Guffeys are about drag racing. Patriarch Ray was the first to take up the sport, in the early 1960s. He’s no longer behind the wheel, but he has plenty of relatives for whom he can cheer. Son Chad races on three tracks each weekend in his ‘66 Chevy Nova. Chad’s sister Darla gets frequent requests to drive various racers’ cars, and Ray’s brother-in-law, Joe Fox, is also active. Ray’s late son Eddie drag-raced regularly in the area. Chad’s son Bryce is handy with his battery-powered Gator toy car and loves to talk shop with his elders. Debbie, Ray’s wife, is the only one who doesn’t venture onto the track. When asked if she’s a spectator, she thinks for a moment, grins tentatively, and says, “I go once in a while.”
The office area of Brown County Tire on Salt Creek Road, of which Ray and Debbie are the proprietors, is filled with photos of the various cars that the Guffeys have built and raced over the years. Ray is happy to break out his scrapbook for curious visitors as well.
Drag racing is distinct from other forms of car racing in several ways. The track is straight rather than oval or winding. The contests themselves are short bursts, so that the main skill emphasized is reaction time rather than endurance or managing curves. The drivers stage at the light tree, which has three yellow light and a green light, which come on in succession. In pro drag racing, there is no electronic box, so that the driver must respond as close to instantaneously as possible to the green light. In super-pro racing, the car is equipped with a delay box, a small computer that informs the car of the number of seconds before takeoff. The driver posts a dial in number on his window showing the number of seconds he thinks it will take him to complete a pass. Most passes are an eighth of a mile, although some are a quarter mile.
Chad has only fleetingly been interested in other forms of racing. “For speed and adrenaline, nothing beats drag racing,” he says.
He also participated in motocross racing in his late teens, but a car wreck on the way to a race changed that and a number of other things. (Ironically, it was also a non-racing auto mishap that took Eddie’s life.) He was hospitalized for months with head injuries. The lasting impact on his nervous system has necessitated his becoming left-handed. He was anxious to resume racing as soon as possible, but says his “mom put her foot down.” As his recuperation came along, Ray advocated Chad’s return to the track.
“Guess who won?” asks Debbie.
Chad races Friday evenings at Speeds, a track in Freedom, Indiana; Saturdays at ET Raceway in Bloomfield; and at Brown County Dragway on Gatesville Road on Sundays. He occasionally races at tracks in Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky as well.
Having grown up on Gatesville Road, it was the track there that fueled Chad’s ardor. “He’d hear the cars and say to Ray, ‘Dad, don’t you think we need to go to the store for something?’, knowing they’d stop on the way back.”
Chad’s been through several cars in the twelve years he’s been racing, but he’s particularly pleased with his current find, the ‘66 Nova. “The main thing you want in a dragster is consistent performance,” he says, “because what you really want to measure is the improvement in your reaction time.”
When asked if he has several good years ahead of him, he enthusiastically responds in the affirmative, but he has no plans to move on to more demanding circuits and leagues. “I’m already as committed as I can handle since I have a family. Also, this sport is expensive. The fuel is around $6 a gallon.”
Bryce hasn’t developed loyalty to any make or model of machine yet, but does know that his favorite cars are blue.