Huffman drives

Amber Huffman, a 15-year-old sophomore at Chilhowie High School, leans against Amelia, her 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier, which she has driven to six victories this season at Wythe Raceway.

RURAL RETREAT, Va. - Amber Huffman has a close friend named Amelia.

Together, they have earned a room full of trophies and crafted all sorts of memorable moments over the past four years.

“Spending time with Amelia is my therapy,” Huffman said.

Huffman, 15, is a star in the KCAR class at Wythe Raceway. Amelia is her 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier race car.

So far this season, the Chilhowie High school sophomore has combined with Amelia to win six races.

“If I’m having a bad week, I can come out here and let it all out on the track,” Huffman said. “Nothing goes through my head except winning.”

Amelia was actually a gift from Amber’s father, Billy. At age 12, Huffman took her new friend to Wythe Raceway for the first time.

“Dad built a car for me and I went racing,” Huffman said. “I think I finished fifth in a 12-driver field in that event.”

So what did Amber think of competing on the massive half-mile layout that features 26-degree banking in the corners?

“I fell in love with the sport from that first race,” Huffman said.

At last count, Huffman had collected 17 wins. That success rate is another chapter in the long-running success story of the Huffman family racing team.

Huffman’s brother, Dillon, and mother, Destiny, made track history in 2012 by winning track titles in two UCAR classes.

Destiny raced with her daughter for one season before making a decision.

“I decided to step back because I wanted Amber to be No. 1,” Destiny said. “Words cannot express how much pride I feel watching my daughter on the track. The memories we’ve made mean in racing much more to us than the trophies.”

According to Amber, her triumphs can be traced back to long nights in the race shop with her family.

“My father does all the work on my car and mom handles all the graphics and painting,” Amber said. “Racing is a great way for us to spend time together.”

Billy Huffman said the family has a stable of eight Cavaliers, but Amber has stuck with Amelia.

“That car has been totaled twice in wrecks, but Billy fixed it,” Destiny said.

In addition to the speed and hardship of wrestling a dirt car around tight turns, Amber said there is one aspect of the weekly show that she takes delight in.

“I definitely enjoy beating the boys, especially when they don’t give me respect.” Amber said. “But after I win a race, I get tons of respect.”

Billy said he’s never surprised at the accomplishments of his fearless daughter.

“Amber is just determined to win,” he said. “She gets after it on every lap, and then she has a good time on the interviews after the race.”

Several females compete in the five regular divisions at Wythe, including multi-time race winner Julianna Cooper Atwell (Wytheville) in the UCAR class.

“Julianna and I have supported each other with handshakes and hugs,” Amber said.

With her aggressive and daring approach to driving, Amber is a favorite of the loyal fans at Wythe.

“I take the high line, that’s my style and strategy,” Huffman said.

Amber also serves as captain of the Chilhowie High School color guard. She said her school friends are aware of her hobby.

“Yes, they know what I do but they don’t take it as serious as I do,” Huffman said. “The cars in our class can get up to 85-90 mph in the straightaways. I love the speed.”

That fascination with speed is why Amber gave up karting after a brief experiment.

“The kart wasn’t fast enough,” she said. “I wanted something bigger and faster.”

This is one racer who never lacks for inspiration.

“My grandfather, Randy Parks, was into drag racing and that got me interested in racing at first,” Amber said.

Additional support has come from 75-year-old Smyth County resident Ken McMahan, who won seven Late Model track titles at Wythe.

There’s also a driving coach who monitors Amber on every lap.

“That’s my mom,” said Amber, who also receives feedback from her eight-year-old sister, Alivia. “Mom always watches me from the stands. After each race, she tells me what I need to be doing and I will make corrections the following week.”

From dealing with changes in the track surface to executing power slides, Amber said she embraces the never-ending tasks inherent in dirt racing.

“It’s been a family tradition with us,” Amber said. “Mom started racing first, and then I followed my brother.

“I’d love to have an opportunity to race at a higher level someday. If some car owner ever sees that I have potential, I would definitely go for it.”

For now, Huffman is content to spend her Saturday night’s with Amelia.

“My father and I have a routine of eating at Taco Bell around 1 a.m. after races,” Amber said. “We call it winner, winner – Taco Bell Dinner.

“Racing is my way of taking away stress and having fun with my family.” | Twitter: @Greg_BHCSports | (276) 645-2544

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