“Nothing in this world makes my heart beat like racing, not even my double-shot lattes,” explains Tiffany Kelly. “I am addicted to the rush.”
At the age of 17, she got that rush by evading parental permission to purchase her first motorcycle. Today, it comes via a Honda S2000 powered by an unlikely source: a Honda Odyssey minivan engine.
First the Build
Her current project car is this S2000. She learned how to run time trials in this car. Then she expanded into wheel-to-wheel racing.
As her driving skills grew, she built the car to be more competitive, gradually making modifications. “It was completely stock and in perfect condition when I bought it,” she explains. “Today, the car is completely transformed and on its second engine swap.”
She reports that a lot of people look puzzled when hearing about her engine swap. “If they only realized how much torque the engine has,” she says of the V6. “It’s a party!”
She swapped in the engine, original to a 2002-’04 Honda minivan, during the winter of 2020 so she could make the 2021 Gridlife Touring Cup season. Since the V6 has double the torque of the car’s original engine and her run group doesn’t limit torque, only horsepower, she was hoping for an advantage.
This isn’t her only S2000, though, as she has another one for daily driving. “I’m obsessed with the S2K platform and how it handles,” she says. “I just love how the experience resembles driving a go-kart. The turn-in and corning speeds are phenomenal. It may not be the quickest in a straight line, but I feel it’s one of the best cars for getting around a corner fast.”
Tiffany Kelly loves the Honda S2000 so much that she has two of them–one for street and then this one for track. It’s had a bit of a tough time, facing two wrecks in one season.
She started off last season starring in the Discovery Channel’s “Getaway Driver” challenge. Spoiler alert: She didn’t win but, she says, left with memories she will never forget, like meeting Michelle Rodriguez of the “Fast & Furious” franchise.
Tiffany earned a handful of top-10 finishes last year, and although she felt like she made progress, it didn’t seem linear. “Unfortunately, it was a rough season for me,” she reflects. “It was challenging to race wheel to wheel in a 45-to-50-car field full of other skilled drivers, but I enjoyed it and learned a ton. I learned as much from failure as I did by winning, if not more.”
Then the Crash
And she also totaled the car during that season. Twice. “Yup, completely totaled my car twice,” she admits.
The first incident happened just two weeks before her next one. “I can’t believe we were able to get it all back together, and twice,” she says. “The amount of time, labor and money it took to put my car back together in such a short period, multiple times, is mind-boggling.”
She explains that putting the car back together was a lot easier than the mental challenges she was forced to overcome after the wrecks. It’s more manageable to brush off a single crash and chalk it up to the ol’ saying, ‘That’s racing, everyone crashes, even the pros,’ but crashing your car multiple times can take its toll.
“It is so hard to stay motivated and keep going,” she continues. “I doubted my skills, my abilities as a driver, and questioned why I was even doing it.”
Tiffany will tell you that it takes a village to go racing, as her crew has helped turn her racing dreams into reality–even after the hard times. Fortunately, Tiffany knows her way around a body shop.
And Finally, Repeat
Reflecting on why she fell in love with racing made it easier to push her way back to the track: “The car culture is truly amazing. It brings so many different people together. I love my racing family, the builds, the vibes and the camaraderie across the grid.”
Tiffany plans to continue racing her S2000, but she’s also looking at other disciplines. She recently purchased a Subaru BRZ to explore the drifty side of motorsports, while she’s been racing in a 125cc shifter kart in SKUSA’s ProKart Challenge. “I’m excited for the new opportunities and growth in my racing career,” she says.
“I cannot give enough credit to my husband, Justin Kelly, for keeping me going,” she continues. “He never stops believing in me and always supports me through my ups and downs. He is my biggest cheerleader. I am also extremely thankful for the team and everything they did to make sure I got back on the track and didn’t stop racing.”