“A family affair”: Meet the Daddy Cool drag racing team

Elaine Southworth from Adrian Flux-backed team Daddy Cool has been involved in drag racing for over 40 years – and now she’s sharing the joy with her family. 

In a Q&A-style interview, we spoke to Elaine to find out about the team, their aims for the drag racing season, tips for newbies wanting to get into the sport, and much more.

What’s the story behind Daddy Cool?

Elaine Southworth

Elaine: “My late husband, Dave ‘Sag’ Southworth, commissioned the Daddy Cool dragster chassis in 1986. It was fired up and driven for the first time at Shakespeare County Raceway (affectionately known as Shakey) in August 1989.

“Both my late husband and I have been drag racing since 1980. We started our family in 1987 and have four children who have been brought up in the drag racing world.

“As our family grew, we were joined by a long-time friend, Alan Grimes. Alan has been with our team since 1991 and is our team crew chief. 

“Our children became more involved with the racing as they grew older, particularly our son Kyle.

“Sadly my husband died from a rare cancer in August 2017. During that racing season, Sag did continue to race despite his illness and was refusing the prescribed strong medication in order to continue racing – quite the heroic move.

“After Sag’s death, and with the full support of my family and Alan, I decided to continue racing Daddy Cool.”

Who makes up the support crew?

The Daddy Cool team at Santa Pod

Elaine: “The Daddy Cool Drag Racing Team is, without doubt, a family affair.

“My children are Shana, Kyle, Faye and Chloe, and my family team includes their partners Jamie, Becky, Ste and Andy.

“‘Honorary Uncle’ Alan has been with us since Faye (the current driver) was one month old.”

The full team is as follows:

  • Elaine Southworth – Team principal / Driver of ‘Her Indoors’
  • Alan Grimes – Crew chief
  • Shana Smith – Back up girl (BUG)
  • Kyle Southworth – Driver of ‘Big Bro’/Lead mechanic
  • Faye Hern – Driver of ‘Daddy Cool’ (loud pedal pusher/pilot)
  • Chloe Southworth – Stand in BUG, media/content creator, now engaged to Andy
  • Jamie Smith – Mechanic
  • Steven ‘Erny’ Hern – Mechanic
  • Andy McGeehan – Mechanic
  • Becky Southworth – Co-ordinator/treasurer 
  • Eliza (three years old) – Apprentice, cheerleader and mascot
  • Owen (three) – Apprentice, cheerleader and mascot
  • Freddie (one) – Apprentice, cheerleader and mascot

Who races Daddy Cool now?

Elaine: “My son, Kyle, seemed the obvious choice of driver, but he could not physically fit into Daddy Cool. Consequently, the family team had to vote for which family member would be the driver.

“On a beautiful spring day, our votes were cast, and it was decided unanimously that my daughter Faye was to be our driver. She has a need for speed and is calm and focused under pressure: an ideal combination of attributes for drag racing.

Faye with daughter Eliza

“As time goes on, situations change and people move. So we find ourselves quite spread out these days.

“The Daddy Cool dragster and I now live in a village near Bewdley, Shropshire. Kyle, Becky and their two sons are in Lancashire, and half a mile away from them are Shana and Jamie, with Alan about four miles up the road.

“Faye, Ste and their daughter live in Cheshire and Chloe and Andy live in South Yorkshire. So, as you would expect, our working parties for Daddy Cool have to be pre-arranged and planned.”

Could you tell us a bit about the dragsters and their drivers?

Daddy Cool 

Specs: 4.1ltr supercharged Rover V8 methanol injected engine. 0-60mph in 1.1 seconds, 8.8 secs to 150mph (in the quarter mile)

Driver: Faye (daughter)

Elaine: “She first took over racing from her dad in July 2018 – and what a fantastic race meeting that was! Daddy Cool was kept in the same state of tune as Sag had driven and Faye proved herself as a good choice of driver. Her current PBs (1/4 mile ET): 9.06secs 147mph, chasing 8secs and 150mph+ as set down by dad when he raced the car.”

Big Bro 

Specs: 7.4 litre big block Chevy naturally aspirated engine on super unleaded, untested

Driver: Kyle (son), no competitive racing experience.

Her Indoors 

Her Indoors

Specs: 402 cubic inch “Nail Head” Buick, twin carburetted engine running on super unleaded. The car is a replica of Roy Wilding’s 1979 ‘Mr Slingshot’, and is expected to run 10.8/10.9secs/quarter mile passes with a terminal speed of 131mph.

Driver: Elaine, no competitive racing experience. Will be racing for the first time in her 60s.

What competitive success has the team had?

Elaine: “The car has been a winner of numerous notable accolades over the 35 years it has been in existence, and has been the holder of the Fastest British Engined Dragster trophy many times.”

When does the drag racing season kick off for Daddy Cool?

Elaine:There is currently only one race-prepared track in the UK. This is Santa Pod  near Northampton.

“We do intend to appear at the York/Melbourne raceway sometime during this season. The Santa Pod meetings we are hoping to compete at are the Dragstalgia and the Mopar meetings.

“Right now our engine is currently at a specialist machine shop and we are awaiting its return home, which should be very soon. In the meantime, work continues to upgrade the trailer and the Daddy Cool dragster itself.”

What are your aims for the team this season? 

Daddy Cool

Elaine: “New engine, gearbox, rear-end tested and running down the track consistently, or as our driver Faye likes to put it: ‘To make some noise and get down the track faster and quicker than before (isn’t that everyone’s goal?!)!’”

Big Bro

Kyle with Big Bro

Elaine: “Built ready for 2025, and to give his sister (driving Daddy Cool) a run for her money would be the ultimate aim.”

Her Indoors

Elaine: “Brand new car to successfully run down the track and the driver to be confident with driving it.”

Can you tell us about the exhilaration of drag racing? 

Faye: “Drag racing for me is such a unique experience, something that can’t be replicated in any other part of your life. It is the closest feeling to flying whilst being totally grounded.

“There is a buzz in the pits and the pairing lanes, followed by a “shit’s getting real” moment during strapping in, final checks, moving up to the start line, watching the pair before you roll forward.

“Then comes the noise; starting up, rolling into the burnout box, burning out, backing up, lining up, creping into stage, then the wait – it feels like forever. No blinking, just waiting.

Faye racing Daddy Cool

“Then the lights drop, you release the brake and thump the accelerator down hard, listen to the engine roaring behind you (in my case), get pushed right back into your seat (the belts no longer curling you up), shift through the first gear before even moving past the lights, then listen for the shift into third and ride through to the stripe – willing the car on all the way. Then let off, gently apply the brakes and cruise to the end of the track.

“You join everyone waiting for their tow vehicles, celebrate, high five, hug, laugh. Because they get it. Everything that just brought you that moment.

“Your tow arrives and they tell you how you did – always a celebration when the car arrives back in one piece. Then rejoin the team for a debrief. And a brew, of course.”

Elaine adds: “For all of the family team, the feeling is to know all the sacrifices, time and money you put in was ultimately worth it”

Is drag racing a dangerous motorsport and is that part of the thrill? 

Kyle sat in Big Bro

Elaine: “When things go wrong in drag racing, they tend to go spectacularly wrong, but because safety is paramount and at the forefront of everyone’s mind, there are a lot of things in place to avoid dangerous situations as much as possible.”

“The start line crew, track and safety crews at Santa Pod do an excellent job of ensuring racing is as safe as possible for competitors.

“For Faye, the thrill is having to trust her own instincts and hoping they are good. There is barely any time to think when things do drift away from ‘ideal’, just time to react and respond to the situation.”

What is the cost of running a competitive drag racing team?

Elaine: “This is quite a difficult question to answer. Relative to other motorsports, drag racing can be quite affordable.

“Per meeting per car, you’d pay:

  • Towing fuel cost – £100
  • Entrance/running fees – £100
  • Racing fuel cost – £80
  • Oils – £50
  • Other overheads – £50

“As well as £50 for entrance and camping fees, plus £30 for food. However, breakages can be really expensive, and that’s where costs can soar.”

“After being personally involved in drag racing for around 44 years I can say that to me a good racing season is primarily one without many breakages. The cost involved with replacing broken or worn parts is always the main consideration when deciding ‘how far do we go?’.

“We will have invested in excess of £12,000 into the new engine for Daddy Cool for this racing season. This engine could be destroyed in seconds. Nothing can prepare you for that eventuality, you just have to be at peace with your tuning decisions and trust the people you have in the team.

“To that end, I can’t really give a direct answer. Suffice to say it may cost about the same as a Fiat, or it could be as demanding as buying a Bentley. Luckily that choice is up to you as a racer.”

What advice would you give those who want to get into drag racing?

Elaine: “Do it!”

“It doesn’t have to be mega-bucks, although, of course, it can be. Historically, there have been a lot of experimental race setups that don’t have to break the bank. There are always race classes that will accept weird and wonderful cars or bikes into their fold.

“The happiest racers are the ones that have a car or bike that they can race, not necessarily the quickest. RWYB, which stands for ‘run what you brung’, is an easy way into the sport, and can be raced with pretty much anything, there’s even been a motorised bin!).

“Drag race meetings include cars and bikes at the same meetings. We happen to race cars, so that’s what we tend to refer to.

“If you buy a completely running car or bike, then you’ll get on the track fairly quickly. The only words of caution are that once you are bitten, there is no turning back.”

How does it feel to be carrying on his legacy? Is it a driving factor for you?

Elaine: “I think the whole family, particularly Alan, is driven by continuing Sag’s legacy. Sag always referred to Daddy Cool as a project, and always tried to continually develop the engineering of the car.

“A couple of years after Sag died, Daddy Cool was extensively refurbished and upgraded by Roy Wilding.

“The dragster now has a new look and a logo that clearly pays homage to Sag. We are mindful of all Sag achieved in it and intend to take his work further, rather than the dragster remaining stagnant.

“To that end, we have deliberately kept with a supercharged, fuel-injected Rover V8 engine and are taking it to the next level of performance.

“Sag was not a naturally competitive person, but he did have an enviable understanding of the fundamentals of theoretical engineering. Drag racing allowed him to use that knowledge.

“All our family members bring their own attributes into the mix, and the combination of our abilities has allowed Sag’s project to continue. The team overall has a more modern outlook and very much wants to beat the times and speeds Sag achieved.

“With Faye as driver, we are all hoping to do Sag proud for a very long time to come.”

What do you think Sag would be feeling when you get into the cockpit?

Elaine: “Sag would more than likely be holding Faye’s hands and sharing the experience with her. He would no doubt take Faye through all the steps involved and make sure she got the best performance and driver experience possible. He would certainly keep her logical and clear-headed, and endeavour to keep her as safe as he could. His parting words to Faye on her first run would have definitely been ‘Godspeed John Glenn’.

“Later, Sag would have loved to regale past rivalries and track experiences with Alan over a cold cider at the BBQ in the evening. He always told us all how proud he was of everything we did, and it is to that end that we’re still here, still doing it, still enjoying it, together.”

Cover for on and off the track

If Elaine’s words have spurred you on to join your first drag racing event, you’ll be pleased to know we offer track day insurance to keep your vehicle protected during your race. 

We also offer cover for all types of road vehicles too, including modified, classic, and performance vehicles. Call us on 0800 369 8590 for a quote or book a callback at a time that suits you.

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