From midnight parking lots to pro race tracks, how Kelsey Rowlings became the ‘Drift Chick’

As the annual Formula Drift Long Beach approaches its weekend of shredding asphalt via fishtails, powerslides and tire-shrieking transitions, we wanted to share a special story about a woman who’s fairly new to town but is no stranger to drift racing.

An Orlando native and recent Torrance transplant, Kelsey Rowlings, 32, got her start into drifting as a wide-eyed high-schooler, bewitched by high-octane videos of competitions in Japan where the sport is said to have originated before being adopted in the West.

“I just thought it was the coolest thing. I had to do it,” Rowlings said.

Four years of late-night practice in secluded parking lots, some of which may or may not have been behind her parents’ back, and Rowlings entered her first Formula Drift competition (Pro AM series) in 2012 with qualifying marks. A year later, she entered again and won third—her first podium finish.

“I was like, man, I want to do more of this,” she said.

Since that fateful competition, Rowlings has been working nearly a decade toward her goal of making it into the Formula Drift Pro Championships (formerly Pro 1). Rowlings currently competes in the ProSpec Championships (formerly Pro 2).

Sure, she’s had her struggles. Plagued by years of car troubles—the ultimate offender her power steering pumps—her confidence took a few hits.

“My greatest hurdle right now is somewhat my headspace and my nerves,” Rowlings said. “I still need to work on getting control of that, because I am my biggest competitor.”

But now, with her Nissan 240 SX stocked with a 700-plus-horsepower 5.0 Supercharged Ford Aluminator-powered S14——“Drift Chick” Rowlings is poised to tear up the drift scene one track at a time.

Though Rowlings will not be competing in this year’s Formula Drift Championship in Long Beach, the driver will be spectating with the other 25,000 expected to attend.

“I definitely want to go watch because it’s if I’m not competing, you best believe I still want to see what’s going on,” she said.

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Cheantay Jensen is reporter and award-winning videographer who covers entertainment, art, food and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post. And sometimes breaking news, you know, just to keep things interesting.