Interview by Mary Lendzion
Photos by FSC Staff
Amy Faulk considered herself a tomboy when she was growing up in a small town in Tennessee.
She preferred dribbling basketballs over dressing up dolls, and seeing something mechanical was far more interesting to her than seeing a movie. She wanted to understand how things worked, and she was willing to pull them apart and put them back together in order to find out.
Soon after marrying local racer Kenny Faulk, she became incredibly intrigued by racing, and it wasn’t long before she joined him on the race track.
Amy has amassed many amazing accomplishments in the past 40-plus years. She earned a world championship in NHRA Super Stock in 1979, was entered into the NHRA Division 2 Hall of Fame after being nominated by legendary racer Don Garlits and served on the SEMA Board of Directors, just to name a few.
She is currently competing in NMCA Fastest Street Car Magazine Super Stock, and so far in 2022, she has led qualifying with a 9.46 on a 10.75 at the NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines in March at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, led qualifying with a 9.55 on a 10.75 at the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street-Legal Drag Racing presented by Fuelab in May at World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois and is holding down third-place in points with several races to go.
Amy lives in Collierville, Tennessee with Kenny, whom she has been married to for 50 years. She is the chief executive officer for Hypertech in Bartlett, Tennessee, and whether she realizes it or not, she is indeed influential and inspiring.
WHAT WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD LIKE IN TENNESSEE?
I grew up in a small town in Tennessee, and my parents didn’t have a lot of money. My dad had a garage, a body shop and a radiator shop, and my mom was a beauty instructor. My brother and I stayed at the garage with my dad, and we learned to do stuff there that I had always heard that girls weren’t supposed to. Interestingly, my dad originally didn’t think women should drive.
DID THAT AFFECT YOUR ABILITY TO GET A DRIVER’S LICENSE?
Yes, it did. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I graduated from high school and was going to the University of Tennessee at Martin. When I was there, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a living, and that bothered me. I felt pressured to get a beautician license, even though that didn’t appeal to me, and then a few of my friends and I decided to leave college, go to Memphis, 150 miles away, and get jobs. I ended up getting a room at the YWCA for $3 a day, and one of the women who worked there told me about as a job as a medical assistant for a dermatologist. I got the job and did that until I met my husband, Kenny, who was racing in the NHRA, and we got married in 1971. Then I worked for a radio station, and then in the mid 1970s, I worked at Racing Head Service in Tennessee, where I was selling car parts. Not all of the men who called wanted to talk with me because they didn’t think I knew what I was talking about.
WAS THAT AROUND THE TIME THAT YOUR INCREDIBLY REMARKABLE RACING CAREER BEGAN?
Yes, it was. One day in 1975, Kenny told me that he thought I would enjoy racing a car and that he would enjoy working on it, and I agreed, so we bought a Malibu from a friend of ours, who was one of the owners, Scooter Brothers, of Racing Head Service. Back then, NHRA required women to have a special license.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST CATEGORY YOU RACED IN?
It was NHRA Super Stock, and it was in 1975. There were very few women racing at the time. I felt as if I was under a microscope, and people were talking about every move I made, and especially if I made a mistake. When I started, I ran a 1965 Malibu SS/NA that ran quarter-mile times in the 1150s.
DID THE ADDED PRESSURE MAKE YOU FEEL DEFEATED OR MORE DETERMINED?
It made me even more determined. If I set my mind to something, I’m going to do it, and that was certainly the case back then. That was my learner car, and then I got a 1965 Chevelle station wagon that I ran in Super Stock again. It ran 1150s as well. It was the first time I went to an NHRA national event and won the SS/OA class at Gainesville, Florida. I felt as if I had won the championship. The car was very competitive and successful, but I wanted to go faster. My next race car was a 1967 Camaro that we purchased from Bobby Warren, a multi-event winner, and this was the car in which I won the NHRA Super Stock World championship in 1979 at Pomona, California.
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO EARN THAT CHAMPIONSHIP?
We were putting our money into the car, Kenny was working side jobs to make racing money and we both were living on a budget. We were young, and putting money into a saving account wasn’t a priority. Really, both of us were around a lot of naysayers, and most didn’t believe we would be successful, and really no one believed I would win a world championship. It meant a lot to me, and I appreciated all the racers and manufactures who believed in me/us. When we returned home, I found out that my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a very emotional, and proud moment, to tell him his little girl had won. He passed away a few days later. When I told him about the championship, he smiled and said he was proud. My mom, who always encouraged me to do what I wanted, even if it was against the grain of what most girls would do, was certainly as proud, too. Honestly, winning the world championship was not for me. I felt it was a gift for my parents, and certainly for my husband, who never stopped believing in me. I really like to go fast, and soon after winning the championship, I had my first NHRA Competition Dragster build by Don Ness, the famed Pro Stock chassis builder. I ran C/ED and B/ED. The B/ED ran in the low 7-seconds.
WHAT COMPELLED YOU TO GO FROM THE 1967 CAMARO TO A DRAGSTER?
I wanted to challenge myself by trying something different, and of course, go faster. I had to get another NHRA license, which was fine. When we got the dragster, we went to Beech Bend in Bowling Green to get licensed. After I made my first pass down the track, I hated the feeling of being in an open-wheel and not back in my Camaro. It was so different, and it was scary. I got the hang of it and ended up winning my division and a few national events. One thing about starting out in the 1970s, you could do a lot of firsts, and I was the first woman to win a national event in Comp Eliminator. I have never been one to leave things alone, and next was my stint in the Top Alcohol Dragster category, running in low 6s and 5s at 260-270 mph. It was a very competitive and we were successful, but at an NHRA divisional race, I was hit by a racer during qualifying who lost control of his dragster and ran over me at the top end of the track. My dragster was totaled, and luckily, I was only banged up and bruised.
WE’RE SO SORRY THAT HAPPENED TO YOU, AMY.
It was really something, but it didn’t make me want to stop racing. In fact, a friend called us and asked if wanted to borrow his Camaro Stocker so we could race at a national event at our home track in Memphis Tennessee. With no hesitation, Kenny went and loaded it up and got it ready for us to race. During that national event, a guy from Chrysler came over and said he didn’t know I wanted to race a full-bodied car again. I’ve always like racing and loved racing a full-bodied car. He told me he might be able to help me get another full-bodied Stocker car. Honestly, I didn’t think he was for real, but on Monday I got a call from Warren Johnson’s public relations person, and he said he heard I wanted to race, and he asked if I had a proposal and resume, which I didn’t but I would put something together. Then on Wednesday, I got a call from the Pontiac race director in Michigan, who told me to come and pick up a car. It was crazy. Things like that only happen in the movies. We went that Friday, and when we walked into the corporate headquarters, they told Kenny to pick out a car from the 8 or 9 that were lined up in the lot.
WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND AS YOU WERE LITERALLY PICKING OUT WHICH NEW PONTIAC CAR YOU WANTED TO RACE?
It was very exciting. Kenny looked each one over and picked out a nice red WS6 Trans Am. At the time, I was working as general manager for Torque Converters, Inc., an automotive transmission company. I wasn’t sure what was required of me, so I asked how many races they wanted me to go to, and they said we would figure it out. We drove over to the garage area at Pontiac, they told me to make a check out to them for $1 and handed us the keys, and by 5 p.m., we were on the way back home to Tennessee with smiles a mile long. They called later that week and told me that they would like to see me race the car in Stock Eliminator at the NHRA event in Gainesville, so we prepared for that. Kenny completed the build of the car, installing the custom-built engine. The transmission was a full race transmission built by TCI and the car was painted by Louie Trench of the Chicago area. I kept that one for three or four years, and as technology advances, we built another Pontiac Firebird for Stock after that, and we have been racing Pontiacs ever since and recently moved into Super Stock with the car.
WHEN DID YOU GET INTO THE 1999 FIREBIRD THAT YOU CURRENTLY CAMPAIGN IN NMCA FASTEST STREET CAR MAGAZINE SUPER STOCK?
We built the 1999 Firebird I have now about three years ago. A fellow racer had started building it before he decided that he didn’t want it, so we had a bought it and Kenny finished the project, installing the custom-built fuel-injected Pontiac engine by Jeff Taylor. The transmission was a full race transmission built by TCI and the car was painted by Louie Trench of the Chicago area. We also collaborated with our friends at B&B Race Cars in Horenwald, Tennessee for the suspension and chassis.
YOU AND THE 1999 FIREBIRD ARE A FINE FIT FOR NMCA FASTEST STREET CAR MAGAZINE SUPER STOCK. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?
We have been running well. So far this year, we have qualified first and second at the races, and we have gone several rounds, but we haven’t gotten to the winner’s circle in NMCA Super Stock just yet. It’s a very competitive category, and races are won and lost by a hundredth of a second. I’ll be 74 this year, and my goal is to win an NMCA Super Stock race.
YOU HAVE WORKED HARD FOR, AND EARNED, MANY HONORS THROUGHOUT YOUR RACING CAREER. WILL YOU TELL US ABOUT THEM?
When I won the world championship in Super Stock in 1979, I was the first Sportsman woman to win an NHRA championship. I was selected as the Car Craft Super Stock Driver of the Year in 1979. I was the first woman to win an NHRA national event in Comp Eliminator, first woman to win an NHRA national event in Top Alcohol Dragster, and I think to win a division championship. I was elected to the NHRA Division 2 Hall of Fame, and one of the people who nominated me was Don Garlits, which really meant a lot to me. Working in the aftermarket performance industry for 40-plus years, SEMA became very important to me. I served on the SEMA board of directors for six years, and I was also instrumental in establishing the SEMA Businesswoman’s Network. I was elected to the SEMA Hall of Fame and was PWA (Performance Warehouse Association) Person of the Year.
THOSE ARE AWE-INSPIRING ACCOMPLISHMENTS, AMY. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOTIVATION THROUGH THE YEARS?
Racing, understanding race cars and being successful are very important to me. My husband and I don’t really go on vacation or do the normal movie, dinner thing. We go racing, and I enjoy that challenge very much. If I can inspire any little girls along the way, it’s all even better.
(Interview from the August 2022 issue of Fastest Street Car Magazine)