Destiny and Stefan Klym unload racing cars with matching gray trailers pulled by twin silver trucks in the middle of a small town track.
The father-daughter duo exchange their tasks in near silence. They turn on a generator to recharge the batteries of the vehicles; check tire pressure and tighten them; make sure cars are filled with antifreeze and no bolts are loose. It’s a rhythm honed over a decade of racing together.
In less than an hour, they weave their way around the parched oval, kicking up sweltering clouds of dust on a dry July day at 27 degrees.
Although she has roots in the Opaskwayak Cree Nation of Manitoba, Destiny lives in Saskatchewan. She is the first Saskatchewan and Indigenous woman to compete in a Nascar-sanctioned race. She competed in recreational vehicles, street cars and modified cars on the Prairies and in several states, winning several championship trophies.
As accomplished as it is, it’s not a story about Destiny’s accolades or its need for speed. It’s about how a mutual love of racing brought a father and daughter together.
The thrill of racing
Stefan taught Destiny to drive at a young age in the rural area near Carlyle, Saskatchewan. She grew up there, in the southeast of the province, about sixty kilometers from the Manitoba border.
Neither had expected her to run before (legally) hitting the highway.
Stefan started running in the early 1990s, and it didn’t take long for his daughter, now 25, to follow suit. When Stefan was hauling his tractor-trailer truck for errands around the United States, he would put Destiny on a briefcase in the seat next to him. They were singing George Jones and Alan Jackson all the way to Nebraska and back.
Still, Destiny wasn’t Stefan’s first thought of when he planned to show another family member the ropes. One day, he brings home a racing car to surprise his son, who answers him with indifference.
But Destiny jumped at the chance to get its own wheels. They have been running together ever since.
You can’t teach someone to drive these cars like you would the family sedan. Many of them are built without doors and with pits for the driver’s seats. You must pull yourself up into the space through the opening where a window would usually be. You are surrounded by sheet metal. There’s no space for dad to mount a shotgun and grab the steering wheel in the blink of an eye.
So Stefan told him about it.
When Destiny first started racing, she wasn’t tall enough to reach the gas pedal – she needed a block. She also couldn’t reach for the ignition button, which meant she had to cross her fingers not to stall.
The rural racetrack in Outlook, Saskatchewan where Destiny and her dad rode that July day was the same one where she had her first race at age 13.
The young girls’ events are called puff races and the contestants drive slingshots, essentially smaller, slower versions of what the adults drive.
Destiny laughs as she remembers that first run. She spun on her first lap, then another rider hit her in the head. Destiny got stuck under her steering wheel, while the other competitor chipped a tooth.
Her father remembers being scared.
“I ran to the car and thought to myself that she would never get in a race car again.”
She returned there the following week.
“I’m not really afraid of being behind the wheel after an accident,” says Destiny. “I’m never really nervous. I kind of have a need for speed – I have to go harder and do better.”
And that’s exactly what she did.
From hobby to stock to modified
When Destiny started, it was racing collectible cars. They have eight cylinders and push around 300 horsepower. They’re based on stock cars and aren’t modified much, so they’re pretty cheap to build.
Destiny didn’t have her own car at first, so she had to stuff the ill-fitting driver’s seat with pillows. She describes herself as a turtle: afraid of overtaking someone or going very fast.
A few years later, she was outfitted for her own vehicle and quickly cleaned up at a tournament in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
“It was such a cool experience,” Destiny recalled. “I was smiling from ear to ear.”
Three years later, father and daughter competed in the southwestern Saskatchewan town, winning the street stock and hobby stock championships respectively.
“It was quite a remarkable moment for me,” says Stefan.
Fate followed his father’s tire treads, later embracing street stock racing, which uses street vehicles that the general public can purchase.
In 2017, Destiny competed in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, the organization’s Canadian circuit.
Now she drives cars modified by the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA). Destiny describes them as a tin load built around a 500 horsepower chassis and motor.
She would also return to Nebraska – with stops in Iowa and North Dakota – with her father, this time for her own racing circuits.
The two didn’t clash much. Both describe themselves as competitive but caring: they want to win but also hate the idea of destroying the other’s car.
“I don’t measure it so much [by] what we won and what we didn’t,” says Stefan, “but just the quality time we spent together.
Inspire women to run
Not all men reacted so enthusiastically to Destiny’s success. She says male competitors sometimes get angry because she beats them, but in general she finds the sport to be a supportive and welcoming environment.
Destiny remembers that female drivers were rare when she started racing. That’s no longer the case, and Destiny has happily taken up the model’s torch.
During this NASCAR Pinty’s Series, a young, terminally ill girl attended a race. She had the chance to choose her favorite driver to spend the day with. She chose Destiny.
“It was heartbreaking for me, but one of the best feelings I’ve ever had on the tour,” Stefan said.
Destiny now works in Edmonton as a welder, another male-dominated field. She loves being able to fix her own race car.
“It’s such a cool job,” she says.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on racing, but Destiny hopes to return to the United States soon.
As for Stefan, he says, “I’m in the twilight years of my racing career, but I still want to go help Des and see her do well.”