Saskatchewan. Indigenous racing driver makes space for women in sport

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.

Stefan Klym taught his daughter, Destiny Klym, how to race cars at a young age. She was 13 when she first competed. (Aaron Sinclair)

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. It competed in recreational car, street car and modified car competitions across 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.

A man stands next to a racing car with his hand on the chassis. The car is black and red with a big number five, a maple leaf and the name "Klym" where the door would usually be.
Stefan Klym has been running for decades. His and Destiny’s cars are packaged in advertisements for his truck company in Hanley, Saskatchewan. (Aaron Sinclair)

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.

A woman wearing a racing suit lowers herself into the driver's seat of a car through the window. His helmet rests on the roof.
These race cars don’t have doors, so you have to sit in the driver’s seat through an opening where the window usually is. It’s a tight fit. (Aaron Sinclair)

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 race. 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. »

A woman sits in the driver's seat of a racing car wearing a helmet and racing suit.
Crashes don’t stop Destiny from running – not for a minute. (Aaron Sinclair)

Three years later, father and daughter competed in the southwestern Saskatchewan town, winning the street stock and hobby stock championships respectively.

A young woman and a middle-aged man hold large trophies in front of a racing car.
In 2016 Destiny and Stefan Klym both competed in Swift Current, Sask. Destiny won the hobby stock championship and her dad won first prize for street stock racing. (Sent by Destiny Klym)

“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.

A young woman in a racing suit stands in front of a white and red racing car on an oval track.
In 2017, Destiny competed in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. She is the first Saskatchewan and Indigenous woman to compete in a Nascar-sanctioned race. (Sent by Destiny Klym)

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.

A young woman puts on her orange and black racing suit between two racing cars.
Destiny is proud to be a role model for young people and women who want to get into racing. (Aaron Sinclair)

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. »

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