Brian “Chucky” Davis: Making the Race, Whatever It Takes

Sometimes a racer is defined by more than outright performance, by more than the wins, or by the money taken home. Sometimes, a racer can become known just by his or her tenacity; the lengths to which he or she will go just to make it there, to make the race happen. It would seem that Brian “Chucky” Davis, of Detroit, is one of that sort.

Just as an example: “Well I’ve never once paid punk-out in my life,” Brian says proudly. To translate from grudge terms, he’s referring to the ‘deposit’ or ‘down payment’ each racer makes before a grudge race, that he or she will forfeit upon a no-show. “So, when people come to track, or if they take time to go to the street, I feel that they’re comfortable knowing, if they work extra hard to have money to come see me? They know they’re gonna’ get their money’s worth.”

Brian “Chucky” Davis plans out the order of racers with his team.

That kind of commitment and respect for the sport itself of course isn’t contrived or new-found – it can only be something deep-seated in the person. And it always starts out very early, as any racing person can attest. As Brian says of his childhood, “I just loved being around cars, or anything fast. I had dirt bikes, motorcycles, go karts – anything that had an engine on it when I was small, I always wanted to have it.”

And in Brian’s case, the exposure to racing specifically came about a bit gradually, but for him, it certainly stuck with him.

It’s a lot of sacrifice to get it. And spending money that I shouldn’t have spent, on something that’s never going to get a return on its value.” But if it’s important enough, and you love it enough, you’ll go to any lengths to pursue it.

“My family was into racing, but it wasn’t ‘diehard’,” he explains, continuing, “My dad had a ’69 Nova, and we would go putz around, race a couple people here and there at stoplights or whatever. His car wasn’t something where we went and ‘found’ anyone on the street.” Nevertheless, that core passion continued unabated through some of the most difficult of circumstances, for any child. “My parents passed away when I was seven,” Brian explains, “and I moved in with my aunt and uncle. And they were into cars, too — my uncle Mark had a bunch of cars, and he was a little more ‘into it.’ So we used to go to Detroit Dragway [last run in the late ‘90s], and that spiked my interest.”

And as it so often seems for racers across formats, street action was a key entry point to Brian’s lifelong involvement in the sport. As he recounts, his time at the Dragway “led me to realizing there was street racing, and then when I was young, sneaking out of my house, going to watch it and then finally ‘partaking’ in it… .” That last part is said with very heavy air-quotes, by the way. And he paid certain prices for that, too, such as getting pulled over in his high school parking lot for “going a hundred and twenty-five, in a 35,” and went to jail and lost his license just about a month after his 16th birthday. The early, fraught days of street racing soon gave way to new visits to the track, not as a spectator anymore, but as a racer. A grudge racer, specifically. And it’s in this format, the grudge scene, that Brian’s grit and relentlessness truly began to take shape.

Brian “Chucky” Davis speeds off to get a win for Detroit.

That is, if he couldn’t readily get races at his local track anymore, he’d just travel to another track, where he could. “You can only race people in your state for so long,” he explains and continues slowly, deliberately, “and then everyone learns your secrets…” The solution was simple enough: “So then I started traveling…and that’s what took off. When I started traveling and racing other people, from other cities, and finding the ‘big guy’ from that city, and racing him and beating him.”

Those exploits took Brian far afield of the familiar players in the Upper Midwest, down to legendary venues in the South such as The House of Hook, a.k.a. Carolina Dragway, in Aiken, S.C. And those wins across the country brought him notoriety, one after the other, as they were posted on various YouTube channels, shared, and talked up. As Brian says in his own words, “My face was just always everywhere, because I was constantly racing anyone and everyone. It didn’t matter what car, what ‘this’, ‘that’… etc.” It’s certainly plausible, then, that this reputation as a no-limits grudge racer led to his invitation to be the Michigan delegate, as it were, in a Street Outlaws nationwide shootout in Oklahoma.

Brian “Chucky” Davis is fired up after his race against Lester from Mississippi.

And even then, Brian didn’t wait for the opportunity to make an impression, he went ahead and made that opportunity for himself. That is to say, he used every bit of hustle he could. He says with a smile in his voice, “I’m a plumber – I own my own plumbing business – so I know about permits. So I looked down there where they were having the race, and I brought up permits. I found out where they had the road blocked.” I bet you’re already guessing where it goes from here, as he continues, “I brought my truck and trailer, told the cops ‘Yeah I’m part of the show!’, got in — and all that stuff was on TV. Then I unloaded the car, made a pass, right down the street, turned around right in front of the cops, to show them I was serious,” As you can see, a test hit like that serves multiple purposes: first, to gain data on the road; and second, to exert influence. To show the OKC regulars that no matter the surface or circumstances, Brian “Chucky” Davis is more than ready to surprise you.

This is just one example of the mental aspect of grudge racing, at which Brian seems to excel. And indeed that’s a core tenet of grudge. As he puts it, “In grudge racing, there really is no ‘rule’. It’s you set it up, how you see fit, to your advantage.” By any means necessary, that is. “Too many people often are very…‘transparent’,” as he puts it. “They’re not good at setting something up, without showing what they’re trying to do in the process. I’m patient in that manner. I will make you think I’m going one way, and that’s something I’ve planned in the beginning.” Even in testing, just as advantages are found in the data, advantages can be created in the psychological sense, as well.

“When we grudge race up here, it’s about misleading your opponent,” he says. “And that takes place all over the region. So I’ll go out, I’ll test, I’ll post videos of my car — not making it down the track. Even though it did, just so my opponent then sees that, and doesn’t work as hard. It’s just a head game.”

My face was just always everywhere, because I was constantly racing anyone and everyone. It didn’t matter what car, what ‘this’, ‘that’.

And therein lies the broad appeal of grudge racing, in Brian’s view. “Even people sitting on the couch… they can relate to grudge racing. They’ve been grocery shopping, a Mustang’s pulled up next to them, and they wanted to take off. It’s not about the money, the type of car you got, it’s just…settling a little grudge.”

But it’s even more than his own personal drive, or a point to prove, that Brian credits with his success in racing. He makes it a point to acknowledge the individual friendships and partnerships that he’s forged along the way. As he puts it, “The three people that have been a staple in what I’m doing right now are Chris Tuten [his tuner], Dave Zimmerman of Team Z Motorsports, and Rick Jones at Quarter-Max and RJ Race Cars. “If it was not for those three guys, I wouldn’t be able to go out on the street, to the track, on TV, be cocky, be confident… nothin’. Because they are the three that actually make everything happen, that make it easy for me. And because of their talents, I’m able to go out there and talk {expletive], and say, ‘I’m going to [expletive] you up.’ And I really believe it! When I say that stuff, I’m not just saying it — I wholeheartedly believe it.”

Brian “Chucky” Davis has a question about a call JJ Da Boss made.

That kind of confidence is a powerful asset, for sure. And showing up and kicking ass certainly makes for an enjoyable weekend. Gaining popularity has been nice, too, leading to alliances with companies like Holbrook Racing Engines, Liberty’s Gears, Camerons Torque Converter Services, and Nitrous Express. But as we’re all aware, racing is rarely, rarely a financially gainful activity. “I’m a basic person, like anyone else. I’m a plumber,” Brian explains. “People see certain sides and [say], ‘Oh, it must be nice.’ And, it’s really not. It’s a lot of sacrifice to get it. And spending money that I shouldn’t have spent, on something that’s never going to get a return on its value.” But if it’s important enough, and you love it enough, you’ll go to any lengths to pursue it.

JJ gives Brian “Chucky” Davis and Lester Miller the “go” signal.

For Brian, “Racing is like a form of meditation, for me. It’s an ‘outlet’. It’s healthy. Because, if I want to, every week I can go racing.” And for him, the most important parts are not necessarily the wins and losses, but rather the more routine aspects that coalesce into rituals. “The best part of racing is the trip,” he says, “The traveling, the going there, the getting ready. The people standing up with you — when I win, I always ask the camera guy, ‘Go to my guys. Go to my crew, I want to see their facial expressions.’” So, to term it just an “outlet” is a bit of a disservice. It’s something that for Brian, “If I didn’t have it, who knows what I would be like… . So it’s absolutely worth every single penny, because it gives me something to always look forward to.”

And that’s something indeed worth fighting for.

Tune in for all-new episodes of Street Outlaws: Memphis on the Discovery Channel Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.

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