One driver that has not been on the scene in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2021 is Quin Houff.
His team, StarCom Racing, closed its doors at the end of that season, leading to Houff’s departure from NASCAR after just two full-time campaigns.
Now back in his hometown of Weyers Cave, Va., Houff spoke with Frontstretch on his time in racing, what he has been up to recently and the challenge of entering the Cup level during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luken Glover, Frontstretch: The last time we saw you on the NASCAR scene was back in 2021 with StarCom Racing. To catch fans up, what have you been up to since that time?
Quin Houff: Since my second full-time year in the NASCAR Cup Series, I kind of came home and did some soul-searching on where I thought my career should go from where I got to. That’s not to say I wasn’t very blessed and humbled to be able to compete in the Cup Series and be able to do it full-time for a couple of years.
The competitor in me wanted to continue to try to find better opportunities in the offseason at the end of . I pushed hard to find sponsorship and take the sponsorship I had and try to find something more competitive.
I felt like I had put my time in and gotten some experience, and I felt like I was ready for a more competitive opportunity. It didn’t come to fruition. I’ve always left it up to God to handle where I’m led, and it just didn’t feel like it was leading in a direction that I should chase.
So I just kind of left it and came home and started to work back at the family business. Come to find out, literally a couple of weeks later, that we were going to have our first-born child. So that kind of retained the focus for me to be home through that process, and I was very blessed being there for all of that. When he was born in August, I believe [NASCAR] was in Watkins Glen, and the time she went into labor to having him was only a matter of a few hours, so I would have never made it back.
There’s a lot of things in life I’ve been very fortunate to be home for the past couple of years. I’ve just had family on the focus and I’ve gotten passionate for the family business as well, and my involvement there is increasing, so I haven’t really put a lot of thought into racing. […] I think I’m where I’m supposed to be, and I’ve enjoyed not living on the road the past two years.
Glover: You look at drivers who have stepped away and cited burnout and the grind of the schedule. What is that like? How grueling is that schedule when you are on the road for 38-40 weeks a year?
Houff: It is a grueling schedule, and those 38, 40 weeks a year, those are ones you are traveling at the track. They don’t include all of the stuff you have to do outside of the race season, whether that be preparation for the race season or going to do sponsorship obligations in the offseason.
It is really grueling, and I think with my perspective that I’ve had as a personal experience was even a little worse because I did it in a pandemic setting. You not only didn’t have fans for a lot of my Cup Series time, but I also didn’t even have family members allowed to come. I was going to these places that I had never been to and areas I’ve never been with nobody other than just myself. You could barely even see your crew guys.
It felt very weird, and the last year I raced, things started to let up and it was a little better. And I can see that lifestyle would be good if you could have your wife or your kids travel with you each and every week.
At the level that I was doing that, I couldn’t quite afford all the luxury to have an RV there for us and things like that. It’s just a lot of different ways and perspectives, and you see a lot of those guys have the opportunities to have their families with them, not have to drive everywhere and have RVs for their own personal space.
But there’s a large section of guys on the Cup Series level and below that don’t have that luxury, and that makes it a lot tougher on your lifestyle. I feel for those guys, and the commitment they have is very high, and I felt like I had that commitment. But now that I’m older and married and have a kid, it makes that commitment a lot harder to accept.
Glover: The pandemic obviously shook up a lot of things during that time. One of the big things was the lack of practice you guys had during those two seasons. For a driver coming in, being a rookie and learning the ropes of Cup, how tough was it to not have any practice when you first jumped into the Cup Series?
Houff: It was exponentially tough. I don’t think enough people will even really remember that or consider that when they think of what a rookie was put through during that year, much less a rookie that was in the position I was in.
I was literally going to places like Darlington, Sonoma. […] There was a good 25% of the first year in the Cup Series that I was going to places and the first lap I ran was under green-flag conditions in the race. […] Those were all unforeseen circumstances, and it was a big challenge for me.
I felt like I had done a good job of completing all the laps that season where there was zero practice, and able to learn the first two stages and try to get some positions in the last stage. I don’t think there is any other story like that, and I hope there isn’t another pandemic again. But the rookie class of that year 2020, it was tough regardless of what experience you had.
Glover: Were you able to have conversations with other teams as you were looking past 2021 at different levels, like Cup, Xfinity or Trucks?
Houff: Yeah, I was able to have plenty of conversations. I had opportunities to come back in 2022 and run in any of the three levels. It just depended on what sponsorship I had and also where I wanted to be.
What some of the sponsors wanted to do and what I wanted to do were two different things. Sponsors understandably want to be on the biggest platform they can be on. But for me as a competitor, I wanted to be in the best seat that I could be in.
Some of those things just didn’t line up, and I wanted to find extra sponsorship along with that to be able to get better opportunities regardless of the level. I was prepared to go to any of the three levels to find the best seat I could be in.
Everyone’s ultimate goal is to be in the Cup Series, and I did want to do that. I’m glad I did it, but I just wanted to continue to progress if I stayed there, and I didn’t feel like I had the best opportunity to do that.
Glover: The StarCom [Racing] shutdown, what were the factors that led to their shutdown? Was it sponsorship, lack of resources or did they just want to get out of it?
Houff: I think the owners of StarCom just wanted to get out of it. They were race fans, just like myself and father, and didn’t know a whole lot about it.
They jumped in as sponsors back in the day and felt like they could do better than what they were spending for another team to do with their money. They decided to become their own team and learned a lot of things about the industry. I think they were just ready to get out.
Charter prices were at a high, and at the end of the day, they felt like they needed to make the best business choice, which is something I agree with 100%. Ultimately, if I had to say what the driving factor was for them leaving the Cup Series, it was probably the fact that there was a new car coming in and they were having to front a lot of the costs to get the new equipment in for the 2022 season.
Glover: Do you still have a desire to get back to racing, or are you happy where God placed you?
Houff: That’s a tough question everyone always asks me. I’m happy with where God has placed me. It’s been awesome to be home for everything, including the birth of my son, Eli.
But did I leave racing the way I wanted to leave racing? Absolutely not. I think everybody wants to be able to leave on their own terms.
I’m a competitor. I wanted to continue to prove that I could do better than what I was doing. I felt like I put a lot of time in, and I know it wasn’t necessarily pretty, but I got a lot of time and experience that a lot of guys couldn’t say they got.
It’s unfortunate that I never got the opportunities to prove my abilities. […] That’s life, and life isn’t fair, and racing is a very tough industry. […] I don’t have anything that I feel like I have to go back and continue to do what I was doing.
If I came back, it would definitely be an opportunity where I felt like I could win, but as years go by and by, it becomes tougher to get back in. Now they’re driving a completely different car in the Cup Series.
I haven’t had that itch to come back. I’m pretty content with where I am, enjoying home and working in the family business.
About the author
Luken Glover arrived on the Frontstretch scene in 2020. He has been an avid NASCAR fan for the majority of his life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who used to help former team owner Junie Donlavey in his garage. Glover covers news for the site and took over "The Underdog House" column in 2021. In addition to being a college junior, his hobbies include volunteering at church, playing basketball and tennis, racing go-karts, and helping at his high school alma mater.
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