“It all began right around the time I got my driver’s license,” three-time SCCA Solo National Champion Brian Kuehl tells me as we chat over the phone.
Our conversation was normal enough, Brian in New Hampshire and me in California; but outside our doors stood the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, the reality of canceled motorsports events, and the fear of a multi-state lockdown. Yet, in an unspoken agreement, our virus conversation was kept to a minimum – we were both longing for the good times to return.
So, with that, a chipper 28-year-old Brian, who has recently shifted his focus to SCCA National Time Trials competition, told his tale. And, for that hour within our two homes, the world was normal once more.
“But before getting my license, when I had my learner’s permit, I was trying to get my first car,” he continues, telling of his journey through autocross and track competition – a journey that has also changed his dad’s automotive outlook. “My dad has always had a soft spot for the modern Honda vehicles, and he was like, ‘Let’s look at some older stuff,’ and eventually we started looking at Del Sols, CRXs, and cars like that,” he says. “A buddy of ours had a CRX sitting in his garage that used to be his brother’s, and he was going to donate it, and he basically sold us the car for a dollar. It was a 1990 CRX — automatic, bone stock, and in nice shape.”
That CRX became a bit of a project. “We spent about a year on it,” Brian explains. “We put a new motor in it, we did suspension, the wiring – we did everything ourselves. We built it in our own garage, and even got featured in Honda Tuning magazine. It was a really cool accomplishment.”
Life, as we know, often steers you down unexpected roads, and that’s exactly what happened to Brian. “I later went to a car control clinic in the Family Truckster -– sort of like the Tire Rack Street Survival School -– and I was telling my instructor about the car that my dad and I built, and it turns out that he used to autocross,” Brian says. “He said that he used to autocross CRXs when they were new, and he came up to my dad after the event and said, ‘You and your son should try out autocross or get into track days, because he’ll probably kill himself on the street with a car that fast.’”
That is how they discovered the SCCA.
The first people Brian and his father, Don, met at an autocross were also owners of a CRX, Alan and Josh Parker, another father-son duo. “They welcomed us in with open arms,” he recalls. “And, yeah, we fell in love with the community, and motorsports in general. Then the car slowly evolved from the tuner car into a full-bore autocross car.”
With the high level of existing modifications, Brian’s CRX fit into the Street Modified ruleset. The journey to multi-time SCCA Solo National Champion status wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. “I was actually terrible at the get-go,” he admits. “It took me about two years to go faster than the guys driving the bone stock CRX. I was pretty awful at it, but I strived to be better.”
Brian autocrossed locally for about two years, then someone suggested entering National Solo events. “We started signing up for National events and having fun, and meeting more people, and seeing the more serious side of the community,” Brain says of the slippery slope that catches so many of us. “I love the competition. I love the camaraderie. The further down the rabbit hole we went, the car got even better prepped for the class. And then the class split out and SCCA made the front-wheel-drive version, SMF, and our car was right on the money for that.
“We did that for about a decade, and my father has always been my co-driver,” Brian says, noting the entire family has become involved. “My mother has gotten into it as well, and my fiancée enjoys autocross. It’s been a fun way to hang out and have some fun with cars.”
2011 was the first year Brian attended the Tire Rack Solo National Championships. There, he took his SMF Honda CRX and finished seventh. Returning to the Solo Nationals in 2014, he scored second in the same class. The following year he was back once more, but this time his name ended at the top of the SMF results sheet, and he scored his first SCCA National Championship title.