Kyle Tucker has no desire to be average. He’s worked for nearly two decades designing and developing high-quality parts for his Mooresville, North Carolina-based company Detroit Speed, continuing to challenge himself and his staff to constantly improve their offerings. It’s a desire to be the best that Tucker says has made Detroit Speed so successful.
“I was never interested in building average parts,” Tucker said. “It always had to be the best. I learned early on that if you build the best part or car that you possibly can, and you never cut corners as far as designing or production, you will always have a customer. We build things the best that we know how to build them. That’s been the key ingredient to the company’s success.”
Tucker’s desire to be above-average has also helped him outside the walls of his business. A respected figure in the Goodguys AutoCross scene, Tucker has brought home three championships in the Pro Class, and the lifelong racer has no desire to stop putting the pedal to the metal any time soon.
“It’s good for my company, because it shows people what my company’s parts can do on the track,” he said. “But it’s also good because it satisfies my urge to race!”
With a successful parts business, a busy shop turning out turnkey supercars and numerous racing titles under his belt, it’s safe to say that Tucker is “doing life” way above average.
We chatted with him about his love for cars, where he’d love to hit the track, and where we’d find him on one of his rare days off.
GG: If you hadn’t started Detroit Speed, what kind of career do you think you would have pursued?
Kyle Tucker: I wanted to pursue racing—whether that would have meant driving race cars professionally or building them. I raced my whole life and I went to engineering school because I wanted to learn how to make a car go faster. I never stopped racing, and I think that’s the direction I would have gone. That’s probably my biggest regret, career-wise: not pursuing driving full-time. I look back and wonder what would have happened if I had focused on racing full-time instead of going to engineering school. I wonder if I could have made it big!
GG: You own about 15 cars. Which one is your daily driver?
Kyle Tucker: Most of the cars I own are muscle cars, but my daily driver is a new four-wheel-drive crew cab Chevy Silverado lifted truck.
GG: Is there a car that you would love to build someday?
Kyle Tucker: I have always wanted to build a ’32 Ford. Day-to-day, our customers know us for our muscle cars or race cars, but from a personal standpoint, I’d love to tackle that [project]. I’d also love to build a ’70 Chevy Ramp Truck to haul a race car on. I’d like to take that to Bonneville.
GG: If you could meet one person from history, who would you choose?
Kyle Tucker: I would say Johnny Cash; I’d love to sit down and have a drink with him!
GG: Who is one person that you were really excited to meet?
Kyle Tucker: It was really cool to meet Al Unser Jr. I looked up to him and used to read about him in the magazines. I think I first met him last year at Goodguys’ Scottsdale event, and I couldn’t believe what a nice, down-to-earth guy he is.
GG: You’ve seen a lot of car trends come and go over the course of your career. Are there any trends you’d like to see come back around?
Kyle Tucker: I like the traditional cars, the ‘30s and ‘40s stuff. You can build a car like that and it will never go out of style. We’ve evolved so much in the Pro-Touring scene and it’s still progressing today. It’s evolved to a Supercar status. It would be neat to see stock-appearing cars come back.
GG: If you could only attend one car show a year, which one would you choose?
Kyle Tucker: Goodguys’ Columbus is always really special. It brings so many different cars and has a lot of cool awards, so it’s one of my favorites of the year. I have a lot of special memories from the Columbus event.
GG: You’re very big into the Goodguys AutoCross racing, and were the Pro Class Champion in 2011, 2014 and 2015. What got you into the sport?
Kyle Tucker: I got into AutoCross in my early twenties because it fit my budget and it helped me become a better driver. So when Goodguys started AutoCrossing it fit what we were doing at Detroit Speed. Our parts were designed to be used and we wanted to show people what the parts were capable of. It became a good way to show this and get more people involved, which meant more customers [for the company].
GG: If you’re not in the office or on the race track, where might we find you?
Kyle Tucker: Racing and work pretty much consume my life, but I do like to cook, and I like to run. I’m also really happy on any beach, anywhere, so maybe there.
GG: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Kyle Tucker: I grew up on a farm and I learned early on from my dad and grandpa to work really hard and to always be prepared. You can always influence luck by being prepared. I’ve applied that advice to everything I’ve done—school, work, racing. On the farm, you had to work really hard for everything. You can’t hope to be lucky, but you can influence luck if you’re ready and prepared for whatever you’re trying to do.
GG: What’s next for you?
Kyle Tucker: Personally, my competitive nature is [driving me] to build a car and go race Bonneville. That’s in my future at some point!