Daytona Beach--Crownsville, Maryland's Kelly Sutton is already a winner. It certainly matters that she finished 11th, after starting 34th, in Saturday's NASCAR Goody's Dash Series Race at the Daytona International Speedway. But even if she had...
Daytona Beach--Crownsville, Maryland's Kelly Sutton is already a winner. It certainly matters that she finished 11th, after starting 34th, in Saturday's NASCAR Goody's Dash Series Race at the Daytona International Speedway. But even if she had finished last, Kelly wins because this outstanding driver has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and, by living her dream, Sutton sets an example for everyone else who has received the diagnosis. "My dad, Ed Sutton, is a race driver, and from the time I was five years old, I wanted to drive a race car at Daytona. I thought that dream was over when I was diagnosed with MS at the age of 16, but my disease is in remission. Life doesn't end after you are diagnosed. You can live a productive life even though you have MS."
Last year, Kelly Sutton drove six times in NASCAR'S Goody's Dash Series for compact cars starting with the February Daytona event. She is sponsored by Copaxone, the prescription drug she takes for MS which brought the disease into remission and keeps it there. "I have learned to make a number of life style changes including a healthy diet and exercise, and I have to be careful not to get too tired, but if I can drive a race car with MS, there just aren't limits." Competing six times in 2001, Sutton had one top 10 finish. "I was running second at Daytona in July with 10 laps to go when there was a problem on the track. The car in front of me slowed down and I did, but the guy behind me didn't and ran into me causing a 13 car pileup."
Teva Neurosciences, the pharmaceutical company which produces Copaxone, sponsors the endeavors of a number of world class athletes who, like Sutton, have MS. Team Copaxone includes a marathon runner, a mountain climber, and, of course, Kelly Sutton. Copaxone has signed on to sponsor her efforts for the entire race series in 2002. "Right now, NASCAR has scheduled 14 races but they are working on as many as 4 more. We are going to compete for Rookie of The Year honors."
Last year, Kelly's father ran the team out of his Crownsville, Maryland shops. He recognized, however, that most successful stock car teams are located in the Charlotte area of North Carolina. Ed Sutton said, "For Kelly to have a legitimate shot at Rookie of The Year, we had to raise the level of our effort. Sutton stuck a deal with last year's season champion, Cam Strader, to integrate Kelly's race program as a second team." Ed Sutton relocated to North Carolina while his wife, Carol, remains in Crownsville. She says, "Ed is putting a lot of miles on the car coming home to visit, and we get together on race weekends. We had to do everything we could to support Kelly as she chases her dream."
Barry Owen is Kelly's crew chief. His son fills the same function for team mate Cam Strader. Owen's sister scores for the Sutton racing team while his wife is Strader's scorer. Owen has been a crew chief in the Goody's Dash Series for many years and has worked with former champions such as Andy Belmont as well as Strader.
Kelly is married to Butch Fabiczak and is the mother of two daughters. In addition to her racing, the Fabiczaks own two race cars which they compete at Potomac Speedway in St. Mary's County and at Saluda, where their driver won the Late Model Stock Car championship last year.
The DAYTONA, USA.COM 150 was the first race of the 2002 season for NASCAR'S Goody's Dash Series. The race teams had all in residence at the track since Tuesday. They qualified for the race on Thursday before an afternoon of rain shut down the Speedway for the rest of the day. Kelly Sutton turned in the 34th fastest time. 42 cars would start the race. The Dash cars turn laps around Daytona's 2.5 mile tri-oval in the 54 second range achieving lap speeds exceeding 165 mph.
Kelly began charging through the field immediately and was running in 15th place when another driver's spin in Turn 1 brought out the first, of three, caution flags. Along with most of the field, Kelly came to the pits to have her gas tank topped up although Crew Chief Owen thought another stop would be necessary. She returned to the race in 17th and resumed her charge toward the front when the starter again waved the green flag. Another caution came out on Lap 47 for a two car spin on the front dogleg and Kelly came into the pits. The crew added just enough gas to insure that she would get to the finish and they increased the angle on the car's rear spoiler to increase the aerodynamic down force on the rear wheels.
The third and last caution came out with two laps to go, but Kelly was in 11th place, didn't need any gas, and didn't want to give up her position on the track. Goody's Dash rules do not permit a race to end under caution so last two laps were an all out race for position. Upon leaving that she had almost gotten into the top 10, Kelly was ecstatic. Over the radio she called to the crew, "A top 15 finish and we didn't crash. You guys are awesome."
After a post race tech inspection, the race team loaded up Kelly's race car and headed out of the track on their way back to North Carolina. They have another race to prepare for and a success to build on. Kelly remained behind. She was scheduled for a public appearance before a local MS support group on Sunday morning, and then she and her husband were going to take a short vacation before returning to Maryland.
Kelly Sutton is a winner who just happened to finish 11th on Saturday at the Daytona International Speedway. She is living her dream.