Dave Ely feature story

For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com Dave Ely: Rising Sprint Car Star SINKING SPRING, Pa., June 25 - If driving talent is an inherited trait, 19-year-old sprint car driver Dave Ely of ...

For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com

Dave Ely: Rising Sprint Car Star

SINKING SPRING, Pa., June 25 - If driving talent is an inherited trait, 19-year-old sprint car driver Dave Ely of Sinking Spring, Pa., is someone to watch.

Ely (pronounced E-lee) is the nephew of top Pennsylvania Posse member Don Kreitz Jr. His father, Mike Ely, is a championship-winning race car mechanic and runs his own welding and fabrication business. Both Dave and his mom, Vicki Ely, work in the family's race car parts business, Kreitz Oval Track Parts.

Both of Dave Ely's grandfathers were racers as well. There is Don Kreitz Sr. on his maternal side, who raced modifieds, sprint cars and ARDC midgets. He is the namesake of David Frank Ely, who drove modifieds in the late fifties and early sixties before dying of a sudden illness at age 28. One of the car numbers he used was 77, the same number that is on his grandson's sprint today.

But bloodlines and family connections are only part of a winning formula. Another crucial ingredient is experience. Although he's only 19, Ely has been racing since age 12. He started with go-karts, advancing to sprint cars four years ago.

Go-karts are an excellent training ground for open-wheel drivers; some Indy car drivers still race them weekly to keep sharp. In three years, Ely compiled 35 go-kart feature victories and three track championships.

Sprint cars have always been his goal. He won his first KARS (Keystone Auto Racing on Speedways) sprint car feature in only his eighth sprint car race ever. The setting was Seacoast Speedway in Georgetown, Del., on June 18, 1994, and 32 teams had towed in to compete.

This season Ely and his parents have joined forces with Larry and Jan Gilbert of Douglassville, Pa., for an ambitious schedule of 41 races on 26 different tracks in nine different states. Thirteen of those tracks will be all new to the young charger.

The events will be a mixture of United Racing Club (URC), Empire Super Sprints (ESS), Ohio Sprint Bandit, four World of Outlaws shows, and selected 360 and 410 unsanctioned sprint car races.

Ely has two Stealths to campaign and three motors to work with: two Jerecos and one by Davey Brown Sr. The team is sponsored by LeRoy Schannauer Plumbing, Heeby's Surplus, C. Irwin & Son Food Distributor, The Fastener Place, Jereco Competition Engines, Gold Eagle Co. and Kreitz Oval Track Parts.

"Ever since I can remember, all I wanted to do was race sprint cars," Ely says. "I want to race for a living. I know that what I need is to keep gaining experience. I need to race as much as I can, wherever I can."

Ely first became associated with the Gilberts last year when they were fielding a car for Billy Ellis. When Ellis was unable to make some races due to a family commitment, Ely substituted for him. When the Ellises and the Gilberts parted ways later that year, Jan Gilbert lobbied for Ely to get the ride.

"We're convinced that Dave has a lot of talent and he's going to be a superstar," Gilbert predicts. She ought to know; she is the daughter of the late Dick Mealy, a long-time URC campaigner.

"Someday we're going to be on top of a trailer, watching him race at the Knoxville Nationals," she adds.

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Series Sprint