Female Craftsman Truck Series Driver Competes at MIS For Self and Others With Multiple Sclerosis BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Kelly "Girl" Sutton travels north to the Irish Hills of Michigan in search of her best finish of the season. The rookie ...
Female Craftsman Truck Series Driver Competes at MIS For Self and Others With Multiple Sclerosis
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Kelly "Girl" Sutton travels north to the Irish Hills of Michigan in search of her best finish of the season. The rookie driver is one of only two females scheduled to race full-time this season in the Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS), and is looking forward to the challenges of her first trip to the two-mile oval of Michigan International Speedway. But Sutton knows a thing or two about challenges. Diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) more than 16 years ago, Sutton is a part of racing history, as the first person with a known diagnosis of MS to race in any NASCAR series.
Kelly "Girl" Sutton will compete in Saturday's Line-X Spray-on Truck Bedliners 200 at MIS. The roar of her engine down the 3,600 foot frontstretch will serve as an anthem for the more than 15,000 Michigan residents living with multiple sclerosis. The 32‑year‑old wife and mother of two never gave up on her dream of racing the fast tracks of the NASCAR circuit and will have earned a spot in victory lane no matter what position she finishes the race.
"It is very disturbing to hear that almost half the people living with MS are not taking one of the approved therapies. I know people can respond differently to therapy, but my MS has been in remission for five years with COPAXONE® (glatiramer acetate injection). I want everyone living with MS to work with their doctor to find the therapy that works for them," Sutton said.
In addition to battling her fellow NCTS drivers on the track, Sutton shares her compelling story with others living with MS and explains what has worked well for her.
"These approved treatments are the best weapon we have until we find a cure. For me, that means an injection each morning, a healthy diet, and remaining active," explained Sutton.
Kelly Sutton is no stranger to the NCTS. Runs at Memphis, Loudon, and Phoenix during the 2003 season helped her learn to corral the stronger, 750-horsepower engine of the new truck. She recorded her first top 20 in only her third NCTS start, with an impressive 19th place finish in the season finale at Homestead. Along with her entry into the NCTS, Sutton put together a string of impressive finishes in the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series, which included three consecutive top-10 finishes in June and July. She climbed as high as sixth in championship points and finished the season eighth in the overall point standings, in only her second full season. Racing seemed to be Sutton's destiny, but nothing could prepare her for her sudden turn of fate.
Sutton, a third generation driver, began riding motorcycles when she was just 10 years old. At the age of 12, she graduated to go-carts. By the time she was 15, Sutton was ready to make her mark in local racing -- until overwhelming fatigue and a tingling sensation on her right side brought her into the garage for a check-up. After testing from her neurologist, Sutton, 16, was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. "I was devastated," said Sutton. "I was 16 years old, and all I wanted to do was race. At that age, you don't expect something like MS to become a factor in your life."
Although Sutton spent some time in a wheelchair, she was determined to learn how to manage her disease and pursue her dream of racing. While individual results may vary, she found herself back in the driver's seat through a disciplined exercise regimen, a conscientious diet, and a daily injection of drug therapy.
Visiting cities on the NCTS schedule allows Sutton to share her personal story with the MS community, inspire audiences, and be inspired by them. Her determination and unique story continue to resonate with fans and offer hope to those touched by MS. Her courage and resolve earned Sutton a treasured 2004 Gene Autry Courage Award from Angels Care and the Tempe Sports Authority in March, and the distinguished 2003 Wilma Rudolph Courage Award, presented by the Women's Sports Foundation. This prestigious award is given annually to a female athlete who exhibits extraordinary courage in her athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, and makes significant contributions to her sport, with previous recipients including such notables as Martina Navratilova and Gail Devers.
Sutton is not alone in her fight against MS and misconceptions surrounding the abilities of people with MS. She is part of Team COPAXONE®, a group of remarkable people, all living with RRMS, who refuse to sit on the sidelines and allow the disease to take over. Team COPAXONE® celebrates the accomplishments of people, like Sutton, who won't let MS stand in the way of their goals. Its members are all working to change society's perception of the abilities of those living with MS.
"Modern medicine offers those of us with MS a lot of hope," she says. "This diagnosis does not mean you have to give up your dreams. I'm living proof that if you do everything in your power to help yourself, no dream is out of reach, whatever your dream may be."
Sutton will look to battle hard in this weekend's Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners 200 and bring home a great finish, not only for herself, but everyone in Michigan suffering from MS.
"This weekend will be our first time at Michigan, and the team is really looking forward to testing our aero package," said Sutton. Tim (Shutt, crew chief) has been to Michigan before, and said handling is key with the wide track and long corners. Trucks could get three and even four wide at times, so we want to make sure we stay with the draft, and don't get stuck outside and freight-trained by the field. We're bringing chassis 007 to Michigan, which ran very well at Gateway, especially late in the race. Tim keeps telling me it will be much easier to get a grip on a fast, smooth track like Michigan, than the unique layout of Gateway. He's led us to three top-25's in the last four races, so I feel very confident we'll have a great truck for this weekend's race. We're looking to bring home another top-20 finish to start off the second half of the season, and to continue to move up in the overall points."
Tickets are still available for Saturday's Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at MIS, along with Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 and Paramount Health Insurance 100. To purchase tickets, or for more informatioin, log on to www.MISpeedway.com, or call the MIS ticket hotline at 1-800-354-1010. Children 12 and under are free the whole weekend and all seats for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 and Paramount Health Insurance 100 are just $40. All seats for the July 31 Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners 200 are just $30 and a combination ticket for both days, which includes three races, are just $50.