Getting To Know Owen Kelly
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Australia will have two competitors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup event this weekend at Watkins Glen when Owen Kelly makes his debut in the Cheez-It 355 for Phoenix Racing, but who is Owen Kelly?
Ironically, Kelly grew up as a karting contemporary of Richard Petty Motorsport’s Marcos Ambrose on the tracks of Tasmania – Australia’s smallest state.
Tasmania is an island at the foot of the mainland with a total area of 24,096 square miles and it’s population represents just 507,626 of Australia’s 22 million. Owen is from the third biggest city in Tasmania – Devonport – population 25,500.
Kelly and Ambrose have followed very familiar paths, right from the karting tracks of Tasmania to this weekend at The Glen.
The son of a Sprint Car racer, Chas Kelly, Owen has tasted success in V8 Supercars, mainly in the second tier developmental Series (a V8 Supercars version of the NASCAR Nationwide Series). He is popular among Australian fans for his laidback nature and appears as a regular co-driver in major endurance races, such as the Bathurst 1,000. This year, he has taken a step back from V8 Supercar commitments to concentrate on advancing his career in the US.
Kelly had his first taste of NASCAR-style competition heading up Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Late Model program in the Whelen All America Series – Winning the Mid-Atlantic 350 in 2008. The program moved to the UARA-STARS Late Model Series, ending the season just outside the top 10 in Championship points in 2009.
The 36-year-old now has two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts to his credit, finishing fourth at Road America earlier this year in the Joe Gibbs Racing Monster Energy No. 54. His first start was back in 2010, also at Road America, where he finished fifth in a Baker Curb entry.
Kelly is one of the most versatile drivers Australia has produced with a strong background across Formula Ford, Porsche Carrera Cup, 2-litre Super Touring Cars, Sprint Cars and in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
He has also played ‘super-sub’ for Ambrose and Kyle Busch during qualifying for Nationwide events in Montreal in 2011 and 2012 respectively. In 2011, he qualified Ambrose’s Richard Petty Motorsport machine ninth (Ambrose went on to win the race). He took the Busch car to fifth on the grid in 2012 in Canada. He enters the rough and tumble of the Sprint Cup with recommendations from no less than Ambrose, Earnhardt Jr and AJ Allmendinger. They all gave him the tick of approval when Phoenix Racing owner, James Finch was doing his research.