Driving Ambition

(People Magazine, Sept. 23, 2002) With racing in her blood and the checkered flag in view, Kelly is the picture of inspiration for fans across the country. Kelly, a third generation driver, travels the racing circuit with one goal in mind — to make the wheels spin.

But she measures her racing success not only by where she places in the race, but also by how her story affects others. Her story is special: Kelly is also the first person known to race in any NASCAR series with a confirmed diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) - a chronic, though treatable, neurological disease.

As a third generation racecar driver, Kelly and her family have spent many Saturday nights at the local tracks. In 2001, Kelly and her family traveled the Goody’s Dash Circuit and found a way to inspire both racing fans and people living with MS.

Kelly, a 30-year-old mother of two, not only spent time on the track, but also took the time to share her personal story and spread her message of hope to people from across the country. Through speaking engagements and autograph sessions, Kelly has become a fan favorite. Through the years, Kelly has even secured the “Most Popular Driver” award in several series.

Kelly has always had one racing dream in view, hitting the pavement at the track of all tracks, Daytona International Speedway. Kelly’s dream of racing at Daytona came partially true in 2000, when she attempted to qualify for the first race of the season. Engine trouble kept her out of the race, but MS did not stop her from getting to the one destination that has always given her hope.

“I always thought that MS would keep me from racing and now it has given me a chance to achieve my dreams and follow my passion,” said Sutton. “With the support of my family, my crew, and my sponsor, we will be able to achieve great things on the track and off.” Though racing a limited schedule, Sutton achieved great results for 2001. She kicked off the year at Daytona: after starting 21st, Sutton worked her way up to the 13th position, and despite a malfunctioning fuel pump, was thrilled with a 21st finish. From there, she traveled to Orange County Speedway, Rougemont, N.C., and broke into the top 10. She led 18 laps of the race and finished in 10th place.

At Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C., Sutton and her team held to the 31st qualifying position through the first few laps. After moving up to the middle of the pack, Sutton and three other cars tangled on lap 29. She was uninjured and able to finish the race in 29th place. Kelly returned to Daytona and worked her way through the lineup to second place before a wreck sidelined her. She ended up placing 27th in the race.

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