NHRA Rookie Of The Year Candidate Kelly Clontz Reflects on Her First Season Racing Pro Stock Motorcy
Professional female motorcycle rider Kelly Clontz is gearing up to head to the last race of the season with high hopes and a positive attitude. She has competed in 15 of the 16 national event races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag racing series and looks to secure more than a round win at the finale. With a humble beginning and an even more interesting work and race life balance, Kelly Clontz gives us a glimpse of what it’s like competing in a male dominant sport, being a part of a husband and wife team, and an overall look at her rookie season.
Tell us about your earliest memories at the track?
I grew up at racing at Maryland International Raceway with my dad. When I was old enough to race, I raced his altered car. I met my husband Chris, at the track back in 2001.
Were you a competitive person growing up?
I actually was not involved in any type of competitive sports growing up. I was focused primarily on school to help advance my career. Not until I was 21 and started racing motorcycles is when I discovered how competitive I was. I am a commercial electrical estimator by trade, so not only do I work in a male dominated field, I also race in a male dominated sport! I would love to inspire other women and young girls to pursue what sets their soul on fire. Too often we let the fear take over! So when I am told by fans that I inspire their daughters to achieve their dreams it means everything to me.
When did you know you wanted to race motorcycles?
My dad wouldn’t allow me to get a motorcycle. Not until I met my husband Chris, was I finally able to discover my love of two wheels. I helped him at the track as he bracket raced his motorcycle, and from there I knew I had to ride one. From 2003-2015 I bracket raced on a small tire slick and slider Suzuki GS/Hayabusa at Maryland International Raceway. I was able to gain racing experience and partner with an awesome organization called Bikers Against Breast Cancer and help raise over $39,000
When did you know you wanted to race in the NHRA?
My husband Chris always had a dream to compete in the NHRA PSM class. Unfortunately he is too big to ride himself, there for me riding the bike is still a way for him to pursue his dream. Once i finally made an attempt on a pro stock set up motorcycle I was hooked! Now we want to continue our racing career at this level.
It seems like you had a pretty easy transition moving from your bracket bike to your Pro Stock Suzuki. What has been your journey thus far?
In December 2016, Chris and I purchased our current bike from Gary and Karen Stoffer. In February 2017, I made 6 passes down the track at Bradenton Motorsports Park, where LE Tonglet and Jerry Savoie signed off allowing me to claim my pro stock motorcycle license in one day. From there, we raced at IHRA track Capital Raceway in Gambrills, Maryland, where we made a semifinal appearance. In order to make racing pro stock motorcycle in the NHRA something we could afford, we sold our bracket motorcycles, and spare motors, alongside Chris’s fully restored Chevy C10 that was his secondary passion to racing. Basically anything of value that we could sell to get our program started we did! We don’t have the time or funding to test because we have to be at work on Monday, so each national event is basically trial and error testing because each track is new to us in finding data! We have to work event to event at our jobs to have money to continue in our program and refuse to let anything get in the way of our dream!
Your crew chief is your husband Chris Clontz, what is it like working alongside him both at the track and in your daily lifestyle?
We have the same goals in life! He pushes me to be the best version of myself and continues to help me explore all of my capabilities as a professional motorcycle rider! The hardest part about working with Chris is the constructive criticism. I’ve had zero prior coaching, but with his help he has made me the determined, fierce woman that I am! I wouldn’t do it without him! He is my rock and biggest supporter! We do everything in life together!
In 2017, you raced 4 NHRA national events, what was your deciding factor when it came to making this decision to run the full schedule in 2018?
We set a goal to run the full season to compete for the AAA Road to the Future Award. We have a whatever it takes mentality and have a huge support system. We also experienced enough success during our first four races that also attributed to our decision to race full time in 2018. Along with our early success, our passion for the sport continued to grow and lead us to wanting to spend more time competing out at the track. We are a no excuse husband and wife team! We know what we are capable of and we continue to make it happen no matter what it takes! We push each other and his strengths are my weaknesses and my strengths are his weaknesses, it’s a perfect blend!
Who has been the most influential to your 2018 success?
Eddie Krawiec and the Vance & Hines crew have been helping Chris and I since the national event held in June at Virginia Motorsports Park. At that particular race, we were having issues with the clutch and they offered to lend us a hand setting up the clutch as we had no prior tuning experience and they have continued to help since! In addition to Krawiec and his team, Matt and Angie Smith have also been a huge influence on our 2018 success. They have hauled the bike to 7 events for us so we have the flexibility to travel back to Maryland after the races and get to work. Matt has also helped Chris and I with bike set up and riding tips. Lastly, Gary Stoffer has been a huge help since we met him and Karen in 2004. He saved our 2018 season by helping us find our most recent wheelie bar issue at the race in Reading, PA. Since then we have made forward progress!
What can we expect from the future Kelly Clontz?
We have goals to continue to pursue our dreams in the pro stock motorcycle category! We will race as much as we can afford for the 2019 season and are already working on finding sponsors to help make that goal achievable! Our overall on track goal is to win an NHRA national event and contend for a PSM championship! It will not be an easy ride but well worth it! We know everything happens if you work hard, stay positive, and push forward with a no matter what attitude! We are excited for what the future holds!
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