Georgetown, Texas rider Danny Kelsey finished on the podium in all four of his races while also capturing a big win at the inaugural WERA Grand National Finals held at scenic Barber Motorsports Park. As the racing year winds down, RPSRaceTeam.com headed to event with another opportunity for the current CMRA #1 plate holder Kelsey to compete against some of the best racers in the country.

The weekend started with some mechanical drama as the team’s Suzuki GSXR-750 suffered electrical issues that provided a significant challenge to diagnose and the intermittent and varying nature of the issues left no clear indication of the problem(s). The team was assisted with advice from several respected mechanics in the pits as well as over the phone.  Over 40 electrical connections and wiring routes were examined and inspected. Crew Chief Marcus McBain felt that the main culprit however was the wiring coming off the clutch cover as it had its sheathing worn from constant clutch plate service over the 3 years the team has operated the RPSRaceTeam.com Suzuki GSXR-750.

B Superstock was the first the race of the weekend. It was not only an opportunity for the young Texan Kelsey to start his run for the weekend, but the first chance to ensure that the bike was repaired. The team discussed the electrical issue, and if any issues arose during the race, Kelsey would “park it” for the weekend for safety reasons. Although Kelsey had been able to run 1:34’s when the motor cut out while reaching over to cycle the power with the key on the track to get the Suzuki running again, the tight racing at the front made this too dangerous of a proposition to use as a racing practice.

As the green flag dropped for the 24 entrants in B Superstock, Kelsey quickly put the Michelin shod GSXR-750 in the top 10 after starting in the back half of the grid. At the end of lap one, Kelsey was in 5th place and in a dogfight with Jimmy Merck, Daytona Anderson, and Andre Ochs with Tucker Lancaster clearing the group in pursuit of early leader David Brown. By lap six, Kelsey had cleanly moved past Merck, Anderson, and Ochs with David Brown now in his sights after surrendering the lead to Lancaster. Although Brown was over 2 seconds behind Lancaster, he was providing no quarter for Kelsey. Danny made several attempts on the last lap to get by Brown, but he would have to settle for third place at the checkered flag finishing 0.215 seconds behind Brown and 4.425 seconds behind the winner Lancaster. 


The team was very happy with the finish as it was apparent the “electronic gremlins” were put to rest and Kelsey would be able to compete in his remaining 3 races of the weekend. With only about 18 laps of total practice completed Thursday and Friday (because of the electrical issues), the team was using the race as the first real “setup session” for the weekend. Adjustments were made, and Kelsey would now be ready to start the next race with all of his attention on the competition.

B Superbike was the 2nd and final race for Kelsey and the team for Friday. The bad news for the team and Danny was that he would now be starting further back (row 10) than the first race of the day, and this was going to provide an even bigger challenge as the competition was proving to be stout.

Kelsey got a great start in B Superbike, but was now faced with more riders to pass to get to the front. At the end of lap one, Danny found himself in 6th place with five riders in front of him aggressively holding their positions. Despite this, Kelsey overtook and Ochs, Anderson, Thornton, Melendez, and Kraft by lap 4. Ochs however latched onto Kelsey as he went by and was now pressing. This provided some disruption to Danny. Although it was clear Kelsey was the quickest in the field, he could not focus on putting in the laps he was capable of while having to “guard his position”. With Brown taking advantage of the battle behind him, he was now almost 4 seconds in front of Kelsey. Regardless, Danny was closing on Brown and by lap 7 was within 2.2 seconds of Brown. Ochs was not relenting on his attacks and Kelsey focused on holding him off for his 2nd place position as David Brown took the checkered flag with a 2.112 second cushion over Kelsey. 


The team reviewed the Friday performance with mixed emotions. “I was really pleased with the final outcome from the day. We were one issue away from having to pack it up for the weekend. That puts a lot of stress on the team and the rider. I was really proud of Danny’s riding. When you have to ask a rider to not only go up against his competitors, but also pay attention for an issue that is going to require quick evasive action (motor cutting out) and park them for the weekend, it is not an easy situation to deal with. Danny once again showed why we keep acquiring sponsors with his display of talent and mature decision making”, reflected crew chief Marcus McBain. 

With no races for the team on Saturday and very drastic weather changes, Kelsey and McBain focused on some small items to address for Sunday’s races. As the single round of Sunday practice started, Kelsey was quickly in the pits reporting “the clutch was about to go”. Crew Chief Marcus McBain again scrambled to now piece together a clutch out of 4 “dead clutches”. It was a nearly impossible task, but after two efforts to install a serviceable clutch pack the team pieced together a solution that was within .2mm of the Suzuki’s minimum tolerance for total pack thickness. This was completed within an hour and half, and Kelsey was relieved as this left time to spare for him to “test things out in the paddock” despite the schedule being “pushed up” on Sunday in response to the prevailing weather conditions. Again Kelsey would be racing with some distraction as the clutch was not expected to hold together if there were any red flag restarts.

Grids were better for Kelsey on Sunday, and he would start no further back than row 5. This would be a tremendous help in his pursuit of the wins Danny and the team came for. He would compete in 750 Superstock and 750 Superbike with many of the same tough competitors from Friday. With some minor suspension changes to the JRi Shock and GP Suspension cartridges, Kelsey was now ready to run at the front.

The start of the 750 Superstock race demonstrated the confidence Kelsey had in his crew chief as he quickly passed his competitors and at the end of lap one he was in 2nd with Jimmy Merck in his sights. It was soon apparent that this race would be a showdown between Kelsey and Merck. The two riders quickly separated themselves from the pack with a very quick pace. On lap 3, Danny put in his fastest lap of the race and prepared to take the point. As lap 4 completed Kelsey was in the lead, but Merck was not going to allow Kelsey to enjoy a moment of it as he provided several assaults on Danny over the next 3 laps. Despite the pressure Kelsey, continued to lead laps 5, 6, and 7.

Although Kelsey was riding an almost “perfect race” (with no lap time varying more than 0.637 seconds from his fastest lap time), Merck was hanging on and was able to pull up and by Danny in several turns. Kelsey’s only available action to prevent the lead from being “taken away”, was to brake later and harder in the turns. This caused the front end to collapse too much for the setup, and front end chatter developed. As the two riders battled and Kelsey attempted to “put this race on ice”, he ran wide in Turn 7 after the front end started to chatter and Merck wasted no time in going by. Despite his efforts, Kelsey would finish 0.213 seconds behind Merck at the checkered flag.  


Kelsey was undeterred by tough race, and gave his crew chief instructions on what he needed to win his next and final race 750 Superbike. He would without any doubt win his final race of the weekend. At the drop of the green flag, Kelsey wasted no time and by lap three had a 4 second lead in the race. By lap 6, it was over six seconds. At the checkered flag, Kelsey won by one of the largest margins of any of the races held during the weekend. Both Danny and crew chief Marcus McBain were very happy with the win, and it was a fitting way to finish a championship weekend were the competition performed at a high level. 



“I was really pleased with the weekend. There were some really good riders out here and I absolutely had my hands full in all of my races. I realized that I was going to have to be patient in my races as we didn’t get much practice on Thursday and with the bike quitting again Friday morning, we were just going to have to setup the bike with what we were learning from the races. I want to not only think Marcus (McBain), but also David Hirsh & Walt Schaefer from Michelin. They were a great help to me and my team all weekend long and the tires were incredible.”


“I am speechless. You can’t expect a rider to perform like Danny did with the type of problems we had to overcome. To assume your rider to not be distracted for a lap or two when he gets to the grid is foolish, but Danny (Kelsey) is a freakin’ machine once the visor goes down. I also realize that our Michelin tires, GP Suspension Cartridges, and JRi Shock is an incredible package. They provide us a tremendously strong baseline so that even when things are “not quite right”, we are still going to only be a few tenths of a second off the pace…and Danny is always able to ride around that kind of a problem.”

The team now heads to Texas World Speedway for the final round of CMRA Sprint Championship Series racing action in November. Kelsey will be battling fellow Texan Ty Howard in his effort to retain the CMRA #1 plate. Howard and Kelsey are 1-2 in the points battle respectively, and the two riders will continue their season long battles for both the CMRA #1 plate and class championships!

RPSRaceTeam.com would like to thank its sponsors KMC Controls, Rig Tech, Chris Hamilton, JRi Shocks, Motopiacafe.com, Shoei Helmets, Eagles Canyon Raceway, Komodo, Lone Star Track Days, GP Suspension, Dynojet, DP Brakes, LP Racing, Hotbodies, Arata, K's Motorsports, Vortex, WRW Racing, Sam’s Cycle Salvage, and Island Racing Services for their continued support. 


Associated Links:

  • WERA Sportsman races press release on RRW

  • WERA National Challenge Series races press release on RRW

  • RPS "OFFICIAL" Press Release on RRW

  • Photos by Brian J. Nelson (HQ)

  • VIDEO Taken by fast  rider Joe Melendez (Kelsey appears at the 4:45 mark of the video)