DANNY KELSEY - 2006
RPS PRO-RIDER DEVELOPOMENT PROGRAM
In February 2006, Danny Kelsey raced his first race under the Pro-Rider Development program after completing training during the winter as instructed by McBain. Kesley's biggest strength was arguably that he not only was a great "Racer", but unique to this was that he also a very solid "Rider". Kelsey's 1st weekend was very impressive and indicative of his character and skill. Not knowledgeable with the CMRA first fax/first grid entry program, Kelsey was gridded at the back of his classes which were mostly 2 wave starts. With frost on the track during practice & temperatures in the 30's for the races and races shortened to 5 laps for the safety of the riders (hands would go "numb" in 10 minutes of riding), Kelsey worked past 19 other riders and won his first race of the year by passing for the lead on the last turn of the last lap. Kelsey worked the next two races on his "Rider" skills.
By his fourth race of the season, Kelsey had mastered key components of the "classroom curriculum" and was not beat again the remainder of his novice season. Danny was now going to tracks like Hallet and running within 4 seconds of the track record despite never having ridden at that track before. Focused for the remainder of the season on developing his "riding skills", Kelsey put together 7 wins at Oak HIll in July and was greatly improving his lap times.
By September, Kelsey had clinched all 5 of his class championships, and the family met with Marcus McBain about the Mid-Ohio AMA Sports National Championships at Mid-Ohio. Danny was a "no-brainer" for the AMA Sports top Novice award (RPS Sponsored Cory Burleson won it in 2005), but everyone felt that despite Kelsey having never raced an expert road race (yet), that he had the skills and the talent to compete for the Horizon Award. The decision was made to "go for it" and in September 2006, RPS and Kelsey made the trip to Lexington, Ohio to see if he really would be able to compete for the prestigious honor despite (Danny) not even having a year of roadracing under his belt.
Danny was able to come grips with one of the hardest circuits to learn in America within a few sessions. Danny was still learning the track during qualifying, but still did well qualifying on his GSXR-600 in the in 1000cc Superbike, 600cc Superbike, 750cc Superbike , 600cc Superstock, 1000cc Superstock , and 750cc Supestock. Kelsey was learning the track quickly, but rain wiped out quality "dry time" during qualifying and Danny's learning curve was somewhat "slowed" which would prove critical. Through the weekend, the team and Kelsey could sense they were just a "click away" from Kelsey taking a critical win. Kelsey put in his best effort, but when he crashed out of the lead in the 600 Superbike race the Horizon Award would be out of his grasp. Fortunately for Kelsey, the 4th place finish in 600 Supersport race qualified Danny for the "600 Shootout" that was a special "one-off" race held during the following AMA Superbike series the following weekend. His finishes of 2nd, 4th, 8th, and 7th in his other races showed Kelsey courld compete with the fastest expert racers in the country less than a year from starting the sport. As a consolation, Kelsey finished an impressive 4th in the "AMA SPORTS 600cc Shootout".
Kelsey and RPS came out of 2006 really confident. As sponsorship offers "rolled in", Kelsey and RPS accepted a tire sponsorship that on the surface was phenomenal. The drawback was that the tire design was 2 years old on the first allotment of tires (20 sets) that were provided, and the "new tire" wasn't out yet. By the fourth race of the 2007 season, Kelsey was losing all confidence due to the performance of the tire. The team returned all tires to the sponsor and switched back to Michelin as a "retail customer". It was a huge financial adjustment for RPS, but at the end of the day...it is about getting 100% out of the bike and the rider. By the second race after switching back to Michelin, Kelsey was now winning in the highly competitive CMRA expert premier classes.
The team and Kelsey had entered into 2007 with two things in mind and with the setback with the tires negating the goals for the CMRA early in the season, this really caused the team to focus on two events for the remainder of the year after July. The Horizon Award and the WERA Grand National Finals were what the team were committed to for the remainder of the season.
With the Horizon Award event up first in September. If Kelsey and the team had scripted the effort, there is no possible way to have scripted any better with Kelsey Qualifying on the front row of every event he entered. Within 24 hours though lady luck had not only deserted the team, but pulled out a 2nd and 3rd mortgage before she left! When Kelsey and the team left Mid-Ohio it was frustrating to leave with such bad luck, but at the same time (the team) was really proud to have persevered through the mechanical and mental stresses to still finish well in the the remaining races up to the last race on Sunday.
Kelsey and RPS then went to the WERA GNF to compete in the Suzuki Cup races in order to distinguish the talents of Kelsey. In the most simple terms the team got caught out in a change in fuel by VP. The team stayed focused and worked its best to compete, but lady luck was fickle in 2007 for RPS and Kelsey. In over 20 years of racing, team Manager Marcus McBain "had never seen a fuel company do what occurred at the WERA GNF." Danny Kelsey finished the season with the CMRA #6 plate. Kelsey also won the "Rookie Expert" award which turned into a spirited competition between himself and Ricky Parker. Not a bad consolation to a very "up and down" season.
As 2008 started to take shape, team manager Marcus McBain cut down the team to Danny Kelsey as the only rider RPS would field due to the workload that the Liberty Motorsports Park project had placed on him. In 2008, the team experienced several engine failures with its GSXR-600. This was unusual and the result was that the team discovered that it had been running the Suzuki GSXR-600 "at the limit" a little too long. 2008 was a bit frustrating again as Kelsey made his first venture into AMA Superbike racing at Barber Motorsports Park. With Kelsey starting off strong, a crash in practice bent the GSXR-600 and with no spare bike on hand, Kelsey soldiered on in the race to finish 27th out 44 entries. Not bad, but nowhere near what Danny and the Team were capable of. Kelsey missed the final round of the season in CMRA sprint action when motor(s) failed in practice and the team ran out of motors.
2009 was a year of change. With several good things coming out of of the 2008 season that changed the motor building practices for the team (which actually provided more HP for the GSXR-600), Danny Kelsey was definitely a "click faster" than the previous years. As the season progressed it was clear, the years of Danny Kelsey racing against Ty Howard, Dustin Dominguez, Derek Wagnon, and the rest of the top CMRA sprint racers were paying off. Kelsey either won or finished 5th or better in 92% of his races in 2009 in addition to winning the 2009 CMRA 600 Superbike & Supersport championship despite missing a round of the CMRA series due to schedule conflicts.
2010 was a challenging season. Although Kelsey and the team had his GSXR-600 running well, a flat tire caused Danny to crash at over 100 mph during a race at ECR and completely destroyed the teams bike. Not only did it destroy the motorcycle, but damaged most of the aftermarket accessories. The team had to "start from scratch" and started putting a new GSXR-750 together for the remaining of the season. As the team finished putting the Suzuki together and sent it to the dyno, the chain came off and destroyed the engine. The team and Kelsey worked tirelessly to make sure that the program continued and by the end of the season, Danny had the Suzuki in top running form.
As 2011 season emerged, it was clear that Kesley was one of the "better riders" in the CMRA, and M&M Road Racing asked the Georgetown, Texas rider to ride its two CBR1000's. As the season unfolded and the wins piled up, it was clear Kelsey was a favorite for the CMRA #1 plate. To ensure Kelsey would be able to put the championship "in the bag", the RPS GSXR-750 was rolled back out and this allowed Danny to compete "head to head" with his main championship rivals. Kesley clinched the CMRA #1 plate in October of 2011 at Texas World Speedway.
The CMRA #1 plate was a great reward for a rider that has been one of the CMRA's best for the last several years. 2012 looks to be even better for Kelsey, RPS, and the sponsors.