Rider Profile: Derek Kelley
Story and Photos by Rodney Rutherford
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, MAY 3, 2012
Racing for more than five years, motocross standout Derek Kelley initially picked up the stick-and-ball sport of baseball, and he was so dedicated that at one point he even played with a broken arm. Along the way, Kelley found something else that this type of toughness transfers well to: motocross. The former Idahoan has now taken up residence in the motocross kingdom – specifically Southern California – to pursue his dream of one day racing in AMA Professional Motocross.
Kelley started riding when he was 5 on – what else? – a Yamaha PW50. Practice was fine, but the idea of racing with a green flag was seared in the young rider’s heart. His competitive nature came into full bloom as he started racing in motocross at the age of 7. His zest for the roost came to fruition at his home track of Pleasant Valley Raceway. He immediately made an impression on Raceway owner Mark Campbell as a “take charge” racer. Campbell remarked how the family exemplified hard work and was very dedicated to the Idaho motocross scene. Doing just that, Kelley quickly “took charge,” going on to win three Western Idaho Motocross Series titles before moving to California.
Kelley raced his first Amateur National in 2007, tasting the big time at the 2008 AMA Amateur Nationals at the elite level, and earning a 21st overall in the 65cc (7-9) Stock class. Leaping to the 85cc (9-11) class in 2010, he tallied up a 15th in the Stock ranks and a 12th in the Modified overall, topping out at 10th in moto three for his first top-10 moto finish at the AMA Amateur Nationals.
As he was steadily climbing up the results ladder, there were high expectations for the steel-edged competitor in 2011, but heartbreak hit home, as he broke both wrists a few short weeks before the AMA event and was forced to sit it out.
However, the sword did not stay sheathed for long, as he came into 2012 with a vengeance on a pair of well-worn Suzuki RM85s. It seems no obstacle is too large for the turbo man: With inspiring support from his family, expert track support from Nost Suspension guru Pete Russell, and superior engine assistance by Jeff Springman, the team has emerged victorious. His triumphant tone began at the 2012 California Gold Cup Series. In the 85/150cc (12-13) class, Kelley won four of five rounds to take the class title, and he went on to repeat that scenario in the Supermini (Through 13) class for his second title. Kelley continued on to beaming title brilliance for a third Gold Cup Series crown by topping the Supermini (Through 16) class.
Next, it was on to the 2012 World Mini Gran Prix. Kelley set the mark, delivering two second-overall finishes in the 85/150cc Modified (12-13) and 85/150cc Open (Through 16) classes. Winning moto two in the Supermini (Through 13) contest, he nailed another second overall, and concluded a great appearance by finishing up third overall in the Supermini (Through 16) class.
(Not to be outdone by his big brother Derek, Dylan Kelley finished sixth overall in the 65cc Junior Stock (6-8) class and third overall in the Modified version. These brothers got game!)
The forward-thinking 13-year-old Derek has set his priorities and realizes that racing won’t last forever, so college is his number-one goal. The 2011 Riverside County Board of Education Patriot Pin recipient is also an academic standout, so splitting time between college and a professional career, when that time comes, should be nothing but a well-timed double/ triple/ double jump to the organized speedster as he jets for stardom.
Derek has great appreciation for Pete Russell of Nost Suspension; Jeff Springman at Bill’s Pipes; Moto One in Boise, Idaho; FMF; his entire family; and all his supporters.