Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Motorcycle racer powers past ADD with a  strong work ethic

The rider—protected by a leather suit, thick motorcycle boots, and knee pads—pulled his Suzuki GSXR 1000 up to the starting line. He flipped down the clear shield on his full-face helmet, then shrugged his neck and shoulders to loosen up. Just before the signal, he revved the engine to an earsplitting 13,000 rpm.

Five seconds later, he was flying at over 100 miles per hour. He leaned sideways into the first turn, dragging his knee, moving full throttle over skid-marked pavement.

“Can I make it?” he asked himself.

Danny Kelsey, the current Central Motorcycle Roadracing Association champion, made that turn and many others to set a new record at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Oklahoma last summer.

Danny Kelsey signing autographs

Racing motorcycles made Danny the man he is today. “My parents made me work hard to continue racing, and everything I learned then has carried over to my everyday life. I work very hard to be the best at everything I set my mind to,” Danny says.

The First Trophy

Danny’s been riding and racing motorcycles since he was eight. One day, he spotted his dad’s old motocross trophies, almost hidden away on a shelf. “I saw those little motorcycle dudes and insisted on knowing what the trophies were for. My dad said he used to race motorcycles,” Danny remembers. This answer sparked the passion that’s driven Danny ever since. “I had to have a motorcycle. I begged and begged.”

Danny grins. “I think my dad did a little begging for me, too, to be honest.” His mom finally said “yes” to motorcycles after Danny was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder in first grade. “Let’s just say I didn’t get many gold stars,” Danny says of his trouble making good grades. The doctor encouraged his mom to get him involved in team sports to give him focus. But that approach didn’t help. “I wasn’t doing as well as I should in school. I was also taking Ritalin on a regular basis, which, in my opinion, made me a different person. I became very lazy, and I didn’t get excited about anything,” Danny explains. Then his parents surprised him with a Kawasaki KX60.


Danny’s father took him to a race the very next weekend, where he won first place. “I can’t say much because there were only two [of us] in the class, but I got that trophy, so I’m going with it,” Danny says. The racing continued under one condition: that he earn at least Bs in school. From then on, Danny brought home As. “Racing motorcycles preoccupied my mind and gave me focus. That was a priority for me: Do well in school, and I get to have fun riding. That’s all I needed to overcome my inability to focus. School was much easier after I understood what I had to do to keep racing,” Danny says.

Danny raced motocross, on enclosed off-road dirt tracks, until 2005. He rode professional arena cross and outdoor motocross. But traveling every weekend burned him out by the time he was twenty.

The Switch to Road Racing

In 2006, just for fun, Danny rode a friend’s motorcycle on a paved track. He rented a leather suit for protection and entered the C class, the least competitive level. “I was riding a Honda CBR 600. I was going so fast that they actually pulled me off. They said, ‘Listen, you need to ride in the A class because you’re scaring people going by so fast,’” Danny remembers. He achieved lap times that first weekend that some racers struggle ever to reach. That’s when he met his trainer, Marcus McBain. Marcus worked with Danny in the off season to help him perfect his road racing skills. Danny won three races the first weekend.

Photo by Linz Leard

Photo by Linz Leard

Danny now races superbikes—a Suzuki GSX R1000 and 750. “They’re the same as a sport bike or crotch rocket,” Danny explains. A race runs from six to eight laps around a track and covers from 1.7 to 2.8 miles.

In the straightaways Danny hits speeds between 180 and 190 miles per hour, but turns require the most concentration and skill. “I’ll come into turns, both wheels sliding, thinking ‘I don’t know if I’m going to make it!’ That’s what it takes to win. You’ve got to absolutely push your limit, and you’ve got to know where your limit is,” Danny explains.

“Have I crashed? Oh, yeah, absolutely!” He points to a white leather suit scarred with black marks. “If it’s a low side wreck, it feels like sliding on ice. It doesn’t feel great, but it’s bearable.” When the bike flips and the rider goes tumbling, it’s called a high side. “High sides are no fun. They hurt,” Danny says. Once, while moving at approximately 130 miles per hour, he hit a water patch. “The bike flipped about eight times. It went from a $12,000 bike to a $1,000 pile of junk in three seconds,” Danny remembers. But the leather suit, back protector, chest guard, and helmet did their job. He walked away with only a nasty bruise.

Support and Work Ethic

“Kayla has been with me from day one,” Danny says of his wife, whom he met in eighth grade.

Photo by April Skinner

Photo by April Skinner

“I thought I was the coolest person in the world dating this racer!” Kayla remembers. Her job as a medic eases her mind as she watches Danny race. “If he got hurt, I could help him. I have a little less stress about it than the other wives,” Kayla says. But she puts the possibility of injury out of her mind. She’s there to cheer him on. “I joke with him and say, ‘More gas, less brakes!’ He knows what he’s doing, and he’s awesome at it.”

Setting track records, winning races, and breaking records requires extreme focus. “Kayla does a great job of keeping me focused,” Danny says. “She does whatever she has to do to make sure I don’t have a lapse in judgment [while] going over 180 miles per hour.” During one race weekend, for instance, Kayla got the happy news that she was pregnant but couldn’t tell Danny for two days. “It killed me!” she recalls. “Although it was good news, I didn’t want thoughts to go through his head that he couldn’t push his limit because I was pregnant.”

Along with racing motorcycles, Danny sells commercial building equipment and owns and manages rental property. “If someone asked me to name something about Danny, ‘motorcycles’ would be right up there, but ‘responsible,’ ‘caring,’ and ‘loving’ would be there, too,” Kayla says. “Racing isn’t who he is, but it’s what he does.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Danny’s racing career, please go to or follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Below is an on-board video of Danny racing at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit:

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