After a brief hiatus, Better Know A Driver returns this week featuring Indianapolis native Stu Kelly. He’s been driving Midwest Drift Union events for the past three years and pilots one of the more popular FC RX-7s in the series.
SMASHED: How did you get into drifting?
Kelly: When I was 14 or 15 my best friend showed me the anime Initial D. At this time I had just finished several years in the Nexgeneracers Motorsports Academy and had considered myself fairly adept at driving compared to my other friends. I was totally hooked on the show and felt I could most relate to Ryosuke Takahashi. Few people actually know, but this is one of the main reasons I started with an RX-7. I also had a growing interest in cars and wanted to learning how to assemble engines and such. I also got into other animes such as Wangan Midnight, and Capeta (which is an awesome story of a kids journey through open wheel racing). After watching these shows and getting all the racing feels, my friend hit me up about a local drift event (Midwest Drift Union) at former O’Reilly Raceway Park. This being my first drift event I was wide eyed and excited watching Nackers, Kris Hackenson, and seeing Mike Feiock, and Bill Cook going OMT several times with Feiock taking the win. After this event I went home still hearing the ringing of engines in my ear as I slept. At some point I realized there was nothing stopping me from being out there and driving with those guys and that’s when I went out and bought my first N/A rust bucket RX-7.
SMASHED: We’ve seen a lot of drivers switching between platforms and powerplants over the years, but you’ve stayed consistent with an FC, only going to an LS setup for 2015. Why the consistency in the chassis, and what made you go LS?
Kelly: Because the quest for “more” is a part of our lives. It’s what gets us up every day. The idea that we want something better. With the progression of drifting and the quest for more horsepower they are simply not cost effective for ME with anything other than grassroots drifting. I do however believe that they are a great learning tool for any entry level Motorsport and encourage anyone starting off to give it a try and see if you get hooked on these little awesome engines. Some of you know how much time and effort I put into keeping my car at 400HP for the past seasons, and I think you understand.
SMASHED: What would you say your ultimate goal is with drifting?
Kelly: To progress and grow with the sport until I can be able to drive more for less of my own money, I think it’s safe to say that’s nearly all of us “drivers” goal.
SMASHED: What’s your biggest motivation to reach those goals?
Kelly: My biggest motivation is my friends and the other drivers of MDU. We push each other to drive better because we all share the common goal.
SMASHED: What is/are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are now?
Kelly: I would say my biggest hurdles throughout the years of me drifting have been the reliability of my engine. In the past with the rotary engine I lost so much time and so many events because I either didn’t have the money or time to properly fix my car. This year was also a struggle simply because I had to re-learn the car with the new setup as well as work out the bugs and the weak links (axles transmissions etc).
SMASHED: What advice do you have for those just starting out in the sport?
Kelly: Start simple, don’t build a pro car for your first drift event. The more cool performance adders you add to your vehicle the more you increase the chances of having an issue. Do everything in the most correct way possible and don’t cut corners to make events. It only ends up costing you more in the end. Also don’t register for an event unless your car runs correctly, because you may have just taken a spot from someone who will actually make the event.
SMASHED: Anything else we should know about you?
Kelly: In middle school and partly through high school computer gaming was my life, I got paid to sit in servers in Counter Strike Source and own noobs. Played through several seasons of competitive gaming running my own Counter Strike team…. and at some point in all of this I weighed around 240lbs. By the end of high school I weighed 170, and lost it all working out after school, so if you ever wonder why my pants fit horribly, now you know.
Checkout my website for Custom RX-7 FC parts and many other products such as AN Fittings, and Fuel System Upgrades!
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
Current city:Indianapolis, IN
Car (year/make/model): 1988 Mazda RX-7 FC3LS
Engine: Turbo L33 5.3 LS Engine
Suspension: Ceika 2M
Wheels: Not cool enough
Tires: Federal 595s
Sponsors: Nexgeneracers Youth Motorsports Academy, Ceika, Monster Clutches, Drive Shaft Shop
Years drifting: 3
Day job: Maintenance Specialist @ O’Reilly Autoparts Distribution Center / Asst Crew Chief @ Nexgeneracers
First drift car: FC RX-7
Favorite track: Gateway Motorsports Complex