Jim Kelley, pictured at Carteret County Speedway. (Andy Marquis/Race22.com photo)

Jim Kelley Optimistic After Early Season Victory

Jim Kelley got his first win in five years in the season opening race at Carteret County Speedway back in April and he feels as confident as ever as a result.

The win back on Easter Sunday was the 198th career win for “Big Jim”.  The 53-year-old from Newport, North Carolina has been an icon in the Eastern North Carolina racing scene for decades, but he had spent some time away from the track for the past few years.  Last year, he returned for a full season of racing at Carteret, but victory had eluded him up until the race back in April.

“We bought a used car and had to get the bugs out of it,” Kelley said.  “Worked on it all winter and got the rear end lined up a little better than where we had it.  Did different things on shocks and springs and stuff.  Chris Burns helped us a little bit with some of that.  With NASCAR coming aboard, they let us get our four barrel back, which made me feel a little better.”

Jim Kelley won in the first of the two Late Model races held back in April at the 2017 season opener, getting the holeshot on Tyler Matthews at the start and driving away en route to his first career Carteret County Speedway victory.

“It felt real good for sure,” Kelley explained.  “Felt good to outrun Tyler since he’s a state champion.  We probably got $18,000 in our whole rig and outran a $70,000 car, that meant more to us than anything.  I do have a ton of experience and obviously been able to use some of that experience and got the car where we can drive.  The Hoosier tires help too.  I’ve always run the Hoosier tires.”

Sunday evening, Kelley looks to defend his victory as Carteret County Speedway plays host to the most impressive field of cars since the inaugural race at the track in September 2015.  Former champions Tyler Matthews and Haley Moody are running at the track, along with Connor Hall, defending track champion Chris Burns, two-time Carteret winner Eric Winslow and Joshua Yeoman, among others.

“The more the merrier,” Kelley remarked.  “If we got the car where we like it, we’ll go to the front.  It’s better to have 10 cars than five cars for sure.  It makes you feel better when you outrun more cars and better cars.  You want the best cars here when you run.”

Sunday’s Late Model Stock Car doubleheader will commence at 7pm at Carteret County Speedway.

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Andy Marquis

Andy Marquis

Andy Marquis is the managing editor of Race22.com, joining the team in 2011. Marquis has vast journalism experience, having covered ARCA, INDYCAR, NASCAR, AMA and IHRA Drag Racing. He has also covered politics from the local level in Maryland to the national level in Washington. Currently, he oversees the editorial side of Race22.com on a day-to-day basis while also contributing features and covering races on location.