Staying on track

8595384903_45dd5d5d8fEvery go-kart race has its twists and turns; the asphalt track can keep even the most experienced racer guessing. To Mount Allison student Nathan Kelly, his life has gone through more twists and turns than any track imaginable. Now, as he prepares to launch a professional career in auto-racing, he’ll have to do so without one of his biggest supporters.

Kelly’s first athletic passion wasn’t on the track but in the hockey rink. As a goaltender, the Amherst, NS native briefly suited up for the now defunct Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Despite his success at hockey, racing was in his blood.

After his hockey career had finished, Kelly focused his full attention on racing go-karts, with the support of his father. It was Kelly’s dad, Barry, a former racer himself, who gave Nathan his start in the racing world. “We were going to do motocross originally and mom didn’t like motocross too much because it was [just] two wheels so I ended up karting,” said Kelly. They turned to the sport of go-karting and bonded over it. “It was something we always did together as father and son.”

With everything seemingly in place, the moment came that no one ever wanted to hear; Barry had cancer. Although Barry’s cancer significantly changed the landscape of their daily lives, the two still connected through racing. Barry would often watch Nathan race from home.

Barry put up a fight like he was closely holding onto the lead in the final lap of a race; like he had done so many times before. This time, however, the finish line came much sooner than expected. Barry passed away last May. “I became very motivated. [It] really put my life into perspective, that we don’t get a second chance and that every second of life has a value on it,” mentioned Kelly.

Kelly, who races with the PSL Atlantic team owned by Michael Dobbelsteyn, has raced throughout the United States in destinations such as Arizona, California, and Florida. He also attended the world finals in Portugal this past December.

Kelly recently unveiled a new helmet featuring a prominent design. “After [Barry] passed away last May, I designed my helmet around the IWK children’s hospital,” commented Kelly. The design was a tribute to Barry’s time as an elementary principle and the enjoyment he got from working with kids.

The untimely passing of his father only fuelled Kelly to become a better person, on and off the track. “The big thing about Nathan is whenever you talk to him you see his confidence and his competency,” mentioned fellow racer and friend Gerald Caseley. Caseley and Kelly have been friends since they were both relatively new to the sport. Caseley has seen Kelly’s personality evolve over the hardship that comes with losing someone as close as your own father. “I still see him using a lot of his father’s qualities in his own personality today.”

Kelly has dreams of one day reaching the Formula One circuit. He also mentioned that he wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to race in the GP2 or GP3 Series, the feeder systems for Formula One.

Regardless of where he ends up in the racing world, Kelly’s father will be with him every step of the way. It may no longer be in person, but the selfless life his Dad lived lives on inside Kelly and on the front of his helmet. First or last, they’ll always cross the finish line together.

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