Drag Racing, Feature Article, Washington — March 14, 2005 at 4:47 pm

Kelly Coty (issue 63)


By Steve Heeb

When Kelly Coty arrives at the dragstrip this year, she knows the other drivers are going to have their sights set on her.

“It’s like having a big target on my back,” she says of the fast approaching season.

This year, Kelly will be driving her ’69 Chevy Nova as the defending Super Pro champion at Pacific Raceways.

Kelly achieved this feat without the benefit of a win, and only one runner-up finish during the 2004 campaign.

“I just went a lot of rounds,” she explains. “The car was really consistent and I was cutting some really good lights.”

At least through the first part of the season.

“I couldn’t buy a round at the end,” she laughs.

“We hit every race possible,” husband Brett says of the family’s racing efforts last year.

By continuing to notch a few extra rounds during the rain-dampened season, Kelly was able to hold the lead through the final race, even though three drivers – Bill Huntington, Gary Freuerborn, and JR Leerkamp – finished a mere 10 points behind her at season’s end.

Kelly’s most memorable round win was against JR Leerkamp, beating JR by .003 of a second.

This year, when the Coty’s unload their Haulmark three-car trailer, race fans can expect to see Kelly’s Nova pretty much the way it was last season.

“We’re just going to freshen it up a bit,” Kelly says. “But Brett is working on the new car for Jeremy.”

Jeremy, who won the 2002 High School Drags while a junior at Federal Way High School, has upgraded his ride for 2005, ditching his ’72 Vega for a quicker ’76 Vega. He will carve out time for racing while training to be a firefighter at Bates this year.

Rounding out the trio of Coty Super Pro cars is Brett’s ’68 Chevelle. It is the same car that he began racing with in 1990.

It was a couple of years after that when Brett started encouraging Kelly to take a stab at racing.

“He kept saying: ‘Try it. You might like it.’” Kelly recalls.

In 1993, Kelly did just that, logging one race toward the end of the season. But it was enough for her to be hooked on the sport.

For the 1994 season, Kelly was fielding her Nova along with Brett’s Chevelle.

“He has been my biggest mentor,” Kelly says of Brett. “He’s taught me a lot about racing. Some lessons are harder to learn than others.”

Kelly and Brett both confess that their racing was pretty casual during the first years.

“Kelly is very relaxed,” Brett says of his wife’s racing style. “She doesn’t let anything get to her.”

Brett considers himself quite the opposite.

“I have to have quiet time in the car,” he explains. “She is more social. I am out there to win.”

“He is determined,” Kelly agrees. “He likes to win. I just like to go out and have fun.”

Both agree that having the family compete in the same class makes the racing more fun, since it means that their race day schedules are the same.

Brett says Kelly is helpful with the cars, but once they get to the track, he is in charge of the mechanical duties.

“I am the team grunt,” he chuckles.

He recalls times when one car would be back in the staging lanes while another was in the waterbox. He would be making runs and sprinting back to help get one of the others prepped.

By moving everybody to the same class, now the biggest issue is trying to separate themselves on the bracket ladders.

“We’ve never had to race each other in an actual race,” Brett says. “But it is kind of fun to square off in time trials.”

The family cohesiveness did not go unnoticed when the Coty clan received the nod as Best Appearing Crew during the 2000 NHRA Northwest Nationals.

 “Our first year really chasing the points at Pacific Raceways was 2002,” Kelly says.

“That’s when we decided: ‘Let’s make the team.’” Brett agrees.

As Katie took up driving in the Sportsman ranks, there were now four cars in the Coty corner for some events.

But the additional effort in 2002 took its toll on the team. Frequent breakage made the racing expensive, and the Coty team, which is pretty much self-sponsored, could not race as often as they needed to in order to remain competitive.

In 2004, they stepped up their efforts again, and this time they have Kelly’s championship to show for it.

“Brett was rooting me on all the way,” Kelly says of the 2004 season. “Probably more than I did myself.”

One of the turning points for Kelly was having Brad Hadman do some chassis work for the Nova a couple years ago.

“Brad did an awesome job on the back half of the car,” says Brett, who credits the change with helping immensely with the car’s consistency. “We didn’t have to guess anymore.”

 Kelly and Brett are quick to note the help with engine building, parts, and advice they get from good friend Dale Green at DG Machine. Other thanks go to Greg Hehr, Tim Philio, Rick Clements and longtime Super Comp driver Mark Larson.

“Mark has always been there when we needed help on the cars,” says Kelly.

“I just answer their questions,” Larson says humbly. His friendship with the Cotys goes back 15 years, and recalls their daughters being in Girl Scouts together. “We took off just to watch them at the Race of Champions in Mission last year. That’s the type of friends we are.”

Larson recalls a time when Kelly had broken a tranny a week before a Super Chevy Show.

“I said ‘No problem,’” recounts Larson. “We built a powerglide for her Nova and it picked up some speed.”

“She’s become quite the driver,” Larson says of watching her racing skills develop.

The Cotys also thank Ken Martin at VR Trailer Sales, the Pacific Raceways staff, and SKI’s Painting Inc.

Brett also credits the Aerospace Machinists Union, District 751 for making their racing possible.

“I feel privileged to have a good paying union job”, he says.

Both Brett and Kelly have been longtime inspectors at The Boeing Co. Kelly was laid off as part of the major downsizing at Boeing in September 2001.

She has since carved her own niche as a service dispatcher at McKinstry, a Seattle-based mechanical contractor company that employs more than 650 people. During the time she was busy holding on for the Pacific Raceways Super Pro championship, she also gained recognition as McKinstry’s Rookie of the Year.

Away from work, Kelly enjoys attending Brooklake Community Church with her family and thanks God for the opportunity to race. Kelly spends time reading, gardening, and she says the family likes to go camping.

“They are one of the most together families,” Larson says of the Coty’s bond on and off the dragstrip.

“When the family comes out, they all have a good time,” agrees Russell Stevenson, dragstrip director at Pacific Raceways.

But this year, when the Cotys head to the track, it will be no picnic as Kelly gets busy defending her title as 2004 Pacific Raceways Super Pro champion.

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