DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 28, 2000)
Kelly Sutton is one of three female drivers who plan to compete in the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring in 2000.
As long as she can remember, Kelly Sutton has dreamed of following in the tire tracks of her racing father. A pit stop named multiple sclerosis almost sent her to the garage, but Sutton doesn't give up easily. Next month, she plans to make it here at Daytona International Speedway -- in her eyes the "Promised Land of Motorsports." Sutton was in town this week for a two-day test session for the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring.
While Sutton was one of three female drivers who plan to compete in the series in NASCAR 2000, along with 1999 rookie of the year candidate Angie Wilson, who ran a fifth-best 160.336 mph; and Tina Gordon the test was interrupted for more than 44 teams when rain Friday washed-out the session.
Track officials announced Friday afternoon that the teams that were on-hand to prepare for the Feb. 12 Discount Auto Parts 200 presented by ACDelco Rapidfire would not attempt to make up the missed test opportunity Saturday because of forecasts that call for rain through Sunday in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Despite the missed opportunity for track time, Sutton was still enthused.
"All my life I've dreamed of racing at Daytona," she said. "When things were looking down, I could focus on my racing goals and it gave me the strength to try harder."
Kelly Sutton rolled into Daytona with Team COPAXONE (glatiramer acetate for injection) to participate in the test. The trip was the first step in the realization of a goal.
Weekends were made for racing in the Sutton household. The family picked up sandwiches, sodas and wrenches to spend Saturday nights on the dirt tracks around Baltimore watching as Kelly's dad, Ed Sutton, moved his way up through the local ranks. An oil pan was as familiar to Kelly as a doll stroller, but that just didn't make sense. Racing was in her blood. Kelly's grandfather, Charlie, had been a local name in racing in the 50s and 60s.
When she was 12, Kelly stepped into the driver's seat for go-kart racing. Her father became her crew chief and biggest fan. About the time Kelly should have collected her driver's license and a ticket to her own Saturday night circle track date, she found out she had multiple sclerosis.
"The diagnosis was devastating," she said. "At first, I thought everything I had hoped for had slipped away. Racing is what helped me get out of bed. My dad told me 'a Sutton doesn't quit,' and that I shouldn't let multiple sclerosis win."
The first four years after she was diagnosed were a struggle. Sutton has relapsing-remitting MS, which is characterized by attacks followed by periods of remission. In the remission periods, the person can feel symptom-free. During the relapses or attacks, a person with multiple sclerosis can develop substantial physical disability that may or may not be temporary. Numbness, blurred version, difficulty walking and pain are all common symptoms of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
"After my daughter was born in 1990, I realized I needed to take my multiple sclerosis seriously and take better care of myself," Kelly Sutton said. "I learned everything I could about the disease and I began focusing on what I wanted my life to be. And I wanted racing in my life."
Teva Marion Partners sponsor Kelly. She is a member of Team COPAXONE. Kelly is just one example of someone who is living with relapsing-remitting sclerosis and pursuing her dreams. Team COPAXONE celebrates the accomplishments of people, like Kelly, that refuse to let MS stand in the way.
"I want people to know they can still achieve their dreams, that life
doesn't end after the diagnosis," Sutton said.