Deana Kelley: Solo to Road Racing

A regular in C Street autocross competition, she had her first taste of Spec Miata at Sonoma Raceway in June

Deana Kelley had done some kart racing when she was younger, but since college, her means of playing with cars and pushing them to their limits has been autocross. Lately, Kelley has been co-driving with Dave Ogburn III in a C Street 2016 Miata and doing well, competing in the Open class. But the desire to go wheel-to-wheel racing still burned.

“It’s been a couple of years of, ‘Man, I would love to go Spec Miata racing,’ and I think if you had asked me this time last year if I would be doing this this year, I would’ve laughed at you,” she says. “But working with Mazda in the Solo program has led to some other connections to where I was able to actually make something happen.”

To that end, Kelley raced with TFB during the SCCA U.S. Majors Tour race on June 29-July 1 at Sonoma Raceway. She jumped into the deep end, however, as being the only SCCA event at the Runoffs home track, the fields were large and fast.

“It went a lot smoother than I was expecting the weekend to go,” she says. “One of my friends works over at SimRaceway [a driving school located at Sonoma Raceway], so he sent me a couple of videos. He said to watch those and he talked me through a couple of corners. I have watched a lot of videos, played Forza, made some notes for myself. 

“I really tried to do my homework before coming into the weekend, that way I am not overwhelmed with trying to learn the track. This track still takes a lot of cojones in some spots where I am just easing into it probably a little too much and not quite getting the speed I need to.”

Kelley says she doesn’t have the budget to do more, at least not with hitting 11 autocross weekends this year, so the Solo stuff will remain her focus for the time being, although she’d love to go back to Sonoma for the Runoffs to crew. In the meantime, she can ponder the difference between the two motorsports disciplines.

“A lot of it is the speed at which things happen,” she explains. “Obviously the mile per hour is greater out here, but your inputs seem slower. Same with [getting] on and off the brakes…all the inputs seem a little bit slowed down compared to autocross, which is frantic, almost. And looking ahead is super critical in both.”

Kelley’s national championship this year will be in Lincoln, Neb., for the SCCA Solo National Championships rather than Sonoma, Calif., and the Runoffs, but it seems like she’ll be back in a race car sooner rather than later.