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Division 3 Super Street Racer Kelly Sperry Competes With Unique Wheels-Up Chevy II

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    With a downtrack throttle-stop setting, Kelly Sperry's 1964 Chevy II launches hard, as it did last October at the St. Louis LODRS race. / Photo by Fred Noer
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    Powering Kelly Sperry's Chevy II is a 406-inch Chevy built by her father Dick. He estimates it makes 500 horsepower. / Photo by Fred Noer
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    This is the interior of Kelly Sperry's race car with the components necessary to make consistent runs. / Photo provided by Kelly Sperry
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    Kelly Sperry

SUPER STREET - No matter how she fares at an event competing in Super Street or bracket racing, Kelly Sperry enjoys every day she spends at a dragstrip.

Much of the pleasure for Sperry, 48, of Fort Wayne, Ind., comes from driving an uncommon combination – a 1964 Chevy II powered by a 406-inch small-block Chevy. With such a set-up, she is one of the few Super Streeters who activates her throttle stop near the end of a run rather than the beginning.

That means Sperry’s car leaves like a Stocker or Super Stocker with the front wheels 18-24 inches off the track. “At first when I started driving, I was afraid of my car doing a wheelie,” she said. “Now it’s my favorite part.

“I’ve always loved doing the burnout, too,” Sperry said. “But, I like everything about driving. It’s such an adrenaline rush. It’s my drug of choice. It’s so much fun.”

Sperry has been having fun in drag racing during her lifelong involvement in the sport due, in turn, to her father Dick, 74, having been interested in it all his life. He is a resident of Markle, Ind., and races in Super Street with a 1981 Malibu. He finished No. 10 in points last season and has earned a Wally.

“I have been going to the track ever since I was a baby,” Kelly Sperry said. “When Dad had a Chevelle running IHRA Super Stock in the 1970s, I went with three jugs and filled them with water so he could run through his engine.”

Sperry Benefits From Father's Long History in the Sport

That 1969 Chevelle SS/MA carried Dick Sperry to the 1975 IHRA S/S national championship. Ten years previous he ran a 1957 Chevy nine-passenger station wagon with a fuel-injected 283-inch engine and a four-speed transmission in Junior Stock, first competing at the U.S. Nationals in 1966 and ’67.

Dick Sperry also had Stockers, including a 1957 Chevy two-door and ’65 Chevelle convertible. He concentrated on NHRA Super Stock racing in 1976 to the early 1980s with the ’69 Chevelle and a Camaro, but the costs rendered him uncompetitive and prompted him to go bracket racing.

Whenever he was at a dragstrip, most likely his daughter was, too. “Kelly was always hanging around,” he said. “She loved being at a racetrack.”

Kelly Sperry first raced in 2004, beginning with the same Chevy II she races today. “It was Dad’s car at first,” she said. “One day out of the blue he said, ‘Try this,’ and that was all she wrote. He lost the car.”

Her first passes were bracket racing at Bunker Hill (Ind.) Dragstrip. She ran in Super Pro, turning 6.70s in the eighth-mile. At the track she has won two times and earned the Super Pro Queen of the Track honor in 2011.

Does Well at Local Track to Go to Indy Bracket Finals

That same year was the only season in her career Sperry ran for track points. She finished fifth in Super Pro and qualifed for the Division 3 Bracket Championships at Indy. She lost in round two at the event.

Sperry first ran Super Street in February 2015 at a Division 2 points race at Orlando (Fla.) Speed World. “That was the very first time I made a quarter-mile pass,” she said. “It was an adrenaline rush for sure. To that point I only had done eighth-mile racing at Bunker Hill and Muncie Dragway.”

All during the 2015 season Sperry drove her father’s Malibu to become familiar with throttle-stop racing. The following year she was back in her Chevy II. She has improved each season, with her best finish in 2019 at eighth in the points.

After going out in the early rounds at Columbus, Norwalk, Indy, and Chicago, she placed in the semis at Bowling Green, quarters at the Sportsnationals, and semis at St. Louis to conclude the season. “In the last three races I had some luck, and I did a good job at the starting line and finish line,” she said. “The car is usually consistent.

“I did a better job with my concentration in the car and changing my routine,” she said. “Once my helmet is on, I don’t look around. It’s my time to focus on my reaction time. I’m not thinking about anything else.”

Sperry is an advocate of hitting a practice tree. “It does help,” she said. “I don’t use it often, not as much as I should.”

Tries A Dragster for Two Years

In 2013-14, Sperry also raced a dragster that ran eighth-mile times in the 5.30s at 132 miles per hour. “It was fun to drive because it shoots you straight out,” she said. “But, with three cars and two drivers, the maintenance cost and work got to be too much. This is an expensive hobby. I work a part-time job besides my regular job and put the savings toward racing.”

Sperry spends her money on the Chevy II that her father acquired in 1997 from a friend as a roller. The 3,030-pound car, originally a four-speed, has been raced since 1972.

The chassis by Bill Roy of Fort Wayne features a stock front end with Moroso springs and QA1 shocks. At the back are ladder bars and a Dana 60 rearend with a 4.88 Richmond gear. The axles are Moser and the coil-over shocks QA1. The 13x31-15 Hoosier slicks are mounted on Weld beadlock wheels.

Advanced Chassis set up the ladder bars and suspension. Dick Sperry has used the company for 40 years, he said.

Sperry built the engine based on his experience working for John Lingenfelter and being part of The Rod Shop team in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. “I was fortunate to be around such talented people,” he said. Sperry estimates the powerplant puts out 500 horsepower, propelling the car to a best of 10.40 at 132.

Dart, Brodix, Edelbrock Among Engine Components

Machine work was done by Bill Smith Motorsports in Yorktown, Ind., prior to Sperry building the engine. He used a Dart block, Howards crankshaft and rods, JE pistons, Brodix heads, and Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake. On it is bolted a 750-cfm Holley from Ken Jones Performance in Walnut Hill, Ill., and the electric throttle stop is from #1 Stop Products.

The valvetrain consists of a Comp cam, Manley valves, PAD springs, and Howards lifters. The rocker arms are from Harland Sharp and the pushrods from Manley.

A Mallory ignition is used, and it lights Sunoco fuel, which exits via Hooker headers. Kelly Sperry revs the engine to 4,200 RPM at the starting line and shifts at 6,800. At the stripe the RPM is 7,200.

The Powerglide, which has an ATI case, was built by Performance Engineering in Bunker Hill. The internal parts are from ATI, including a 1.98 first gear. The stall speed is 5,200. The shifter is a Hurst Quarter Stick.

Other equipment consists of a Dedenbear delay box, weather station from Davis Instruments Corp., and Portatree practice tree.

Several Persons Contribute to Keeping Sperry on Track

With a paint scheme designed by Kelly Sperry, the paint job was done three years ago by Terry Jines. James Farr, known as “Dauber,” did the lettering and painted Sperry’s helmet.

Important contributions to Sperry’s racing effort have been made by her father, Jim Mayhew and Terry Jines at Summit Chevrolet in Fort Wayne, Advanced Chassis, Ken Jones Performance, and Bill Smith Motorsports.

Sperry’s goal is to win a points race and a division title. “I would love it if Dad and I could be in a final together,” she said. “Super Street is fun, and I’m satisfied with where I’m at, drag racing with Dad.

“He has always made me work on my own car, and I can tear one apart,” Sperry said. “I know how to do it all. There are no free rides. We go to the races together, but we haul our cars on our own.”

When she is not racing, Sperry spends time with her son and granddaughter. She works as a benefits and payroll specialist at Steel Dynamics in Columbia City, Ind.