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Kelly Brown was born in Hollywood, California and while he grew up in San Fernando Valley he retained his Hollywood roots by making his living in the movie and TV world as a producer, stunt driver, and technical advisor.
However, before he entered into the stunt driving world Kelly had already notched a very impressive record as a top race car shoe. Growing up one of Kelly’s best friends was Don Prudhomme’s brother, Manette Prudhomme, so he was exposed to drag racing and some of the early top competitors during his teens. One of his first efforts at drag racing was assisting Manette and Don run the Snakes Buick powered dragster at The Pond one Sunday. From that day forward Kelly was hooked.
In 1964 Brown had his first ride in the seat of Mel Cohen’s “L&M Special” injected Chevy junior fuel dragster. Not long after that followed another injected Chevy powered junior fueler owned by Vaughn Raviart. Kelly eventually moved into the driver seat of Art LeColst and Sonny Diaz’s blown Chrysler powered AA/Gas dragster.
Kelly secured his first top fuel win in 1966 in Vaughn Raviart and Art Tapper’s blown Chrysler AA/Fuel dragster at the legendary Lions Dragstrip. After his first trip to victory circle, Kelly soon became a frequent visitor at Lions driving for some of the sports legends including: Jim Bissett, Lou Baney, Leland Kolb, Barry Setzer, and Don Racherman.
In the 1971 season Kelly briefly drove Barry Setzer’s blown Chrysler powered Vega AA/Funny Car and notched a runner-up spot at the NHRA Springnationals. In 1973 he accepted the driving chores for Don Racherman’s Wonder Bread Vega wagon but in a noncompetitive car it was a less than fun season.
Making a living drag racing at the time was very difficult and while known as an outstanding driver Kelly was also involved in the film industry working in its production arena. Brown decided to spread out his career and join the Screen Actors Guild. Almost immediately he was working as a full-time stunt driver in movies, television, and advertising commercials taking a five-year vacation from racing.
In 1978 with his stunt driving career doing very well he returned to drag racing at the wheel of Jim Bissett and Mike Drake’s blown Chrysler AA/Fuel dragster. The team started this 1970 season with an off the trailer qualifying run of 5.87 seconds at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. They subsequently went on to win the event. Building on the outstanding debut the team went on to runner-up at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida and won the Cajun Nationals in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Springnationals in Clovis, Ohio, and the Molson Grant Nationals in Sanair, Québec, Canada. Kelly ended the season by winning his first NHRA Winston World Championship title. He was named “Driver the Year” and “Person of the Year” by Car Craft Magazine. He was also named Car Craft Magazines All-Star Drag Racing Team.
The following year Kelly moved to the driver seat of Bill Schultz “Over the Hill Gang” AA/Fuel dragster. Winning the Gatornationals, the Cajun Nationals, the Mile-High Nationals in Denver, Colorado, and the US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. That year Kelly claimed the number two spot in the NHRA World Championship title.
After driving Raymond Beadle’s Blue Max AA/Fuel dragster for part of the 1980 season Kelly made the difficult decision to permanently retired from racing to concentrate on his film career. Kelly built a similar reputation in the film industry as a stunt driver, producer, and technical advisor for various films including his involvement in the Shirley Muldowney movie “Heart Like A Wheel”. Kelly provided a lot of the equipment, technical advice, and driving time for the making of the movie.
Today Kelly enjoys complete retirement at his ranch in Northern California where he spends his time caring for his horses.