From that moment on, Steve wanted to race off-road, and race he did. His first car was a FUNCO 2-seater that he raced in the 1972 Mint 400. He went on to compete in nearly every class, winning multiple championships and representing some of the top teams and manufacturers in the sport over a career spanning four decades.
1979 would be Steve’s first Championship in class 1 unlimited and then worked his way from the buggies to mini trucks. From 1981-1983, he moved to the top tier group, class 8 with Tommy Morris and then Michael Nesmith in their GMC trucks, scoring a Championship in class 8 in 1982.
As Larry Minor was looking for a driver to take over for himself and Parnelli Jones after the 1984 season, Kelley got their attention with his strong runs and finishes in the privateer Time rider class 8. With input from truck builder Jon Nelson, Steve was hired at the end of the 1984 season, and he would take the class by storm, winning the very first race he entered at the season finale HDRA Frontier 250.
Steve would continue his winning ways at the first race of the 1985 season, the Parker 400. Steve’s inaugural season with Larry Minor would not only crown him the class 8 champion, but also earn him the highly coveted Heavy Metal Championship. Steve would continue to win races in class 8 until the end of the 1987 season.
Driving a class 4 Dodge, Steve was the first winner of The Borg-Warner Automotive Manufacturers Challenge Race in 1995 at The World Off Road Championships in Crandon, Wisconsin for Class 4 and Class 8 trucks. He also raced for Factory Jeep and Dodge Trucks in the mid-west Short Course races driving for Mike Leslie Racing and Walker Evans Racing for 8 years.
Steve drove in Australia in the Kempsey 1000 km race 3 times, sponsored by BF Goodrich, once in the Parnelli Jones Blazer and 2 times in a Two-Seater, winning once and finishing all of the races on the Podium. This brought recognition to the sport of Off-Road Racing and the American teams to Australia.
ORMHOF inductee Sal Fish credits Steve Kelley with being one of the racers who helped establish the rules during the early days of SCORE. “Steve is one of a handful of people who believed in what we were trying to do and was always ready to help in any way he could.”
In 1992, Steve and a friend in the wheel industry, Jim Smith of Ultra Wheel, started an Auxiliary Organization called Wheel Friends of Childhelp. Childhelp, USA is a National Nonprofit organization created for the prevention and treatment of child abuse. They went to their competitors and friends and asked them to get involved and give back to the children.
Steve along with Jim were co-founders and Chairmen. They held Gala’s and Golf Tournaments over a 13-year time span and raised over $3.5 million dollars for Childhelp, USA. The charity honored many business people in the aftermarket Industry, including Parnelli Jones and Carroll Shelby, who were their first two recipients. Steve was honored as Man of The Year in 1999. When the Industry hit a tough time in the mid 2000’s he went to his good friend Kris Kersting, President of SEMA and they agreed for SEMA to take over and raise money for Childhelp. Steve stayed involved for 5 years and also got SEMA involved with Kyle Petty for his charity, the Victory Junction Gang. SEMA is still supporting both Charities to this day.
In addition, to his passion for helping kids Steve has generously donated time and money to these causes. He is always available for anyone who requires his assistance, moral support, or love.