I bought a Dalton Kellett shirt at the Honda Indy Toronto this year. It was quality merchandise at a reasonable price. I couldn’t resist the patriotic imagery of the Toronto skyline and Canadian maple leaf, plus Dalton’s green and white No. 4 car. I’ve never been a fan, but I liked Dalton Kellett. Partly because Kellett raced at Goodwood Kartways (our ‘home’ kart racing track) before he made the jump to racing cars back in 2011. But since reaching IndyCar, Kellett’s results have been underwhelming, which didn’t earn him a lot of fans.

Doesn’t mean he was a bad driver. He’s the same racer that took three wins in the 2019 IMSA series behind the wheel of the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports LMP2 car just before his IndyCar debut. He certainly has talent. But now that Kellett’s tenure in IndyCar has ended, I asked myself why he never got much love from race fans?

So Kellett wasn’t a race winner. Who cares? There a plenty of mid-field drivers with legions of fans back in their native land. Danish F1 driver Kevin Magnussen is a national hero back in the old country. Every TV station in Denmark interrupted regularly scheduled programming to announce Magnussen’s pole at the Brazilian GP this year (even if it was a fluke). Nobody cares that K-Mag’s career went on a downward trajectory since his debut podium with McLaren in 2014. In Denmark he is racing royalty, just like his dad Jan (who famously flunked out of Formula 1). Race fans in Denmark love these guys!

Maybe it’s that old Canadians characteristic, the inferiority complex. As a kid growing up in Toronto, my friends and I believed the Buffalo radio stations were cooler and played better music. If it was American, it was definitely better. I halfway believe thank Canadians cheered against Canadian drivers like Nicky Latifi specifically because they are Canadians. They’re not special. They’re just like the rest of us hosers.

Take one look at the great Canadian racer James Hinchcliffe, and you’ll see that theory is BS. Kart racers across Ontario with open wheel dreams of their own would line up to meet Hinchcliffe and ask a question to The Mayor of Hinchtown whenever he made a local appearance.

It’s not his nationality. It’s not the race results, The ugly reality is race fans saw Dalton as a pay-driver who only had his seat because he bought it, not based on merit. The truth is that almost everyone in racing buys their ride. You pay to play, and if you don’t have the cash or the sponsorship, you’re on the sidelines.

So, when I saw a recent RACER article on Dalton Kellett, I was sure it was going to be a hatchet-job. That columnist Marshall Pruett would call Dalton Kellett the worst names in the book; field-filler, pay-driver, ride-buyer. Or maybe he’d be compared to his compatriot, Toronto’s great IndyCar back-marker… Marty Roth!

The title of the article A Salute to Dalton Kellett is meant both as a good-bye, and a sign of respect. Pruett speculates that Kellett is the target of unfair criticism. Yes, Kellett paid for the privilege to compete in IndyCar because he didn’t need to earn a paycheck driving a race car since he was born into a wealthy family. But, Dalton punched above his weight while climbing the open-wheel racing ladder, and had the determination to make it to the top-tier series in American open-wheel racing.

No matter what anyone says, Dalton Kellett got to race in the Indianapolis 500. He achieved his maximum potential of becoming a full-time IndyCar driver for a historic team like AJ Foyt, and that is something he can be proud of… and maybe that’s what we’re all a little jealous of.

~by Chris #16 Demaras ~

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2 thoughts on “Dalton: Living the Dream

  1. Fans can be unforgiving, the best example I have is Rubens Barrichello, the guy had a pretty good career, he was a consistent driver for so many years and for goodness sake, he drove for Ferrari from 2000 until 2005. But fans will always make fun of him because he never won a world championship and believe me, Brazilian fans have a mean sense of humor.

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