Honda Indy Toronto marks next step in Dalton Kellett's unorthodox racing ascension

Dalton Kellett, of Canada, waits to drive during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Darron Cummings/AP)

The path to the NTT IndyCar series was more unusual than most when it comes to Canada’s Dalton Kellett.

That’s because Kellett, while building his name as a driver, was also building his path as an engineer, getting his degree in engineering physics from Queen's University in 2015.

“When I started, it was a lot of missing class for karting races, and then moving up to Queen’s it was academically pretty serious and the level I was racing at required me to take a good amount of time away from class,” said Kellett.

“Whether it was handing in homework early or writing an exam early under embargo, the school was great in terms of helping me… it was tough but it was definitely well worth it.”

The worlds of engineering and racing collide more often than not, and for Kellett, the ways that his degree is used every day on the track or in the garage are evident.

Racing at unseen speeds while carefully maneuvering a track isn’t just an effort from the driver, but the entire crew behind each car.

“There’s so much synergy between the racing between the IndyCar and the technical aspect of being an engineer, these cars are aerodynamic machines and probably have more in common with a high performance aircraft than a road car,” said Kellett.

“That side of it I already get to see the two combined, it’s really fun, and maybe there’s some other future in racing down the road when I stop driving but I certainly haven’t gotten there yet.”

2015, the year of his graduation, was also the year Kellett drove for Andretti Autosport in the Pro Mazda Championship, after becoming the first driver to race in all three Road to Indy divisions during the same season.

Racing in six different series with 20 podiums, and after racing for Andretti in Indy Lights, A.J. Foyt Racing added Kellett to the team at the top level of NTT IndyCar, mostly on road and street courses.

After impressing the team in all that he could do, Kellett moved to a full-time role for 2021 and was extended through 2022 and partnered with 2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood.

As one of two Canadian drivers on the grid, Kellett knows that not only is he representing his team in hopes to do well, but others up north.

“I am just honoured to be a Canadian racing here in front of the hometown crowd and be part of that legacy of Canadian drivers who have driven at Exhibition Place, it’s a long list and it’s great to be continuing this legacy,” said Kellett.

With his season-high 17th-place finish at the Grand Prix of Texas, Kellett has shown potential to continue to grow with the team, knowing that his hard work is what will push better results.

Balancing academics while being a full time driving looking to move into one of the top levels of racing was not always easy for Kellett, but the balance and teamwork that he uses as a driver helped him accomplish one of his goals that he can continue to use in his career.

“It’s really meaningful and special to have that reputation, and it doesn’t just have to be in racing, if there’s a message in what I’ve done in saying you can successfully be a serious athlete and pursue academics, that’s when we do school visits with students, I try to promote that if you put your mind to it, make some sacrifices and work hard you can do it,” said Kellett.

In both the STEM and sports fields, Kellett hopes to show more diversity and education to each sector he competes in, using his platform and education to teach others by visiting schools and personally has his background to better himself and his team.

Tatiana Calderon, following in the footsteps of Kellett as his time, is also a rookie in the NTT IndyCar Series driving for A.J. Foyt Racing on the road/street circuit events, but being one of the only women on the grid shows a path for more diversity in the sport.

“There’s kind of something for everybody, the competition is very strong, there’s really interesting personalities in racing, you have some people like me who are a bit more technical minded,” said Kellett.

“Somewhere we’re we’ve historically been underperforming and could do a better job of being more inclusive and diverse is trying to help inspire and empower more women to get involved - we’ll occasionally see women get involved from a competitive standpoint but we’d like to see more of that - it’s a more diverse series than it was 20 years ago but there’s still a lot more to do.”

Now lining up for the Honda Indy Toronto, Kellett is in his third season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition, but will race at home under the A.J. Foyt team for the first time.

Being able to make an impact on young Canadians both on and off the track is a passion for Kellett, which is why showing athletes that they don’t have to sacrifice their education to still produce at a high level in sport is what drives him to keep growing.

“What I’d like to see for another season for myself is to continue to work on my craft, do as well as I can and just keep learning and keep getting better,” said Kellett.

“I’ve always said it’s more important to focus on the process of what you’re doing than just zeroing in on the results.”

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