J. Michael Kelly will once again pilot the U-8 for the Strong Racing team in 2023, paired with his long-time best friend Corey Peabody, who will drive the U-9. Kelly holds 23 World Records in various classes, has won 13 National Championships, is an 8-time APBA Hall of Champions inductee, a 15-time H1 Unlimited race winner, and APBA Gold Cup winner.
He is known as one of the most consistent starters on the circuit, an advantage for the team. Many have compared his starts to the late-great driver, Bill Muncey.
Kelly scored his first H1 Unlimited hydroplane win at the 2009 inaugural U.I.M. World Championship Oryx Cup in Doha, Qatar. With two race wins in 2021 (Guntersville and San Diego), Kelly picked up his first Driver’s High Points Championship. Kelly’s goal is to repeat that feat, as well as winning the U-1 hull number, something he has not yet been able to accomplish.
His 20-year career makes him one of the most seasoned drivers on the circuit.
Kelly’s hydroplane for 2023 is the former Ellstrom U-16/96 hull that was new in 2014. The hull was purchased by Darell and Vanessa Strong in the 2020 off-season. Paired with the U-9 Jones Racing hull, the Strong Racing team is poised to add to the win total in what will be a very hotly contested 2023 season.
When not racing, or watching his children race, Kelly is a lead carpenter in the Pacific Northwest. A graduate of Kent Meridian High School in Kent, WA, Kelly lives in Bonney Lake, WA, with his wife Angela and sons Brennen, Carson, and Asher.
- Began racing outboard hydroplanes at 9 years of age
- Grade school classmate of teammate Corey Peabody, driver of the U-9
- 2004 H1 Unlimited Rookie of the Year
- First win was 2009 at the UIM World Championship in Doha, Qatar
- Won his first H1 National High Points Driver Championship in 2021
- Has 15 career wins, including the 2016 Gold Cup. Kelly’s 15 wins put him 14th on the all-time win list, 1 behind legendary Chuck Thompson
- Inducted into the APBA Hall of Champions in 2021 for the 8th time in his career. It was his first such induction for the Unlimited Class