Kelly Bires is a 25 year old race car driver from Mauston, Wisconsin. Kelly started racing Karts at age 9, and ended up winning 2 national championships while still in his teens. Bires started his first ARCA series race in May, 2004.
Since that time, Kelly has run in the Camping World Truck Series in 2006 and 2007, scoring a top 10 finish in '07. He's run a total of 66 Nationwide Series races since 2007, showing an impressive tally of 3 top 5's and 11 top 10's during that time. Most of Kelly's Nationwide races have been run in the 47 car of JTG-Daugherty, or the team's previous incarnation, owner Tad Geschickter.
Kelly Bires has also run some races for Todd Braun, MSRP Motorsports, Kevin Harvick, and most recently at Atlanta, Brian Mullet.
In other words, Kelly Bires is not exactly an unknown. Kelly Bires has a bona fide racing pedigree.
Regardless of Kelly's past successes, the news out of Mooresville this past week must have indeed been some of the most exciting news he's ever received in his young career: A 2 year deal with JR Motorsports, with owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr., himself a young driver not so many years ago, has a history of aiding and benefiting young, promising drivers. I suppose it really started years ago with a deal worked out between Junior and his step-mom Teresa Earnhardt, when they formed the short lived Chance 2 Motorsports, giving a young driver named Martin Truex Jr. a leg up in the sport. Martin went on to win Nationwide championships, and currently is a winning driver in the Cup series. Truex will be driving Toyotas for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2010.
Dale Jr. went on to form his own company, JR Motorsports, which a few years ago took a relatively little known driver named Brad Keselowski, and put him in a car with sponsorship, good equipment, and a great crew chief, namely Jr.'s original crew chief, cousin Tony Eury Sr. Brad went on to win in the Nationwide series, and even won his first Cup race at Talladega this year, though only running a part time schedule. Though Brad Keselowski wasn't driving for Dale Jr. at Talladega, one has to think that the skills he polished while driving the 88 JRM car led ultimately to his first win in the big show.
Next year, Brad Keselowski will be leaving JRM and driving for Roger Penske full time in the Cup series, as well as at least a partial schedule in the Nationwide series. Brad has become yet the latest graduate of the Dale Jr. development school for promising young drivers.
JR Motorsports, backed by Hendrick equipment and engineering, is a great place for an aspiring Cup driver to find himself early in his career. For Kelly Bires, this is a chance of a lifetime.
Virtually all successful Cup drivers find ways to give back to the sport which has been so good to them. Most have their own charities, all worthy causes. Many have foundations which help feed children, take care of injured pets and other animals, and provide for victims of disasters. All are very worthy and noble causes.
Other drivers, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick, participate in all the other charities and events, but they take it one step farther, by helping young drivers get into the sport they love. For Kevin and Dale Jr., their race teams are indeed business ventures, and one day both drivers will probably slip on the reigns of ownership in its entirety when they finally hang up their helmets for the last time.
Finding and cultivating young drivers who might not ordinarily have the path opened to them is a great service not only to the young drivers involved, but to the sport itself. Kelly Bires will certainly try to make the most of this opportunity, and given his level of talent, is almost assured of much success during his tenure at JR Motorsports.
Kelly Bires, your ship has come in. All aboard!