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Posted: Friday, August 8th 2014 at 12:00pm

World Crown 300 Rewind: Kelley is King of the Crown

By Brandon Reed Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Paul Kelley, seen here in victory lane in 2007, is the only four time winner of the World Crown. No other driver has won more than two of the Georgia short track classics. / Photo: Brandon Reed
JEFFERSON, GA - What do you call the person who has won a legendary event more than two times over anyone else?

In the case of the World Crown 300, you call him "King of the World Crown."

That's the nickname hung on Pendergrass, Georgia's Paul Kelley. Kelley has beaten the best of the best in short track racing at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, GA four times.

Nobody else has won the famed "King of the Short Tracks" event more than twice.

Kelley is also the only driver thus far to have won the famed event on both the old Peach State Speedway layout and the newly refurbished Gresham layout.

His first victory came on Oct. 23, 2001, when he was 19 years of age.

The field was led to the green flag by Rodney Landrum. Landrum would dominate the opening 54 laps of the event until Stephen Leicht took the top spot.

But Kelley had been stalking the leaders. With 80 laps to go, Kelley swept past Leicht, and then worked to hold on to the top spot. As the laps wound down, Commerce, GA's Lee Langford charged for the front, passing Leicht with five laps to go. But a late caution would spoil Langford's charge, and Kelley would go on to record his first World Crown win.

Kelley would wear the crown again on Oct. 22, 2006. He established himself as a contender early on, taking the lead 15 laps in by passing early leader Bubba Pollard, and going on to lead most of the first half of the event.

Matt Hawkins would take the top spot from Kelley not long before the halfway point, with Kelley fading to the fourth spot as the race approached the halfway break.

Korey Ruble would move past former World Crown champion Fredrick Moore to take the lead soon after the restart. But a restart with 45 laps to go opened the door for Kelley to retake the lead, and he would hold the point to the lead, beating out Ruble for the victory.

It didn't take long for Kelley to score his third World Crown victory, as he picked up the win one year later on Oct. 22, 2007.

Richard Petty once said only the last lap of a race counted. The other 499, he said, was all for practice.

Kelley showed the true meaning of that sentiment in 2007's edition of the World Crown.

Kelley played out a risky tire strategy to get himself into position to challenge leader Matt Hawkins late in the going. Hawkins had dominated the event, and appeared to be on his way to victory lane.

Kelley would make the pass on Hawkins with just two laps left to go, and would lead his only two laps of the day to score his third World Crown victory.

“It’s awesome,” Kelley said in victory lane. “We had a really good car, good crew, good tire guy. The crew chief and everybody worked together. Thank the Lord.

“We had so many problems just trying to get here. Motor problems, rear end problems, you name it, we had problems. But we got it all shaken out, got here this weekend, and everything just fell right into place.”

Maybe the most improbable of Kelley's four victories is the most recent, coming at the Nov. 15, 2009 running of the event.

Second generation racer Chase Elliott started from the pole, with Jeff Choquette on the outside. Choquette would take the early lead, with Elliott and Ryan Sieg giving chase.

After a competition caution, Maine's Cassius Clark took the top spot, with Choquette racing in his tire tracks. Choquette would take the top spot again, and hold it until the lap 200 break.

On lap 223, Bubba Pollard took a wild ride on his top down into the first turn. He escaped injury, but the field saw another favorite fall by the wayside.

As the laps wound down, Kelley had moved into the top three, chasing leader Choquette and second place Max Gresham to the checkered flag.

But when Choquette and Gresham failed post-race tech, Kelley was awarded the win, making him the first four time winner of the event and solidifying his status as "King of the World Crown."

“It’s almost unreal to be a four-time champion of the World Crown 300,” Kelley said. “Just winning this race once would be saying a lot. To be on the same list as guys like Darrell Waltrip, Dick Trickle and a lot of other great racers is really special. To be a four-time winner is beyond belief.”

While Kelley will not be in this year's field, two previous winners, defending champ Preston Peltier and 2008 winner Russell Fleeman, will be looking to move into the two-time winners bracket and move one step closer to Kelley's mark. On the other hand, a strong field of contenders will be looking to score their first crown, and perhaps take their first steps towards challenging the "King of the World Crown."

For more information on the 31st annual World Crown 300, visit Gresham Motorsports Park’s website at www.racegmp.com.

Link: Gresham Motorsports Park
Link: Southern Super Series
Associated Categories: Sports News, Professional Sports, NASCAR

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