Kelley Murphy is the prime example of the generational nature of drag racing. Murphy’s father, Tim, raced with veterans Mark Ingersoll and Steve Schmidt in the 1990s, so the younger Murphy has been around Pro Stock for most of his life. Today, he drives the hauler for the JEGS-branded Chevrolet Camaro wheeled by Troy Coughlin Jr. and handles the back-half and transmissions for what the Elite Motorsports team affectionately refers to as “the yellow car.”
Murphy works alongside Elite Motorsports crew chief Ingersoll, who also grew up in the sport. World champion driver and innovator Buddy Ingersoll was his father.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #179, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2022.]
“Mark is one-of-a-kind,” says Murphy. “His passion level matches mine, and I’ll be honest – sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s a bad thing. Every once in a while, there’s some head-butting because we’re around each other all the time. But most of the time, I shut up and listen so I can learn something. He worked with my dad, so it’s cooler than cool how everything has come full-circle. Mark is the man.”
Murphy certainly wasn’t handed his position because of who he knew. He attended tech school at UNOH, and the school sponsored the Dodge entries driven by Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders in 2016.
“[The team] was looking for help, and I kept pushing and pushing,” says Murphy. “So they brought me out at Indy in 2016, and I ran the last five or six races with them. I got to do some part-time stuff with Alex Laughlin in 2017, then in 2018 I moved over to the JEGS car. The rest is history.”
So far, one of his most treasured moments has been winning with Troy Coughlin Jr. The team claimed their first and second wins in 2022.
“We really struggled for about the first year and a half with this car, but we finally broke through in Seattle, and it was unbelievable,” Murphy says. “We’d been trying for so long, and it finally happened. We were happy, for sure.”
As one would expect, Murphy is also a racer.
“I race my dad’s car when we have time – which isn’t very often, but when we can do it, it’s great,” he says, referencing the ’69 Shelby clone that’s outfitted with a small-block Ford and 5-speed Lenco transmission, similar to a nostalgia Pro Stocker.
“I’d like to drive Pro Stock at some point, for sure. Even if it’s just a one-and-done deal, that would be good enough. But long term, if Mark will teach me something, I’d like to eventually be a crew chief. We’ll see, but I’m in it for the long haul.”