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DI 30 Under 30 2022: Kelly Kundratic

Roger Hayes photo

By her own admission, Kelly Kundratic has been afforded wonderful opportunities in the sport of drag racing. The optimistic 29-year-old Northeasterner admits that the journey hasn’t been easy, though, particularly as she has also aspired to grow a meaningful off-track career, volunteer within her community, and manage independent home ownership.

“I’m truly grateful for everything that has helped me get to where I am,” says Kundratic, who started in the Jr. Dragster ranks and later claimed the High School championship at her home track before moving into a richly educational stint in bracket racing. Kundratic now stretches across all of the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series categories as she competes in her Super Street Monte Carlo (a 10.90 car) at NHRA national and divisional events, and wheels Marina Anderson Garlick’s 5-second Top Alcohol Dragster at speeds in excess of 250 mph.

In pursuit of her drag racing dream, Kundratic initially came on board as part of the crew on the A/Fuel rail, and she learned everything she possibly could about the car under Garlick’s direction. Eventually, she earned seat-time and reached the incredible goal of licensing in Top Alcohol Dragster.

Kundratic was thrilled to make her debut in the competitive category this year at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk. She ran a career-best number in the final qualifying session to earn a spot in the field in her very first attempt.

The second-generation racer recognized what it took to get to this part of her story.

“I’ve had my share of setbacks, incidents, accidents, and failures,” shares Kundratic. “I’ve pushed myself to ‘do a lot with a little,’ as a person of modest means and a full plate, and I’ve relied on my work ethic, integrity, and ability to develop authentic relationships to get me to where I am today. I know those are the same things that will get to me to where I want to go next.”

Kundratic would like to continue racing the alcohol dragster and also her Monte Carlo, and one of the challenges she faces is that she values her career as much as she values her future in drag racing. The level of passion and effort for both never dwindle.

Outside of racing, Kundratic is the Director of Agriculture Policy for Team Pennsylvania, a nonprofit with the mission of accelerating Pennsylvania’s economy through public-private partnership. Her position is that of relationship-builder between the highest levels of state government and the industry.

Kundratic has done an excellent job of balancing racing with a career that has nothing to do with such things, and she said that the route to building a fulfilling life has already been incredibly rewarding. Kundratic’s future goals are to continue competing in Top Alcohol Dragster alongside her partner, John Ausherman, who also licensed in the class this year. Her passionately full plate now includes seeking genuine and substantial partnerships to build upon their joint goals in racing.

“I will always be proud of the times I’ve been tested yet stuck to my values, been true to myself, and represented my family and those associated with me to the best of my ability,” says Kundratic. “To be recognized in a community as talented and large as what we have with drag racing is a true honor. There are many people I can think of that are deserving of the recognition, [so] it’s very humbling to know that others recognize that same level of hustle and fire in me.”

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