In 1978, ten years after beginning his racing career, Curt co-won the Little 500 in Anderson, Indiana with Don Mack. Curt also won the 100-mile Championship race at the Minnesota State Fair two years in a row. Along with those races, Curt also won several races against Super Modifieds in Larry Bible’s upright Sprint Car. Curt, along with George McCord, designed and built the first coil-over ¾-tube dirt Sprint Car. Unfortunately, Curt never won any championships.
Curt’s racing career ended tragically while he was doing what he loved to do. He had taken the Braithwaite sprinter to Indiana to run in the EMGE 50 at Anderson Speedway, in order to prepare for the Little 500 the following weekend. As he was preparing for his heat race, Curt collapsed. He had suffered a heart attack that put him in a coma for 11 days. Curt passed away on May 29, 1996.
After his death, the Curt Kelley Memorial Award was created in his honor. The award is given to the driver that shows the same dedication, perseverance, and tolerance throughout the racing season that Curt showed all throughout his career.