You have to look no further than Kelly Sutherland’s nickname to understand the impact he had on his chosen sport of chuckwagon racing. Known as “The King,” Kelly was racing at the age of 14, driving by the age of 16, and winning before he turned 23. With a career that spanned five decades, Kelly remains one of the most important influences in the sport’s history. He won an astounding 12 world championships over his career - his first in 1974 and his final one in 2011 at the age of 60.
Kelly is perhaps best known for his success at the Calgary Stampede. Over the course of his career, he won 12 Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Championships, and seven Calgary Stampede Aggregate titles.
He also won nine Ponoka Stampede titles and one in his hometown of Grande Prairie.
In 2010, Kelly was the first torchbearer of day eight of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games torch relay and in 2011 he shared the sport with Prince William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, during their visit to the Calgary Stampede.
Kelly retired from racing in 2017. In his 48 seasons behind the reins, he placed in the top 10 overall 41 times. Kelly took the sport to a new level of professionalism and his accomplishments on and off the track helped raise the bar for his fellow drivers. He was also instrumental in building the sport into a family-friendly spectacle, while also increasing the level of safety for horses and competitors.
As Rangeland Derby Track Announcer Les McIntyre says, “hockey had Gretzky, boxing had Ali, country music has George Strait, and we have Kelly Sutherland.”