And like many of the current crop of riders, he’s been around motorcycles for most of his life.
“My dad was riding, had a dirt bike and my sister had a bike so I wanted to get one,” Neely said. “Dad went out and got me a little 50 so I started riding when I was 4 years old.”
Then a year later he joined his father, who raced, and got his first taste of competition.
“I kind of vaguely remember the motocross out in Fernley,” he said. “I was just a little kid that didn’t know what he was doing but it definitely was fun.”
At that time he and his sister would join their father, Pete Neely, on rides and their dad would take the whole family to the races.
“My sister Mallory was on a 60cc when I was on a 50cc as she’s older than I am,” he said. “She was a little bit faster than me in those early days and it was hard to keep up with her. We rode together and dad would take us out to race.”
Growing up Neely also played more traditional sports.
“I started baseball probably in the 5th grade just for fun but never really got into it,” he said. “Then in high school everyone played football and so did I until my sophomore year. That’s when I decided I’d stick with just racing as it was more fun.”
Eventually Neely began to race with MRANN series. Being so young he started in the Pee Wee class and he thought his first event was in the Doyle, Calif. area.
As the years passed he moved up to bigger and faster bikes. Then in 2007 things got serious.
“My and my dad planned to do the whole season,” he said. “I won the 200 championship while he got the Over 30 title so it was good for both of us. Dad raced a 250 and we all went out in our classes as it was good family fun.”
The next year, when Neely was 16-years-old, he triumphed in one of the toughest races around, the Virginia City Grand Prix. A rider there is physically challenged for four hours and mental toughness is a must, especially if a person wants to win this classic race.
“I started off in row 6 and didn’t know I was in first until the second to last lap. Then they told me I was in the lead, keep a steady pace and don’t make any mistakes,” he said. “I just battled through the pro guys, got the lead, pushed forward and that won the race so it was pretty awesome.”
He added his victory caused a huge excitement in Chester as it’s such a small town and everyone there either knew him or his family.
Branching out he also competed in the WORCS Series, as he wanted to try something new and only raced in about three MRANN events. Then in 2009 he raced both in MRANN at AMA District 36 events.
“I was trying to go with new circuits and find new series to ride so I could get more experience,” he said. “But in 2010 I wanted to do MRANN and go for the overall championship so I raced strictly with this series.”
Things didn’t start at Neely had planned and it was a long season as he and the defending points champion Irving Powers battled to see who would get the Number 1 plate for this year. They turned the 2010 season into a two-rider duel for the championship.
“In the first race I wanted to win but was a little sick with stomach problems so I got fifth while Irving Powers won that one,” he said. “Then I won the next five, blew up the motor in the Moon Rocks race so sat that one out. It was a bummer.”
After Moon Rocks, he switched to his 2008 bike for the rest of the season.
This past summer Neely joined an elite group of riders when he notched his second VCGP victory. But as usual, he had to work for it.
“At VC I think it was Irving again as we were battling back and forth the whole race,” he said. “It was different than in 2008 as all the pros started in the first three rows. Eventually I got in front of Powers on the fourth lap and when I went into the pits but I knew I was first and I won it again.
“This was equally happy for me but the first one was definitely exciting as I was younger and it was unexpected.”
The Neely-Powers show continued for the remainder of the MRANN schedule but the UTA race in early November, outside of Fallon, sealed the deal when he won that event.
It was just as well because Neely had mechanical problems at Yerington, the season ending event.
“I went to the last race of the season, started off good then the swing arm began to give out and I wrecked the bike. So I didn’t finish but still had enough points for the Number 1 plate,” he said. “That’s what I wanted the whole season and I’m glad to have the Number 1 plate and happy to run it next year.”
He also expressed thanks and appreciation to Carson Motor Sports, Reno Motor Sports, Dirt Tricks, Dicks Racing and Mountain Tile and Stone for their continued support of his racing. Then he thanks his parents Michele and Pete Neely as well as his sister Mallory.
“My sister takes me to the track and watches me practice,” he said. “I wish she’d get back into racing MRANN as that would be really cool.”
Asked about this winter, he said, “I’m doing motocross at what races are out there to stay in tune as I can’t race around here due to the snow. So I have to race down around Chico or go to Mustang for practice.”
He also intends to defend his championship with MRANN and compete in some WORCS races.
“I want to race every weekend through out the summer and get a bunch of riding time in so I can make it kind of a career. I want to keep on racing, keep on getting better and to that.”
And like any athlete he has his likes and dislikes when it comes to the sport he loves.
“The worst is probably not finishing because you’ve broken down and are sitting on the sidelines,” he said. “But the best is going out and winning a race, like at VC when you go out there for four hours then get that number one, it’s the best feeling.”
Looking further ahead, Neely explained that someday he’d like to move to Southern California due to the amount of races in that area and the many places to practice year round.
Now that he’s been officially awarded the Number 1 plate and the MRANN champion’s trophy, he’s focusing on the upcoming season that begins on February 20th.
“I want to try and defend the number 1,” he said. “Irving is probably the fastest but I know there are some other guys that are fast. I love battling with Irving and like the challenge so it will be interesting.”
OTHER RACING NEWS
•Slightly over a month from now NASCAR’s Speed weeks begins at Daytona. Both Kurt and Kyle Busch have been named for this year’s Budweiser Shootout, a 75-lap All Star event on the newly repaved Daytona International Speedway.
Drivers draw for their starting positions on February 11 and FOX will broadcast the event on Saturday, Feb. 12.
MRANN 2010 OVERALL POINTS STANDINGS AND EXPERT CLASS CHAMPIONS
BIG BIKES - 1. Ross Neely-Open, 2. Irving Powers-Open, 3. Levii Hutchings-250cc, 4. Zakk Audenried-Open, 5. Jason Alosi-Open, 6. Geoff Brownell-Over 40, 7. Larry Wright-Over 50, 8. Cliff Towsend-Over 40, 9. Seth Johnson-Open, 10. Tayler Dahilberg-200cc, 11. MarkDowers-Over 40, 12. Ben Barnes-4-Stroke, 13. Reese Barker-Open, 14. Dan Capparelli-Over 30, 15. Kyle Fenner-250cc, 16. Jason Stelzriede-Over 30, 17. Steve Tichenor-Over 30, 18. Josh Wilson-Over 30, 19. Robert Nelson-4-Stroke, 20. Steve Arcouette-Over 30
Sunday Overall Class Champions:
Experts - Ross Neely - Open, Tayler Dahlberg - 4-Stroke, Kyle Townsend - 250cc, Eric Amacker - 200cc, Jason Stelzriede - Over 30, Groff Brownell - Over 40, Brad Kohler - Over 50, Pete Prichard - Over 60, Patty Henning - Women
Saturday Overall Class Champions - KaiKapahee - 6 & Under, Jake Madson - 7 & Older, Brieanna McAuliffe - 4-Stroke, Thompson Levi - Mini Mini, Joe Haney - Mini Bikes, Taylor Kemp - V Women.