Waiting on the grid for the start, Kemp peers at photographer Crocker from the cockpit of his Corvette.
Photo: Hal Crocker
Charlie Kemp was born in Mississippi, and his inimitable southern drawl once led Carroll Shelby to say that had Charlie raced as slowly as he talked he’d never have won anything! Charlie did win, however, and he won big. He finished 3rd in his very first race in a jalopy in 1953 at age 16, and won state championships drag racing in his supercharged 1955 Thunderbird. From there, among other events, he won 17 straight races in the winningest Shelby GT350 ever. From there he raced the ex-Penske Porsche 917/10 turbo with Bobby Rinzler Racing, winning the 1973 Mosport Can-Am race. Kemp has not given up racing and is in the process of recreating the Shelby GT350 R he raced with such success in the 1960s. VR contributing author John R. Wright caught up to the peripatetic Kemp at last summer’s Road America vintage weekend, where they found the track’s medical center the quietest place to chat.
Charlie, your accent leads me to ask, where were you born and raised?
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