Kelby Norwood: Making a Path to Success

Kelby Norwood: Making a Path to Success

Dirt late model driver Kelby Norwood doesn’t let anything get in his way of enjoying his favorite pastime of racing. Whether it’s finances, running a 604 crate engine in a limited late model class, or his recent diagnosis of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, he doesn’t shy away from the challenge. Instead of focusing on the obstacle, Norwood finds the path to not only participate, but also to success.

Last season, Norwood ran a 604 late model in the limited late model class. He mostly raced at Mountain View Raceway in Spring City, Tennessee.

“It’s not easy,” said Norwood of running a 604 crate engine against built ones. “You got it give it your all, all the time, to even think about being competitive. It’s about 200, 250 horsepower [difference between the 604 and limited late model engines].”

While Norwood won a limited late model race last year, he defines “wins” a bit differently due to what he runs.

“Even if you didn’t win, if you’re in the top three, that’s a win,” Norwood, 17, of Athens, Tennessee, said.

Sure, Norwood could drop down into the 604 late model class, but he prefers to race with the limiteds.

“It pays better in the limiteds, so we run limited,” said Norwood. “Even if we didn’t run well, it pays better to start, so it doesn’t bother me a whole lot. If I have more money to have a chance to run next week, that’s what I’ll do.”

Life’s a series of choices. For example, Norwood elected to graduate early from high school so he could pursue technical school to become a machinist.

“My papaw was a machinist for 40 years,” Norwood said. “I’d like to be able to make my own race car parts. Hopefully, I’ll end up in a pretty good paying job so I can go racing forever.”

With a limited budget, Norwood knows the value of doing things on your own — and for others.

“I’ve not made a lot of parts, but I’ve made some bushings, a shock mount, some simple stuff,” said Norwood. “I do [make my own bodies] — I don’t find it hard, just time-consuming. I groove tires — that helps make some money to go racing.”

Before Thanksgiving, Norwood received another challenge. Doctors diagnosed him with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, the same affliction that affects his father, Shannon. (For more on Shannon, read “Shannon Norwood: Racing’s Renaissance Man”.)

CMT typically manifests itself with a characteristic foot drop and can progress into peripheral muscle wasting of the lower legs and arms. The prognosis of the disease greatly varies, with some remaining virtually asymptomatic.

“I figured for a few years now I had it, with the arch [of my foot],” Norwood said. “I don’t think it has [affected my racing] yet, and I hope it doesn’t ever. Eventually, it will break down the nerves in your muscles so you won’t be as strong, but not right now. I don’t plan on letting it affect me — I’m going to keep going for as long as I can.”

Kelby Norwood certainly isn’t slowing down. Expect to find him racing in the limiteds again, but with an actual limited late model engine. He looks to move from racing weekly at Mountain View Raceway to following the Topless Outlaw Dirt Racing Series. Likewise, expect Kelby Norwood to encounter success, despite whatever circumstances come his way. He always seems to find a way.