Kelby Norwood: Saved the Checks, but the Car is Toast

Kelby Norwood: Saved the Checks, but the Car is Toast

Last Friday, Kelby Norwood was on a mission to deliver the winners’ checks to I-75 Raceway outside of Sweetwater, Tennessee. Unfortunately, his 1992 Acura caught on fire while en route. However, he did save the checks.

“The fire was minor when it started,” Norwood, 18, of Athens, Tennessee, said. “It took a minute or two to get going big.”

Norwood popped the hood to take a look. The flames that erupted from the engine burned the hair off his arms in a split second. Norwood retreated.

“The checks were the only thing of value in the car,” said Norwood. “They were of value to me, and of more value to the drivers who would win them. The best part of winning a race is money. When the winner gets a giant check, it is used in victory lane photos and then hangs on the wall of the driver’s garage or home. I realize how important the checks are to the drivers.”

Norwood understands that because he races, too, in the limited late models. Fullmoon Graphics, owned by Norwood’s father, Shannon, created the checks. The delivery included those not only for I-75 Raceway, but also the checks for the Topless Outlaws that had a race on Monday, July 3, at Tennessee’s Wartburg Speedway.

“What happened wasn’t a happy moment right now, but as years go by, the photo of the checks in the grass on the roadside will be a memory of the day Kelby saved the checks and not his car — it demonstrates how much he loves racing,” Shannon said. “He was just driving up the interstate and heard a pop. We think it was the injector seal that broke and began blowing fuel, which caught fire.”

Shannon said his son works hard to race.

“Kelby is in a technical college,” said Shannon. “He makes his extra money grooving tires and making [body] panels for race cars. He used his little bit of spare money to keep that Acura running. When you are poor, you got to be hustling, making your money $25 at a time, and that is what he does.”

(For more on how Kelby funds his racing, read “Kelby Norwood: Making a Path to Success”.)

As word spread about the fire, friends reached out to Kelby. The winner of the Topless Outlaws race, Jordan Rodabaugh, gave the winners’ check back to Kelby.

“I figured close friends would want to help me, but I never thought so many people would come forward offering help and support,” Kelby said. “People were donating to help me buy a replacement car.”

At Wartburg Speedway, Kelby also raced in the Topless Outlaws event, despite all the commotion from the fire.

“We weren’t that great — we had a 20th-place car,” said Kelby. “But, racing was still better than watching a car burn up.”

Outside Groove Note of Transparency: Corrected the year of the car that caught on fire (2023-07-07).