Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Doug Kenimer of Dahlonega, Georgia, passed away on Monday, January 2.
Kenimer was revered for his driving abilities on both dirt and asphalt, competing and beating fellow Hall of Famers Buck Simmons and Bud Lunsford, among others.
Born July 4, 1945 to Buster and Doris Bray Kenimer, Doug Kenimer’s love of speed and competition began at the age of 14.
“(I) just went to a few races and just got hooked on it,” Kenimer said in his 2012 inductee interview for the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. “Went to the car sale and bought my first car for $50. (It was) a ‘48 Ford coupe. The rest is history.”
And what history he wrote. Kenimer competed and won in Coupes, Super Modifieds and Late Models all over the country, including Cumming Speedway, Athens Speedway, Toccoa Speedway, Rome Speedway, Lanier Raceway and Lavonia Speedway all in his home state of Georgia.
He also competed and won at Tennessee’s Atomic Speedway and Bulls Gap Speedway, Anderson Motor Speedway in South Carolina, among many others around the country.
But Kenimer said the biggest win of his career came in 1977, when he scored the victory in the World 100 at Rossburg, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway. He took the prestigious dirt Late Model win, and the $10,000 payday that went with it, in what many considered an underpowered car.
“I was going up the road on the ramp truck, and people hollered on me on the C.B. ‘Where you going’?” he said in 2012. “I said ‘I’m going up to Eldora to run the World 100.’ They asked ‘How much motor have you got?” I said ‘355 cubic inches.’ And they said ‘Just get off at the next exit and go on home.’
“Luckily, I fooled them. When the track got dry, big motor didn’t make no difference.”
Barnstorming around the southeast and competing three and four times a week at various tracks didn’t just mean a lot of travelling. It also meant having to take on some of the toughest competition head-to-head.
When asked in 2012 about the tough competition, Kenimer pointed to some of his fellow Georgia Racing Hall of Fame members.
“There was no doubt,” he said. “Bud Lunsford, Charlie Mincey, Leon Sells, Leon Archer. That’s the cream of the crop right there. Lots more that could win, but you had to beat them every week.”
Along the way, friendships cropped up alongside the rivalries. The racing scene back then was made up of a group that considered themselves family with those they competed with on the track. That made for a lot of learning and helping of each other.
Kenimer said of all those that he learned from, Gainesville, Georgia’s Bud Lunsford topped the list.
“He was older than I was, and he set a good example,” Kenimer said.
“People helped me that didn’t know they were helping me, and I didn’t know they were helping me.”
Kenimer’s Hall of Fame career stats are enviable today. In all he scored 400 career feature wins, including the 1972 and 1973 Tennessee/Georgia Challenge at Atomic Speedway. He won the NDRA Total Seal 100 in Kentucky in 1985 in Paducah, Kentucky, along with the NASCAR All-Star Super Series 50 at Braselton, Georgia’s Lanier Raceway that same year.
Through it all, Kenimer said, he liked to think he had stayed the same person.
“For 38 years, I was the same person, because that’s all I did, just race, race, race. When I quit racing and went off into other things, I would hope that winning way carried over. I tried to be consistent, and it worked good.”
But when it came time to hang up his helmet in the mid 1980s, he never looked back.
“I guess I was burned out with it,” he said in 2012. “When it came time for me to quit, it was time for me to quit.”
Kenimer was inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2007, and in 2012 was inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
“It feels good,” Kenimer said at the GRHOF induction banquet. “I’d just like to say I appreciate it, and it’s a real honor to be in the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
“I’m not much on making speeches, but I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”
Funeral services for Kenimer will be held on Thursday, January 5 at 2 PM at the Dahlonega Funeral Home chapel. For more information, you can view his full obituary here.
Doug Kenimer was 71 years of age.