May 13, 2021

Race car driver remembers 4-H roots

Charlie Kimball shares story

INDIANAPOLIS — From raising lambs to show in 4-H to racing IndyCars at the Indianapolis 500, Charlie Kimball’s journey has been a wild ride.

Kimball is a race car driver and a national advocate of 4-H. This year he was the keynote speaker at the Indiana 4-H Foundation annual meeting.

He shared his story at the virtual event.

His first experience with aerodynamics was through a 4-H aviation project.

“My dad was a part of 4-H growing up,” Kimball said. “I was a part of 4-H. I did a lot of different projects.

“In fact, my first experience was with aerodynamics, which has come in handy — especially with the wings on an IndyCar heading into turn one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 230 miles per hour.

“Understanding the science that’s going to keep you on the track is pretty important.”

As he worked his way up the racing ladder, Kimball continue to be very involved with 4-H.

“I did a lot of STEM-based engineering work,” he said. “I worked with robotics and understanding some of the computer programming and mechanical, hands-on engineering pieces.

“I also raised a few market animals. To me, there was a huge amount of value in a project like that.”

Kimball started raising lambs each spring. Over the summer he fed, walked and cleaned the animals and their pens multiple times a day.

But it was more than just a lesson in hard work. It was a lesson in business.

“I had to keep track of my expenses,” Kimball said. “Figure out how much money I made at the end of the fair. All of those pieces are tools that I use to this day as a professional race driver and business owner.

“I paid my older sister to take care of my lamb when I was at the race track. That was part of my expense account. That management piece was important, too.”

As Kimball prepares for the Indy 500 on May 30, he still relies on lessons he learned during his time in 4-H.

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor