Racer displays singing talent off the track

Racers are mostly known for one thing – racing. Often times, fans may not realize drivers have other interests and talents off the track, even those that race professionally.

One east Tennessee driver has been showcasing one of his talents behind the mic instead of behind the wheel singing the National Anthem at a couple of area racetracks.

James Kelso has been making laps at area tracks for several years. The Maryville, Tennessee sportsman and crate late model driver has been a fan favorite with his exuberant energy and big smile. One of Kelso’s biggest racing achievements was making the starting grid for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race at Smoky Mountain Speedway in 2014.

James Kelso is all smiles after making the starting grid for the 2014 LOLMDS race at Smoky Mtn. Speedway

Kelso’s talent for signing has been in display in recent weeks. While getting his car back together following a crash in March, Kelso has been signing the National Anthem. Those performances were recorded on put on Facebook for others to see. The response has been surprising to Kelso.

“It’s kind of shocking,” Kelso proclaimed. “I’m just shocked that somebody would want to listen to me. Anybody that knows me I like to B.S. around and have fun. I’m not a showboat at all when it comes to singing.”

Kelso got into singing his senior year in high school. He says it was something just to finish out the school year.

“I started in choir, almost 20 year ago, in high school my senior year,” Kelso recalled. “I ran out of electives to take. I had already taken auto mechanics and everything else related to cars. I joined the choir and auditioned for the singers, the highest group that was part of the choir. I made it and have been singing ever since.”

Kelso also sang in some interesting performances outside of high school.

“I sung for President Carter at a book singing years ago,” Kelso said. “I also sang on a Carnival Cruise line in high school.”

Kelso had a serious ATV accident three years ago that left him in a neck brace and out of work and racing for several months. He credits that experience to focus his life on other things.

“The wreck I had on the ATV three years ago really got my attention,” Kelso added. “It showed me what was really important in my life. I got back into church and have been singing some at church. That was one way people noticed that I could sing and that I enjoyed it.”

James Kelso making laps at Smoky Mtn. Speedway in 2017.

Kelso is close to having his race car ready to hit the track, His plans include racing at 411 Motor Speedway, Volunteer Speedway, and I-75 Raceway.

While friends and family have encouraged Kelso to sing more, he tries to keep it in perspective.

“My family has known about my singing for a long time,” Kelso said. “They said I need to sing more. I kind of hid from it until the ATV accident. I’m not going for a Grammy.”

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