Dear Montecito: Walker Kemp

By Stella Haffner   |   October 29, 2020

Confession of the week: I didn’t know what a drag race was. I thought it was the highly demanding sport where large groups of men spend months work-shopping their bodies and paint jobs, preparing for their minute on the fashion runway. It was only recently I found out that not all drag racing is hosted by RuPaul. (Rev your engines, boys!)

I couldn’t tell you exactly when I learned that there is more than one kind of drag racing, but for the purposes of today’s letter, let’s say this revelation happened before I reconnected with my old classmate, Walker Kemp. Walker is a sophomore at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, where he is pursuing a degree in motorsports engineering. When not in the classroom, or on the track, the multi-talented Montecito Union alum enjoys photography, graphic design, and playing the guitar. But one of the crowning achievements on his résumé must be his work with the top fuel drag racing team, Lex Joon Racing. Whether you’re a time-weathered expert, or a less informed but eager fan of the high performance sport, please enjoy a snippet from the life of Walker Kemp, undergraduate and drag race rising star.

Dear Montecito,

I cannot understate my gratitude for being one of the few people on this earth granted the privilege of growing up in sunny, beautiful Montecito, California. It was not until recently, after having moved away for college and seeing more parts of this country, that I began to realize how special my hometown is.

Walker Kemp takes apart a clutch in between rounds of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway

Currently, I make my home in Indianapolis, Indiana. There are many things I miss from back in Montecito, and although I am far from the perfect person to represent all the great things our little corner has to offer, I have experienced the many illustrious wonders of our little beach town my entire life. I knew it was time for a change, and when I realized what I wanted to study, I knew where I needed to go to make that change. 

I certainly understood from a young age that I wanted to pursue something mechanical. And when I discovered racing a few years ago, I realized I had never been fascinated with a machine as I was with racecars of Formula One, IndyCar, and other motorsports. I entered Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and started my degree in motorsports engineering. As my time at IUPUI continued, my fascination with motorsports only grew. I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could about designing, fixing, and running these machines. 

This summer I was a technician for Lex Joon Racing, a top fuel drag racing team based here in Indianapolis. And just this past weekend I was a crewmember of TechSport Racing, a touring car race team here for a weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

I miss the waves, the mountains, Knowlwood Tennis Club, driving past the gorgeous Montecito homes, I really do. More than all that though, I miss my friends and family. Going back home for winter and spring break made me realize how much I took these things for granted before I left for college. However, I must be honest, I don’t miss these things as much as I think many of my friends would if they were in my situation. I am living 2,000 miles away from home, in a space that gets very cold in the winter (imagine that!), hot in the summer, elevation changes are a scarce commodity, and the political climate is well, different. Many of my new friends here were quite surprised to hear that I voluntarily came to Indiana from Southern California. But I am exactly where I need to be at this point in my life: in the pursuit of racing.

If there was some piece of advice I could give the high school students who are weighing the decision of where they want to go to college or if they want to go at all, I would advise them to consider this: Don’t be afraid to venture beyond your comfort zone. I was making a similar decision to you not that long ago, and I’m so glad I chose the way I did. I didn’t let the distance from home or the different culture here hold me back from the pursuit of my passion. You shouldn’t either. I am in the best location possible for me to be on the path to doing what I love.

All that said, Montecito, I am beyond excited for the next time I come home. I also cannot wait to bring my girlfriend Katie, who has never been west of Missouri, to our corner of the world.



P.S. Parents of Montecito children, if you have recommendations on people to feature in “Dear Montecito” please contact me,


You might also be interested in...