C.L. “Charlie” Earwood, who distinguished himself in the insurance industry before rising to even greater prominence as a driver, promoter and official for some of America’s premier auto racing organizations, passed away peacefully on Jan. 28 at his home in Punta Gorda, Fla. He was born in Atlanta, Ga., on March 4, 1924.
After a 40-year career at Life of Georgia during which he rose from district manager to division manager to manager of agencies and, finally, to executive vice-president, Earwood retired in 1985 to pursue his “love of family, fishing and sports car racing.”
An active member of the Sports Car Club of America starting in 1960, he raced Porsches in E and F production classes and introduced his sons, Terry and Stephen, to the sport before it became evident that his skills and passion would best be utilized outside the cockpit.
Earwood gradually moved away from driving and competition and into organization and arbitration, ultimately becoming chief steward for almost all of the prominent events and series in American road racing.
Earwood served as an official at the SCCA National Runoffs at Road Atlanta from 1964 through 1993, and was chief steward for the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona as well as for the SCCA Trans-Am Series, SCCA Truck Series, the Playboy Endurance Series, the F2000 Series and a wide variety of vintage racing series.
When showroom stock classes were introduced in the 1970s with their potential for creative rules interpretations, Earwood was commissioned to serve as chief steward of competing SCCA and International Motor Sports Ass’n versions of those classes simultaneously.
While general manager at Sebring (Fla.) Int’l Raceway, Earwood was tasked with designing the current course and opening the track for year-round events by separating it from still active airport operations.
In 1986, he and John Burns pared the original 5-mile course down to the current 3.7-mile configuration, maintaining its original integrity as “America’s toughest and most competitive track” while opening it for year-round use.
For his efforts, Earwood was inducted into the Sebring Int’l Raceway Hall of Fame in 2006 for “outstanding contributions to the track as manager, promoter and chief steward.”
A 1981 recipient of the prestigious Woolf Barnato Trophy for “Outstanding long-term contributions to Sports Car Club of America and the sport of Road Racing,” he was also inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2012 and was awarded the “Flame of Excellence” trophy by Historic Sportscar Racing.
He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Ann; his sons, both of whom followed him into auto racing, Terry as a drag racing and road racing champion and competitive driving instructor, and Steve as a promoter, official and track owner; two granddaughters, Tammy Ferran of the home, and Stephanie Peterson of Richland, Michigan; grandson Todd Beal of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and four great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for March 4 in Punta Gorda.