Silverstone (8 August 2018) — It is fair to say when it comes to drivers and sponsors, Kelly Moss Road and Race (KMR) truly makes it personal.
Celebrating KMR’s 30 year anniversary takes a back seat for team ownner Jeff Stone. He has established a reputation for not only developing race cars, but also the drivers who race them.
Continuing that effort, Stone was on hand for the recent Formula 1 event at Silverstone which also featured the Porsche Supercup Championship. The visit was just another chapter in a relentless effort to foster the career development of KMR drivers, in this case young 2017 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup champion driver Jake Eidson.
KMR has a well-earned reputation for looking for young talent and then continuing to help them throughout their career. Central to that progress is the role relationships play with both the parents of the young drivers as well as the sponsors and charity initiatives that KMR takes on to support them.
Racing for Children’s is the centerpiece of the team’s current championship-contending youngster Roman De Angelis, who has 2 wins so far in the 2018 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup series and 1 win in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada series. His Porsche GT3 Cup machine carries the handprints of young patients as a symbol of the partnership with MPT and Children’s of Alabama.
“Jeff (Stone) has been an incredible partner for Racing for Children’s-he is ‘all in’ and we feel blessed to know him and to be involved,” said Greg Hodges of Racing for Children’s. “I think when he toured Children’s of Alabama and saw what the kids were like, what they were facing, and the courage they displayed it just captured his heart. Ever since, he’s done everything in his power to support it. You couldn’t ask for a better partner-everyone there has been fantastic. Charissa (Cobb), there is no end to the list of what she’s taken on to make this successful. He is such a good coach for the drivers too, he really knows what he is talking about. He gets it, Jake (Eidson) gets it, and you can tell Roman gets it. He is inspired by those handprints on the car every time he gets behind the wheel. We are thrilled to work with Jeff and Kelly Moss.”
“It’s been great working with Jeff (Stone) and how he has gotten me involved with Racing for Children’s and his team in general,” said De Angelis. “I don’t know if I would have had the opportunity to race in the (United) States for financial reasons, but getting to race with Jeff has put me around one of the best groups of people who are so positive.”
Currently a front runner for the championship, De Angelis is hoping to extend the legacy of KMR success and has already recognized the opportunities that the team has worked to develop for him.
“Jeff really pushes drivers to move up to whatever series that they want,” said De Angelis. “My goal is to either drive in Europe, WEC or IMSA and he (Jeff) is really pushing me to reach that goal. He’s been really helpful trying to get me sponsors, connecting me with people and getting rides. He’s played a huge role for me this year. It’s like a family. Jeff always has all of these cookouts and plans these fun things all the time. He also comes to Canada and goes to my Canadian Cup races.”
The Children’s of Alabama KMR livery that De Angelis races with is one that has an established record of success, having won the 2017 IMSA GT3 Championship USA by Yokohama championship with Eidson behind the wheel. Eidson, who earned the Hurley Haywood Scholarship from Porsche, IMSA, and Yokohama to be able to run the 2017 season, is now working on building his way up the Porsche ladder in Europe.
The progression from winning the scholarship to managing a championship season to building a career in Europe is all part of Stone’s guidance.
“Jeff (Stone) has taken Jake under his wing and has been more hands on and involved than other teams that Jake has worked with,” said Jake’s father Mark Eidson. “With other teams it was more of a business relationship whereas with Jeff it’s more of a family relationship. He was the one who encouraged us to apply for the (Hurley Haywood) scholarship and that was a huge bonus for us – that sealed the deal. Jeff has committed the resources to bringing on the most talented and qualified people working on his team. He’s looking down the road, and has a vision for Jake (Eidson, son). There is a premium to having the best but at the end of the season it yields dividends.”
“One of the biggest things working with Kelly-Moss that really stands out to me is that I feel like more than just a team member, I feel like I am a part of a family,” said Jake Eidson. “It makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger. Jeff and everyone have made me feel like I am one of them which is really comforting. They have done a ton for me off the track that really strengthens that bond. Jeff has helped because of his connections and his experience. He has a ton of resources which have helped grow my career and he knows the right path for me to take. I don’t come from a background of racing and no one in my family knows about racing so it’s been really nice to have Jeff in my corner to fight for us and to show us the right path.”
Eidson’s success in 2017 followed the fortunes of 2016 IMSA GT3 Championship USA by Yokohama Champion Jesse Lazare, who won the championship with KMR and then moved directly to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to claim a Rolex 24 At Daytona win in his very first try on board a Porsche 911 GT3R.
“We were very clear about what we wanted—we knew what we had with KMR and we knew we wanted to have that professionalism and the knowledge he (Stone) brings,” said Jesse’s father, Gordie Lazare. “This is such an expensive sport, you can’t make mistakes. You have to make the right call when you decide what team to be with and Kelly-Moss had a winning formula. It’s too expensive to take a chance on a team that thinks they know how to win. You have to be where you know you can have results.”
That decision paid dividends not only with the championship for Lazare, but also his approach as he moved up in the sport.
“When Jesse got off the track, he’d say ‘I need to go talk to Jeff.’ He is like home, like a second father for Jesse when I am not around,” said Gordie Lazare. “Jeff was there at Daytona because of Jesse–he knows racing more than just about anyone. But it wasn’t just the racing he was supporting him with—it was love, really.”
That passion for his drivers has to be tied with performance, and that is another important tool that KMR puts to use.
“My engineer Chiel Bos is a very important counterpart to me and the whole Kelly Moss family and we have become very dear friends,” said Stone. “We share an intense love for racing and developing these drivers both young and old. We also both have an insane passion for fishing – we are both fierce competitors no matter what we are doing! We try to make time for fishing together at least a few times a year to and involve the team and drivers for a team building experience.”
With up to seven entries for some of the event weekends, the KMR roster of racers once again sees a large group of motivated racers that are making the team their home in 2018. The roster includes Alan Metni in the No. 99 VICCI Car Auctions AM Motorsports/Kelly-Moss Porsche, and the No. 61 of Scott Welham in Platinum as well as four Gold Cup entries with Greg Palmer in the No. 44; Kurt Fazekas in the No. 52; Wayne Ducote in the No. 73 and the No. 85 entry of Brent Asplundh.
Each of them have continued to develop this season with KMR support helping every driver reach new goals including wins and strengthened championship campaigns.
With a long-established history of providing their drivers with everything they need for race weekends, the KMR environment supports development for every one of their drivers, whether it is their first race weekend or their 50th.
“We had a very fun race,” said Palmer of his outing at Sebring this year. “This is the best finish I’ve gotten here, so that’s good! For my second year doing this, I’m glad that a podium is within our sights.This Kelly-Moss team is so focused. They know what they’re doing, and they know what you’re dealing with, it’s very confidence-inspiring.”
KMR has stayed true to its Porsche roots through the decades – having competed in every single GT3 Cup Challenge USA event since the series first formed in 2005.
But one young driver moved from racing a Porsche to racing a prototype with KMR and yet continued his winning ways. Colin Thompson won the 2014 IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama championship and then moved up with Kelly-Moss to take the 2015 GT Cup Championship in Pirelli World Challenge competition. In 2017, he moved to Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda and claimed the LMP3 championship in his first season.
“At the time, I hadn’t been thinking about Kelly-Moss as they mostly just had gentleman drivers so it hadn’t come into my mind,” said Thompson, about first joining with the team. “But then in talking to Jeff (Stone) and recognizing the vision he had for me, I knew he wanted to have me become not only a successful driver on his team, but also learn how to be successful in the future no matter what or where I was racing. How I was outside of the car, the entire presentation that you give, Kelly-Moss Road and Race coached me through all of that.”
That decision wasn’t one that just came down to the driver as Thompson’s parents Rochelle and John were also a big part of the decision.
“Jeff took a personal interest in Colin and his development, and that was the biggest thing,” said Colin’s father, John. “Jeff takes a personal interest and has a passion for developing these drivers so they can go on and become successful, and that still continues today. We still go back to him to lean on him or run ideas by him or ask him for a recommendation. Jeff has seen a lot and been through a lot, and he will cut to the chase and let you know what it is. He’s had Colin’s back since we’ve started with him. Now he’s done that with Jesse and you can see’s doing that with Jake.”
Stone’s push to give young motivated team members opportunity isn’t just focused on drivers, as attested to by his hospitality intern Samantha Stananought. Stone met Neil Stananought through the De Quesada family and invited them to a race weekend. Neil’s daughter Samantha, who will be a senior in high school next fall, was thrilled to be at the track. Seeing her excitement, Stone created the opportunity for Samantha to get some behind the scenes experience with the team, working with their team manager and logistics specialist Charissa Cobb.
“We got to know Jeff a little bit in Florida, going fishing and that kind of thing, and he invited Samantha to be a part of the team at a race last year and that grew into her doing the internship with KMR this summer and it has been awesome,” said Neil Stananought. “She’s really taken to it, really submersed herself in the whole thing. It has been great to see. It is weird, seeing her go off on flights on her own to go to the races, but I’m so happy how he’s taken her under his wing and created this opportunity for her.”
“They have been a great group of people to have her work with. Jeff even went to her school and wrote a beautiful letter to them because she had to miss a few days this year and they were completely understanding and supportive of her taking on this opportunity. Jeff does such a great job. With the drivers, he’s telling the parents ‘they are mine now’ and he takes full responsibility for their development.
“You can see it with the drivers—he never gets upset with them or anything, he just kind of guides them and will take different approaches to get these young kids to think of solutions themselves. Its just cool to see. He knows how to bring out the best in people, whatever it is that they are doing. I’m so grateful for what he’s done for Samantha.”
“My dad has always introduced me to anything with a motor!” said Samantha of how she was first motivated to get involved in racing. “We met Jeff in Florida and my dad got to know him and later on, he invited us to go to a race last year—Watkins Glen. I loved it. Then Jeff set this internship up for me and I’ve been working with Charissa. She manages all the logistics for the team and also works with Porsche. I love working with them and I’ve been to a lot of new tracks this year—Sebring, Mid-Ohio, Barber. I love the team aspect of the weekends. We had two cars get in crashes at Watkins Glen and one was too damaged to fix, but the other car, Jeff just looked at it and said ‘we can do this.’ So the whole team rallied to get the car ready to go and I was just pitching in trying to help where I could. It is never a dull moment! I am loving what I am doing and I just want to keep learning more.”
Stone isn’t the only KMR team player who is trying to pay it forward.
“Winning championships back to back with Kelly-Moss was unreal,” continued Colin Thompson. “My history of winning with Kelly-Moss is off the charts. And now, I’ve been coaching Jesse so I’m helping to keep in it in the family and develop talent. There is such good energy inside the Kelly-Moss trucks during the weekends.”
“I am sure a lot of folks are aware of the Kelly-Moss Road and Race development program,” said Eidson. “Trying to squeeze the most out of their drivers and everything —that was obvious with Jesse. He dominated the season. I was able to have that kind of year and follow in his footsteps and win the championship thanks to getting with this team, and to the Hurley Haywood Scholarship and the help from Porsche and Yokohama. Without that, and without everyone who is behind it, I wouldn’t be in this position.”
“The key to success is execution at the track, which can only happen with the right kind of preparation at the shop,” said Stone. “Fortunately for us, things run like a well-oiled machine thanks to Andy Kilcoyne and Victoria Thomas. Our business continues to expand and grow in new directions, but they keep the attention on the details so that we are able to go out and deliver no matter who our customer is.”
The most recent race on the KMR schedule was the home event at Road America celebrating 30 years of championship-winning succes, but there is no doubt Jeff Stone is looking much further down the road…