Madison, Wisc. (16 November 2017) – For years, Kelly-Moss Road and Race (KMR) has been a well-received name throughout the paddock in Porsche series competition.
With 30 years of experience, KMR continues to build on its reputation for molding championship-winning drivers. This season, KMR added two more championship titles to its resume with rookie IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup USA driver Jake Eidson and IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda driver Colin Thompson.
From the outside, it is not too hard to identify the qualities that make Kelly-Moss Road and Race such a successful race team: a large stable of talented drivers, a tremendous shop base with extensive resources, and a hugely dedicated crew of hard working individuals to bring it all together.
But by taking a closer look into the internal workings of KMR, one begins to realize that this team is much more than the success it exudes from the outside. Managed by Jeff Stone, KMR strives to produce championship winning drivers through not only hard work and dedication, but also through his personal guidance.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based team has gained a reputation for its strategic driver development program. Stone has long been taking young up-and-coming talent under his wing and teaching them the lessons needed to become not only a successful racing driver, but a champion.
“I got to the point after doing this for so long – I have been doing this for 30 years now – where I really wanted to do more than just go racing, I wanted to help young kids,” said Stone. “I looked for talent and we signed on a couple of kids a year and then started building drivers.”
Stone believes that growing young talent goes beyond the race track and that forming a close personal relationship with each driver is crucial to their success.
“I hang out with my drivers away from the race track which is a huge part of why we remain close even if they choose other paths,” said Stone. “I try to develop strong bonds with all of the kids we take on and hopefully I can be a part of their successes for the rest of their racing careers.”
KMR knows that for every successful driver, there is an equally strong support system behind them. Stone, who comes from a long lineage of racers, has found himself coaching both fathers and sons as they progress through the sport.
2016 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Champion Jesse Lazare benefited from Stone’s influence as he moved from his 2016 championship to an even bigger accomplishment in 2017, taking a GTD class victory on board a Porsche in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona in Lazare’s first-ever run at the famed endurance event.
Lazare’s father, Gordie, credits Stone’s devotion to his son’s career for the success that has come his way.
“We were very clear about what we wanted—we knew what we had with Jeff (Stone) and we knew that we wanted to have that professionalism and the knowledge he (Stone) brings,” said Gordie Lazare. “You have to make the right call when you decide what team to be with and Kelly-Moss had a winning formula. He is like home, like a second father for Jesse when I am not around. 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.”
KMR once again helped a young driver convert promise into results in 2017, with two strong case studies. After having made an exploratory—and podium-earning—start with KMR in 2016, the team welcomed Jake Eidson into the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama ranks for a full-season effort in 2017.
Eidson – winner of the Hurley Haywood Scholarship – came into sports car competition with nothing but open-wheel experience. Stone saw the talent that Eidson exuded and his vision to develop a champion out of Eidson came to fruition as the young Colorado native became the 2017 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Champion in only his first full year of sports car competition.
“With Jake (Eidson) I sort of had a multifaceted goal in mind,” explained Stone. “I wanted to help him grow as a driver and learn how to get the most out of a GT car while also positioning him to be a brand ambassador for Porsche. When I met Jake last year I knew right away that he would be champion. Some of the things that Jake showed me, proved that I had the right kid. He showed up early, helped the guys set up the tent and was putting floor squares down. He was really interested in looking at all of the data after each session which showed me how dedicated he was.”
Eidson could have never anticipated the results that he produced throughout his season. It was Kelly-Moss’ unique combination of experience and personal relationships that helped Eidson earn his Porsche GT3 Cup championship title.
“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 Eidson. “Working with the team makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger. Jeff (Stone) 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’s barbecues at the track are something that I really enjoy. He will get out the barbecue and cook for the whole team. It’s something small but it means a lot and really brings the whole team together.”
Eidson credits the majority of his guidance throughout the season to Stone as well. While most kids grow up with a racing background, Eidson did not have that and leaned on Stone’s knowledge to guide his career.
“Jeff has helped because of his connections and his experience,” said Eidson. “He has a ton of resources and experience that have helped grow my career this season 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 father, Mark, has been a major source of support for the 22-year old, attending every race this season. Mark knew early on that he could see his son’s hard work pay off especially after being paired with Stone and the KMR crew.
“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 Mark Eidson. “With other teams it was more of a business relationship whereas with Jeff it’s more of a family relationship. Jake and Jeff get along really well and they have great synergy. I always tell people that this is a professional team and you get what you anticipate from each race weekend. Jeff has committed the resources to bringing on the most talented and qualified people working on his team. There is a premium to having the best but at the end of the season it yields dividends.”
Not only was Eidson’s championship title a major accomplishment for the team, Stone also embarked on a new challenge with KMR Porsche GT3 driver Colin Thompson. After scoring two championship titles with KMR, Thompson made the bold switch to IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda competition for the 2017 season. The decision to move to a whole new platform could not have been possible without the push and support from Stone.
“Jeff (Stone) and I had a lot of discussion about moving to Prototypes especially after having won two championships in the past,” said Thompson. “With a season off of not running with the team (in 2016) it was a natural move to link up again and put together a Prototype effort that was completely led by Jeff. He knew about the P3, and got us in with Norma, which was an unproven car, but we knew the engineering behind the chassis was strong.”
The team earned the championship title with Thompson, but it was not an easy feat. It was Stone’s dedication to Thompson as a driver as well as his undenied confidence in his team’s craft that allowed KMR to learn and produce its way through the season with a completely unfamiliar chassis.
“We took a huge gamble and obviously it paid off, but it wasn’t easy by any means,” continued Thompson. “I knew that I had what it took as a driver and I knew the team that I had behind me was as good as any, if not the absolute best and most capable. At the end of the day, we knew we were the underdog coming in even though we were a proven team and driver combo. Jeff (Stone) and I knew that we could engineer our way out of any issue that we came across which was exactly how the season went. We were quite literally the research and development for Norma.”
After scoring nine podiums and two wins, Thompson earned a third championship victory for the team after multiple seasons of collaboration.
“I had candid conversations with Colin (Thompson) about his future in racing and the Prototype idea came up,” said Stone. “Colin had already proven his worth in a GT car and we were all struggling with the driver rating system and the marketability aspect. I thought an interesting thing for Colin would be to prove himself as a Prototype driver. He can drive in one championship and win it, so I wanted to give him a new challenge that I knew he could be successful in.”
Although making the decision to change championships proved to be a successful one, it didn’t go without a rollercoaster experience throughout the six-month season.
“I said I feel like with the choice of the car that we made (to run with Norma) it was the most risky choice possible,” said Stone. “It gave us the ability to make our own mistakes. Everyone on the team thought I was clinically insane by choosing to run the Norma and they were ready to put me in a rubber room. I believe that we made the right choice and to this day I say that this was the hardest season from a technical perspective, but it was also the most rewarding season.”
Thompson’s father, John, has enjoyed seeing his son’s progression in the sport and how his son has transformed as not only a racer, but as a person beyond the track
“The relationship continues to grow between Colin and Jeff and it’s more like a father-son relationship where they butt heads and learn from each other,” explains John Thompson. “Colin has grown a lot in the past three or four years working with Jeff and they know each other well and they continue to help and grow. They both trust each other and work with each other to achieve the same end result, to win.”
With the 2018 season right around the corner, Stone, along with the talented Kelly-Moss crew, is eager to spread his knowledge and craft and to continue to build a stable of championship winning talent.