Jeff Stone, Kelly-Moss Road and Race Continue Quest for Positioning Young Drivers on a Championship Path
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jeff Stone, President of Madison, Wisconsin-based Kelly-Moss Road and Race, is well known around the IMSA paddock for his talent for developing young drivers into champions.

Stone and his Kelly-Moss team nabbed championships in both the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda and the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series this year. In fact, Stone has won three out of the last four GT3 Cup Challenge USA championships since 2014.

"It's not about having the fastest driver - it's about having the right driver," Stone said. "I often tell the parents of young drivers, 'When you sign up with us, you sort of lose parental rights.' We can't have soccer parents hovering around their kids and they have to learn how to be adults. We try to help them grow into adults and work with sponsors and the press and represent themselves as Porsche and as Kelly-Moss would want them to be represented.

"Most parents believe they know what it takes, but I think their eyes typically get big at some point and they realize if their kid is going to do this as a career, it's a lot of hard work and dedication. It takes 100 percent focus whether you're a young driver or a Masters driver [age 45 or older]. But if you're really going to have that goal in mind, it takes much more commitment than most people are willing to give."

2017 GT3 Cup Challenge USA champion and Hurley Haywood Scholarship winner Jake Eidson met Stone in 2016 when he gave the young driver a shot at Road America in a Kelly-Moss entry.

"I saw a lot of potential in him," Stone said. "He had never driven a GT car before and it all played out well this year. He showed a lot of hard work, dedication and humility. He also interacted well with our gentleman drivers. Jake had only been to two of the tracks before - he had a unique, steep learning curve - and he learned how to drive the Porsche well, plus learned the tracks well."

Kelly-Moss driver Colin Thompson, who won a Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA championship in 2014, made the move from a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car to a Norma M30 in the Prototype Challenge series this year.

"All of the young drivers I've worked with help create a rabbit to chase for the Masters class guys, and it helps to have that data sharing back and forth," Stone said "It's a good experience for everyone all the way around.After winning the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA championship, Thompson moved to another sports car series in 2015 before returning to IMSA to try his hand at driving the Norma LMP3 car. Thompson won the Prototype Challenge championship this year by a narrow points margin of 217-209 over 2015 Prototype Lites champion Kenton Koch.

"We have a family environment amongst our team with everybody - all the crew, staff, drivers, coaches, engineers - we really function as a pretty close-knit family as opposed to just a team. I think that goes a long way. It doesn't matter if you're running at the front or the back of the pack - everyone rallies for that person. We go to crazy measures for our drivers to get back on the track if there's an incident. Whether it's Gold or Platinum or Masters - everyone is in it for same cause."

Stone said it's also important to spend personal time together as a team - away from the track - to develop a bond and trust amongst each other.

"Whether you're 15, 25, 55, or even 73 - as is the case for my personal hero, team driver Wayne Ducote - you need to develop that bond and kinship to figure out how you work best with each other," Stone said. "If you get one driver with a bad attitude, it affects the morale on the entire team and it doesn't make a good team no matter how you look at it. From an emotional perspective, everyone needs to have personalities that can jell together and you need to have people who you're proud to represent the team."

Stone, a former engineer, won 14 out of 14 races in the GT3 Cup Challenge USA in the Gold class in 2008, which set a record for the most consecutive road racing wins with Tony Rivera winning 12 races and Ross Smith winning the other two.

"It's a whole different level of completion now," Stone said. "It's an ever-increasing theme in motorsports that everything gets more complicated and costly each year, but we have a good pattern of consistency with our team.

"We're looking forward to next season. We have a lot of great guys - both seasoned and new. Anytime you have a freshman driver, usually it's difficult. I'm really excited when guys push through and it's really rewarding - everyone sees the build up to that point of why they did it and spent all this time on it.

"After your first season, you're a lot wiser and you have a lot more ability to be successful at the track."