Local racer has new lease in racing life
(Courtesy Road America)
During the late spring and early summer months, the tradition for many local SCCA racers is something like this, they leave their job early on a Friday, load up their race car, parts and tools into a trailer, grab a cooler of food and hit the road for one of the nation’s premier amateur sports car racing events at Road America.
Their ultimate goal is collecting a coveted trophy from the WeatherTech® Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints® and a check, which will hopefully cover expenses. However the payoff for these weekend warriors is closer to this: There’s nothing like it in the world.
Tim Kezman took a nearly two-decade break from a motorsports career and has a new lease in his racing life with Sports Car Club of America competition.
The West Allis native called himself a “rookie” during the 2015 season, since he was running a full slate of events in the GT-2 and Touring series on the SCCA circuit. But the comfort he quickly found behind the steering wheels of a pair of 2008 vintage Porsche 997s proved the 55-year-old was no novice.
Kezman won championships in the Northern Conference in GT-2 and Touring 2 last year, and added a T2 Southeast title to his SCCA achievements. He garnered nine total victories last season in T2.
He’s already strung together five T2 victories along with two GT-2 wins, and hopes to make an impact at his home track, Road America, for the WeatherTech® Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints® the weekend of June 16-19 at the legendary road course near Elkhart Lake.
Kezman says he’s having a blast racing the 3.6-liter motor, rear-engine Porsches that boast livery spotlighting Calypso Lemonade, a product of a company Kezman, who resides in the Town of Raymond, owns called King Juices, a Milwaukee-based beverage packaging entity.
Kezman raced Late Models on Wisconsin’s short tracks for many years and dabbled in the American Speed Association before quitting in 1996 to focus on family and work. Time spent with car owner Gerry Gunderman, driver Mark Martin and crew chief Jimmy Fennig taught Kezman to value gaining knowledge about what’s under a car’s hood.
“I’ve always enjoyed the whole mechanical aspect of the sport,” says Kezman, who started running Late Models on dirt at Hales Corners Speedway in 1985.
Kezman best finishes in ASA were 13th-place efforts in a handful of races, and racing was a hobby at that point in his life. He never had the financial means to be in serious contention against racers who had sponsorship money and superior equipment.
Kezman credits Mark Boden and Fall-Line Motorsports, based in the Chicago area, for giving him the support and equipment to revitalize a race career.
Boden persuaded Kezman to go to driving school in 2014 at Blackhawk Farms Raceway, in South Beloit, Ill., where Kezman earned his SCCA competition license and caught the racing bug again.
Kezman’s defining moment played out at the 4-mile road circuit at Road America in a heated battle with young driver Andrew Longe. Kezman calls the SCCA June Sprints the premier club racing event, what the Daytona 500 is to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers.
“Running second to him at Road America last year, being able to do that and hang with him, it really gave me a sense that I could do this,” Kezman says of Longe, 22, who won a T2 title in 2014.
“I always had the itch to get back into racing at some level. Fall-Line Motorsports is a company that will maintain a car, house a car, crew a car, do everything for a car,” Kezman says.
Boden suggested Kezman try Porsches and that push has put the driver in a successful direction. “We have some means now, but I don’t have people around me,” he says. “At this stage in my life, I’m not going to build my team.
“The Porsche is challenging because it teaches you patience. Because it’s a rear-engine car, you have to keep the weight balanced. For me the difficult thing, you have to be patient with the throttle application.”
Kezman says he’s eager to race at his favorite course, and home track. The June Sprints will mark only the fourth time he’s competed on the Elkhart Lake course, but he has high expectations. Kezman admits he’s in a good position to win in T2, and would like a podium finish in GT-2.
The two things he’s looking forward to most at his favorite track are the diversity he’ll face on the 14-turn track and the tremendous driver field, which draws club racers from all over the country.
“Turn 1 is very fast and turn 5 is fast coming down the hill, but you have to slow the car down to go into the turn,” Kezman says. “The track offers so many different challenges – the elevation changes, the carousel, the back section.
“The atmosphere is one of those things, from a road racing perspective, makes Road America great. It completes the whole sensation of road racing. It’s certainly a dangerous place if you get in over your head but there are sections of the track you certain have to respect – the kink is one of them. But it also can be very rewarding if you hit your marks and you do things correctly.”
Kezman is anxious to give June Sprints another go as the event returns to Road America, June 16-19. Presented by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the June Sprints are considered by some, as the nation’s most famous amateur sports car racing weekend and the event is a favorite of racers everywhere. With Road America’s park-like setting, trackside viewing, up-close access to drivers and teams, and legendary cuisine appealing to drivers and fans alike; it’s no wonder the June Sprints remains circled on every amateur racers calendar.
Just like Kezman said, new thrills and memories have yet to be made, as generations of racers and their families will flock to the June Sprints for their chance at glory. This year, over 350 sports car drivers running everything from showroom stock to highly modified purpose-built race cars are scheduled to fill four days of practice, qualifying and racing as the June Sprints are the first trophy stop to win amateur racing’s most prestigious title, the Triple Crown® of Racing. To earn this title, competitors must win in their class at the June Sprints, win their respective divisional title and win at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.
Daily admission to the June Sprints is $20 Thursday, $25 Friday, and $35 each for Saturday and Sunday. New for 2016, anyone 16-years-old and under are FREE with a paying adult at the gate. Gates open at 7 a.m. and races run rain or shine. For more information, call 800-365-RACE (7223) or visit www.roadamerica.com