There is No Slow LaneSep 21, 2023 03:49PM ● By Mike Whye
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
Last May, when Kevin Welsh learned that he had been passed over—again—to compete in a particular annual car race, he figured that was it; he wasn’t going. Then, one Monday evening, his phone rang. A man on the other end identified himself as an organizer of the race and said some competitors had dropped out. If you’re still interested, said the caller, call back in five minutes. By the way, added the man, the race begins Friday morning in Indiana.
Welsh, 52, checked with his family and called back to say he’d show up Friday. A financial advisor for 27 years, with the last 22 at Morgan Stanley’s West Omaha office where he’s also an executive director, Welsh cleared his personal and business calendars the next day and made arrangements.
This was like no event Welsh had driven in before, which typically involved racing cars on oval tracks or curvy courses. Called One Lap of America, which began in 1984, the 2023 version’s 10 events were spread over eight days and covered 4,000 miles, visiting tracks in Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma, among other states. In addition to racing in events, competitors had to drive (at legal speeds) between race tracks. Drivers were allowed to use one set of street tires along with a spare. Also, competitors could not trailer their vehicles between the events.
No driver was allowed a support crew—just a co-driver to assist in navigating to the next course. For Welsh, that was Nick Young of Manheim, Pennsylvania, whom he learned only at the last minute could accompany him.
Welsh drove his white 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 to One Lap of America’s first event in Mishawaka, Indiana. “I got [the Shelby] a year-and-a-half-ago,” he said. The coupe’s 760-horsepower, V-8 engine can propel the rear-wheel-drive car to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. In another 3.5 seconds, the 7-speed, $74,000 ride will pass 100 mph. Even though it has an automatic transmission, Welsh can shift gears by tapping small paddles on his steering wheel.
“It’s Ford’s higher-end car, although it’s not Ford’s highest-end road race car,” Welsh said. “That would be a Ford GT.”
One Lap of America has 15 divisions, covering high-performance racers to mini-vans and pickups to luxury cars and classics and more. Welsh said he enjoys the events and the comradery with other drivers.
Welsh said he learned to drive on a 1978 Ford F-250 pickup on the family farm in Sarpy County. He got his start in competitive driving participating in drag races before discovering the open road contests.
“Once I started road racing, I noticed that money is not the determinant for the winner […] If you have a $400,000 Porsche, you can lose to the driver of a rental car because it is the driver, first and foremost, and then the car [that matters],” Welsh said. “Road racing removes ego. It’s an equalizer.”
One Lap of America levels the field with different tracks and driving conditions, he said. Drivers endure drizzling rain, downpours, and sunbaked pavement as they lean into banked ovals, swing around traffic cones, and turn through courses that snake across the countryside. All of the events are timed races where the competitors roar off in teams of five. Everyone runs three laps on each course, and the times are totaled on the last day of the overall event.
Some tracks allow the competitors to walk the courses before driving on them. Others don’t. “You really get no chance to learn corners and braking zones,” said Welsh, who has driven 160 mph. “The race challenges you as a driver.”
Jeff Ockinga, who races Corvettes, said his Shelby-driving friend has the right personality for being a racer because, for him, racing is fun.
Although times of the racers in One Lap of America are summed and posted, and a winner is announced, no cash prizes are awarded. “That’s important, that no cash is given,” said Welsh, who came in fourth in his class and 27th out of 84 drivers. “Because you’re competing in this for the joy of it. It’s just you competing with you at the end of the day.”
Visit advisor.morganstanley.com/the-welsh-friesen-group and onelapofamerica.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2023 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Kevin Welsh and his 2020 Shelby Mustang [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand