Centauri Insurance recently teamed up with our agency partners at Regency Insurance Group in Florida as their 2017 Race Car Sponsor. Agency Co-Owner and Race Car Driver, Kevin Koelemeyer, discusses what it takes to excel both on the race track and in the insurance business in our one-on-one interview.
A My dad ran car dealerships my whole life. He worked a lot so I didn’t get to see him too often. Cars were our natural bond. As long as I can remember, cars have been a huge part of my life. The natural progression seemed to be from having them to building them to racing them. Looking back, it's still hard to believe that I am actually racing them now. It's quite exciting.
Q Would you say you’ve always been a risk taker?
A This is actually the funny part. I'm the Ben Stiller character in the movie “Along Came Polly.” I'm very risk adverse for the most part. I'm scared of heights and don’t really do anything over the top. When it comes to racing, its my element. I put in a lot of preparation, so it doesn’t feel like a risk. You find your zone and go with it and trust your abilities. With that being said, it's still quite dangerous and there are many things out of your control, but you do as much as you can to mitigate the risk (I think I just sounded a lot like an insurance agent).
Q What kind of cars do you race and what is your favorite?
A I've been racing in the Mazda ladder, Mx-5 “cup” cars and Spec Miata. I'm anticipating some changes to this in the very near future. Many brands excite me, namely Honda and Porsche, but I'm not quite sure yet what direction we are headed.
Q How fast do the style of cars you race go?
A This is an interesting question. In this style of racing (lemans style), it's more about what your “mid corner” speed is. Basically, how fast can you make it through the twisty stuff. This is where a Mazda excels, they tend to be lighter weight, albeit down on power to its competitors time is made up in the corners. Top speed, depending on the class, ranges from 120-180 mph; 120 for spec Miata and 180 in some of the pro car classes. Mid turner for example in turn 1 at Sebring International is always a good example of what the sport entails. A fast left hand turn surrounded by concrete on both sides and your mid-corner speed is roughly 90mph.
Q What kind of car do you drive when you’re off the track?
A Cars are my kryptonite. My passion for sure. I would say my garage is filled with excitement and typically something is coming and going. I'm definitely the joke of the office when it comes to this.
Q How many laps is a typical race?
A It varies, the big races are usually timed at 45 minutes.
Q How many races do you participate in each year?
A My schedule is pretty intense. We have roughly 30 events on the calendar this year, which is a minimum of two races per weekend. I also try to practice on a race go-kart at least once a month. I also have a simulator at home which allows me to practice on track as much as I can without the expense of actually being there.
Q What is your favorite track and why?
A The U.S. is loaded with awesome venues. We are actually very, very lucky in this regard. I'm bias because its my home track, but Sebring International has to top the list. It was one of the most famous tracks in the world, and it is so rich in history. Daytona is up there for the same reasons. Road Atlanta is what I call a grown man track. If you make a mistake, it has devastating consequence. There is very little run-off and immediately followed by concrete barriers. Road Atlanta isn’t for the faint of heart. Virginia International, Nola, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca are some amazing spots as well.
Q What are your biggest dreams for racing? Do you see yourself racing full-time eventually?
A My goal is to turn pro in 2019. We have begun discussions on what that entails. The cool thing about racing is that I can still very much do what I do now. If anything, my calendar may tone down a bit. But that is my dream; to be in a series at some of the biggest venues, to be a part of the show. Racing is a lot different than many sports because of the logistical battles you face; you have to get the team to the venue, the car to the venue, choose which car is the best fit, etc. Racing has become my second full-time job and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Q Your helmet and suit are a lot of extra weight – how many days a week do you work out to stay in shape for racing?
A If you look at most successful drivers, fitness is a major player in your preparation. It's not so much the weight that gets you, it’s the heat, especially here in Florida. The car puts off a massive amounts of heat, plus you have very limited air flow in the car and no air conditioning. Not to mention, 40-plus minutes of non-stop forces on the body and heavy steering wheels. You have to be in great shape to race. I focus more on cardio, but weight training is becoming a bigger part of my regiment as well.
Q How many hours per week do you practice racing?
A It varies week to week. On a race week, I try to do 4-5 hours on the simulator to get my mind moving about the track I'm headed to. The day before the race is typically a test day, which allows us to re-acclimate ourselves, dial the car in, and test the setup, etc. In a non-race week, I try to run an online race season that allows me to practice race craft and have wheel-to-wheel competition. Karting has also helped me immensely with car control and technique. I absolutely value my session or two per month on the kart track. I'm very lucky to have two professional racers as my coaches. Stevan Mcaleer is my in-person coach. He is a professional racer in Continental Sports Car challenge. Glen Mcgee is my simulator coach and he races in Mx-5 Cup.
A Trust yourself and believe in yourself. Self-doubt is easy to consume you, but only to your detriment. Bad things will happen. They happen to everyone, but you can't let it stop you. Preparation is everything. As Zig Ziglar says, “you were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win and expect to win.”
Q How long have you been in the insurance industry?
A I started in the insurance industry in December of 2005.
Q Why did you choose a career in insurance?
A This was an easy one! I love cars and houses. What other industry allows you to talk about that all day?
Q Why did you choose Centauri as a sponsor?
A Rick, Lora and Felicia were three of my very first friends in the industry. The agency I started with when I was still in college, was a large partner of Centauri. They believed in me when I was just getting started, and I knew they would believe in me now with my passion project. It was a no-brainer. They had a passion and look at what Centuari has become. I couldn’t be prouder to share this with them, but more importantly to be partners in a massive way at Regency.
Q How does Centauri’s commitment to the insurance industry line up with your commitment to race car driving and your own agency ownership?
A Doing what is right every single time, no matter what. They have taught me this from day one, and I have been able to carry over to my ventures and bring my team along with that mindset. There is no wavering of this belief with Centauri. The passion and the persistence of excellence is unmatched. If I were to call Rick, Lora or Felicia at any time they would be there. That's hard to duplicate. It's that passion and that urgency that allows me to lead my team on and off the track.
Q What is your greatest accomplishment?
A I have definitely had some amazing ups and some pretty tough downs. The top of the list would be creating the team we have here at Regency. It is hard to believe all that we accomplished and there is absolutely no way, no how I could have done it alone. Being able to surround myself with the people I have been able to surround myself with is my biggest accomplishment.
Q What connections do you see with what you do on the race track and your insurance career?
A At the end of the day, it's about the people, building a team and executing. I've been very lucky on the track and off the track in this regard. On the track, I have an amazing team: Ronie Sport Racing out of West Palm Beach. There isn’t a day that goes by where Paul Ronie, the principal, doesn’t call me to check in on me, or discuss strategy and various ideas. Stevan and Glen, my coaches, do the same; constantly looking out for me, teaching me, mentoring me, etc. The office is no different. Kagen, my business partner, puts up with me for 70+ hours a week. Laura, Operations Manager; Brian, Director of Leadership; Fallyn, who oversees agency development; and Anjanette, who oversees our account executives, have all been and continue to be an integral part of the success at Regency. Athletics and business have many parallels but to me none larger than time and relationship building.
Q How do you balance it all?
A Good question! Just kidding. Candidly, I love what I do and who I get to do it with. Racing plays a huge part because it cleanses the pallet. If I'm having a tough day or week, I know I'm on the track soon. If I have a tough day at the track, I know I have a career that I love waiting for me the following day. They balance each other out and I enjoy going along for the ride.