Charitable at Any Speed

Posted October 22, 2008 at 3:20pm

While a typical Washingtonian jogs in a 10K or shows up at a happy hour to contribute money to a good cause, such conventional activities were the wrong speed for lobbyist Jeff Kimbell.

“Running is one mile per hour. I prefer 130 miles per hour,” he said.

So Kimbell — who runs Jeffrey J. Kimbell and Associates — revved up a host of friends and colleagues for a drag racing event, where high-voltage egos and high-speed vehicles will race along a quarter-mile track.

“This should be a highly amusing event given how many egos will be severely injured that day,” Kimbell quipped, taunting the nearly 30 racers that he will go up against at the Capitol Raceway in Crofton, Md., this Saturday for the first “Lobbyists for Speed” charity event. (Rain date is Nov. 15.)

Drag racing is a hobby reserved for rebellious high schoolers and adrenaline junkies, and Saturday’s race seems to be no exception. Kimbell races a handful of times each year through the National Hot Rod Association. He recently bought a 1969 Plymouth Belvedere V8 highway patrol car that he’ll drive Saturday. Other cars in the lineup include a 1965 Backdraft Racing Cobra, a 1969 GTX and a 2008 Porsche 911 Carrera.

“When I was a kid in high school we raced our cars,” said Virginia native Rob Douglas, who will be driving a borrowed 1966 Dodge Coronet convertible.

Douglas, who owns a construction company in Virginia, still has his high school ride — a 1969 AMX 390 — parked at home.

The nearly 30 participants will be racing for their charity of choice. Although the event is described as “Lobbyists for Speed,” most lobbyists were not willing to go on record to talk about racing cars for charity.

One who was able to talk was Jeff Myers, vice president of government affairs for Cephalon, who helped Kimball organize the event. He described the genesis of the idea as “what happens when you have too much liquor and too much ego at the same place. A bunch of guys were talking about how fast their cars could go, and we decided to have a little race to see.”

Myers will be driving a 1979 Jaguar SJG, a car that he said he drives to work “a couple of times a week.” He joked that he’ll be raising money for PETA: “People Eating Tasty Animals.”

In all seriousness, drivers have to be at least 25 years old and pay a $300 entry fee. They are required to wear a helmet, close-toed shoes, pants and long-sleeved shirts.

Kimbell is going full speed with what he expects to be an annual event. He launched a nine-person board and enlisted his wife’s graphic design skills to create a sharp logo for programs and T-shirts.

Participating cars have to be “street legal” and can have modifications such as turbo or super chargers and exhaust and engine alterations. But cars don’t have to have modifications to compete, and a few sensible drivers will be racing their Honda Accords and Volkswagen Passats.

While Kimbell speeds down the lane in his cop car, his wife, Jessica, will take on the competition in her leased 2008 Audi TT coupe. She expects to cross the finish line in about 13 seconds, but the fun will last much longer.

“I liked the car, and I wanted to participate,” she said, noting that responses to this weekend’s event sped in as fast as her Audi. This was no cocktail party, she said. “People have been very open to the event because it’s different.”

Meyers agrees that the event’s unusual nature is the key to its success: “You’d be surprised at the number of gearhead lobbyists, Congressional staffers and those involved in politics.”