After starting a new business nearly 19 years ago, Ken Nielsen decided to reward himself. But dinner at a fancy restaurant, a new suit or an exotic vacation weren’t exactly what he had in mind. Instead, he bought himself one of the first Porsche Boxter S models in late 1999.
“I made it through my first year after starting my temporary help company and I rewarded myself with my second Porsche,” Nielsen said. “I got one of the first ones that came into the country.”
His first Porsche – a used 1977 924 – was purchased after he started a unique but successful company back in his college days at West Virginia University.
“I started a hot tub rental company in college,” Nielsen said. “There was literally a hot tub on the back of a trailer and people could rent them for parties. It went for $100 a night back then.”
When his new Boxter S came in, it came with a sheet explaining what the Porsche Club of America (PCA) was all about, encouraging him to join the largest single-brand club in the world.
“When I first joined PCA, I just thought it meant I would get a magazine every month,” Nielsen said.
After getting his first magazine that very next month, he saw an article about PCA’s High Performance Driver’s Education (DE) at Pocono Raceway, which happened to be just a few hours from his home in Philadelphia.
“It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, so my wife and I decided to go check it out,” Nielsen said.
After arriving at the track, Nielsen asked a PCA volunteer how the whole process worked and he responded, “Basically, you can take your Porsche out on the racetrack.”
Nielsen said: “What? You’re telling me I can race as fast as I want on this track without any police officers pulling me over?”
The rest was history. He drove to a race shop to buy a helmet and ended up buying gloves, shoes, helmet and a racing suit.
The next PCA event was at Watkins Glen International (WGI) and Nielsen’s PCA Region, Riesentöter, was hosting it. It was the first club race at WGI, plus it included a full DE.
“It was sold out but I said screw it, I’m going anyway,” Nielsen said.
After begging the track chair and chief instructor to let him in, he found an instructor, who also happened to be a club racer. Fast forward to 2003, Nielsen began instructing other PCA drivers. The next step – competing in club racing.
In 2004, Nielsen got one of the first Porsche GT3s in the country.
“It was the fastest and most badass car out at the time,” Nielsen said.
The next year, he put a roll cage in it and transformed it into what he called “club race ready.”
Nielsen now races in the J-Stock Class in that No. 12 Bodymotion Porsche GT3 entry. He recently won the 2016 Club Racing National Championship for the J-Stock Class.
Nielsen said his best racing buddies – Ken Prior and Andy Hansen – have the identical 2004 GT3 that Nielsen has. The two grew up together in Pittsburgh and were club racing before Nielsen got into it.
“They were the super fast guys and they were always winning,” Nielsen said. “I was always inspired to be like them and then I started to get as fast as them. Among the three of us, one is usually winning the race.”
One of his best racing memories includes a bittersweet loss. Nielsen had the record at Daytona International Speedway, but he lost it in October 2016 when Kevin Violette won the race after an epic back and forth battle where both drivers changed places six or seven times throughout the race.
“I finally got out in front of him and I was beating him,” Nielsen said. “During the race, he was behind me and I came across the finish line and they told me I got the track record, but then he was right behind me. He crossed the line and beat the record by a couple hundredths of a second. I still won the race, but he got the fastest lap time.”
At that same race at Daytona, Nielsen won the coveted Worker’s Choice Award. The award is given in each race group after the flaggers and infield volunteers vote on who they think the best racer of the event is.
“That’s the best award because those PCA volunteers are the ones watching you make the passes and do your moves out there on the track,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen isn’t shy about praising PCA and his 18-year journey.
“You end up being really good friends with your strongest competitors because you’re racing with those guys nose-to-tail every time. It’s not professional racing, it’s just bragging rights for the day!”
Source. LST Marketing/Photo Ken Hills Photography