Speedweeks. A word that brings thoughts of race cars returning to the track for those of us who love the sport of auto racing. NASCAR begins its season with its biggest race of the season, the Daytona 500, the Asphalt Modifieds compete at New Smyrna Speedway, and the Dirt Cars return to Volusia Speedway. There is literallly something for everyone who loves racing, fans and competitors alike.
In 2018 Speedweeks became a little more special for the kids as USAC presented an event for the young drivers of the Quarter Midgets. The best-of-the-best came to Daytona with their families to compete at the World Center of Speed.
One of these youngsters was 11 year old Ryan Kuhlthau of Howell, New Jersey. Ryan has been competing since he was five. It is something he loves to do. When asked what he loves most about it he was quick to respond.
“Racing is everything. I love going fast. It’s just racing,” he said, seemingly too excited to even finish his thought.
Those of us who love racing as much as Ryan know it is much more than just a one person sport. It takes a team. For Ryan that team starts with his parents dad Warren and mother Shannon. Both have been involved in racing since they were children themselves. Warren”s family was involved with the famous Dallenbachs, while Shannon’s dad, Pat McDaniel owned a race car driven by Chip Graves, and her uncles are Jeff and Doug Wolcott.
The family had to scramble when the race was announced in December. Ryan had competed in the Turkey Derby at Little Wall in late November, after which his race cars were stripped down, and the motors sent out for freshening, in anticipation of the 2018 season. A schedule that didn’t include an event so soon.
Dad found himself putting in 25 to 30 hours a week, after work, to get the cars back together. And when most people were anticipating the Super Bowl the Kuhlthau family hit the road to Florida at 3am on that Sunday morning. Following a stop in Virginia to stay with family they arrived at Daytona on Wednesday to park the trailer.
Once at the track all the competitors received one practice session before qualifying began. Ryan was competing in two divisions, Light 160 and Senior Animal. With 42 cars competing in each division the odds were stacked against the young Jersey driver. Using a system which awarded points for the number of cars passed from a drivers original starting position Ryan found himself starting third in the D-Main of the Senior Animal division and fourth in the Light 160.
Ryan needed to finish in the top four in each race to advance to the next main in that division. When his best finish was fifth in the Senior Animal Race it looked like his racing in Florida was over. Not giving up hope Ryan took to the track to warm up his car on the chance he could make the race as the first alternate, with Dad sending a prayer to his father, who had taken him to Daytona numerous times, but had since passed on. Those prayers were answered when a qualified car dropped out and Ryan was told to take the green flag with the rest of the field.
Starting tenth in the C-Main Ryan charged from the back to take the fourth, and final qualifying spot, at the checkered flag. Moving onto the B-Main Ryan again found himself starting from tenth. Showing great patience, Ryan advanced to the fourth spot by lap 18 of the 20-lap race, and took third on the final lap giving him a spot in the A-Main. Again starting from the back, but having 40 laps to work with, Ryan moved forward against some of the most talented drivers in the country. When the checkered flag flew Ryan had a third place finish to be proud of.
While racing was the focus of the Daytona trip for Ryan he also enjoyed just being a race fan as well. Asked what else he did while at the track Ryan talked about meeting some NASCAR stars.
“I got to meet Jamie McMurray, Ty Dillon, and Ryan Flores.”
Asked what his future goals were in racing he spoke of a great role model for all young Jersey racers, “I would like to do like Martin Truex Jr. did, race at Wall, and then move up to NASCAR.”
His immediate plans call for him to be at the River Rock Daytona 500 party, where he will be interviewed as part of the RPM podcast.
As for his 2018 race season initial plans call for Ryan to compete in approximately 10 races at Little Wall, Three USAC events, and about five races at other tracks throughout the region.
Showing he has his act together both on and off the track Ryan ended our interview saying, “I would just like to thank my sponsors North American Construction, Grosso Homes, Compact Kars, Goodsports USA, Brice’s NAPA, O’Neil Design, Blewetts Scrap and Waste Recycling, Lederer Motors, Bullrider Chassis, and Mom and Dad.”
Sound like the name Ryan Kuhlthau could become very familiar to New Jersey race fans for many years to come.
Youngster Ryan Kuhlthau Has Special Daytona Speedweek