Interview with Ryan Walton...A Champion To Be I first met Ryan Walton in July 2004 at Willow Springs International Raceway as he just finished qualifying for a National Auto Sports Association (NASA) American Iron race. I was walking from pit...
Interview with Ryan Walton...A Champion To Be
I first met Ryan Walton in July 2004 at Willow Springs International Raceway as he just finished qualifying for a National Auto Sports Association (NASA) American Iron race. I was walking from pit to pit doing interviews with all the AI racers trying to figure out if I should step up to American Iron (AI) racing. Ryan, like all the AI racers was very gracious about helping a potential driver join the group. Ryan was in a pit with the bare basics and his car appeared to have the bare minimum modifications as I inspected it. Turning to Ryan I said, "so what is the key to racing AI?" and Ryan said the words that ring today "just make a car that lasts and finish races". Well, Ryan does both, and wins races at the same time.
In 2005, in a fierce championship battle with Gary Umphenour to the end of the NASA AI-West season, Ryan took 2nd to Gary's first championship. This Q&A session is with Ryan Walton, a champion to be...
Q. Tell us a little about yourself, what do you do for work and your life outside of racing?
A. I work at a Toyota dealer as a Master Diagnostic Tech and Smog Tech. I enjoy riding my Suzuki GSXR-750 to work and on the weekends. I also work on friend's racecars. Working as a mechanic allows me to do all the work on my car myself and save allot of money.
Q. You have had 2 years of being in the top two and three in championship points, tell us what it is going to take to finally win that championship?
A. I think the first full year I raced, my car and I were not up to speed and finished well in the championship by only having one DNF that year. Last year my car and I were up to speed but I did not go to every race so that cost me in the championship in the end. To win the championship in AI you have to go every race and have a top three car in terms of speed. You also have to have a very reliable car that finishes every race. If you have more that 3 DNFs a year that could cost you the championship.
Q. How do you like racing in the NASA American Iron series?
A. I love it! I like the fact that I can choose what parts I want to install on my car. There are many different suspension, brake, and engine combinations I can try. My car can be competitive against cars costing two to three times more than mine due to the rules AI has.
Q. You are the real example of grass-roots racing; tell us about how you prepare your car and what kind of support you have gotten?
A. I try to check out my car a day or two after the last race weekend so I can make a list of what needs to be none. As soon as I get the parts I take my car to work and do all the maintenance or repairs needed. I try to have my car ready for the next race weekend a week ahead of time. I hate having to work on my car till the last minute. Maximum Motorsports helps me out with suspension set up at the track. The Mustang Depot (from Ebay) helps me out with rotors and engine parts. Toyo Tires has a great tire rebate for AI too.
Q. What is your favorite track and about some of your favorite races you have had in the last couple of years?
A. My favorite track would have to be Sears Point. I like the elevation changes and variety of turns. It is one of the only tracks I go to that I always feel like I could go quicker. With no run off space at that track I always seam to leave a little on the table.
My favorite race was last year at Sears Point against Dave Royce in the Maximum Motorsports Mustang. Dave Royce was my HPDE 4 instructor so it was fun to race against him. On the Saturday qualifying I out qualified him by 1.5 seconds. I was pitted next to MM and they were scrambling around their car trying to make it quicker while I was sitting down with my hood still shut waiting for the race. I won the race on Saturday. On Sundays race I finished 3rd swapping spots with Royce many times who finished 2nd.
Q. Tell us a little about your car, how did you transform from HPDE events to full championship AI racing?
A. My AI Mustang started out as my only car that I drove everyday back in 1997. I drag raced it back then with a best time of 11.6 at 118mph. I also used it to tow my Sea-Doo to the river. I did my first open track event in 1999 with the Cobra Owners Club. I then got involved with the NASA HPDE events and worked my way up to group 4. As the car got faster and faster I installed a cage and got more serious about getting into racing. Then I bought a truck and trailer and turned my car into a track only car. My lap times in HPDE 4 were close to AI times so it made it easier when I started AI.
Q. The word is out that you are getting married this year, how does your new wife feel about your racing?
A. My fiancé does not mind the racing too much. She goes to two or three of the races a year. We will see how much racing I will be able to do after we buy a house together.
Q. What other car racing series do you enjoy? How do you think NASA AI series compares to some of the other series?
A. My favorite racing series is F1. In F1 if a guy is 1.5 seconds a lap quicker it will add up in the end and he will have a large lead at the finish. It's not like NASCAR were they will throw a yellow every time the field spreads out and there is a hot dog wrapper on the track. I like the freedom that NASA AI allows me to make modifications to my car. Some other series only allow certain parts to be installed on your car. I like to be able to make something myself or buy what I want.
Q. How do you prepare for racing; do you exercise much or work out? How do you mentally prepare yourself for each race?
A. I am skinny guy as it is so I don't work out much. I lift allot of tires at work and am used to working on hot cars in hot weather at work so I guess that helps. The biggest thing I do at the track before a race is to try not to be rushed and have fun.
Q. What is in store for your racing future, what is the next step for you or any special news?
A. I did a few minor changes to the car this year so we will see how it goes (hopefully faster). This is the fourth season on my motor so I hope it stays together.
Interview by Andy Bowman, February 12, 2006.