Inside The Hauler | Get To Know Nationwide Series Driver Ryan Ellis
We continue our little mini series with another special guest, who when he saw his teammates interview, he just had to have his own feature as well. Ryan Ellis, driver of the No. 46 Nationwide car for The Motorsports Group, will join us for a special one-on-one interview. Pull out your iPhone, or tablet, or even join us from your Smart TV, either way you prefer you are not going to want to miss this opportunity to get to know one of the drivers in NASCAR’s top three divisions.
The Weekly Racer: Well first off Ryan, let me start off by thanking you for reaching out and showing interest in this style of an interview! If these go anything like the past we should have a good time strolling down memory lane, and allowing the fans to get to know a new side of Ryan Ellis. Before we get to involved why don’t you tell those reading who have maybe not read your Wikapedia page a little bit about who you are!
Ryan Ellis: Well I was born out in California, I am 24 years old now, have been racing for 20 years now. I grew up racing quarter midgets and karts in the Virginia area. Well Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia area till I was about twelve. Racing guys like Reed Sorenson and Justin Allgaier for national championships. Then I moved into Legends cars and raced with them a little and some new drivers as well. Did that until I was about sixteen then did some Late Model racing until that team fell apart.
TWR: What did you end up doing after that deal fell apart?
RE: I started looking for anyway to drive a race car that next year and some how wound up in road racing. We ran that for about five or six years and then the next thing I knew I was offered a start and park gig in the Nationwide series. Now I am a full-time Nationwide driver. You know I don’t even know how I got here, I even say that every day I don’t know how I got here but I am going to fight to stay in the series.
TWR: What made you even want to get into racing in the first place?
RE: I somehow knew before I was even born that I wanted to be a race car driver. My father was a racer and so was his father, so I was pretty much born into the sport. I don’t even know how I would have found it if I wasn’t born into. I mean I was sitting in race cars when I was only weeks old. When I was kid even I would sleep with like toy motorcycles instead of the typical stuffed animals so I would always wake up with this motorcycle imprinted on the side of my face. It’s all that I have ever wanted to do.
TWR: You know growing up every takes a different path to get them where they are today. How was your journey through the ranks of quarter midgets and Legends racing.
RE: Oh it was awesome! Max Gresham, Matt DiBenedetto, I hang out with them all the time, always sit and reminisce a lot on the simple days. Obviously we have a ton of fun where we are at and wouldn’t trade it for the world, but we always talked about renting a legends car for a day and go back out there and have fun with the guys. There was a lot of pressure back the, you know. It was a family owned car so if I wrecked it we could be out for a week or month till we had the money to fix it. I don’t know I would totally race Legend cars for the rest of my life if I could.
TWR: So if we could get some Legends cars together, maybe you could get some of your guys together and put on a heck of a show?
RE: Oh yea! I actually ran out there quite a bit growing up. It’s a cool track to get to know, its defiantly one of the toughest tracks in the US, I would love to go back there!
TWR: So I know I’m pretty interested in your stint on the road course, so I know the readers have to be. Tell us about your time running Volkswagen!
RE: Yea, I got into the road racing like I said kind of because our Late Model team went under. I got started in the Spec Miata which is just kind of like a regional thing. Won Rookie of the Year in that and got into a touring series a couple of years later Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Series, which was a reality TV show on Discover channel so I got a lot of media exposure if you will fighting for the championship and winning the most races that year.
TWR: So really it was pretty much what made the world aware of Ryan Ellis?
RE: It really helped push me into Grand Am where I singed a professional contract with APR Motorsports. Went out there won our first two races in Grand Am, set the track record at Daytona. After that everything just snow balled and took off pretty quick. It was tough because I didn’t really have time to really appreciate it all.
TWR: So how did you get involved with running in the Camping World Truck Series?
RE: I actually didn’t get involved with the trucks till this year and that was really weird how that happened. I was driving down to Daytona with my dad to get my approval for the Nationwide series and my good friend and teammate Blake Koch text me asking if I would test his truck for him. Was like oh yea I am already going there, would love to! Did that test and was on top of the board most of the day which was pretty cool for that team. I don’t think they have finished inside the top twenty much. We went out and ran Daytona, Pocono, and Charlotte finishing 18th, 19th and got wrecked at Charlotte. Only got to run three truck series races but they were really fun and with a great team in FDNY Racing.
TWR: Lets stop and take a look back on the 2014 season as we get close to the end here. Tell me the best and the worst moment of 2014.
RE: Lets see… That’s a good question, I would say the best part is a couple of things. Daytona is one of them, to be able to go out there and play around in the draft and run top ten with about five to go in the #28 with FDNY Racing and that was pretty cool, I had never done any plate racing before. Being able to qualify with JD Motorsports at Mid-Ohio was awesome, got to qualify 15th and almost make the final qualifying group. Didn’t really get a lot of press for that but it felt really cool because I literally found out twelve hours before they needed a driver and I was already at the track.
Far as the worst, wow that’s hard. You know in this sport we have a lot of downs but I would say at the beginning of the year I committed to run the #24 car and they shut down. I had just moved to Mooresville, I was still in college, I had three classes left, the opportunity of a life time. You know I had the contract and a stable job, I was going to make this work! So when I moved here the second week of the season the team shut down.
TWR: That had to be a pretty scary moment?
RE: Yea I ended up struggling quite a bit there at the start of the season trying to find a job. It was really tough because I didn’t have the connections to really fight for a job you know. It was kind of lost feeling moving to a place you have never been to before with no family, no friends and trying to scramble for a job. It all ended up working out, it feels so good to be with Curtis Key and The Motorsports Group for the rest of the year. It’s so nice to just leave my suit and helmet inside the hauler for the rest of the year.
TWR: So lets switch gears here a little bit. We spent some time talking about your racing and where you have been and that great stuff, but lets drop the top a little bit and have some fun and see what kind of things Ryan Ellis is into!
RE: Oh yea, let’s go!
TWR: So I am fresh out of college my self, and before all this conference realignment was attending one of your rival schools, THE Old Dominion University. Are you still enrolled at George Mason?
RE: Well my last semester was last fall. I am taking about a semester and a half off before I transfer to UNC at Charlotte and finish my degree there.
TWR: What are you studying?
RE: Marketing! I was trying to find a way to get sponsors. I figured if I wasn’t going to be an engineer and work on that side I would help others find sponsors or maybe even find one for myself and make this NASCAR thing work.
TWR: So outside the track and away from the race shop are you into any other sports?
RE: I actually watch the NFL quite a bit. Most drivers might get home from the track Saturday or Sunday and sit on the couch and watch football and catch up on what happened in the race but I am an avid NHL fan. I will watch every single game that is on every night.
TWR: So tell us, who’s your favorite hockey team?
RE: I am a huge Caps fan. I try to watch as much Caps games as I can, I don’t even know I am going to make it work. I would even go to their practices when I lived in that area. Even though they kind of suck now.
TWR: Maybe it’s DC in a whole. If you’re a sports team in Washington DC you have to put your fans through excessive amounts of stress.
RE: Yea, you have to fail if your from Washington.
TWR: Well maybe its a good thing you moved down to Carolina so you don’t have to fit that stigma and won’t fail in NASCAR.
TWR: Okay so you can go anywhere in the world, time and money is not an option, as long as it’s not racing. What would you do?
RE: Ahhh! Immediately I was going to say F1 at Monaco, but I guess I can’t say that anymore. [Laughs]
TWR: I don’t know I think I could let that slide. Because honestly who wouldn’t want to take a drive in a Formula One car.
RE: Right now a steak house in Iowa because I am really hungry! Back in 2000 I went on a safari in Africa so honestly I would just like to go back there and boat around or Victoria Falls and just explore.
TWR: Here is another one that will make you think. NASCAR has come to you with open resources, open check book, and an engineering team and asked you to personally design a new track to be put on the circuit next year. What do you have in mind?
RE: Road Course!
TWR: Wow, just like that pretty much no thought to that?
RE: Oh yea, I love a road course. It would pretty much be like Mid-Ohio or Road America, something like that. A good mix of elevation changes and passing zones. I feel like a lot of mile and a half tracks we go to all blend together so it would be nice to get another road course in there. Oh, maybe a NASCAR hill climb! Just split them up over a bunch of different tracks and a bunch of different style cars, NASCAR, Indy Car, Legends, Late Model, all of them! That would be my perfect NASCAR.
TWR: That would be insane to watch! That would be like the ultimate word grand prix!
RE: Oh yea that would be awesome!
TWR: What was your first car?
RE: 1987 Mazda rx7.
TWR: The last movie you saw?
RE: A Million Ways to Die in the West with Seth McFarlane.
TWR: Do you play any video games?
RE: Yea quite a bit. That’s kind of my way of staying out of trouble. Kind of a gym rat too we like to go a couple of times a day. If we decide not to go one day we will sit and play Call of Duty, NHL. I actually play with a lot of my fans now so that one good way to interact with the fans outside of Twitter.
TWR: So I try to ask everyone who as made it into the bigger series. What kind of advice do you have for that guy or girl still running the Legends or Late Models out there.
RE: Just to put your self out there in every way possible. I worked at a go-kart track for 8-10 years and just the people I meet there helped me get to where I am now. I think anytime you’re sitting on the couch or in the house your really not helping yourself out whether it’s talking to fans via twitter or just going to a go-kart track and meeting people helps you. Win in any and everything you can and run as many laps as you can, and don’t say anything stupid on social media!