Ryan King has steadily progressed through the ranks of the Dirt Late Model racing world as a Crate Late Model and Limited Late Model track champion. And now the Seymour, Tenn. racer is about to embark on his most significant challenge yet as he plans to take on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in hopes of capturing Rookie of the Year honors on that circuit.
King will not be alone in his quest, however, as he will enlist the help of Knoxville-based Warrior Race Cars as the driver of the Sanford Goddard-owned organization’s house car. And along with Warrior’s support will come veteran crew member and setup guru Mike Nuchols.
King says that there was a time of adjustment as far as getting a feel for the Warrior car was concerned.
“When I first got in their cars, they had their older style car and there was an issue in that they had different drivers coming in and out of the car so they weren’t really building a notebook around the car because a driver would come in and put his setup on the car, then when he left, that setup left with him,” King explained in an interview with InsideDirtRacing.com. “We tried to start out by going back to what they had originally and we were struggling a little bit and we felt like we were behind on technology. We felt like we would be better off to scrap what we had and start all over and build a notebook from the ground up using new technology. That’s kind of what we’ve got going on here.”
King believes that the Warrior team is making great strides technology wise. During the annual open house event held at the chassis builder’s shop in Knoxville, the house car was on a new pull down rig as a means of demonstrating that technological advance to the company’s customers.
Warrior has developed its latest chassis which has been dubbed ‘Comanche’. King drove that car in 2017.
“That’s why we have the car on the pull down, to just show the new stuff we’re using and how we’re developing a new car that way,” King declared. “I like the way the car drives probably better than the older car. It seems like the car is a lot more stuck to the race track than the older car was. As far as the higher horsepower stuff, from me running a lot in the crate, when I get in the super is when I really notice the difference in the new cars.”
A recent trip to the PRI Show in Indianapolis reaffirmed King’s belief that the sport of Dirt Late Model racing is more technology driven than ever before.
“You definitely have to keep up with the technology,” the 26-year-old driver said. “With us going to PRI, a lot of the stuff we’re focusing on is data acquisition. We went to a seminar about shaker rig testing and we’re looking at what’s the next step to improve as far as technology because that’s where a lot of guys have been beating us. I think that’s where Longhorn showed up to the ballgame in that sense when they took some of that NASCAR side of things and started to apply it. That’s what we’re seeing more of is that NASCAR type technology coming into the dirt side of things now.”
For the past two seasons King and his team have hit the road early in the year to take on the best dirt racers in the business at the Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, GA. Those trips to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series sanctioned events inspired them to take the next step in 2018.
“Back in the fall, Mike and I kind of asked ourselves what our goal was and Mike said that in the next five years he wanted to run Lucas full-time,” King recalled. “We decided that since we’ve been going to Brunswick for the past couple of years and we’ve done pretty good there we might take it a little farther. Last year we kind of threw around the idea of going on to East Bay but we wanted to do it when we can have more of a game plan.”
A recent conversation with Lucas Oil series director Rick Schwallie further sealed the decision to follow that series, at least for its first few races.
“We thought we could at least go on to East Bay and run that this year,” the driver continued. “Then we go to looking at the schedule and the next few Lucas races were pretty feasible for us to get to so we started talking more about the rookie stuff so we decided to see what Lucas has to offer. You know, they give you bonuses if you’re in the top-10 or 12 in points and that sort of thing. What we first thought wasn’t that feasible actually is more feasible once we got to looking into it. We talked to Schwallie at PRI and he told us that you don’t have to commit(to running the full series) until April 1st so we feel like we can make it until then at least. So we’ve set that as our goal for now and then we’ll re-evaluate and go from there.”
The Warrior house car will have power provided by one of the best known names in Dirt Late Model racing as the team will race with an engine provided by Vic Hill Racing Engines.
“Vic is putting us a motor together and we’re putting a second Comanche car together,” King declared. “I think Vic’s motor is going to go in the car we have now and we’ll swap out and put our current motor in the new car. We’ll have two Comanche cars ready to go for SpeedWeeeks.”
So what goals does the young driver have for himself and his team for 2018?
“I just want to win some races. We’ve been fast but I feel like we’ve been handicapping ourselves a lot for what we’ve been running. Like, we’ll go run a steelhead race we’ll take our 525 motor and be down 150 horsepower. As far as the super stuff, we’ve been fast. At Eldora we qualified 15th out of over 100 cars there. I think we’ve got the potential to win some races this year and I think we just need to put everything together in order to do that.”