Categories
Trucks

FDNY Racing Runs In Remembrance of Fallen 9/11 Responders

LONG POND, Pa. — All of NASCAR’s top-tier organizations have one goal in mind when they go to the track each weekend; win. But for the low-budget and undermanned teams, simply being part of a race can mean a whole lot more.

That’s the case for Jim Rosenblum’s FDNY Racing, which runs in the Camping World Truck Series. The No. 28 Chevrolet 26-year-old Ryan Ellis will pilot in the Pocono Mountains 150 has a crew entirely made of firefighters and police officers from New York’s FDNY and NYPD.

The race team’s mission isn’t to win the race or win a championship because it doesn’t have the adequate resources to do that. Instead, its purpose is to honor the personnel of both departments that died in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as those who still serve or are retired.

“We’re Jim Rosenblum Racing, but we go under FDNY Racing,” Rosenblum told POPULAR SPEED. “We put NYPD and FDNY [on the truck] because we give money to the Widows’ and Children’s Fund, and we want to honor the memory of the first responders that lost their life on 9/11 and since then.”

The team has virtually no funding. The hood of Ellis’ truck says ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ and each side panel has an FDNY and NYPD logo. The crew members are all volunteers, and they don’t make money during the weekend. All the team’s earnings are donated to help the families that are part of the Fund.

Rosenblum’s machine has raced with FDNY logos on a part-time basis since 2002 and estimates that the team has raised $1 million since then. Although the truck doesn’t have the speed to contend with series powerhouses such as ThorSport Racing or Kyle Busch Motorsports, they will run the whole race; Rosenblum said the team wouldn’t start-and-park.

“We honor the police officers who protect us every day and to remember the tragedy of all the officers who are getting slain,” Rosenblum said. “It’s for all the first responders who are currently on the job or who have lost their lives helping protect us.”

Before the race, Rosenblum tells his driver the same as what he would tell all Americans:

“Go out, be safe, and enjoy yourself.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

LEE: Daytona Finish Shows Consistent Inconsistency

For the third time in as many restrictor plate races in 2016, the NASCAR Xfinity Series had a controversial finish in Friday’s Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona.

After taking the white flag, Aric Almirola led the field down the backstretch for the last time when all hell broke loose. David Ragan, subbing for Matt Tifft in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, was turned sideways after contact with Jeff Green as the pair raced for fifth in the outside line.

The contact forced Ragan into the outside wall and collected several other cars, including Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Ellis and J.J. Yeley. With chaos erupting behind the leaders, NASCAR chose to not throw the caution flag, giving way to what looked like would be another thrilling side-by-side finish at Daytona.

However, as Justin Allgaier and Almirola raced in a dead heat out of Turn 4, NASCAR elected to display the yellow, freezing the field less than a mile from the finish line. Replays shown by NBC Sports made it too close to call for some, but after several minutes of review, NASCAR declared Almirola the winner.

If this feels familiar, it should. At Talladega, NASCAR had a similar situation when Brennan Poole took the checkered flag first, but Elliott Sadler was correctly ruled the winner after replay showed him in first place as the yellow flag waved due to a crash in the tri-oval.

Friday night’s finish was yet another example of NASCAR making things much harder than they need to be, inexplicably complicating the finish of another superspeedway race. In fact, all NASCAR needed to do was throw the caution as soon Ragan was sideways in front of oncoming traffic and there would be no controversy, and Almirola would still be celebrating in victory lane without a senseless replay.

Instead, they seemingly chose to wait it out, to see exactly how the crash was going to unfold, and if no one was injured, allow the leaders to race back to the finish. That’s fine until the what-if moment happens, as was the case when Ellis radioed to his team that he needed some medical assistance.

At that moment, NASCAR had no choice but to throw the caution to get help sent to Ellis as soon as possible. The finish left fans, media and drivers confused as they all waited for NASCAR to declare a winner. Following the race, Ellis’ mother tweeted that he had been suffering from dehydration.

Friday’s race had it all: three-wide racing, crashes, fuel strategy and a number of underdog drivers and teams near the front of the field in the closing laps. But it also had more inconsistency from NASCAR, which might be the only thing that’s consistent at Daytona.

EMAIL HANK AT editors@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HankLee89

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Making Richmond Race a Win for Ryan Ellis

RICHMOND, Va. – Ryan Ellis is this weekend’s feel good story in the Sprint Cup Series.

Ellis will pilot a third car for BK Racing in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway after earning a spot in the field based on his practice speed. Qualifying was rained out, but Ellis had posted a faster lap time than Cole Whitt during the weather-shortened first practice session to make the show in the No. 93 ScienceLogic Toyota.

But it was a long wait between the time practice was halted around 12 p.m. ET to when the official call came from NASCAR shortly before 4 p.m. Fortunately for Ellis, he’s pulling double duty this weekend, so he spent his time running back and forth between the XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series garage.

It ended up helping keep his mind from wondering.

“It wasn’t too stressful, but we were running around fist pumping like we had just won the World Series or Super Bowl after they called (qualifying),” Ellis said. “It’s a big day for a small team.”

It’s the second consecutive week BK Racing has had something to celebrate. Last weekend in Bristol, Matt DiBenedetto earned a career-best sixth place finish. Sunday, Ellis will have a large group from ScienceLogic on hand to watch him race for the first time this season and second in his career.

It’s a huge weekend for the both Ellis, who is racing at his home track, as well as for ScienceLogic. As he works to hopefully land a full-time job the company is considering signing on for more races this season and perhaps returning in 2017. Once he was locked into the show, Ellis felt a weight lifted from his shoulders because he wouldn’t be letting anyone down.

Ellis beat Whitt by 0.098 seconds.

“That would have been the worst day of my life. It would have been horrible,” Ellis said if he had not qualified. “It’s not necessarily the racing side of it anymore when you get to this level; it’s so much of the sponsorship. We have 75 to 100 people coming out from ScienceLogic. This is their home race, and this is my home race. I have friends coming out. I would have had 100 people coming to the race that would have been all depressed or sad, and I would have had it on my shoulders.

“I don’t know what I would have done, but I’m glad I don’t have to think about it.”

At 26, Ellis has put time in at the Camping World Truck and XFINITY Series levels with a combine 51 starts since 2012. He considers himself a driver for hire and will take any opportunity he’s presented.

Ellis compares himself to fellow CWTS driver Jordan Anderson, who has earned quite a bit of attention in the last year for his determination and dedication to make it to the track.

“He’s grinding it out; he owns his own team basically, and he’s working on his car,” Ellis said of Anderson. “I’m doing so much of my own marketing and the sponsorship side. I worked on my degree for marketing, and I’m trying a whole different route than he is. He’s working his butt off that, and I’m working my butt off on proposals and media.

“Ultimately I just want to run full-time, but I think this is a big opportunity to prove that I can go out there and fight with these Cup guys.”

Which is why days like Friday that might go largely unnoticed to some end up meaning the world to others.

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Persistence and Popularity Paying Off For Ryan Ellis

As the calendar flips to the start of a new year, journeyman driver Ryan Ellis hopes that 2015 will be remembered as the season he put everything together and cemented himself as a perennial part of the NASCAR community.

The popular 26-year-old doesn’t shy away from his current lot in life, and even takes pride in his ability to make ends meet. And while he doesn’t like the term ride-buyer and the connotations that come with it, Ellis has accepted his current role in the sport and has certainly made the most of it since making his XFINITY Series debut back in 2012.

Ellis has a familiar story.

He’s a driven youngster with enough talent to participate in the highest levels of NASCAR but just doesn’t have the funding needed to get there. He races on a week-to-week basis with a variety of teams across Trucks and XFINITY with no guarantee that he will ever get asked back.

He does what’s asked of him, and more importantly, does it with a smile. That combined with his candid personality and social media transparency has made him a hit with fans and an attractive option for sponsors looking to enter NASCAR but on a strict budget.

Paired with one such partner in ScienceLogic, Ellis was finally able to cross the Sprint Cup Series off his personal bucket list, making his debut for Circle Sport Racing in November at Phoenix International Raceway. Ellis called the moment a “dream come true,” and he’s spent a majority of his off-season working tirelessly to make additional starts come 2016.

READ MORE: How Ellis Made his Cup debut

“It meant everything to me,” Ellis told Popular Speed on Friday. “People say that all the time, but I mean it. I felt like I had made it, and when you make it, you think of everyone that helped you get there.

“It was spectacular. Special. And many of those people who have been so supportive were there, and even if the weather didn’t cooperate, I’m happy they got to be there.”

Ellis would like to make anywhere from two-to-five Cup starts this coming season, and is hopeful it could lead to additional opportunities down the road. Pairing that with about 35-40 combined starts in Trucks and XFINITY and Ellis says he would feel satisfied.

“We’re working on a little bit of everything,” Ellis said. “It all comes down to sponsors. I’m trying to keep my sponsors from last year on board and they’re very interested in Cup. Of course, a lot of this is dependent on franchising because a lot of that is still to be decided. The new rules may make a lot of the smaller teams and ride buying seats go away.

“The other stuff comes together as the season goes on, almost on a week-to-week basis.”

Like many of his peers, Ellis struggles to balance the need for seat time with the equal need to be competitive. Dating back to his days in Legends and Sport Cars, Ellis grew accustomed to racing near the front of the field. His ambitions to do the same in NASCAR hasn’t diminished but he knows it’s a little bit more difficult due to the economics at this stage.

“It’s a tough thing to balance,” Ellis said. “Fans hate crowdfunding and I may even hate it sometimes but you have to look at it like this: There are more underfunded drivers than the funded ones, just like there are more blue-collar people than wealthy ones.

“So many of the drivers fans often criticize are the same ones they say they want because they have the credentials but not the funding. Anyway, to answer your question, $200,000 could buy you one race with a really good team but what if something happens? You basically wasted it, so at least you get multiple opportunities with a smaller team even if they’re not as fast.”

So for now, Ellis is biding his time and hoping to impress top-tier teams and sponsors enough to take a flyer.

Much of the value Ellis provides his sponsors actually comes from his online popularity, where he’s garnered a reputation for accessibility and honesty. While he doesn’t consider it a strategy, Ellis does admit that his online interactions have aided in his efforts to connect with potential partners.

“It’s more of who I am than anything else,” Ellis said. “Growing up in modern times, this generation texts more than calls so I’ve always tried to reply to everyone. Fans appreciate drivers that interact with them and it’s something that I take seriously even if they don’t always have the most positive things to say.

“I’d say about 80 percent of Twitter are cool and supportive, and that’s the real world too. All in all, I really enjoy talking with fans though.”

So while Ellis isn’t yet a superstar, he’s remained humble in an era where numerous rides are about to open up across all three national divisions. With turnover comes opportunity, and Ellis is well-positioned to at least continue to earn a living in Stock Car racing.

And for now, that’s good enough.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
News

Ryan Ellis to Make Sprint Cup Debut at Phoenix

@RyanEllisRacing put his marketing degree to good use when landing a ride with Circle Sport Racing, the team he will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut with in November.

Ellis, 26, will race for Circle Sport at the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15th.

Phoenix marks an opportunity for the journeyman racer from Ashburn, Virginia, but there is also a sense of pressure that comes with the opportunity. Ellis has never scored a top-10 finish in major league NASCAR competition, but he has spent the entirety of his NASCAR career with lower-budget teams. While that is again the case in his Sprint Cup debut, he also knows the competition will be elite.

“I’m obviously really excited,” Ellis remarked. “It’s tough being in the middle of the Chase. It’s the second biggest race of the Chase. You have to go in there with level headed goals. A top 30 would be big. There’s nobody that’s easy to beat in Cup. In XFINITY, you can say their equipment not great but they’re doing it every week in Cup. You’ve got to run laps and stay on the lead lap as long as possible.”

Ellis has spent his whole life racing for this moment, from his early racing days at the now-defunct Old Dominion Speedway to his road racing days to his NASCAR days.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Ellis commented. “You work your whole life to get an opportunity like this. Freaking excited. I just want to prove if I can in the right equipment and run for a good team, I can do well.”

Ellis hopes to make an impression at Phoenix and catch the eye of other NASCAR Sprint Cup teams with hopes that they might call him up to race for them in the future.

“I just think an opportunity like this opens up a lot of doors,” Ellis explained. “Obviously I want to make Science Logic, my sponsor, happy so first goal is to make sure they’re happy with everything and ultimately, it is a sponsor driven sport as you know. My opportunities are limited to when a team is willing to fund a ride or when I find a sponsor to help with the costs.

“What I think I could benefit from this weekend, it might not lead to a full time ride anywhere, being realistic, but you never know, if someone gets hurt like how [Brett] Moffitt got his ride, you want to be one of those people who gets a phone call. You want to get the call and you want to be in consideration for full season ride but there are only 43 of those. If you can prove to the Cup team owners you belong in the garage, the opportunities are certainly endless.”

At 25 years of age, Ellis is still relatively young. For comparison, defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, now 39, didn’t make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut until he was 25. With that knowledge, Ellis has not burdened himself with the pressure of any sort of timetable for success.

“I think you could drive yourself crazy looking at a time frame in the sport,” Ellis explained. “As long as every year continues to get better and you’re moving forward, that’s all you can ask for. If I’m never full time in Cup, it’s way further in my sight line than I ever thought I would be. There’s only 100 people in the world able to do this every week. Having a stable ride in the top three series is exciting. Obviously, I want to be in the best ride I can though. If I was in a top 10 ride and finished 10th every week, I’d be upset and want to finish in the top-five.”

Ellis will be making his Cup debut thanks to the support of ScienceLogic. He was able to secure sponsorship from ScienceLogic thanks to a fraternity brother and a degree in marketing from George Mason University.

“I can’t think there’s ever a normal story for getting a sponsor,” Ellis said when talking about how the deal came together. “I do my own sponsor hunting, have help from friends. I don’t have anyone who works for me. It’s networking based. I have a fraternity brother, went through the whole pledging process of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, he actually works for this company. So, he was able to make the connection with the company and, I showed them my proposals that I’ve worked on day and night for my whole life and sold them on the opportunity.”

ScienceLogic is an information technology software and service vendor based out of Ashburn, Virginia and their support of Ellis marks their first time sponsoring a car in NASCAR.

“It’s their first adventure into NASCAR. It’s easy for a sponsor to get a bad taste in their mouth as well as a good taste. You just want them a good return on investment and help them build their business. If it’s sustainable for them, it’s sustainable for me. That’s why I went to college for a marketing degree. That might be what got me a Cup ride. Maybe I can put that college education to use.”

While Ellis is not expected to be a driver mixing it up for the win, he will have legions of fans who will watch him at Phoenix. He was one of the more popular drivers when he raced in Legends, and later Late Model Stock Cars, at the now-defunct Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Virginia and his charisma and personality have landed him a respectable following of over 16,000 followers on Twitter.

The Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 will commence on Sunday, November 15th and the race can be seen live on the NBC broadcast television network.