Breakthrough performances can come in many forms for up and coming racecar drivers, whether it’s a single race victory, a string of victories, or supreme season long performance. For Ryan Kuhn and his Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model campaign, it is edging towards the second of those types, and perhaps building towards the latter.
Back in 2017 the East Bridgewater, Massachusetts native made a big step up from Legend Cars straight to the ACT-type Late Models, running weekly at his home track of Seekonk Speedway. Finding victory lane for the first time that year, he proceeded to win more in 2018 while claiming the Seekonk Late Model title. The next year, he would hit the road and win Rookie of the Year on the American-Canadian Tour itself.
During this time, he was also making his first starts in Super Late Models both at home and throughout New England. Choosing to focus more and more on running Super Late Models as 2020 and 2021 came and went the first SLM win had eluded him and the No. 72 team.
While momentum and experience had been gained in 2021, along with being a part of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program for that year, wins continued to slip away in 2022. That is, until July 27, when at his home track of Seekonk he bested the PASS field for his first SLM victory and a $10,000 payday. The 22-year-old had also taken away the points lead in PASS North from one of New England’s best Late Model stars, fellow Bay Stater Eddie MacDonald.
Not letting up, Kuhn hit the road for Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine for the third of three-straight 100-lap Super Late Model races for the track’s weekly competitors on August 6. Passing Calvin Rose Jr. with 27 laps to go, Kuhn all of the sudden had his first Super Late Model win on the road. All just in time for this coming Saturday’s PASS race at Oxford, which will also serve as the final racing tune up for the prestigious Oxford 250 on August 28.
“It’s sinking in, we’re working hard to get ready for this weekend, the 250, and to hold that point lead the rest of the year. We’ve been doing are best to make sure we stack up to these bigger teams, we’ve stepped up our game and it’s paying off. Taken a little longer than we would’ve wanted, but we’ve been competing with guys who’ve been doing this for 10-20 years,” Kuhn told Racing America.
After overcoming a rough start to the 2022 season, Kuhn has found consistency while chaos has scorched the performances of his competitiors.
“This is incredible, I didn’t think we were going to have a season quite like this. We didn’t even coming into the season planning to run full time, everything just played out right, and we took advantage other’s bad luck. After the June race at Oxford we decided to go for it and now here we are.”
Kuhn is riding a wave of momentum that had formed at Seekonk, not with his race win in July, but rather a month before when he had comeback from being in a multicar incident to finish in sixth. With finishes of fourth, eighth, and another fourth, then the July win at Seekonk, the No. 72 team armed with notes and experience showed their strength at Oxford last Saturday night.
“We took the momentum into that, including what we had learned from our other car that we’ve been running there in the PASS races, and decided to go a little more. It really, really worked. The car felt good in practice; we did loose a little bit on the long run even though we got the race win. I still think there’s more to it and I think we can be even better. We’re trying to be as prepared as we can for the Oxford 250, we’ll see how this weekend goes, and if we need to change anything we will.”
Mixed in with his 2019 ACT Rookie of the Year season, was an eye-catching performance in hist first attempt at the Oxford 250. On race day Kuhn won the day’s first heat race, which put him on the pole for the big dance. While he finished two laps down, he had established himself as a driver to be taken seriously in future runnings of the 250.
That has not panned out the past two years, when a runner-up heat race run was ruined after being knocked out of the 250 on Lap 46 in 2020. Things only got worse in 2021 when he failed to make the field 250. Kuhn is looking to go into the 49th edition this year with the same promise he had in 2019, using what has been gained to be a contender.
“We were good that day, then something happened, and we haven’t been good since. But, I think it’s more that everyone else got better while we stayed the same. We’ve put a lot of focus into Oxford, we tested there twice with Jason Ricker helping us over the phone. That got us a little in the right direction and we’ve been able to plug away at it ever since.”
Though he’d like to win this Saturday night and while a PASS title is very much on the mind, Kuhn and the 72 crew have got 250 fever. But even with the race as priority one, a great 250 can also lead the way to a protentional title too. But, there’s still much to be done.
“It's a lot of prep just getting all of the equipment ready. We’re going to be bringing two cars just in case something happens in practice. We’re brining extra wheels and extra tires just to be prepared as we can. The 250 is a whole project in itself, it takes just a week to get ready, plus I got to get hydrated in the days leading up. All just to be there at the end of the race.”