Column By: JIM HILLIER SR. / RPW – ST. JOHNSVILLE, NY – It’s a “Family Affair” certainly describes the racing efforts over the years with the Jeff Swartz Family whose home base is located in the Village of St. Johnsville.
Father Jeff competes in the Wing Champ Racing Series (WCRS) on a very successful note in the Varin Freight Systems noted Swartz #24, but the main focus of this interesting story features the son of Jeff and Renee Swartz. Twenty seven year old WCRS driver Ryan Swartz secured the 2017 Championship title to add to his resume.
Ryan began his career by competing in flat karts at the age of 7 and has just completed his 20th year behind the wheel of what he truly loves to do. So I don’t forget to mention, the rest of the racing Swartz contingent contains Jeff’s daughters and Ryan’s sisters who can hold their own at area karting tracks with the guys. Both Alyssa and Kirsten (also known as Pumpkin 95), each have shown their competitive talents on the racing kart circuits.
I met up with Ryan in his home town of St. Johnsville where he graduated from high school and is currently employed by the village water department. In fact ,when I parked my vehicle in the Stewart’s Shop, there was Ryan in the middle of the road checking out a water main break. It reminded me of Ryan scouring over his Wing Champ racer each week at the track seeking that competitive edge. We sat at a table outside the store exchanged pleasantries and I said Ryan let’s get the show on the road Champ!
Hillier: Some of thoughts about growing up and racing karts equipment wise?
Ryan: I started off competing in flat karts at the age of 7 years old. It was my Grandpa Swartz who basically financed my first entry into karting and from his assistance my racing career took off. I was using #24 (huge Jeff Gordan Fan) until my grandfather passed away and then I changed my number to #63. The number was grandpa’s age when he passed away so I started using that number to honor him. During that time Jim it was all flat karts and gaining experience or seat time.
Hillier: Where did you compete and in what equipment?
Ryan: Like I said it was grandpa and my dad who launched my karting career. We raced a lot at Caroga Creek when Jimmy Johnson Sr. had the track and I still compete there when I’m not on the road racing series events. In 2014, I was the New York State Dirt Karting Series Champion in the Clone Heavy and Clone 330 weight class something I was really proud of. It was accomplished in my own equipment and I raced that series against some of the best drivers in the northeast. Plus, I have competed not only at dirt tracks, but indoors during the winter months gaining further experience on my resume.
Hillier: Your favorite track to compete at?
Ryan: That’s an easy one to answer Jim. Without a doubt, Selingsgrove in Pennsylvania. It’s size, smooth as glass surface and competition are one of the best I seen. When I return home from racing there, I am really physically sore and if I haven’t been at the top of my racing game at that track great results just don’t happen!
Hillier: Do you have any hobbies outside of your family, work and racing?
Ryan: To be very honest mud bogging, four wheeling and anything outdoors is fine with me.
Hillier: What plans would you like to see in your racing future?
Ryan: I, like any other racer my age and younger, would love to have the opportunity to say “move up” to say something like dirt sprints, crate sportsman or modified. Believe it or not I am really content in what I am currently doing race wise. I have made a lot of new friends who I totally enjoy racing with. Racing, in general, has gotten to be very expensive so with me footing my racing bills in the wing champs I am limited at times in what I can afford to do. One is always hoping to impress someone or some company who may decide to fund you in your quest to be the best.
Hillier: Please Ryan, if you would, recognize in your story here the folks who keep your racing career motoring on!
Ryan: Moran Racing Products (Todd Moran)– my flat kart, P&P Motors in North Carolina (Jonathan Cash) – my motors, S S Cuts (Jeremy Slosek) – Tires and Speed Tech (Lance Yeager) – Tires and our family friend and WCRS competitor Tom Varin who many times have helped me and my dad getting back on the track with Tom’s parts assistance.
Hillier: Your 2018 plans Ryan and anything you’d like to mention to me?
Ryan: My plans call for defending my 2017 Wing Champ Racing Series title. It certainly will be a big challenge as more and more teams look to be competing in 2018. It is the fastest growing racing division in the northeast. I will also compete in two divisions, Wing Champ and in a flat kart for Todd Moran, at the Caroga Creek Speedway 2018 NE Pro Series and then the Burris Tire Series with the Chase Chassis in Pennsylvania.
Hillier: Any final thoughts from Ryan Swartz and again “Thank You” for your valuable time to do this interview!
Ryan: Yes, Jim I can think of one special moment looking back at 2017. I thought my chances of being the 2017 WCRS were dashed because I had destroyed my motor in the next to last point event. I was leading our family friend Bobby Rhinehardt by a few points so I figured Bob would be the 2017 champion. Wouldn’t you know great sportsmanship came into the final event when Bob Rhinehardt offered me one of his spare motors and I won the championship!!! How do you thank someone like that who probably should have won the title, but that’s how Bob Rhinehardt operates always helping others. I can’t thank him enough and again if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be bragging about being the WCRS 2017 Champion!