In a season that has seen many familiar favorites winning races and leading the points in the 2019 American-Canadian Tour Late Model championship, the year’s rookies have also caught the eyes of all in attendance. One of these fresh hot shots, Ryan Kuhn, came into the season fresh off a Late Model title at Seekonk Speedway in his home state of Massachusetts, with the goal of transitioning to the ACT Tour.
So far, the transition has gone well following a bumpy start, with Kuhn leading the rookie standings and sitting fourth in the championship standings. In addition, Kuhn has also put in a few noteworthy stints outside ACT in Super Late Model competition. The most recent outing coming this past Sunday in the 46th Oxford 250, where he seized a chance to claim the pole position for the legendary race.
“It was unbelievable, I can’t put it into any other words. Our expectation for that weekend was just to make the show. We got a great draw in the first heat, and I said after the heat on the radio, not only did we make the show, we got the pole for the Oxford 250. I’ll never forget that,” Kuhn told Speed51.
Now the 18-year-old from East Bridgewater, MA must turn from one of his greatest racing moments to a track that has been the site of some of his toughest moments. Heading to Thunder Road this Sunday for the Labor Day Classic 200, Kuhn’s two trips to Vermont, including this past May, has seen the No. 72MA team fail to advance out of the qualifying races to the main event. This is something that Kuhn knows must change this weekend in order to not lose ground in the point standings.
“We really, really want to run well at Thunder Road. We’ve never made a show there since we started on the Tour. I hope we have momentum, we’re going to try some new stuff this weekend at Thunder Road with the setup. We’re going to keep trying until we find something and once we find it, we’re going to be really fast there.”
Kuhn knows the key to making it in will be a car that can do well in the short heat races, but at the same time, it will come down to luck in the unpredictable draw for heat race starting positions.
“It’s going to be big, again it comes down partly to the draw for the heat. I’d like to start Top 5, that way we can make it through the heat without having to worry about consi’s or B-mains, and still have a chance for points for the plus/minus.”
Another aspect that Kuhn will have to face is not only keeping up with fellow ACT regulars, but also the regulars that call ‘The Road’ home on Thursday nights during the summer.
“Those guys always throw a big twist into it. You got Jason Corliss who’s always fast there, Scott Dragon is a King of the Road. But if we can run with them in practice to figure out some stuff from them, it can be a big help. We want to hang with those guys during the day, run Top 10, and get some solid points out of it, being the second to last race.”
In what has been a learning season, Kuhn has gained confidence through consistency since missing the show at Thunder Road in May. He has kept his No. 72MA in the top 10 at the end of all six races since then, with two top fives and even some laps led at his second home track of Thompson Speedway (CT).
“We’ve been pretty happy since then. We did go through a lot of struggles those first few races, just getting the car to handle in the feature. We’ve been rock solid in practice, and just got to work more on race trim. Perfect example, at Oxford Saturday we were perfect in practice, and we were way too tight in the feature. We just got to learn to put in a setup that lasts into the feature.”
While Kuhn is not ruling out the chances of gunning for a win in the last two races of 2019 at Thunder Road and Thompson, his main focus is staying ahead of fellow first year ACT driver, Stephen Donahue in the 2019 rookie points.
“It would be really great to bring that home. Thunder Road is Stephen’s home track and he’s going to be fast. I think he’ll be there up front at the end. Again, if we can just get another top 10, get some good rookie points, we’ll be in good shape heading to Thompson which is one of our best tracks.”
Can’t make it to Thunder Road on Sunday? Speed51 has you covered, with the Labor Day Classic 200 airing live on Speed51’s Summer Thunder TV presented by PFC Brakes on Sunday afternoon.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51