The preseason story of youth has carried on into the early part of the 2017 Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour season. This was at the forefront last time out at Oswego Speedway with Bryan Sherwood and Tyler Rypkema putting on impressive performances, each with a chance at their first RoC victory. In the end, it could only be one, with Sherwood holding off multiple challenges from Rypkema to score the win in the Richie Evans 61.
After the race, Rypkema showed the emotion that reflected his determination to achieve victory and the pressure that is involved with running the RoC.
“There’s a lot of pressure, especially in the RoC when you’re trying to perform and show what you’re capable of. I think we were capable of winning for sure, it all goes into the fact that you got to learn how much you can push the tires and know the capability of your car, the driver, and take all that into consideration,” Rypkema told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “You have to factor all that in, in a hurry. I just turned it up a little too early and burned off the right-rear, just something to write down in the notebook and say we had a good car that didn’t quite last.”
As the current season prepares to go full speed into the bulk of its schedule, starting this Friday at Spencer Speedway, Rypkema believes that while there is still much to learn, the time for breaking through for a Race of Champions win has come.
“Oh yeah, we’ve stepped up our program. There’s still tracks that we still have a lot of learning to do at, some of the short tracks, but I think between some of the big tracks like Oswego and Lancaster we should be able to be competitive,” said Rypkema, a Tour-type Modified winner at New Smyrna earlier this year. “I’m not saying we’re going to put ourselves in a bad situation and wreck a car trying to win a race, but I think we have a chance at it given the right situation.”
“Believe it or not, I’ve had probably the worst luck of any track at Spencer,” he stated. “My first two times there I didn’t even complete a single lap. First time, I won the heat race, started the feature outside pole and got a little contact from the polestitter and ended up pile-driven in turn four. Second time we went we had water in the fuel from a fuel barrel that we had and didn’t even start the race. Luckily, last year we started and finished both races with decent runs and I think I finished seventh both times. This year we got a newer and better car that I feel more comfortable with. I feel like we got a better chance, just got to keep a level head, take what you can get and finish the race.”
With a majority of the RoC schedule coming up in quick succession, Rypkema knows that while winning would be great, a mix of discretion can go a long way.
“We got about five or six weeks in a row of straight up racing, definitely going to be tough not to get worn out. If you start wrecking your car early in this long stretch, it’s easy to put yourself behind,” Rypkema said. “Right now keeping the cars in one piece, you just have to do your maintenance, but if you start wrecking cars you are going to be doing all you can to get them fixed and back to the track and you might skip on some of your maintenance. Keeping the car in one piece will benefit a team.”
He now finds himself fifth in the championship standings, chasing George Skora, Bryan Sherwood, Patrick Emerling, and current points leader Andy Jankowiak. Rypkema also has Tommy Catalano, Daren Scherer, and Mike Leaty hot on his heels. He believes that this upcoming stretch of racing will determine who will battle for the championship once the fall air comes sweeping in.
“You’ll start seeing some cars fall off and some cars rise to the top like normal, plus every now and then you’ll get an oddball. For the most part it tends to level itself out. Being a long stretch, it’ll show who can keep up and who can perform.”
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: MoJo Photos/Speed51.com