Ricky Schlick of Claremont, California has enjoyed a great start to the 2017 SPEARS (SRL) Southwest Tour Series season. The Rookie of the Year leader has vaulted to third place in the overall standings and scored a career-best second-place finish in the last event at Kern County Raceway Park (CA). Schlick hopes that he will double down on that momentum heading into the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (NV) on Saturday, May 20. He hopes to being a sure bet to 86 the competition for his first SRL victory in only his seventh career start.
Schlick began his racing career in the Bandolero Division, at Irwindale Speedway (CA) in 2008. He competed in the class that includes three-time SRL winner and 2016 championship runner-up Ryan Cansdale, 2016 SRL Rookie of the Year Christian McGhee and 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series State of California Champion Trevor Huddleston. The “Brat Pack,” as they were affectionately known by some, is a young quartet of drivers who have not lacked for success in their early driving careers, which originated at Irwindale Speedway. Schlick has done his part to hold up his end of the bargain.
Schlick won six races in the Bandolero Division in 2010 to lead the foursome in victories that season, finishing second in points to Cansdale. He also scored a championship in the SRL Legends Tour in 2013 with four victories for Tony Green Motorsports. He completed the 2013 season with a fourth-place finish in the 17th Annual Road Course World Finals in the Young Lions Division at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In 2014 Schlick went Late Model Racing for the first time at Irwindale Speedway, finishing eighth in championship standings for High Point Racing. He followed that up with a sixth-place effort in 2015, scoring 14 top 10s in 18 starts.
In 2016, Schlick moved to Dave Reed Racing to participate in a partial schedule in the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series. He ran four events for Reed with a best finish of ninth at Kern County Raceway in October. The move was one that he had been looking forward to for some time.
“I’ve always looked at the SRL because I’ve always liked stock cars, how fast and loud the cars are, as well as how competitive the series is,” Schlick told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Just travelling with them every weekend when we raced the (SRL) Legend Series, I got to see Mike Kanke race in the series. When I was growing up, he was always a hero of mine and it seemed like the 33 car would win almost every race. I’ve always wanted to get into those cars. I’ve always liked the stock cars and not so much the open wheel cars.”
As the current racing season approached, Ricky and his father Howard considered owning their own race team in the SRL. The opportunity for ownership arose when his good friend Ryan Cansdale, decided to take the season off due to his upcoming college enrollment.
“I was thinking about it at the end of last year and I was thinking I would like to have my own deal,” Schlick said. “Start off fresh with your own team and have your own equipment. We needed a lot of stuff for the Legend car, so we started thinking. Why not just start our own team? It was the perfect opportunity with Ryan (Cansdale) going to college. We are really good friends with Mark (Cansdale) and Ryan as I grew up racing with them. The deal came through where they said the car wasn’t going to be run, so the deal just came through perfectly.”
With the acquisition of a three-time race winning car in the SRL, Schlick has high expectations for his 2017 season. He came out of the gate quickly and confirmed those expectations early in the season. Ricky finished seventh in the opener at Irwindale Speedway and followed it up with a second-place finish at Kern County Raceway to lead the Rookie of the Year standings.
“My expectations for this year would be to get my first win in my rookie season,” Schlick stated. “That would be pretty cool. We almost had it at our last race at Kern. It just almost went our way. We just got too tight in turn one and missed the corner, allowing the 21 (Blaine Rocha) to get under us. I am just really looking forward to being consistent, and getting top-five finishes each week and bringing the car home in one piece. The first two races of the season have been pretty dang good for me, and we will just take what we can get.”
Heading to the “Blackjack 121” at the Bullring at LVMS, Schlick has his idea of how to be successful there. He has multiple starts in a Legends Car and competed in the season finale “Retro Custom Metals 150 presented by Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse” in 2016.
“At the Bullring you really need to keep your speed up through the center because it is really easy to slip up, get out of the groove and lose a lot of speed,” Schlick explained. “That track is all about consistency and carrying your speed though the corners. You need to do that very well to be fast. I learned that last year when I was with Dave Reed Racing. My qualifying run had the most consistent line that I had ever driven there and I was fourteenth and I was like ‘oh my gosh.’ You have to be consistent though and carry your speed, that’s for sure. I hope the Vegas story is different for me this year.”
Despite his worst SRL finish of the year at the Bullring finale, Schlick is confident he will have a good effort. The car he is driving has two wins at the facility with Ryan Cansdale behind the wheel; one win was in the SRL and the other in the prestigious Fall Open Comp Show. His effort at Kern County Raceway was also a confidence booster for the 19-year-old driver.
“After Kern I feel like I have a lot of high expectations,” Schlick began. “The crew is really pumped up after that second-place finish. I have been going to the Bullring in the Legend Car since late 2012. I have a lot of track time there in the Legend Car, so I have an idea of what is going to happen. I feel like I am going to have a good top five car, just like in the last two races, and that we will be right there in the hunt. We just need to stay out of trouble.”
This will be the third championship event for the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series, with Bobby Hodges and Blaine Rocha acing victories in the first two events. It is the first of a pair of events at the facility, with the series also visiting for the season finale once again on November 18. Derek Thorn is the series leading winner in Las Vegas, with seven career victories. He is also the track record holder, setting the mark last November with a 14.167 effort. Drivers are expected from as far away as Colorado to compete for the $5,000 payday. Ricky Schlick would love nothing more than to hit the natural, and bring the winnings back home to Claremont, California.
-By Kevin Hodges, Speed51.com West Coast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com