By KEN BRUCE
In what has been an unusually quiet off-season down here in the NJ/PA area the one piece of the puzzle that was waiting to come together was who was going to drive the Mike Petruska and Sons / Atlas Paving #66.
The Petruska #66 is one of the most sought after rides on the local modified circuit. The team has had some level of success with every driver that has ever sat behind the wheel of their powerful TEO chassis Modifieds powered by Billy the Kid Performance motors.
After a highly successful 2 ½ year run with Duane Howard that ended in August of 2016, Rick Laubach finished the season driving the team’s big block at Bridgeport, Orange County and in the World Finals at Charlotte. The question then was who the team will name to drive for them in 2017.
Rumors have swirled the last month or so that a certain multi-time championship driver would be hired for 2017 but neither the driver nor the team would confirm and or deny the rumor. As it turned out the rumor was more than just that and has proved to be true.
The “Ringoes Rocket” Ryan Godown will steer the powerful Atlas Paving #66 in 2017. The plans for the team are as of now to compete weekly at the New Egypt Speedway where Godown is a four time track champion, the STSS South Region races along with other special races throughout the year.
The Petruska’s are no stranger to weekly competition at the central jersey dirt track competing there weekly a few years ago with Billy Pauch Jr as their driver and also picked up a couple wins at the track with Howard. With both the drivers and the owner’s knowledge of the New Egypt track this should prove to be very potent combination. This should also make Godown the preseason favorite to win his fifth title in the last seven years, although the aforementioned Billy Pauch Jr will certainly have something to say about that.
I had a chance to talk to Godown about his plans for the upcoming season and besides being named the driver of the #66 Godown also had some other exciting news to reveal about 2017.
DTD: How did the opportunity come up to drive for the Petruska’s:
Ryan Godown: “The last couple of years have been on me for the most part. Even though I get a lot of help from sponsors it basically still all on me and it has been exhausting the last couple of years with the effort we had to put into it to make it work. I was looking to join with a team and get the financial part of it off my shoulders or at least some it. To do as many races as we do, to do it all own your own is tough even with the great sponsors we have. Come November nothing seemed to be happening so we just thought we would be doing the same thing next year. Then a few weeks ago Jared (Petruska) called and we talked once. Me and my brother (Sam) talked about it and went up there and had a meeting with Jared and the team and it all just came together from there. We were finally able to finalize everything in the last week or so and make it official.
DTD: Now that you have been named the driver of the #66 which is a well known and sought after ride, what are your thoughts and expectations for the year?
RG: “Knowing their past and the equipment they provide they are a class one team to drive for. They’ve had (Stewart) Friesen drive for them a few times and you look at the success they’ve had together. There weren’t too many deals out there I would go to but since they called me and were interested that was the deal I could really look forward to going to since they are a class one team. I think working with Jared who is very smart when it comes to these race cars and the knowledge I think I can provide we can all jell together pretty quickly. I have the experience of doing all my own set-ups along with working with the shocks so between Jared, Mike Sr, Mike Jr and Eric along with my brother and a couple of my crew members this can turn out to be a great team.”
DTD: What will be the schedule for you and the Petruska team in 2017?
RG: “As of right now we will be doing full-time at New Egypt Speedway. We will do the Deyo STSS South series along with some other big block specials at Bridgeport and other tracks. The schedule is not quite finalized yet until we see what other races are out there but that’s what we have for right now.”
DTD: You have been a Troyer chassis loyalist for as long as I can remember. Obviously driving for the Petruska’s you will now be driving Teo chassis cars. How well do you think the transition from driving the Troyer car to driving the TEO car will go?
RG: “Before I started driving the Troyer cars I did drive TEO cars. When I drove for Johnny Rae we had TEO cars and we had success with the TEO cars. I still have Troyer cars myself and am going to still drive them in a handful of races. Troyer has always been good to me and I will continue to drive the Troyer cars that I have in my garage. I think with Jared knowing the TEO cars the way he does and my knowledge knowing the car in general and what I like to feel in the seat and working with Fox Shocks. Jared is very smart working with the Fox shocks and myself who has been working with Fox the past few years is going to make the transition very easy. Jared has been very focused working with the set-ups on the TEO cars for a long time now and has a great relationship with them so with the way I am able to focus on what I like in a dirt car along with Jared’s experience makes me truly excited heading into the new season.”
DTD: Will you go to the #66 shop and help out during the week to work on the car?
RG: “Yeah, I will. We haven’t yet because they are the same boat we are in right now. They do snowplowing, we do snowplowing. The season runs so long and when it ‘s over you need to catch up on some stuff. I honestly haven’t done hardly any racing stuff in the last few months. Trying to take it easy and go watch my son play basketball over the winter.”
DTD: Now that you have deal with the Petruska’s will you be using your own car to fill in your schedule at Bid Diamond and some of the STSS North races that you had so much success in last year?
RG: “No, we have another deal in place that is the second part of the 2017 equation. I am excited and pleased to say we will be hooking up with Steve Searock and his Searock Fabrications Team to run a joint effort. We have joined forces with Steve (Searock) and our plan is to start the season at Big Diamond and run all the Deyo STSS North races. Steve is a great guy who loves to race and I am happy to be driving for him. With the Searock team we will also be running a TEO chassis so that will help me out as well getting used to driving them. The only STSS North race we won’t run the Searock car is at Middletown where I will drive the #66. I’ll be maintaining and housing the car at my shop so it will be a more hands on deal for me. Hooking up with the #66 team will allow me to put in the effort to make this deal work instead of having to work so late in the shop every night getting my own stuff ready for New Egypt or Big Diamond every week. We are still going to run my Troyer cars whenever we feel like making race that is not on either of the other team’s schedule. Ryan Grim also will be back driving for the Searock team at both Big Diamond and Grandview so with me coming on board with the team hopefully I can help him get going a little better at those tracks as well.”
DTD: You have a great relationship with John Chemidlin and the #747 team. With John you won a lot of races and championships particularly at New Egypt Speedway. With all these changes for this year where does that leave #747 team?
RG: “John is still with us. We still have the #747 big block to use or whatever car we want to make the #747. John and I recently had a meeting and he still wants to be involved, he has sold his business and retired so that is taking up his time getting that stuff in order. John has been very good to me over the years and we want to run at least a few races with his cars. If we still do the deal with the wingless car again at New Egypt, he will still be involved with that as well. And the last part of the equation is the #901 Hewlett car. I still have all his stuff here and if there is a race he wants to go and I’m available we can take Bill’s car to fill in for a couple of races.”
DTD: Sounds like you have a busy season planned for 2017?
RG: “Yes and No, it all depends on what we want to do. We have our set schedule with the #66 and the Searock car and if there is another race we want to go to up in New York or anywhere else for that matter we’ll go. I will have my cars available along with the #747 and if we want to race we will.”
DTD: How will it be for you going to New Eypgt on Saturday nights with just your suit and helmet with no race car in tow?
RG: “It’s going to be different for sure. Like I said, I don’t think I could do a deal like this with too many teams but I know I can do it with the #66 team and feel confident. And top it off they are all nice guys, I’ve met them all and we all want the same thing. They are hard working guys just like we are and we all want to win. They don’t race for a living and we don’t race for a living but if we aren’t winning races they are not going to be happy and I am sure not going to be happy. I know that neither they nor I will ever give up and if the car is off during the night between all of us we will still be able to get it to the front, maybe not a win but definitely into the top five. I know I have the drive to win and I know as a team they have the drive to win so putting all that drive and determination together can only help us get to the front. Will it be easy, of course not? The competition at New Egypt is tough and with these spec motors it makes it even tougher. Driving the big block is a little easier because of the extra power and the cars aren’t so evenly matched.”
2017 will be a busy year for Ryan Godown and on paper it looks like it has the potential to be his best year ever. But just like in any sport, races and games aren’t won on paper. Luck always seems to play a part in the success of any race team and sometimes you have to make your own luck. I do know there will be no lack of confidence from the driver or the teams he will be driving for. If everything goes according to plan this could be a banner year for all parties involved. Being able to gel right from the start will be a factor in their success and time will tell if that happens.
Look for all three of Ryan’s 2017 cars to be on display this weekend at the 2017 Motorsports Show in Oaks, PA.
As always I can be reached for questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25