By KEN BRUCE
When the Northeast Modified season is given the okay to resume racing look for Ryan Watt and the Roberts Racing No. 14w to have a new look. Although the average race fan won’t be able to tell the difference from the outside, you can be sure that underneath the sleek skinned Modified will be some different suspension components that will hopefully give them an edge on the competition.
Watt has always been a driver that has not been afraid to experiment with different set-ups and suspension configurations. It was just a few years ago that Watt began having success with a new coil-over suspension that since has become the norm on most of today’s Modifieds. As everyone started to experiment with the new coil-over suspensions and find success, Watt decided it was time to start working on a designing a new suspension to get back his edge. As four-link suspensions were starting to make a comeback in 2019, Watt decided to embark on creating his own design for the four-link suspension.
The premise was to take one of their Bicknell cars from last year and redesign the suspension and have it ready for 2020. Like it always does in racing, word started to get out regarding what Watt wanted to do and at the Motorsports Show in January, Watt was approached by Matt Hearn of Teo Pro Car, the two started to talk and at the end of it all they decided to combine their efforts and start building a new design modified.
“It was no secret and people heard rumors that I was building my own deal,” explained Watt. “We took the car we had at Oswego last year that had some damage to it after hitting the wall. So we started fixing that car up and we decided to go with a four-link and I was in the process of doing it around the time for Motorsports.
“Once we had our cars ready for the show it was time to start working on that more. So, while we I was at Motorsports Matt Hearn pulled me over and said I want to show you a couple of things. He had his computer there and he had his frame there he was designing for the four-link cars and we got to talking a little bit and some of his ideas were along with what I was looking at doing. He also had some of the same questions that I had too about how some of this stuff was going to work.
“We just kept talking about and he was showing me some stuff that he had there like his new floor assembly for the four-link car and he actually told me he would sell me some of his parts to put on Bicknell four-link car I was building if I wanted them After some more conversation I asked him what all he was building there and after some more talking I ended getting a quote from him to be able to build one of them. I already had some parts coming to put in the car, I had ordered the new rear, so we already had a start.”
The original hope was to have the car ready for to race at Delaware International Speedway in March but due to the COVID-19 situation that weekend was cancelled and here we still sit waiting to resume racing. But the break gave both Ryan and Matt more time to work on the car and hopefully perfect their design.
“With this whole Coronavirus thing going, Matt was able to focus more time on these cars,” cited Watt. “The original car I started to work on now is just sitting there sort of semi-started with a new body on it. That car is on hold now while we work on this new car.”
With DIRTcar not allowing the use of a four-link car in their touring series or any DIRTcar sanctioned track, Watt will be limited to where he can run the car, but with most of his racing in the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware area he will have ample opportunities to race the new creation.
“I knew that going in, but I don’t run a lot of DIRTcar races anyways,” mentioned Watt. “But that is what impressed me about Matt and Teo, that they were willing to build a car that you can’t run in that series, but you can run in other places. I still believe that there can be an advantage in running a four-link. There are more adjustments and more adjustability in these cars than what we are currently running, and I think they can still be better. So, the fact that they are still willing to put a lot of time, ingenuity, and money into this to develop something kind of impressed me. In talking with them they want to win; they want to do good so I feel like we can have a pretty good combination going forward and give this thing a try.”
As we move forward into the Coronavirus era, it still might be awhile before we go racing in the Northeast. Tracks are starting to be able to have very limited practice sessions and hopefully within a couple of weeks the No 14w team will be able to hit the track with the new car.
“Some tracks are allowing private practices and if we can get this thing together sooner than later we will be able to get out there and put it through its paces to see where we’re at with it,” explained Watt. “We want to practice with Matt (Hearn) there so we can see where everything is at and make any needed adjustments to the car that we think will make it better.”
Watt has run Teo cars in the past along with Troyer and more recently Bicknell cars and has had success with all of them, but is excited about the relationship with Teo going forward.
“We still have two very good Bicknell cars sitting at home that we started out the year with at Georgetown and both cars ran up front with the opportunity to win,” cited Watt. “Now we have this car to play with as well so we have competitive stuff and I think we can get it going even better. I like to experiment and not sit still. The cars today anyone can go out and buy and that’s okay, but I want to get better and I think with Matt and TEO we can do that. I like to make things interesting.
“Things seemed to have changed a little up there at Teo with Matt Hearn taking the reigns a little bit more. Matt and Johnny Guarino are both very smart and laid out the whole car and chassis out on their computer. They have a new plasma cutter there for cutting all the tubing. They are spending some extra time building these cars because they all want them to be the same and better than they were before. They are definitely working hard up there to improve their cars. They have the drive to win and they want to do it.
“I was up there at their shop last Thursday and Friday working alongside Matt, Johnny and Steve with Bobby Hearn doing the body for the car and we had a good time putting this car together and were really excited to get it out on the track. They haven’t built a bunch of them yet; Larry Wight has the only other one that I think he is running this weekend down south. I brought the car home with me Friday night and we are doing final assembly of it.”
I also reached out to Hearn of Teo as he was leaving the shop to head south to North Carolina for the STSS “Return to Racing”. I wanted to get his perspective on working with Ryan Watt and also his feelings on the new design car.
“This car is a little bit different; we did some different suspension stuff and stuff that’s not your normal deal for sure,” mentioned Hearn. “I think it really came out well. We put a lot of effort into it and were very excited to work with Ryan (Watt). Ryan has a good clue of what’s going on and he has a good team and we’re looking forward to see what happens.
“Larry (Wight) and Ryan both have cars that are very similar. The two of them together should be a very potent combination for a new car. They are two very good drivers with a lot of experience who know how to get up on the wheel and this is the perfect car for that. It’s been a few years since I worked with Ryan and when he came into the shop last week I could immediately tell that his attention to detail and how he paid attention to the little stuff was second to none especially when you are doing something different. We had a really good day together, to be able to spend two days together building the car and work side by side with him and bounce ideas off each other was great. I think this is going to be the start of a good relationship.”
As always, I can be reached for any comments or questions via email email@example.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25