Ryan Villacci of Falmouth, Maine may only be in his second Sport Series season at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, but he's continuously impressing everyone at the track as he runs up front every week. Before trying his hand in a Sport Series car, Villacci was a weekly contender in the #10 Wildcat on Saturday nights. Last year, he made the big step up into the #08 car, and he hasn't looked back since. After struggling with a string of bad luck all season, Villacci got his first Sport Series win of the '17 season just two weeks ago. This was his second career win in the Sport Series, and a follow-up to his fifth place finish in the points standings last season. This win, to Villacci, felt like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. "It felt amazing, not just to get the win, but to finally be running better. It was getting to a point where I felt like just giving up. We had tried everything we could think of and nothing seemed to make us any faster. I had started to think that maybe I forgot how to drive a race car. But, over the past few weeks, we had some people lending a helping hand and it made all the difference." he says, expressing gratitude toward all those that have helped him achieve his goals. Villacci has a very small team, but never falls short of expressing how extremely thankful he is for them.
Villacci has been around in the sport for a handful of years, so he's lucky enough to have loyal sponsors that have stuck with him all this time. Happy Wheels and Cap Services are two of his main sponsors, to who he says, "I know everyone says it, but I wouldn't be where I am today or even racing at all if it wasn't for them." There's nothing more important to Ryan than the support of his family. His Mom and Dad have always supported his goals and have always been on board with him through the ups and downs. "They have stuck with me and supported me throughout the past 11 years of racing, sacrificing their free time and summers so I could continue to do this and there is no way I could ever repay them for that.", he says, showing them the ultimate gratitude. In addition to his parents, Ryan is also thankful for his fellow competitors. He has always been a racing fan and feels humbled that he can share the same stage with so many talented drivers. "It seemed that I looked up to everyone who raced, and now it seems so surreal that I am racing (or have raced) with these drivers that I always idolized as a kid.", he says. Ryan may have been a fan of racing as a young child, but his family doesn't have a racing history.
As a young child, Ryan was inspired to get into racing after visiting Beech Ridge with his friend's family. He was hooked easily, begging his parents to take him to the track. Either his parents or his Grandma would take him to the track, and soon after, everyone in his family became racing fanatics. When the Whiz Kidz league was first introduced, Ryan knew that he had to become a part of the racing action. "I turned to my Dad and gave him that look and he told me that if I can raise enough money to get a car, I can race. Sure enough, the next year in 2016, I had my first race car." he says, reminiscing on his early racing days. He's come a long way since 2006, making his mark on Saturday nights in both the Wildcats division and the Sport Series division. Of his favorite racing moment so far, Ryan says that his first Sport Series victory last season meant the world to both him and his family. "I had to learn how to drive a car, and my Dad had to learn how to set up a car and even just learn how to work on a car. I still feel like we shouldn't be racing in the Sport Series. From where we started, I wouldn't, in a million years, have guessed we would be racing on NASCAR Nite and even win a race." he says, talking about how his success still shocks him to this day. Racing has taken over Ryan Villacci's summers for the past 11 years, but racing isn't all that's important to him.
Outside of the race car, Ryan is a very artistic person. He's always creating art, whether that be creating humorous YouTube videos or physically creating his own masterpieces. He sees art as a way to shed his layers and show his true self to the world. Acting, in particular, is something that Ryan has shown a keen interest in. "I have found that in acting, people define acting as many things, but I feel that it's the art of empathy. It's a way for me to take off that mask and be free with my emotions.", he says. Acting makes him feel many emotions, but most importantly, he feels free. He's very passionate about his craft and is always creating content for not only him to enjoy, but for everyone he encounters to enjoy as well. Outside of practicing his art, Ryan stays busy by trying his hand at a handful of different jobs, always working hard. "Moving around to different things gives me the time I need to pursue acting and classes. At this moment, I'm just doing whatever it takes.", he says. Ryan is no stranger to working hard, but he still enjoys some downtime during the winter months.
Even when the race season is over, the work is never done. Ryan says he spends his winters fine-tuning the race car with an occasional snowmobile ride here and there. But, mostly, he likes to enjoy the downtime. "Normally, I just like to relax. As much as I like racing, it's nice to get a weekend to just sit back and relax.", he says. Although he's worked hard to get to where he is, Ryan is still open to advice from fellow competitors.
In addition to racing on Saturday nights, Ryan used to race in the Mad Bombers division on Thursday nights for Thursday Night Thunder. The best piece of advice he ever got was from John Studley, who convinced him not to hang his helmet up for good. "He believed I could win a championship if I built a new car. That advice, along with his help getting a car and building it, changed everything for me...that summer in 2012, I won the championship. If that had never happened, I don't think I would have ever moved up to NASCAR Nite. He is the reason we are where we are today." he says, continuing to give praise to the people that have helped him reach his wildest racing dreams. In addition to remaining humble, Ryan says that you should never give up, no matter how rocky the road might be. As for his advice to the Whiz Kidz of today? "If I can do it, you can do it. It wasn't too long ago that I was that fan in the stands dreaming of being a race car driver, but I didn't know the first thing about racing or how to work on a car. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it." he says, encouraging kids to go after their dreams without fear. He also praises all of the Beech Ridge families, saying that there are so many people available that are willing to lend a helping hand when you need it the most.
What started as a dream turned into full-blown reality for Ryan Villacci. He's continuing to shine each and every week at Beech Ridge, proving that success comes to those that work hard, stay humble and never give up. That's the winning combination that will take him even further and allow him to continue his success at Beech Ridge and beyond, leaving him a world full of opportunities at his fingertips.
Join us in cheering on Ryan every Saturday night (weather permitting!) at Beech Ridge during the summer months. Kids 12 & under are always free, adult admission is $12 and racing always starts promptly at 7:00 PM!
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