The latest chapter in Riley Raynard’s unlikely racing career has been written.
During the July 19 program at the Estevan Motor Speedway, the 17-year-old driver, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, won the feature race in the hobby stock division. It was the first feature race win in his young career, and quite a thrilling moment.
“It feels pretty good, the car felt great, the track was great and everything was just perfect, so it worked out fine,” said Raynard.
Raynard was poised to win the feature, as he had a great position to start the race.
“I started second row outside and then I got into second right away,” said Raynard. “It took me about a lap or two to get in the lead and I had a good line, so I was doing pretty good there.”
He said he led for the majority of the race despite an abundance of cautions throughout the contest.
“I was just getting flustered….just getting a little bit mad because of all of the cautions, and I just stuck with it,” he said. “I didn’t know if I had a lead or not, so I just kept going.”
Fittingly enough, the top three drivers in the feature were from Lampman. Leevi Runge and Ryder Scholpp – two of Raynard's racing buddies, finished in second and third, respectively. Raynard thought it was “pretty cool” that the top three drivers in the feature hail from Lampman.
It was large hill to climb for Raynard to earn his first feature race victory. When he started racing a couple years ago, at the age of 15, he had a couple of rough first races.
“I think I got lapped three times, maybe, and just progressed from there and finally never got lapped,” he said.
Also, dealing with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, there were other challenges to overcome when he first started racing, besides his inexperience. The rare, degenerative disorder, which is found in males, causes muscle weakness of the legs and pelvis. Eventually it will spread to the arms, neck and other areas of the body.
Raynard needs a wheelchair for mobility, but that doesn't keep him from racing.
He said it can still be a challenge to utilize the foot controls.
“It was tough… I still have to put my hand on my leg sometimes because it’s harder to push it for me,” said Raynard. “So I just push my hand on my leg.
The only other thing that separates Raynard’s car from the others is he uses a sprint car pedal instead of a regular one.
It was a “no doubt” decision for Raynard to get involved in racing. His dad, Devin, raced in the IMCA modified division, and was the Estevan Motor Speedway's track champion in 2009 and 2011.
“My dad has always raced in the modified division and he was really good,” said Raynard.
His mother, Wendy, drove a hobby stock for several years, too.
Since his parents were involved in racing, it was that much easier for Raynard to get started.
“It helped a lot because we already knew about the race car stuff and that just helped us get on our feet,” he said.
Raynard inherited his parents' passion for racing, so they knew that eventually he would be interested in participating in the sport.
“They always knew that I was going to race because my dad was always into the racing…and they just said go for it,” Raynard said.
Derrick Big Eagle of Eagle Motor Sports also helped Raynard’s progress in his racing career. Raynard practiced at Big Eagle’s dirt track near Manor before racing competitively at Estevan Motor Speedway.
“He got us out there a couple times before I even raced a race. And I just got the hang of a car a little bit,” said Raynard.
Each year Raynard said he has improved and said that it helps to have friends, like Scholpp and Runge, who race in the same division.
“It helps because we always talk about it, we’re always so excited for the next race,” he said.
Aside from learning to race, Raynard said he is also learning about working on the car. The tire pressures have to be at certain level and the car has to be tuned up before each race, he said.
“I’m still learning the ropes, just trying to figure out how everything works…so I can do it myself,” he said.
He also said the track is different every week. He has to try and figure out what it is going to be like, and adjust the car to the conditions.
Raynard understands the dangerous side of the sport, and that anything could happen. He was involved in a collision last year.
“I was on the inside, someone was on the outside, they spun out and I got into a head-on collision,” said Raynard. “I was going full throttle too, and the car was totally written off, so we had to get a new car.”
He didn't have any second thoughts about getting back into a car.
“It’s part of the races and you just got to deal with it,” he said.
As for his future endeavours in stock car racing, Raynard said that he would like to eventually move up to the street stock car division.
“It’s just really good competition in there,” said Raynard. “You watch it and it’s just neck to neck racing.”
He said that it will be a while before he leaves the hobby stock division, as he wants to win a couple more races and eventually a track championship. Raynard would also like to race in the super nationals event at the Boone Speedway in Iowa.
Raynard has also raced in Minot at the Nodak Speedway. One of his memories from his experience there stemmed from when his car overheated.
He said that he couldn’t steer without the power steering and he hit the fence because the wheel was too hard to turn.
Raynard says his parents, his pit crew and his fans are a big part of his racing career, and he looks forward to continuing to entertain them at the track.