Orange Show Speedway late model champion Ryan Daniel
But the 32-year-old driver from Mentone had his share of problems en route to winning the late model championship.
With two races to go, and the championship very much in doubt, Daniel's car had a stuck valve. With less than an hour before qualifying, he drove to the nearby town of Upland for parts to fix the car. He ended finishing third that night and stayed in contention for the late model championship.
It was those types of races, more than the victories and record-setting qualifying efforts, that led to a championship.
Daniel will return to Orange Show Speedway, which opens its late model season March 27, with a repeat championship season in mind. In his three years of racing at Orange Show, he has won the rookie of the year and held the track record in qualifying in the late model division in 2008.
But he knows the road to repeat will be difficult. He and Toni McCray each had three wins in the late model division last year. Eight drivers won at least one race in 2009, although McCray and Daniel were the only drivers with multiple wins.
"It was all the way down to the last race," Daniel said about how his 2009 championship season unfolded. "The competition was great. There was a different winner every time it seems."
Daniel will be racing the same car he had in 2009. It is a Jackson Racing 2009 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, backed by K&N, Lucas Oil, Finish Line Motorsports, Stick Shift Transmissions and Jam Sportswear.
"It's the car I won the championship in last year, so I know it's fast," Daniel said. Daniel said his crew is made up primarily of family members. His uncles and cousins help him set up and work on the car at races.
His dad, Ron Daniel, is a driver in the late model division at Orange Show Speedway. He ran a partial schedule in 2009, nearly winning a couple of them, but his plan is to run the full 2010 late model schedule.
"My dad's been racing for 30 years," Daniel said. "Everyone's really race-oriented. Come the weekends, they're right there by my side."
Even Ryan Daniel's 6-year-old son is taking an interest in racing.
"I'm trying to get him going," Daniel said.
As for Ryan Daniel, he started racing late models when he was 28. Even though his dad has raced for the better part of the past three decades, the opportunity for Daniel to start racing didn't surface until a few years ago.
Richard Hooper, a championship driver at Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe, gave Daniel his first chance to race a late model at Orange Show Speedway in 2006. Daniel won the rookie of the year, then spent the following year working on a new stock car, foregoing racing to concentrate on putting together what would eventually be a championship car. He returned to racing in 2008 and won the late model championship at Orange Show Speedway in 2009.
"It's a pretty bad unit," Daniel said. "It's got good stuff."
Daniel said in addition to racing at Orange Show Speedway, he plans on racing in Blythe and Havasu 95 Speedway. He wants to race in the Richard Hooper memorial race at Blythe. Hooper died of cancer last year.
While Daniel wants to repeat as champion at Orange Show Speedway, his main goal is to finish every race.
"That's the ultimate goal," Daniel said. "I'm running with guys who have been racing 30, 40 years. It feels good to be able to run with those guys."
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