Another Arizona trip planned as Gaylord builds on 2015 IMCA Modified success

LAKEWOOD, Colo. ­– Tows to sunny Arizona in January and February have helped make Ryan Gaylord faster when the IMCA racing season starts closer to home.

He’s headed back to Cocopah Speedway next month to begin building on what was a very successful 2015 Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Modified season.

From Lakewood, Colo., Gaylord racked up three feature wins and another 11 top five finishes in 31 point season starts ­– at 16 different tracks in seven states ­– before ending the year with first, second and third-place October finishes at three specials in Kansas.

“Looking back at everything, it was kind of chaos,” Gaylord said of his seventh season in the sanctioned division. “My younger brother Tripp is my crew chief and before the season we talked it over and decided we wanted to do what was the most fun for us.”

While he qualified for just two of the four Winter Nationals features last year, the long trip was another learning one and paid dividends later in the season.

“We had gone to Cocopah in 2014 with my old car. I got to talk with Dylan Smith and pitted next to Hunter Marriott,” Gaylord said. “I could tell I was faster just for going there. I like to go there to learn, get faster and see how we can do.”

His first checkers of 2015 came in April at Phillips County Raceway. Gaylord was turning in consistent finishes at Colorado venues before turning is attention to the Wild West Modified Shootout Series in Oregon and California.

“The Wild West Shootout Series was a long tow but gave us the chance to race seven times in eight days,” said Gaylord, who secured third place in the tour point standings with second and third-place finishes in the final series events at Willamette Speedway. “We got to race at tracks we’ve never been to before and with a lot of different drivers.”

After another win in Colorado, this one at I-76 Speedway, Gaylord loaded up the trailer for an August trip to Iowa.

Unfortunately, brake issues came with him: Three DNQ’s, the first of them coming at the Harris Clash, resulted from four Hawkeye State starts.

“I really wish we’d been at 100 percent,” he said. “That was the bummer trip of the year. The first thing I did when I got home was rebuild the back end of the car.”

After another Phillips County win, Gaylord ended the point season with five starts in Wyoming and then focused on special events. He ran second to Marriott at RPM Speedway’s Fall Nationals, was third the following weekend on opening night of the Mid-America Clash at Salina Speedway and then scored a career highlight victory at Thunder Hill Speedway’s Thunder on the Hill.

“It was awesome,” said Gaylord, who exited the pit area at Mayetta with $2,500 and his name on the 2016 Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot. “I made a couple spring adjustments after hot laps and tweaked my setup after winning my heat. We were just a rocket ship in the feature.”

“It was the first time I’d ever raced there but Thunder Hill has to rank as one of my top three favorite tracks,” he continued, adding a plug for Willamette as well.

Already an asphalt Modified veteran, Tripp will join his brother on the IMCA circuit this year. They are third generation drivers and will add to the family’s already long list of on-track accomplishments.

Their grandfather Les was a 2005 inductee into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame and their parents Scott and Donna had raced against each other on asphalt before they started dating.

“I remember my grandfather taking me out on a road course when I was little and falling asleep because he drove so smoothly,” Ryan said. “My parents met at the track. I don’t think there was ever any doubt that I was going to be racing myself.”

He’d built and raced an enduro car on pavement before an onlooker suggested that with as much time as he spent going sideways, he should think about dirt track racing.

Gaylord did just that, starting in a two-seat Modified provided by Joe Bellm’s driver development program. He’s been in the sanctioned division now for eight seasons, starting with a couple older chassis ­– the second of them purchased from Will Brack – before buying a Rage car that John Hansen had raced nine nights.

“We’ve got a lot of fast guys around here and it helps to race against them regularly,” Gaylord said. “They’ll also give you the shirt off their back if you need a part. They’ve been great to race with and learn from.”

Along with Castrol Oil, Gaylord’s primary sponsors include Leary Racing Products of Denver, Rage Chassis of West Union, Iowa, Dylan Smith Racing of Osceola, Neb., MTFX Graphics and Speed Shift TV.