by Bill W
Last winter Ryan Menninga wasn’t sure where, when or even if he would drive a sprint again. Enter Steve Wares. The long-time and now retired driver decided to get into the owner side rather than the owner/driver combination he had been doing for years. Two weeks before the season, Wares offered the ride to Menninga. The team has had great success and has been flirting with the top ten in points in the tough 360 class. “We blew up on practice night and I thought we might be done right there,” admits the employee of Cline Tool and Die in Newton. The team has rebounded well, and though their best finish has been a fifth, their consistency has put them in or around the top ten in the standings all season.
“We got a late start before the season, we’d like to finish well, but we’re hoping to really hit it hard next season,” says Ryan. The team hopes to land a little more sponsorship for some solid footing heading into 2003, but their goal of a top ten finish this year is no small task in the fiercely competitive division. Ryan started out last season in the Burnham Racing 54 and was improving as the year went on. He lost the ride following a 360 Nationals in which he qualified for the B and did not return until opening night this year. Another impressive showing at this year’s 360 Nationals netted him a B main finish. The team is concentrating on Knoxville this season, but there has been a trip to Oskaloosa and more traveling possible after Knoxville goes dark in September. “I’m not looking at anything long-term right now,” says Ryan. “We just want to keep things together and work on the sponsorship stuff for next year.”
Menninga spent nine successful years in the go-kart ranks starting at age 11, and racked up three points championships along the way. It was a good incentive for his parents to get Ryan to do a little better in school. He raced at Newton, Colombus Junction, and Oskaloosa, and the incentive worked as he graduated from high school at mid-term despite suffering from dyslexia. He then completed a two-year course in tool and die. During his schooling he took a break from racing before helping the Burnham team pitside in 2000. The season was short-lived as Boyd Burnham suffered a bad crash and they parked it.
“Steve’s experience has helped me a lot,” says the Newton resident of this year’s car owner. Also helping with the team is father Randy, Tony Webster, Nate Smith, Dwight La Foloette, Helen Fisk and Amanda Fortune. Super Wash and Book Trader of Newton are also on board with sponsorship for the #10. The team is powered by an Ostrich Racing Engine, and is using an American Challenge chassis. After the success he’s had this year, the 24 year old driver shouldn’t have to wonder about the where, when’s and ifs of his next ride for long.