Ryan Leavitt celebrates his win last Saturday at Knoxville (Ken's Racing Pix)
If you've been around the racing community for a while, chances are that you know of the name Leavitt and the story that revolves around it. For three generations now, the Leavitts have been racing and, currently, Ryan Leavitt, age 21, is continuing the journey.
"Ever since I was born," Ryan recounts, "My dad always had the racecar at the shop and I was always hearing stories about my grandpa racing back in the day. So I just fell in love with it all, watching the guys work on the car and going to the races every weekend for as long as I can remember."
Eddie Leavitt, Ryan's grandfather, started out running stockcars when he was eighteen years old and then ended up getting into a sprint car, winning two Knoxville Nationals in 1975 and '76. Ryan himself never really was able to see his grandpa race, but he remembers one year that he raced an old midget during a nostalgia race at Knoxville Raceway. "He ended up driving it too hard and they parked it after the first race, but it was still cool to see."
Ryan's father, Eddie Leavitt, raced for thirteen years or so at Knoxville, but he got out of it because when Ryan's career started he found it more fun to be with his son in the dirtcarts and made the decision to hang it up.
Ryan's career started out racing at English Creek Speeday, out south of town, in a boxstock in the restricter class - "I'd been begging my dad to get me a kart years before he actually did." - and then in a Micro travelling with the Iowa Micro Sprints before he moved up to a 305.
"When I was in a boxstock we'd always race on Friday night then come out to Knoxville on Saturdays, so it's always been a dream of mine to come out here every week and race."
And now he can.
One of Ryan's favorite parts of racing is the social aspect. "I like meeting people from all across the country and all the big races and getting to see who's still racing. One of my best times out here has to be when I won my first race here last year. That was an incredible feeling."
Ryan's future plans consist of, well, everything. "I want to do it all," he says. "I wanna be able to travel and race on all different types of tracks and I want to race midgets and non-wing sprint cars. I just want to keep racing as much as I can for as long as I can. My earliest goal would be to get a 360 team and do a lot more travelling for that, hitting a whole bunch of tracks."
"Eventually, I want to get into the 410s and race with the best of the best. That's kind of my long term goal. I don't know how long it'll take me to get there, but hopefully sooner rather than later."
As far as sponsorship goes, Ryan gives out his background with racing, that he's raced so many different types of cars from dirtcarts to mircos to midgets to 360 sprint cars or 305s. "I kinda use that and a lot of people know that I've had a lot of experience and I really try to use my name as much as possible" - who wouldn't? - "for the old timers and such to help me out."
He's always in the market for sponsors, he won't turn anybody away if they're willing to help out. "I'm always calling everyone every week."
Before the last two seasons, Ryan and his family held a fundraiser. "It really helped us out. We had a lot of people step up and donate items and things. I'm definitely looking forward to doing that in the future and building off that. Getting it bigger and bigger each year."
Although people say that the racing genes skipped a generation, because Ryan has done well, winning again last Saturday night and leading the 305 points. "Dad probabaly says it more than anyone else," Ryan said, laughing. "He is always saying that and he jokes around about it and stuff. He never really had the equipment to compete well at a track like Knoxville and that's where I've been lucky, having the right people behind me and having the equipment to come out here and compete every week."
"You ever feel like grandpa's watching down on you?"
Ryan kind of laughed and said. "Yeah, sometimes, but I'm sure if he is he's probably been cussing me out a few times too."
Ryan's family has very few items pertaining to his grandfather. "After my grandpa retired and everything, they had a housefire and so we lost almost everything. All the old t-shirts, a lot of the trophies, and stuff. We have a few trophies that were salvaged from that, we actually have both of the Knoxville Nationals trophies, we're supposed to be getting the 1976 one soon and we're donating the other one to the Hall Of Fame."