By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
While many other high school teenagers are playing football or going to the games on Friday nights, Bryce Ryan has other plans.
He’s at Beckley Motorsports Park, racing his 36B Hornet-class car.
“My friends aren’t that interested in racing. They’d rather be partying,” Ryan said. “I’d rather race than party.”
His love of racing comes naturally to him. His stepdad is Keith Bills, who runs the 36K car and currently leads the points standings in the Modifieds class.
Eslie Bills, his stepgrandfather from Kincaid, is a veteran, highly-respected driver at BMP.
“I grew up out here and watched them race,” Ryan said. “Seeing cars running along the track gets me fired up. This is my first year driving, and I love it.”
For the most part, he’s done well. He owns a second-place finish and is fifth in the Hornets standings with 636, 140 behind leader D.J. Critchley.
Naturally, grandpa and dad are always giving him advice. Which makes things interesting, because Eslie Bills is the hard-charging type, while Keith Bills is laid-back and smooth in his driving.
“Eslie says put the pedal to the metal, all the way to the floor, in the corners and all the way around,” Ryan said. “Keith tells me to ease into it and pedal out of the corner.”
Eslie said, “Keith will tell him to do things one way, and I’ll tell him to do it another, and he’ll go in between. So he does all right.”
Keith likes how the 15-year-old drives without fear.
“He’s not afraid of anything. I’ll tell him to run up high, and the rascal will drag the guard rail all the way around the track and never lift off of it,” he said. “Bryce has got plenty of guts on him.
“For it to be his first year, he has high expectations for himself — he thinks he should win every race. That’s the goal, but you really can’t think that way. We have to tone his expectations down while still getting him to go fast.”
A sophomore at Hurricane High School, Ryan and his parents drive an hour and 45 minutes each week to BMP.
“I’d drive from Minnesota to race every Friday,” Ryan said.
Not every mother would allow her son to drive a race car, especially on a high-banked, high-speed track like BMP.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Lisa Ryan said. “I enjoy racing, and he’s got two of the best teachers in Keith and Eslie, showing him everything he needs to know to be out there. I’m very proud of him.”
Grandpa Eslie, who has 49 victories at BMP, thinks Ryan has a good future ahead of him in the sport.
“I think he’s going to be great, and I don’t think it will take him very many years,” he said. “In another two years, we’ll have him up in a Modified or Crate car, and I think he’ll do real well.”
Ryan had problems with his car two weeks ago and couldn’t compete in his feature race. Last Friday be bounced back in style, earning a third-place finish.
Setbacks don’t get him down.
“No matter what comes my way, I’ll be glad to say racing is my passion and my life,” Ryan said. “I will love racing until the day they put me in the ground.”
Tonight will be a regular slate of racing at BMP. All classes will run, including Late Models.
The track will open at 4 p.m. Racing starts at 7 p.m.
Fastrak Racing series announced this week Beckley Motorsports Park will host its World Championships for the second consecutive year.
Many of the finest drivers in the eastern U.S. and Canada will compete Oct. 3-5 at the track.
Last year’s field had a record 186 cars.
“Fastrak was very pleased with us, and very happy with the car count,” BMP manager Joe Jackson said.
— E-mail: dstillwell@