The sputtering noise of a dying engine is the sound that accompanies nightmares for race car drivers.
The motor stops purring, the car rolls to a stop and with no quick fix to such a major problem, you’re out of a race. More specifically, you end up in last place if nobody else dropped out first. It was the worst-case finish Kyle Ellwood lived on Aug. 6 at Riverhead Raceway in the INEX Legends race.
“After I went one lap it was kind of said and done with,” Ellwood said. “After that motor blew, I knew my night was over.”
After taking the lead in the championship standings weeks before, Ellwood was headed in the wrong direction fast. But while his night was over, his season wasn’t. A few days in the shop and a week later, he sped to victory on Aug. 13 to reclaim some points and put himself back in the championship race.
“The pressure was on I’d say and I did the best I possibility could to get that thing back to victory lane,” Ellwood said.
The Riverhead native credited the work his crew put into the car between races for helping him mount such a comeback. He now sits in fourth with 390 points. Vinny Delaney leads with 424.
“What happened to me can happen to anybody,” Ellwood said. “That’s how I like to look at it. The people I’m racing with, you don’t hope bad luck on anybody that’s for sure, but if it happens I could be right back in it.”
Ellwood understands that better than most. Though only 21, he’s been racing since he was five years old. He has experience in many races including the premier NASCAR Modified division and has as many good days as bad, though this year has been up and down with four tough starts.
“Every week it’s a new experience,” Ellwood said. “Every week is a good week for us if we can come out of the race unscathed.”
Ellwood has also been racing in the Late Model division for the first time this year. Two types of racing bring different commitments and time constraints, but he’s learning to adjust on the fly.
“I’ve won with the modifieds before so it shouldn’t be that big of an adjustment for me, but it is,” Ellwood said. “It’s a bigger car; it’s heavier.”
While Ellwood has been relaxed about the season and open to learning new techniques, he has six more legends races to try to come out on top in the standings. And he’s still holding out hope to do just that.
“We’re going to go from there and try to go every week and win more races and win more races,” he said. “That’s all I can do at this point.”