Ryan Oehler knows where he needs to improve in 2019. The 34-year-old Illinois native placed last in average 60-foot time last season, giving the rider/crew chief/team owner something to shoot for during the offseason. With a new sponsor on the side of his EBR and a refreshed clutch program, Oehler plans to make the Countdown in his second full-time tour.
Over Kill Motorsports comes on board with Oehler through a chance encounter in Florida, something of a second home for the rider. The organization has been involved in NHRA in the past and will be the primary sponsor on Oehler’s bike at a handful of races throughout the 2019 season.
“I had a problem with the heating system in my pool in Florida,” said Oehler. “The repair guy noticed the logo on my jacket and asked what I did for a living. We got to talking and I guess he’s a Sportsman racer and that got me hooked up with Over Kill. It’s funny, you do all this work trying to get in touch with sponsors and then this is how things end up working out.”
Oehler will get on his bike for the first time since the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Tuesday as he and head crew member Alex Tutt head to Bradenton Motorsports Park to see what they’re working with. Oehler finished 13th in the class with one round win to his credit, but is optimistic he can fight his way into the top 10 as long as his 60-foot numbers come around.
“You just can’t win this class with a 1.09 60-foot,” said Oehler. “But if I can drop that down even a few hundredths of a second, and I think I can, I should pick up as much as half a second down the track. Doing that will move me up five or six spots up the qualifying sheet and that’ll make a huge difference on race day.”
It’s obviously one thing to say it and another thing to, well, do it, but Oehler’s optimism comes off the back of long days spent in the shop during the offseason. That is, between running AirTec, the HVAC business his family owns and operates.
“I worked until 10 p.m. last night and I got up at six,” said Oehler. “When I get off the phone with you I’m getting back to work because when it drops below zero here… well, the work doesn’t stop. Then I’m getting on a red-eye flight tonight to go into Tampa to test tomorrow.”
Juggling the family business and a 16-race schedule means flying in at the last second on Thursday (or sometimes early Friday) on race weekends and working long hours at his day job. And that’s not mentioning the engine work done in the race shop. Oehler’s father, Brad, does most of the engine work, and the team, which includes only a handful of members, does much of the work in house.
That’s admirable, but it’s also a lot of work.
“I guess I just have a natural ability to multi-task,” said Oehler. “So, that helps me. I’ve got some really good people back home that have stepped up to help manage our operation, which is huge. And of course my wife, Laura, is right there for me and when I’m gone she’s running the home business — all of that is essential.”
Pro Stock Motorcycles will hit the track for the first time at the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. [Tickets]
Photos courtesy of Ryan Oehler