BURLINGTON, Wash. — After finishing a junior sprint race, 13-year-old Ryan Timms was in front of a screen watching Brad Sweet win his first World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship.
It was a vision of a reality the Oklahoma native hoped to be true for him one day.
Three years later, a day after turning 16, Timms passed Sweet on a late restart at Red River Valley Speedway to finish second in his second World of Outlaws start and first at the North Dakota track.
While it was an eye-widening pass to many watching, the three-time and defending World of Outlaws champion wasn’t surprised.
“I thought Ryan Timms did a good job,” Sweet said. “We’ve had some good 16-year-olds this year racing with us. The future is bright for the sport. It’s fun that there’s such a wide variety of drivers out here right now and so many capable drivers of getting wins and running up front. It’s definitely tough competition.”
Timms became the second driver this year to break the record for youngest podium finisher, beating Corey Day by three months in age. Day finished in second place twice with the World of Outlaws in March during the West Coast Swing, driving for two-time World of Outlaws champion Jason Meyers.
“Figured my record wouldn’t stand for long with this kid being younger than me,” Day said on Twitter. “[Ryan Timms] is a bad man!”
The two teenage stars who grew up racing against each other in the Micro Sprint ranks will go head-to-head again for the Fall West Coast Swing with the World of Outlaws, starting with the Skagit Nationals on Sept. 1-3 and running through the 49er Gold Rush Classic at Placerville Speedway on Sept. 17.
Day’s career path has had the added benefit of being under Meyer’s mentorship, while Timms and his family have built their own program. Timms grew up going to the racetrack with his father, Randy, who raced modifieds and late models.
Eventually, the fun of only watching wore out. He wanted to race.
His father put him in a junior sprint at about seven years old and he climbed the ranks from there. Micros, midgets, 360 sprint cars and then 410 sprint cars, picking up multiple wins along the way.
As Ryan continued to win, a career path started taking shape.
Randy put his 25-year racing career aside to help focus on his son’s. And with Ryan’s racing schedule increasing each year, he went to full online schooling after eighth grade.
“It’s not too bad,” he said about the adjustment. “I can do it all on the computer. I can get it done whenever. I’m a junior now, then have next year and I’m done. I plan on going full sprint car, just plan on racing all the time and hopefully I can make something of it because it is all or nothing.”
This year marks his first full season running the family-owned No. 5T 410 sprint car and it didn’t take long for “Timms” to become a household name in the sprint car community. With each stellar performance, including a win at Huset’s Speedway, anticipation for his World of Outlaws debut heightened.
When he finally turned 16, becoming eligible to race with the World of Outlaws, Timms gave merit to the hype.
In his first World of Outlaws start at River Cities Speedway on his birthday, he went from 17th to ninth in the feature, earning the KSE Hard Charger award. Then, the next night at Red River Valley, he outran his heroes to make history.
“It was kind of a pretty big shocker,” Timms said. “I expected down the road we would do good. Get some podiums and stuff. I definitely didn’t think we’d pull off a second that quick. To drive around someone like Brad Sweet and (David) Gravel and (Sheldon) Haudenschild, those are some of the best guys on the Outlaw tour. It’s pretty crazy really. Now that I’m taking it all in, it’s weird.
“I made a Twitter post saying how weird it is to watch myself race against Brad Sweet, but it is pretty cool.”
He credits his early sprint car success to his days in the micro ranks. Racing at tracks like I-44 Riverside Speedway — about five minutes from his house — and Port City Raceway — now owned by World of Outlaws winner Shane Stewart — helped him develop skills he said made 410 sprint car racing at times seem slow.
“Port City, it’s one of the best micro tracks, I think,” he said. “If you ever watch it, it looks the same as winged sprint car racing, just shrunk down. It’s basically all the same, I don’t know what you’d call it, movements, I guess. Same style. It’s actually a lot quicker reaction time in some instances in the micros. It’s kind of like slow motion in a sprint car for me.”
While Timms is already living a life on the road, chasing the World of Outlaws and following his sprint car dream, he’s still a junior in school. That means going from racing on the weekends to having to hold off on interviews during the week so he can take a test.
“It’s a lot better going from the tests to sprint cars,” Timms said.