Usually, when you hear NASCAR drivers talking about the possibility of an opportunity – no matter the series, or equipment — can lead to another, and another, the assumption is that they’re referring to the ability to record a good result and catch the attention of others in the industry. With that being said, if we’ve learned anything about Ryan Ellis lately, it’s that he doesn’t do things “by the book”.
The year started off with the 31-year-old looking for the necessary funding to return to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021, in hopes of contesting a partial schedule at NASCAR’s top-level with GoFas Racing, where he worked in the team’s PR department for many years.
Primarily through the help of Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis and Keen Parts | CorvetteParts.net, Ellis was able to find the funding to run at least seven NASCAR Xfinity Series events with BJ McLeod Motorsports, as well as a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event for Reaume Brothers Racing.
With GoFas Racing not making any indications they’ll return to the Cup Series, there haven’t bleen a plethora of opportunities for Ellis to get behind the wheel of an entry at NASCAR’s top-level, without needing additional funding. However, when the series returns to Kansas Speedway this fall, the Ashburn, Virginia-native will have that opportunity.
Granted, the opportunity for Ellis to go racing in the Cup Series this season didn’t just knock on his door… well, in a way it kind of did, but the story behind the ride is one-of-a-kind.
Looking back to the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Mid-Ohio, Ellis was on his way to securing his career-best finish, when contact from good friend Cody Ware sent the No. 99 BJ McLeod Motorsports Ford Mustang spinning. Ware went on to secure a top-15 result, while Ellis was relegated to a 28th-place finish.
Though, that isn’t where the story ends…
The team that Ellis will drive for in his return to the NASCAR Cup Series? Rick Ware Racing, which currently operates four full-time entries in the NASCAR Cup Series (No. 15, 51, 52 and 53) and also partially owns the entry that Cody Ware was piloting at Mid-Ohio.
Cody Ware joined the 14th episode of “Not Another Racing Podcast” hosted by Ellis and NASCAR Cup Series driver, Matt DiBenedetto, to discuss how the incident happened at Mid-Ohio and the opportunity to have Ellis pilot a Rick Ware Racing entry in October at Kansas.
“We got through Thunder Alley just fine, we were racing three wide, which I didn’t even know you could fit three cars wide at Thunder Alley,” said Ware. “The next thing I know, I see a bright red No. 99 Good Sam car, not only is my good friend [Ellis] driving it, but my good friend is the team owner, BJ McLeod, as well.
“The next thing I know, we’re getting beaten and banged on from behind and the side, then one thing leads to another and I’m spinning Ryan Ellis coming to the flag,” continued Ware. “My team was super estatic, and I was just radio silent because I just… man, what a piece of human garbage, this guy races a couple times a year and here I am spinning him out on his best day”
Even though a career-best result for Ellis had been derailed just shy of the finish, the driver mentions that when he went to talk to Ware, he found himself not that upset, elaborating on the state of the series’ road races, while also – very casually — mentioning that he had no brakes for ~90-percent of the event.
“Everyone is driving like idiots at the road courses, they just do,” said Ellis. “I’m the same way. I think Landon Cassill flipped me off and I think I’m the first human he’s ever flipped off in his life. Brandon Jones just about wrecked me on the backstraightaway, there were cars going off everywhere, normal NASCAR road course.”
That’s just road course racing in the Xfinity Series, it’s just stupid sometimes, you either wreck or get wrecked that’s just how it is, that’s why half the field finishes these races.”
Many aren’t aware that Ellis and Ware are actually good friends off the track and were joking about racing each other in the days leading up to the event. In-race interactions between the two drivers usually involved a particular finger located in the middle of the hand, which to some may seem aggressive or hostile, but rather, was just the two drivers messing around.
Ultimately, it was their friendship that made Ware feel worse about the situation that occurred, leading to a discussion with his father.
“Afterwards, you know how horrible I felt, and so at that point me and Dad [Rick Ware] were talking and he felt bad for you too,” said Ware. “We both know how hard you work and you always find the sponsorship to get to the track any chance you get, so that’s why we’re super stoked to be able to bring you on for the Cup race at Kansas, to give you another chance, let you have some fun and let you do what you do.”
The Hollywood Casino 400 will mark Ellis’ sixth career start in the NASCAR Cup Series and his first since Fall 2016. Across the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the 31-year-old has made five starts at the 1.5-mile facility, recording a top-20 result with Beaver Motorsports in 2015.
“I’m so excited. First off, you guys don’t need to do that,” said Ellis. “I’ve talked to you and your dad since then. It’s NASCAR, it’s not like you hit me walking down the sidewalk, then that would be different, I’d feel like ‘Yeah, you probably do owe me a Cup ride’, but the fact that you guys are doing that is so cool and obviously I have nothing but respect for you and your dad, I’ve known him since I got into NASCAR and it’s so cool what you guys have built.”
At this time, there has been no car number or primary sponsor named to Ellis’ drive at Kansas, but all details are expected to be announced closer to the running of the event.
To hear more of the conversation between Ware, Ellis (and Matt DiBenedetto), check out Episode 14 of “Not Another Racing Podcast” whereever you usually get your podcasts. (Starts around 90-minute mark).