Interview by Mary Lendzion
Photos by Mary Lendzion and Fastest Street Car Staff
Ryan Hill has been behind the wheel of several cars in his twenty years of racing.
The first was a junior dragster, followed by a Malibu, a Mustang, a dragster, a Firebird, and ultimately, the 1963 Corvette-bodied car that he debuted in the middle of 2020 in NMCA VP Racing Lubricants Xtreme Pro Mod. Built by Chris Duncan Race Cars, powered by a supercharged Brad Anderson Hemi and nicknamed Betty White, it has already blasted to a 3.96 and 185 mph, and while Hill’s shakedown season was short, he’s confident there’s more where that came from.
With determination and a dedicated team by his side, Hill is positioning himself to put down plenty of power in 2021, and will be one to watch. He hopes to arrive at the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle, but he acknowledges that it may take a while to get there as the competition in VP Racing Lubricants Xtreme Pro Mod is incredibly intense.
Read on for more about Hill, who owns Electro Mechanical Services, Inc. with his father, Dave Hill, and likes to spend as much time as possible with his family, including his girlfriend, Shannon Brock, and children, at their home in Valparaiso, Indiana.
YOU WENT FROM HAVING AN ASSORTMENT OF HOT WHEELS TO A JUNIOR DRAGSTER. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR DAYS IN THE HALF-SCALE CAR?
I can remember watching my dad race his 10-second 1969 Firebird and his 9-second 1963 Nova when I was a kid, and that got me hooked. At one of the races in 2000, my dad saw a junior dragster for sale, and he asked me if I would be interested. When I told him I was, he said I would have to get my grades up before he bought it, so I did, and that winter, we drove to New Hampshire to pick it up. I was nine years old at the time. I didn’t do too bad the first few years, but in 2006-2007, I was a track champion at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan, and in 2008, I was a track champion at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park and Osceola Dragway in Indiana. My brother, Josh Hill, also raced a junior dragster.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST RACE A FULL-SIZE CAR?
In the summer of 2009, when I was in college, someone asked if I wanted take a lap in their 1983 Malibu. My foot came off the throttle on my very first pass because I wasn’t ready for that type of launch, but then I quickly got used to it and I raced it in Pinks All Out at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park. It ran 10.50 at 130 mph. Then, another person asked if I wanted to drive their Fox Body Mustang, and I raced that in the Street class and No Box class at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park and Osceola Dragway. The car ran 12.50s and I got down to the final round at one race. Then, in 2012, I started racing a friend’s dragster in Top Dragster and Quick 8. The car ran 7.49 at 177 mph. After that, I raced a friend’s S10 pickup. We would double-enter in Bracket races so that he raced it and I raced it.
YOU TOOK A BIG STEP WITH YOUR NEXT CAR, THE FIREBIRD.
We did. We bought it in 2012 and we spent two years putting it together. We put a Hemi engine and blower, bought from Mick and Larry Snyder, in it, and Dave Moldenhauer helped us get the car done. Then in October of 2014, we went to the last race of the season at Lucas Oil Dragway in Indiana and I got my NHRA license. I ran Top Sportsman at Division 3 races, and unfortunately, I was a second-round princess. We also chased four PDRA Top Sportsman races in 2015, and then in 2016, we got into heads-up racing. It’s funny how that happened. We were looking for a place to test and tune, and I called Jay Gillman at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park and asked if he had any test sessions that weekend. He said he didn’t, but he suggested I try the Import vs. Domestic Showdown heads-up race that the track was having, and I did, and I ended up winning. In addition to Quick 8, I also raced it in NMCA Xtreme Pro Mod a couple times in 2017 and 2018. The car, Big Booty Judy, was good, but it was heavy. It weighed 2,700 pounds and it wasn’t working the way we needed it to work. We would spend more money to make it work and to make it lighter than we would if we just bought a new car.
IS THAT WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MOVE TO THE 1963 CORVETTE-BODIED PRO MOD YOU CAMPAIGN NOW?
Yes, it is. Alex and Kenny Laughlin had the car sitting in Texas, and my dad and I worked out a deal with them to buy it as a roller, sight unseen, in November of 2018. Would you believe our motorhome broke down on the way there? Then we had to get it home with a wee bit of battery power. It was a 16-hour drive. That made it a rough weekend, but at least we were really happy with the car.
YOU TURNED THE CAR OVER TO CHRIS DUNCAN RACE CARS SOON AFTER. WHAT WORK WAS PERFORMED IN HIS SHOP?
The car needed to be updated, and Chris Duncan told us that he would help us and take good care of the car and us, so we took the car to him at the end of 2019. They really took me in. They didn’t just put bars in the car and send me a bill. They talked with me about ideas and plans before they did a whole front-half to the firewall, added bars to the back, did the four-link, body work and ran wiring in the car. My dad and I had assembled a 521 cubic-inch Brad Anderson Hemi to go with 1471 roots-style supercharger and three-speed Lenco, and we fired the car up at Chris Duncan’s shop in early August of 2020.
YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU WERE PRESENT FOR SOME OF THE WORK BEING PERFORMED ON THE CAR. DID THAT HELP YOU LEARN THE INS AND OUTS OF THE CAR?
Yes. It definitely did. For the last ten days that the car was at Chris Duncan’s shop, I was there, too. I did windows with them and mounting brackets with them, and I did stuff for shock sensors with them. We did carbon sheets for belly pans and we ran brake lines. I wanted to be hands-on so that when I was looking at my car, I knew what I was looking at. Chris Duncan and his team did so much more work to the car than my dad and I could have, and it was quite a learning experience. It helped me respect my car even more.
WITHOUT A TEST SESSION, YOU WENT TO THE NITTO TIRE NMRA/NMCA SUPER BOWL PRESENTED BY HPJ PERFORMANCE IN AUGUST OF 2020 AT WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY RACEWAY IN ILLINOIS, AND INTRODUCED THE CAR TO VP RACING LUBRICANTS XTREME PRO MOD. HOW DID IT GO?
We literally fired the car up the night before we were to leave for the race. When we got there, we made plans to make a 330-hit before shutting off. Chris Duncan told me to take it to the top of second gear, shift to third and get out of it. It was a clean run. Everything worked. I made my first full pull in the second round of qualifying, and the car went 4.03 and 182 mph. It was quicker and faster than I had ever been, and it felt good. Very good.
YOU RAN EVEN QUICKER AND FASTER AT THE NEXT NMCA EVENT, THE NMRA/NMCA ALL-AMERICAN NATIONALS PRESENTED BY FORCE ENGINEERING IN LATE AUGUST OF 2020 AT U.S. 131 MOTORSPORTS PARK IN MICHIGAN.
It was great. We went 4.01, 4.00, 3.98 and 396 at 183 mph. The car liked whatever we were doing to it. I lost to Eric Gustafson in the first round with that 3.96 and 183 mph, but I couldn’t be upset because our goal with the new car was to break into the 3s at that event, and we did that.
UNFORTUNATELY, YOU RAN INTO TROUBLE AT THE 19TH ANNUAL NITROUS SUPPLY NMCA WORLD STREET FINALS PRESENTED BY CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE IN SEPTEMBER AT LUCAS OIL RACEWAY IN INDIANA. WHAT HAPPENED?
The car went 3.98 on a test pass there, which let us know we had something to work with, but then we dropped a valve in qualifying. It happened right when I got out of the throttle at the top end of the track. It revved up and then there was smoke everywhere. That ended our year, sadly.
WE WERE SORRY TO SEE THAT. WHAT REPAIRS ARE NEEDED?
Thankfully, it’s just my Brad Anderson heads that need to be repaired, and we’ll send them to Total Flow Products for that.
NOW THAT YOU’RE FULLY-COMMITTED TO NMCA VP RACING LUBRICANTS XTREME PRO MOD, WILL YOU SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CATEGORY?
We honestly had such a good time in 2020. Rollie (Miller) and everyone else with the NMCA treats us very well, and in addition to the competition in the class, one of the great things is how it really feels like we’re part of a show at events. Fans seems to like us.
WHO HELPS YOU ALONG THE WAY?
My dad, Dave, my mom, Norma, my girlfriend, Shannon Brock, along with Chris Duncan, Amanda Hoover, Matthew Dommer, Shane Binversie and Dave Moldenhauer. We have support from Chris Duncan Race Cars and Ray Dills of Hose Connections, Inc., and SpeedShark Graphics will be a sponsor for the car in 2021. They will be designing and making shirts for us to be able to sell in 2021.
WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING MORE OF YOU IN 2021. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE RACE SEASON?
My plan is to go a heck of a lot faster, with less maintenance. We’re going to replace our 1471 roots-style supercharger with a C rotor screw blower that we’ll get from Chris Duncan Race Cars. We should be able to drop it in and go, but we may have to make the fuel pump flow a little more, and Chris Duncan will walk us through that. I’m looking forward to 2021. I’m confident that if we play our cards right, and we run 3.70s, we’ll go rounds. I’d love to win a race.
(Interview in the March 2021 issue of Fastest Street Car)