Mathews Set For ARCA Debut

DENVER, N.C. - In 2005, Ryan Mathews was tearing up the short tracks of the Midwest in his family-owned No. 21 Super Late Model just like he had been doing for several years.

The wins and top-five finishes poured in, but there was more out there for the young driver from Wisconsin.

Mathews wanted to experience more and now Eddie Sharp Racing will give the former ASA National Series driver a chance to fulfill his major stock car racing dreams.

Mathews will be making his first of eight starts in the ARCA RE/MAX Series on May 21 in the Hantz Group 200 at Toledo Speedway. The race marks the first venture into ARCA in a season that holds plenty of promise for the 25-year-old behind the wheel of the ESR No. 22.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for me,” said Mathews. “Just a year ago I was busy racing Super Late Models in the Midwest and now I’ve got a great opportunity to show what I’ve got with Eddie Sharp Racing and I’m really grateful for it.

“We had a very successful test at Toledo last week. There’s usually not a whole lot of practice time in these ARCA short track races, so I was glad that we had the laps in the test to get the car as close to perfect as we can. We really focused on getting it close so that when we get to the track this weekend we can tweak on a couple little things in practice to make it even better if we have to.”

A car that is set up to near-perfection will only help Mathews’ learning curve in his first ARCA start of the season. Sure the driver, who has more than 50 career wins throughout the Midwest, has plenty of knowledge of how to get around a short track, but driving on a short track in the ARCA RE/MAX Series is a whole new ballgame, but it’s one that Mathews is ready for.

“I’ve done a lot of short track racing in my career and I’m really familiar with it, but this one’s going to be a lot different. These ARCA cars are a different animal. They take a completely different driving style to get around the track quickly. By the time the race starts on Sunday, I will have had plenty of laps around the Toledo track to feel good enough to go out and get a good finish for the ESR team.

“The ARCA races there are typically pretty physical out on the racetrack, so it’s going to be very important to stay on the lead lap and out of trouble. Doing those things is just about as difficult as it is to win the race itself. I’m just going to stay calm and race smart for the first 3/4 of the race and give it all that I’ve got at the end and see what can happen.”

Mathews has gotten plenty of first-hand experience in what short track racing in ARCA is all about. He has traveled to every ARCA race so far this season as a crew member for his teammate Ken Weaver in the no. 20 Dodge. By doing that, he has gained plenty of knowledge about how the ARCA cars work and how the competition is on the racetrack. Everything he’s learned to this point will be put to the test this weekend in Toledo.

“By being at the track so far this season as part of the crew I’ve learned that if you don’t race smart, you’re going to be one of the cars that’s not around at the end of the race. Half the field usually finishes these short track races, so it’s going to be very important to stay consistent and not get roughed up. If we can keep the car together and going in the right direction we’ll be just fine.”

Team owner Eddie Sharp has worked with numerous young drivers in his crew chief and team management roles through the years. He’s got another driver under his wing now with Ryan Mathews. A stellar resume of short track success led Sharp to bring Mathews into the ESR stable for the 2006 season.

“Ryan showed a lot of promise when he was racing Late Models and ASA cars around the Midwest and there’s no doubt that he is ready for success on a big stage like ARCA. He’s been very successful on many different short track levels, so the entire team has a lot of confidence in Ryan to go out to Toledo and come back with a good finish.”

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