Ryan Donaghy living on the fast track

Ryan Donaghy races in the rain at Watkins Glen. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Ryan Donaghy had little time to celebrate his debut.

The 2018 graduate of Father Judge High School had just competed in his first race at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York, and in brutal conditions that included rain and cold weather, finished 15th out of nearly 30 drivers. And while he certainly felt a wave of satisfaction after he crossed the finish line, he wasn’t doing victory laps.

Instead, he was back in the garage, fixing his car.

“When that race was over, it felt so good because it was a hard day to race with the weather, and it just felt good to get out there and do it,” said Donaghy, who lives in Rhawnhurst. “At the end of the race, I just decided I was going to give it everything. I knew I was having some problems with the car, but I just pushed it as far as I could go. The crowd was happy, it was a great end to the race and I was really happy to get to the finish.”

The push made for a better finish for Donaghy, and it certainly gave the crowd something to cheer about, but it meant it was back to the garage.

Donaghy plans on getting back in the racing circuit in August, and thanks to the race, the car needs a lot of work.

His Formula Vee is based off an early 1960s-style Volkswagen. The car, with the driver, weighs about 1,075 pounds and he pushes his baby for all its worth.

He knows what he’s doing, but he isn’t a one-man show. His teammates are his parents.

He and his mom, Donna, make up Donaghy Racing team, the squad Donaghy represents when he takes to the track. And while his mom is his business partner, his father, Frank also has a huge stake in the team.

If it weren’t for him, there would be no team. He taught Donaghy everything he knows about fixing cars and continues to help him work on getting the car ready for the races. It’s a lot harder than you think, but he’s in good hands.

The other member of the family, Tucker the dog, is more of a spectator, but he certainly offers moral support.

“My dad knows so much, he’s taught me everything I know,” said Donaghy, who works overnight doing security at the Philadelphia Protestant Home and spends his days getting his car into shape. “He worked Ferrari North America and he also taught at Pennco Tech. I’ve been working with him my whole life. He’s been very big in me getting involved.”

As proud as he is of having his parents as partners, they’re just as proud to watch their boy move up in the racing world.

“I did some racing in the ’80s, and the best part about watching him do this is I know how well prepared he is, he makes sure he does everything right,” Frank said. “You can be fast and reckless or fast and good, and he’s fast and good. He goes out and does things the right way.

“For where he started and how hard he’s worked, I’m really impressed. It’s challenging, and he’s doing a great job.”

Mom agrees, although she’s more concerned about keeping her son safe than having him win races.

“I’m a mom first, so when the race was over, I was really happy,” Donna said. “He had a great race, so I was really happy, but I’m a mom first. I just wanted him to be safe. But he was safe and did great.”

The preparation starts and in truth ends in the garage.

At this level, the only time Donaghy gets to practice is the weekend of the race. The rest of the time, it’s all work on the car, and make sure everything is ready for when he races. He’s now working on getting ready for the first week of August, when he’ll race in Pittsburgh.

“You really can’t do much,” said Donaghy, who bought his car for $7,000. “There’s always something to do with the car. But in terms of getting on the track, you don’t get a lot of opportunities. There’s a track in Millville (New Jersey), but to rent them out, it’s so expensive.”

He might not get a chance to drive on tough tracks like he did at Watkins Glen, but there’s always the Boulevard.

“It’s way harder to drive on the Boulevard than on the track,” Donaghy said. “I mean it. When I’m racing, it sounds corny, but I am so focused, it’s like I’m at one with the car. I’m just driving. I don’t see or think about anything else.”

Donaghy knows he still has a lot of miles ahead of him if he wants to continue to grow in the sport, but he does have some goals. In a perfect world, he’ll race in the Grand Prix in Europe, where he’ll go against the fastest cars in the world.

“That would be perfect, but I’m listening to anything,” Donaghy said. “I would love an opportunity. It costs a lot of money to compete, but I believe it will pay off.”

He does have sponsors, and he’s very thankful for them. Among them are “A Lift for a Vet,” which provides disabled veterans with stair and chair lifts so vets can stay in their homes and be more independent. Also, LRM, a monitoring, recording and control instrumentation as well as chemical feed systems for the water and wastewater markets. Other sponsors include Elevator Constructors Local 5, the International Union of Elevator Constructors and Pocono Sportscar LLC.

“My roots with Pocono Sportscar goes back to the days when my father and Jim (owner of Pocono Sportscar) worked together at Ferrari North America, they have been great friends ever since, and now that I am racing, he has allowed us to use his shop to work on the car multiple times,” Donaghy said. “This helps a lot when trying to work on all cars, especially a race car.”

Because he covers most of the costs of the race, which includes spending money on hotels and food on race weekends, he’s very careful to manage costs.

“I’m always looking for sponsors, and you’d be surprised how far $100 can go,” Donaghy said. “I appreciate everything they give me. It goes a long way, believe me.”

The goal is to keep getting better, keep having fun and keep making everyone proud. And whatever the next step is, he’s ready to work for it.

“I love it, I’ve always loved doing this,” Donaghy said. “I’m really thankful I’m able to do it. It’s hard work, but it’s fun work. I love everything about it.”

To keep up with Donaghy’s racing achievements, he’s active on social media. He’s on Instagram @ryand316 and @donaghyracingteam, on Facebook at Donaghy Racing Team and on twitter @ryandonaghy.