Ryan Donaghy had a great start to his career.
In fact, it was nearly the best first year of the season.
But instead of celebrating, he worked harder.
Donaghy, a 2018 graduate of Father Judge High School, is a race car driver competing on the Challenge Cup Series. Last year was his rookie year, and he checked off a lot of cool things on his to-do list.
In his first race, he competed at Watkins Glen International Raceway, the same track that stars like Kyle Petty, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch have competed in.
He tried his luck at the Pocono Raceway IndyCar weekend before a big Indy Car race.
And he learned a lot more about racing, and even more importantly, he learned a lot about fixing his car to compete in the tough circuit.
He didn’t just compete in these races. He excelled.
“It was a really good first year, it was so much fun and we got better,” said Donaghy, who gets a lot of help from his crew, which includes his dad, also a former racer. “I just missed out on rookie of the year, too. I had a great year, but I had an engine failure (in his final race), so I finished second. For me, that was a big goal and it was nice to finish second. It would have been great to win it, though.”
Donaghy, who lives in Rhawnhurst, improved as the season went on. And he did so by a lot.
In his second race, Donaghy improved his lap time by 16.2 seconds from the first session of the weekend to the second weekend. He learned a lot by racing, but he also learned a lot by working with other drivers.
Donaghy puts in that work so he can someday be the top driver in his circuit, and while he hopes to beat all his competition, it’s definitely a friendly rivalry.
“The first year was really fun, and the best part is how everyone wants to win, but works together,” Donaghy said. “Everyone wants to see everyone do well. We share parts. I’ve had people help me when I needed it. It’s competition, but the best part about this is it’s a real family atmosphere and people like each other.”
Donaghy does his part, too.
It’s not unusual for him to go to other garages to help people work on their car.
And he loves nothing more than working on his baby.
His Formula Vee is based off an early 1960s-style Volkswagen. The car, with the driver, weighs about 1,075 pounds. While races are held on weekends during the summer, Donaghy spends all of his free time in the garage, doing whatever he can to make his car go faster. He gets a lot of help from his father, a former racer.
“I’ve learned a lot from him, and now I’m able to do a lot of things by myself,” Donaghy said. “There are some jobs that you can’t do alone, and he always helps me. But for jobs I’m able to do alone, I do it.”
So far this year, Donaghy has competed in two races. In July, he competed at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he made a five-second improvement in terms of lap time from Saturday to Sunday. On the first weekend in August, he put in a strong showing at Nelson Ledges.
Every race is fun, but the key is gaining experience.
“You learn so much by doing it, and I’m lucky that I’ve had a lot of help,” said Donaghy, who works overnight doing security at the Philadelphia Protestant Home. “After last year, we redid everything. So that took a long time. And after every race, you have so much work to do.”
Now one of the biggest things Donaghy is working on is growing his team.
Like all race car drivers, Donaghy relies heavily on sponsors to help him pay the bills. Car repairs are expensive. Competing is expensive. And he has some great sponsors who help him. They are A Lift for a Vet, LRM Inc., and Pocono Sportscar LLC.
“Those sponsors help so much because any money I get, I put into the car and it helps me compete,” Donaghy said. “Everything helps. I’m always looking for more, too. It’s always so important to have them. It’s how you get better.”
To keep up with Donaghy, or for businesses who would like to learn about sponsoring him, the best way to contact him is through social media. He’s on Instagram @ryand316 and @donaghyracingteam, on Facebook at Donaghy Racing Team and on Twitter @ryandonaghy.