Ryan Donaghy has been taking steps, but they haven’t been baby steps.
Ever since the 2018 graduate of Father Judge High School has started in the world of competitive racing, he’s been focused on improvement.
In his rookie campaign, he fell just short of bringing home rookie of the year honors.
Then last year, in his second year of competition, he was named the most improved driver in the Challenge Cup Series.
Both were huge honors for the young driver, and this year, he’s hoping to compete for the national championship.
“I’m surprised at the progress I have made, but because I know the work I’ve done, I’m not surprised the car is where it is because of the work we put in,” said Donaghy, who works on the car, a Formula Vee based off an early 1960s-style Volkswagen, by himself and with his father. “It’s a full time job, just dealing with the car or the parts of the car.”
“It meant so much. That’s something you kind of need. It’s different than a championship based on points. An award like that is something all your peers agree upon. He made the most improvement from this year to last year, so that did mean a lot. They picked me. ‘Of all the great drivers, Ryan did the best from one year to the next,’ they said and that means more than anything else you can do.”
Racing might be the easy part.
Sure, it’s challenging to get behind the wheel on racing days and compete against a field that includes national champions and guys who have been driving competitively since long before Donaghy was born, but all the work he puts in on race day is cake compared to the work he puts in during the days, weeks and months before the races.
He’s still learning, but he’s proud of how far he’s come in the short time he’s been racing competitively.
“My dad is the best, he helps me all the time, any job that takes two people to do, he helps me with and he helps me with things I can’t do, things I need help with,” the Rhawnhurst resident said. “He’s busy, he has to live his life, so most of the stuff I do, I do it myself. And I’m learning every day. It’s a lot of work, some jobs are easy, some aren’t, but you’re always trying to improve the car.”
Racing is a huge part of Donaghy’s life, especially during racing season, although it is something he does all year long.
His life has changed a little this year. He works security at a retirement home, and this year his hours switched from overnights to days. It’s been a huge blessing for his passion.
“I worked overnights for a while and it was tough, I couldn’t do anything, normally, I don’t think I ever sat down and ate dinner with my family unless it was my day off,” Donaghy said. “The new schedule definitely helps with the racing. I’m able to do things at a normal time. And it’s easier to work with people.”
He’s been more successful, too.
This year, Donaghy has turned his attention to being atop his division.
He credits knowing his car better for his increased success. It was nice to be an up and coming rookie, it was great to be the most improved driver, but now he wants to be the best.
“So far, we’ve done four races, and it’s been pretty good,” Donaghy said.” The first race was a little tough to get laps in because I’m running with a different group, we race with other cars in faster classes. The last two years, I still race with them, but I’m running the national championship. We race with two other classes of car, which are faster. Some drivers are faster, some are much better drivers, so it makes it interesting. It’s fun.”
This year, he’s enjoyed strong showings, including a race at Pocono Raceway and another at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York, his favorite course. He still has races left, including one this month in Millville, New Jersey. Just as he’s done in most races, he hopes to continue to improve.
“There’s room for the car to get faster and certainly room for me to get faster,” Donaghy said. “There’s work to be done, but we pinpoint the areas we can get better. We’re looking forward to the next couple races. We have three more planned, Millville Motorsports Park on July 17 and 18. And then West Virginia, Summit Point in August. And last race will be the national championship in Indianapolis. That’s where they have the Indy 500. Our goal is to keep getting better. We want to race with the best and improve. I know I can be faster. I’m getting better every race.”
While Donaghy puts in a lot of work, he also gives credit to his sponsors, which include Automotive Safety Consulting/Caruso Brothers Racing, Dean’s Autosport and Repairs in East Stroudsburg, Vee Sport Racing in Danbury, Connecticut, and a Lift for a Vet.
Donaghy is always accepting more sponsors. To contact him, visit his Facebook page, Donaghy Racing Team.