Ryan Beat has been at this a while. In fact, he’s probably the longest-running Pro Lite competitor in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. Of the Pro Lite competitors in 2012 – the year he scored his best points finish, a second to RJ Anderson – he’s the only one still racing in the class. And it looks like in 2018 it’s all going to pay off.
The intervening years have not always been kind to Beat. In 2013, the year following that second-place finish – which marked his first full season and first with Hart & Huntington — he finished 17th. That year he was also pulled in several directions, as he took over driving duties for the now-defunct Premiere Motorsports Group’s two other trucks mid-season and raced in three classes – Pro 2 and Pro 4 in addition to Pro Lite. After that, he formed his own team.
He had a good year in 2016 with a third in the points and three victories, but things didn’t go his way last season. In 2018, he has yet to finish off of the podium, has three wins and leads the points by a 32-point margin over Brandon Arthur with three rounds left, including a doubleheader this weekend at Glen Helen Raceway.
“I think it’s a lot of the experience, kind of a trial-by-error thing,” he says of what he thinks the difference has been this season. “We’ve learned over the years what to do and what not to do. We’ve been in the class six years now, so we’ve learned from epic failure and epic success. I’ve got great people behind me this year sponsorship-wise, with Bilstein coming on board. They’re very committed to winning and doing the best we can, as well as General Tires, KMC Wheels and Competitive Metals. All these people want to win races; it’s not, ‘Let’s have a cool party!’ or any other bulls**t. They want to win races. For us, it’s having like-minded people that are willing to support you and have what it takes to win.”
Beat, a motocrosser and Kawasaki test rider until a crash ended his career, counts his father and uncle among his crew. The team changed to the Chevrolet LS engine package for 2018, going from carburetion to fuel injection. But the big change was with Bilstein. With a new shock sponsor on board, Beat and the team were able to put in the offseason testing and gather knowledge in new areas.
“Over the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot about the transmission converters, the motors and tuning as far as gear ratios,” the El Cajon, California, racer says.
“But the biggest step is the shock tuning. The past couple of years I didn’t really have any shock support and couldn’t really make the changes and didn’t know what changes to make. With the help of Bilstein, I was able to go play on their dyno and spend time on the track, trying this and that and actually spending the time trying things, throwing stuff at the wall and ‘Hey, this worked! Awesome!’ It’s really learning that shock stuff that has really helped me this year.”
He has three more rounds to secure the Pro Lite championship, and could possibly leave Glen Helen with an unassailable lead. But he already has his sights set on what comes next, and that’s Pro 4.
“That’s the direction I would like to go,” he says. “I think Pro 2 is a waste of time at this point – it’s just a big Pro Lite, but more expensive. They’ve limited the rules on everything about Pro 2 so that there’s no creativity anymore. I feel like me and my guys excel at being creative and wanting to do cool stuff. I like the creativity side of the Pro 4. That intrigues me.”
If he can, he’d love to keep running Pro Lite as well. But he knows that Pro 4 is going to be a challenge.
“It’s a big jump and those guys don’t play around in that class,” he says with a smile.
If he can’t find funding to run both himself, he’s open to the idea of putting a young up-and-comer into the Pro Lite.
First, though, he has some unfinished business in the class in which he’s been competing full time for almost seven years. Time to win a Pro Lite championship.