By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: Stacy Kolar
WACO, Texas — In the ever-growing world of Factory Stock racing, there are racers who's last names are synonymous with success. You've read them in race reports and seen features on them, guys like Faulkner, Whitehead, and Kemp. In central Texas, there's one name that pops up on a frequent basis.
For 37-year-old Ryan Hopkins, the 2021 season has already been a good one. Your Factory Stock point leader at Selby Holder's beautiful Heart O' Texas facility has four wins and 10 top-five finishes in 10 starts, showing the speed and consistency that's propelled him to six championships within a decade.
“I have a pretty good crew of guys helping me, and they make it happen,” Hopkins said. “I have Jeff Shepperd helping me again this year, which is awesome. I drove him a for a few years and won some championships. We're both in Hellion race cars, so he knows what my car needs to be fast.
“We changed some things on the setup this year, and have gotten it dialed in to where I'm comfortable in it. It's one of the nicest cars I've ever driven. The help I'm getting and a fast car is why I'm winning.”
Around the sport for many years, Hopkins is a second-generation driver with oval racing in his blood.
“When I first started driving in 2011, the Pure Stock class was still pretty big,” Hopkins explained. “My Dad raced for about 20 years, so I've been around the sport all my life. He drove everything from Late Models to Hobby Stocks, winning several races but never a points championship.
“So that has always been my goal; to win titles in my own career, and keep my Dad's tradition of winning alive. I won five straight championships from 2014 through 2018, took 2019 off, then came back to win it again last year. With six titles in only a decade of racing, I'm extremely grateful.”
What makes Hopkins' numbers so impressive is the level of competition he faces each week. Car counts are always high at HOT, and most of them are capable of winning on any given Friday night.
“They've always said if you can win at Heart O' Texas, you can win anywhere,” Hopkins said. “I would tend to agree, it's tough every week. I don't get to do a whole lot of traveling, I have a daughter who plays softball. I'm working to achieve that proper balance between family and racing. It's tough.
“But if I could get away more, I think we could be competitive just about anywhere we go. Beating the best at HOT teaches you a lot, but we just can't get out on the road. I'm happy to be a one-track Jack since we're leading the points and winning races. I'm happy with family and my Friday nights at HOT.”
The car that carries Hopkins into Victory Lane so often is fine piece, one he's happy to discuss.
“My car is a Hellion chassis, built by Brian Walker right here in Waco,” Hopkins said. “He builds some very nice equipment and I'm thrilled with this car. The engine was built by Jenkins Race Components, and has all the power I need. I'd recommend Hellion and Jenkins to any racer who wants to win.”
Hopkins made the highlight reel last Friday night as part of an incredible three-wide battle for the top spot. Tim Homeyer, a regular at Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, made a visit to HOT and earned his first career victory. Hopkins, Shannon Dulock and Homeyer put on an epic show for fans.
“I sure hated to lose that one, but it got tough there at the end,” he explained. “I probably should have done a few things a little different. But overall, it was fun. Going three-wide with those guys was cool.”
Along with his raw natural talent behind the wheel, Hopkins also has a few key people working behind the scenes to keep his racing program on-track.
“First off, I would like to thank my wife Jennifer, and my kids for letting me spend so much time away from home; along with Brian Walker with Hellion Race Cars, for building me an awesome chassis; Showtime Premiere Gentleman’s Club, Chesney’s Boutique, Jenkins Race Components, Don Wilde Racecraft, Williams Fire Protection, CSG Machine & Fabrication, Double H Livestock, Leo’s Plastering, Fat Daddys Designs, 41 Shocks, Spot On Tires, Fly’n B Fab, Dustin Davidson Racing, Armadillo Den and Wade White Trucking.
“I also need to thank all the crew; Jeff Shepperd, Michael Wyatt, and Trey Votaw over at Shepperd Motorsports. I couldn't do this without their support.”
As summer heats up and the season stays at wide-open throttle, Hopkins has a clear goal in his mind.
“I'm only 15 or 20 minutes from the race track, and Friday nights are the only times I can get away,” Hopkins concluded. “We weren't really going to chase points this year, but things have gone so well at Heart O' Texas that that's what we're after now. We're leading the points, and want that championship.”