Editor’s note: NASCAR Roots will profile local drivers in advance of this weekend’s South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. will compete. Click here to learn more about the track or watch Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FloRacing.
From the moment his career began, Ryan Glenski has never been afraid to think outside the box to gain an advantage on his competition.
That ingenuity can be seen every race weekend at Florence Motor Speedway, as Glenski chooses to primarily utilize the high side while most drivers stick to the bottom groove. Glenski’s strategy netted him several victories in the 2021 season alone.
Approaching racing in an unorthodox manner is a mindset that Glenski’s father Randy utilized during his time as a dirt track competitor. The younger Glenski has done everything possible to mimic his father’s techniques while becoming a consistent late model stock frontrunner in South Carolina.
“Anywhere is a good place to run at Florence, but up on that outside is where I want to be,” Glenski said. “My father [Randy] use to run dirt up in New York and dirt racers know how to get the momentum going on the outside. If you can get it to work, it’s going to prevail.”
While Glenski has found a home racing at Florence, it was just more than a decade ago when he had an opportunity to showcase his talents on a national level.
After going through Bandoleros and the Allison Legacy Series during the late 2000s, Glenski participated in Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Blue Collar Hero Driver Challenge, which took place in 2011 at Rockingham Speedway’s short track known as ‘Little Rock’ from March to June.
Hillenburg was impressed by the efficiency Glenski showed during the three-month period and elected to put him in one of his cars for the ARCA Menards Series race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 28 of that year.
Nothing would come easy for Glenski at IRP, as he was tasked with putting up a great qualifying lap against a talented entry list that included current NASCAR Cup Series drivers Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher, as well as other accomplished competitors like Frank Kimmel, Grant Enfinger and Tom Hessert III.
Glenski managed to qualified 22nd in the 35-car field and avoided multiple incidents that took place during the event. Glenski ultimately finished sixth, the last competitor on the lead lap.
Looking back on his opportunity at IRP 11 years later, Glenski recalled the emotion surrounding the weekend, from just simply having a chance to race in ARCA to thinking about his father, who was battling Sinonasal Neuroendocrine Carcinoma at the time; a rare form of cancer.
“That was the one race my father never went to because he was going through chemo at the time,” Glenski said. “It was the most important race I ever ran, and even though my dad was stuck at home, that weekend meant so much to me and my family. It was a fun race at a fun little racetrack.”
The funding did not materialize for Glenski to make more starts in ARCA or NASCAR, so he decided to shift his focus to running his own family business while simultaneously maintaining an active racing presence at Myrtle Beach Speedway and later Florence.
When he first met Glenski, Florence general manager Steve Zacharias was impressed with the competitive nature he brought to each race. As the years have progressed, Zacharias said Glenski’s determination has enabled him to develop a unique race craft that keeps him in contention for victories.
“Ryan is a fierce competitor,” Zacharias said. “He’s learned a lot about saving tires and what it takes to stay up front. A lot of these guys burn their stuff up, but Ryan stays focused on the task at hand. He’s always got a chance to win.”
For Glenski, the 2022 season at Florence has been more about overcoming adversity as opposed to establishing consistency.
The car Glenski enjoyed so much success with at Florence in 2021 was destroyed in a restart pileup during last year’s South Carolina 400. It has taken Glenski time to get acclimated to his new car, but he has seen significant progress over the past few months, especially with former NASCAR crew chief Paul Andrews helping his program.
With one victory under his belt during a part-time campaign this year, Glenski is confident the speed he found will carry over into the South Carolina 400.
“[The South Carolina 400] is everything,” Glenski said. “Whether it was at Myrtle Beach or Florence now, it’s the big one. Martinsville is one thing, but the 400 is a completely different deal. You’re going to have the best of the best there, and it’s a survival race. We got caught up in someone else’s mess last year and the guy running 25th ends up winning by saving tires.”
While Glenski is currently focused on the South Carolina 400, he has not yet given up on his dream to one day make another start in NASCAR’s top divisions.
Glenski knows he can get the most out of a car after several years of competing at Myrtle Beach and Florence, which is why he wants another chance to prove himself in either ARCA or NASCAR, even if it is just a one-race deal.
Zacharias would love to see such an opportunity develop for Glenski, but stressed that he needs proper funding starting at the local level so he can proudly represent Florence and South Carolina short track racing on a much larger stage.
“I want Ryan to be successful in whatever he does,” Zacharias said. “We’d love to have him here, but we want to see people get behind guys like Ryan. It takes a lot for our local guys to financially pull off what they’re doing, so any support Ryan can get from a sponsorship standpoint would really help him out.”
Glenski has seen his team rise to the occasion numerous times through the past several years and knows everyone involved is going to do whatever it takes to ensure Glenski will be among those battling for the win in one of the south’s most cherished short track races.
“It’s really been a pleasure to do this,” Glenski said. “There’s something new every day and the sport is always evolving. We’re going up against the big dogs every week, but everything we’ve accomplished is something we’re all honored to be a part of.”
Putting together a great performance in the South Carolina 400 for Glenski will come down to being patient during the opening stages while simultaneously getting more creative than his competitors regarding strategy and race craft.
Should he make it to the final stage, Glenski fully intends to honor his dirt track heritage by making the top side work so he can join an elite list of South Carolina 400 winners.