Day Motor Sports Driver Profile: Ryker Hernandez earns SportMod title at I-37

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Every time a young racer goes out and achieves more than expected, it’s a great sign for our sport. When that natural talent behind the wheel and competitive desire produces results beyond expectations, it’s more than notable – it’s worth taking a look at how it happened.

For 17-year-old third generation racer Ryker Hernandez, the 2023 season will be one to savor. He ran his usual schedule of Sport Compact races at I-37 Speedway this year, but also stepped up to try his hand at SportMod racing. He held his own all season, locking up the points title back in October.

“I’m beyond proud of all my son accomplished this year,” Ryker’s father, Jeremy, said. “He was always out in the shop, working on the car and thinking about how to make it faster. That car has a chassis that is way older than he is, but with hard work on the setup and his talent, he had some pretty good runs.”

Jeremy’s Dad, John Hernandez, got this family tradition started with his own career back in the day.  Jeremy followed in his footsteps, racing on the 1/2-mile high-banked oval in San Antonio when it was active. Now, the third generation of wheel-men is making a mark of his own.

“It’s pretty clear he is by far the best driver this family has had since we started,” Jeremy added. “My Dad and I only had a few wins in our driving careers, and Ryker already has more wins and points titles at just 17. I really believe with newer equipment and the right support, he could rise above the rest.”

Between the two divisions this year, Ryker earned three wins (Sport Compact), seven top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. He’s always had the speed and consistency thing down, no matter what he was driving.

“We started him out in Karts back in 2016,” Jeremy explained. “He won three championships there, then we moved him up to Sport Compacts in 2020 with a just a few starts. He ran his first full season in 2021 and won Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

“Last year, he won the Sport Compact points championship and now this year followed that up with a SportMod title. He’s had an amazing progression these last few years, I sure hope it can continue.”

Along with his raw natural talent behind the wheel, Ryker has a few key folks to thank for his success.

“I want to thank my friend Mike Fortier for the chance to drive his SportMod this year,” he said. “It may be an older car, but it gave me a chance to learn about that division. I also need to thank my grandfather at Irace Enterprises, and Aaron Leddy at CNC Grafix, who has always supported me.

“I want to thank Mike and Patty Teague for all of their help, and of course my Dad, and brother, Levi. I couldn’t do this all season without the support of family and friends. I really enjoyed racing this year, and I’m hoping for another solid season in 2024.”

With racing now wrapped up across the great state of Texas, thoughts turn to the next challenge ahead.

“We plan to move Ryker up to the new Fireball division next year and let him go for a title there,” his father concluded. “He’s won Rookie-of-the-Year and points titles in just about every class he’s run, so that will be his next mission. And if we get support to upgrade Mike’s car, he’ll run that again, as well.”

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer
Photo by Jay Hallas