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DI 30 Under 30 2023: Ryan Gleghorn

As a man with many talents, Ryan Gleghorn forged a unique path to success through his unmatched passion and dedication to bracket racing. The Texas native with a knack for crunching numbers was first introduced to the sport at three months old by his multi-time champion grandfather, Lynn, aka “PawPaw.” 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #185, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2023.]

Together they spent nearly every weekend at the racetrack as PawPaw taught his grandson all he knew about drag racing and the value of hard work. After picking up a couple of track championships and a Bracket Finals win in his Jr. Dragster, Gleghorn eventually advanced into a full-size race car in 2009, where any financial assistance from his family ended abruptly. 

Throughout his 21 years of experience behind the wheel, Gleghorn has visited the winner’s circle in various classes and cars and currently holds the points lead at Xtreme Raceway Park while competing in the Sportsman class with his 1983 Chevrolet Camaro. Although he is often recognized more for his voice in the announcer’s booth, Gleghorn admits he has a very competitive side and desires to become the first world champion in his family. 

Late NHRA Division 4 announcer Lynn Nickerson was the first to hand a microphone to Gleghorn when he was about nine years old at Texas Motorplex. At 16, Gleghorn volunteered to announce a Southwest Jr. Dragster Series race at North Star Dragway, where he was surprised by $40 cash and an invitation to work the series the following year. His local announcing grew for a few seasons as a side gig, and Gleghorn even completed one year of college with plans to become a CPA before he realized he belonged in racing full-time. 

His first big break came at the hands – or stomach – of Jared Pennington during the Million Dollar Drag Race when Gleghorn went to the tower to introduce himself to the well-known announcer and race promoter. 

“Lunch was delivered and Jared asked if I could call a few laps so he could eat, then the next day, I was called to the tower over the intercom,” Gleghorn says. “Nervous as hell and wondering what I did wrong, I went up there and Jed said he was racing but didn’t have any backup, so he wanted me to announce until he was out of the race. I got to announce three or four rounds of the Million and knew right then this is what I want to do. I said screw accounting, I’m going racing!”

Since 2018, Gleghorn has fueled his adrenaline addiction through Gleghorn Race Services as he travels across the country working, announcing, and promoting big-money bracket races. He has been spotted as far West as The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, ventured midway down the Sunshine State to Bradenton Motorsports Park, and even made it up to Atco Raceway in New Jersey before the historic facility closed its gates. He has stepped foot onto 87 racetracks so far and continues to cross new ones off the list each season, whether that is by working, racing, or just hanging out with his friends.

When asked about life on the road, he says, “Honorable mention to the ‘Dad Van’ that I bought in June 2019 with 175,000 miles. It now has 381,000 miles on it from driving to events.” 

He credits his success to working with great people who have become more like family including Jared Pennington and Steve Stites (Coalburg Racing Promotions), Jennifer Folk, Dave Connolly, and Randy Folk (Folk Promotions), Gaylon Rolison and Britt Cummings (Great American Bracket Races), Tyler Crossnoe (Virginia Motorsports Park), Tyler Bohannon and Brian Whitworth (TB Promotions), and his partners at Flicker Promotions, Johnny and Madison Ezell. 

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A sentimental opportunity arose when he revitalized bracket racing at his childhood racetrack by becoming the Bracket Race Director in early 2023. Next season he hopes to grow both the bracket program at Texas Motorplex and the three scheduled Flicker Promotions events (Southern Big Buck Nationals, Spring Stampede, and LaTexan Lasso). 

While his first love has always been racing, the newlywed Gleghorn has quickly adapted to being a husband to Shelby and dad to her six-year-old, Laila. 

“A lot of people spend their whole life focused on racing and don’t get to enjoy this side of it,” Gleghorn says. “I want to be present and enjoy being home with someone who loves you. There’s a lot of people that take that for granted, and I’m not going to be one of those people.”

Gleghorn has become known as the go-to guy for statistics, sarcasm, and his never-ending stockpile of stories. As one of the most notable voices on MotorManiaTV, viewers are rewarded with his enthusiasm and genuine excitement as he pursues his passion week after week. And at only 29 years old, he’s just getting started

This story was originally published on February 21, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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