By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Ryan Ellis continues his return to the driver’s seat in 2022 with Alpha Prime Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The 31-year-old will drive in an estimated five races in the Xfinity Series for the team co-owned by Caesar Bacarella and Tommy Joe Martins. He joins NASCAR Drive for Diversity participant Rajah Caruth as a driver behind the wheel of the No. 44 Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Prior to the nine races that Ellis competed in across the NASCAR’s three national series, his most recent race was in the Xfinity Series at Road America in 2019. Since then, the Ashburn, VA native has worked in the marketing and public relations side of the sport. However, Ellis never gave up and found his way back behind the wheel in 2021 with BJ McLeod Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing, and Reaume Brothers Racing.
“He doesn’t quit,” team co-owner Martins said. “He’s a talented racecar driver. Just never found a home out here. He’s had to bounce around and just make it work. He’s willing to drive anything, but he’s never been in top-15 level equipment. We want to give him that chance.”
Joining Ellis as a sponsor at Alpha Prime Racing will be Keen Parts and CorvetteParts.net. Tom and TJ Keen sponsored Ellis in four races during his Xfinity Series return in 2021. The pairing’s best finish, 16th, came at Darlington Raceway. That race was Ellis’ first race since 2019.
“I can’t reiterate enough how appreciative I am of Tom & TJ of CorvetteParts.net giving me a chance to compete with an extremely strong program at APR,” Ellis said. “The Keen’s support of my career means so much to me.
“We’ve been friends since meeting at GFR and it means so much that they continue to support my dream with their amazing family-owned business. The Keen’s and their brand are extremely well known and respected in and outside of the garage area. We want to continue to help driver sales so we can grow this partnership.”
Keen Parts and CorvetteParts.net have been the primary sponsor in about 100 races between both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series. David Stremme drove the first Keen Parts-sponsored car at Kentucky Speedway in 2011 in the Xfinity Series. Stremme finished 23rd. The company’s best finish as a sponsor, eighth, came with Matt DiBenedetto in the Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017.
“We at Keen Parts/CorvetteParts.net are excited to be joining Alpha Prime Racing and Ryan Ellis in the Xfinity Series for a number of races in 2022,” Keen said. “We’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with Ryan and are really excited to be working with Tommy and his growing team.”
To date, the careers of both Ellis and Martins have had a lot in common. Before the 2020 season, Martins last competed full-time in the Truck Series in 2016. He earned his first top-10 finish in his 87th Xfinity and 105th NASCAR start. The season finale at Phoenix Raceway was Martins’ 150th NASCAR start.
In 88 NASCAR starts, Ellis is still looking for his first career top-10 finish.
“I had over a hundred NASCAR starts before I got a top-10,” Martins explained. “I look at Ryan and what he’s done to stay around – driving for no money, driving for small teams. He’s really impressed me anytime I’ve ever raced with him. He’s a great addition, and he’s going to surprise some people.”
In 2020 and 2021, Martins Motorsports, now Alpha Prime Racing, slowly moved up the grid. Martins led a combined 18 laps between the two seasons, earned one top-10 finish, and nearly earned the Stage 1 win at Richmond Raceway. Accidents and mechanical issues in four of the final 10 races, including Richmond, in 2021 slowed the teams’ momentum.
“Tommy and I have been good friends for many years now and this is the perfect time to begin working together,” Ellis said. “Martins Motorsports was a well-run, competitive, highly respected program from the ground up. I can’t wait to be a part of what they’re putting together at Alpha Prime Racing. It’s a big opportunity for me, the Keen’s, and all our other partners.”
The 2021 driver schedule for Alpha Prime Racing is still being finalized and will be announced at a later date.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo