FDNY Racing will be back for its 17th season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ryan Ellis, who has driven for the Jim Rosenblum-owned team since 2014, will return to the seat of the No. 28 Chevrolet for the season-opener at Daytona in February.
Ellis, 26, made 11 starts in the Truck Series last year, running the majority of his events with MAKE Motorsports. Splitting the Nos. 1 and 50 trucks with veteran Travis Kvapil, he had an average finish of 24th on the year, but did not qualify at Charlotte in May for FDNY Racing and at Talladega in October with MAKE.
“It’s stressful not knowing what is happening four weeks from now,” Ellis told Frontstretch. “I have the truck deal with FDNY Racing, so that gives me something to focus on while my other plans are being solidified.”
After running 10 XFINITY Series races in 2015, Ellis made his Sprint Cup Series debut at Phoenix with Circle Sport Racing. Piloting the No. 33 car, he finished 40th, eight laps down.
However, the Virginia native created a partnership with ScienceLogic, a software company that focuses on IT operations and cloud computing. The organization, which is brand new to motor sports, is continuing its relationship with Ellis in 2016. But rather than race in the XFINITY Series, he is close to announcing a deal to race primarily in NASCAR’s premier division for the new season.
“We’re working on a partial season Cup deal, but I don’t know how big it will be,” Ellis said. “I’m hoping it will be more races than not, but I think a lot of that is dependent on the charter deal. It’s effecting us a lot and it’s really effecting my job hunt this year. My deal can be one race, a half of a season or anything this season. I want ScienceLogic to come back here year-after-year.
“Ultimately, the sport is sponsor driven. I think I would benefit from a full season with an XFINITY Series team, but the sponsor wants to go to Cup and I’m all on board for that. There’s a lot to be learned there. You have to learn quickly and I’ve been forced to do that all of my life with start-and-park stuff and everything. When you’re out there in a start-and-park, you have to learn the track and car in about two laps of practice.
“I think they [ScienceLogic] went into it thinking it was a marketing scheme and they got a hospitality event and brought out some of their clients. I think we gave them a pretty good return-on-investment [ROI]. They seemed very happy with it and we gained some fans within the company. It was really cool to make a sponsor more than a sponsor and really enjoy the family.”
With the charter system set to be announced prior to the Daytona 500, Ellis’ plans are on hold at the moment. Though he is close to finalizing a deal, any potential team owner will have to wait out NASCAR’s franchising plan to sign a part-time driver given the complexity of the situation and the many unknowns that can arise from the pending announcement.
It is likely that the field will be reduced to 40 cars in 2016, compared to 43 for the past several decades. The move will almost guarantee only one or two teams will be able to run part-time cars due to the complexity of signing a driver-sponsor package without a secure starting position come race day.
For Ellis, like many others, this appears to be the major thing pausing his attempt at signing with an organization. Over the off-season, multiple teams merged, including deals between Circle Sport Racing and Leavine Family Racing, along with Hillman Racing and Premium Motorsports.
Said Ellis: “It’s been tough because a lot of teams are shutting down and a lot of good drivers are being put on the shelf this year. Teams are combining. It’s taking a lot of options away for people that are trying to break into Cup. I think we would have had a lot more opportunities with our sponsor last year than we do this year. There’s a lot less seats in our musical chairs version of NASCAR.”