In the last two years, Ryan Oehler has made impressive progress in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks.
Oehler competed in a full season in 2018, finishing 13th in the points standings. He followed that up with an eighth-place finish in 2019, highlighted by a semifinal performance in Charlotte, N.C., in the spring. Oehler will pilot an S&S-powered Buell motorcycle with an EBR body in 2020.
“I want to be a championship contender (in 2020),” Oehler said. “I learned a ton in 2019. For me, the first few years, the bike did a lot of the riding, and I was just a passenger. Now, I’m riding the bike, and it is the passenger. Finishing in the top five (in 2020) would be epic.”
To reach those lofty goals in 2020, Oehler has streamlined his team’s operation in hopes of making it even more successful.
The 16-race 2020 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle season begins March 12-15 at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
“We had a lot of momentum going into the end of the year,” Oehler said. “We probably had our best showings for the final part of the year, and things started to align. We had our best 60-foot of the year, and we had our best back half of the year, and it was really the first time all year we could tie together the front half and back half.”
Oehler said this season Terry Sutton will serve as his crew chief. Sutton worked on Oehler’s crew last season, but this is a new role for him in 2020.
“It’s time someone gets to the track a day early and make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight, and everything is how it is supposed to be,” Oehler said. “Then, I can show up Thursday night late and get some rest, and I don’t have to make sure everything is correct.”
Oehler realized his team was being spread way too thin last year.
“People see us working all night long, driving all night long, getting to the track late and then changing a motor, and crawling into bed at 4 in the morning and getting up at 7 and doing it again,” Oehler said. “That can only work for a while and if you’re burning the candle at both ends eventually you’re going to miss something. It’s going to be something little because we have all done it enough times. We need to have our game plan totally set where somebody is responsible Thursday, where everything is the way it needs to be.”
Oehler also delegated some responsibilities with his family’s business – AirTec, a heating, and cooling business, in Bloomington, Ill. Oehler serves as the president of AirTec.
“For most of the year, even at the track I’m answering my phone after runs,” Oehler said. “I would come back from a run and have 13 missed calls even though my voicemail says I’m out and to call the office, and they would still leave me messages. I had to do something about that. So, this year, I have hired a general manager. He’s an adult, and when I’m not here, things are going to get done just like we expect them to.” Oehler’s partner in AirTec is his father, Brad. His dad, however, also runs Ryan’s engine program for his Pro Stock Motorcycle team. “Right now, we have a new engine dyno cell, and we are working with our full machine shop and our six engines,” Ryan said. “We need to have professionals behind us in our program.”
Ryan also knows – despite his changes – nothing will come easy for him in the highly-competitive PSM class.
“I had a solid year last year, but to beat (the top teams) we have to use everything to our advantage,” he said. “When the weather is right, you have to capitalize, and you have to go A to B every pass, you have to make all the tune-ups in the right direction and to win a race, most of the time you have to be perfect.”
To get to his ultimate goal, Oehler plans on doing plenty of testing. “I test more than any team in the Pro Stock bike world,” said Ryan, who plans on making his first test laps this year in the first couple of weeks of February in Bradenton, Fla. “I probably made the most passes and traveled the most miles. We are taking things seriously. We know that we have a shop that works 24/7 on our engine program. I have two bikes, and in testing, we are going to be a little bit more methodical, and now when I go test, I can get double the information.”