Canadian teen heads south with racing dream

There are at least seven short racetracks within 90 minutes of Ryan Mackintosh's hometown. The only problem is, weather limits competition on them to three months a year.

Mackintosh grew up in Amherst, Nova Scotia, one of Canada's maritime provinces, which are tucked into the southeast corner of the country northeast of Maine.

So 15-year-old Ryan had good reason to move away from his family two years ago - to live with a family in Kannapolis to pursue his dream of developing a career in big-time racing.

Through some racing networking, Ryan's family met Kannapolis resident and short-track expert Chris "Woody" Woods. Under Woods' direction, Ryan has become a top-10 driver in the Allison Legacy Touring Series, a series for three-quarter-size Sprint Cup cars that tours the Southeast.

Growing up with an ice rink in his backyard, Ryan spent winters playing junior hockey. He got the racing bug attending birthday parties at simple go-kart tracks and started taking it more seriously by the time he was 11.

Ryan's dad, Keith, bought him a used go-kart, and in his first year of intense racing, Ryan was competing in series throughout Nova Scotia and the neighboring provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

As most racers do, Ryan looked to progress to higher-level cars. He spent his second season racing go-karts and Bandolero cars - a miniature stock car.

Through Keith Mackintosh's research on the Internet and the SPEED Channel, the Mackintoshes discovered how embedded Bandolero and Legends Car racing was in the Charlotte region.

Several phone calls led to Woods, and through summer 2009, the Mackintoshes were making the 1,500-mile, sometimes 24-hour commute from Amherst to North Carolina so Ryan could race Bandoleros at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord Motor Speedway and other Charlotte-area short tracks.

"I thought it was a little crazy," said Woods, though he was flattered the Mackintoshes put so much trust in him.

Woods' stepson is Daniel Hemric, a standout racecar driver himself who won the first Legends Millions race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in summer 2010. Ryan now drives the Bandolero and Allison Legacy cars Hemric once drove.

When it was time to go back to school in 2009, Ryan was trying to persuade his dad and mom, Anne-Marie, and Woods and his wife, Christi, to let him live full-time with the Woodses so he could race year-round.

By November, everyone agreed to the move. Ryan finished his eighth-grade year by completing home-school correspondence courses.

Ryan soon became comfortable in his new climate. He said he misses his family but he gets to visit mom, dad and his 17-year-old sister, Lauren, about every three months. He likes to see a North Carolina snow when they come around and has developed an affinity for Southern macaroni and cheese.

For two years, Ryan has found his way around the Chris Woods Racing and Repair Shop, just a couple minutes' drive from Dale Earnhardt Inc. This school year - his sophomore year - will be his second at Concord's First Assembly Christian School, where he plans to finish high school.

In addition to being happy and healthy, doing well in school is one of Keith Mackintosh's "four pillars" for life for Ryan. The last is progressing in racing.

Ryan started concentrating more on the Allison Legacy Series in October.

"One reason I like it is, I get to travel to the big tracks," he says. "I have spotters. Some of the races have 50 laps, some are 75 laps, and one of the races goes up to 200 laps at Florence (S.C.) in November."

In late fall and early spring, Ryan plans to run in his first late-model stock-car races in Canada. It's Ryan's next step in his plan to progress as far as he can in racing, whether that's behind the wheel of a car or behind the scenes.