Kannapolis’ Joe Ryan Osborne, 18, will test his racing talent in 4 series this year

Joe Ryan Osborne could easily be nicknamed Mr. Versatility as the 18-year-old Kannapolis resident will compete in four racing series in 2014.

This year, Osborne’s name will appear on entry lists in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Bowman Gray Stadium modified races, PASS Super Late Model Tour and the Legend car Pro Division.

“I think this year will help me be a better racer and give me the ability to adapt to any car I jump into and any track I drive,” said Osborne, who is acquiring an associate degree from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. “All of these series are so competitive (that) you need to be able to get everything out of the car you can. Sometimes your crew chief can’t help you while you are on the track with the setup of your car, and you need to be able to adapt to how the car is and what changes you need to make as a driver.”

Born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Osborne began racing dirt bikes at age 4 and continued on two wheels for three years before switching to quarter-midgets when the family lived in Holland, Pa. He remained in quarter-midgets and Ford Focus Midgets until moving to North Carolina two years ago. Here he became a full-time Legend car ride.

“My dad (Joe Osborne) used to race dirt bikes, but he blew both of his knees out about five different times,” said Osborne, who lived near Charlotte Motor Speedway in a motor home with his mother for 10 months before they moved into their current house. “I started on dirt bikes, and then he told me I wasn’t going to race two-wheels – that if I raced, it would be four wheels. We had no idea about quarter-midgets, and one night my parents overheard another classmate’s parents say they were going to take their kid out of school every Wednesday and go racing at some dirt track. My parents started asking questions. We went out and watched, and that night we ended up buying a car. It all started from there.”

Last year in the speedway’s Summer Shootout series, Osborne won five of 10 races, as well as the championship in the Legend Car Semi-Pro Division. This year he is working with Steven Ross on his Midland-based Legend car, while Grady Jeffries Sr. and Jr. are fielding his Whelen Modified Tour entry out of their facility near Winston-Salem.

Osborne works on his super late model at his shop, and the Bowman Gray Stadium modified is maintained in Salisbury by Bob Pearsal. Longtime friend Tommy Strup at Pro Systems put together the Whelen Modified Tour deal for Osborne. The teenager says he is excited about his inaugural season in the NASCAR series.

“You can see the front tires and all of the front suspension and geometry moving,” Osborne replied when asked why his favorite car was a modified. “I think that is so cool. Plus racing at Bowman Gray – it’s such a historical track, that is just awesome.”

Due to most of his experience being in open cockpit cars, Osborne said the biggest challenge he has faced was adjusting to the heat in the super late model cars. He also found tire management a challenge in the lightweight stock cars.

“Saving tires is such a big deal in the modified and the late model,” said Osborne, who’s sponsored this year by Pro Systems and The Joie of Seating. “The super late model races are 150 laps, and tires go away in about 40 laps and the car handles completely different. You have to save all you can the entire race.”

Osborne noted that the patience he has learned in racing his super late model has paid dividends in his Legends car. In Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Winter Heat Series that ended recently, Osborne finished second in the Legends Pro Division standings and won the season finale on the track’s road course.

The aspiring NASCAR Sprint Cup driver said he was thankful for the support his parents had given him as well as the opportunities provided this year by his car owners and sponsors.

“I especially want to thank God,” said Osborne, who believes his ability to drive race cars is a God-given talent.

Venturini Motorsports teams up with PADD

Concord-based Venturini Motorsports and the New Jersey-based nonprofit organization Nikki’s Foundation, “People Against Distracted Driving,” have joined forces to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

Mike Kellenyi founded the organization in 2012 in memory of his 18-year-old daughter who died in a car crash due to a distracted driver.

As part of the yearlong initiative, driver Justin Boston and his team will provide PADD with donated, U.S. Department of Transportation approved “Stay Alive Don’t Text and Drive” signs to racing venues and local governments for placement along roadways near each track on the ARCA schedule.