T.J.’s Notebook: Litt Resilient After Berlin Crash

Ryan Litt. (David Sink photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(August 15, 2023) — Ryan Litt had plenty of reasons to celebrate after winning the Must See Racing sprint car event last Saturday at Berlin Raceway. Just under one month before his sprint car victory Litt left Berin in the back of an ambulance after vicious supermodified crash.

Back in July Litt returned to the seat of the “Lair Jet” Supermodified owned by Dave Lair. Lair had come up with a new suspension setup for his supermodified, but the configuration was far off pace and difficult to drive. After some discussion Lair put the previous configuration back on the car.

Unfortunately, the first hot lap session was as far Litt and Lair got through Saturday’s program.

“We went out the first hot lap session. I didn’t even in a full lap,” said Litt. “Going into three the cantilever broken in the left rear, dropped down on around the frame rail, and spun out and hit the wall pretty much square on the driver’s side. I was going into three where you carry the most speed, so it was pretty, pretty big hit.”

Litt has been in hard accidents before, including one in 2009 at Toledo that destroyed one of his family-owned pavement sprint cars. The hit he endured at Berlin ended up being much harder than he originally anticipated.

“I’ve a few accidents over the years. The one at Toledo was huge. I was kind of expecting (a big crash) it when I heard (the suspension) broke. I was thinking in my head the car is going to spin out and it might hit the wall, or it might just spin up close to the wall, but I forgot you know super modified to carry that extra weight so it carried the momentum right into the wall.”

With only the wheels and nerf bar to absorb the energy, once the impact got to the engine a lot of the force was transferred back to Litt, who felt the impact was much harder than the one he took at Toledo.

“Basically, I just felt the full impact in my seat and right away. I bit the end of my tongue real hard and knocked the air out of myself, so I knew it was bad. I thought my back was broken. That’s what it felt like, just sharp pain off my back and I had trouble standing up. I couldn’t really walk or anything.”

Litt did some sightseeing no driver ever wants to do while in Grand Rapids, visiting Corewell Heath’s Butterworth Hospital following the incident. Thankfully Litt escaped the incident without a back injury. Only sore, bruised, with what he described as “just smack cracks in my ribs”, Litt was already thinking about running a sprint car race the following week at Berlin, but decided to stay on the sidelines until last Saturday at Berlin.

Despite the incident, Litt was happy that his next race was back at Berlin so he could pick right up where he left off.

“That’s why I was kind of hoping to run the doubleheader the weekend after because I always think it’s better to get right back into it when something like that happens. But of course, they couldn’t make that as we had the month off.”

Even with Litt being among the best winged pavement sprint car drivers, the incident did loom in his head for the first handful of laps at speed.

“You would like to say that you don’t think about it, but definitely when I pushed off first couple laps and we’re rolling around,” said Litt of his first laps at Berlin since the incident. “We were going slow, and I was looking at the wall and I could still see my marks on I along with the skid marks going up there. So, it took a few laps for me to fully trust I guess or just my confidence, but it took me a few laps to just you know, send it wide open to turn three. Once you put the visor down, you just tend to forget about that stuff. So, it didn’t take me too long to get up to speed.”

After those couple of hesitant laps Litt went on to be fastest in hot laps and second quick in qualifying. Litt was disappointed about not getting quick time, but conferred with his father about changes they felt would make the car faster later in the evening.

“I pretty much knew right from lap one it was just going to be a rocket ship,” said Litt “I saw a bunch of the other guys in front of me sliding sideways and smoking their tires, and my car just locked right down.”

Ryan Litt following his victory Saturday at Berlin Raceway. (David Sink Photo)

Litt charged from 9th to second in just a handful of laps and set out after leader Bobby Komisarski when the caution came out, erasing the sizeable lead Komisarski had built up. That was all Litt needed as he pounced immediately, taking the lead, and dominating the remainder of the feature event.

Afterwards Litt was greeted by a horde of well-wishers in the pit area after the feature event at the track that he had so much success at in the past.

“I had a ton of people come over to me after the race. Being right back at Berlin again a lot of the people that were there for that that accident. It was pretty much a dream/storybook ending. Everyone loves a good comeback. Coming back from something like that kind of shakes your confidence a little bit, so it’s a good step in the right direction to get my confidence back. We always seem to run good at Berlin. I think that was our fifth win since I started running there, so it was definitely a good way to finish the week.”

While Litt will miss this week’s Must See Racing event at Lorain Raceway Park, his family owned team is committed to running the remainder of the 2023 Must See Racing Schedule.

While on the mend the news was not all bad as Litt and his wife Carly announced their family is growing by one.

“I got married last summer and then we just announced that she’s having a baby girl. She’s coming in February so also good news was happening outside of the racing. It was obviously a rough month sitting at home with all the injuries but that was one of the bright spots.”


• The week after the Knoxville Nationals is always a bit of a downer, but there are sprint car races every day this week to help us get over the Knoxville withdrawal.

• Knoxville Raceway has a lot of very dedicated partners that assist with money and time that make things possible at the Marion County Fairgrounds oval. One of the most visible new partnerships this year was with the Iowa Lottery.

With sponsorship of a Knoxville Nationals preliminary event, lots of signage, and aggressive activations at the race track the Iowa Lottery officials also shot a commercial featuring Knoxville Raceway announcer Tony Bokhoven and driver Brian Brown that aired not only at the racetrack but had a significant time by on area television throughout the season.

It is great to see partners like NOS Energy Drink, Iowa Lottery, and others that are not only bringing money to the table by also are marketing the racetrack through traditional advertising means.

• The best news I have read this week was a positive update from Cody Ilhen after his terrifying crash during the E-Main Saturday at the Knoxville Nationals. Ilhen is back home recovering from injuries that were not as severe as many of us feared after the accident. All of us at TJSlideways.com wish the best for Ilhen recovering from that wicked ride.

• The final tune up before the All Star Circuit of Champions series returns to Butler Motor Speedway takes place this Saturday featuring the Great Lakes Super Sprints and winged 410 sprint cars that were recently added to that program. Look for some of the drivers not committed to a Saturday night weekly venue to get some laps in this week before the big show next Saturday.

• The big payoffs continue this week for the World of Outlaws as they head to Jackson Motorplex for the $25,000 to win Jackson Nationals.

Tod Quiring, Doug Johnson, and the rest of the employees at Jackson continue to work building this event up with lots of things happening around the event starting Wednesday with a golf scramble, hauler parade in downtown Jackson, and a Fan Fest party with live music.

There is another block party on Thursday in downtown Jackson from 4:00-7:00 PM CT and the Lions Club will have a pancake feed Friday and Saturday mornings.

A 5K run/walk, cornhole tournament, bike riding, pre-race shows, and more are also packed into the three days of racing at Jackson. Visit https://www.jacksonmotorplex.com/ for more information.

• Ohio Sprint Car standout Craig Mintz will trade dirt for asphalt with the Must See Racing sprint car series on Saturday at Lorain Raceway Park. Mintz will drive a converted dirt car owned by Rich Farmer and fielded by Mike & Stephen Linder along with the rest of their crew.

Both Mike and Stephen have blacktop experience as former champions of the PRESS series and a Sandusky Speedway track championship to their credit. Mintz last ran pavement with the Linders on the wrenches was back in 2020 for Ed Neumeister, where they led several laps before finishing third.
• Tyler Courtney officially announced Monday he will return to the seat of the Clauson/Marshall Racing 7BC entry Friday at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, New York. Courtney has been sidelined since a crash at Eldora Speedway during the Knight Before the Kings Royal in July.

Anthony Macri filled in for Coutney admirably picking up speed with every race including putting the car into the Knoxville Nationals finale and winning the Mr. Sprint Car title that tallies points throughout the 360 Knoxville Nationals, Capitani Classic, Front Row Challenge, and 410 Knoxville Nationals.

CMR is now eight points behind Rudeen Racing for the car owner championship for the All Stars. Courtney only dropped to fifth position in the driver points during his absence.

• The Southern Ontario Sprints have a rare standalone race date in the United States Saturday at Ransomville Speedway. This will be the first time SOS has run without co-sanction in the US since they used to regularly visit Ransomville in the early to mid-2000’s.

• While Fremont Speedway is still idle with the Sandusky County Fair taking place until August 21st, Attica Raceway Park returns from it’s hiatus from the Attica Independent Fair taking place with their weekly program of winged 410 sprint cars, winged 305 sprint cars, and UMP late models.