Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: Ryan Sieg, Man of the People

Our hearts broke for Ryan Sieg last Saturday (April 13).

As I watched the end of the race at Texas Motor Speedway, I joined race fans everywhere in holding my breath as Sieg and Sam Mayer crossed the finish line.

He did it! Did he do it? Did he finally pull it off? Oh no.

Replay showed that Mayer beat Sieg to the line by about an inch. 0.002 seconds was the official margin of victory, one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.

Nothing against Mayer, but it’s common to root for an upset. The story of David and Goliath is one of the most known from the Bible for good reason. We want to see someone persevere through disadvantages, do more with less, and beat the people who have more money, more horsepower, more muscle, more connections, more star power – choose your more.

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Sieg is an underdog. He is more David than Goliath. But he’s pushed the boundaries of what an underdog is supposed to do for years. After 342 winless NASCAR Xfinity Series races, there is no doubt he’s put in his time. He’s part of a family-owned team, RSS Racing, that has been competing in Xfinity since 2013. During its tenure, Sieg has gone from being a 26-year-old rookie to a 37-year-old veteran and mentor of his younger brother Kyle Sieg, who also drives for the family team.

The elder Sieg brother began running full-time in the series in 2014 and has not missed a race since. During that run, some underdogs with longer odds than Sieg have made it to victory lane. In 2017, Jeremy Clements shocked the world by winning at Road America. Clements had actually given Sieg his first opportunity in Xfinity, driving his No. 51 Chevrolet in 2013 during a suspension. By the time Clements won that race, Sieg was usually running ahead of him. Sieg made the playoffs in 2016 on the way to finishing ninth in the final standings, beating Brandon Jones and Bubba Wallace. Clements had to settle for 15th.

After the playoff run in 2016, Sieg wasn’t as successful in 2017 or 2018. He missed the playoffs in both seasons and only had two top 10s. He did score his best career finish in 2017 though, at Iowa Speedway. He had run around 15th most of the day before a timely caution trapped several contenders a lap down and gave Sieg a chance to win. On the final restart he was able to briefly nose ahead of William Byron in turn 3, but ultimately could not keep up and came home second.

A two-season playoff streak followed, scoring an impressive nine top fives and 23 top 10s between 2019 and 2020. He was running up front more frequently than ever, proven by his career-best 103 laps led in 2020. Unfortunately, he was not able to advance beyond the first playoff round in 2019, and the win column remained empty. He did get his second runner-up finish in 2020. At the fall Talladega race he had initially finished third behind Justin Haley and Michael Annett, but Annett was disqualified for failing post-race inspection, handing second to Sieg.

With back-to-back seasons in the playoffs, it seemed Sieg was building momentum to take another step forward and start winning races. But when you’re not one of the big Cup-affiliated teams, it’s common to take one step forward and two steps back.

RSS Racing was a Chevrolet team since its inception, but in 2021 they switched to Ford. With a smaller number of teams under the Ford banner, this was a calculated decision to move higher up on a manufacturer’s totem pole. Consistency was harder to come by and he missed the playoffs. At that point in his career, Sieg had 13 career top fives and had to figure his win was coming soon.

A return to the playoffs followed in 2022. He had his strongest playoff campaign and finished in the top 10 in all three races of the opening round. But it wasn’t enough. Despite coming home ninth in the first-round elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, he wound up two points behind Jones for the final transfer spot.

Last season was a down year for Sieg. For the first time since 2018 he went without any top-five finishes and had his lowest average finish since 2018. At Sonoma Raceway, Aric Almirola won driving a car that was for all intents and purposes a Stewart-Haas Racing car, but was entered in partnership with RSS Racing, who officially became a winning team in NASCAR.

After that win, Fronstretch caught up with Sieg, who gave what I would call an epic interview given the circumstances. He had just finished 28th, near the back of the lead lap. When asked what the win meant for the team, he spoke with the eloquence you’d expect from a Georgia native who had driven for his family’s team for 11 winless seasons.

“It pays the bills. It’s a great day,” Sieg said. “It’s pretty special to do it here with Ford and everybody helping out at Stewart-Haas. It’s a great day for RSS Racing and a great points day.”

Sieg had been approached at his hauler by Frontstretch’s Bryan Nolen, and after getting through what he knew he had to say, he cracked a smile and showed some great authenticity.

“I just found out, this guy told me here, I didn’t even know (we won).”

You could see Sieg’s wheels turning, processing the bittersweet nature of what had unfolded. RSS was a winner. Sieg still wasn’t.

“At least RSS is a winner now. Too bad it’s not me.”

He laughed and walked away, ending the interview. After all the time he’d put in, someone else claimed the team’s first win. Sieg laughed it off. How can you not like this guy?

Adversity presented itself last year on the sponsorship front. CMR Roofing and Construction was the primary sponsor for Sieg since 2020. The company ran into trouble and the sponsorship ended in the middle of the season. The car was unsponsored for two races, before SciAps came on board, a critical signing that has kept the team competitive. In October of last year, Sieg announced SciAps was returning for the full 2024 season.

After the runner-up finish last week at Texas, SciAps CEO and Co-Founder Don Sackett took to LinkedIn beaming with excitement.

“Our car 39 on the Xfinity circuit set the record for the closest finish in NASCAR history yesterday at Texas Motor Speedway,” Sackett said. “Even if you’re not into racing you have to love the end of this race. Yes, we lost by 0.002 seconds. [Sieg] said ‘I should have run him into the wall harder.’ Love the attitude. This is why I’ll sponsor this driver any time anywhere.”

Having Sackett and SciAps happy and committed should be critical as Sieg continues to pursue his first victory. Sieg was surprisingly optimistic after the race. His interview didn’t sound at all like that of a guy who may have missed his last best chance. It sounded like a driver who knew there will be more.

“It sucks right now. But it’s a start to more success. Its gonna be a pretty good year the rest of the year with everything we got going.”

What he has going is a continued partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford. The blue ovals have struggled and gone winless in all three series so far this season, but as well as they’ve run, it’s only a matter of time before they break through.

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“We keep gaining on it,” Sieg said. “We’ll be with the Chevrolets and the Toyotas. These Fords, we’re close. Stewart-Haas has been close… We’re all in it together.

“One of these days it will work out for us. What do you do? Just gotta move on to the next one and kick some more ass somewhere else.”

Where could that somewhere else be? Look no further than this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, where Sieg will also be running for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus. It’s always a bit of a crapshoot at Talladega, and Sieg is one of many drivers who have a good enough car to win with the equalizing effect of the draft. Four of his 17 career top fives have come at Talladega, more than any other track. It’s also the track where Sieg has his best average finish.

A lot of drivers look to Talladega as one of few chances they’ll have to win a race. At Texas, Sieg proved he is capable of winning outside of the superspeedways. After Talladega is Dover Motor Speedway, Sieg’s second-best track in average finish.

We’ve spent a lot of time in this column talking about the 14 drivers who are most likely to compete for the 12 playoff spots this season. Sieg isn’t one of them. But with his perseverance, optimism, sponsorship, experience, and more fans behind him than ever before, maybe we should expand that group to 15.

Keep your eyes on Sieg at Talladega.

About the author

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

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