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Stock-car superstar?

Ted AlvarezGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Dominque Taylor/dtaylor@vaildaily.com Ryan Thompson, part-owner of Westside Cafe in West Vail, with his own Ford F150 truck, which he will not be driving when he participates in a NASCAR-themed reality show to air on Spike TV in May.
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WEST VAIL – On the heels of “The Bachelorette’s” Ryan Sutter and “The Apprentice’s” Raj Bhakta comes yet another potential reality star hailing from our fair valley. But Ryan Thompson will have to do much more than just look pretty or engage in sales and marketing challenges: As a contestant on Spike’s “Reality Racing: The Rookie Challenge,” he will train and actually race NASCAR stock cars in pursuit of professional racing contract.”I’ve been a big NASCAR fan for twelve years,” Thompson said. “I’ve always wanted to get behind a stock car and put my foot were my mouth is, so to speak, and now this opportunity is on the doorstep, so I’m like a kid on Christmas.”Thompson will leave the second or third week of February for Florida, where he joins 14 other contestants in a battle for NASCAR glory. The contestants will share living quarters, “Real World”-style, and compete in driving and-off-the-track challenges for seven weeks of filming. Spike TV will air “Reality Racing” in May for 13 weeks.”Four or five of the guys have experience, but I’m just a fan,” Thompson said. “Our first competitions happen on the track in behind-the-wheel driving and off-track in hi-tech simulations. (The show’s producers) haven’t told us anything exactly beyond that.”Luckily, Thompson won’t be alone: “Reality Racing” has enlisted NASCAR veterans to mentor and guide the new drivers as they chase the checkered flag.”They’ve got a couple of the old-time cup drivers mentoring, like Cale Yarborough, Junior Johnson and Bobby and Donnie Allison,” Thompson said. “These are four guys that basically started NASCAR – some of them were moonshine runners, which is how NASCAR started. I’m really excited to have them bring us along.”Thompson entered an application to join “Reality Racing” in October of 2005, and on this past New Year’s Eve, he was notified by show producers that he beat out 15,000 applicants to join the final crew. In addition to an exclusive contract with Glen Allen, Jr.’s racing team, Thompson stands a chance to win a championship ring and an undisclosed cash award.Thompson owns Vail’s Westside Cafe and Mizuppa along with business partners Mike Dennis and Steve Solomon, but luckily he’s got support in the pit while he’s gone.”My two business partners are going to step it up and manage things while I’m gone,” Thompson said. “They’re just as excited as I am.”If racing on television opens doors for Thompson, he’s prepared to leave the restaurant business behind – but it’s the racing that inspires him, not the potential of fame.”The TV is secondary – racing is primary,” he said. “That mentality might give me a little bit of an advantage.”Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.


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