Ronnie Osmer, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Pearl River, is not often nervous behind the wheel.
That’s not overly surprising, despite his young age. After all, Osmer has been driving competitively since he was 7. He’s raced on tracks large and small around the U.S. and has been successful in his efforts, steering go-carts, stock cars and everything in between.
But on March 14, Osmer is prepared to take his potential pro driving career into another gear.
If all goes according to plan, he will become the youngest racer in history to participate in the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) race at the Mobile (Alabama) International Superspeedway and the second-youngest in an ARCA race all time.
The Mobile 200 is set to begin at 2 p.m., and Osmer is one of about 30 drivers who will take part in the race.
That’s lofty territory, considering racers have to be at least 18 to drive on larger tracks during ARCA races. He will be the only person under 18 racing in Mobile.
“I definitely have a lot of nerves about it,” Osmer said. “It’s the biggest race of my career up to this point.”
Anticipation has been building for Osmer since he was asked to run in Mobile late last year. At that time, he was focused on other races — patiently waiting for the chance to show what he can do against a higher level of competition. ARCA is the equivalent of a “high minor league” circuit, in the world of auto racing.
He will drive the Carter2Motorsports No. 40 Dodge in this race.
Osmer caught the eye of ARCA executives while racing in the ARCA Truck Series in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania, in September. Race organizers were impressed by Osmer’s skills, not to mention the calm with which he handled the public and media, his father Cliff Osmer said.
In December, Ronnie raced in the Pensacola (Florida) Snowball Derby — one of the largest late-model races in the U.S. Osmer was in a “last-chance race” in Pensacola, and worked his way from 28th to eighth in the standings, but a competitor lost control of his vehicle, and Osmer wound up being rear-ended and hitting the inside wall.
He said the experience driving against some NASCAR-level racers in Florida will help him in Mobile.
“When I first start and we’re doing practice laps, I’m nervous,” he said. “But once the green flag drops, all that goes away.
“I’m just looking to pass the car in front of me.”
That sort of even-keeled temperament already has Osmer turning heads across the country. He recently was named the Speed 51 most popular late-model driver in the U.S. He has worked with local charities to raise money for nonprofit causes, and has teamed with “Ride to Give” — a New York-based 501c3 charity that has helped more than 30 sick children and their families since its founding in 2013.
Osmer, who attends Slidell’s Pope John Paul II High School, said the charitable connection is extra impetus to race well.
“Ride to Give has what they call the ‘Give a Little, Change a Lot’ program,” Osmer said. “I do feel like they are riding along with me. …The better I do, the more money they can donate to these good causes.”
Osmer’s life-long goal is to be a professional racer. Though he already has a solid start toward that dream, he knows he further can build upon it with a steady showing in Mobile.