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Veal uses racing to put cancer in rearview mirror

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

Cancer doesn’t skip a certain age group or individual. The disease can strike anyone and everyone, even if they’re in the prime of your life.

Ryan Veal knows that.

He looked to be like many 12-year-olds who are about to focus on their teenage years, but unfortunately that didn’t happen when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

That didn’t stop him from living his life though, as the 15-year-old kept the pedal to the metal and is now behind the wheel doing what he loves.

“Racing is fun — it takes your mind off of things,” Veal said. “It’s something to do and it’s fun.”

And the Princeton, Texas native found his passion for the sport from someone close to him. He also said the connection to racing was what helped him get through his cancer battle.

“What got me wanting to race was watching him,” Veal said of his father Weasley. “I’ve wanted to race my whole life. It always looked fun. It was always what I wanted to do.”

Ryan Veal races during the Jordan Page Winter Nationals on Oct. 10 at Southern Oklahoma Speedway in Ardmore.

Veal has found success, too.

During the Jordan Page Winter Nationals on Oct. 10, he placed seventh in one of the IMCA Modified main events. While he also races at other tracks, there’s something that separates Southern Oklahoma Speedway from the rest.

“Ever since I started racing, I’ve raced at this track,” Veal said. “It’s a lot bigger and there’s a lot more room. It’s not like you only have a single lane to pass a car. It’s a good track to learn on because you have more lanes to pass cars.”

A lot of teenagers don’t get the opportunity to learn in such a fast-paced environment, but that doesn’t cross his mind.

“Being 15, I don’t think much about it,” Veal said. “It’s just being out there with other cars — just racing.”

And being at the racetrack has another advantage. Fellow racer Zack Oliva, 20, overcame neuroblastoma at five years old and has created a close bond with Veal.

“I do everything I can to help out cancer survivors,” Oliva said. “When Ryan Veal had leukemia, me and him became really good friends. We talk to each other a lot.”