Riley Goodno was just five years old when he started begging his dad to get him a car. A year later, he was sitting inside an Outlaw dirt car with excitement in his eyes. And now, at 22 years old, the Knoxville native will get his chance to compete in the race he grew up watching: The Knoxville Nationals.
Goodno is a rookie driver on the 410 nationals circuit and will represent Knoxville in the "Greatest Show on Dirt" this weekend, hoping to fulfill his racing dreams.
Shawn Goodno, Riley's dad, didn't get into racing until he moved to Knoxville in his mid-20's but he immediately fell in love with the sport. That love was passed down to his young Riley, who caught on to racing much quicker.
Shawn would take Riley to Knoxville Raceway to watch races all the time growing up, forming a connection to cars and the pageantry that made the sport so special. And that's when the requests started.
"Around five he started asking, 'When you gonna get me a car, when you gonna get me a car,'" Shawn Goodno said. "At six, we got him an Outlaws dirt cart and he sat in it and went, 'Oh man, now I gotta do this.'"
Shawn said Riley is drawn to the competition of racing and the work ethic it takes to be great. In order to be one of the best, you have to love the grind of the sport, racing back-to-back-to-back nights across state lines, washing cars and tuning up whenever you can. Shawn has seen that grow over the years in Riley and it's what is driving his son into this weekend's big stage.
"He's always been very cool about stuff," Shawn said. "But I have noticed he sometimes responds to the big stage, but obviously he's never seen a crowd like Knoxville Nationals will be so that will be different for him."
When you race, it becomes your life, and Riley has taken that message to heart before he makes his Knoxville Nationals debut. With his hometown playing host to the biggest event in dirt racing, and his family in his corner, Shawn said the message to his son is simple: Go out and do your best.
"I just want him to go out there and do his best," Shawn said. "We've got his back."