Ryan Repko returns to his home track this weekend, as the 19-year-old racer will compete with the CARS Late Model Stock Tour at Motor Mile Speedway (VA). He will do so carrying the colors of his second home.
Repko is a student at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte who recently completed his first year of classes at the school. While he was not on campus at the time of the April 30 shooting which claimed the lives of two students, the tragedy hit close to home.
“It was something I didn’t expect,” Repko told Speed51. “UNCC has such a family atmosphere. You really feel like you’re a part of something when you’re there. It just blows my mind that somebody could do that. My main thing was I wanted to provide some sort of support and relief for the victims and try to help out the community.”
Repko took on the idea of using his racing career as a platform, transforming his Late Model Stock Car to carry the Charlotte Strong motto and UNC Charlotte logos. Replacing his familiar red accents with UNC Charlotte’s signature green, the car also bears the names of the two victims – Ellis Parlier and Riley Howell – above each door.
“The last year, I’ve really enjoyed my time at UNC Charlotte,” said Repko. “It’s been like a second home to me. When a tragedy happens in a driver’s hometown or home area, they’ll generally run a small decal or something like that to honor it. I wanted to do the whole car.”
However, Repko still felt more could be done to raise money and support for the families affected by April’s tragedy.
“Then, I got to thinking, yeah, it provides a level of emotional support, but it doesn’t really accomplish anything unless you raise funds for the cause,” said Repko. “I got to thinking about how this could become a fundraiser.
“What we’ve decided to do is sell each individual lap for the race for $20,” added Repko. “So far, it looks to be doing really well as far as raising money for the university and the victims.”
While it is difficult to determine the precise amount of money Repko’s initiative has raised, the Denver, North Carolina native has already seen plenty of support.
“From what I can tell, at least a few hundred dollars [in fundraising],” said Repko. “It’s hard, because some of them are anonymous so it’s hard to tell. I can’t help but think, with all the retweets on social media and how this blew up, I’m thinking we’ve done a good thing here.”
Repko hopes a strong run at Motor Mile could bring even more attention to the cause, and he will definitely be a driver to watch this weekend. Repko cut his teeth at the Radford, Virginia facility, winning his first Limited Late Model Race there in 2015.
“Motor Mile is where it all started for me, it’s where I started locally,” explained Repko. “I’ve got a lot of laps around that place, moreso than anywhere else. I really know what I need out of the car. We tested last weekend, the car was really fast, and it got through the corner really good.”
Motor Mile did not host any races in 2018, but returned to action earlier this season. Saturday’s race also marks the first time the CARS Tour has competed at the venue since 2015.
“It’s definitely one of the nicest facilities in the Southeast,” said Repko. “You really can’t beat it. It was a shame to see it sit dormant for a year. With all the excitement, I think it’s doing well coming back. They had a really good car count first race, good attendance. Having the Tour back is big, too.”
Repko hopes he can return to Motor Mile’s victory lane – this time in a Late Model Stock Car – and further honor UNC Charlotte and the Charlotte community.
“I’d say it would definitely be the biggest win of my career, just because of all that’s around it,” said Repko. “Motor Mile and Hickory are my two home tracks. That would actually be my first Late Model Stock win at Motor Mile. I’ve won in a Limited there, but not a Late Model. It would just be special, carrying the city of Charlotte. I don’t know if words could describe it if that happened.”
Race fans interested in sponsoring a lap in Repko's fundraising efforts for the UNC Charlotte shooting victims through the Niners Nation Unites Fund can do so by clicking here. To sponsor a lap in this weekend's 125-lap race, include a note with your donation with "RRR" and the lap of your choice.
For more information about Saturday’s CARS Tour event at Motor Mile Speedway, visit www.carsracingtour.com.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Ryan Repko Facebook