The epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings hit close to home for Charlotte residents on April 30, as two people were killed while four others were injured when a gunman fired upon students and faculty at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
With the school being near the homes of numerous NASCAR drivers, many of them have paid tribute to the victims of the UNCC shooting in the weeks following the tragedy. UNCC student and part-time CARS LMSC Tour competitor Ryan Repko will add his name to that list this weekend at Motor Mile Speedway when he runs a special paint scheme dedicated to the deceased and those still recovering from their injuries.
Repko, who will be making his first CARS LMSC Tour start of the season, has considered UNCC a second home ever since he started taking classes at the facility and wanted to give back to a community that is still reeling over the events that took place just over two weeks earlier.
“UNCC has this family atmosphere to it,” Repko told RACE22.com. “Everybody supports one another, and I’ve really enjoyed the last year there, so I’ve just worked to provide some support to the school in their time of need.”
Repko was not on UNCC’s campus at the time of the shooting, as he was at his house when he received a text message from the school at 5:51 p.m. alerting the student body that there was an active shooter on the premises.
Despite being out of harm’s way, the entire experience felt surreal to Repko, as he never thought he would be in a situation where he would have to deal with a mass shooter at his school.
“You see this kind of stuff happen on the news all the time,” Repko said. “I was there earlier that day, and you just don’t expect something like that to happen in that kind of atmosphere. Everyone’s always happy to be there and you feel like you’re a part of something. It’s a cool thing to experience, but nobody thought something like that would ever happen there.”
Repko did not lose anyone close to him in the shooting, but he stated that his good friend another racer, Garrett Jones had a roommate who was a lab partner to Ellis Parlier, who was one of two people killed in the attack.
Repko was thankful that he was unharmed, but he was motivated to help those injured by the shooter and to pay tribute to Parlier and Riley Howell, the latter of which gained notoriety for charging the gunman and disarming him before losing his own life.
For the Heritage Truck Centers 250 at Motor Mile Speedway this weekend, Repko will carry the colors of Niner Nation Unites on his #14 Late Model, which is the official crowdfunding website for UNCC that was established to support the victims and the school’s community in the aftermath of the shooting. All donations will go directly to the needs of the victims and their families, with over $51,000 being raised as of Wednesday evening.
Repko hopes to add to that total by the end of the weekend and will receive some assistance from the CARS Tour as he looks to accomplish his goal. Drivers that are entered in both the LMSC and SLM division will be able to purchase pies in the infield for $20 that will be used to hit CARS Tour competition director Chris Ragle in the face.
All proceeds from the pies will go to the charity of the highest finisher between Repko, Tommy Lemons Jr., and Mini Tyrrell. Lemons will support Saving Sadie Rae while Tyrrell will have the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation on the hood of his Late Model.
Repko wants nothing more than to give back to the university that has helped him out tremendously over the past several months, but he knows that a strong car will be a necessity for him to raise the desired amount of money for UNCC.
Although he has never competed at Motor Mile in a CARS LMSC Tour race, Repko has found victory lane at the track in the past and is confident that he will be among the drivers battling for the victory once the Late Model feature reaches its closing stages.
“Motor Mile has always been a very good track to us,” Repko said. “Forrest Reynolds is going to be crew chiefing me and he knows that place like the back of his hand. We’re going to go up there and try to compete for a win like we always do every week. The car should be pretty good and I’m just going to do all I can.”
Repko is currently working on other methods to help with donations during the weekend, but he added that he is still trying to sort out a couple of details. While Repko wants to pick up his first CARS LMSC Tour victory at Motor Mile, his focus will be on helping UNCC and the victims of April’s mass shooting as everyone attempts to move forward following the tragedy.