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Who We Are: Ryan Gillett Racing For Family

Who We Are: Ryan Gillett Racing For Family

For St. Helens local Ryan Gillett, racing runs in the family. This year, he will compete in his rookie season in the Sportsman class, the same class Gillett’s late father used to race in.

“I will be racing my late father’s number. My grandfather helped make that track what it is today,” Ryan Gillett said. “I’m just looking to carry on my family’s tradition out at that speedway.”

Ryan Gillett raced at River City Speedway in the Pure Stock class last season, but in his final race of the year, he totaled his car in a crash. Gillett came away from the crash with minor injuries and now has his sights set on a championship in the Sportsman class.

Gillett’s father, Jon Gillett, raced at River City Speedway from about 1995 to 2006. Jon Gillett raced a car with the number 30 on it; now Ryan Gillett has taken up the family number. Jon Gillett passed away in 2016 but never won a championship. That goal is Gillett’s motivation.

“In all his years of racing, [my father] never won a championship. My goal is to bring the family a championship with my father’s number,” Gillett said. “That is my driving force, and it’s been that way since day one. I watched my father struggle for many, many years; he came so close so many times, and I want to be the one to bring my family back into the spotlight.”

Gillett said that winning a championship for the family would be “big.” Gillett said his grandfather, Wayne Rigdon, was Track President for River City Speedway in the ‘90s. Truly a family affair; Gillett said that his grandmother is also a big driving force for the team. She helps fund the car and is one of his biggest supporters. The shop where the car sits right now is the same place where Gillett’s grandfather and dad built their own race cars.

For Gillett, racing has been something central to his family since he was a kid. To win a race, let alone a championship, would go far beyond victory lane.

“In 2009, in my rookie season with the Oregon State Karting Championship Series, we took the state championship in my class with my dad’s number,” Gillett said. “To put that number back in victory lane, in a big car, I could probably die happy the next day.”

Gillett said it’s a big deal for him, but he has some doubts going into the season. The Firebird that he raced in Pure Stock was “not competitive.” Gillett said it was because of the lack of funding and understanding he had, and it “broke” him in his first year of racing in 2021.

Since then, Gillett’s Napa coworkers Nathan Long and Gage Lewno have stepped up to help him build a more competitive vehicle. Gillett said his car is gathering sponsors, which include his company Sunset Auto Parts, Larry Feyko Refrigeration, and his family and friends, but he said they are still signing deals.

“That car is going to look gnarly when it’s done,” Gillett said.

Winning a championship is a cumulative score accrued over the season through placement in individual races. Gillett said there will be around 13 races he will compete in to try to bring home the championship. Gillett said his team is looking to “turn some heads this year.” The crew is ready to help Gillett compete for his goal.

“My crew Gage Lewno and Nathan Long, we’re all three driving this year. Nathan and Gage are my best friends when it comes to racing, they know so much more than I do,” Gillett said. “I know how to drive the cars, but they are instrumental in getting us to where we are right now.”

Gillett’s girlfriend Gemini is also a big supporter of his, and he said that she has been in his corner and knows how important getting behind the wheel is to him.

While there isn’t a great financial reward for winning races or a championship at this level, Gillett’s ultimate goal goes far beyond money.

“Winning a race with my father’s number, I would be broken into tears. If I were to win a championship, you wouldn’t be able to get me out of the car in victory lane because I would be a mess,” Gillett said.

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