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Emilee Riley isn’t afraid of setting big goals. This Pickens native wants to race with the big dogs at NASCAR.
At 20, Pickens native Emilee Riley already has seven years of racing in the rearview - from quarter midgets to trucks and now NASCAR’s Late Model Stock Cars – and she’s got lofty dreams of speeding into the big time as a top NASCAR driver.
“I’ve always been a tomboy,” said the friendly, down-to-earth Riley. “I played with my brother and the boys a lot. I think that really shaped me.”
Riley said when she was a child her dad bought her brother a quarter midget - “basically a go-kart with a roll bar” - and she was disappointed she didn’t get one, too.
“I wanted to know where mine was,” she said. “Dad eventually got me one, and I took to it. My brother went into golf and I kept on with racing. I think my parents were surprised that’s how things worked out.”
Since that time Riley, a PHS graduate and business major at Reinhardt University, has racked up several notable awards: Mini Cup Series “Rookie of the Year” and second in points in the nation; Pro Challenge Series second in points in the nation; Pro Tuck Series “Rookie of the Year,” two time holder of the Truck Champion Title and first Female Rookie Champion.
In the last seven years Riley has met plenty of other racers on and off the track – including her all-time-favorite Bill Elliot - and made friends that are like family along the way. It wasn’t until she started racing trucks at 17 that the challenges she would face as a woman in a man’s world became apparent.
“They’d crash me on purpose and tell me I shouldn’t be here,” she said. “I couldn’t believe people could be so mean and hateful, and it put me down for a while, but my parents supported me. I got through it and now I just laugh. It helps me grow and push harder and stand up for myself, and that earns me respect.”
And Emilee has some battle scars to prove she’s tough – one crash put her out of school for two weeks because of her injuries.
Riley said her family is a huge part of her life, and she credits her mom and dad for encouraging her and her siblings to chase their dreams. She and her dad Bob – who’s not a mechanic but who buys and sells street cars - have been a team since 2009 and founded Riley Motorsports, LLC. Her parents have helped fund the expensive hobby of racing - although Riley works and pays for much of it on her own - and offer moral backing along the way.
“They have always been so supportive,” she said. “They’ve always pushed me and my brother and sister to go for it.”
Currently, Riley is just months away from receiving a bachelor’s in Business Management, and she hopes that background will help her further her racing career. She stays busy balancing school, racing, family and work.
“This is what I want to do,” she said. “I want to learn and grow enough that I can go to NASCAR and compete, and I think knowing business will help me market myself. If I don’t make the big time, I want to work with NASCAR in some way, for sure.”
In the 2016 race season, Riley will run a full schedule in the NASCAR Late Model Stock Series with Elite Performance Motorsports. Her home tracks will be Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, Anderson Motor Speedway in South Carolina and Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina – so boys, watch out.
Keep up with Emilee Riley on Facebook where you will find schedule updates and other information.