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Millington Racing For More Than Money And Trophies

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 25 2017

Ryan Millington is racing for a cause.

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

Ryan Millington always knew his mother was Missisquoi Abenaki, but he never understood his Native American heritage until he began racing for the Vermont-based Abenaki nation as well as himself; a revelation that has changed the 16-year-old Statesville, N.C., resident.

“It’s not just racing anymore. It’s more than that,” said Millington, who’s applying for NASCAR’s Diversity program. “Now there is a reason behind what I am doing that I didn’t have before. I’m helping my ancestry, the tribe. There are more people along for the ride now. It’s unique. It’s not about just getting a paycheck. It’s not just about me. I’m helping them survive.”

Millington carries the tribe’s flag on his NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model and donates 10 percent of his winnings to the tribe. Abenaki Chief Lawrence “Moose” Lampman says the driver’s generosity will allow the tribe to employ new people and heat its buildings in the winter.

“Our tribe in Vermont is fighting for our existence,” Lampman wrote in a letter. “Ryan’s commitment will go a long way in keeping our traditions alive … and perhaps bring the Abenaki nation to a diverse audience. … It is quite humbling to think that a teenager would make such a commitment.”

It’s a commitment Millington plans to continue as his career progresses. He noted Lampman has worked with him extensively and taught him a great deal about the tribe; a requirement he made of the teenager before he would allow him to carry the tribe’s flag on his race car.

“My wife’s family has always gone to family day with the tribe every September,” said Scott Millington, Ryan’s father. “It’s kinda been something to do every year and we never thought much about it. Evidently, the people who are still fighting for the tribe’s rights, there aren’t many left. They have a (10,000-year-old) burial ground and someone wants to take over the land. They’re fighting for all they’re worth to save it.”  

This year Ryan is battling Charlie Watson for the Late Model track championship at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway. With five races left in the season, Ryan trailed Watson by a mere 16 points. They split the Aug. 12 Twin 40s, which gave Ryan eight victories this season. He also possessed nine poles, 21 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes.

“He’s done exceptionally good (this season),” Scott noted.

Ryan received his first taste of racing at about age 6 when his father, a veteran NASCAR crew member, purchased a Go-Kart for his son. After a few years in Go-Karts, Ryan advanced to Mini-Outlaws at Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, N.C. He transitioned to asphalt racing in 2014, competing in the Young Lions Legend division in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Summer Shootout Series for two years. Today, the teenager occasionally returns to Millbridge, a dirt short track, but his primary focus is on his family-owned Late Model. That, however, is where is career may remain unless he’s accepted into NASCAR’s Diversity program.

“Financially, it doesn’t make sense for us to go to K&N,” Scott said. “It’s too much money.”

However, Scott admits that racing for the Abenaki nation “puts a little more wind in your sails.”

“The fact that his heritage may enable him to do some stuff that we wouldn’t do with him, if he can continue, why wouldn’t he reimburse them for as long as he could?” Scott asked. “Maybe it is all coming together for a reason.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 25 2017
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