Photo courtesy of Ryan Bennett.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Bennett.

“Racing is the one thing that makes me happier than anything else. I can’t compare the feeling that I get behind the wheel racing to anything else. The thing about racing is that it might break your heart, you might have a bad day, but it can never go away,” said Ryan Bennett, a pre-marketing major at UNC Charlotte and contestant in the second Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge.

Bennett has dreamed about nothing other than racing since he was eight years old. But now he is more passionate and driven than ever, which is why he has entered Peak’s competition.

The competition is put on by Peak Antifreeze, a company that sells oil and car parts, and Michael Waltrip Racing, a stock car racing team.

“They’re putting [the competition] on to find the next developmental driver for Waltrip Racing. Basically if you win, you get put in the minor leagues of NASCAR,” explained Bennett.

To win the competition, there are some things the judges consider. First, you submit a page of information that contains your video, biography and a picture. On this page, people can vote up to five times a day. These votes may add up to help the contestant in the competition.

Out of all of the contestants, only 18 are chosen as finalists. Those 18 will then go to Charlotte for a three-day competition, which is “kind of like an NFL combine where they have different events each day and they slowly eliminate people,” according to Bennett.

Bennett is familiar with the process because he was in this same position just last year.

Nothing makes him want to win this competition more than thinking about the feeling that he had when he unfortunately lost last summer.

Bryan Emrich, senior vice president of marketing at Peak, gave Bennett a call that helped him clear his head and told him to keep pushing.

“He explained things to me, explained the decision process, and Peak actually ended up giving me a racing sponsorship last year to keep doing what I’m doing. He urged me to get more experience, prove myself as a driver and come back next year,” said Bennett.

From that point on, he told himself that he was going to come back and try again. So he took the year to get experience under his belt by racing and testing stock cars, and “do more things that [the judges] thought [were] more important for a driver which would be more appealing to them,” said Bennett.

He couldn’t have come this far without the support of his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers and of course, his parents. Brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon across the United States have voted for Bennett after hearing about the competition he was involved in. He believes they’ve proved a great platform in supporting the number of votes he’s received.

Growing up, Bennett enjoyed various activities including swimming, playing soccer and then ultimately racing.

“Every decision I’ve made since fifth grade has been based on racing, whether it was to skip a birthday party, miss a soccer game or miss a swim meet, or all the way up to stopping soccer, or coming to this college; it’s all because of racing,” explained Bennett.

The competition has acted not just as a motivator for Bennett’s career but also his health.

“Now I eat healthier and I focus on quality of calories. I don’t drink soda anymore so I drink a lot of water, and by the time June 9 comes around, I want to be in the best shape of my life because this is the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Bennett.

In asking why he racing means so much to him, he responded, “There is no such thing as life without racing. Absolutely not.”

To vote for Bennett in the competition, visit

My name is Claire Dodd and I'm the News Editor for the Niner Times. This is my second year writing for the paper. I'm a sophomore majoring in Communications with a concentration in Mass Media, minoring in Journalism. Along with being a part of the staff of the newspaper, I'm also an athlete on the 49ers' Women's Club Volleyball Team.


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