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Repp to be remembered as drags get underway

In The Pits

It made no sense. But then, many fatal car crashes don't.

Holly Repp, who impressed her drag racing peers with her impeccable ability to cut a light, pulled in front of a sports utility vehicle last January while pulling onto Redwood Highway in Grants Pass and was killed instantly.

— This was irony at its cruelest.

Those familiar with that stretch of highway know that 10 fatal crashes have occurred there over the past 15 years. Throw in darkness, and a 55 mph speed zone that isn't always followed, and you begin to understand ' especially if you've been behind the wheel of a car yourself and dare to count your close calls.

Repp was 18 and the oldest of five siblings who raced at the Southern Oregon Dragway. The White City strip will honor her Saturday for what is being billed the Holly Repp Tribute Race.

The event will mark the first points race of the season.

We're doing the best we can under some obviously difficult circumstances, says Randy Repp, who got his daughter interested in racing two years ago and watched with pride as she won the junior dragster points title during her rookie season.

Randy Repp is determined that the essence of what his oldest child stood for carries on at the track and in the community. Racing, he says, helped Holly go from this shy little kid to this I-can-do-everything kid.

When the Repps first went to the track, Holly preferred to sit in the van and do craft work. She was adept at sewing, crocheting, cooking, soap-making and was a member of 4H for eight years. A sweater she created once won an award at the state fair

Holly, who was also a straight-A student, certainly didn't need to race cars to keep busy. But one day at the track, her mother got sick and Randy asked her to help out with a dragster that one of the Repp boys was driving.

Holly kind of got this sparkle in her eye as if to say, 'Hey, maybe I can drive that,' Randy Repp says.

And drive it she did. Holly became a master of consistency operating a 1994 Canadian-built dragster and edged her brother, David, by one point for the junior dragster points title in 2002. She also won it last year.

But it wasn't only her success down the track that made her parents proud. It was also the way she began to discard her shyness.

I give 4H a lot of the credit, but racing was also a very positive thing in helping Holly to come out of her shell, Randy Repp says. I think it really helped her to gain her confidence as a person.

When she died, Holly Repp was a freshman at Rogue Community College who was planning a career in business.

Beginning next year, an annual event called the Holly Repp Memorial Race will be held on the first weekend of June. A fund in her honor ' the Holly Repp Memorial Fund ' has also been established at Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union in Grants Pass.

The fund will help support that race and also support driving safety in this area, says Randy Repp, who got the Oregon Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit from 55 mph to 50 along the stretch where his daughter was killed. We've already visited some high schools and talked to kids about the importance of always looking both ways before they pull out. And if there's any chance they're not going to make it, then wait.

When you've been directly affected like we have, maybe kids will listen.

Repp also recently formed the Southern Oregon Drag Racing Club. Part of its mission is to keep kids from racing on the street and to get them to the track. The group, which meets at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Abby's Pizza in White City, also promotes racing as a family activity.

The group's motto is Positive Perspective. Repp admits his daughter's death has tested that motto.

But you know what, we're going to help a lot of other kids, he says.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail