On January 26, 2013 two Racing4Vets-sponsored injured veterans joined paralyzed former NASCAR driver Shane Hmiel on track in Accessible Racing’s adapted NASCAR stock car at Rockingham Speedway, NC.
Scout Sniper Jessie Fletcher USMC (ret) and Lance Corporal Cody Evans USMC (ret), both injured veterans from Walter Reed Medical Center who lost their legs in IED explosions, joined Shane Hmiel to drive the adapted NASCAR stock car at Rockingham.
The event was a combined effort between Accessible Racing, the Hmiel family, Racing4Vets, Petty Family Foundation, KOOKS Custom Headers, Goodyear Tire, Rick Ellison Racing, Rockingham Speedway and 3 Wide Life to give Shane, Cody and Jessie the opportunity to drive a V8 NASCAR. For Cody and Jessie, it was their first time in a NASCAR stock car. For Shane Hmiel, it was his first time back in a race car since his near-death USAC Sprint Car crash in 2010 at Terre Haute, IN.
First out on track was Cody Evans from Tennessee. Alongside Cody was the veterans’ highly experienced driving instructor Scott Vien. Cody ran several warm up laps, then let loose and set an average time of 95 mph around Rockingham’s 18 degree banking!
Jessie Fletcher from North Carolina (via upstate New York) got his shot in the NASCAR seat next. Jessie used his USMC Scout Sniper skills to carefully assess all track conditions and identify the right line, then pulled the trigger on the powerful NASCAR V8 motor, setting another near-95 mph average speed!
Next on track was Shane Hmiel the “wild child” of NASCAR before his near-death 2010 USAC Sprint Car crash. This was Shane’s first time back in a race car since being paralyzed and spending nearly 2 years in rehabilitation. As he ticked off the laps it was apparent he hadn’t lost his talent, setting an average speed over 100 mph next to his co-driver “Dynamite” Dave Dion.
The day was heavily covered by the national media, including SPEED, Fox Sports, 3 Wide Life, ESPN and local news stations in the Charlotte and Rockingham areas. All three drivers were interviewed by the SPEED TV crew and the event was aired on SPEED NASCAR Race Hub the following week. Here are some links to major news coverage:
SPEED Nascar Race Hub video
ESPN article written by Marty Smith.
3 Wide Life video
Motor Racing Network article
Overall the day was great fun and incredibly inspiring. Shane Hmiel and injured veteran Marines Scout Sniper Jessie Fletcher and Lance Corporal Cody Evans proved that being injured isn’t a barrier when you’re determined to live a great life.
In the words of Accessible Racing’s co-founder Brian Hanaford, who lives with a traumatic brain injury himself, “There’s life after injury…you might need to do things a little different but this is a prime example of that.”
Racing4Vets would like to thank all involved:
The United States Marine Corps for fighting and sacrificing in Afghanistan and Iraq for the freedom of all Americans. We owe you and all injured veterans our gratitude and continued support.
Rockingham Speedway, whose team pulled off a miraculous effort so the event could happen. An intense ice storm passed through the night before, rendering the 1 mile Rockingham oval undriveable under an inch of slushy ice in the morning of January 26. After four hours of ice-breaking, drying and some much-needed sunshine, Andy Hillenburg’s Rockingham team made the track conditions safe to drive.
Accessible Racing, who organized the event, hauled the car over 2,000 miles round trip, provided two top-level NASCAR driving instructors, and worked with all involved to ensure a successful and safe event.
The Petty Family Foundation who sponsored the event so two injured veterans and Shane Hmiel could experience the power and excitement of driving a NASCAR stock car.
KOOKS Custom Headers, strong supporters of U.S. military veterans who sponsored the event.
Rick Ellison Racing and U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Rick Ellison (ret), who provided veteran outreach, sponsorship sales and event organization.
Goodyear Tire, for providing the brand-new NASCAR race slicks with “Support Our Troops” on the sidewalls.
Drive Master, who built the adapted Accessible Racing NASCAR for Cody, Jessie and Shane to drive.
Michael Davis Insurance who covered the event with professional motorsports insurance at a reasonable price.
Greenleafe Inn in Pinebluff, NC for providing discounted hotel rooms for the entire Racing4Vets team.
3 Wide Life, SPEED Channel, NASCAR Race Hub, and ESPN for providing top quality national TV and online coverage of the event. These were viewed and read by over 30 million Americans, bringing awareness to our disabled veterans’ true capabilities and the successes of disabled individuals such as Shane Hmiel who work hard to overcome their injuries, regardless of the setbacks they have had.