Paralyzed sprint car driver stays on track

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Rich Nye/Eyewitness Sports

Indiana is a hotbed of racing. Every weekend, all summer long, you can find drivers chasing their dreams on short tracks all over the state. One local driver proves that a race car can be a handful.

Saturday night at the short track, you can see the roots of racing. On the dirt oval at Lincoln Park Speedway, 28-year-old Danny Pollock pilots his sprint car on the same track where his father and grandfather once raced.

"Gotta go race. It's in my blood. It's been there forever. That's where it's gonna be as long as I can do it," he said.

Handling a sprint car is tough for any driver, but Danny drives with only his hands.

"This right here is my brake lever, which is a Go-Kart master cylinder. This is my throttle lever right here," he said.

An accident on a four-wheeler five years ago left Danny paralyzed from the chest down. "It's like the world just came to an end for a great while. You just kinda have to just suck it up and figure out what you're gonna do because all it's gonna do is eat you up. So you gotta go out and do something. Find what you love, stick with it and go for it," he said.

Just climbing into his car is a unique challenge for Danny, but worth the struggle. "I was reborn in 2003 the first time I got back in the race car. I felt like I just came back alive again," he said.

A group of Rose-Hulman students helped design the hand controls that put Danny back on track. "I squeeze the gas when I need to and I squeeze the brake when I have to. It's a handful. I can say that much," said Danny.

"It's really amazing because a lot of these sprint cars we run is by the seat of your pants. With him not being able to feel anything from the waist down, he's doing it all by hand," said Danny Carmichael Jr., race car driver.

"If I was a problem, you bet they would tell me, because I'm out there with them and this is not a toy. This is a dangerous sport," said Danny.

Danny's biggest disability at the race track has nothing to do with being paralyzed. It's money. Some teams have a little more.

"I have just a handful of sponsors here to pitch in here and there. I got guys that give a few parts here and there. They give me very good deals," he said.

Danny's brother Andrew serves as crew chief and pit crew. This no budget operation earns the respect of all the competition.

"A lot of people when they're in his situation think their life is over. But his life, he just started a new chapter and a better chapter of his life," said Danny Williams Jr., sprint car driver.

"It's what I love. Nothing more. Just gotta do it. If I can't do it, I don't know what I would do. I'd just sit at home. No, I can't do that. That won't work. Not for me at least," said Pollock.

Danny Pollock can't put the pedal to the metal. He puts the on squeeze for speed in the the 24 car.

Update from Danny's website: "On August 12, Danny's motor blew up and and now it's looking like he will not be able to finish out the season, which is a shame since Danny was in the top 10 in points. As is the case with anything mechanical it can be fixed but it will be expensive and if you are familiar with Danny and his situation you know that he doesn't have the needed finances to incur such an expense. He says he is in need of a new block and crank a few rods and pistons but everything else looks to be okay."

Contact Danny Pollock.