Finding their way

... it's nights like last night that I realize how cool of a job I have, to experience things few others ever will, to meet such interesting and inspiring people I'd never know otherwise.

Like a group of blind adults driving stock cars.

... The story actually begins several weeks ago when I wrote about a local man, Marty, who won several awards for his work as a radio intern. As we talked, he began telling me about an organization he belongs to that allows blind people and others with sight disorders -- with the held of sighted guides -- to participate in outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, canoeing -- even downhill skiing and stockcar racing ...

My editor, intrigued by this idea of blind people racing stock cars, sent me to ride last night with the group of eight or so at a local race track ...

At the track, we sat in the stands talking, chowing buckets of popcorn, experiencing the races together. It was so much fun ... ( ... and for the record, I'm nowhere close to being a NASCAR fan, but I found myself getting slightly wrapped up in some of the races; it was exhilarating. Who would've thought ...). I caught up with Marty, and met another man, Chuck, who told me about nearly losing his life in a car crash about a year ago and then losing his eyesight six months ago as a result of his injuries ... all of their stories were fascinating to me. The way they've soldiered on and learned to live without their eyesight. After awhile, talking to them felt as though I'd known them for years ...

... Finally it came time for them to race. Now, for most racecar drivers, crashing during their first lap would be a major disappointment. Not these drivers.

None of the drivers hinted at being nervous about boarding a racecar and driving it five laps around an asphalt track. For them, just smelling the exhaust fumes and hearing the roar of the engine is an adrenaline rush like no other.

In fact they looked like pros as they boarded the cars with their guides and track crews strapped them in. Marty and another man, Dan, being the most experienced drivers of the group, were picked to race first -- the thought being they'd drive well enough to preserve the cars for at least a couple more races

Unfortunately the first race never got past the opening lap. Marty started the race by cutting the grass around the inside of the first turn, while Dan took the outside lane and passed Marty around turn two. Both cruised easily down the backstretch. But as Dan was coming out of turn four, Marty came around the turn and struck teh driver's side of Dan's car.

Both drivers were OK, and with both cars damaged, the crash meant the end of the B.O.L.D. races for the night. But nothing could’ve broken the drivers’ spirits.

Said Dan after the race: "It is that teamwork that makes it happen. Here’s somebody I have never met before. I’m with the (guide) for a total of three minutes before we start rolling and here we are. He’s put his life on the line. He knows darn well I’m blind, and even if I wasn’t, I’m blindfolded and he’s going for it. He’s got the confidence and that is the biggest sense of accomplishment is that trust level that we both bought into and we went for it. I trusted him. If he would’ve said ‘floor it,’ I would’ve floored it."

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