What’s in the Future for This Man of Speed – Craig Hairston?

Editor’s Note: The last place you expect to see a paraplegic is inside a racecar, often running well over 100 mph and competing against able-bodied racers. But that’s exactly where you’ll find 58-year old Craig Hairston of Blythewood, South Carolina. If you know the man, you won’t be surprised at all. Before his automobile accident in 1982, he was a 100-percent adrenaline junky who enjoyed skydiving, scuba diving and especially motocross racing. His love of speed easily would pass all boundaries of what many would call normal. He also decided after his accident that his wheelchair never would define him. As he says today with a smile on his face, “There’s no handicapped parking space at the starting line of a drag race.” Part 4 of a 4-part series.
Meet Craig Hairston: Drag racer, parachute jumper, and scuba diver. He's also a paraplegic.

Meet Craig Hairston: Drag racer, parachute jumper, and scuba diver. He's also a paraplegic.

 
As I get older, I try to move from the perception that I’m, “the guy who races cars and is a paraplegic,” to teaching other people how to enjoy racing. Several years ago, I tried to form a nonprofit to build two seater racecars to let youngsters with disabilities sit in the front seat as the driver. I’d ride alongside them as a co-pilot. The cars had 20 to 30 horse powered engines, so they would reach speeds between 40 and 50 mph. We wanted to let the kids have a race day experience at the track.
 
I worked on this nonprofit, and we had a lot of people involved and willing to help. I was very excited about this idea until a lawyer told us that if one of the youngsters got hurt, we would all get sued. He said to not even think about letting them in the racecars.
 
After 2 years of preparation and hard work, the lawyers shut us down. Once I realized I couldn’t do what I wanted, I moved forward by giving handicapped youngsters and adults a different type of race day experience as a part of my pit crew. I’ve done well in racing, and I love it dearly. I’d really enjoy sharing that experience with other people who have disabilities. I have a soft spot in my heart for youngsters under 21 who are in wheelchairs because I know that it can be an uphill climb for them. However, their coming out to the racetrack with their families and being a part of my official pit crew means they will see a race and be a part of a racing team. I already have a sponsor who said I can have as many t-shirts as I want for the pit crew. The t-shirts will have the handicapped and helmet logos.
 
Craig's logo shows that people in wheelchairs can race too!

Craig's logo shows that people in wheelchairs can race too!

In 2012, I’d like to meet with the track owners and find out where I’ll be racing, tell them what I’m doing and ask them to let my official pit crew and their families into the race. Since this will be a cool story about a paraplegic racecar driver and his handicapped crew, TV stations and newspapers can cover the event, which helps the track owner and the pit crew sponsors. The focus of the story will be on the handicapped kids as a part of the pit crew. If anyone with a disability wants to go racing with me, I want him or her to join my crew and be official. That way, no matter how I run in that race, they will share in the victory or the defeat.

The goal is for the kids to enjoy the race and for everyone to see how I have adapted my car so a guy in a wheelchair can race just like anybody else. I want them to see that disabilities shouldn’t keep them from doing anything they want to do – even becoming a racecar driver. They will see that I don’t receive any special treatment. There is no guarantee in racing, just like there is in life, but we can all compete. I want them to see that on a racing track there’s no handicapped parking spaces. Everyone is equal, and everyone wants to win.

Craig's drag car is adapted for handicapped drivers.

Craig's drag car is adapted for handicapped drivers.

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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2 Responses to What’s in the Future for This Man of Speed – Craig Hairston?

  1. Pingback: Paraplegic Craig Hairston Participates in the Baja 1000 « UroMed Catheter Health Blog

  2. Pingback: Paraplegic Craig Hairston Participates in the Baja 1000

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