Racecar Driver And Paraplegic Danny Pollock Never Gives Up

Editor’s Note: 34 year old Danny Pollock from Greencastle, Indiana, was born into a racing family. His grandfather and his dad were both racecar drivers and mechanics. Like others in his family, Pollock always dreamed of having a racecar that would finish first as the checkered flag was waving. As a child, he was always involved in racing with speed and courage. Then when life dealt him an unbelievable blow, and he injured his T5 and T6, resulting in his becoming a paraplegic, he refused to give up his dream of the checkered flag and today drives a Class 410 non-wing Sprint car. Part 3 of a 5 part series.

When I first started rehab, my physical therapist told me I’d never race again. While I was there, I met Sam Schmidt, who raced Indy cars. He’d had an accident in 2000 in Orlando when he hit the wall with his neck while racing, and he was paralyzed from the shoulders down. He was a quadriplegic who’d started his own racing team. He’d come to Indianapolis for the Indy 500 with his race team, and always got therapy wherever he went. He was getting therapy at the same time I was, and the doctors and nurses told him that I was a racecar driver. I think that’s why he came to see me at rehab. Sam told me, “Danny, you can do whatever you put your mind to doing.” I told him I was planning on racing and being a driver, once I got out of physical therapy. He wished me good luck and then said words I’ll never forget, “Don’t give up.” Sam encouraged me and continued to call and write me. He told me that I should continue to try and race.

Danny learned a lot about how he could re-enter the world of racing after becoming a paraplegic.

Danny learned a lot about how he could re-enter the world of racing after becoming a paraplegic.

I only spent two weeks in rehab, because not only did I have a spinal cord injury, but I also had a broken arm in a cast and couldn’t wheel myself around. There really wasn’t anything that I could do, or that the physical therapist could help me do. They wouldn’t let me out of physical therapy, until I could transfer from my wheelchair to a bed. Learning to transfer wasn’t easy, since I only could use one arm, but I did learn how to transfer with just one arm. During those two weeks that I was in therapy, I tried to learn all I could about how to get around by myself.

When I finally got the cast off my arm, I went back to physical therapy and stayed at home. About a week after I got home, I started making plans to race again and investigating hand controls to learn what was available for a racecar. However, I couldn’t find any hand controls that I thought would work. I talked to a lot of different people in racing, and I began to brainstorm with them to see how I could adapt hand controls to a racecar. I headed to the races every weekend to talk to the drivers and the mechanics, and I told them what my plans were to get back into racing, and they all encouraged me. They all told me they would do what they could to get me back into racing. A friend of mine who went to Rose Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, recommended a teacher there who might be willing to get his engineering students to work on a project to build a set of hand controls that I could use in a racecar. All of the students voted to take on the task and build the hand controls for me to use in a racecar.

Installing hand controls into racecars would allow Danny to race again!

Installing hand controls into racecars would allow Danny to race again!

Before long they had discovered a set of hand controls that worked on the models they had at school. When we put the hand controls into the racecar, they didn’t really work that well, but they sure got us pointed in the right direction and got us thinking about how we could take their design and modify it to fit in a racecar. Their design had a cable that went down into the master cylinder for braking, but the problem was applying the brakes and being able to squeeze the hand controls and obtain 250 pounds of pressure. When we applied that much pressure, it would snap the cable in two. The students’ hand controls didn’t have hydraulic fluid in the braking system, and when we put that into the design we eventually came up with, the brakes wouldn’t work.

I took the students’ design and the problems we were having to Snyder Enterprises in Indiana. I’d traded my ATV to a guy who had a Sprint car frame and parts and pieces to build one. I had the motor out of the modified car that we’d been racing in, so I sold the motor from it and got enough money to get Snyder Enterprises to build me an engine for the Sprint car. From the beginning of the project, they were interested in me, my car and my strong desire to get back into racing. They not only built my motor, but they also got my Sprint car set up with hand controls to allow me to begin racing again. They were a tremendous help. After they got the engine built and the throttle to work, they decided that my Sprint car was their project. They begin to work on how to get the hand controls to work with the engine. I had an engine for a Sprint car, but I didn’t have the controls to use it.

I decided to start racing Sprint cars, because I didn’t have to worry about a transmission or a clutch. Sprint cars are really fast, and I could design it to have my controls on the steering wheel. Besides, who doesn’t want to drive a Sprint car? Everything came together for me to have the car, and the folks at Snyder Enterprise finally figured out a way to make the hand controls work on the Sprint car with this new engine. I was ready to go racing.

Danny was ready to race after rehab and modifying racecars!

Danny was ready to race after rehab and modifying racecars!

To learn more about Danny Pollock and his racing, visit www.dannypollock.com.

Next: Danny Pollock Gets Back To Racing

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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One Response to Racecar Driver And Paraplegic Danny Pollock Never Gives Up

  1. It’s so wonderful to read how Sam has made a positive impact in someones life. Thanks for sharing your story, Danny!

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