Photo: Gary Himes/Firebird Raceway

Reporter tells inspiring story of man who overcame paralysis to drag race again

Leave a comment

If there’s one thing we at MotorSportsTalk love to read and write about, it’s drivers who overcome adversity, particularly those conquering physical challenges.

On Friday, Rachel Roberts of the Idaho Statesman had a great story about one such driver that we wanted to pass along.

Roberts tells the tale of Idaho drag racer Aaron Marcum, who was left a C6 quadriplegic after a fall off his cabin deck on August 21, 2016. Even though he fell just three feet off the deck, Marcum landed on his chin, which led to the paralysis and Marcum trading his car for a wheelchair.

According to Roberts’ story, fortunately Marcum did not sever his spinal cord and after months of grueling physical therapy that helped him regain some feeling and movement in his arms and legs, Marcum was able to regain some independence by being able to drive a van on the street specially outfitted with hand controls for acceleration and brakes.

But there was one thing Marcum missed greatly: going down the quarter-mile. So, after some adjustments to the van, he raced it down the quarter-mile at Idaho’s Firebird Raceway last October to see how he’d fare.

The results were encouraging, but more importantly, it was very clear the fire still burned greatly inside Marcum, 39, prompting the Meridian, Idaho resident to go all-in on his drag racing comeback, and for Roberts to tell the inspiring story.

“At one point I thought when I got injured that I would never race again,” Marcum told Roberts. “Then I just always kept very upbeat about my injury. Every little thing was motivating. My toes started to move, my foot started to move. Now my legs move.”

Marcum shifted from the van to a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck near the end of last year’s racing season, then spent the winter tweaking it to be more competitive and win-worthy.

And win Marcum did in a big way this past Thursday at Firebird Raceway in Eagle, Idaho (near Boise). Roberts reported how he captured his first four elimination rounds and reached the quarterfinals in the Bracketeer class on the opening day of Firebird’s 47th annual Pepsi Nightfire Nationals.

“I’ve raced every points race that they’ve had out here since (the start of this season),” Marcum told Roberts about racing at Firebird Raceway. “So that’s every other weekend or every two weekends, which is perfect for me.”

Roberts’ story also includes a video of one of Marcum’s winning passes.

Prior to his accident, Marcum had success in several NHRA local and national events, including winning several Super Gas and Super Comp races on the national level.

He’s currently ninth of 22 drivers in Firebird Raceway’s Super Pro points standings.

As Roberts said in her story, “Not bad for someone who thought he’d never race again.”

We couldn’t have said it better – or agree more.

Click here to read Roberts’ full, inspiring story of Marcum and his return to drag racing.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

Leave a comment

One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter