Adaptive Program Helps Wounded Vets Drive Fast at TMS

It’s race week at Texas Motor Speedway.

The track will host NASCAR’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Sunday, capping off a week of racing-related events.

Thursday, the track was open to a group of North Texas wounded veterans.

It’s not every day that Dan French gets to go so fast.

"I'm guessing about 160, 170," said French. "It's just that adrenaline, man. Always chasing that feeling."

French, who joined the Army in 2005, says he’s been chasing it since he was a kid.

"Everything in my life. Chalk it up to everything I've done," he said. "I've always pushed it to the limit."

French was an infantryman in Iraq. When he returned from duty, he suffered a broken neck when a vehicle he was working on slipped off a jack.

French, and several other wounded veterans who undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation at the Adaptive Training Foundation gym in Carrollton, received an opportunity of a lifetime Thursday. They got to drive a real-life NASCAR race car, fitted with adaptive technology.

"Most race car drivers are the same," said fellow Army vet Kevin Trimble. "They want to go really fast."

Colorado-based Falci Adaptive Motorsports created the cutting-edge technology, which allows disabled people to drive the car hands-and-foot free by mere movements of the head and mouth. That enables input to the car’s steering, accelerator and braking systems, according to a Falci news release.

"This experience is life-changing to many," said Dr. Scott Falci, a neurosurgeon who founded the organization. "People get inspired by doing this, it pushes their limits and it's just plain a lot of fun."

Trimble was wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded while serving in Afghanistan. For the triple amputee, speed -- is nothing compared to what he's been through.

"It's sort of getting past the fear," he said. "Where you have the real fun."

It can be hard for these veterans not to focus on what they've lost.

"It's depressing," said French. "You're very limited, so you try to do anything you can."

Which is why this day at the track meant so much.

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