At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 13th and 14th, those of us at BAYCOM and our parent company, OwnersEdge, celebrated a ‘first’. We’re sponsoring a ChampCar Endurance Series® car this year and in its debut race, our six-driver team went 137 laps over 20 hours (10 hours Saturday and 10 hours Sunday) and finished 8th on Saturday and 9th on Sunday.
It was an impressive first-race showing. But what makes this so special is the story behind the team: The team features armed forces veteran drivers. The team, Resilience Racing, was founded by Major Kirk Dooley, a former United States Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) leader and now director of event operations at IMS, and our company’s Director of IT, Jon Winker, a retired U.S. Army veteran Specialist and below the knee amputee.
“When I got injured in Iraq in 2009, I had very limited mobility, which meant I could no longer participate at the same level in the sports I loved—with one exception: Motorsports. When I got onto the racetrack I was distracted from my pain and focused on my mission,” said Winker, Resilience Racing Team Manager. “That kept me going through some really tough times. I’ve seen what motorsports has done for me personally and I want to make it possible for other disabled veterans to have that same experience.”
The marriage of military and motorsports is a natural, according to Winker. Veterans are drawn to the sport because it mimics many of the experiences they’ve had in the military where success depends on teamwork and focus. Plus, there’s an adrenaline rush. The challenge, however, has always been this: For severely injured veterans it’s hard breaking into the sport.
“For some of our amputees and paralyzed veterans, the cars need to be adapted with things like specially designed hand controls that allow them to manage the throttle, clutch and brake from the steering wheel,” he said. “We’re working to develop the technology, but it’s expensive—partly because we want to develop steering wheel controls that are custom built to meet the needs of each driver, and that can be swapped out as each person takes control of the car. Ultimately, our goal is to make it affordable enough so that non-millionaire teams can adapt their cars and race because motorsports is one of the only sports out there that allows disabled participants to compete with able-bodied participants on the same level playing field.”
While the team continues to work on cost-effective adaptive designs and raise money to support the effort, Jon, whose left leg is amputated below the knee, uses a custom prosthetic leg to operate the race car’s clutch. He was one of four veterans and two guest drivers who drove for Resilience Racing during July’sdebut race in the BAYCOM-sponsored car.
The car they planned to drive is the personal race car of Anthony Demonte, CEO of Skip Barber Racing School, who loaned it to the team to ensure drivers had a race-proven car to support the mission and serve armed forces veterans drivers. At the last minute, the team had to prep their second 95 Mustang GT to run the race, due to some issues identified late with the Skip Barber Racing School Car that could not be corrected before the team had to start the race Saturday. The changes showed others what resilience is really about! The second car had not been on the track since 2016 but after hard work all day Friday from the team, it the started and finished the race on Saturday with an 8th place finish and completed enough laps on Sunday to gain a 9th place position.
“BAYCOM’s parent company OwnersEdge has always been very flexible in giving me time off to pursue this,” said Winker. “And BAYCOM is donating two-way radios we’ll need to talk to our drivers during these long races, and offering service support on race day. They’ve been awesome.”
On the Resilience Racing Facebook page, learn more about the team and its efforts to provide a platform for servicemen and women to compete, excel and win in amateur sports.
To learn more about the two-radios and products used by Resilience Racing, contact us today!