Friday, July 17, 2009
I Love This Kind Of Story & So Will You
Tollett goin' racing again in Hill Climb
July 16, 2009
For someone not inclined to sit and wait, just getting out of his wheelchair and into a time attack car competing in the 87th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this Sunday was success enough for co-driver Travis Tollett.
Tollett, 24, is two years removed from a spinal injury suffered during a race.
He is the first quadriplegic to compete in the Hill Climb, race officials said.
Tollett navigates for the lead driver, Ken Stouffer of Texas, by reminding him how to handle each turn.
The race, Tollett’s second as a co-driver in a hill climb, is another step toward what the Walters, Okla., resident hopes is a full recovery.
“I wasn’t going to sit back and wait for it to happen,” he said. “I kept working and starting rehabbing.”
He soon gained a lot of motion back in his arms. He’s unable to make a fist and is numb from the chest down.
Tollett refuses to give up racing, which has been part of his life since age 3. His father, Mike, will race a quad 500 (ATV) this weekend.
“You miss it when it’s taken away from you, that’s for sure,” Tollett said.
His return in 2008 to compete in the Gold Camp Hill Climb was along the same route where he was hurt.
“I wanted to get back on that course,” he said. “I was healthy enough physically and it helped the healing process. I then got the itch to try the Peak.”
Hill Climb officials were cautious, getting approval from the insurance company, and adding a few stipulations.
Stouffer’s car, a 1997 Nissan 240SX, needed extra padding and its emergency shutoff and extinguisher switches moved so Tollett could reach them if Stouffer was unable after a crash.
Once that was done, officials were happy to accommodate Tollett.
“We felt it was something we needed to do,” race director Phil Layton said. “He’s a heck of a kid.”
The third and final practice run Thursday was the best for the Nissan, a hot pink No. 22 in honor of Stouffer’s mother, Patti Davis, who is a breast cancer survivor. The improved practice run has Stouffer and Tollett, a graphic designer who sketched out the paint job, hopeful they can be competitive.
“We have to be realistic,” Stouffer said. “We have (record holder) Rhys Millen in our class with his $1 million car against a car I built in my garage. We just want to make the summit.”
Getting into a car is triumph enough. Sponsorship for a car with another driver evaporated. As recently as Monday, it looked like Tollett would not compete.
But Tollett isn’t one to sit back and wait.
“For a month we’d talked about how there were sponsorship troubles. So he jokingly asked me to save him a seat,” Stouffer said. “Since our class requires we have a passenger seat anyway, we just added a seat pad and window net just before tech inspections (Tuesday). It all came together.”
And the rest will be Hill Climb history this weekend.
Travis Tollett’s C6 and C7 vertebrae were broken July 1, 2007, when he missed a turn on his all-terrain vehicle and went over the side during the Gold Camp Hill Climb race near Victor.
“I don’t remember any of it,” said the three-year hill climbing veteran. “I must have been going 80-90 miles per hour and it was a pretty big drop, like the ones around here (Pikes Peak).”
EDIT; Travis Tollett became the first quadriplegic to compete in the Hill Climb and complete the course when he and co-driver Ken Stouffer placed fourth in the time attack 2wd division.