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At Dover International Speedway, people with spinal cord injuries get a chance to drive

Before NASCAR drivers hit the track this weekend at Dover International Speedway, people with spinal cord injuries Thursday got a chance to drive a race car there where they didn’t need to use their feet. 

A team of scientists have outfitted a two-seat Toyota Camry adaptive race car donated by Furniture Row Racing with a technology called the NeuroGroove. The tech, developed by Denver neurosurgeon Scott Falci and Falci Adaptive Biosystems, allows people with spinal cord injuries to drive with the push and pull of a lever.

“We’re not suddenly going to be able to get people walking out of their wheelchairs, moving their arms, hands, but developing adaptive technology can really improve their lives,” Falci said.

Falci says it’s not the end goal. But, seeing the reactions of several people as they go for a spin with NASCAR’s Martin Truex Jr., you might think so.

“That was amazing, truly amazing!” said New Hampshire resident Ed Clark, one of the people who got to take the car for a spin.

“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” Clark said. “I’m still collecting my thoughts. It just truly is an amazing experience — how quickly those cars get up to speed.”

Zooming around the track with the adaptive race car, Truex Jr. reached an average speed of about 130 miles per hour.

“God you’re coming into that corner and it’s like, he starts to slow down a little bit and then accelerates through it. It’s just wild, the feeling of it is crazy, it was just really fun,” said Kelly Brush, a Vermont resident.

In 2006, a ski racing accident confined her to a wheelchair. But Brush says she hasn’t let that hold her back from sports and other everyday activities.

Brush even got to take the car around the track for a spin by herself. She says now, she wants to use this experience to inspire others.

“There are all sorts of opportunities out there, especially for people with spinal cord injuries and with disabilities generally. There’s a lot more you can do than you think,” Brush said.

Scott Falci said he foresees a future where people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities may only need to wear a pair of special glasses and move their head and neck to race.

“And these glasses have so much technology in it — just magnetometers, accelerometers — things like that, that we can interface head motion with the car, with the steering, with the accelerator, with the braking and so forth,” Falci said. “That’s really the next step.”

The car was tested on the Monster Mile leading up to NASCAR’s fall race weekend in Dover that starts Friday and runs through Sunday.


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