Challenge SPORT

Leg crushing crash

Davey Hamilton drives
Davey Hamilton drives the #44 Hewlett Packard Dallara Honda during the IRL IndyCar Series 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 22, 2009 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

For many years, Davey Hamilton worshipped the sport of auto racing. "Racing really was my god. Racing was what I strived for, what I lived for," he says. "If it wasn't on my mind, thinking about what my next step was, or what my next ride was, dominated my thinking or, 'What do I want my next uniform to look like?' or 'Who is my next sponsor?' "

"When I was two years old, my dad started racing and I kind of followed in his footsteps from that point," he says.

Like many young drivers, Davy set his sights on the Indianapolis 500 early in life.

"That was my goal, knowing that only 33 drivers a year make that race," he says.

When Davey was a young man, a co-worker led him to faith in Jesus Christ. "A guy that I worked with at my dad's company was a believer, and you know, you talk all day at work. I would just listen every day, and it just really opened my eyes. So I went to church, made a commitment of my life to Jesus Christ and got baptised."

It just may
not get
right then.

For much of his adult life, though, racing took priority over his faith. Davey found it more and more difficult to commit to both. He also watched several of his friends die on the track, including his best friend, Billy Yukovich. Billy was killed during a sprint car race in 1990.

"That was a very trying time, when Billy passed away," Davey recalls. "I'll never forget how alone I felt, because he was my best buddy."

Billy's death haunted Davey for the next 11 years. Then, on June 9, 2001, at the Texas 500, Davey's own career came to a skidding halt.

"The guy I was passing got oil on his tyres. He lost control, and I just happened to be on the side of him, at the wrong place at the wrong time," he says. "He caught the back of my car. It turned me around and it flung the car upside down. The poles just sheared off the front of my car, and it left my legs completely exposed to the race track."

Davey's legs were dragged underneath the car for several hundred yards. When he finally came to a stop, the track paramedics treated him and put him on a life-flight to a local hospital. For the next several hours, it looked as though Davey would lose both of his legs.

Davey's doctors were eventually able to save his legs.

"I knew I needed God more than ever before. I was relying on Him like never before," Davey says. "The first few months were pretty intense. A lot of intensive care units, a lot of transplant units. They took muscles and bones out of my hips and knees. There were 21 surgeries within two years' time, and a lot of rehab time. But the doctors were really amazing, what they were able to do with my legs."

During his lengthy recovery, he had plenty of time to think about his life, his faith, and his future in racing. Davey says he also asked God a lot of questions during this time.

"Lying in that hospital, and praying like I did, every day I asked 'Why?' You know, 'Why me?'" Davey says. "I felt like I was living a clean life and my life was in His hands, and I was a believer, and I just couldn't understand it.

"But what I found out was that, everything gets answered. It just may not get answered right then."

Davey Hamilton
Racecar driver Davey Hamilton attends Macy’s and IZOD’s celebration of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 at Macy’s Herald Square on May 25, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)

Davey did not want to give up racing. But he also knew it could no longer be his god. "I said, 'You know what? I'm not finished with this game. I'm down and out, but I'm not finished.' That was part of my drive and my determination, was getting back in a race car. I didn't want my career to end that way," he says.

After his recovery, Davey partnered with George del Canto's organization, Kingdom Racing, which helps racing families going through hardships, hosts music events at racetracks and sends groups to speak about Jesus to individuals during races.

In 2008, Kingdom Racing made history as the first faith-oriented team to compete in the Indy 500, with Davey in the driver's seat. Today, he is their Managing Director.

Davey says God has answered the questions he had about his crash. "There are so many things [like speaking engagements] I wouldn't have the opportunity to do, to reach out and enlighten that one person, or help make somebody a believer. I don't know that I would have had the strength or the opportunities or the know-how to do that if I didn't go through what I went through."

The crash also saved Davey's marriage. "The day of the accident was the day my wife, Tracey, and I had decided to get divorced ... I now know if I did not have that accident and if I hadn't gone through those tough times, my family and I wouldn't be together today."

Davey says now his passion is to share the love of Christ through motorsports.

"Wherever we race, we bring underprivileged kids to the event, and show them behind the scenes, and just give a little bit of love, a little bit of direction, and sit down and talk to the kids and their parents and show them what prayer does," he says. "We've all had tough times in our lives that we were able to overcome through Jesus Christ, and we just want to pass that on."

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