Race Car Driver Almost Loses Legs, But Not His Faith
CBN.com - 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 was my next ride, it was ‘What do I want my next uniform to look like?’ or ‘Who is my next sponsor?’”
Davey’s father was a racecar driver in Boise, Idaho. When Davey was a small boy, the racing bug bit him, too. “When I was two years old, my dad started racing and I kind of followed in his footsteps from that point,” he says. “I was very attracted to it. I was definitely something that I wanted to pursue.”
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 Christ. “A guy that I worked with at my dad’s company was a believer and was saved, 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, got saved and got baptized.”
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. It was a November race, so it was the last race of the season and it gave me a couple months to really get my hands around what we are doing, and why we are doing it, and the dangers of it.”
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 tires. 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 just 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 elements of 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. “I heard a phone call being made by one of the nurses saying that there was going to be a life-flight coming to Parkland Hospital and it appears to be a double amputee,” Davey says.
For the next several hours, it looked as though Davey would lose both of his legs.
“I woke up about a week later in Indianapolis,” he says. “The first thing I woke up to was my dad, and the first thing I said was ‘I lost my legs, right?’ And he said, ‘No you’re in Indianapolis, and they’re trying to save them and we’re all praying.’”
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 my Lat 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 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 racecar. I didn’t want my career to end that way,” he says.
After his recovery, God opened a door for Davey to partner with George del Canto’s organization, Kingdom Racing. “He told me what his passions were, and what his vision was, and I told him what my goals were and what I had come from, and it just matched.”
Davey eventually did get back in a racecar, and still competes today, but now he sees racing as his ministry. “Before, if I wasn’t racing on Sundays, I was traveling to the next race or traveling home on Sundays. It took you away from the church atmosphere and hearing the Word,” he says. “What’s changed so much from when I started racing to today--and this is one thing that Kingdom Racing has brought in--is church is at the track now.”
Davey says God has answered many of the questions he had about his crash. “Whether it’s a speaking engagement to encourage people to do what they love, and follow their passion; if it’s going to a church to speak to people about my story and the recovery that I came through; no matter what it is, there are so many things 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,” he adds.
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.”