Paralysis won't keep driver off the track

Posted: Monday, October 28, 2002

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Ray Pap rota has been in a wheelchair for 17 years. On Friday night, however, the man paralyzed from the waist down will try to make NASCAR history.

Paprota will attempt to make the field for Friday's Georgia Pacific 150 for the Goody's Dash Series at Atlanta Motor Speed way.

If he succeeds, he will be the first wheelchair-bound person to compete in a main event for the 53-year-old series.

The Goody's Dash Series features smaller American sedans. Michael Waltrip and Hut Strick lin are former Dash Series champions who worked their way up NASCAR's ladder from the Busch Series to Winston Cup.

For Paprota, the Dash Series is the pinnacle because it represents years of rehabilitation, planning and preparation. With the help of Danny Bagwell, a 10-year veteran of the Dash circuit, Paprota's car was fitted with compressed air-operated hand controls for the brakes, a cable to operate the throttle like a motorcycle and a clutch system built into the shifter.

If all goes as planned, Paprota will steer his car, operate the brakes, gas and clutch with his hands while trying to negotiate the quarter-mile Thunder Ring track at Atlanta.

hoop fever: Johnny Ben son's car will carry a special paint scheme honoring 100 years of basketball at the University of Kentucky during Sunday's NAPA 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The car is owned by Tom Beard, Nelson Bowers and Valvo line. The oil company is based in Lexington, Ky. home of the Ken tucky Wildcats. Beard and Bowers, however, are staunch University of Georgia supporters.

To complicate matters, Ken tucky plays Georgia on Saturday in football.

''We like our Kentucky partners at Valvoline so much that we just wanted them to have a win in Georgia on Sunday (at the race) because it ain't going to happen in Lexington on Sat urday,'' Beard said.

BURTON BUSTED: Ward Burton was docked 25 points in the driver standings, Bill Davis was penalized 25 points in the car owner standings, and crew chief Frank Stoddard was fined $10,000 after NASCAR found un approved front springs on their Dodge after Sunday's race at Martinsville, Va. The penalty dropped Burton one spot to 25th in the driver standings.

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