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Daytona Survivor Sheltra Is Driving Again

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 9 2009

Patrick Sheltra had a Speed Weeks to remember.

Patrick Sheltra had a Speed Weeks to remember.

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Some comeback stories are almost too good to be true. Patrick Sheltra’s falls in to that category.

His saga begins at Daytona International Speedway back in February, where he competed in the 200-mile ARCA race.

ARCA races at Daytona can be risky ventures as relatively inexperienced drivers take on one the fastest and most challenging tracks in motorsports.

At speeds similar to those run by NASCAR’s elite drivers, there’s little room for error, and even the most talented drivers – in Sprint Cup and other circuits sometimes wind up in nasty wrecks.

Sheltra had a strong run going but was collected in a horrific wreck in the closing laps. It was one of those brutal, car-crushing impacts that cause many in attendance to utter silent prayers and TV producers to hold off on replaying the crash footage.

Sheltra and the others involved survived, thanks in large part to the safety innovations put in place in the eight years since one of stock car racing’s greatest drivers, Dale Earnhardt, did not survive a similar crash on the same track.

Despite a compressive fracture of the fourth vertebrae and dislocated knee cap, the 22-year-old Indiantown, Fla., native vowed to make the next race.

Last Sunday, he did just that, returning to competition at Salem Speedway, the tricky and challenging short track in Indiana. It was there that he completed one of the best comeback stories ever as he scored his first career ARCA triumph, surging from 12th position after his final pit stop.

“I said going into Salem it would be a perfect Cinderella story if we were able to come out of the box knowing what happened at Daytona in February and win,” Sheltra said. “We backed up everything we said and more.

“As a team we shifted our focus on winning races and making our equipment safer.”

He also acknowledged just how serious his Daytona accident was.

“I know that I am a lucky,” he said. “I know that my career could have been over with. But, I’m here today. We’re winning, and we have a lot in-store for the rest of the season.”

This week, Sheltra has been back tackling the same style of racing that nearly ended his career. He’s participating in a test at Talladega Superspeedway, and the results so far indicate that the Daytona experience hasn’t slowed him a bit. His No. 60 Dodge topped the speed chart in Wednesday’s afternoon session with a speed of 185.686 miles per hour. The test is set to continue today.

“I’m approaching the same type of restrictor plate racing for the second time in two months,” he said. “I’m not going to hold back. I think we proved that the Daytona race didn t hinder us. We have a great team and great marketing partners who believe in us. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and try to bring home more trophies and clutter our shop with checkered flags.”

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 9 2009
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