As race car driver Jimmy Weller emerged from a two-week coma, he whispered something to his mother, Ronnie.
“I’ve got a race next week,” said Weller, who had no recollection of the horrible rollover accident in which he suffered critical neck and spinal injuries.
That was 10 years ago.
Weller, then 18, was racing a non-winged Sprint Car at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway when he caught a rut in the track and flipped seven times before flying into the fence and hitting his head against a support pole.
Weller, with two rods in his back screwed to his neck, spent 18 months recovering before he was cleared to race again — as long as he avoided from Sprint Cars because of how easily they leave the ground.
That led to a long climb up at the stock-car racing ladder, and on Friday night, Weller, a 28-year-old rookie, raced at Kansas Speedway, just the seventh truck race of his career and second this season, where he hit the wall in the backstretch on lap 49.
“It’s in your blood,” Weller said. “I had every intention to go back to racing. It was never an option not to. One of the things that got me going as quick as it did was I worked hard to be able to do it again.”
When Weller, of Hubbard, Ohio, returned to racing in 2006 in big block modifieds, his parents were understandably apprehensive.
“They were trying to get me to slow down,” he said. “My dad actually walked on the track to slow me down a little bit, and I drove around him slow and went quick around the other corner.”
Weller threw a scare into his folks early in his comeback while racing a modified on an Ohio track. His car flipped, and a hush came over the grandstands, except for Weller’s mother.
“Everybody was like, ‘Oh my God. … They knew the whole story about Jimmy,” she said. “The poor lady who went to help Jimmy out of the car, one of the EMTs, was saying, “He can’t talk. He can’t talk.’
“He said, ‘I’ve got my helmet on. … I can talk, you just can’t hear me.’ That’s when I knew how safe he is in these things. That was the initial shock of him getting back into a car. It took me until Daytona this year until I could actually watch him and enjoy it.”
Weller, who finished ninth at Daytona, still has some physical limitations, but nothing that will prevent him from driving in 12 truck races this season and making his Nationwide Series debut last month at Richmond.
“There are things I’ll notice that no one else will, because I know what I could do before,” Weller said. “I can turn my neck so far, but people won’t realize that’s as far as it goes. The aches and pains … there’s nothing to complain about.”