As a professional race car driver competing in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series, Martin Truex Jr. gets to do a lot of interesting and innovative things as part of his job.
But this Wednesday was special by any standards.
Truex gave rides around Pikes Peak International Raceway to a paraplegic and quadriplegic in a specially designed "adaptive" stock car whose smart glass technology allows drivers a operate a car using head movement.
Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser donated one of the team's No. 78 Chevys to the program and the race team volunteered many hours transforming it with the new technology. Truex flew out to Colorado from Charlotte -- where he'll be competing in Saturday night's Bank of America 500 -- just to participate in Wendesday's Falci Adaptive Motorsports NeuroGroove RaceDay.
It was difficult to tell who was enjoying the experience more.
"What an awesome day to be a firsthand witness to some incredible technology," said Truex. "Life is about giving back and Dr. (Scott) Falci and his partners are doing just that. To see the joy of the individuals I gave a ride to was very inspirational."
One of Truex's passengers, Stewart Lundy, a paraplegic from Denver, Col., considered it a ride of a lifetime, joking, "And he (Truex) gets paid to do this!"
"I need to reassess my life goals. That is probably one them now. I loved every minute of it -- I'm coming down from an adrenalin high."
The technology used in the car can also be used in steering a wheelchair and has the potential of increasing mobilization and independence for many disabled.
"I wanted to add another adapted sport for the spinal cord and disabled population," said Dr. Scott Falci, a neurosurgeon at Denver's Craig Hospital. "Motorsports is a real exciting sport and we're utilizing the No. 78 Furniture Row car as a platform to get involved in a new adaptive sporting event and also getting involved with the NASCAR community."
"The emotional thrill of having Martin and his Furniture Row race car was an uplifting experience not only for the spinal cord injured individuals and their families but for all of our partners who have been passionately working on this new adaptive technology."