MT. PLEASANT — Charlie Ray Howell of Mt. Pleasant scored his first auto racing victory at North Alabama Speedway (Tuscumbia, Al.) since being confined to a wheelchair.
Howell, who’s win came on April 12 at the Tuscumbia, Ala. track, races to bring awareness to spinal cord injury and osteogenesis imperfecta.
Howell’s story is a little different than most Saturday night racers. Since 2010, he has been confined to using a wheelchair after sustaining a spinal cord injury in an automobile accident.
Howell’s spirit was unbroken, as he was determined to continue the sport he grew up doing which is racing his dirt late model on dirt tracks across the mid-south.
Making the right modifications to adapt his car to be driven by hand controls with the help of another fellow paralyzed race car driver Mark Dowdy, Howell was able to return to racing. After spending the better part of year of adapting and learning the new style of driving, Howell is now a competitor amongst his peers of fellow racers.
Howell entered the 602 Crate Late Model division at the North Alabama Speedway. Having not raced at the track since his injury, Howell was determined to mix it up with his fellow racers.
Starting in the fifth place position in his heat race, Howell set out to make his way to the front of the leader board. Not having raced at the track in over 14 years, Howell was set to make a strong run.
When the green flag waved, Howell was on the move racing in the fifth position in the early stages of the race. When his TNT chassis started to come into its own and track conditions, Howell was able to gain the fourth position and then the third spot.
Holding his spot in the third place in the closing laps and holding off the competition behind him, Howell was in position to catch the front two cars with the first and second place position.
As faith would have, Howell would drop to the low side of the track and pass both cars and take the lead with two laps to go. Being out front, Howell would make no mistake as he would hit his marks on the speedway with the final lap being shown, he would to lead the charge over the rest of the field and capture the victory and his first career win, since being paralyzed.
It’s not all about racing for Howell, he uses his racing career to bring inspiration and awareness to others by spreading awareness about spinal cord injuries and osteogenisis imperfecta.
Howell who is affected by both a spinal cord injury and osteogenisis imperfecta wants everyone to know that no matter what shape you’re in or diagnosis you’ve been handed, that to never give up on life and the dreams you desire.
In his quest to bring awareness, Howell has teamed up with the Osteogenisis Imperfecta Foundation and will be hosting the “Unbreakable Spirit 5K” on Saturday May 24 at the Mt. Pleasant Community Center with registration starting at 8 a.m. and events kicking off at 9 a.m. More information about the “Unbreakable Spirit 5K” is at www.oif.org or by calling (931) 982-5927
With his spirit unbroken and his determination rock solid, Howell’s racing career, bringing awareness to others and the outlook on life there’s no stopping him from inspiring others to push on through what life throws at you.
By JOSH PLANT
Special to the Herald