Back on the track
The date will never be lost in the mind of Jimmy Weller III.
On Oct. 13, 2004, the Liberty High School graduate was running second after a restart at a USAC race when his car hit a rut on the track and flipped. Weller’s head hit a fence board, knocking him unconscious.
Weller remained in a coma for two weeks. Doctors initially gave him a 5 percent chance of survival.
Ten years later, Weller is competing on NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and is making plans for his first race in the Nationwide Series.
Fate, however gloom, apparently doesn’t bother Weller, especially after beating the worst set of odds imagined. He never once thought about giving up his passion after returning from the coma.
“I’m too dumb not to (race),” Weller said. “That’s a part of my life I don’t remember. The first words I told my mom (after the coma) were, ‘I can’t be in the hospital any more. I have to race next weekend.’ “
There’s no way a person can experience what Weller did after the accident without it having a profound effect on his life. There’s a greater appreciation for the good things and a closer relationship to God. Weller wonders why he didn’t have a near-death experience, but he’ll leave that question for another time in his life.
“I have a lot to look forward to now, and I don’t worry about stuff,” Weller said. “I don’t get worked up about a lot of things. It makes you appreciate everything you do.
“When the doctors give credit to Him, then you know. The biggest hing is you don’t take things for granted in your life. People always say it can be gone at any time, and it really can.”
Like most racers, Weller, 28, couldn’t have stepped away from the sport after the accident. Racing began running through his blood when he watched his father, Jimmy Jr., competing locally. The elder Weller is the defending Big-Block Modified champion at Sharon Speedway, where Weller’s racing roots began to sprout.
Weller made his Truck Series debut with five starts last year but plans are for a more active schedule this year. Weller started the season well by finishing ninth at Daytona in the Nextra Energy Resources 250 in his 08 Green Light Racing Chevrolet. He didn’t compete in the recent Kroger 250.
Weller will run in the series’ next race – the SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway. His plan is to compete in 12 of the circuit’s 22 races.
The top-10 finish at Daytona has Weller’s confidence on the rise. His goals, however, remain modest until he can get more time in the seat.
“Just getting better and doing the best we can,” Weller said. “Being the top finishing rookie at Daytona was big. I’m trying to learn as much as I can and build the business up to bring in more sponsorship for next year to go after the championship.”
The mission never changes for NASCAR drivers who don’t have last names like Johnson, Stewart, Busch, Harvick, etc. It’s always about chasing the all-mighty sponsorship dollar during economic times that can be best described as challenging.
“You’re constantly fighting (for recognition),” Weller said. “Even the good guys (did), until they get their name out there. A lot of (Sprint) Cup guys are still struggling.
“A lot of it is who you know. That gets them a foot in the door, and after that you have to have the talent to back it up. I’m not taking anything away from those guys. They’re amazing.”
Weller received some good news earlier this week when he learned that he will drive the 55 Chevy owned by James Dick and Viva Motorsports April 25 in the Nationwide race at Richmond Speedway.
Making his Nationwide debut on Richmond’s 3/4 mile track fits Weller’s style perfectly because of his short-track upbringing.
“I like short tracks growing up on dirt,” he said. “It’s a whole different style than Daytona. We had some of my best runs in the K&N (Pro Series) cars at Richmond.”
The Viva team is attempting to run a full Nationwide schedule with several drivers. A good performance at Richmond could open the door for more races for Weller.
“You really don’t know (when it will come together),” Weller said. “We’re seeing how well we can do. You can run trucks for a living and make a good living.”
The Weller family is part owner for Sharon Speedway with NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, who grew up in Hartford. Weller credits Blaney for helping his fledgling career.
“My dad bought his first car off (Dave’s later father) Lou Blaney,” Weller said. “Dave is the one who got me to move to North Carolina. I’ve worked out of his shop. I’ve stayed at his house and lived out of hotels. The Blaneys have always been awesome to me and my family. He’s always a guy I call to when I have any questions going on.”
The more questions Weller has, the better his career is moving along.