ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran driver Patrick Sheltra is well on his way to a successful recovery from injuries sustained in the 2009 season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Sheltra was in position to race for the win when a horrific accident on lap 74 of the 80 lap race eliminated the Indiantown, Florida driver from competition.
“Daytona was going to be such a good race for us, but it went the other way in a blink of an eye,” said Sheltra, who still finished 14th. “At Talladega last year, we were leading with a couple laps to go and we knew that we did not want to be in the same position again, so we were setting ourselves and the fans up for a prime finish. We never had the opportunity to really show what we really had.”
Sheltra was running third with six laps to go when contact from behind caused Sheltra to spin. The car slid backwards into the wall, bounced off, and was then broadsided by yet another car.
“I don’t remember much of the accident and that’s probably a good thing,” added the 22-year-old driver. “Thankfully we have great safe racecars and all of the safety equipment did its job and that’s why I’m here talking and will be able to race again. It really looked like the worst but in the end it all came out to be okay as it could be, so I’m really grateful of that.”
Sheltra was transported to Halifax Medical Center where he stayed for two nights before being released to begin his recovery at home.
The car was completely destroyed. “That was a car we bought from Richard Childress Racing that we raced at Daytona last year and finished fifth with at Talladega last October. We brought it back to Daytona as a Dodge and were real competitive with it. Not a big surprise. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything we could do with the car when it returned to the shop; it was junk. We just bought another speedway car, so we’ll be in good shape when we go to Talladega in April.”
Marching forward, the Sheltra Motorsports team is continuing to move past the incident and preparing to build more fast cars with focus remaining on the big picture – the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship.
“I wouldn’t trade my guys for anything in this world. I woke up Sunday morning (the morning following the accident) in the hospital and there they all were. It was such a great feeling. This racing thing is supposed to be about teamwork. My guys are a true definition of that word in every sense of the way. I’ve been talking to them almost every day and we’ve been talking about how we can make our cars and our team safer than it already is and most importantly concentrating on what we need to do to win races.”
As for the Rockingham open-test on March 14, Sheltra is excited to get back in the driver’s chair. “The doctor’s were very pleased with the way the healing process has been going, so they’ve cleared me to go to the test. The boys are pumped up about it and I can’t wait to get back in the racecar. Our goals are firm, make sure I’m comfortable inside the car and make sure our car is good enough to win the race. Rockingham Speedway is an important piece to the ARCA puzzle this year; it can be the track that decides the championship, so we have to make sure we have a car that is capable of winning and leading laps. That’s our main objective.”
Because of the accident, Sheltra is turning his attention more and more to the subject of safety.
“There’s no doubt the accident woke me up,” Sheltra admitted. “I’ve always been big on safety but this rises me to a new level. I’m thinking all the time about ways to make racing safer not only for me but for my competitors too. I know I’m lucky to still be here.”