Veterans return to racetrack circuit in 2020
Working in the pits of the pro bike racing circuit might seem like an odd place to find veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
But Jim Whittum, President of Vet2Track, said being part of a team with a mission can play a great part in a veteran’s recovery upon returning home from deployment.
“Over the past several years, we have put veterans on the track for track days. Last year,
we put our first veteran on an AMA Pro MotoAmerica* pit crew, [and] it was a great success,” Whittum said. “The focus required on the track, or on a pit crew helps them escape their own thoughts, along with the camaraderie of the track and the other veterans, gives them the strength to open up, trust and be able to enjoy something that is completely different than their normal lives.”
This year the selected veterans participating with Vet2Track will work with these MotoAmerica Riders and Teams:
Cliff Ramsdell – First XV Racing, MotoAmerica Twins Class #75
Shawn Hill – Myles Motorsports, MotoAmerica Twins Class #107
Nolan Lamkin – Nolan Lamkin Cycle Gear Racing, MotoAmerica, Supersport #52
Tony Blackall – Blackall Racing, MotoAmerica, Supersport #11
Whittum, a veteran himself, knows the challenges confronting military personnel who experience combat. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, and he returned home struggling. He says the time he spent riding and racing his motorcycle on a track helped him return to feeling more normal.
Whittum founded the Vet2Track organization in 2015 to help veterans use motorsports as a type of therapy.
“We have a growing list of success stories about veterans who have experienced a positive change in the direction of their lives because of their participation with Vet2Track at a track day,” Whittum said. “We are expanding this year, looking to partner with MotoAmerica teams to place Veterans on racing teams. It gives vets an opportunity to see racing from a completely different perspective, it lets them be part of something bigger than themselves.
“Focusing on the team needs, they have an opportunity to forget about their own issues and use the time to clear their minds.”
In 2019 Vet2Track participant, Retired Chief Warrant Officer Lisa Niner, was placed on Shawn Hill’s Twins Cup team at the Pittsburgh race. The goal this year is to have one veteran per race team (currently a maximum of four teams) and have them engaged at a level that makes everyone comfortable.
While each team works with the veteran to develop their own list of duties, these duties often include: putting on and taking off tire warmers, checking tire pressures, fueling the bike, helping to get things to and from the grid, keeping track of time and more. On track or race weekends, Vet2Track provides a place to stay, breakfast and dinner at no charge to the veterans.
The 2020 Vet2Track event schedule includes:
(MotoAmerica races are in bold)
· April 3-5 MotoAmerica at Circuit of The Americas, Austin, Texas
· April 17-19 MotoAmerica at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia
· May 1-3 MotoAmerica at Virginia International Raceway, Alton, Virginia
· May 16-17 Grattan Raceway, Belding, MI – Trackday
· May 29-31 MotoAmerica at Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
· June 1-2 Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – Trackday
· June 5 Grattan Raceway, Belding, MI – Ladies First Track Day
· June 6-7 Grattan Raceway, Belding, Michigan – Trackday
· June 13-14 Gingerman Raceway, South Haven, MI – Trackday
· July 4-5 Autobahn Country Club, Joliet, Illinois – Trackday
· July 11-12 Blackhawk Farms, South Beloit, Illinois – Trackday (tentative)
· July 18-19 Grattan Raceway, Belding, Michigan – Trackday
· August 7 Vet2Track Day – Gingerman Raceway, South Haven, Michigan – Track Day
· August 8-10 Gingerman Raceway, South Haven, Michigan – Track Day
· August 21-23 MotoAmerica at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Indiana
· September 11-13 MotoAmerica at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Millville, New Jersey
· September 7-20 MotoAmerica at Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
Track Day Dates may be added or substituted
“We are proud of how this program has grown and the veterans that it helps,” Whittum said. “As more teams get involved, our ability to help more people increases. The long-term vision is to have racing teams work directly with veterans.”
For more information, donations or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Vet2Track directly at [email protected], go to www.vet2track.org or facebook.com\vet2track.