In March 2012 at the Alabama Dragway, Dan Parker was at the wheel of his Pro Mod Chevrolet Corvette as he had been many times before, but this run saw the car veer hard into the retaining wall. The front end disintegrated and the force of impact cost Dan Parker his sight. In the blink of an eye his racing career was over and his life would never be the same.
Six months after the accident, feeling depressed and with thoughts of suicide floating through his head, Dan awoke from a dream. In that dream, he was competing at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Parker prepared a three-wheeled, 70-cc motorcycle with the help of sponsors and friends, the result was he became the first blind person to compete in the sport. The following year he installed an 85cc engine and set an official FIM record.
Shortly thereafter, Parker learned about Mike Newman, another blind racer who set a blind person land speed record of 200.9 miles per hour in a modified Nissan GT-R. A true racer could never let a goal like that go unchallenged, and so Dan Parker immediately started planning an assault on Newman’s record. His weapon of choice is a modified 2008 Chevrolet Corvette.
With help from an engineer friend at Boeing Phantom Works Dan now has a guidance system based upon GPS signals to keep him on track. Working with race officials, Dan’s team goes out before racing starts and plots the center-line of the course. During his run, if Dan goes one foot off course he will get a tone in the ear corresponding to the side he has gone off course on. The more urgent the tone the more off course he is and if he exceeds 20 feet off course the vehicle will shut down automatically. His crew chief, following along, can also shut the vehicle off if he spots any abnormality.
Dan Parker faces challenges on a daily basis that we sighted people may find hard to even comprehend. One is holding down a job and the other is raising funds for his land speed attempts. Dan machines parts here and there and sells pens that he creates, but it takes a lot of pens to fund a racing effort. Dan is relying on a Go Fund Me page, sponsors, and friends to achieve what no thought possible seven years ago.
- The Bloodhound Land Speed Car saw its paint peel off in a 600-plus-mph test run
- The 1,000-mph land speed record is back on with test runs starting this month