Eric Saunders waited four years for the moment of pure bliss he enjoyed Saturday night at Plymouth Speedway.
Saunders was pursing a motocross career when his dreams came to a screeching halt. On Aug. 29, 2010 Saunders was making practicing runs in the back of his home when he went airborne on his motorcycle and landed incorrectly.
That was the moment when everything changed. He was rushed to Indianapolis where Saunders and his family learned that he was paralyzed.
Racing was all he knew. What now?
It wasn’t until NASCAR driver Tony Stewart called Saunders and asked if he wanted to get into a race car that things began to become normal again. Saunders had been racing for Tony Stewart while pursuing a career in professional motocross and Stewart stepped up to give him another chance.
Saunders’ race car, a 600 sprint car, would be equipped with a steering wheel that would have all of the car’s controls – steering, throttle and brakes. It took some time to coordinate the controls, but Saunders got into his 600 sprint and started to compete in races at his home track, Plymouth Speedway. In just a couple of seasons, Saunders accumulated a few podium finishes.
However that first win remained elusive.
That win would come Saturday during the World Series of Dirt event at Plymouth, four years after his accident.
Saunders showed speed as he won his heat. He would start on the pole for the feature after a redraw. The green flag flew and Saunders was solidly out front. Soon Saunders found himself crossing the finish line first and the four years of waiting and wondering if he could prove that he could win races as a paralyzed driver vanished. He got his first feature win.
His family gathered around his car on the dirt surface and smiles gleamed on their faces.
“It was pretty emotional,” said Saunders. “My dad had tears in his eyes when he said, ‘I knew we’d win together again’.
“I held my line and remained focused the whole race. It was an amazing feeling to win. I want to be able to get back into the rhythm of winning again. We’ll try again this Saturday.”
Saunders, 22, will attempt a repeat win in the Lane Automotive 50 Race of Champions to end the racing activities at Plymouth Speedway for the year.
His overall goal?
“I want to see how far I can go. I’m planning to race a 600 Sprint in 2015 and possibly a Modified in 2016 and we’ll see where it goes from there,” said Saunders.
“I can, I will.”