When it comes to getting behind the wheel of a race car, few things are going to throw Davey Hamilton for a loop.
At 47, Hamilton is still racing behind 220-mile per hour machines against men half his age and is a sought after commodity in the racing world. But his story is much more than a driving career entering its twilight.
Hamilton holds down a seat for Kingdom Racing, a Christian-based IndyCar Series race team owned by Houston’s George Del Canto. The team, which also runs a car on the supporting Indy Lights series, sponsors ministry events at races and speaking opportunities for Hamilton.
And he has quite a story to tell.
Hamilton suffered a horrific crash on the high-banked oval of Texas Motor Speedway in 2001. The accident resulted in 21 surgeries to repair the extensive damage to his feet from the crash. Determined to return to the sport’s signature event, the Indianapolis 500, Hamilton finished ninth with Kingdom in 2007.
He ran in the 500 the two following seasons and will return this year with an expanded schedule and an eye on the future.
Last month Kingdom joined forces with Luczo Dragon Racing, which in turn has pooled resources with the team of former Brazilian star turned owner Gil de Ferran. The team will be running an up-and-coming Brazilian, Raphael Matos, for a full schedule under Hewlett-Packard sponsorship – not an inconsequential feat during a recession where corporate cash is hard to come by. Matos finished eighth today in the rain-delayed Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
In this arrangement Hamilton will be around to offer his expertise and also race a second car for the team in three races including the Indy 500, and just as significantly personally, at Texas.
“Honestly, I’m a bit shocked to even be with a team that has an opportunity to run a full schedule at this point in my career,” Hamilton told Everyday Christian during a telephone interview. “Being a racer is a big part of my life, but I wouldn’t drive if I was going to be considered the weak link on the team.
“After the accident and injuries, I still have a hunger to drive. Road course and street course competitions are more difficult for me because of the footwork involved.”
Going through the rehabilitation process was understandably long and painful for Hamilton. Faith was a key factor in helping recover physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“The thing I really wondered as I went through everything on a daily basis is why all this happened to me,” Hamilton said. “There weren’t answers in the short term. God answered me by putting me in a situation where I have a great opportunity to share my story with people who have had injuries and gone through all other kinds of adversities.
“I want to share with people that things can definitely get better and that so many good things can come out of it. He gave me the talent to get in a race car and to get back in it after my accident. It took a long time for me to see the answers to my questions but He answered them strongly.”
Hamilton is aware racing audiences will have widely varying reactions to his faith-based platform, a fact he is sensitive to.
“It is different every time,” he said. “It depends who it is. God gives you the strength to relate to people that there are reasons for what you are going through. It always surprises me how God is able to help me share my story to make it understandable for individuals or groups I’m speaking to.”
How he relates those experiences back to himself will matter he gets behind the wheel at Texas the weekend of June 5th.
“The last time I ran at Texas it didn’t end so well,” Hamilton said with a chuckle. “I’d had some great runs at Texas before and I’ve loved racing there. I’m sure I’ll focus on the positives and feel confident I’ll do well when I go there. Knowing the kind of race it is will hopefully help me focus on what I need to work on and keep the other things in the back of my mind.”
Hamilton’s communication skills are a significant part of his life away from ministry. He is a regular commentator on IndyCar Series races as part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway broadcasting network. Once his behind the wheel days are over, a full-time career behind the microphone or an aspect of team ownership could be in the works. He is curious to see what is in store next.
“Right now I feel like a kid in high school who is not sure what direction his life is going to take and what he wants to do when he grows up,” Hamilton joked. “I really do enjoy the radio so much and there so many good and talented people around me. I would love to get involved with a team whether as a team manager or with ownership. I definitely look forward to taking on whatever opportunity God gives me to explore next.”