SPARTA — Clad in a red T-shirt, cap and sneakers, Nick Overbey waited patiently Thursday morning for his new set of wheels: a red all-terrain power chair.
Before long, the shy 13-year-old from London was driving a customized power chair worth $28,000 around the Kentucky Speedway infield, meeting NASCAR drivers Jeb Burton, James Buescher and Ty Dillon.
Mary Murphy, Nick's aunt and temporary guardian, quietly filmed her nephew as he learned to navigate his new ride, donated by power chair company Innovation in Motion.
"It means a lot because nobody has ever done anything like this before," she said.
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The drivers gave Nick gift cards and autographed hats. Later, he attended a pre-race drivers' meeting before Thursday night's Camping World Truck Series race.
"Hopefully this wheelchair will bring a little light back into his life," Burton said.
A 2007 car accident left Nick paralyzed from the waist down. His grandmother's car hydroplaned on the highway, causing a tractor-trailer to hit the car, Murphy said. His grandmother died and his cousin and brother were also injured, but not as badly as Nick, Murphy said.
A couple of months ago, Nick was measured for a new chair at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Lexington, but funding wasn't available, he was told. A few days later, the hospital called back with better news, Murphy said.
Nick's new ride can roll through sand and mud, and even over a 4-inch curb, said Melissa Fansler of Innovation In Motion. Special cushions fit Nick's body, and the chair lifts 12 inches so he can see eye-to-eye with others.
"It's more beefy than the standard wheelchair," Fansler said.
Nick said he was excited to get the chair and is looking forward to driving up hills. He's an active boy, winning wheelchair races at school and playing basketball.
"He goes out and plays every day," Murphy said.
The all-terrain power chair, which replaces Nick's manual wheelchair, will help him a great deal, especially at school, where he'll now be able to move up ramps with ease, Murphy said.
"It's going to allow you to be who you are," said Rick Michael, president of Innovation In Motion, as he presented the chair to Nick.