Orville Dahl, a 60-year-old recent Pure Stock driver
from Stockton, got his first taste of racing by sitting in
the stands on the back straight at Stockton 99 Speedway. And
although the stands were torn down in the early 50's, he
remained a die-hard fan. For many years he played the
games of "second guess' and "hind-chair quarterback" to
the Modified, Early Model and Late Model drivers of the 50's,
60's, 70's, and 80's.
In 1987,on his way home with a female friend from a rest-
aurant in Copperopolis, he was hit head-on by a drunken youth
returning from Hot August Nights in Modesto. The crash broke
Orville's ribs, hip, and pelvis, and ruptured his aorta, the
primary artery to the heart. Before emergency surgery could
replace the artery with a plastic hose, blood and oxygen
starvation caused nerve damage and completely paralyzed him
from the waist down.
Although a year of painful therapy resulted in a return
of some feeling to his legs, Orville was destined to watch the
races from a wheelchair.
A mechanic by trade, Orville often wondered why many
drivers could never put together an engine that would last, and
set out to try his hand on a motor of his own for another
driver. He soon decided, "Why should I work for some other guy's
fun when I can work for my own."
With that thought in mind, Orville put together his own
Pure Stocker in 1998 and headed for the track. By this time,
after additional years of rehab, Orville could manage the gas
and brake pedals without the use of hand controls that many
still think he had.
In 1998 he won two-semi mains and a feature, along with
five other main top five's, to finish 7th' in points. Last year
in 23-nights of competition, he notched six-heat wins, three-
dash wins, and three feature wins to finish 3rd in the season
standings. In that two-year span of time and including the
five events to date in the 2000 season, Orville only missed
running or transferring to one A-main event due to problem in
a semi. His season totals to date include three-heat wins, and
three-dash wins, with two-main top five's to boot.
Tests in the off season reveled scar tissue on the plastic
heart tube, a condition that also weakens the connections, and
his Doctor simply told him "One crash, small or big, could kill
Against his Doctors advise, Orville started the 2000 season
but has finally realized that DEVOTING his life to racing is
a far cry from GIVING his life for racing, and that decision
means that Orville will hang the helmet on the hook for the
last time, on a short but inspiring career.
When asked what his racing future would hold he replied,
"I'm not sure." "I may give my son a chance to race the car,
or just be an owner for someone else." "Maybe I'll just go
back to being a fan."
Whatever he decides, the drivers and fans (Especially
this humble scribe), will give Orville Dahl a hardy salute for
his courage and determination, and A JOB WELL DONE.