Restart: Racing Helped Steer Recovery From Life Threatening Brain Injury For Dave Secore Jr.


“Stand up
Wake up
I won’t give up
‘Cause here I come, here I come”

Pop Evil – “Trenches”

It was a mid-December day in 2001 when Dave Secore Jr. awoke after nearly a week of unconsciousness following a horrifying workplace accident.

Dave Secore celebrates a DARE Stock division championship in 2013 at Stafford Motor Speedway (Photo: Secore Motorsports)

Dave Secore celebrates a DARE Stock division championship in 2013 at Stafford Motor Speedway (Photo: Secore Motorsports)

Coming back to, Secore was served with the realization that a traumatic brain injury had left him mentally and physically broken.

He had been stripped of the ability to complete some of life’s simplest of tasks, from physical to mental. Walking, talking, reading, writing, they were all things that suddenly Secore had forgotten how to do.

Though one thing that never was forgotten for Secore – one thing he never needed to relearn – was the dream goal set in place when he was child watching his father race at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Secore, a third-generation short track racer, set in his mind as a child that one day he would win a race at Stafford Motor Speedway. And it proved a dream that Secore never allowed to disappear – even through the worst of times – and one that actually helped to fuel a return from devastation.

The 43 year old Secore got his first taste of short track racing at Stafford in the mid-1970’s when his father raced at the track.

“When I got a little bit older, living in Stafford, we would sneak into the track,” Secore said. “Back then you could crawl right up into the corner of the turn three and four wall and stick your face in and watch the race right there and it was kind of cool. Then the track actually put a fence so you couldn’t do that any more.”

Secore got a taste of competition first in Quarter Midgets and then Go-Karts before moving on to Motocross racing.

“And then I got my driver’s license and racing became a thing of the past,” Secore said. “But you know, I always wanted to race at Stafford and that never went away.”

In 2000 Secore connected with his friend Al Rogala and put together his first DARE Stock car.

“Al had a car in a field that had a tree growing through it where the motor would be,” Secore said. “I said, ‘What are you doing with that?’ He goes ‘I’ve had it a for a few years and it ain’t really doing nothing.’ I said ‘I’d really like to go try Stafford with that.’ We looked the rules up and it all fit the rules, we just needed a motor and a [transmission]. We got all the vitals we needed. We put it all together. We were going to go in 2000 but we didn’t want to rush it. In 2001 we got what my friends called the Lead Sled going. But I called that car Bella.

“We went out there in 2001 with no real expectations of what to expect or anything like that. It was just an introduction. We went out there and that first year and I think pretty much tested every barrier and every wall at that track. My third or fourth week we came out of [turn] two and there was two cars making it three wide and I got nervous and climbed the wall. But I fell in love with it.”

Secore and Rogala ended the year with high hopes for improving and running for victories in 2002.

Then everything changed.

“No time to hide
I’m alive on the inside
Breaking up my mind on the front lines
When I survive, when I survive another day”

– Pop Evil, “Trenches”

“It was Dec. 10, 2001,” Secore said. “It was kind of cold out, a little bit of snow and a lot of ice. I went to work, got ready and my boss said he needed me to take a trailer and go to Willimantic. I did that. I was near the old SportsPlex in Vernon. Right there was where I usually switched my cans. I hauled constructions canisters [dumpsters] for USA Hauling.

“I was delivering dumpsters for construction sites. I delivered a can in Coventry and delivered another can in Vernon and then I went and picked two full cans up. When I was locking one of the cans down, there’s a turnbuckle. You see the yellow straps on those big trucks to hold the loads down. One of the turnbuckles on those straps failed. I had a lot of pressure on it. Just as I let go of the bar that locks those straps down the turnbuckle snapped that holds the bar and the bar shot up and hit me in the face and that’s the last thing I remember.”

Five days later Secore regained consciousness.

“They had to wait a few days to do surgery because of the swelling because I had a traumatic brain injury,” Secore said. “I was having trouble talking and doing anything. I was told that had the bar pushed the bone between my eyes and nose the width of a piece of paper further I wouldn’t be here today. It was that close. Doctors had told me it was definitely a miracle I was living.

“I woke up. I knew who I was before the accident. But I could no longer write, I had trouble talking. The frustrations involved with a traumatic brain injury, some of the things that go with it, words can’t describe it. It took who I was as a man. Life as I knew it changed in every way that day.

“After the operation I had trouble with my ability to talk, I developed a sever stutter problem. I had to learn how to walk, brush my teeth, the simplest things. Reading, writing, I had to learn those things. My family, they were my biggest fans and helpers. My daughter Cassandra, at four years old, she was teaching me how to read with the Cat in the Hat. That was my first book I read again after the injury.

“… My wife [Laura] was the main reason for me getting better, pushing me hard and helping me learn again like caring for a third child.”

Recovery left Secore mostly homebound. He said between the accident and being homebound he almost didn’t feel safe anywhere but at home, and consciously made a choice to avoid doing anything outside his home.

“This great divide
Side by side on the inside
Breaking up our minds on the front lines
Never again, never again will I be denied
Here I come”

– Pop Evil, “Trenches”

It was then that Secore’s racing family stepped in, led by Gary Spinnato, a fellow driver and owner of the Rent-A-Racecar DARE Stock team at Stafford Speedway.

“It was over a year later from the accident and I was still having trouble with stuff, still fighting with recovery,” Secore said. “Gary Spinnato was one of my first friends to come and say ‘You need to get out of this house.’ I had been in the house or a whole year basically. He called me one day to check up on me and he came and got me and brought me to his Rent-A-Racecar shop and we just kind of hung out. I was a little nervous being out in the world. I couldn’t walk real good and my sense of being safe was gone. But Gary really just took me and said get out. It made me fight harder. I started getting out. Guys would come get me that I knew in racing and I would go to help guys work on cars and I was learning how to do things again.

“It was the racing family that got me going. Racing guys from Stafford Speedway like Wayne Bellefleur, Joey Ferrigno, Randy Palko, Norm Sears, Wayne O’Neil. The big guys, the small guys, the middle guys, those were the guys that really helped me get out of my house and start living life again. They kicked me in the ass a lot.”

With “Bella” still in the shop, where it was ready and waiting for the 2002 season, Ferrigno approached Secore about driving the car part-time at Stafford in 2003.

“Joey was kind of my first team driver,” Secore said. “He took the car, him and some of his guys blew all the dust off of it and made it pretty and that was kind of my first racing team,” Secore said. “And I really got bit by the bug again with Joey.”

In 2004 Secore’s team competed part-time with Dan King driving and in 2005 Secore had Sears running the car. In 2006 Sears and Secore were rewarded when Sears raced to his first track championship.

“In 2006 we had 18 races and we had 15 podiums,” Secore said. “We only had one win, but the rest of them were seconds and thirds. We just put the pieces together. That’s when I knew as an owner that I could build some stout stuff.”

In 2007 Secore put Don Wood behind the wheel of his car and by the end of the year, Wood had bought the ride and Secore moved on to running his children, Cassandra (now 17) and Tyler (now 15) in Quarter Midgets.

Then in 2010 Secore got clearance from his doctors to race again, and chasing the dream of that win at Stafford began anew.

“I talked to my wife Laura and she said ‘I know how bad you’ve wanted this for 10 years, but you need to buy the best of the best safety equipment.’” And we did that. I had some help, and it took a while, but we got there.

“I raced a few times in 2011 and I found that I liked it. My first race, I got nine laps into the feature and I went from last into the top-10 and we had a right rear tire blow. The car spun out and I piled in in turn four. I destroyed the car. That’s when I found that I hit the wall pretty damn hard and I wasn’t hurt. That was the test right there that I needed or myself.”

But the itch to return had to be ignored in 2012 as Secore struggled with his own trucking business. He eventually closed the business down.

“I’ve waited all my life to get out of the trenches
I’m ready to fight for what I believe you can steal from me
I won’t take this
Gonna fill these trenches and stand up”

Pop Evil, “Trenches”

Late in the offseason between the 2012 and 2013 seasons Secore made the decision to return to the track in his DARE Stock and make a full-time run for the season.

“We showed up to open practice and we had just finished pop-riveting the nose on,” Secore said. “We had no idea what to expect. From there it was on.”

On May 31 Secore scored his first career podium finish as a driver with a third place run. In the next event at the track, on June 14, he scored his first career victory.

“We had one thing in mind,” Secore said. “When we showed up at the [season opening] Spring Sizzler we just wanted to go out and have fun. We knew we could be in contention to win, we just didn’t know when.

Dave Secore in victory lane at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Secore Motorsports)

Dave Secore in victory lane at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Secore Motorsports)

“But winning, that was amazing. I had put my name in the history books at Stafford and got a win. It was a lifelong dream. I knew by then my song was Trenches by Pop Evil. I’ve been waiting all my life to win. I always wanted to win at Stafford and I did it.”

But the fairy tale of accomplishing the lifelong goal wasn’t over. Secore’s fairy tale had an overtime twist left to be played out.

He went on to win another race at the track on Sept. 6 and then won the DARE Stock division championship by a scant six points over Johnny Walker.

In his mind, the wins, the championship, they all played out to make for the perfect ending to the story. After the 2013 season Secore decided he would sell his equipment and walk away from driving.

But when the engines fire at Stafford for the 2014 season, Secore will be back on the track defending his championship.

“I did everything I wanted to do, I was done,” Secore said. “But friends and family of mine said ‘You can’t just walk away.’ I said, if you all want me to do it, we’ve got to find some sponsors.’ I was going to sell the car. My wife and kids didn’t want me to sell it and my friends didn’t want me to sell it. The reason we’re getting it done is because a lot of people have stepped up given me a few bucks here and there to keep it going. We’re back because people want to see me there. But we still need more when it comes to finding some businesses to help sponsor what we’re doing.”

“And I’m going to go back this year because it’s what I love doing and I’m going there to have fun. It’s still a dream for me.”

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  1. David Banta says

    God Bless !!! What a inspiring story , and person..

  2. Laura Secore says

    Dave is truly a remarkable man. He is a fighter, a believer and a determined man. Dave has concurred many challenges in his 43 years, this being the most challenging of all. He is always willing to lend a helping hand and would give his shirt off his back for his worst enemy if they needed it. He still faces daily struggles due to this injury but he always puts a smile on his face and pushes through, he amazes me!

    I am not saying this because he is my husband I am saying this as an inspired woman by his presence in my life. I have seen him struggle, fight and grow into the man he is today. He has inspired me in many ways and has taught me to never give up on a dream and for that I thank you Dave!!!

    Thank you to everyone who took part in someway during his amazing recovery, I will always be grateful!

  3. Sharpie Fan says

    See ya at the bonfire!

  4. Tony Membrino, Jr. says

    Dave has been instrumental in a life changing experience of green horn to champion for not only himself, but for me as well. His persuasion (and maybe some tire money from my father) was what got me in the driver’s seat for my first laps in a race car at Stafford. He also played a part in putting my DARE Stock together. Nearly 7 years after those first laps, looking back at what I’ve accomplished, I can’t help but wonder what might have (or might not have) been had I not taken that car out. I am fortunate to have had the support from the people who have helped propel me to where I am today in my career, and Dave is one of those people. Truly a one of a kind person, and a one of a kind friend. Cheers CHAMP!

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