Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Sports

Riverview's Ehrgott races at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH — A horrific 2009 injury nearly ended Ricky Ehrgott's dreams of becoming a professional race car driver, but today the Jesuit High graduate will compete at Daytona in the midst of a miraculous comeback.

The former sprint car driver will race the No. 16 Coulter Motorsports Chevy in today's ARCA opener, the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

In Friday's qualifying, Ehrgott was seventh-fastest among 40, and was the fastest rookie.

"It's hard to describe actually," said Ehrgott, who grew up in Riverview. "You try and explain to people how it feels. You've got that nervous anxiety before the race, and you're not sure what's going to happen. It's kind of dual feeling, I guess. I'm excited, but I'm also at the same time very anxious and focused on my job in the car when I get in there."

Now 25, he began his racing career as part of the Ford Focus Midget Series, then progressed through the ranks. But a 2009 accident in qualifying at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in a dirt midget changed everything.

Ehrgott hit a rut that sent his car flipping about 30 feet in the air. He was knocked unconscious, and awoke 45 minutes later at a hospital surrounded by medical personnel and unable to name the president. He later learned he had an artery that was torn 70 percent from the base of his neck to the top of his skull.

"I've been in the racing industry 40 years, and I've dealt with many drivers and seen drivers that recovered from injuries in different stages, but no one that ever had an injury as life-threatening or serious as Ricky's was," said Larry Curry, his manager, whose former drivers include NASCAR star Tony Stewart.

It got worse. Three months later, Ehrgott developed an aneurysm. He was 21.

"I didn't know what to think," Ehrgott said. "I think I was so young, and I think when you're that young, you kind of feel like you're invincible. I didn't realize the severity of it until after it was all done, healed up, and I sat down and really thought about it. Then I was like 'Wow, that was really close.' "

Ehrgott had surgery in which doctors removed a vein from his leg and put it in his neck. Because the aneurysm was at the base of his skull, doctors had to dislocate Ehrgott's jaw and remove nerves from his face.

"I couldn't move my cheek or anything like that," he said. "That's been the hardest part of the recovery, the nerves growing back. It's really, really painful, shooting pain through my face because of the nerves that are growing back in my face. I'm still in recovery. My face is a lot better, a lot of the nerves have grown back. It's still a little soft on the right side, but it's much better than it was."

During his recovery period, he worked on his degree in economics from Fordham University and graduated in December. But Ehrgott's love for racing never wavered.

Fellow driver Tom Hessert encouraged Ehrgott to attend a racing school and driving contest operated by Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway owner Andy Hillenburg. A two-time ARCA 200 winner, Hillenburg's school conducted the Fast Track Blue Collar Challenge in June.

Ehrgott won among 50 drivers, and went on to make his ARCA debut Aug. 11 at the Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich., where he finished 16th.

"Keep in mind, he hadn't competed in three years," Curry said.

With Curry's help, Ehrgott is trying to secure enough sponsorship to run the full 21-race ARCA schedule. He hopes this will be the beginning of great things along his long comeback road.

"I've had some influential people say, 'You've got some talent, you just need someone to help you make it,' " Ehrgott said. "I believe we're going to get this worked out."

NASCAR: Matt Kenseth triggered a five-car accident in the opening practice for tonight's nonpoints Sprint Unlimited race. Kurt Busch's No. 78 Chevrolet sustained the most damage, forcing his Furniture Row team to switch to a backup car for tonight.

NHRA: Tony Schumacher led Top Fuel qualifying and was uninjured when his parachutes failed to open at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. He had a 3.758-second run at 328.14 mph before his car stopped in the sand trap at the end of the track. Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also led their classes.

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Information from Times wires was used in this report.

. fast facts

Sprint Unlimited

Fan voting closed Thursday on the format for tonight's Sprint Unlimited (formerly known as the Bud Shootout) at Daytona International Speedway. The three segments will be 30 laps, 25 laps and 20 laps. Other parts of the format will be determined today. Fans can vote at nascar.com or with the NASCAR mobile app on the type of pit stop to be made after the first segment, and the number of cars to be eliminated after the second segment.

Comments
Former Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar “progressing well’ after surgery

Former Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar “progressing well’ after surgery

As former teammates with the Rays and throughout baseball share thoughts and prayers, RHP Danny Farquhar is "progressing well" in a Chicago hospital after suffering a hemorrhage caused by a brain aneurysm on Friday.The White Sox on Monday released th...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 23

Monday’s scoreboardBaseballCanterbury 10, Citrus Park Christian 0Northeast 12, Countryside 5
Updated: 3 hours ago

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBaseballTwins at Yankees6:30 p.m.MLB; 1040-AMRays at Orioles7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Dodgers10 p.m.FSFCollege baseballCoastal Carolina at North Carolina6 p.m.ESPNUMississippi at Mississippi State7 p.m.SECCreighton at Nebraska7:30 p.m.Big ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

ST. PETERSBURG — Absolutely, Alex Cobb was saying over the phone, it's going to be weird pitching Tuesday against the Rays.The organization that he owes so much for rearing him since high school, standing by him through assorted injuries, enabl...
Updated: 4 hours ago
The key to the Lightning’s success

The key to the Lightning’s success

This is quite the run the Lightning is on over the past five years.A playoff appearance in 2014. A trip to the Stanley Cup final in 2015. A return to the Eastern Conference final in 2016. A near-miss of the postseason last season. And now back in the...
Updated: 6 hours ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Brooke Blankenship and Luca Tresh

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Brooke Blankenship and Luca Tresh

Brooke Blankenship, Academy at the LakesAcademy at the Lakes knew it would be difficult to manufacture runs during last week's anticipated matchup with Land O'Lakes and Gators ace Callie Turner.So the Wildcats decided to steal a run.This wasn't any h...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Shaquem Griffin on TODAY show: ‘I’m not limited to nothing’

Shaquem Griffin on TODAY show: ‘I’m not limited to nothing’

Shaquem Griffin's ability to play football without a left hand has made him the talk of the NFL draft. But the former Lakewood High and UCF star is determined to silence such talk with his play."It gets tiring," Griffin said today...
Updated: 10 hours ago
HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings for Tampa Bay

HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings for Tampa Bay

1. Sunlake (22-1)Up next: Wednesday vs. Clearwater-Northeast winner (7A-10 semifinals)The buzz: The Seahawks beat Anclote, Gulf and Zephyrhills last week to extend their win streak to 16, currently the longest in the area. Sunlake has been dominant, ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Late-round NFL draft picks are often made on a wing and a prayer.The Bucs' fourth-round pick Saturday will be no different. The team announced Monday that as part of the NFL draft TV broadcast, the team's fourth-round pick will be delivered to an ann...
Published: 04/23/18
Projecting where USF’s prospects will get drafted

Projecting where USF’s prospects will get drafted

For all the analyses and hypotheses, all the Mels and McShays, all the pro days and private workouts, the NFL draft remains a crap shoot at its core.But just for kicks, we're rolling the dice anyway.As a prelude to what could — could — be...
Published: 04/23/18