Kyle Keck loved watching NASCAR races on TV, but then a few years ago, his father, Russ Keck introduced him to the sport of drag racing.
Kyle, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheel chair, didn’t realize at the time how drag racing would change the path of his life.
“My dad was a big contributor of getting me involved in drag racing,” said Kyle who lives in Tulsa. “I believe it was back in 2008 and he wanted me to watch it on TV. I watched drag racing for awhile and my dad said ‘OK I think it is time to take you to one.’”
The Kecks left their home and headed to the NHRA national event in Topeka, Kan., in March of 2009.
“This was my first taste of NHRA drag racing at its finest,” Keck wrote on his website kylekeck.com. “I cannot begin to describe the sound and what your body feels, it is totally indescribable, it is something you just have to experience for yourself to get the full effect. I knew then I was hooked on the sport.”
Then on April 9, 2010 at Houston, Keck’s love for the sport resulted in him forming an improbable friendship Tony Zizzo and his son T.J. Zizzo, the owner and driver of Team Zizzo Racing’s Top Fuel team.
“Tony asked me if there was anything he could do for me,” Keck describes on his website. “I asked if I could ride in the tow vehicle. With everything Tony was busy with, he found the time and the means to allow me to go in the tow vehicle. I cannot describe how this made me feel to actually experience this! Once back at the pit the team asked me if I would like to be a part of the team, OMG are you kidding me right now! How could this be happening?! I immediately thanked God for letting this amazing event unfold! The emotions I felt were indescribable and can honestly say I felt I had NO disability! This is when I knew this is what I wanted to do! This was my passion.”
When Keck came back to Houston in 2011, his mission in life became clear.
“It was during the night qualifying session that I saw T.J. become the No. 1 qualifier at 3.88 seconds at 318 mph for the first time in his career,” Keck said on his website. “I remember “high fiving” him and both of us excited and overwhelmed and saying “yes” “yes” “yes” probably 30 times. What I realized at that moment was that I could encourage others to be successful, even with my disability! What became clear to me was a simple message…Be passionate about what you love and help others be successful.”
T.J. Zizzo showed the true level of his friendship for Kyle when he drove 12 hours to Broken Arrow, Okla., to be a surprise guest for Kyle at his high school graduation on May 19, 2011.
“That was the best day in my life for sure,” Kyle said.
Zizzo was just thrilled he could make Kyle’s big day even more special.
“Kyle was a typical teen-ager he didn’t like high school and I helped talk him into finishing high school and graduating,” Zizzo said. “It was awesome to surprise him at his graduation. It was really cool. He didn’t expect it and my mom and I drove 12 hours down there and it was a lot of fun to spend time with Kyle and his family. I remember one time I was mad when I had a redlight in Houston. I was explaining to him how badly I felt and he was like T.J. ‘It is going to be just fine.’ and I’m thinking to myself, things are going to be just fine. This isn’t the end of the world.”
In addition to Zizzo, Kyle has now formed friendships with a Who’s Who list of NHRA drivers through Facebook and Twitter.
“I’m friends with Erica Enders, Steve Torrence, Vincent Nobile, Allen Johnson, Courtney Force, John Force, the list just goes on and on,” Kyle, 20, said. “I’m posting on Facebook and Twitter all of the time.”
Zizzo is thrilled Kyle has so many new friends.
“I just hope he remembers who T.J. Zizzo is,” T.J. said with a laugh.
Kyle said he isn’t attending any more NHRA national events this season, but he is going to fly for the first time to attend the California Hot Rod Reunion at Auto Club Famosa Raceway in Bakersfield Oct. 19-21.
“This is the first time I will ever fly and I’m really looking forward to this event,” Kyle said. “I will teach these drivers (at the Hot Rod Reunion) all they need to know about Facebook and Twitter.”
Kyle said he is hoping to attend 12 NHRA national events in 2013.
“It is all in the Lord’s hands and if I am meant to go to 12 races, he will get me to 12 races,” Kyle said.
To learn more about Kyle, visit his website at kylekeck.com.
“I will be a drag racing fan the rest of my life,” Kyle said.
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