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August 1, 2003

With friends ’ help , deaf driver nears dream

From: Gwinnett Daily Post, GA  - Aug 1, 2003

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When he muscles his 2,300-pound Rocket around the oval track, Jeremy Taylor doesn't listen to the crowd or even to the roar of his 700-horsepower engine.
He can't.
But being born deaf isn't stopping him from pursuing his lifelong desire to become a champion dirt track race car driver.
''I like the speed,'' Taylor said Thursday, through a sign language interpreter. ''I like the feeling of going around the curves.''
Taylor, 23, will pull his dream a little closer Friday night, with a spot in the semi-late model division at the Beckley Speedway. Greatly renovated by its new owner, Powerball jackpot winner Jack Whittaker, the three-eighth mile track is expected to draw more than 7,000 fans for its six classes of races.
Taylor almost didn't get his shot at Beckley, but it wasn't because of his hearing.
Taylor spends his days delivering mail at the state Capitol in Charleston for Gov. Bob Wise's office. As with most of his dirt track peers, he cannot afford to hire a racing team.
But Taylor has made some friends at the Statehouse, including Eric Denemark, executive director of the West Virginia Motorsports Council.
''You can't spend 10 minutes in the Capitol and not meet Jeremy,'' Denemark said.
The two regularly talk racing through e-mail and notes. Taylor told Denemark recently of his lack of a crew.
''They're not going to make pit stops or change the tires or refuel,'' Denemark said of a dirt track crew. ''But when you get to the track, there are lot of things that have to be done.''
Denemark shot out an e-mail to his racing contacts, and soon found a half-dozen or so willing to help.
Taylor will find more than a crew when he arrives at the track. A South Charleston company, Dynamic Graphics, is providing ''Jeremy Taylor Racing'' T-shirts for the crew, courtesy of the council. A receptionist for Wise, Lisa Aomoroso, will serve as his interpreter.
''I have until tomorrow night to learn the signs for some of these racing terms,'' she joked.
Denemark said Larry Moore, a three-time world champion and Hall of Fame dirt track racer, will soon be visiting Taylor for a mentoring session.
Taylor said he has loved to watch auto races for as long as he can remember. He began racing in 2001, and drives a car with a steel block engine and frame built by Rocket Chassis of Shinnston.
Taylor can't listen to the engine, but he can feel it vibrate the chassis. Deaf to all but very loud sounds, he does hear cars as they pass.
''I don't think it makes it hard to race, but I don't know any other way,'' he said.
His first race, in Elkins, ended when his car lost oil pressure. But he has plugged along, and has since finished races in the top five.
''I think I've really improved a lot,'' he said. ''My skills are becoming much better.''

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