By David Ford
Once involved in a near fatal car accident that left him severely injured, Jimmy Weller III, a graduate of Liberty High School, worked tirelessly to return to the sport he loved.
Born and raised in Hubbard, Ohio, Weller had childhood aspirations to become a professional baseball player, but a shoulder injury during his young teen days derailed those dreams. When he was 15, Weller fell in love with racing and wanted to become a professional race car driver. His role model quickly became Dave Blaney, a NASCAR driver and resident of Trumbull County.
Weller started his career in Big-Block Modified races near his family’s steel business in Liberty. Eventually, Weller traveled down to Charlotte, North Carolina, to participate in a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. During that race on Oct. 13, 2004, his life and his family’s life changed forever.
While racing in a United States Auto Club sprint-cup race, Weller’s car flipped several times, causing his car to crash. His body was thrown into the catch fence, where he laid motionless.
“Luckily, the accident took place where it did,” Weller said. “The paramedics had a lot of experience since a lot of accidents occur on the dirt track. If they hadn’t acted as quickly and resourcefully as they did, I would have died.”
The accident left Weller with a broken neck, back, several facial fractures and two collapsed lungs. He was quickly transported to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he spent seven weeks, two of them in a coma and one extra in the ICU. After those seven weeks, he returned to his home in Hubbard.
“I was in a coma for the first week, and they kept me induced for the second,” Weller said. “The doctors only gave me a five percent chance to survive, and less of a chance to walk again if I survived.”
Weller’s story touched the NASCAR community, especially drivers such as Dave Blaney (his childhood hero and mentor) and Carl Edwards, who were on hand to lend support to Weller and his family. Dave Darland, who was involved in the race that Weller was injured in, also offered his support.
“It was special to receive the support that I got,” Weller said. “Years later, Carl Edwards shouted my name at one the races. It was a special feeling being recognized like that.”
The road to recovery was not easy by any means. According to Weller, the rehabilitation was physically and emotionally difficult for him and his family, but he was able to defy the odds against him.
“I had to basically learn how to walk again,” Weller said. “I also had to learn to communicate a certain way again. It was an extremely difficult time, emotionally and physically.”
In 2005, Weller enrolled as a business major at Youngstown State University, but eventually dropped out to focus on his recovery and racing.
Luckily, friends and family were there to provide support and guidance. With hard work, determination and support from loved ones, Weller returned to the track in 2006 at Sharon Speedway.
Weller continued to race in the NASCAR XFinity Series, as well as the Truck Series. His proudest accomplishment came in 2014, where he got to race at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
“I made it. I was living the dream,” Weller said. “There was a rain delay before the event took place, so it allowed me to soak it all in. It felt great.”
Looking back, the accident gave Weller a whole new perspective on life. He now participates in limited events while working at his father’s business in Liberty. Weller also works as a motivational speaker, offering support and advice to people around his community.
“It’s great being able to tell my story. It shows people that you can overcome any obstacle in life.”