Brian Hanaford recently submitted one of his Accessible Race Cars for our virtual car show and we knew we had to find out more about his story. Check out all the cool things Accessible Racing does HERE!
1) How did you get started in this industry?
Initially, my father, Harold “HardLuck” Hanaford won Ken Squire’s inaugural Milk Bowl and again repeated Wining both the third Milk Bowl and several track championships along the way. He raced in the Permatex 300 back in 1966, Squires aborted the COUPES the next year (Flathead Ford in pic) for cars people could identify with driving down the highway.
Dad came back and crew chief’d for Fred Lapprad, self-made man and owner of Cooley Asphalt Paving. Cooley was a part-owner with Squire at Thunder Road, Squire convinced Lapprad to buy a Buick Skylark from Bobby Allison’s crew chief Lee Hurley and bring the first Buick to Victory Lane. By high school in had enough of washing parts and sweeping floors, started chasing skirts (cheerleaders) earned my own headlines in the paper, and won 10 varsity letters in 12 attempts. I was a runner, it was fast enough to earn the Hershey’s State Jr Olympic Mile Championship in 78 or 79
I got in a car accident that was a game-changer, left me with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and temporarily paralyzed. I’m couldn’t do what was once natural. I slipped into isolation and depression, alienated people with self-pity alienated people…. addiction and suicidal thought followed suite.
I tried the marriage thing and failed miserably, couldn’t even be a good Dad as hard as I tried. Life lessons where always about money and headlines, both were long gone. Nearly 25 years of misery came to a screeching halt just prior to 9-11-01. I was partners in a driving experience with a couple of Busch North NASCAR guys to provide sales incentives for sponsors to position products with sales incentives and reward retail outlets for exceeding sales from the previous year. The sponsorships weren’t as easy to find as expected, I eventually bought out both partners with Mom & Dad’s support.
Eventually, I hit some big sponsorships with Pepsi and Walmart
I was proud and wasn’t intimidated by BIG DOLLAR sponsors or guys like Jeff Gordon, in fact, I considered it a challenge to say here I am, you better be careful or ill steal your lunch…Notice that Pepsi Billion dollar promotion?
Funny story, I convinced a regional independent PEPSI distributor from Lebanon NH to jump on board for a journey that would involve Walmart and Chris Wood. In three months we were making some noise, Rich Hughes (Pepsi plant manager) increased Pepsi sales 246.7 % from the previous year at Chris Wood’s (Lebanon NH, Walmart store). We gained interest from 3 or 4 other bottling groups in Maine, NH, and Massachusetts’s. PROBLEM was we didn’t have Corporate blessings, So Rich went from the hero with excellent sales, to unemployment because….believe it or not, Pepsi sold exclusive show car appearances to Jeff Gordon. Jeff Gordon sub-contracted show car appearances to a company that couldn’t book any events in NH, curing cup, week cause we had everyone booked. God strike me dead, Jeff Gordon went to Pepsi and Pepsi dropped the ax on Rich Huse. Rich went to work for Coke to feed his family, I heard some Walmart guys went to jail for squeezing vendors (The program grew and attracted interest from Corporate America included power players benefiting from slotting feels and increased sales. In less then 3 mos we cultivated interest from KRAFT, KEEBLER, NABISCO, COCA-COLA, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AND MANY MORE, GREW FROM RACE TRACKTHEME TO GOLF COURSES AND COMEDY SHOWS we killed it, my time had arrived.
That’s when I met Cam Shaw-Duran, he was in a wheelchair playing pool, laughing ~ joking, and enjoying life. It was natural for me at the time to assume he was drinking or smoking something that I wanted. if I had to rough him up to get what he had it was game on as far as I was concerned. I was miserable for 25 years and was ready to get a lesson in life from a handicapped guy, Cam Shaw- Doran was the seed of growth that would change my life.
Its a story in itself, but Cam came up to my driving experience for ambulatory people and brought his friend Body Miller. Ya know the ski guy from Franconia? I never heard of this ‘BODE MILLER’ guy that Cam was talking about, evidently, he had just won the Super Stars competition on National TV and Cam couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of him, in fact, cam asked, “did you grow up in a cave”?
2) What is Accessible Racing? And what’s the best part about it?
So when Cam drove his Audi into my driving experience with this Bode Miller character riding shotgun I immediately thought I was deceived by the wheelchair. Turns out my own ignorance was the fickle finger of faith, my first exposure to hand controls for persons with disabilities to regain mobility post-injury. I was more impressed by Cams Audi and acceptance of his new parameters post-injury than my driving experience. One could hear Cam screaming in ecstasy over the sound of the motor on a third-mile track. When best friend Bode helped Cam exit the car tears were streaming down his cheeks. That was the defining moment and birth of Accessible Racing, when planes hit the tower we were doing a driving experience at New Hampshire International Speedway on 9-11-01, Now known as NHMS. One of our Veteran driving instructors, Dynamite Dave Dion left his shop in Pelham NH and headed Home to VT, he said “We are headed for a conflict soon as we discover who is responsible. I hope the guys coming home (from battle) are greeted with a lot more respect then we came home to (from Vietnam). Dave Dion and Billy Russel are the main reason we (Accessible Racing) do what we do for disabled Vets as well as other physically challenged civilians.
The direct answer to what is Accessible Racing, AR is designed as a mobility program to help physically challenged individuals regain daily living tools and improve quality of life after injury, build self-confidence and avoid making the mental list of things one can no longer do.
My personal experience dwelled in that dark area for almost 25 years, AR is a fast track to avoid isolation, depression, addiction, and suicide with social networking.
3) You recently designed a new simulator to help people regain mobility post-injury, can you expand on that?
Tommy “The Tiger” Baldwin told me a long while ago, “Everyone (sponsors) wants to find the next Jeff Gordon or Richard Petty. You have to work the media, same way you work on your racecar to make it faster…you got to have the media find something unique about your program in order to position product, increase sales or somehow advertise benefits that make the cash register sing. You have to focus on off-track promotions to compliment on-track success. There’s not a ton of TV so your message has got to deliver and that means getting creative to make the news.”
We had to have something sticky to keep generating interest in the bigger story at trade show displays, Lee Perry (Driving Aids Development Corporation, Vienna Virginia) developed hand controls for a standard gaming wheel and big screen on a 6-foot table at the first trade show. I had countless good intentions that never materialized from the Mom & Pops guy to Logitech. in 2019 I had a Donald Trump, “hold my beer” moment, went back to school at the University at 57 years old and was set to lead the third largest St Patrick’s Day / Evacuation day parade in South Boston Massachusetts. I knew opportunities like leading St Pats parade was HUGE, and might not come around again in my lifetime unless I capitalized. My goal was to get invited year after year and not just a splash in the pan. My Mom paid to get the bodywork and paint job, the simulator was coming down to the wire but ready on to demo.
The wheel would be the benefit disabled Vets and we would recognize this with a visit to VA Boston Spinal Cord Injury West Roxbury campus to build hype for Vets that are tied into Evacuation day parade. I also scheduled our friends at Boston Shriners hospital for kids, we had plenty of media attention to promote the EVENT, the EVENT was to bring attention to the gaming wheel at VA or Children’s hospitals. The Hospitals are the storefronts to access the market, the therapist is the KEY players to carry a message to administrators and patients. The driving experience is the Willy Wonka experience to help hospitals distribute benefits to patience and fundraising sponsors. If GI Joe next door lost his way in battle, this is a way to feel good about doing something to get him into a social network and new lease on life. Position product, create halo effects for product vendors, and increase floor traffic for retail product vendors and retail outlets.
4) What are your plans for Accessible Racing in the future?
The future is NOW when Boston was canceled it was a perfect storm because I was trying to convince the University we needed an NDA that didn’t scare off the VA Boston network, I knew for a fact I wasn’t going to Boston to watch a parade, I knew from experience we would be the headline act. I also knew we needed the protection of legal properties. The postponement allowed the natural evolution of partnership with the University, Commercialization plan with Tremonti Consultants to justify the need, licensing for manufacturing and distribution of wheel due in 30 days. We are on the clock NOW, but getting answers during this Coronavirus Pandemic is like nailing Jello to the wall. But we are coming with lots of momentum.
Soon as we have firm facts we will go shopping to the boys in New Brunswick (Canada) Sure Grip hand controls is the largest manufacture and distributor in North America with global retail outlets in Vietnam, UK …places I never heard of. We also reached out to Larry Connell, Chief Of Staff at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs but don’t expect to get any attention until Recreation Therapist at VA medical centers and Model Rehabilitation start buzzing about us. We will start 2020 at a short track in Groveton NH with the Monster Trucks, perfect event to film for our partners at Rendever.com, they film virtual experiences for distribution in elderly housing communities in 39 states and 3 countries. This will provide us with the excitement to bring to our existing interest at VA Boston and James J. Peters Bronx VA (1 of 7 Regional Amputee Centers, they disseminate medical therapies to 1,400 VA Medical Centers Nationally. We have our focus on International Paralympics. Two friends have been with me threw thick and thin and will be instrumental in communications and planning moving forward. They give me direction, there the main reason I developed the relationship with the University and designed something tangible that deliver benefits instead of barstool conversations.
Dave Baskin was the founder and Director of Disabled Shooting Services, #110 inductee into USA Wheelchair Hall of Fame and 1996 – 2000 Chairman of International Paralympic Committee.
Woody Groton was one of the original Wounded Warrior Project and Manager of the Soldier Ride. Lt Colonel Groton has over 20 years of experience as a military officer.
The ‘show me don’t tell me” example is in the RESNA presentation by Dr. Jeffrey Heckman…
5) What is your favorite thing to go fast in?
BED, sometimes have a hard time shutting the brain off and going to sleep.
My friend Nancy Doughty’s 57 Chevy is my dream ride, it may not be as FAST as it was, but its got GREAT CHARACTER, I’m at the age where old is still good.