Rob Dickey does truly amazing work in his role as VP for VETMotorsports. Working with the non-profit, Dickey helps provide active military and veterans, along with their spouse or caregiver, who have service-connected injuries an outlet through motorsports. This service comes free of charge for the participant, including expenses – which is a very small price to pay for the service these men and women have provided for us as Americans.
VETMotorsports participants have been to Track Night in America events, autocross events, and even road races, as drivers and as crew members. You may have seen them there. You may have heard their stories. You may have gone to VETMotorsports.org to donate to the cause.
But, with a hero’s attitude, you may not have met Rob, or realized that, while selflessly helping others, he is one of them.
“I heard about VETMotorsports through another nonprofit back in 2014,” Dickey said. “Pete Cline, the director and founder, and I hit it off so he kept inviting me to events and then asked if I would like to be a program manager and I said I would love to. A few years later I moved into the Vice President spot.”
Rob grew up in a household that loved cars – his father even dabbled in some drag racing. That ignited the fire, but the real world called and Rob went off to serve his country, becoming a Sergeant in the United States Army.
While serving in Afghanistan, Rob stepped on a mine and lost the lower portion of his right leg, below the knee. The injury didn’t slow his passion for cars, nor – as he is quick to point out – does it affect his driving (though he’ll begrudgingly admit that, while he can certainly drive a manual transmission car, it’s probably easier to drive an automatic these days).
But the SCCA’s support of VETMotorsports, and specifically individual members sprinkled across the country, opened up options for Rob. When Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack found a home in Texas at a couple of locations, the window really opened up.
“I always felt my passion was to be on a road course, and since SCCA is a big supporter of VETMotorsports, I saw different programs that were available through SCCA,” Dickey said. “I found TNiA and looked into it and found there was a track close to me so I signed up the first chance I got. Every time I go to a TNiA event I feel like I can let go and drive and not worry about getting a ticket or a traffic jam. I can push my car and driving skills to the limits. The events are always a joy to go to, everyone is always friendly and willing to help out with issues on cars or driving techniques so you just get a sense of camaraderie. The staff is also very friendly and helpful, they just want everyone to be safe and have a great time.”
And Rob knew that, if he enjoyed all of those aspects of Track Night, others would as well. Like everyone at Track Night, the veterans don’t need a 2019 Camaro ZL1 1LE like Rob has – any car is capable. Rob and his friends work with newcomers to prep their cars and give them information for driving on track. They set up a tent to keep them out of the hot Texas sun, and provide drinks and snacks. Mostly, they give veterans a chance to experience a thrill and a new experience, and for many provide goals and a passion that aids re-entry to the civilian world, no matter how that world may have recently changed for them.
“Some veterans really enjoy coming and want more and they drive away with a big smile on their face and talk about how it released so much tension,” Dickey said. “And some realize they would prefer to stick with autocross. So I try to attend all the events close to me.”
Obviously, 2020 put a damper on any expansion, but Rob recognizes the need to expand the program.
“In 2021 I plan on venturing out to some events in different states,” he explained. “Courtney Rivers (Track Night Product Manager) and I have some good things planned with VETMotorsports in 2021. Personally, I would like to do some Time Trials and I plan on getting my competition license sometime soon.”
Ultimately, VETMotorsports aims to help the transition from military life to civilian life for those they serve by providing a unique experience. If they ignite a passion for motorsports, as it did for Rob, then that’s a bonus.
“I get a lot of pleasure being able to help fellow veterans,” Dickey said. “I feel it really does help, and I’m speaking from my own experiences. Being a part of the VETMotorsports base really helped my quality of life.”
Since 2013, VETMotorsports has assisted over 160 injured warfighters plus family members in over 60 unique motorsports events nationwide, free of charge for participants. But to do that, they rely on generous donations. To make a tax-deductible donation to VETMotorsports visit VETMotorsports.org/donate.
Top Photo Courtesy of Gregory Pfaff