Despite a motocross accident that left him partially paralyzed, mechanical engineering major Garrett Goodwin returned to the racing circuit, now racing an adaptive snowmobile.
In late January, Goodwin took third in the snocross event at the Winter X Games held in Aspen, Colorado. Goodwin races a Ski-Doo equipped with a special seat that he and his sponsors made.
Goodwin hopes to someday mass-produce the seat, which he said could fit on any Ski-Doo and allow recreational snowmobilers who are disabled to ride.
“You can’t go online and search for an adaptive snowmobile seat and buy one,” Goodwin said.
With help from American Metalcraft in Goodwin’s hometown of Zion, Illinois, Goodwin designed a rigid seat that can be bolted to a sled. He and company designers telephoned and send many emails back and forth throughout the process. The chair pivots, allowing Goodwin — who is strapped in with a seat belt — to lean into turns.
“There was a lot of trial and error,” he said. “The seat is like a race car with a shock under it that acts like my legs would.”
Goodwin was racing a motorcycle in July 2011 when he hit a jump and the bike rotated forward. His motorcycle landed on top of him. He broke three vertebrae, suffered a concussion and a separated shoulder; Goodwin is paralyzed below his waist.
After four months of rehabilitation, he was already making plans to get back to the snocross circuit. “I knew I could do it. I just had to figure out how,” he said.
Goodwin’s father, Greg, and his uncle have raced snowmobiles for years. Greg, who owns Goodwin Performance, won the 1991 World Championships in Wisconsin. Racing sleds since he was 5, Goodwin said he took up motocross as a way to stay in shape and train between winters.
The X Games race was Goodwin’s second adaptive snocross event. The first was in March 2012, one day after receiving his outfitted sled from American Metalcraft, and seven months removed from his motorcycle accident.
“We had one day to test it and make modifications,” said Goodwin, who also works with local sponsors Stud Boy Traction from Ravenna and Grand Rapids Truck Center. “I told my family, ‘If I go out and it feels good, I’m going to race.’” He took third place in that race.
X Games organizers invite participants to join the games. Goodwin said organizers comb the Internet, looking for exciting highlight videos. They also want participants who “have a racing spirit,” he said.
Along with his racing spirit, Goodwin said he brings special knowhow and mechanical engineering skills to adaptive racing. “The whole adaptive industry is growing so rapidly, it helps having my perspective,” he said.