NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Chris Hacker is 23 years old and is already chasing the goal that every NASCAR driver seeks in their professional career.
“I want to be a cup champion,” said Hacker. “I want to get to the top and be the best that there is.”
Those lofty goals may sound unrealistic to some who are unaware of Hacker’s story. However, he has overcome great hurdles to even make it to the biggest stage racing has to offer.
Hacker was born with a brachial plexus injury, or a BPI, to his left arm. As a result, he relies solely on his right arm, not only in everyday activities but on the racetrack. He must rest his left arm against the wheel as he drives with his right.
Still, Hacker has made it to racing’s biggest stage and has even learned to use his injury to his advantage when making specific turns on racetracks.
Hacker was born in Indiana, another racing hub state much like North Carolina. He discovered his passion for racing at a very young age.
“It all started when I was about 7 or 8 years old,” Hacker said. “In Indianapolis, there’s a little track … and I saw a bunch of other little kids racing.”
Hacker had tried the previous sports that most young boys around his age have like tee-ball, soccer and basketball. But this was different.
“We ended up testing [a car] and it went decently fine for being 7 or 8 years old,” Hacker said. “But my parents wound up getting me [a car] and it just kind of snowballed from there. I’ve just been doing it ever since.”
Since then, Hacker has worked his way up the racing ladder from the local circuit to being a part-time driver with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
That journey was not always easy and there were times that Hacker believed he would never make it to this point.
“I got on the scene when I was 17. Back then, my parents were funding me, and we just ran out of the funds,” Hacker said. “When I was about 20 years old, I ended up getting a decent settlement from my injury at birth. … Once I received that, I dumped it all into racing again.”
Hacker thanks Morgan & Morgan for helping him and other children like him still be able to achieve their dreams.
He would go on to use his settlement money to compete in five more races, specifically two late models, two ARC races and one seemingly final truck race. Struggling to find sponsorships, Hacker accepted that the truck race could likely be his last.
“It was just going to be a blank truck, and I pretty much accepted that this will probably be it,” Hacker said. “But at least I tried, and I, at least, got here in some sort of fashion.”
Now just a little over 2 years later, Hacker will be participating in NASCAR’s historic return to one of the most iconic venues in the history of the sport.
“Just not giving up is really all it is,” Hacker said. “Just as long as you have the determination for it and the, no pun intended, but the drive for it, then you’ll make it someway just as long as you just keep going after it.”
Now that he’s made it to the NASCAR ranks, Hacker has no intention of hitting the brakes now.
“[I] plan on just finishing off this season, getting as much time as I can next season and hopefully getting a full-time ride either in trucks or Xfinity,” Hacker said. “Just slowly working it up the ladder.”
You can see Hacker racing in the No. 30 Morgan & Morgan Toyota Tundra TRD Pro during the Tyson 250 at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
For what it’s worth, Hacker thinks he can compete to win on Saturday, especially since the competition is as unfamiliar with the track as he is.
“Usually it’s just me not racing the track before, but nobody else has either, so it’s going to get a lot better,” Hacker said. “Knock on wood because I don’t jinx myself, but I expect a really, really good finish out of us this weekend as long as we play our cards right.”
Hacker also took the time to clear up some common misconceptions the casual fan may have about what it takes to be a professional racer.
“The biggest [misconception] is that it’s easy,” Hacker said. “At the end of the day, we don’t really have power steering … we’re going 190 something at Daytona and wind plays a huge effect. If you’ve ever been on the highway and a semi came flying past you, it’ll kind of curve you over a little bit, and it’s like that the whole time.”
Hacker also mentioned that pro racers face extreme temperatures inside their vehicles.
“Our races are like two-and-a-half hours long, so just staying focused the whole time [is difficult],” Hacker said. “The heat [also], it gets anywhere from like 130 to 140 degrees in the car.”
His favorite part of being a NASCAR driver is the adrenaline boost it provides.
“Roller coasters put me to sleep nowadays,” Hacker said. “It’s hard to describe but just being inches away from somebody else hauling down the backstretch and just one little mistake could affect you a lot in the long run.”
Hacker is also grateful that he is able to use his platform to assist children like him with similar stories.
“Ever since I can remember if I would get some money on my birthday … I would ask my mom to send it out to Riley Hospital where I got all of my surgeries,” Hacker said. “You know 20 bucks wasn’t really anything but I thought I was doing quite a bit.”
Ever since he started his racing career, Hacker’s efforts have only increased. He’s started fundraisers for children and has worked with the United Brachial Plexus Network to help other children with BPI.
Hacker wants to be a mentor to children with BPI and show them an example of what they are still capable of achieving.
“They can really be struggling sometimes mentally with the injury, especially with how severe some of these kids have it,” Hacker said. “So just being able to be somebody they can look at and think that if you can do it, I can do it too.”
Follow Hacker on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with his blossoming NASCAR career.