Disabled vets feel the thrill of driving a race car at Thunder Road

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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) "It's my first time going legally fast," Luis Rosa-Valentin said.

Rosa-Valentin is an Army veteran who served two tours in the Middle East. After returning home once, he returned to combat in 2008, where he encountered a roadside bomb and his life changed dramatically.

"Just because I ended up in a wheelchair doesn't mean I think any differently," he said.

Rosa-Valentin lost his left arm and both legs in the explosion. But he doesn't let it slow him down or stop him from doing things he's never done, like driving in a race car.

"These guys have paid a hell of a price, and they come back whether they're injured or not, they're in a dark area," Brian Hanaford said.

Hanaford founded Adaptive Motorsports & Wellness, giving disabled war veterans an opportunity to get together and experience the world of racing.

"It's so powerful, you see these guys and afterward, you know, they're doing something they thought they were never able to do and without us, they wouldn't be able to do," Hanaford said.

Hanaford and his team of volunteers modified a stock car to adapt to veterans disabilities. Vets take the wheel while one of Thunder Road's most decorated drivers controls the gas and brake.

"Hey, what do I got to lose?" Albert Bucharelli said.

Bucharelli, 92, is a World War II veteran. He was sent to Italy in 1943 and soon after hitting the ground, he, too, was caught in an explosion, costing him his left leg.

"I'm not as brave as I used to be but I'll try anything once," Bucharelli said.

He doesn't let his disability stop him from trying anything, which is obvious from seeing him hit the track Wednesday.

Bucharelli said he felt 20 years younger after the ride. And although he's not used to being strapped in so tight, he said he most definitely would do it all again.

Organizers say this is one of the first events of its kind. They plan to host more of these events. Click here for their Facebook page.