Add Wes Spinks to the list of athletes who put their professional dreams on hold for the betterment of our country.
A year after grabbing the 2002 ATV MX Pro Sport Championship, Spinks finally addressed a bit of restlessness that started shortly after 9/11. So he followed in the path of Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Pat Tillman, among others, and joined the military. He entered the Army Reserves which also helped pay for college. It wasn't long before he was deployed to Iraq.
In 2005, he set off on his second tour and life would never be the same. A roadside bomb took him and several others in his unit. No one was killed but the injuries were severe, leaving lasting scars both physically and psychologically. After recovering, Spinks remained in the Army serving stateside but in 2011 the Veteran's Administration declared him permanently and totally disabled as a result of his injuries.
A MotoSport sponsored rider, Spinks finally returned to his first love in 2012 and discovered a new positive side to racing only someone with his experience and in his condition could appreciate. This is what he said:
Years Riding: 28
Amateur Years: 1988-2000; 2010-present
Pro Years: 2001-2002
What age did you start riding and on what: Age 4 on a 50cc Yamaha Y-zinger
What do you ride now: 2014 Honda TRX 450
Hometown: Summersville, WV
- 1989 AATVA MX 50cc quad class champion
- 1995 AMA MX 90cc production second-place overall for the year
- 2002 District 5 AMA MX Series Pro Sport class champion
- 2015 Big East XC 4th overall in the Pro-Am class for the season
Favorite Track: High Point for Motocross and Snowshoe for GNCC
Other sports participated in: Mountain Biking, archery, swimming and baseball
Other hobbies interests: Fishing, camping, gardening, action sports
1. How did you get started riding ATVs?
I got into ATV racing by my father Mitch Spinks. He raced for Suzuki in the late 80s, early 90s on the LT250R QuadRacers so I was always around the sport. It was a true passion early on, going to the races with my family and then getting to race some of the same events as my father and brother.
2. It didn't take long to jump into competition and at a young age. Was that always the plan or did the 'ole racing bug bite?
My dad had my brother and I set up on a quad and riding by the age of 4. I loved racing from being around the sport so I guess you could say both happened. I had a plan for laid out for me by dad and got the racing bug.
3. You won a Championship in 2002 but then took some time off. Tells us what you did.
I won an ATV MX Pro Sport Championship in 2002 but after some friends of mine and some family were involved in 9/11, I felt it was my duty to do what I could for our country, so I hung up racing in the prime of my career to go into the US Army.
4. An injury nearly derailed your racing career but it wasn't on the track. What happened?
During an operation in a disclosed location, myself and several of my comrades were involved in an attack. No one was lost, but we all suffered visual and non-visual wounds. Some of my injuries included shrapnel wounds in my feet, legs and right arm. I also suffer from PTSD anxiety, bouts of depression and insomnia.
5. Despite all of that you stuck it out and continued to serve our country. Were you able to remain in the same capacity or did you have a less "stressful" job?
After recovering I decided to stay in the Army and take a job in Army intelligence. I served state side contributing to the war on terror.
6. Now you're home and back racing ATVs. But you're not rekindling your youth.
I found out from other veterans that quad racing helped with their PTSD symptoms, so I started racing again. When I got out the military I got hooked up with Vigilant Vet Racing which was a race team that helped to raise PTSD and Suicide awareness - while providing veterans with several sponsors and supporting each team member through tough times as all of us vets still have bouts of illness.
So, I started back racing in 2011 and switched from Motocross to GNCC/XC racing. Since I'm older and not as fast as I once was I decided to try woods racing - very tough transition - but I actually like it better than Motocross.
7. Have you found relief with your PTSD symptoms?
When I got back into racing I found that my mind is totally occupied with racing, instead of anxiety and depression.
It gives me the adrenaline rush that calms my body and mind. The sport is always in a positive atmosphere and I've got great race friends and family. It's an overall good activity that helps me from falling into depression or not wanting to be around people.
8. I've read one reason veterans have such a hard time re-acclimating to civilian life is because they've experienced that high of battle, facing death and beating it. Normal life, for lack of better terms, doesn't cut it for them. Is that what racing provides?
You hit the nail on the head with that statement. Yes, racing fills the void my body and mind needs to function properly.
9. You started and operate XC Quadracers on Facebook. But it's more than your typical Facebook page. What are your objectives with XC Quadracers?
XC Quadracers is a public Facebook page I started in 2014 for racers to get help with repair questions, receive discounts from companies on parts, get new racers started off on the right foot, promote companies, organizations, and support all riders regardless of skill level. Also my group has a buy/sell section that allows members to help each other out. We have 2,500 members and several sponsors.
10. OK, let's finally get to some racing business. How did your 2016 season go?
My 2016 National GNCC season hasn't gone too well this year due to some technical difficulties and I'm not completely healed from a broken hand that happened in February. This is my worst season ive had since starting back. We have raced six GNCCs this year and will run the last round October 29, The Ironman in Indiana. I've had two DNFs, and class finishes of 13th, 18th and 19th place in the Vet B 30 Plus class. We have run some non AMA events here on the east coast with some success in the A class - three 1st places, one 2nd place, and one 4th place.
11. How different is GNCC from Motocross?
Motocross is completely different from GNCC. The quad set-up, riding style, and terrain is a 360 degree change. In Motocross it's all about being light, fast, and running smooth Motos, clearing jumps, timing. In GNCC, it's more of an equal playing field. The courses are anywhere from nine to 14 mile laps and we run two hours straight. In Motocross you run two 10 lap Motos and have a break in between Motos. GNCC runs on the toughest terrain possible and includes some MX sections at certain tracks so having raced both disciplines it has helped me out a lot.
12. What are your plans for 2017?
In 2017 the plans are to run 12 of the 13 rounds of GNCC in the Vet B 30 plus class, then we will be running a 10 race XC series here in West Virginia called Burning Rock Racing. Also we plan to visit Woods Extreme XC Racing (WEXCR), the New East Coast XC (NECXC), and American Woods Racing Championship Series (AWRCS) to race one each of their events.