For 15 years, Chris Morris dedicated his life to chasing the dream of becoming a championship motocross racer. He started riding at four years old, and started his professional career at 18.
That changed on October 26, 2014 while training for his debut for the 250cc East AMA Supercross Championship.
“I was getting ready for the Dallas Supercross for the East Coast 250 series,” Morris told Speed51. “I came up short on a jump, went over the bars, and the bike hit me in the back and broke my back. The doctors told me I won’t walk again. It’s been four and a half years and I still have nothing.
The accident may have detoured Morris’ life plans, confining him to a wheelchair, but it didn’t stop his desire to race. On Saturday night at I-37 Speedway in Pleasanton, Texas, he took the checkered flag in the track’s Modified feature, his first win on four wheels and since his life-changing injury.
“When I took the checkered, it was like a big wave of relief came over me,” Morris said. “It was so awesome to get that first win after two years of really trying hard and coming up close so many times. Last year I think I came close on three separate occasions. Two weeks ago, I lost by about a bumper there.”
Morris started ninth in the feature after winning his heat race, but quickly worked his way through the field.
“I had three or four guys that I knew I had to get right up with them to have a shot,” Morris said about the race. “It just so happened, the green flag dropped and by lap two I was in third or fourth. It started hitting then, like holy cow, we’re going to get to the front quick.
“We got up to the front on lap four,” Morris added. “I knew I had a really good shot at it, just had to hit my marks and run a smooth race. Thankfully, we didn’t have any cautions, so when we got into lapped traffic they were kind of spread out. I just played it smart around them, had to stay off of them. The track was awesome, it was real racy so I was able to use the whole track to get around them.”
Morris’ four-wheel career started humbly, trading in one of his old motorcycles to cover some of the costs of his first Modified. This season, he is now racing with a Lethal Chassis after meeting David Stremme last summer.
“Last year, about July or August, we were looking at a way to up my program a bit and started looking,” Morris explained. “A friend of mine mentioned Lethal Chassis, and we hadn’t heard of them, so we looked it up. We started doing our research on them. We had a family reunion in South Carolina and said, let’s go up and visit their shop, we’re only an hour away. We visited and got to talk with David for a couple of hours. After visiting and seeing the workmanship that went into these cars, we decided it was something we wanted to get.”
The new car combined the best of both worlds – the modifications in Morris’ old machine to accommodate his specific needs in the race car as well as improved speed.
“We flew in right after they got the chassis off the jig,” Morris said. “Took my controls, got everything set up in there, and they did a great job making the opening like we had it in my old car and improved it a little bit. We got the controls fitted and made the adjustments before it went off to powder-coating. They did an awesome job getting the throttle set up and working perfectly. We spent all day there with them buttoning up the loose ends and brought it home. They knocked it out of the park. We’ve taken it out 12 times and it’s been faster every time.”
Morris said part of the desire to return to racing came from the family atmosphere within the racing community just as much as the hunger of competition.
“Racing has been a part of my life as long as I can remember,” he said. “I have a twin sister, and she sacrificed so much to let me have the career I had in motocross, and she was always there and my mom and dad were always there. It became a big family thing. We were at the race track every single weekend in motocross, we traveled all over the United States.
“You had a community that you grew up in,” Morris added. “It was hard having that taken away from me, so I knew I wanted to get back into racing.
“We were missing that family-type setting that everybody helps out. Thankfully, we were able to find that with the dirt racing group, and I think it’s an even tighter group.”
While Morris has proven now he can win in his Modified, he still wants to keep racing fun and enjoyable.
“Right now, I’m trying to keep it as fun as possible,” Morris said. “Motocross became a career and almost got to the point where it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. I’m trying to keep this as fun as possible.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Rachel Plant, Picture Taker