Opening the car door of a 1964 Chevy Impala SS with his chin and shoulder. Clicking in his seat belt with his shoulder and cheek. And starting up the engine by turning the key with his toes.
That’s how Richie Parker starts off to work at Hendrick Motorsports, a NASCAR racing organization, where he is an engineer.
“I don’t listen too much to people who tell me I can’t do something,” the 30-year-old born without arms said. “There’s not a whole lot that’s going to stand in my way.”
Parker first became interested in cars in his teens, wanting to drive but with many saying he could easily just take a bus or taxi. But that wasn’t his way. The 1964 Chevy that Parker has owned for the past 15 years is one he even had to convince its previous owners to sell to him.
“If a bicycle gave him a certain degree of freedom, the car gave him a greater amount of independence and pride,” Parker’s father said. “When he’s in that car, everybody’s on the same level.”
How does he drive with no hands? It’s not with his knees as many people with hands are known to dangerously do at times — it’s with his feet and a modified disc he can turn on the floor.
Parker as a vehicle engineer for the last eight years with Hendrick Motorsports designs the cars’ chassis and body components. How? Again, with his feet — the mouse and keyboard are situated on the floor below his desk.
“In truth, Richie’s entire life has been one remarkable study in engineering,” ESPN’s narrator said. “Nearly every task requires ingenuity.”
“I don’t know that there’s a whole lot in life period that I can say that I can’t do — just things that I haven’t done yet,” Parker said.
Watch ESPN’s full less than 10-minute feature about Parker:
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