By Sam Wheeler
When a violent rollover crash at the beginning of 2013 left Kelsey Box paralyzed from the waist down, the 22-year-old wasn't thinking about walking again, she was thinking about racing again.
"I am thankful that life gives you challenges, because I should have been dead for sure," said Box, who lives in Murphy and races off-road trucks known as "tough trucks" in competitions along the West Coast.
"The first thing I asked when I woke up was if I could race again," Box said. "They told me I couldn't walk, but I didn't really think about that. I just wanted to get back in that truck."
Box has been racing off-road trucks since she was 16, said her mom, Bernadette Box, and the family has been running tough trucks in competitions for 12 years under the name Boxclan Racing.
But the team has never run one like the modified six-cylinder Ford Ranger Kelsey Box is racing now.
Because she has no feeling in her feet, her dad Rob Box installed an automotive hand lever in the Ford to control her throttle and brakes. His daughter used to race manual transmission trucks, but with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the throttle and brake control, she had to switch to an automatic transmission.
"It took three months just to build this truck and they put nights and days, blood, sweat and tears into it," Kelsey Box said. "It did take a little bit of getting used to, but I am a pretty quick learner,"
She was just 3 when she got on her first motorcycle, Bernadette Box said, and she blew up the motor.
"Then my husband built her a go-kart. She snapped the axle on it three times going off jumps," Bernadette Box said. "She moved up to her dad's motorcycle, a 600 ... and she started racing tough trucks right when she turned 16. She's been doing it ever since."
Her worst crash in competition was during an off-road race near Redmond in 2012, when a back wheel snapped off its hub and sent her into a 45 mph roll -- she walked away from that one unscathed.
But while she was a regular in the rough and tumble race world, it was a non-competitive traffic accident that left her paralyzed.
Driving in an area south of Grants Pass in 2013, she was going too fast and not wearing a seat belt when her truck lost traction and went into a roadside ditch, she said.
"I was just going way too fast and not wearing a seat belt. It was dumb," she said. "They thought I was dead."
Box said she has never lived by the "if you're not first you're last," mentality, but she's used to placing first racing tough trucks, and controlling her brakes and throttle with her hand hasn't made a difference.
"If I don't win, that's OK. I always go out there and try my hardest and try to show what I can do," she said.
Friday, during the Monster X Tour monster truck show at The Expo, Box ran two tough truck races and won them both. By midday Saturday, the second day of the event, she had dominated the first of two races with a nearly two-second margin separating her from the rest of the field.
"It felt good," she said, pulling off her helmet after her first race Saturday.
Tyler Williams, 19, who races Kelsey's old truck for Boxclan Racing, said she is tough to beat.
"You always got to work hard to get in front of her," Williams said. "I'm going to try!"
Kelsey said racing off-road trucks is her life's passion, and she plans to keep doing it and keep winning at it.
"I have heard people before races say, Wouldn't it suck to get beat by a girl?' but a lot of them do," she said. "This is my life."