- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) - He might face the challenges of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy each day, but Nathaniel Morovits lives life in the fast lane through the eyes of the race car drivers he admires.

The 31-year-old Parker High School graduate spends most of his time in the bedroom of his parents’ Janesville home. There, he is comforted by his decades-old love of race car memorabilia- 1/24- and 1/64-scale die-cast model cars with all their original boxes, street and neon signs, posters, a NASCAR flag from every track he and his grandpa have visited, pens, pencils, hats, clocks, bobbleheads, bumper stickers, steins and anything else NASCAR.

Even NASCAR flag curtains adorn his bedroom windows.

Nathaniel began his hobby of collecting anything race car-related around 1994, his mother, Alice, said. That’s about the time he went to Michigan for his first NASCAR race with his best buddy and grandpa, John Jess. At that race, Nathaniel predicted Rusty Wallace was going to win_and he did.

Wallace, a former NASCAR Winston Cup Champion, has since retired, but he remains Nathaniel’s favorite driver.

“My dad would buy him (Wallace’s) stuff,” Alice told The Janesville Gazette (https://bit.ly/22wMSTc ). “Nathaniel and others would buy his stuff, too.”

In the past 21 years, Nathaniel’s collection has grown so vast Alice could only estimate the number of pieces in it at around 550.

“Every car that Rusty ever drove in NASCAR, whether a truck or the Xfinity Series, (Nathaniel’s) got,” said Scott Morovits, Nathaniel’s father.

Nathaniel’s favorite car is, of course, a Rusty Wallace model car.

“I just like the color and the blue flames on it,” he said.

Wallace drove the full-size version of that car in his last race at Bristol, where he won nine races and 7 poles, Nathaniel said.

The most interesting piece in Nathaniel’s collection is an actual NASCAR tire signed by driver Mike Bliss. Nathaniel’s uncle Tom Jess, who lives in North Carolina, won the tire as a prize in a silent auction and gave it to his nephew.

“It’s huge,” Alice said.

The collection is Nathaniel’s life, and it drives him to face each day with Duchenne. A ventilator assists his breathing, and his motorized wheelchair is powered by electricity stored in batteries that need regular recharging. With one finger, Nathaniel uses a micro-controller joystick that both moves his chair and turns his TV on and off.

“He can’t drive a car, so he lives vicariously through (NASCAR drivers) because if he could drive and walk, that’s what he would be doing,” Alice said.

Nathaniel has attended NASCAR races in Wisconsin, Illinois, Virginia, Michigan and Indiana, and he was at the 2001 Daytona 500 in Florida when driver Tony Stewart’s car flipped twice down the backstretch right in front of him, his dad and grandpa. Also, on the final lap of this race, Dale Earnhardt lost control of his car and hit the wall, causing his death.

Along with his hero Rusty Wallace and Wallace’s brother Kenny, drivers Nathaniel has met include Ned Jarrett, Paul Menard, Matt Crafton, Bobby Hamilton and Travis Kvapil, he said.

The Morovitses have no idea which piece in Nathaniel’s collection is most valuable, but it wouldn’t matter anyway.

“To Nathaniel, they’re all valuable and not anything he’s willing to part with,” Scott said.

It’s been five years since Nathaniel and his grandpa went to their last NASCAR race. Jess, a big race fan, can no longer watch the races due to macular degeneration, but he still can hear them, Alice said.

That helps Nathaniel and his grandpa continue to share their love for the same sport.

“Grandpa just had me order (Nathaniel) a race car for Christmas,” Alice said. “It’s a signed Danica Patrick car. (Nathaniel’s) kind of into Danica now because she’s pretty.”

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Information from: The Janesville Gazette, https://www.gazetteextra.com


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