Broken back can't stop Viebrock from racing
For most students, their post high school life doesn't start until their caps hit the floor following their graduation ceremony. For New Richmond High School Class of 2017 graduate Chase Viebrock, his post college career started last year when he was approached by one of the managers of Hudson's Neo Electric about an apprenticeship in electrical wiring.
"He asked me if I wanted to do an apprenticeship with them and I told him that I had never wired anything in my life," Viebrock said. "But he said that was fine as long as I showed up every day and didn't get into trouble."
Although Viebrock is already on his way to completing his five-year apprenticeship with Neo Electric, he is extremely lucky to be able to walk across the stage to get his diploma with his fellow graduates on Friday, May 26.
He was rushed to the hospital on May 14, 2016, with a broken back following a stock car racing crash at Cedar Lake Speedway.
"I hit the wall and flipped five or six times. Everybody got to the car, but all that was bothering me at the time was a pain in my back. It really didn't hurt a lot right away," Viebrock said. "They put my on the stretcher and that whole deal before taking me to Westfields. They said they couldn't tell me for sure if my back was broken, but they were 95 percent sure that I had broken my back. I don't know what it was, but for some reason I wasn't worried at all, even though my mom was a wreck."
He was then taken by an ambulance to Regions where he spent the night. He spent four days in the hospital and had to get a custom brace shipped in from Pennsylvania. He didn't eat or drink for four days because the doctors weren't sure if he would need surgery or not. When the doctors were finally able to get a look at his back, they found that Viebrock had three broken vertebrae in his neck and another five in his back.
"That was the worst thing that has happened in my life so far," Viebrock said. "But while I sat there in bed, I spent time thinking about what racing has done for me. You take the good with the bad. I knew I had to race. It was what my family has done forever. I wasn't sure at the time if they would let me race again, but the doctors told me that my back was 100 percent and that I could go back to racing if I'd like."
Despite his injury, Viebrock couldn't think of doing anything other than getting back out onto the track. He was in a back brace all summer and told that he should take it easy once his back was totally healed. But what gave him the drive to overcome his injuries was the fact that no one wanted him to go back to racing.
"I wanted to be the comeback kid. I didn't want to let one crash like that stop me from doing what I loved," Viebrock said. "It was difficult to come back from it, and I didn't have physical therapy, but they said to just go out and take it easy for three months while it continues to heal and get back into shape. But it was only about two weeks before I went back to work. I think that actually helped me because it seemed like the more I worked, the more my back stretched out. Now, I can't even tell I broke my back."
Viebrock's high school career was filled with work in the auto, wood and metals shops. Most of his school work now is focused on the WITC welding program. Despite his complete lack of skills in wiring, Viebrock decided a career in welding wasn't in the cards for him.
"I've never wired anything in my life, so this is new to me. I figured I could go be a welder, since I've been doing that my whole life, or I could go do something I've known how to do. That's the path I kind of took," Viebrock said. "I weld every single day here, so I kind of got the feel for what it would be like to weld for a living. It has been winter and cold for a long time now, but when it gets to be summertime things are going to get really hot. So I figured, since I like working outside, that wiring was something I'd give a shot."
According to Viebrock, Neo Electric is 1.5 years old and works on mostly commercial projects throughout the area, including Minnesota. They will be busy over the next two years as it works on the wiring for the Hudson High School expansion project, which is the biggest project the company has ever had, Viebrock said. The apprenticeship will last for five years, with Viebrock taking classes one day a week, every other week, at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, while working at Neo Electric the other days of the week.
Racing is in his blood
Viebrock has been racing for the last 12 years — running with the World of Outlaws series — and has over 100 feature wins as well as numerous track championships.
"I've gotten carbon monoxide poisoning from it, broke my back because of it, but I still come back to it," Viebrock said. "I don't know how many times people told me that I should quit racing, but then I would tell them to look at what racing has given me. It has gotten me my apprenticeship, it got me into the welding program here with WITC because they knew we do fabrication on our cars. I've met famous people because of it. I've gotten to travel the country because of it. There are a lot of things people don't see and they just think it is a waste of time and money."
After graduation, Viebrock plans to put his schooling first, but he will still be racing as much as he can. Viebrock said that Neo Electric has said he can take off for races and is even sponsoring his stock car this spring. He has raced twice already this year, taking third place in his second race back from his injury.
"I think everybody was surprised how well we have come back from it," Viebrock said. "After we got the first race out of the way, my family has been really supportive of me. They support me and they have seen how hard I work to do what I want to do and are really proud of me for it. My family supports me a lot, which is great.
"I would love to make it into NASCAR, but the fun of racing is more than enough to keep me racing," Viebrock said. "I don't want to be the big superstar, I'd rather work five days a week just like everybody else."