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The Race Has Just Begun
 
by Robert Dennis
  August 21, 2008

Michael Austin Hall turned 16 on August 14. There was no typical birthday celebration though, as Michael was in a coma at the Medical College of Virginia.

Four days earlier Michael had an accident on his minibike near his home in the Hunting Creek Hills area of Chesterfield County and suffered a severe head injury.

Michael will not start his sophmore year at L. C. Bird on September 2. Doctors say he is proceeding exactly as he should, but his parents, Shelly and Michael, know the road ahead will be a long one. Younger Michael is currently in stable condition and is showing progress. "The race has just begun", said his father, realizing it could be several more months before Michael comes home.

Michael races in the U-Car division at Southside Speedway on Friday nights. The number 911 car Michael races will be at the track this Friday. Amy Clingenpeel will drive the car in the first event, and Michael's best friend, seventeen year old Jason Marshall will pilot the car in the second race. This will be Marshall's first race. Michael's father will be there also, but said he "felt guilty going to the track."

Racing has been in the Hall family for generations. Michael's great-grandfather, Clarence DeZalia raced in NASCAR's Grand National series in the mid to late 50's.

Dennis Hamlin, father of NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, called Michael's father this week to offer his support. The Hall family have known the Hamlins for many years. Over the past weekend, Renno Marchetti and his family visited the hospital, including their son, who also races in the U-Car division. One friend, 'Speedy' Manning of Speedy Custom Decals, made and distributed decals at the speedway last week. The decals said, 'Get Well Soon Michael', with the car number in the center.

Michael has one brother, Noah, and one sister, Asia. Noah, a corporal in the Marines, was in the Persian Gulf at the time of the accident, but was allowed some time off to come home.

Michael's father was a firefighter for 25 years for the City of Richmond. He and his wife now work together in their custom painting business, but the former fireman admits that right now he is on 'auto-pilot', trying to get some work done between his time at the hospital with his son.