DELAWARE, Ohio (April 21) – The Mr. Aruba Winter Nationals is not your normal drag racing event.
Sure, races are won and lost, but the real reason for the gathering is to raise money for cancer research. This year, the “competition” between old drag-racing friends produced more than $5,000 for the JEGS Foundation Racing For Cancer Research project, the longtime benefactor of the Mr. Aruba Winter Nationals.
The Mr. Aruba Winter Nationals, hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Aruba (aka Mike DeChicco and Jane Graebner), brought together old friends and new racers to “Mr. Aruba’s Dodgeland.” This year, $5,208 was donated through the JEGS Foundation to the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
NHRA star Jeg Coughlin Jr. accepted the donation on behalf of the JEGS Foundation.
“This event over the past six years has generated more than $23,000 to cancer research at OSU/The James and Columbus Children’s Hospital – truly fantastic,” Coughin said. “Drag racers and car enthusiasts in general are a big family, and nothing drives that point home more than when racers gather for a charitable cause.”
This year’s event total topped the 2011 Winter Nationals, and competitors were once again very generous with their winnings.
In the Gambler event, DeChicco pulled out a 006-second reaction time to take down defending champion Doug Thompson. DeChicco then donated his $547 first prize to the pot, with Thompson adding $200 more.
Lonnie Smith won the 50/50 raffle, and turned around and donated half of his winnings to the JEGS Foundation.
Other prizes awarded were a Jeg Coughlin Jr. autographed diecast for Rick Newmeyer’s perfect .000 light in an earlier round, and a $50 JEGS gift certificate door prize was also collected by Newmeyer.
Alas, Newmeyer’s day wasn’t completely perfect, as he lost the “Race For The Wires” to Larry Smith. Rich Gorski donated the prize of Fire Core Ignition Wires.
Elsewhere, Scott Chopin beat Ed Gardner in the HEMI Challenge.
Mr. Aruba is sending out a special thanks to Holt Race Cars, Doug Duell, Dennis and Durina McCarty of D&D Automotive, Mike Harbolt, Mark Blue, Don and Dianna Johnson, Steve Kuklica, and, of course, JEGS for their significant contributions.
The Winter Nationals started in 2005, with a group of friends getting together to break up the off-season with a practice Tree and a couple of beverages. DeChicco then learned of Jeff Hurst’s battle with cancer, and the party turned into something more.
In 2006, the Mr. Aruba Bench Race Winter Nationals and Charity Challenge was truly born.
Next year, DeChicco’s theme for the Winter Nationals will be “Share the experience, bring a friend!”
“I’m going to challenge this year’s participants to bring one new person to next year’s event,” DeChicco said. “I’ll take it from there.”
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