The 2005 Winter Nationals started with a few good friends getting together to break up the off-season with a practice tree and a couple of beverages. While at the Chrysler Classic awards banquet, I was made known of Jeff Hurst’s battle with cancer. The seed was planted that evening and we realized the party might be turned into something more profound.
My wife Jane, whose first thought was to keep her man from going stir crazy or driving her crazy during winters drag race withdrawal, endorsed my calling. At that time, I was a Summit Racing equipment kind of guy. Besides the yellow and black combo wouldn’t have been my first choice in apparel. Then I remembered another local racer, Jeg Coughlin, Jr., that had his own Racing for the Cure along with the James Cancer Hospital.
In 2006, the Mr. Aruba Bench Race Winter Nationals and Charity Challenge was truly born. The inaugural winners were Rusty Thompson (Gamblers Race) and J.D. Fleece (Beer Eliminator). We raised $1000 dollars that night.
Now what do we do? The call was made to Jeg’s corporate head quarters to inform of what some local racers had done for the cause and would Jeg Jr. be available to have the check presented to him personally (another idea from Mrs. Aruba). Heck, I was just going to mail it to him.
When the response came that he was willing to take some time to meet with Jane and myself….well frankly I was a bit excited. We found Jeg Jr. to be likable and humble. With over 70 Wally’s (NHRA racing trophies) lining the spiral stair case at JEG’s headquarters, Jeg Jr.’s words were “My brothers and I have been very fortunate.” He let us know how appreciative he was of our efforts.
After some racing talk, Jeg pulls out his small yellow practice tree because he better get practicing ASAP as he was about to fly out to race that very night. After replacing the battery he asked, “What rollout?” and I suggested a .32 rollout. With my wife as witness, I (oops) got a…000 perfect light. Jane just shook her head in disbelief as she sat behind “The Man”. Jeg Jr.’s comment was “ Hey you’re pretty serious”. Well, needless to say after the effort made by that 2006 night’s contestants and Jeg Jr’s graciousness, I now wear the yellow and black with pride, loyalty and enthusiasm.
As the years have passed, the attendance has increased as well as the total amount raised. This years donation was a record $5,758 for a total contribution over the 9 years of over $29,806! JEG’s continues to support this event with donation of giveaways and publicity on their website. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. We appreciate your continued generosity!