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Rob Fuller and his 15-40 connection Modified race for life at Thompson Speedway

 While he may not get to drive the race car, cancer survivor Dave McGrath’s role on the #15 Rob Fuller Motorsports team at the Thompson Icebreaker race was very important.
While he may not get to drive the race car, cancer survivor Dave McGrath’s role on the #15 Rob Fuller Motorsports team at the Thompson Icebreaker race was very important.
Rob Fuller Motorsports

This year, the No. 15 Rob Fuller Motorsports team is traveling to the racetrack with more than just victory on their mind. They also want to try and get the assembled fans, both at the track and online, to pay attention to an important, though sometimes not thoroughly discussed topic; cancer detection.

"My career in motorsports has run the spectrum from being a driver, team owner, over-the-wall tire changer, and recently I opened LFR Chassis where I'm building late model and modified chassis with Steve Leavitt," stated Fuller. "It's been quite a journey and filled with many memories."

The team had special guest Dave McGrath with them at Thompson Speedway, whose primary focus was to share his experiences and show that although it may not be pleasant, cancer is something that can be overcome. According to the American Cancer Society, each year 77,000 teens and young adults between the ages of 15 - 40 are diagnosed with cancer. Yet, since 1975, improvements in cancer survival rates have not kept pace with other age groups. Delayed diagnosis is an import culprit of this problem.

"The key to beating most types of cancer is early diagnosis. Although there is no specific list of cancer symptoms, if you notice anything that's out of your normal health (change in energy, weight, skin, pain, etc.) that lasts longer than 2 weeks you should see a doctor about it. You know your body better than anyone, so ultimately it's your responsibility to take action if you're experiencing symptoms. If you know something is wrong but your doctor isn't taking you seriously, it may be time to find another doctor," McGrath added. "I speak for 15-40 Connection because I am a perfect example of both what not to do and what to do when faced with symptoms. With my Crohn's Disease I dealt with symptoms for years before I went to a doctor, and the result was surgery and removal of 1 1/2 feet of my intestines (which wouldn't have been necessary if I went to a doctor earlier). With my brain cancer I went to a doctor right away, and it saved my life."

Rob Fuller Motorsports and 15-40 Connection have teamed up to feature young cancer survivors during the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season in an effort to raise awareness of cancer symptoms and the obstacles teens and young adults face to diagnose cancer at earlier stages.

"The relationship started off as a friendship and has grown to a great partnership in order to spread awareness of this organization. My son played baseball with the grandson of Jim Coghlin, Sr., who is the Founder of 15-40 Connection," stated Fuller. "They had not been involved in motorsports and it was a good opportunity for us to partner and raise awareness for their mission. Also, I had an uncle who passed away at the age of 39 due to cancer. So I understand the importance of early detection."

Dave McGrath, who is now 39, was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 18, but prior to that he experienced a delayed diagnosis which was a learning experience that likely saved his life.

"I have been cancer free for over 20 years, and even though Crohn's Disease is a chronic condition I have found the right balance of diet, exercise, and medication that has minimized the number of "bad days" I have," McGrath continued. "I'm still playing hockey a few times a week, so there's not much I can complain about."

The teams thirteenth place finish was not what they were hoping for, but they will be ready to race once again on April 27, when the team heads to Stafford Motor Speedway for the NAPA Spring Sizzler 200.

"We need better end results," continued Fuller. "Last year we were competitive but didn't have the finishes. We have an experienced crew and we've partnered with Mike Smerliglio III Racing this year. So we are expecting good results. Also, I'm looking forward to having 15-40 Connection gain more exposure in the sport and with race fans as a second-year sponsor."

Longtime fans of motorsports have undoubtedly noticed that the amount of people in the grandstands has decreased drastically in the past few years. Many factors are responsible for this decline, including technology, the economy, and a general changeover in the way people spend their time. However, recently the amount of people at the tracks has been on the increase for the first time in a long time.

“Race fans want to watch racing. If prices are too high to attend the Sunday races and fans don’t enjoy watching it on TV, they will find a local track to attend and get their fix," Fuller concluded. "As long as the short tracks around the country don't raise the prices too high I think attendance will go up at short tracks.”