On Sunday, April 6, Rob Fuller, owner/driver of the No. 15 15-40 Connection Chevrolet, is looking forward to a solid start to the season in this weekend’s Icebreaker 150 presented by Town Fair Tire. Fuller earned a pole position in the Southern modified race in 2012 and qualified in the Top-10 for his last two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at his hometown track where the Fuller family has thrived in securing victories and championships.
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.
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 will be no less important, where he will act as a honorary crew member for RFM and his picture will be featured on the race car.
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 learned my lesson; I dealt with symptoms of Crohn’s Disease for months before I finally went to the doctor because the pain was unbearable,” said McGrath. “At age 14, Crohn’s Disease was found in my intestines and one and a half feet of them were removed. After that, things were going fine for me, up until my 18th birthday when I started having double vision and headaches. Unlike with my Crohn’s Disease symptoms, I decided to see a doctor right away.”
That’s when McGrath learned that he had a brain tumor that lead to a diagnosis of cancer. He underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and following treatment was cancer-free.
According to the United States government, 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. Massachusetts-based non-profit 15-40 Connection is a second-year partner with Rob Fuller Motorsports and is committed to raising awareness of the fact that cancer survival rates in teens and young adults ages 15 to 40 have barely improved since 1975 in large part because of delays in diagnosis. It is empowering individuals with knowledge that wills save and improve lives through early cancer detection.
“Dave has been a volunteer speaker for 15-40 Connection since 2011 and annually speaks to hundreds of high school and college students sharing the lessons he learned through his diagnosis,” said Tricia Laursen, Executive Director at 15-40 Connection. “The partnership with Rob Fuller has allowed our volunteers to reach new audiences that will hopefully save lives.”
A special decal featuring McGrath’s image will be on the rear decklid and side panels of the #15 Chevrolet piloted by team driver/owner Rob Fuller. The race team featured leukemia survivor Josh Bell on the car at the non-points event in Daytona in February and plans to honor four more survivors this race season.
“The support received when we honored Josh Bell on the car in Daytona showed us that this is important,” said Rob Fuller. “I lost an uncle to cancer when he was just 39 years old and I want to make sure we do our part to support 15-40 Connection and all that they do.”
In addition to his volunteer work with 15-40 connection, McGrath works at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in Worcester where cancer patients have free lodging and support while undergoing treatment. He created Skating for Hope, a 24-hour ice skating event that’s entering its fourth year and raised thousands to help cancer patients who are in the middle of treatment.
Second-year partner 15-40 Connection also considers Thompson its home track as the non-profit is based in Westborough, Mass., just 30 miles north of the speedway.
“Partnering with Rob in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has allowed 15-40 Connection to share experiences from young cancer survivors and empower individuals with information about early cancer detection,” said Tricia Laursen, Executive Director at 15-40 Connection. “We’re excited to have Dave McGrath, a young adult cancer survivor, featured on the race car and sharing his story with race fans this week.”
The No. 15 Rob Fuller Motorsports team recently tested at Thompson to prepare for the season-opener and were pleased with the results.
“The track was in rough shape at the start, which is to be expected and we didn't have any used tires so we went out on new tires early,” said Fuller in regards to the test. “It took the track a couple hours to get rubbered up and by then we had 50 laps on our tires but we still were running good lap times compared to the teams that put tires on later. We bolted on our practice tires for next week and ran three good laps on them and the car felt solid. I’m looking forward to a strong showing for 15-40 Connection in the first points event of 2014.”
The Icebreaker 150 presented by Town Fair Tire is scheduled for Sunday, April 6 at 3:45 p.m. ET, and is being broadcast live on Fanschoice.tv. An on-track autograph session for fans will start at 10:30 a.m. that morning.
Next up for Rob Fuller Motorsports is the Modified Racing Series event at Thompson Speedway on May 29 where, for the first time, Fuller will race a modified chassis built by LFR Chassis - a company he recently formed with legendary chassis builder Steve Leavitt.
Be sure to subscribe to the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner, and keep track of your favorite racers, no matter how many (or how few) wheels they may or may not race on. If you're a motorsports fan, and know of an event, team, or person you'd like to see profiled, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about local getaways, HOAs, elections, and restaurants.