As part of the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ annual visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a group of patients from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio known as “Patient Champions” are paired up with drivers and teams that give them a special VIP experience during the race weekend.
Additionally, the 10 “Patient Champions” for today’s race were also honored with special paint schemes on their respective team’s car. Those paint schemes are created with input from each patient.
We’re sure that all of them had a great time today at Mid-Ohio, but one in particular may have had the best day of all.
Six-year-old patient Luke Benner was paired up with Nationwide Series rookie Chris Buescher and helped create an orange, black, and white livery for his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Today, Buescher put that car in Victory Lane, earning his first-ever NNS win – and also making Benner very happy as these post-race Twitter shots show:
On New Year’s Eve 2012, Benner’s parents noticed that his lymph nodes had grown to a large and bulging state on his neck. Eventually, Benner was sent to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where further analysis revealed that he was suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Benner quickly went on a chemotherapy schedule that would have him, on average, visit NCH every other day for a period of six to eight months with a full treatment term of up to three and a half years. But despite his diagnosis, he continues to enjoy a variety of interests, including swimming, Legos, dolphins, and of course, race cars.
The young boy first met Buescher at NCH a few weeks ago as the latter was in Columbus for pre-race media duties. No doubt that Benner will always be a fan of Buescher after this Saturday afternoon.
We’ll also take this moment to recognize the other nine “Patient Champions” that were honored in today’s race:
- Avery Neely – Paired with the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing team and driver Brian Scott (finished third)
- Blaine Snodgrass – Paired with the No. 22 Team Penske team and driver Alex Tagliani (finished fifth)
- Sean Tibbs – Paired with the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team and driver Elliott Sadler (finished seventh)
- Reid Zupanc – Paired with the No. 42 Turner Scott Motorsports team and driver Dylan Kwasniewski (finished eighth)
- Blake Hames – Paired with the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team and driver Trevor Bayne (finished ninth)
- Sydney Huber – Paired with the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team and driver Dakoda Armstrong (finished 10th)
- Dalton Miller – Paired with the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing team and driver Ryan Reed (finished 12th)
- Allie Norman – Paired with the No. 62 Richard Childress Racing team and driver Brendan Gaughan (finished 20th)
- Tarissa Suchecki – Paired with the No. 99 RAB Racing team and driver James Buescher (finished 25th)