NASCAR: Six-year-old hospital patient celebrates Chris Buescher’s win

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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)

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”