GALOT Motorsports Park, the newly-purchased and recently renovated Dunn-Benson Dragstrip, was the center of attention this past weekend as the new facility celebrated a major milestone.
For the first time ever, the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) and its racers gathered at the track for PDRA Dragstock XIII. The storied race was the first national event for the track after being purchased and completely rebuilt by track owner, and Clinton native, Earl Wells.
Wells used this landmark opportunity to give back to the community, hosting a live auction featuring unique racing items, as well as other items, to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina.
Kristen Johnson, president and CEO of the regional chapter, and members of her team were at the track for the auction, which took place on Thursday evening.
Prior to the start of the auction, Johnson was invited on to the stage for opening statements. She was very appreciative of the opportunity to be at GALOT for the auction and went on to speak about the chapter. Johnson noted that there are currently 200 kids in the program and another 300 waiting. On average, she said, it takes about $7,500 to grant one wish.
It was also noted that a member of the GALOT Motorsports Park team was the beneficiary of the Make-A-Wish Foundation as the organization granted him a wish as the result of childhood leukemia.
Wells was proud of how the auction went and excited to have this opportunity, but he was also quick to admit that idea of the auction didn’t originate with him.
“A good friend of mine in the tractor pulling business, Larry Koester from Indiana, is very instrumental in the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Bowling Green, Ohio, which is home to the World’s Largest Tractor Pull. Every year they have an auction to raise money for the foundation,” Wells stated.
“I got involved in supporting that several years ago and seen what great work they do. Last year in Bowling Green, over $106,000 was raised just at the auction — that doesn’t include any extra donations given,” he continued.
Reflecting on the success at that venue, Wells was determined to start the tradition here in North Carolina.
“I said back when I started building this track ‘I think it would be great if we could do something similar to what they’re doing there,’” he continued. “I didn’t want to have it at our tractor pull because I didn’t want to completely copy what they’re doing so it was decided that it would be done for our drag racing event.”
That’s where Lizard Lick Towing comes in.
Ron and Amy Shirley, owners of Lizard Lick Towing, which was the center of a hit truTV series, were on hand Thursday, mingling with the audience and helping to promote the charity auction.
Wells was appreciative that they made arrangements in their schedule to show up and help. “Ron was gracious enough to come out and make an appearance as well as provide some donations to help us out,” he stated.
Shirley, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate in giving all the credit back to Wells.
“This is all him. I’m very thankful for the opportunity. Growing up you learn a lot of stuff that most people try to forget,” Mr. Shirley stated.
“But, I always try to remember the things that my Pa and Papa taught me. When Mr. Earl called we hung out for a little while and got to know each other. Over time, you learn things, and something I’ve learned is that people with true character, and I mean true character, are the people who help people that can’t help themselves. So when you see someone like Mr. Wells who does something like this and helps these kids, to me that shows character. How could I not team up and help out,” he concluded.
Make no mistake, though, the presence of the Lizard Lick duo made an impact. Intrigued onlookers couldn’t help but notice the large “Lick Life” Dodge pickup, beaming with flashing green and white LED lights. Fans were quick to pull out their smartphones, hoping to sneak a picture of the scene.
Standing in line for the pre-auction meal, more fans lined up for photo and autograph opportunities. At the auction, their popularity culminated as Lizard Lick merchandise and apparel quickly rose in price.
The auction was full of dozens of other items as well. The items auctioned off were wide-ranging, including PDRA Racing photos and collages, wall hangers, gift sets, hats and T-shirts, and official championship jackets. Some of the more notable items auctioned off included two tickets and hospitality passes to a 2017 NHRA event, collectibles and souvenirs from NASCAR greats such as Bill Elliot, Jeff Gordon, Geoff Bodine and Darrell Waltrip, as well as side panels and die cast from a Lucas Oil drag racer.
To conclude the excitement of the night, guests in attendance were treated to a live concert by Denver Nixon and band. By the end of the night, everyone’s hard work paid off as over $15,000 had been risen for the Eastern North Carolina Make-A-Wish chapter.
For more information on the chapter, eastnc.wish.org.