2023 CARS Tour at Caraway Speedway

CARS Tour Driver Gives Pediatric Cancer Patients A Memory They Won't Forget

CARS Tour Driver Gives Pediatric Cancer Patients A Memory They Won't Forget

CARS Tour driver Mini Tyrrell is using his platform to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer.

Jun 21, 2023 by Rob Blount
CARS Tour Driver Gives Pediatric Cancer Patients A Memory They Won't Forget

When Timmy Tyrrell was six years old, his friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Even as a six-year-old, the kid known as “Mini” knew he had to find a way to help his friend, Ella, and her family. At an age when many kids are just focused on what they’re going to wear to school the next day, Tyrrell was starting a foundation with the aid of his parents to raise money for kids like Ella who were fighting pediatric cancer and “Mini’s Mission” was born.

Fast-forward 13 years, and Mini Tyrrell is now a full-time competitor on the CARS Tour as one of the “Touring 12” drivers. He’s won races in a Late Model Stock Car, and he was CARS Tour Rookie of the Year in 2019. But more importantly, the now 18-year-old has helped raise more than $500,000 towards pediatric cancer.

And this past weekend at Dominion Raceway, Tyrrell helped give a dozen kids and their families a weekend they won’t soon forget.

“Burn Rubber to Help Another”

To tell the story of what took place last weekend at Dominion Raceway, you have to first go all the way back to the beginning when a six-year-old Mini Tyrrell, who was racing go-karts at the time, learned that his close friend, Ella, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

“I started it because of my inspiration, Ella Day, and the Day family,” explained Tyrrell. “She had a brain tumor when she was seven and I was six. We were family friends, and I overheard some conversations that they were struggling in certain places to pay some bills. I sat down with my father and asked what I could do to help, and how we could raise money to help with pediatric cancer awareness. That’s how Mini’s Mission took off.”

The Manassas, Virginia native decided to use his go-kart racing as a tool to raise money and spread awareness. Within a year, Tyrrell had raised more than $7,000, and had garnered enough attention to his cause that Mini’s Mission was even featured on national television on NBC’s Nightly News with an interview done by Anne Thompson in 2011.

“She was really, really sick, because of the cancer, and I wanted to help her,” a seven-year-old Tyrrell told Thompson.

The interview even found its way to NASCAR champion and Hall of Famer, Jeff Gordon, who started his own foundation to fight pediatric cancer, the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, in 1999.

“(Anne Thompson) did a whole story on what I was doing, and Jeff Gordon saw and he invited me out to Martinsville,” Tyrrell told FloRacing. “He spent a whole hour with me on race day just talking and showing me around. That’s what built the partnership with the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation.”

Through various fundraisers like kickball tournaments, bowling tournaments and more, Tyrrell has now raised more than half a million dollars towards pediatric cancer awareness.

An Idea Turns Into Reality

Through the years, Tyrrell has established quite the contact list full of people who have helped further his cause. Paul Nichols is one of those contacts, and he was instrumental in getting this idea to give these children and their families a weekend away from dealing with their cancer battles.

“Paul Nichols does a ton of work at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland,” Tyrrell said. “He’s heavily involved in pediatric cancer as well. He is the one that got us in contact with all of these families that we hosted at Dominion Raceway this weekend.”

Through Nichols, Tyrrell and his family hosted a child that is fighting sickle cell disease earlier this year at the Florence Motor Speedway in South Carolina. Tyrrell showed the boy and his family the race car, the team trailer, and all the inner workings of a race weekend with the CARS Tour. 

“That kind of sprung the idea on everything, because we wanted to do something nice. We did that at Florence and it was a hit,” said Tyrrell. “The kid loved it and he was super cool to me. I loved meeting him and his family and his mom, and that’s what brought on the idea.”

At the driver’s meeting that day at Florence, Tyrrell’s father addressed the CARS Tour drivers and teams and explained that they were looking to do something similar at Dominion, Tyrrell’s home track, but they wanted to do it even bigger and they wanted to incorporate Tyrrell’s fellow “Touring 12” program drivers.

“It was originally going to be 12 families from Walter Reed, but it turned into 13,” explained Mini. “We basically said this is what we were doing and we wanted the Touring 12 program to be a part of it.”

Tyrrell said that the feedback he received from his competitors and from the CARS Tour officials was immediately overwhelmingly positive with everybody wanting to do whatever they could to help out.

“Instantly there was two or three drivers that came up to me, and even team owners, and said they wanted to donate and wanted to be involved. Really, nobody questioned it. Every single one of them was asking what they needed to do and how to do it. Everything just came together.”

CARS Tour driver Andrew Grady meets one of the children from Walter Reed (Karsyn Elledge Photo).

Everybody knows how competitive race car drivers are, and as a result of that there’s plenty of dust-ups and confrontations and hurt feelings that drivers have towards each other. Even friends can have run-ins. But Tyrrell said that every driver put all of that aside to be part of something they all knew was much bigger.

“I think at that point if anyone had any problem with each other it was kind of just left on the pavement and no one really cared about what was going on at that moment in time. It was pretty eye-opening because it seemed like everyone really realized that we’re out there doing what we love and we’re super fortunate to be at a race track and to be able to get in these cars and race and have a good time with our family. A lot of these kids are just fighting to wake up in the morning.”

With all of the drivers and the series ready to be involved, Tyrrell turned to the staff at Dominion Raceway, his home track, for assistance in putting on this event, which became a two-day affair consisting of a special dinner with the drivers, teams, and families on Friday night, and the race day on Saturday. Each family sat with a driver and team at dinner, where everyone very quickly became friends. The families were also hosted in the suites on the top floor of Dominion’s beautiful tower, and the kids were all part of driver introductions as well.

“I owe a big thanks to Dominion Raceway because without them I wouldn’t have been able to put this on and have the dinner on Friday night for all of the families and get everybody together.”

An Unforgettable Night

Saturday, June 17, 2023 at Dominion Raceway will go down as one of the most memorable nights in CARS Tour history and in Dominion Raceway history.

Three-time series champion Bobby McCarty broke a winless streak that dated back to October of 2021 in thrilling fashion as he, Brenden Queen, and defending champion Carson Kvapil engaged in a fender-banging three-wide battle for the win that saw McCarty edge ahead of Queen by just 0.009-second in a photo finish.


Watch: CARS Tour Thriller at Dominion Named Sweet Mfg. Race of the Week

And just behind them sneaking by Kvapil for third was Tyrrell, scoring his best finish of the season and first podium finish with the CARS Tour since he won at Tri-County Motor Speedway in North Carolina in 2021.

But all of that pales in comparison to what was achieved off the race track that weekend.

“I tried to hold the tears back over the weekend and I was surprised I made it,” said a reflective Tyrrell. “I watched some of the clips back from over the weekend and that did me in this morning when I saw it. I kind of broke down and realized how big of a deal it really was for these kids. It’s one of those things that in the moment you’re thinking about it, and you rewatch it and have time to digest it and then it hits you all at once. It did this morning, which was cool.”

When asked what the best part of the weekend was, Tyrrell struggled to pick just one thing. He was pumped up to see McCarty, one of his best friends, take the win in the race, but that wasn’t the moment involving McCarty that stood out the most.

“After the chapel service my dad grabbed Bobby as he was on his way back from tech and put some of the kids in the car on the passenger side, and Bobby was driving them around the track. That was super cool.

Two kids from Walter Reed sit inside Bobby McCarty's race car (Karsyn Elledge Photo).

“(CARS Tour driver) Jacob Heafner’s family came up to me and they explained that he’s an introvert and he doesn’t talk very much, but Jacob sat there at the dinner and talked with the kid he was paired with the whole night. Jacob is a great guy, and I love Jacob, but he’s very quiet. So when I heard that, that made my day. For him and all the other drivers to do that and come out of their shell just means the world to me.”

Tyrrell said that CARS Tour founder and general manager, Jack McNelly summed it up well at the driver’s meeting that day.

“Jack said that we see all you guys as rough and gruff and focused and so in the moment,” Tyrrell explained. “But he said he saw all of us in a different light and personality. He said, ‘I think these kids really brought out the best in all of you.’ Everybody realized that was what was important and put all their attention to that. Every driver that was a part of it really knocked it out of the park.”

After the race, Tyrrell joined McCarty on track for a victory lap. It’s not often the driver that doesn’t win takes a victory lap, but Tyrrell wanted to salute the families who were watching from in the suites. It was more of a thank-you lap than a victory lap.

“I wanted to do that as a thank you to them, the fans, and the Britt family at Dominion Raceway,” said Tyrrell. “I’m just glad they all had fun.”