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Virtual road race raises $13,000 for hospital

Matchbox and Hot Wheel toy cars inch past one another during one of the five virtual races staged by TIP 189 Racing that raised $13,000 for Advocate Condell Medical Center.

Imagine you’re an amateur recreational race car driver sidelined by stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. What would you do?

Well, if you’re Rod Bolhous, you’d create a virtual race by building a miniature racetrack in your house, assigning Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars to your race club members, and asking participants to roll dice to determine how quickly their tiny cars advance. Oh, and you’d also snag a racing celebrity to join and charge participation fees that bring in $13,000 – all of which you generously donate to Advocate Condell Medical Center’s charitable foundation.

That’s exactly what Bolhous did.

“Everyone wanted to do something to help in the COVID-19 battle,” said Bolhous, principle of TIP 189 Racing and a retired manufacturing executive living in Lake Geneva. “It was a fun way to make a difference.”

Five virtual races took place in April and May, with 32 people participating. Participants included Jimmy

Vasser, an IndyCar Series champion who now owns a team, and Matt Primack, president of Advocate Condell Medical Center and racing club member. Primack’s wife and father also race, further solidifying the hospital connection. Dr. Marvin Primack is a retired orthopedic surgeon who serves as medical director of Condell’s National Surgical Quality Improvement Project (NSQIP).

Bolhous’ wife, Kathy Bolhous, doesn’t race but joined the fun with several others by placing wagers on the outcome. Kathy Bolhous is CEO of Charter NEX Films, a Wisconsin-based company that produces specialty films used in flexible packaging and critical performance applications including medical device packaging and other health care products.

TIP 189 Racing Principle Rod Bolhous in his 1967 Lotus 51 race car.

All proceeds collected from the virtual races benefit Advocate Charitable Foundation, the hospital’s fundraising arm.

“We’re so grateful for the support of Rod and TIP 189 Racing during this critical time. Their generous donation is helping to provide additional resources to our patients, physicians, nurses and team members,” Matt Primack said. “Their dedication and creative fundraising for our community is inspirational.”

For Rod Bolhous, the virtual races were a way to keep club members connected while the real racing season start has been postponed indefinitely due to local stay-at-home orders. Participants rolled dice at home and reported their numbers to Bolhous, who advanced the miniature cars on his painted plywood “racetrack.”

“It was natural for us to try to come up with something to get people involved – both team members and their families,” Bolhous said. “As time went by, we started introducing crashes and technical problems” to the virtual race – adding another angle to the competition.

TIP 189 Racing club members drive single-seat “open wheel” vintage race cars (model years 1965 to 1985) and race at tracks mostly across the Midwest, including Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. Bolhous’ race cars include a 1967 Lotus 51. The club usually hosts four or five races a year between May and October with an average field of 25-30 cars. Participants are mostly retired or working professionals who enjoy racing as a hobby.