Champion racer supports Mayo Clinic in Arizona’s bold expansion by donating trophy car

Professional race car driver Aric Almirola and his wife, Janice, typically give quietly to causes close to their hearts. But after coming to Mayo Clinic, they wanted to make a louder impact in supporting Mayo Clinic's Arizona. Bold. Forward. expansion efforts.

The Almirolas settled on a unique gift that was sure to make some noise — a 1965 Shelby Cobra kit car.

It made sense that the black Shelby Cobra droptop with red racing stripes and open pipes would turn heads. It was a gift Aric received for winning a 2017 race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama, from the team co-owners, Bill and Lori DenBeste.

The 1965 Shelby Cobra kit car sold for $280,000 to an anonymous bidder at the prestigious Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 27 with all proceeds going to Mayo Clinic.

Learn more about the Almirolas' passion for giving during a recent talk with Mayo Clinic Magazine's Megan Forliti.

The excerpt highlights below were edited for clarity.

What was the first time you heard about Mayo Clinic? What impression did it make on you?

A friend of mine, a fellow race car driver, was battling some health issues and flew up to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After that, I started hearing about Mayo much more. I just fell in love with the way Mayo goes about taking care of people.

The idea that the patient's needs come first just resonated with me and my wife, Janice. So much of our society and our world is not built that way. We tend to focus on our needs first and everybody else comes after our needs are met. Mayo Clinic does it the way that it should be done. We've been believers and supporters of Mayo Clinic ever since.

Learn more about ...

Arizona. Bold. Forward.

Listen to Mayo Clinic leaders discuss the future of medicine in Arizona.

Arizona. Bold. Forward. is the largest and most visionary capital expansion project in Mayo Clinic history.

By 2024, Mayo Clinic will more than double the size of the Phoenix, Arizona, campus. Through a combination of new buildings and additions to existing structures, Arizona. Bold. Forward. will provide the necessary infrastructure to support advanced activities across the practice, research and education; to increase access for patients, accelerate new platforms for innovation; and provide more opportunities for research and education.

The project positions Mayo Clinic in Arizona to continue to lead the transformation of health care, and the recent pandemic has validated Mayo’s approach.

Arizona. Bold. Forward. will:

- Add 150,000 square feet of dedicated and integrated research and education space.

- Double the number of Emergency Department rooms to expand care for emergent needs of more than 75,000 people each year.

- Accelerate virtual and telehealth solutions for people to offer greater convenience, improved access to specialists, and the ability for providers to intervene earlier so people stay healthier longer before complex or serious conditions arise.

Visionary work is happening each day at Mayo Clinic, and capital expansion is an essential part of this progress. Philanthropic investment provides the necessary support to ensure Mayo Clinic’s full vision comes to fruition and addresses unmet patient needs in new and innovative ways.

You’re making a unique gift to Mayo Clinic by auctioning a 1965 Shelby Cobra. Tell us about the memories you've made with the car.

I’ve taken it on many date nights with my wife, and I've taken the kids to go get ice cream in it. And I've been very particular about when I drive it. I only put around 300 miles on it. As the years have gone on, and as we've grown closer and closer to Mayo Clinic, I've been trying to think of ways that we could contribute more. I came home from seeing the Arizona campus and Janice and I talked, and I said, “That car sitting right there in the garage — that’ll move the needle." The car is, in my opinion, now a tool to do something really good for other people.

It's a distinctive way to give back by bringing others in. Why did you decide to give a meaningful car from your own life to be sold at auction?

I would say Janice's and my natural tendency would be to give in quiet. Even though I am in the public limelight, we are not people that seek attention or publicity for things. We are blessed beyond our wildest dreams. And we love the fact that we have the opportunity to give back.

It was not right to just sell the car privately and take the proceeds and give it to Mayo. We felt like there was a lot more to be had — not necessarily financially or for me personally but for everybody involved — to create this awareness around giving and to donate to Mayo and [share] what Mayo means to me and to so many other people.

What are your hopes for whoever ends up with the car?

The thing is, you don't really get to pick who gets the car. But I have no doubt that whoever wins the auction for this car is (A) going to love the idea that it is going to Mayo in a great place and that it's going to help and touch the lives of so many others, and (B) they are going to cherish the vehicle. I really feel that, and I just hope that they will have as many wonderful and cool memories with the car as I did.

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Interviews, Stories of Hope
Interviews, Stories of Hope
Interviews, Stories of Hope