On the track, a racecar driver’s hands and feet are continually in motion, especially on the challenging road courses that the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli visits. Constantly shifting, steering, accelerating and braking in a hot racecar for a long period of time, all while remaining focused and agile, is a challenge for even the most experienced drivers. But what if those repetitive motions and rising temperatures could also cause blisters, pain and scarring?
That is the reality of every race for 20-year-old Darin Mock, a Young Gun in the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series, who has been diagnosed with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). Individuals with EB lack critical proteins that bind the skin's two layers together. Without these proteins, the skin tears apart, blisters, and shears off, leading to severe pain, and internal and external wounds that may never heal.
“In the racecar, it affects me a lot,” says Mock. “It’s really hot in there, and it’s on my hands and my feet, so shifting is really hard for me. We’ve done some stuff to my car, such as putting some insulation on the shifter. Nitro Motorsports has been really helpful with that.”
Mock is lucky, as he has the most common and mild form of EB, EB Simplex. It primarily affects his hands and feet, with blisters formed due to heat and friction. More severe forms of the disorder can cause blisters inside and outside of the entire body, impacting life expectancy.
“I was born with EB simplex, which is the least severe form of the disease,” said Mock. “There are other forms of it that are life-threatening or fatal. Most people with those forms don’t live past 30, so it’s really, really sad.”
The condition is genetic, and was passed down from his father, NASCAR driver and team owner Butch Mock, who also has the EB Simplex variation.
“It’s hereditary, 50/50 with the genes,” explains Mock. “Back when my father raced, there weren’t COOLSHIRTs or anything like that, so he definitely was a lot worse off. It’s one of the reasons he decided to transition becoming a team owner. I’m fortunate now to live in this day and age where I have access to all the resources that I get.”
Mock has an ally in his team owner, Nick Tucker, who in addition to working with him on performance, is also able to provide him with the changes he needs to make driving easier for him.
“When we first started running together, it was evident that we needed to accommodate the EB symptoms,” said Tucker. “We’re using heat shielding and a different material for the shift lever to help him, and I think that’s gone a long way with his performance increase that we’ve seen this year.”
“It’s been really rewarding seeing Darin grow as a driver,” continued Tucker. “He’s performed every week, running in the top-10 consistently, so I’m really excited about where he’s at and how he’s improved as a driver.”
Mock has teamed up with the EB Research Partnership (ERBP), which will be featured on his No. 51 Nitro Motorsports Mustang at select events this year beginning at Lime Rock Park in May. EBRP is the largest global organization dedicated to funding research to treat and cure Epidermolysis Bullosa. Mock also recently partnered with Sweet Dreams Mattress and Furniture in his hometown of Mooresville, N.C. to host a very successful EBRP fundraising event.
“I felt conviction to align with a charity this year, and we had some open spots on the car; I found EBRP and it’s perfect,” said Mock. “I’m not only just talking about a charity, but I have the disease, so it’s been really meaningful. We’re really just trying to spread awareness for the cause and trying to get people to donate.”
The money raised by EBRP goes towards funding research to, hopefully, find a cure. Founded in 2010 by a group of dedicated parents and Jill and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, EBRP has raised over $50 million and has funded more than 120 EB research projects to date, impacting the clinical landscape with a 20x increase in the number of clinical trials in EB. In 2010, there were only 2 clinical trials in EB, today there are more than 40, with three in Phase III — the final phase before approval.
“EBRP is working on a treatment, but there isn’t one right now,” says Mock. “There’s been some different trials, some different ideas out there, and there’s some really cool stuff coming up that hopefully will work. That’s what we’re trying to do in partnering with them. We’re trying to find a cure for it, and hopefully we can do it soon.”