Miss Coors Light, Amanda Mertz, catches up with Matt Kenseth, the Coors Light Pole Award winner for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Standing on stage holding his arms high above his head giving double peace signs, 10-year old Elijah Aschbrenner looked like a rock star – bright red hair, high wattage smile and unmistakable attitude. A year after being diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer, Epithelioid Sarcoma, Elijah struck the pose after joining NASCAR stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Danica Patrick walking the runway as part of the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation's "Catwalk for a Cause" pediatric cancer fundraiser this past May. Predictably, Earnhardt and Patrick got rousing cheers, but Elijah clearly stole the show -- afterwards be-bopping around the Mooresville, N.C., venue shaking hands with donors, grabbing snacks with his little brother Sam , 9, and posing for photos with the race car drivers. It was difficult to tell who was the celebrity and who was the cause célèbre. That was only five months ago. Unfortunately, a recent CT-scan revealed that despite the chemotherapy and the radiation and the surgeries -- despite great courage and faith -- Elijah's cancer has spread. And after a brief and hopeful time participating in a clinical trial in Atlanta last month, doctors have decided there is no further treatment to prescribe. A hospice nurse visits Elijah every Tuesday at his home outside Charlotte making sure he is comfortable. A hospice social worker also stops by regularly to counsel Sam and Elijah's friends, whom his mom, Becky Hughes, says "are having a real tough time with this." Though Elijah would much rather be riding a Ripstik outside with his brother and friends, he mostly spends his days in a wheelchair building elaborate Lego creations or watching television -- "Wheel of Fortune" is one of his favorites. "My mom and I are really good at it," he says. He loves the occasional trips to Target or Toys "R" Us, and the steady stream of visitors who bring prayers and love. The cancer has taken a real toll on Elijah's young body. His voice is softer and strained, his stamina greatly diminished, but cancer has not sapped his incredible spirit or lessened his intense resolve. "There are so many days I could just cry and let myself get buried in that, but I can't," his mom explained. "Elijah is strong and Sam is strong, always there to make us laugh and smile. "I have prayed to God to just give me this tumor. I would do that in a heartbeat. The worst pain in the world is seeing your child going through something like this, and you can't fix it, you can't do anything. "I could be an emotional wreck, but Elijah only allows me three minutes of crying a day. Some days I don't need it, but if I start to, he'll say, "Three minutes, Mom." Hughes has worked in the racing industry for years both as a driver public relations representative and now with sponsor Great Clips. She has been buoyed by the outpouring of support from the NASCAR community but not surprised. This weekend Elijah and his family will be guests of Ann and Ken Schrader at the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . After some souvenir shopping -- his favorite part of the day -- Elijah is looking forward to stopping in the garage area and seeing his "friends" from the Catwalk event. So many of them have provided help to Elijah and his family. Drivers have lent their private airplanes to transport Elijah to various doctors around the Southeast. They have donated money to cover the escalating medical bills and sent messages of support using the hashtag #prayersforelijah on social media. More significantly, they have given their time and attention. Truex and his girlfiend, Sherry Pollex, herself undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, are essentially on speed dial with the family and have been constant support for Elijah. Pollex organizes the Catwalk event and had been raising money ($300,000 this year) for childhood cancer long before she was affected personally by the disease. Team Penske put Elijah's name over the door of both of its Sprint Cup Series Chase contending cars last week. And 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski devoted one of the entries on his popular blogs to remind people about "perspective" in life. He used Elijah as a shining example. Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing are among the organizations to publicly offer good wishes -- the entire team from shop foremen to drivers posing with a "Prayers for Elijah" sign. And while it is all a bit overwhelming and "very cool," Elijah joked this week that it does cause a minor problem when it comes to picking a driver to cheer for. "That's the hard part," Elijah said. "They are all so good to me. "The fact they know me is outstanding, I don't know how a kid like me would get that lucky to meet them. Just knowing them means a lot to me." His mother begins to cry when trying to explain the impact of those relationships. "He really looks up to Martin (Truex) and Dale Junior and Kasey (Kahne) and Jeff Gordon and feels like they are all his buddies because they have done events with him," Hughes said. "After the Catwalk, he'll talk about how Dale Junior is his buddy. During a race, he'll ask me to call Dale Jr. and get him to do this or that. I'll laugh. It shows how great these guys have been to Elijah. "Even if they were just with him for half an hour it made such an impact on him and made him feel comfortable and like a friend.That means everything to me. To see how happy he gets thinking he has all these buddies in all these different avenues of sports." Taking the cue from NASCAR's best, other sports have rallied about Elijah, too. WWE wrestling star Titus O'Neil changed a flight to detour to Charlotte and pay a visit to Elijah. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton surprised Elijah at a block party in his honor -- a Halloween theme because that's Elijah's favorite holiday. News outlets from People Magazine to "The Today Show" shared the story. "I'm in disbelief. Every day we'll hear of another athlete doing something for him, last night someone sent us a picture of Kirk Cameron holding up a sign saying 'Prayers for Elijah,' " Hughes said. "It's just amazing to me, the outreach and the people that have been impacted throughout all this, from NASCAR, to WWE to the Panthers. Everyone's just put their arms around us and are supporting us. "He is definitely a loved little boy, and I am so blessed that God chose me to be his mom. He is the bravest little boy I know and I just pray for many, many more years to watch him grow up." It's not just famous people who have recognized and rallied for Elijah. Classmates from school visit him. The community organized a golf tournament fundraiser, and even local restaurants designated certain nights to donate funds. In some ways, "Prayers for Elijah" has grown from a sentimental hashtag or well wish into a movement. It is a plea for more funding and research into childhood cancers, which currently receive a very small portion of the overall funds. It is an inspiration reminding us if a 10-year-old boy can be this strong and positive despite all he's going through, then we should have great courage and a better attitude, too. It is a lesson in living in the present each day. As a breast cancer patient myself, I feel a special connection to Elijah. I was diagnosed a couple months after him and our chemotherapy treatments and surgeries often coincided. In fact, I had radiation treatment the morning I flew from Florida to Charlotte to attend May's Catwalk event. And I had to leave early the next morning to be back in the cancer center for my next round. That evening I asked Elijah what advice he had for other cancer patients. "Keep fighting," he said. "And breathe." His mom considers that evening a gift -- a time of pure happiness and excitement. How proud to know her son was an inspiration to every soul in the room. And still is. "He was amazing, he just shined that night," Hughes recalled. "It was like, 'Here I am and I'm not going to let cancer get the best of me.' And he's had that attitude from Day 1. "There have been many days when my faith is down and I’m scared and worried and he'll look at me and say, 'Mama, we're going to get through this.' So never once has his faith been in question. A few months ago he coined the phrase, 'Faith and believing are your cure.' And he really means it. "He is amazing and he gives me strength every day." He does the same for all of us.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The next three-race set of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs comes with a round-capping layer of dread at one of the circuit's most feared tracks, Talladega Superspeedway . The possibility of adding laps under the green-white-checkered finish rules only ratchets up the pressure. Chase-eligible drivers talked Tuesday about the possibility of reducing the specter of overtime, saying that exploratory discussions have been held with NASCAR about potentially limiting the mayhem predicted for the Contender Round finale, the Camping World.com 500 (Oct. 25, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Drivers in the newly whittled field of 12 competing for the championship spoke favorably about decreasing the number of attempts at a two-lap shootout finish at restrictor-plate venue Talladega and its sister track, Daytona International Speedway . The "green-white-checkered" rule, instituted for NASCAR's premier series in 2004, currently has a cap of three attempts to finish the race under the green flag. Because of the Talladega facility's tendency toward large multicar wrecks, especially in the late stages of its races, decreasing the number of shootout-style finishes has won over some fans among the series' competitors. "I don't think it's a bad thing," 2012 series champ Brad Keselowski said. "We go there and say we're going to run 500 miles. You run 500 miles and it ends under yellow, it kind of feels a little uncomfortable. Give another crack at it and see if you can't finish it off for the fans, and if it doesn't come together, well, we tried. I would feel pretty good about that if I was a fan. And as a team owner, I would feel pretty good about that, too. "I feel like one crack at it kind of feels like, if you've ever been to a concert and the guy gets up there and does an encore, it kind of feels like that. It's like a showing of appreciation and respect toward our fans. But I think one gesture toward it is good ." A NASCAR spokesperson said Tuesday that nothing has been decided in terms of changing Talladega's rules. Denny Hamlin , winner of the Chase opener at Chicagoland, said that "another option for sure that's on the table" would alter the restart format altogether. "I actually think the biggest change at Talladega for the finishes would be a single-file restart," Hamlin said. "I think double-file restarts really play into whoever's leading's advantage. Now if you put us all single-file, it forces the people in second, third, fourth, fifth to make a move to try to get the lead. Right now, we're where the leader has such an advantage that he's able to block both lanes, that I think single-file restarts at the end, there's more exciting finishes there than what we've seen in the past. It probably would be safer." Two of the last three Chase events at Talladega have gone into overtime, with one of those green-white-checkered attempts producing one of most frantic crashes in recent NASCAR history -- a race-ending 25-car melee in October 2012. Though there were no major injuries, the toll came in the form of a majority of the field suffering some form of damage. In addition to potentially reducing some of the danger associated with one of NASCAR's fastest tracks, drivers foresee positives in also dialing back any financial destruction. "Just from the standpoint of owners throwing away money for one extra green-white-checker, yeah," Martin Truex Jr . said. "All you do is destroy race cars and when it gets to that point, guys just lost their minds and hold it wide open no matter what the situation. I think it's a good thing. We tear up so much stuff there, it'd be nice for at least half the field to bring home a race car."
Kasey Kahne ready to race strong at Charlotte for Braylon Beam CONCORD, N.C. -- Braylon Beam showed off his dance moves as did Kasey Kahne 's crew chief Keith Rodden and several crew members of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at the media center at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday. Beam, Rodden and the No. 5 crew did the dance to "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)." Braylon and the http://t.co/Tm9crYUboG team #JustKeepDancing ! pic.twitter.com/plyty2sVXO — Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) October 8, 2015 Beam, the six-year-old behind the "Just Keep Dancing" campaign that raises awareness for pediatric cancer through fan-submitted video, is fighting a brain tumor and uses dancing as a way to feel better during his chemotherapy treatments. At Charlotte, Beam is serving as an honorary crew chief and Rodden has a personal connection to the Beam family from his childhood. Rodden, in his first season as Kahne’s crew chief, was visibly choked up talking about the impact the Beam family has had on him. "Coach Beam and Mrs. Beam, they were teachers at East Lincoln High School in Denver, North Carolina (where Rodden went to school). I tell you what, they were just excellent people and they have touched so many people in our community for so many years. They went above and beyond what any educator needed to do. "As soon as I found out about Braylon…I had never met Braylon until today or his father Jesse or his mother Meredith … when I saw his story I said, man, we got to do something for Braylon. We got to do something for their family. They’ve just done so much for Denver, North Carolina and I wanted to try to give back. " Good grief, this kid has given back so much more to us than we could ever provide for him. We get so caught up in stuff that we do…racing and winning, tight and loose, restarts and all that stuff. This really puts that into perspective. "I'm just so honored that he decided to come and hang out with us today. I think Kasey’s done a great job and I think Braylon got on him a little bit." When asked what he expected out of Kahne at the 1.5-mile track, Beam responded, " Kasey Kahne ’s going to step up his game." And he is cooking up a dance for Kahne should he win Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) Prior to the start of the NFL season, Beam was also an honorary coach for the Carolina Panthers and he has also appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Last month, he led the "Keep Pounding" drum ceremony at a Panthers game. For the record, Beam says the Panthers are better dancers than the No. 5 crew members. Later this weekend, Beam will serve as the honorary starter for Five Kahne 5K charity run on Sunday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Check out a longer version of Thursday's dance party.
RELATED: Complete race lineup CONCORD, N.C. – For a driver who keeps insisting that qualifying isn’t his strong suit, Matt Kenseth continues to excel on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole days. Touring the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway in a blistering 27.759 seconds (194.532 mph) on Thursday night, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota earned the top starting spot for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC/Live Extra), the first race in the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Kenseth was .198 seconds quicker than JGR teammate Kyle Busch (193.154 mph), who put the No. 18 Toyota on the outside of the front row. Busch's car is sporting a pink paint scheme this weekend to bring attention to the work of his foundation in fighting breast cancer. The Coors Light Pole Award was Kenseth’s fourth this year—a personal best for a single season—his second at Charlotte (and second consecutive) and the 17th of his career. Kenseth didn't have a perfect lap, but as he crossed the start/finish to complete the circuit, he knew he had a shot at the pole. "It was a heck of a lap," Kenseth said. "I knew I had a lot of speed. I kind of changed it up in (Turns) 1 and 2 a little bit, and I just got a little tight in the middle of (Turns) 3 and 4. I knew the car was fast. Our Dollar General Camry has been fast all day, and it was a lot of fun to drive." Kenseth gave the car and crew chief Jason Ratcliff's setup much of the credit for his pole-winning effort. "I knew it was going to be real fast," Kenseth said. "I didn't know we were going to sit on the pole by any means, but it had the feel and everything that I wanted. It's funny, this place, if you can get it to drive just like you want, you can really perform well here, but it's so hard to get that feel… "But today he (Ratcliff) got it to drive that way. I was going to have to mess it up to not get it, as good as he had it there." Joey Logano (193.023 mph) qualified third, followed by Greg Biffle (192.947 mph) and Denny Hamlin (192.912 mph). With Carl Edwards claiming the eighth starting spot, JGR put all four of its drivers, all of whom are Chase contenders, in the top eight. All told, Chase drivers grabbed nine of the top 12 positions on the grid, with Biffle, Jimmie Johnson (seventh) and Aric Almirola (ninth) the only non-Chase drivers able to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying. Busch, who fought his way back into the Chase with a second-place finish last Sunday at Dover, was pleased with his effort in time trials. "I don't know— Matt Kenseth , he was better than me, that's for sure," Busch said. "He got more out of it than me, but our pink M&M's Camry is awesome. We were able to post some good speed there. I'm real happy with it… and I'm looking forward to the race on Saturday night." All 12 Chase contenders advanced through the first round, but Brad Keselowski (13th), Martin Truex Jr . (15th) and Jeff Gordon (22nd) weren't fast enough to make the final elimination session, which is restricted to the top 12. Keselowski ran an identical lap to 12th-place Carl Edwards but lost the final spot in the third round on an owner points tiebreaker. Josh Wise and Timmy Hill failed to make the 43-car field. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track on Friday for practice at 3:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Live Extra).
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Award-winning country music duo Florida Georgia Line, comprised of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, will perform the DAYTONA 500 Pre-Race Show prior to the start of the 58 th annual DAYTONA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 21 (FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio and SiriusXM Radio), the first ever “Great American Race” to be held at Daytona International Speedway following the completion of the $400 million DAYTONA Rising frontstretch redevelopment project. "We are thrilled to secure Florida Georgia Line as the performers for the DAYTONA 500 Pre-Race Show,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “Florida Georgia Line is country music's premier duo and will provide race fans with an energetic performance prior to the start of the DAYTONA 500 ." All race fans who purchase Sprint FANZONE/Pre-Race access for the DAYTONA 500 will be able to view Florida Georgia Line’s DAYTONA 500 Pre-Race Show, as well as driver introductions, from the grass tri-oval area. A limited number of DAYTONA 500 Pre-Race Concert ticket packages, available starting at $235, have been designed around Florida Georgia Line and include a DAYTONA 500 ticket, Sprint FANZONE/Pre-Race access and VIP area access to the performance. Race fans who have already purchased DAYTONA 500 tickets can add Sprint FANZONE/Pre-Race access and VIP area access for $110. All VIP ticket packages will be available beginning at 9 a.m. on Sept. 28. For Kelley, performing at the "World Center of Racing" will be a homecoming having grown up in the neighboring city of Ormond Beach. Kelley attended Seabreeze High School and Daytona State College and his father, Ed Kelley, has been the mayor of Ormond Beach since 2010. "It's a dream come true to play in the city where I was born, went to high school in and now have the honor of being a part of one of my family's favorite sporting events, the DAYTONA 500 ," Kelley said. "Performing at the 500 feels full circle to me as I grew up working the 500 as a fundraiser for our baseball team and was in awe then and still am." "We're extremely thankful for the opportunity to be part of such a huge day for NASCAR and our fans. We can't wait to bring the biggest party the DAYTONA 500 has ever seen," Hubbard said. Florida Georgia Line fueled with three scorching consecutive #1 hits -- GOLD-certified "Sippin’ On Fire" and "Sun Daze" and 2X PLATINUM-certified "Dirt" -- and the recently-released title track, Florida Georgia Line radiates with the GOLD-certified sophomore album ANYTHING GOES (Republic Nashville). Their latest album soared to a #1 debut on the all-genre Billboard 200 and Billboard Top Country Albums charts with music critics and fans alike embracing the superstar duo's fresh sound. FGL has skyrocketed to stardom becoming the only artist in history to join Brooks & Dunn in achieving four back-to-back, multi-week #1 singles; breaking the record for longest #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and selling over 21 million tracks worldwide of their 2X PLATINUM debut HERE’S TO THE GOOD TIMES and ANYTHING GOES. Taking their undeniable songwriting skills to the next level and discovering new talent, FGL recently formed publishing company Tree Vibez Music, whose moniker was aptly inspired by Kelley's custom treetop recording studio built by Pete Nelson for the hit show Treehouse Masters. In addition to collaborating across genres with sensations like Nelly and Jason Derulo, FGL has racked up a plethora industry awards, closing out an epic 2014 topping four of Billboard's year-end charts and leading Forbes "30 Under 30" list. The accolades continue to pour in: FGL brought home two ACM Awards -- their second consecutive Vocal Duo of the Year title and Vocal Event of the Year ("This Is How We Roll" featuring Luke Bryan) -- a CMT Music Award for Duo Video of the Year ("Dirt") and tallied four Billboard Music Awards nominations. They are currently on tour through October 17. Those wishing to attend the 58th annual DAYTONA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will need to act quickly as there will be a limited number of tickets available due to the reduced seating capacity in the new stadium. Fans should also note: · Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or visiting www.DAYTONA500.com . · Hospitality and premium seat packages, including the Trioval Club, the Rolex 24 Lounge and Sprint FANZONE/Pre-Race wristbands are also available. · For all other Speedweeks events, children 12 and under are $10 in reserved grandstands and free in general admission areas and in the Sprint FANZONE. Fans can also visit PrimeSport.com, the new official ticket exchange and travel package provider of Daytona International Speedway . Offering multiple options for tickets, lodging and hospitality, https://www.primesport.com/d/daytona- 500 -tickets is ideal for fans looking for the ultimate racing experience
Ticked off Tony sends brazen tweet after poor qualifying performance Tony Stewart 's No. 14 Chevrolet was nearly 5 mph slower than Stewart-Haas Racing 's No. 4 car in Thursday's qualifying, and the boss was highly displeased. Kevin Harvick posted a speed of 191.415 mph in the third and final round of qualifying Friday, winding up with an 11th-place starting position in Saturday's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . But the No. 4 Chevrolet had been even quicker in practice, topping the leaderboard with a fast lap over 193 mph. Stewart's top qualifying speed was 186.754 mph, dropping him to 36th place for the start of the Sprint Cup Series race. Stewart's qualifying has been a sore spot this season. He has cracked the top 10 of the starting grid only eight times. A four-race stretch from Indianapolis to Michigan seemed to indicate the problem was fixed, with consecutive top-five qualifying runs. The three-time champ announced that 2016 will be his final full-time Sprint Cup season and during his announcement said he intended to be competitive next season. Job 1 will be getting his first Daytona 500 win. It appears 'Smoke' wants to light a fire under his team immediately.
David Ragan 's plans for this weekend's race in the NASCAR industry's backyard will take on special meaning, with birthday accommodations made for a special guest. Ragan paid a visit Wednesday to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville, South Carolina, surprising 8-year-old NASCAR fan Hunter Black at a birthday lunch. Ragan took part in the celebration with his own gift for the youngster -- a weekend trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway as his honored guest for Saturday's Sprint Cup Series race. Ragan planned to ask Black, a patient born with cerebral palsy, to join him and assist with driver introductions as part of the pre-race ceremonies for Saturday night's Bank of America 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM). The two met during a previous hospital visit in April 2014. Ragan, in his ninth full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, named Shriners Hospitals for Children his official charity in 2008. Having a great birthday lunch at @shrinershosp Greenville with my pal Hunter. He'll be coming to the race Saturday! pic.twitter.com/Nlbyho8dA4 — David Ragan (@DavidRagan) October 7, 2015
RELATED: Gordon by the numbers at Charlotte As Jeff Gordon 's farewell tour winds down, so do the number of chances to scratch the win column in his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The four-time champion sees opportunities in the seven races that remain, however, even as a bigger goal looms. Gordon took his rightful place among the 12 title-eligible Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Tuesday, just days before the three-race Contender Round kicks off with this Saturday night's Bank of America 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM). A victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend would provide a bookend for his career at the site of his first major-league triumph, back in 1994. With 29 races in the books, Gordon is facing down the prospect of a winless final season, but he said a title ring for the thumb would be the ultimate trump card. "I mean, I'll be disappointed, but at the same time, I'm a realistic person and we've rarely put ourselves in position and had the cars and the team to do that," Gordon said. "I think certainly Martinsville's high on my list of opportunities, and I feel like we've been able to win there the last several years. I've got to make sure I go in there and do my job because I think we're very capable of winning there. "To me, the championship overrides that, and even if we don't win a race and win the championship, that'll supersede the win." Gordon qualified for the 10-race postseason on the basis of points and advanced through the first three-race series with finishes of 14th (Chicagoland), seventh (New Hampshire) and 12th (Dover). Passing the Challenger Round test mirrored the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 team's steady effort from the regular season, when Gordon placed in the top 10 in half of the 26 races. With the points re-racked for the next round, Gordon said having equal footing in the standings makes the championship race a new day for all 12 finalists, icing on the season-ending cake. "I feel like it's all bonus from here on out," Gordon said. "We haven't had the best year, but we've done a great job at fighting and overcoming things and here we are with having -- up to the Chase -- not a very great performance, and yet we're in the Chase. And I think we showed in Chicago that we've improved our mile-and-a-half program. Let's hope that continues these next two weeks, but it's full-on reset. "We came into this thing very far behind in bonus points and now we're on an even playing field as far as points are concerned. You've got to just play to your strengths, and I think our strengths are that we're very consistent, we've got a lot of fight in us, and we've had to fight through a lot of things this year, so we're very experienced at that." Gordon exited the title hunt last year in the Eliminator Round, the final three-race series before the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Though the current Chase format is only in its second year, Gordon said the pressure "only intensifies from here" as the season winds down. One team that has risen in close correlation with the stress levels has been the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 outfit helmed by defending series champion Kevin Harvick , who converted a must-win situation last weekend at Dover to keep his repeat hopes alive. Though Gordon said the focus remains in-house for the No. 24 bunch for the time being, it's been hard to ignore the accomplishments from Harvick & Co. "We're in a category right now where it's really just focus on how we get ourselves to Homestead and then see who we need to worry about, but the first step is just that," Gordon said. "But I will say consistently every weekend, he's at the top of board, he's the guy that I think everybody's measuring themselves off of, but in all honesty I think he's in a whole 'nother category right now."