NASCAR.com's Holly Cain wins NMPA Spirit Award
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Veteran motorsports writer Holly Cain has been chosen as the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s annual Spirit Award for 2015. A resident of Lakeland, Fla., Cain has covered motorsports for more than 25 years during which time she has worked for numerous publications, including the Tampa Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer as well as AOL.com and FOXSports.com. Currently a senior writer for NASCAR.com, she has been recognized for her reporting on multiple occasions, earning awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) as well as the NMPA. Diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2014, Cain has shown tremendous courage and an incredibly positive attitude while engaged in her difficult battle. She has been a long-time supporter of the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and continues to participate in fundraising and other efforts to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer. The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, the NMPA membership selects four quarterly winners, with an overall winner chosen from the four candidates. Cain was the second quarter recipient of the award. Others recognized with quarterly awards this past year were NASCAR television broadcaster Steve Byrnes (first quarter), IndyCar driver Justin Wilson (third quarter) and four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon . Cain was presented the award Jan. 17 during the NMPA’s annual convention and awards dinner in Concord, N.C. Overall winners of the NMPA Spirit Award: Year – Recipient 2015 – Holly Cain 2014 – Lynda Petty 2013 – Marcy Scott 2012 – Andy Hillenburg 2011 – Jeff Gordon 2010 – Jim Hunter 2009 – David Poole 2008 – T. Taylor Warren 2007 – Bill France Jr. 2006 – Benny Parsons 2005 – Morgan Shepherd 2004 – Kyle and Pattie Petty 2003 – Bob Latford 2002 – Larry Hicks 2001 – Ricky Craven 2000 – Kyle Petty 1999 – Clay Earles 1998 – Mark Martin 1997 – Dave Marcis 1996 – Dale Earnhardt 1995 – Ernie Irvan 1994 – Ernie Irvan 1993 – Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki 1992 – Davey Allison Family
NASCAR's Holly Cain wins second quarter NMPA Spirit Award
NASCAR.com reporter Holly Cain has been voted as the National Motorsports Press Association's Spirit Award winner for the second quarter of 2015. Cain , whose career covering motorsports spans more than 25 years, was named on 66 percent of the ballots cast by NMPA membership. The award is "designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports," according to the NMPA's news release. RELATED: Steve Byrnes honored with first quarter NMPS Spirit Award Cain was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2014. Her courage and determination while battling multiple surgeries, her ability to write with passion and purpose, and -- most importantly -- her role as a loving mother of two have inspired others throughout the NASCAR industry. Cain has been a longstanding supporter of the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and its "Race for a Cure" running events. Her column documenting her personal fight won first place in the NMPA's column writing category in 2014. Cain worked for numerous media outlets -- The Tampa Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, AOL and FOXSports.com -- before joining NASCAR.com in August 2012.
Staff picks for GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Denny Hamlin : If Joe Gibbs Racing can get organized in the same way it did at Daytona in February, the No. 11 could be the winning ticket at Talladega. -- Zack Albert Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Series' best plate racer has had three runner-up finishes this season. He's due. -- Kenny Bruce Jimmie Johnson : This will mark the 10th Talladega race since Johnson last won here and, quite simply, it's time. While his teammates will grab the lion's share of the attention, "Six-Time" will ultimately hold the winner's trophy -- his third. -- Holly Cain Joey Logano : Entering the weekend, I'd already pegged Joey Logano as the favorite -- then he went out and topped final practice. Seemingly due for a win and with a pair of restrictor-plate victories in his back pocket from last year, what more are you looking for? -- Pat DeCola Ryan Blaney : His best Cup finish came in this race last year and Penske, with whom Wood Brothers is affiliated, has taken two of the last three 'Dega races. -- RJ Kraft Dale Earnhardt Jr .: I'm jumping on the Junior bandwagon. He's always the one to beat at the 2.66-mile track and he'll make it difficult for the rest of the field en route to his seventh Cup win here. -- Maggie MacKenzie Brad Keselowski : The 2012 premier series champion spoils the recent Hendrick-JGR show of power, thanks to his own racing ingenuity and plenty of fast Fords with which to partner. -- Brad Norman Brad Keselowski : The Team Penske driver earned his first Cup win in 2009 at Talladega and has won twice more since. Couple that with he and teammate Joey Logano 's history of working closely together on-track -- a crucial element to plate racing -- and 'Dega Victory Lane could be calling Keselowski's name. -- Jessica Ruffin Matt Kenseth : All the bad luck that the No. 20 team has had this year has masked impressive speed. Talladega is about both luck and speed. With the former in hand as shown by his fourth-place qualifying effort, Kenseth is due for a more auspicious turn of his fortune. -- Kathy Sheldon Denny Hamlin : Hamlin saw Victory Lane two years ago at Talladega and with his 2016 Daytona 500 win under his belt, the JGR driver seems ready to dominate another superspeedway this season. -- Taylor Starer Chase Elliott : His dad won here twice and the man who drove the No. 24 before him won here six times. Talladega has been known to produce dramatic moments, so let's root for another one to happen Sunday. -- George Winkler Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
Holly Cain rides along with Jimmie Johnson
Watch as NASCAR.com writer Holly Cain rides along with Jimmie Johnson through Las Vegas on the NASCAR Victory Lap.
Stewart's season starts up at Richmond
NASCAR.com's Matt Strickert and Holly Cain analyze Tony Stewart's first weekend piloting the No. 14 and Chris Rice helps set your NASCAR Fantasy Live lineup. Check out NASCAR Drive on NASCAR.com and catch the Toyota Owners 400 at 1:00pm ET on FOX.
Holly Cain's in-car view of Victory Lap
NASCAR.com writer Holly Cain's in-car video of her Victory Lap ride with Jimmie Johnson.
Cain : Remembering Steve Byrnes one year later
Karen Goins-Byrnes certainly wasn't anticipating this autograph request as she and her teenage son Bryson walked out of the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway infield before last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track. It wasn't so much "the ask" she received but the canvas she was offered that really stood out. A race fan asked them to sign a flag right next to the signature of her late husband and Bryson's father, Steve, a NASCAR on FOX broadcaster who died on this day, April 21, one year ago after a courageous and well-fought battle with cancer. "You know that on Father's Day and Christmas and Steve's birthday (just last week) those moments are going to be intense, emotional and sad, but then there's these other moments that you completely do not expect that suddenly take your breath away, like the flag on Sunday," Karen Goins-Byrnes shared this week. "I just wasn't expecting that, and all of a sudden it made you realize, 'Oh my goodness, this person is gone from our life.' "I was walking with Bryson and had not anticipated that when we looked down at this flag, wow, there was his signature. And it was just surreal knowing that at some point he had touched that same piece of material; now we we're touching it. Steve's touched everything in this house, so I don't know why that hit me so hard but it was … I don't know, it was out-of-context, unexpected. "I don't think it was a coincidence. It was very impactful for Bryson and I both to see that." RELATED: Steve Byrnes remembered, 1959-2015 In the past year, the Byrnes family has been "adopted" by those close to Steve and also those who never met the longtime NASCAR broadcaster but were touched by his story of courage and strength battling cancer not once but twice. In the time since he passed away Byrnes, then 56, has been honored at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and received the prestigious Squier-Hall Award for media excellence. His likeness and another tribute hang on a large plaque at the Charlotte FOX studios. "Steve was not a person who sought out a lot of attention, he was not the look-at-me type of person," Goins-Byrnes said. "I know he's up in heaven going, 'I had no idea.' He is completely surprised at all the different things that have happened to remember him and honor him. I'm shocked, I know he's shocked too." Drivers, fellow broadcasters and FOX personnel have joined the broader NASCAR community supporting this family in ways both obvious and subtle. Their "new" way of life is still so greatly influenced by the one they miss so dearly. "We're persevering," Goins-Byrnes said, after pausing to select the most accurate description. She and her son don't know quite what to anticipate today -- their feelings and emotions. It will be a very busy schedule of things to do and that was purposeful. On Wednesday, she and Bryson attended a luncheon hosted by FOX Sports in Charlotte, where they posed for photos alongside close family friends Michael Waltrip and Larry McReynolds. There is a wonderful shot of Bryson standing next to a memorial for his father on the studio's wall. Goins-Byrnes, who is now doing part-time work for Charlotte-based Speedway Motorsports Inc., has a professional commitment for part of the day Thursday and will be escorting champion NHRA racer Erica Enders to a Speedway Children's Charities event at Charlotte's Levine Children's Hospital. "It just happened to be the day she's available," Goins-Byrnes said of the timing. "It was funny, when Erica said the 21st, I was like that's the day, but I decided that's the way it's supposed to be, then. Every single month on the 21st will never be just another day for me. Every 21st of the month, I know it's been nine months, 10 months, 11 months. "But honestly, I feel like not continuing to live dishonors Steve. Somebody was asking me about Bryson and I doing a lot of activities. I feel like if we had stopped doing things, that would have dishonored him (Steve). Living and doing things honors him. I certainly know he would not have wanted us to say, 'Oh, I can't do something because it was the 21st of the month.' He would have scolded us and said, 'It's just a date; go and do.' " And actually, Goins-Byrnes concedes, it's the times alone or void of activity that have been most challenging. "People will say, 'It looks like ya'll are doing well, doing good.' But I don't post on social media when we're lying on the floor crying," she said. "There are days that are gut-wrenching and those days you have to keep pushing through, pushing on." Pushing on for Bryson Byrnes has been quite literal. His days, nights and most weekends are filled with sports -- football and lacrosse are favorites. And Bryson isn't only succeeding on the field -- he was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society this week. "People talk about what an amazing young man he is, and I'll be honest," Goins-Byrnes said adding with a laugh. "He makes straight-As and Steve and I never did that in school. Steve and I used to look at his report cards and go, 'Wow. This must be the nurture part,' because the nature part, we're not responsible for this level of achievement. I can promise you. "We have been blessed with a really good kid. I think God knew what path he was going to ask us to walk and so he gave us a child that was well-equipped." "He still battles, sometimes, the unexpected moments," she said, pausing. "You just hadn't anticipated that even if it's a good thing, it's void of Steve being here." As Goins-Byrnes and I were saying our goodbyes we discussed the cancer battles so deeply affecting so many in NASCAR -- family members and extended family. We weren't sure if it was unusually prevalent among our sport or if circumstances made us more aware. Driver Martin Truex Jr .'s longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, finished up her chemotherapy in January, and remains such a positive force travelling around the country to educate others and bring awareness of ovarian cancer. The couple's Catwalk for a Cause event next month -- which raises money for childhood cancers -- is sold out again this year. While the potential for raising funds is high, it will be the most difficult of programs considering four of last year's models and inspirations have passed away -- a first for Truex and Pollex. Among them is my longtime friend Becky's son, Elijah Aschbrenner, 10, who fought a rare Epitheliod Sarcoma diagnosis and passed away on Nov. 11. His family has started the Prayers for Elijah Foundation to raise money and awareness of the disease. RELATED: Cain : Gratitude for Elijah Aschbrenner's inspiration Torie Costa, Scott Zipadelli’s 20-year old step-daughter, died on Christmas day on her second fight with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma. Grace, 14, passed away after fighting Osteosarcoma. Clint Bowyer 's wife, Lorra, carried an inspirational sign for her at last year's Catwalk because she was too ill to participate. Jeramiah, 8, passed away after battling leukemia, not once but twice. His passing in August was the first of Truex and Pollex's "Catwalk" kids. The great Buddy Baker died in August after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Erik Jones shared last Saturday after his XFINITY Series win at Bristol that his father was recently diagnosed with cancer. Tabitha Burton, Daytona 500 winner Ward’s wife and XFINITY Series racer Jeb's mom, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and is recovering from the surgeries and treatment. Former NASCAR racer Shawna Robinson continues to recover from her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment as well. And I'm still fighting breast cancer myself, with multiple surgeries ahead this year. My hair is -- slowly -- growing, I've regained the weight I lost in chemo and radiation, and many of the NASCAR drivers I deal with now are completely unaware of my medical situation -- which can feel like an achievement. Those that do know have been incredibly kind and encouraging. Cancer is, at the very least, a maddening disease, and its impact on NASCAR is similar to its impact in general. We have lost influential souls such as Byrnes and Baker and the promises of so many so young, like Aschbrenner and Costa. Perhaps the brightest and most lasting legacy left by my friend Byrnes was a feeling of "never give up," and the firm knowledge that this is a community that cares greatly and perpetually. Today will be challenging for the Byrnes family and all those who cared deeply for Steve. There will be times of sadness, of laughter, of gratitude for the time shared, and unquestionably a sense of knowing that he would want us to carry on and prevail. "He was a very humble person," Goins-Byrnes said. "He never looked at himself as being exceptional, just a normal guy, a husband and a father and a guy with a job he enjoys. "I think the way people have responded in remembering him really has shown what type of a person he is. They comment, 'What a great guy he is.' You wouldn't believe how many pictures I've received from race fans with him stopping for a picture or to sign an autograph. "I don't think he realized the kind of influence he had. I certainly didn't. I don't think he had any idea how many people he touched and what kind of influence he had.' " I still have text messages from Steve on my phone -- we exchanged many while going through our treatments. One in particular makes my heart happiest and I will most likely glance at it often today. On the Monday after last year's Bristol spring race -- named in Steve's honor -- I texted him to make sure he had watched the race, seen all the tributes and enjoyed the love. He responded: "Still smilin."
Holly Cain rides shotgun for Johnson's burnout
Six-time champ says it never gets old during "Victory Lap" burnout
NASCAR.com's writers predict the 2016 season
NASCAR.com's Zack Albert, Kenny Bruce and Holly Cain make their predictions for the 2016 NASCAR season: Zack Albert Camping World Truck Series champion: Cole Custer . With bounds of talent, expect the 18-year-old with the flat-brimmed cap to emerge from a four-way scrap with Matt Crafton , John Hunter Nemechek and Tyler Reddick . XFINITY Series champion: Erik Jones . Changing series, but same result. The prodigy collects another big trophy as Toyota grooms him for a Sprint Cup seat. Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year: Ryan Blaney . Expect the Wood Brothers' young star in the making to edge Chase Elliott in the series' most compelling rookie crop in recent memory. Surprise Chase qualifier: Clint Bowyer . Seeing Bowyer's name among the postseason field is no surprise, but pushing the underdog HScott Motorsports team to its first Chase berth would be. Surprise Chase miss: Kasey Kahne . The No. 5 team needs to shake a severe case of the doldrums that handcuffed Kahne's 2015 season. Daytona 500 pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr . Championship 4: Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Joey Logano . As in the previous two years of the new-look Chase, don't count on one organization having multiple cars vying for the title in Homestead. 2016 Sprint Cup champion: Kevin Harvick . The only two-time Championship 4 driver gets there again. This time, he cashes in for championship No. 2. Kenny Bruce Camping World Truck Series champion: Cole Custer . Talented kid in solid equipment; lack of experience the only concern. XFINITY Series champion: Erik Jones . Last year's Truck Series champion already has two career XFINTY Series wins. Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year: Ryan Blaney . That he and the Wood Brothers team made 16 starts together should give them a bit of an advantage in the early going. Surprise Chase qualifier: Kyle Larson . Much has been expected of the youngster; this year he delivers. Surprise Chase miss: Jamie McMurray . While his teammate makes his first Chase appearance, McMurray fails to repeat his effort of 2015. Daytona 500 pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr . Championship 4: Kyle Busch , Joey Logano , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick . They had the speed and the wins last year. Nothing has changed. 2016 Sprint Cup champion: Joey Logano . Willing to take chances, and has the talent and equipment to back it up. Holly Cain Camping World Truck Series champion: John Hunter Nemechek . This would be a big step for the 18-year-old, but he has the talent and the drive. XFINITY Series champion: Erik Jones . He has both the natural talent and the equipment to be another rookie champion in the series. Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year: Chase Elliott won the award as an XFINITY driver and with his talent plus the Hendrick Motorsports backing, he should fare best among the first-year drivers. Surprise Chase Qualifier: Greg Biffle , Normally "The Biff" wouldn't be considered a surprise, but it's been a rough winless two seasons for him. He seems in good competitive form with a new look -- and a highly motivated team. Surprise Chase Miss: Paul Menard . That he qualified last year marked a career-best achievement, but too many other high-achievers will be back in the mix in 2016. Daytona 500 pick: Denny Hamlin . Championship 4: Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin . After two early Chase exits, Johnson is poised to make his first Championship 4 appearance -- perhaps the hardest to predict of all the categories. 2016 Sprint Cup Champion: Jimmie Johnson earns his record-tying seventh title in a timely reminder of what makes him among the greatest champions of the sport.
Finalists revealed for inaugural Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award
PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 4, 2015) -- Comcast announced Wednesday three finalists selected for the inaugural Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award. As part of its long-term partnership with NASCAR, Comcast created the award to honor NASCAR team members for their outstanding charitable endeavors. The 2015 finalists include an individual from each of the top-three national NASCAR series: Martin Truex Jr ., driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet SS, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; Joey Gase , driver of the No. 52 Ford Mustang, for the NASCAR XFINITY Series; and Martha Nemechek, whose son and grandson, Joe and John Hunter Nemechek , currently compete in the NASCAR ranks, for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. "Comcast works hard to make a positive impact in the local communities where our employees and customers live and work, and that philosophy is now embedded into our partnership with NASCAR," said Matt Lederer, Executive Director of Sports Marketing at Comcast. "We are proud to have Martin Truex Jr ., Joey Gase and Martha Nemechek as finalists for the inaugural Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award. They embody the spirit of the award through their dedication to community service and we look forward to highlighting their causes through the award process." The 2015 Comcast Community Champion of the Year will be determined by a panel comprised of executives from Comcast and The NASCAR Foundation, as well as former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and NASCAR.com reporter Holly Cain . In recognition of their efforts, Comcast will make a donation of $60,000 to the Comcast Community Champion of the Year's affiliated charitable organization. A $30,000 contribution will also be made to each of the remaining finalists' charitable organizations. "Recognizing individuals who are championing a cause or making an impact on their community is something extremely close to my heart," said Holly Cain . "I have no doubt that the people ultimately bestowed with the Comcast Community Champion of the Year award will be lifted by the prestige of the honor." "Comcast has done a great job of coming in and viewing the sport in its totality. Not just what they can get out of it, but what they can give back to it and how they become a part of the fabric of NASCAR," Kyle Petty added. "I think that's what the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award encompasses -- the giving spirit that has always been a big part of NASCAR." The winner will be named at the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Banquet on November 23 at the Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, Florida, which will air on NBC Sports Network at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 29. Comcast has a long track record of community service , aiding in the advancement of local organizations, developing programs and partnerships, mobilizing resources to connect people and inspiring positive and substantive change. To learn more about the Comcast Community Champion of the Year award, as well as the finalists, please visit: ComcastCommunityChampion.com . The 2015 Comcast Community Champion of the Year finalists are: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Martin Truex Jr . (Mayetta, New Jersey) and long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex launched the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation in 2007 with the goal of raising funds and awareness for children suffering from poverty, abuse and illness -- specifically pediatric cancers. The foundation continued to grow over the next eight years, providing significant assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and building a pediatric emergency care center in Truex's home state of New Jersey. In August 2014, Pollex was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Through this experience, the couple was inspired to expand their fundraising efforts and change the foundation's mission to include a range of underfunded cancer initiatives specific to childhood and ovarian cancers. In 2015, the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation began a three-year partnership with Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina to assist in finding breakthrough treatments specific to pediatric cancers. Every day, Truex sports a bracelet encompassing his personal motto as well as the Foundation's inspiration: Never Give Up . NASCAR XFINITY Series: Joey Gase (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) lost his mother Mary Jo to a brain aneurysm when he was just 18 years old. Since she was not married at the time, Gase was faced with the decision of whether or not she would want to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor. Later on, he found out that the decision he made to donate his mother's organs helped save and improve the lives of 66 people. Overwhelmed by the impact, Gase sought opportunities to promote donation through the local organ procurement organizations (OPO) in each state. Throughout the past few years, he has been able to use his platform as a NASCAR driver to host meet-and-greets with families who have been impacted by organ donation, visit children who have been hospitalized, promote organ donation through sharing his story at high schools, and more. At just 22 years old, his efforts have already produced great dividends. Gase often has people reach out to let him know that had it not been for his story, they never would have thought to sign up as an organ donor. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Martha Nemechek (Mooresville, North Carolina) lost her son John Nemechek to complications from head injuries sustained in an accident during a 1997 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway . In the months following the death of her 27-year old son, she was inconsolable until Nemechek received a call from Gordon Collins, a stranger empathizing with her grief, that she was able to channel into a driving force for helping those in similar situations. For the past 18 years, Nemechek has given her heart to many causes, including the exchange of supportive emails with U.S. troops in Iraq, assisting cancer patients with their wishes to meet NASCAR drivers, maintaining her World Prayer List, feeding the underprivileged, and much more. Her priority, however, is reaching out to parents who have lost children -- especially those within the racing circuit. Those impacted by her efforts are amazed at Nemechek's willingness to open up in an area that is painful for her to relive, but she is driven by her desire to reach out. The way she puts it is simple: once she began giving back, Nemechek felt like she was living again.