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Truex Jr. rewrites history, breaks records with Coca-Cola 600 win
RELATED: Truex Jr.'s history when leading 100 or more laps Martin Truex Jr .'s dominating Coca-Cola 600 win on Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway was an important victory for the No. 78 team. It marked Truex's first 2016 win and virtually punched his ticket to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . It was also record-breaking -- in more than one category. Below are the feats accomplished by Truex & Co. on Sunday night in North Carolina. • Truex's 588 (of 600) miles led was the most ever in a NASCAR race. • His 392 laps led were the most in a Coca-Cola 600 . Jim Paschal held the previous record with 335 laps in the front of the field during the 1967 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . • The No. 78 driver's dominant win earned him a perfect driver rating of 150.0, a first for any Sprint Cup Series driver at Charlotte. • The race spanned 3 hours, 44 minutes and 5 seconds, marking the quickest Coca-Cola 600 event ever. • Drivers in Sunday's race averaged a speed of 160.655 mph, the fastest average speed for a Coca-Cola 600 event in race history.
Martin Truex Jr. wins Coca-Cola 600 in dominating fashion
RELATED: Full race results " SHOP: Truex Jr. Gear CONCORD, N.C. -- The heartbreak kid survived 600 miles without another broken heart. Instead, Martin Truex Jr . broke records in Sunday night's victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , a race in which the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota set new standards for domination. Truex led 392 of 400 laps, most ever in NASCAR's longest Sprint Cup Series race. He spent 588 of 600 miles at the front of the field, most ever in a single race in NASCAR history. RELATED: When Truex Jr. has led 100 laps or more And when it was over, Truex had his first victory of the season, the fourth of his career and an all-but-guaranteed berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Perhaps more important, Truex erased a litany of crushing disappointments that continued into this season and ruined potential winning efforts at Texas, Kansas and Dover. "It's just kind of sinking in now that we won the 600," Truex said in Victory Lane. "Really proud of my team -- everybody that made this possible, that believed in me, gave me this opportunity. (Crew chief) Cole Pearn, Jazzy (team engineer Jeff Curtis), my guys are something special. "I want to thank all of them. This is a big day. Got the troops on the cars (for Memorial Day recognition). This is a special weekend. It's really neat to bring that name (of fallen hero Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey E. Bohr Jr.) home to Victory Lane. Just a lot of emotion right now. Not really sure it's sunk in yet. Just an amazing day, an amazing weekend for all of us. It's a weekend you dream about." Truex finished 2.572 seconds ahead of Kevin Harvick , whose car tightened up during the final 56-lap green-flag run. Jimmie Johnson ran third and led the second-most laps -- five. Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski completed the top five, but the night belonged to Truex. When darkness fell, Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet came to life, but the tight handling condition that developed over the final 80 miles prevented him from taking the fight to Truex. "Well, I saw him for about 50 miles or 75 miles," Harvick said. "The rest of the night I never saw him. I was back there swatting flies in the middle of the pack. I didn't have a lot of time to see the 78." Johnson was pleased with the speed in his own No. 48 Chevrolet, but it was no match for Truex's Camry. "I kind of felt like he was playing with us," Johnson said. "He was so fast. I would flatfoot (Turns) 1 and 2, and have a nose on him, and he would drive right back by me into Turn 3. It was so fast. It was very impressive. I'm happy for Martin. That team and those guys worked awfully hard to get where they’re at." But for the vagaries of green-flag pit stop cycles, Truex was out front for the entire race. He led 336 of the first 344 laps, surpassing the race and speedway record of 335 set by 1967 Coke 600 winner Jim Paschal. MORE: Most dominant races in NASCAR history The average speed of the race, 160.644 mph, was a record for a Coca-Cola 600 that went the full distance, as was the duration of the race, 3 hours, 44 minutes, 8 seconds. Truex achieved a perfect driver rating of 150.0, the first of his career. "I had confidence," Truex added. "I had faith. I had confidence in my team. I've got a lot of great people behind me. Sherry (Pollex, Truex's girlfriend and an ovarian cancer survivor), she gives me a lot of inspiration. "And we keep on fighting. We never give up. We never quit. We always keep digging, and I'm proud of my guys for sticking by me. They all did a great job tonight. There are so many fans that have supported us the last few years with so many heartbreaks. I really appreciate that. I really had fun tonight."
NASCAR Diversity Internship Program Welcomes 2016 class
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 23, 2016) – Twenty-six of the best and brightest college students from across the country and abroad ventured to Charlotte Motor Speedway this past weekend as the sport introduced the 2016 NASCAR Diversity Internship Program (NDIP) class at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Weekend. The 10-week, paid program exposes multicultural college students to employment opportunities within America’s number one motorsport, whether in departments within the sanctioning body or with organizations that NASCAR partners with to enhance the fan experience both on and off the race track. Through an all-inclusive orientation experience, the interns gain a behind-the-scenes look at the business of the sport and insight into prospective careers in motorsports. " The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program has grown to become one of the most popular and attractive internships in sports," said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. "This program has given talented students an opportunity to gain relevant work experience and opportunities for careers in our industry since 2000." NDIP continues to grow in popularity year over year. The key to that growth is the ongoing support of industry partners. Companies such as International Speedway Corporation, Roush Fenway Racing , Rev Racing, Daytona International Speedway , Octagon and Taylor have been longstanding supporters of NDIP. Recent partners include Toyota, Switch and Pocono Raceway . These valued partners increase the number of internship opportunities for young talent and contribute to the program's overall success. Interns will work in multiple departments including in the areas of engineering, finance, marketing, licensing and public relations. In addition to receiving hand-on experience, the interns will also participate in professional development workshops, networking events and volunteer opportunities throughout their internship experience. Victoria Kim, a recent graduate of Penn State, participated in the program last summer. Kim also received the NASCAR Diversity Outstanding Intern Award at the 2016 NASCAR Diversity Awards and was recently hired at NASCAR. "The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program was an incredible opportunity to get a hands-on, behind-the-scenes look at NASCAR," Kim said. "NDIP was a stepping stone and helped me get to where I am today, a full-time employee in the Daytona office for the Touring Series Racing Operations. I am grateful to have been a part of the NDIP class of 2015 and am thankful for the opportunity to pursue my dreams." More than 300 interns have participated in the NDIP since its inception, and many secured full-time jobs in motorsports following their internships. Recent graduates have found roles at Phoenix International Raceway , Richard Petty Motorsports , event marketing agency Switch , and many other companies tied to the industry. Several NDIP alumni are now employed at NASCAR within multiple business units, including: Brandon Thompson, director, racing operations; Marvin Aylor Jr., manager, marketing; Lauren Houston, senior account executive, multicultural development; Kathryn Lee, manager, events; Jusan Hamilton, senior account executive, industry operations; Ade Herbert, senior coordinator, social media; Jason Simmons, licensing account coordinator; Victoria Kim, coordinator touring series operations and Cameron McCarty, pit road technician. "The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program has proven to be an effective pipeline for hiring top talent across the industry," said Paula Miller, NASCAR senior vice president and chief human resources officer. "We have hired several former interns who are important contributors to the sport's continued growth." The 2016 class participated in NASCAR 101 and received guided tours of the NASCAR Research & Development Center, NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Motor Speedway before watching the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The class includes the following students from colleges and universities across the country:
Who will rise to the top at Charlotte?
Marty Snider and Chris Rice give you insight on which drivers have a chance to finish in the top ten at Charlotte Motor Speedway in NASCAR's Streak to the Finish fantasy game.
NASCAR, Charter owners pose for historic photo
History was at hand -- and properly documented -- Sunday morning before the running of the 58th annual Daytona 500 . The 2016 season-opener marked the formal beginning of the new owner Charter system, which NASCAR and team owners signed a nine-year agreement on before the start of the season. There are 36 Charters, and each Charter team is guaranteed entry into every points-paying race. The Charter system, a form of which owners have sought in an effort to bolster value of their organizations and which was initiated by NASCAR more than a year ago, also provides stability by guaranteeing sponsors and other potential partners continued participation for an extended period of time. As such, the momentous occasion was documented by a photo with every Charter-owning member, along with NASCAR dignitaries -- much like the classic photo in 1947 at the Streamline Hotel in which Bill France Sr. launched the birth of NASCAR. Top Row (From L-R) Brad Daugherty ( JTG Daugherty Racing ); Steve Lauletta ( Chip Ganassi Racing ); Shirley Falk (Circle Sport Racing); Joe Falk (Circle Sport Racing); Bob Germain Jr. ( Germain Racing ); Larry Rogers ( Germain Racing ); Archie St. Hilaire (Go FAS Racing); Mason St. Hilaire (Go FAS Racing); Jay Robinson (Premium Motorsports); Dave Alpern ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). 4th Row (L-R) Joe Custer ( Stewart-Haas Racing ); Bob Jenkins ( Front Row Motorsports ); Torrey Galida ( Richard Childress Racing ); Gordon Smith (Circle Sport Racing); Tad Geschickter ( JTG Daugherty Racing ); Eric Nyquist (NASCAR); Ron Devine ( BK Racing ); Harry Scott Jr. ( HScott Motorsports ); Andrew Murstein ( Richard Petty Motorsports ); Ryan Dubois ( BK Racing ); Wayne Press ( BK Racing ). 3rd Row (L-R) Brett Frood ( Stewart-Haas Racing ); Karen Leetzow (NASCAR); Walt Czarnecki ( Team Penske ); Steve Phelps (NASCAR); Marshall Carlson ( Hendrick Motorsports ); Steve O’Donnell (NASCAR); Barney Visser ( Furniture Row Racing ); Joe Garone ( Furniture Row Racing ); Susan Schandel (NASCAR) 2nd Row (L-R) Jack Roush ( Roush Fenway Racing ); Steve Newmark ( Roush Fenway Racing ); Gary Crotty (NASCAR); Rob Kauffman ( Chip Ganassi Racing ); Brent Dewar (NASCAR); Mike Helton (NASCAR); Chip Ganassi ( Chip Ganassi Racing ); Gene Haas ( Stewart-Haas Racing ); Tommy Baldwin ( Tommy Baldwin Racing ). 1st Row (L-R) Richard Childress ( Richard Childress Racing ); Roger Penske ( Team Penske ); Rick Hendrick ( Hendrick Motorsports ); Brian France (NASCAR); Jim France (NASCAR); Lesa France Kennedy (NASCAR); Richard Petty ( Richard Petty Motorsports ); Joe Gibbs ( Joe Gibbs Racing ); J.D. Gibbs ( Joe Gibbs Racing )
NASCAR portrait with founding Charter members
NASCAR executives and board members join the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series charter owners for a historic portrait in Victory Lane in advance of the 58th annual DAYTONA 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX). The high-resolution photo can be downloaded at: http://www.nascarmedia.com/photos/ . (Photo Credit: Jared Tilton, NASCAR via Getty Images) NASCAR Charter Photo Participants Top Row (From L-R) Brad Daugherty ( JTG Daugherty Racing ); Steve Lauletta ( Chip Ganassi Racing ); Shirley Falk (Circle Sport Racing); Joe Falk (Circle Sport Racing); Bob Germain Jr. ( Germain Racing ); Larry Rogers ( Germain Racing ); Archie St. Hilaire (Go FAS Racing); Mason St. Hilaire (Go FAS Racing); Jay Robinson (Premium Motorsports); Dave Alpern ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). 4th Row (L-R) Joe Custer ( Stewart-Haas Racing ); Bob Jenkins ( Front Row Motorsports ); Torrey Galida ( Richard Childress Racing ); Gordon Smith (Circle Sport Racing); Tad Geschickter ( JTG Daugherty Racing ); Eric Nyquist (NASCAR); Ron Devine ( BK Racing ); Harry Scott Jr. ( HScott Motorsports ); Andrew Murstein ( Richard Petty Motorsports ); Ryan Dubois ( BK Racing ); Wayne Press ( BK Racing ). 3rd Row (L-R) Brett Frood ( Stewart-Haas Racing ); Karen Leetzow (NASCAR); Walt Czarnecki ( Team Penske ); Steve Phelps (NASCAR); Marshall Carlson ( Hendrick Motorsports ); Steve O’Donnell (NASCAR); Barney Visser ( Furniture Row Racing ); Joe Garone ( Furniture Row Racing ); Susan Schandel (NASCAR) 2nd Row (L-R) Jack Roush ( Roush Fenway Racing ); Steve Newmark ( Roush Fenway Racing ); Gary Crotty (NASCAR); Rob Kauffman ( Chip Ganassi Racing ); Brent Dewar (NASCAR); Mike Helton (NASCAR); Chip Ganassi ( Chip Ganassi Racing ); Gene Haas ( Stewart-Haas Racing ); Tommy Baldwin ( Tommy Baldwin Racing ). 1st Row (L-R) Richard Childress ( Richard Childress Racing ); Roger Penske ( Team Penske ); Rick Hendrick ( Hendrick Motorsports ); Brian France (NASCAR); Jim France (NASCAR); Lesa France Kennedy (NASCAR); Richard Petty ( Richard Petty Motorsports ); Joe Gibbs ( Joe Gibbs Racing ); J.D. Gibbs ( Joe Gibbs Racing )
Engines revved for NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 7, 2015) -- Twenty-two drivers have three days to compete for a spot in the motorsport industry's top driver development program, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D), set to commence at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., Oct. 19-21, 2015. Now in its 12th year, the annual Combine invites promising ethnically diverse and female drivers, ages 14 to 26, from across North America to test their skills over a three-day period in order to identify members of the NASCAR D4D Class of 2016. "Finding and developing diverse athletes who will represent the future of NASCAR is at the core of our organization's mission," said NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Jim Cassidy. "Every year, the bar is raised with talented applicants who have the potential and determination to succeed. We're proud to watch our graduates in the national series and develop more diverse talent to join them in the years to come." In partnership with Rev Racing, the Max Siegel-owned race team, D4D offers racing opportunities in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKPSE) and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) for one full season, providing drivers with equipment, mentoring, and competition experience. "We could not be more excited about this year's NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine to select the 2016 Class of Rev Racing drivers," said team CEO Max Siegel. "Coming off of our sixth consecutive multiple race winning season, we are focused on continuing to make our program and approach world class, as we prepare these young drivers to advance into the national series." The NASCAR D4D Combine has proven successful in identifying and developing future stars of the sport. Current D4D member Collin Cabre secured Rev Racing's second win of 2015 with a victory at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season finale at Dover International Speedway . In addition, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson and NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers Darrell Wallace Jr . and Daniel Suárez, leaders in the series' Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, are among the graduates of the program. This year's athletes include 13 women, notably the youngest combine participant ever at 14 years old, Macy Causey. Also participating are four stars from the NASCAR Mexico Series: Abraham Calderón, Enrique Contreras, Rubén García Jr. and Santiago Tovar. Returning to defend their spots in the program are current NASCAR Whelen All-American Series drivers Dylan Smith and Natalie Decker. Driver combine participants will be evaluated on their driving skills and will also be tested on a series of strength and agility exercises at Hampton University. Fans can follow the Combine on Twitter at @NASCARDiversity and @RevRacing. Below are invitees to the 12th annual NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine: First Name Last Name Age City State/Country Hannah Adair 21 Tulsa Okla. Jairo Avila 20 Alhambra Calif. Kayli Barker 18 Las Vegas Nev. Nicole Behar 17 Otis Orchards Wash. Abraham Calderon 26 Monterrey Mexico Macy Causey 14 Yorktown Va. Enrique Contreras 22 San Antonio Texas Madeline Crane 17 Meansville Ga. Claire Decker 20 Eagle River Wis. Natalie Decker 18 Eagle River Wis. Juan Garcia 17 Bogota Colombia Ruben Garcia Jr. 19 Mexico City Mexico Ali Kern 22 Fremont Ohio Enrique Limon 17 Mexico City Mexico Mariah McGriff 20 Vail Ariz. Becca Monopoli 26 Lakeland Fla. Erika Newcome 20 Pickerington Ohio Hannah Newhouse 18 Twin Falls Idaho Vanessa Robinson 25 Las Cruces N.M. Dylan Smith 23 Concord N.C. Walter Thomas 16 Indianapolis Ind. Santiago Tovar 22 Mexico City Mexico In addition to drivers, NASCAR Drive for Diversity has successfully identified and developed pit crew members to find employment opportunities within the sport. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Challenge Tour will host its final Combine of the year at the NASCAR Research and Development Center on October 9, 2015 in Concord, North Carolina.
Former NASCAR driver Jim Sauter dies at 71
Father of Johnny Sauter made 76 career starts in premier series Jim Sauter, a racer and father of four drivers including NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter , died on Friday night shortly before the conclusion of the Truck event at Texas Motor Speedway , according to ThorSport Racing. He was 71. Sauter competed in 82 NASCAR national series races from 1980 to 2004, including 76 premier series starts. The native of Necedah, Wisconsin, made his final NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the Milwaukee Mile in 2002, racing against his sons Jay, Johnny and Tim. Jim Jr. followed in his father's footsteps as well. In addition to these four sons, Sauter is survived by his wife, Debbie, eight additional children, 51 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two sisters. A two-time champion in the ARTGO Racing Series in the Midwest, Sauter tested International Race of Champions cars with fellow Wisconsin racers Dave Marcis and Dick Trickle. His son, Johnny, learned of his father's passing following Friday's Winstar World Casino & Resort 350. His lone win of 2014 came at Michigan International Speedway , and he acknowledged it was a special victory in his post-race comments that recalled his dad's recollections of the track. "I'm just going to relish in this win because this has been a tough, tough race track for me throughout my career," Johnny said. "My Dad always said, 'That place is easy.' But, I never felt that way. Until today, I mean when you have a truck like this -- it was just awesome." NASCAR issued the following statement on Jim Sauter's passing: "NASCAR offers its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jim Sauter. A true racer, Jim passed on his passion and competitive spirit to his children and grandchildren. A driver himself with roots in the Midwest, his reach and impact extend across the entire sport." The racing community expressed condolences on social media with a sample included below from Sauter's former competitor Mark Martin ; fellow Wisconsin racer Roy Kenseth, father of Matt; crew chief and former IROC chassis specialist Ray Evernham and NASCAR Senior Vice President, Racing Operations Jim Cassidy. Sorry to hear Jim Sauter died. He was a really good man and a great racer. — Mark Martin (@markmartin) November 1, 2014 Thoughts and prayers go out to the Jim Sauter family today. pic.twitter.com/ydHNAQcXQT — Roy Kenseth (@roykenseth) November 1, 2014 Really sorry to hear about passing of Jim Sauter. Worked with him for many years at IROC. Crew chiefed for him at Pocono 1990 #RIP — ray evernham (@RayEvernham) November 1, 2014 Thinking about the Sauter family. Jim Sauter's contribution to stock car racing and NASCAR will be felt for many generations. Good man. — Jim Cassidy (@jfcassidy) November 1, 2014 MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
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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."