Looking forlorn, not necessarily stunned, Roush Fenway Racing crew members slowly pushed the team's three Fords from pit road through the Richmond International Raceway garage late Saturday night and loaded them into the haulers for an unprecedented competitive detour from NASCAR's post-season. There will not be a RFR car eligible for the championship for the first time since NASCAR instituted its Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff in 2004 – a season Kurt Busch hoisted the championship trophy for RFR. The veteran of the 2015 Roush team, Greg Biffle , came closest to maintaining RFR's streak of title eligibility. His best and last chance of making the 16-driver Chase field was a victory in Richmond but he was never close, starting 38th and finishing 31st. Teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr .'s 16th-place showing Saturday was actually the best RFR effort in the regular season finale, but the fact it was only his first top-20 since early July speaks to the struggles this storied and championship team has endured this year. Biffle, 45, has only three top-10s in 26 races – a career low – and his 20.6 average finish in the No. 16 Ford is also on track to be a career worst. Stenhouse, 31, the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year and a two-time XFINITY Series champion, has only one top 10 – a fourth place at Bristol in April. Similarly his 26.0 average finish is a low-water mark. Teammate Trevor Bayne , 24, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, is still looking for his first top-five finish in his first full-time Cup season. His average finish is 25.8, and he is yet to break into the top 25 in the points standings. It's been one tough season for one of NASCAR's most respected and accomplished organizations. Roush Fenway Racing won back-to-back Cup championships with Matt Kenseth and Busch in 2003-04 and has finished championship runner-up four more times since, most recently with Carl Edwards in 2011. Edwards, who left RFR for Joe Gibbs Racing this year, is the last driver to pull a Roush Ford into Victory Lane, doing it twice last year at Bristol and Sonoma . This year, he has a pair of wins with JGR – including the Bojangles' Southern 500 – and is seeded eighth in the Chase, which begins Sunday in Chicago. It's hard for Edwards to imagine a Chase without his former team. "Yes, I am surprised at that just because I know how good those guys are and how hard they work," Edwards said over the weekend in Richmond. "It's like I said before, I would expect at any moment those guys are going to turn the corner. They really do work hard, they're racers and I see Jimmy Fennig here every week and everybody working hard and I'm sure they'll get stronger.” Earlier this season Biffle conceded the group hadn't quite adapted to new technical specifications. "Since the ride height rule changed from 2013 to '14 has really affected us on the Cup level," he explained. "If you look at that change, which we were excited about and thought getting our cars on the track and what-not, that's the way the Nationwide (now XFINITY ) cars still are. They still have that minimum ride height, and really we've kind of struggled when that ride height rule came in. "We've sort of struggled a little bit with that, so we're still working through figuring that out." Biffle does have victories in five (Texas, Dover, Kansas, Loudon and Homestead) of the 10 Chase venues, including three straight at Homestead-Miami Speedway from 2004-06. Stenhouse told reporters Saturday night that he remained optimistic about the rest of the season and the team is focused on improvement this year while others go after the big trophy. "We really needed this finish after the past couple of weekends," Stenhouse said. "We have 10 races remaining and hopefully we can get a win.”
Driver set to compete in NASCAR XFINITY Series Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr., third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final standings this past season and a graduate of NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity initiatives, will compete in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2015 for Roush Fenway Racing , according to RFR officials. Wallace, 21, will join drivers Chris Buescher , Ryan Reed and Elliott Sadler in the RFR lineup. Wallace will pilot the organization's No. 6 Ford Mustang previously driven by Trevor Bayne . Additional team personnel and sponsorship will be announced at a later date. "I've had a remarkable journey over the last few years thanks to people who have put me in a position to win the races that I have," Wallace said. "When I first joined the sport, many said I would never compete with the real drivers. Now, as I join the winningest (XFINITY) team in NASCAR history, I take that as a responsibility to add more wins to the team's legacy and help tear down the barriers for the next generation of NASCAR drivers." Wallace won five races from 2013-14 while competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports, scoring four this past season. RELATED: Bubba done with KBM as team announces 2015 lineup In 2013, he became the first African American driver to win a NASCAR national series event in 50 years when he won his first Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway . This past year, he successfully defended his title while driving an entry whose paint scheme and number 34 paid tribute to NASCAR's first African American winner, Wendell Scott. Wallace made six career Nationwide (soon to be XFINITY ) Series starts for Joe Gibbs Racing , with whom he was under contract, between 2012-14. He finished in the top 10 in four of those starts, with a best finish of seventh at Iowa (in 2012) and Daytona (2014). However, without sponsorship to remain at KBM, and with no funding for him at JGR in the XFINITY Series, Wallace asked for and was granted his release earlier this month. RFR president Steve Newmark said Wallace "is viewed in industry circles as one of the brightest young drivers." "He has a charismatic personality and at the same time has exhibited the ability to win on the race track," Newmark said. "We are looking forward to getting him in our race cars next season." In addition to the four XFINITY Series teams, Roush Fenway also fields teams in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series for drivers Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr . and Greg Biffle . Bayne, who is making the move up to compete full time in the Sprint Cup Series in 2015, finished sixth in the Nationwide Series this past season, while Buescher, who won once, was seventh and Reed ninth. Sadler spent the previous two seasons at JGR, finishing fourth in 2013 and third this past year. RELATED: Wallace Jr. receives release from JGR Roush Fenway Racing's XFINITY Series program is the winningest in NASCAR, having earned 133 victories. Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (2011-12), Carl Edwards (2007) and Biffle (2002) have won series championships for the group. "We are certainly pleased to have Bubba Wallace come on board," team co-owner Jack Roush said. "He is certainly a great young talent and I feel it will be mutually beneficial for us to be able to put him into a team environment with a veteran driver like Elliott (Sadler) and the young guys Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed . "We have had a great deal of history in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and we are happy to have Bubba as the latest piece of that rich legacy." The addition of Wallace to the Ford camp is a boost for the automaker as well. "We're thrilled to have Bubba Wallace be part of our Ford Mustang racing efforts," said Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing . "His winning performances since becoming part of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program have certainly made him one of the drivers in the sport to watch in the future, and we think he can bring a lot to Roush Fenway and Ford, both on and off the track." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Team hires Mark McArdle and Kevin Kidd to senior positions RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Seeking to bolster its Sprint Cup Series performance in 2015, Roush Fenway Racing announced the hirings of Mark McArdle and Kevin Kidd to senior competition positions with the organization. McArdle will oversee engineering for the organization's Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series teams as the team's engineering director, while Kidd will serve as the Sprint Cup Series team manager, supervising at-track operations. Kidd will move into his new role at the conclusion of the 2014 season. "I'm confident that having Mark and Kevin in two key positions will make our organization even stronger next season," team co-owner Jack Roush said in a team release. "Mark has a pedigree in racing that spans multiple platforms and speaks for itself in terms of results. He has a reputation not only for success, but as a great manager and motivator. "Kevin is recognized in the garage area as one of the brightest minds in our sport," Roush said. "He has acquired invaluable experience working with both veteran and drivers, and will be a great asset to our Sprint Cup program week in and week out at the race track. We look forward to bringing both Mark and Kevin on board and welcoming them into the fold." McArdle has spent the past 15 years working in NASCAR, most recently working as the director of racing operation at Richard Childress Racing . He is also known for his work in the IndyCar circuit and as an engine builder. He boasts three victories in the Indianapolis 500 with Penske Racing in 1991, 1993 and 1994. Kidd has served as the crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing 's No. 20 Nationwide Series car since 2010. In that time, he has three wins atop the pit box. Roush Fenway's race teams will look a little different next season as previously announced. On the Sprint Cup side, Trevor Bayne will make the move to a full-time Cup ride with the No. 6 car, while Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr . will remain in the No. 16 and No. 17 cars respectively. In the XFINITY Series, Ryan Reed (No. 16) and Chris Buescher (No. 60) will be joined by veteran driver Elliott Sadler , who will pilot the No. 1 Ford. Sadler's move was announced last weekend. Roush Fenway has one driver left in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in Carl Edwards , who is heading to Joe Gibbs Racing next season. Edwards is currently sixth in the standings but just one point out of the final transfer spot to the Championship Round heading into Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Phoenix International Raceway . MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Roush Fenway Racing unveiled a 2015 lineup that features Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne. All three drivers describe the struggles of the team in 2014 and talk about what they are working on to make the upcoming season a success.
Veteran to pilot No. 1 Ford in XFINITY Series RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Elliott Sadler will join Roush Fenway Racing in 2015 to compete in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, according to the organization and sponsor OneMain Financial. Sadler, currently competing for Joe Gibbs Racing , will pilot the No. 1 RFR Ford. A 10-time winner in the series, he is fourth in points heading into Saturday’s O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET). "It's an honor to remain with OneMain Financial next year," Sadler said. "I’m thrilled for the opportunity to race under the OneMain Financial banner and team up with Roush Fenway Racing to compete for the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship in 2015." The 39-year-old Sadler has 260 career starts in the series with 16 poles and 128 top-10 finishes. He is also a three-time winner in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. He is one of 24 drivers to win at least one race in each of NASCAR’s three national series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series). OneMain, previously CitiFinancial, has a prior sponsor relationship with RFR. "They are a first-class organization from top to bottom," said Steve Newmark, president of RFR. "We enjoyed a great partnership in the past and we look forward to reigniting that relationship moving forward next season. "(Elliott) is a seasoned veteran and a winner on the track. He brings a reputation as a fierce competitor and I know that our entire organization … will benefit from his experience next season." Sadler will join current RFR drivers Ryan Reed and Chris Buescher . MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
After rejecting 'easy' decision to leave, veteran embraces team's new outlook Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For all the change that Roush Fenway Racing has undergone entering the 2015 NASCAR season, Greg Biffle remains the organization's constant, a cornerstone driver who first started his career with team owner Jack Roush in the Camping World Truck Series in 1998. But with the team firmly in rebuilding mode after its recent slide toward substandard performance, Biffle shed light on just how close he came to following the path of two prominent former teammates out the door. Biffle plumbed the depths of the company's recent low points Wednesday during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom, saying that he had fielded offers from "great teams" to drive elsewhere. Ultimately, the 45-year-old driver made the choice to stay, in an effort to help lead the team out of its dark days. "You know, loyalty in this world only goes so far," Biffle said. "… I felt like I had to wrestle with the decision on whether I leave or not. It makes it easy to leave, it's easy to kick a guy when he's down, right? So we were having tremendous trouble last year, and I've been there through three of these cycles, and we're not going to sugar-coat it -- last year, we were at the bottom of the heap compared to the teams. We just were, and no light at the end of the tunnel, and so it would've been an easy way for me to leave at that point. "But knowing that the stock is at the lowest price that it's been at, sometimes that's the opportunity. It's going to go up. It doesn't have to, but logic says it's going to go up, and so I wrestled with it and sat long and hard about it and said, 'I want to be the guy that brings this organization back out of where we're at. We're in a bad place. I could jump ship right now.' And I decided I didn't want to do that. I was going to give it another opportunity." Biffle's tenure with Roush Fenway includes an enviable collection of career highlights -- 19 victories in the top-level Sprint Cup Series and championships in both the XFINITY Series (2002) and the truck circuit (2000). Even though he managed to qualify for last season's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, his losing streak stretched to 57 -- nearing the longest dry spell of his career. Only Carl Edwards won races at the Sprint Cup level for RFR last year, and he departed in the offseason to restart his career at Joe Gibbs Racing . That move followed a similar career shift by Matt Kenseth -- another longtime Roush Fenway competitor -- just two years earlier. Biffle could've been the third domino to fall, but even with all the frayed emotions, the connections he'd established over the years kept him from severing those ties. "I stayed for relationships and things that I had built for a long period of time that I really cared about, and that was one of my decisions that really weighed on me to stay," Biffle said. "After I elected to stay, other people didn't and so I was left holding the bag a little bit, but I can't say enough about the partnerships that we've created since then. "I can talk forever about what's gone on, and I hate to keep -- so to speak, the cliché -- beat the dead horse. We all recognized the position we were in last year. We were drowning and we were trying to get to the surface, and it was difficult on all of us. All the relationships were all taxed, between me and my crew chief, the other drivers, the team engineers, the simulation group, and then fabrication, the guys hanging the (car) bodies. We were all taxed because we were not performing." Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark admitted that the offseason mission of rebuilding the team's stature in the sport had come with some soul searching. The organization has made plenty of offseason strides to meet the goals -- primarily through digging to the root cause of what went wrong in 2014 and closing the gap on its rivals in the technology department. But it's also revamped its mindset in more subtle ways, freshening the look of the shop and bringing it up to more state-of-the-art standards. Even though the overhaul has been dramatic, Newmark said losing Biffle was a change the team couldn't afford to withstand. "It was critical," Newmark said. "Greg and I spent a lot of time talking. He was solicited by a lot of teams, which I would expect with a driver of that caliber. After a lot of the discussions, I think he felt like Roush was the right fit for him and the right place, and he and Jack had some unfinished business. But he brings an element that we wouldn't have had without him. We have a lot of other talented drivers, but none of them has had the history with both our organization and the championships, so he's been fantastic." Though Biffle cracked in his opening remarks that Jack Roush , 72, had been racing Ford products since 1901, it's clear the team has begun to skew younger as it enters its 28th year in NASCAR. Biffle will race alongside third-year driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., 27, and 23-year-old Trevor Bayne , promoted to his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series. Change isn't all bad, as Biffle was quick to mention the championship fruits of the first-year partnership between Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing last season. Taken a step further, Biffle said Roush Fenway's expectations equal those of the title-winning No. 4 team. "We're all that confident," Biffle said. "We all feel that good that that's the position we're in now. Everyone's so excited about the way our company looks, about how everybody's getting along and how excited everybody is to work together again, and on a common goal. We all feel really good." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR officials will return to Michigan International Speedway on Tuesday, Oct. 20 to test a low downforce package similar to what was used in competition last month at Darlington Raceway . Drivers scheduled to take part in the test are defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet, current XFINITY Series points leader Chris Buescher ( Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford) and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contender Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota). According to information provided to the teams on Wednesday, the test is to verify max and corner speeds with three different grip levels of tires. The schedule calls for individual 10- and 25-lap runs in the morning and afternoon sessions. The lower downforce package debuted at Kentucky Speedway this season before also being put into play at Darlington, where it featured a 3.5-inch spoiler, 25-inch splitter extension panel (radiator pan) and 6.63-inch by 25-inch splitter. The only change for the MIS test will be an increase in the splitter extension panel to 33 inches. Drivers and teams were pleased with the initial results of the package, particularly at Darlington where Goodyear was able to provide a specific tire based on data gained from testing there prior to the race. The MIS test will take place approximately two months after the Sprint Cup Series competed at the 2-mile facility with a high-drag aerodynamic configuration. A high-drag package was also used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . JGR driver Matt Kenseth called the high-drag package "terrible." "You just can't pass," he said after finishing seventh in the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard. "Yeah, you can run up on the straightaway a little bit, but you can't run though the corner with anything." A month later, after his driver dominated at Michigan with the same rules package, Kenseth's crew chief Jason Ratcliff said "at the end of the straightaway (cars could) gain on others two or three car-lengths. But they just couldn't do much once they got there and they got down in the corner, they were kind of helpless." The high-drag rules included a 9-inch spoiler with a 1-inch wicker bill, a rear fascia extension panel (similar to those used for superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega), a 2-inch leading edge on the splitter and a 43-inch splitter extension panel. "We know that high drag package is awful," four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon said following the Darlington race. "We know that this (lower downforce) is definitely in the right direction. … I think when you look at the less horsepower we had coming in this year it's the package that should have been with this car that we have now. You can't take that kind of power away and not do something significant to the downforce as well." Homestead Test Slated for December NASCAR and Goodyear officials have added a post-season test scheduled for Dec. 14-15 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to continue preparations for the 2016 rules package. Organizations scheduled to participate in the test are Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet), Richard Petty Motorsports (Ford) and Furniture Row Racing (Toyota). It is expected to be the first on-track testing for Furniture Row and driver Martin Truex Jr . with a Toyota entry. The Denver-based team is making the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota for '16. Because of the change, SHR was added to the test to replace Furniture Row for Chevrolet. "I think '16, we're not really even thinking about right now," Truex said earlier this week. "We know what we're doing next year, we'll worry about that after (the final race at) Homestead. "I think everybody in the Chase is probably in the same position -- you're worried about today and tomorrow and this coming weekend. No further ahead. Once you set your plans, it's real easy." Lineup Change for Atlanta Test The Toyota teams of Michael Waltrip Racing and BK Racing have declined to take part in the Goodyear tire test slated for Oct. 27-28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway . Joe Gibbs Racing has been added to the lineup to represent Toyota teams at the 1.54-mile track. MWR will not field a full-time Sprint Cup Series team next season. The two-day program is a confirmation test for Goodyear; an open team test is scheduled for Oct. 29 following the completion of the tire test. CMS Tire Info Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series teams will be running the same tire codes this weekend at Charlotte, according to Goodyear officials, and is unchanged from what was provided for the 1.5 mile track's May races. The left-side tire code has been used at CMS since 2012; the right side, which features a multi-zone tread, was used there for the first time in May.
Widespread changes ahead for Roush Fenway Racing in 2015 MORE: See who is on the move for 2015 Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief Bob Osborne will return to the pit box in 2015, as Roush Fenway Racing officials have announced their 2015 driver/crew chief lineup for the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. Osborne, who guided former RFR driver Carl Edwards to 18 Sprint Cup victories between 2004 and 2012, will serve as crew chief for Trevor Bayne and the No. 6 RFR Ford team in the Sprint Cup Series. The move was one of two lineup changes announced involving RFR Sprint Cup teams. In addition to the return of Osborne, Nick Sandler, former lead engineer under Jimmy Fennig on the No. 99 team of Edwards, has been named crew chief for Ricky Stenhouse Jr . and the No. 17 team. He replaces Mike Kelley, who will serve as car chief for the Stenhouse team. Veteran driver Greg Biffle will once again be teamed with crew chief Greg Puccia. In a release announcing the changes, team co-owner Jack Roush said the organization was excited about the 2015 crew chief lineup. "Much like our driver lineup, our crew chief assembly features a quality mix of veteran leadership and youthful insight," Roush said. "We feel this lineup, combined with the addition of Kevin Kidd to oversee our Sprint Cup efforts, is a big step forward in the direction of placing our teams up front and contending week-in and week-out." Osborne, 40, helped guide Edwards to four top-five points finishes during his previous tenure with the team, including runner-up finishes in 2008 and '11. In July of 2012, he stepped down from his role due to health reasons but has remained an important part of the RFR engineering team. "Bob Osborne is a proven commodity," Roush said. "He will bring a strong veteran presence to the No. 6 … team, as Trevor Bayne makes the transition to full-time Sprint Cup racing ." Bayne finished sixth in points in the XFINITY Series in 2013-14 with RFR, while also running a limited Sprint Cup Series schedule with Wood Brothers Racing . The Knoxville, Tennessee native won the 2011 Daytona 500 while paired with the Wood Brothers. Stenhouse Jr., twice a NASCAR Nationwide (now XFINITY ) Series champion, has struggled since making the move to Sprint Cup in 2013. Initially paired with crew chief Scott Graves, he finished 19th in points. Kelley, who steered Stenhouse Jr. to the two titles, was brought on board for 2014, but Stenhouse fell to 27th in points. Sandler, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, "has a strong engineering background with the company," said Roush , "and his time working hand-in-hand with Jimmy Fennig over the past few seasons will prove invaluable as the takes the helm of the No. 17." Fennig, the long-time crew chief who stepped down at the end of '14, has been named research and development coordinator for RFR. Fennig was the 2004 championship-winning crew chief with driver Kurt Busch . Included among his 40 career wins as a crew chief are two Daytona 500 victories -- in 1988 with NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bobby Allison and in 2012 with Matt Kenseth . "Jimmy's experience is unparalleled in our sport and I anticipate his input in this new role will have a major influence in a positive direction across the board with all of our teams going forward," Roush said. For the XFINITY Series, the driver/crew chief pairings of Ryan Reed and Seth Barbour, Chris Buescher and Scott Graves will remain unchanged. Elliott Sadler , who made the move from Joe Gibbs Racing to RFR during the offseason, will be paired with Phil Gould, former crew chief for Brian Scott at Richard Childress Racing . And Darrell Wallace Jr ., third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings last season with Kyle Busch Motorsports, will be paired with crew chief Chad Norris as he runs an XFINITY Series slate for the organization. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Practice 2: Results After posting the fourth-fastest speed in the opening session, Sprint Cup Series regular Kasey Kahne soared all the way to the top in Thursday's final XFINITY Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Piloting the No. 88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports this weekend, Kahne laid down a fast lap of 180.433 mph to score the top spot. Fellow Cup regular and leader of the opening session, Kyle Busch was second on the leaderboard, propelling his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing ride at 180.114 mph around the North Carolina track. Points leader Chris Buescher -- who was runner-up in the first practice -- maintained his momentum during the second session, posting the third-fastest speed of 180.108 mph in his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. JR Motorsports' Regan Smith (180.096 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing 's Erik Jones (180.066 mph) rounded out the top five. The XFINITY Series is back on track at Charlotte on Friday at 4:45 p.m. ET for Coors Light Pole Qualifying (NBCSN/Live Extra). z Practice 1: Results Kyle Busch topped the leaderboard early during Thursday's opening XFINITY Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway , wheeling his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 181.886 mph. Current series points leader Chris Buescher ranked second on the charts, rounding the 1.5-mile oval at 181.330 mph in his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Richard Childress Racing 's Ty Dillon posted the third-fastest speed in his No. 3 ride (181.318 mph), while Kasey Kahne -- who is piloting the No. 88 ride for JR Motorsports this weekend -- was fourth with a top pace of 181.020 mph. Ryan Reed rounded out the top five with a fast lap of 180.499 mph in his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing ride. Reigning series champion Chase Elliott was 12th-fastest in the field, propelling his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at 179.295 mph
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, North Carolina, 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.