Miss Coors Light, Amanda Mertz, catches up with Matt Kenseth, the Coors Light Pole Award winner for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards comment on their strong runs in Texas.
Watch as two title contenders duel under the lights, along with the other sights and sounds from Texas.
Jimmie Johnson reacts to Biffle's pass on him, plus Martin, Gordon, Kenseth and Truex Jr. give their takes on racing in Texas.
Rachel chats with Martin Truex Jr. about winning his first pole award of 2012.
David Ragan 's plans for this weekend's race in the NASCAR industry's backyard will take on special meaning, with birthday accommodations made for a special guest. Ragan paid a visit Wednesday to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville, South Carolina, surprising 8-year-old NASCAR fan Hunter Black at a birthday lunch. Ragan took part in the celebration with his own gift for the youngster -- a weekend trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway as his honored guest for Saturday's Sprint Cup Series race. Ragan planned to ask Black, a patient born with cerebral palsy, to join him and assist with driver introductions as part of the pre-race ceremonies for Saturday night's Bank of America 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM). The two met during a previous hospital visit in April 2014. Ragan, in his ninth full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, named Shriners Hospitals for Children his official charity in 2008. Having a great birthday lunch at @shrinershosp Greenville with my pal Hunter. He'll be coming to the race Saturday! pic.twitter.com/Nlbyho8dA4 — David Ragan (@DavidRagan) October 7, 2015
The following are team press releases previewing the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM). Joe Gibbs Racing : Kyle Busch " Team preview Carl Edwards " Team preview Denny Hamlin " Team preview Matt Kenseth " Team preview Stewart-Haas Racing : Kevin Harvick " Team preview Kurt Busch " Team preview Hendrick Motorsports : Jeff Gordon " Team preview Dale Earnhardt Jr . " Team preview Team Penske : Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano " Team preview Richard Childress Racing : Ryan Newman " Team preview Furniture Row Racing : Martin Truex Jr . " Team preview
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.
As a professional race car driver competing in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series, Martin Truex Jr . gets to do a lot of interesting and innovative things as part of his job. But this Wednesday was special by any standards. Truex gave rides around Pikes Peak International Raceway to a paraplegic and quadriplegic in a specially designed "adaptive" stock car whose smart glass technology allows drivers a operate a car using head movement. Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser donated one of the team's No. 78 Chevys to the program and the race team volunteered many hours transforming it with the new technology. Truex flew out to Colorado from Charlotte -- where he'll be competing in Saturday night's Bank of America 500 -- just to participate in Wendesday's Falci Adaptive Motorsports NeuroGroove RaceDay. It was difficult to tell who was enjoying the experience more. "What an awesome day to be a firsthand witness to some incredible technology," said Truex. "Life is about giving back and Dr. (Scott) Falci and his partners are doing just that. To see the joy of the individuals I gave a ride to was very inspirational." One of Truex's passengers, Stewart Lundy, a paraplegic from Denver, Col., considered it a ride of a lifetime, joking, "And he (Truex) gets paid to do this!" "I need to reassess my life goals. That is probably one them now. I loved every minute of it -- I'm coming down from an adrenalin high." The technology used in the car can also be used in steering a wheelchair and has the potential of increasing mobilization and independence for many disabled. "I wanted to add another adapted sport for the spinal cord and disabled population," said Dr. Scott Falci, a neurosurgeon at Denver's Craig Hospital. "Motorsports is a real exciting sport and we're utilizing the No. 78 Furniture Row car as a platform to get involved in a new adaptive sporting event and also getting involved with the NASCAR community." "The emotional thrill of having Martin and his Furniture Row race car was an uplifting experience not only for the spinal cord injured individuals and their families but for all of our partners who have been passionately working on this new adaptive technology."