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
Photo credit: @CLTMotorSpdwy RELATED: Photos of the Better Half Dash participants CONCORD, N.C. -- It was the NASCAR wives' and girlfriends' time to shine on the track in Thursday's fifth annual Better Half Dash, organized by Motor Racing Outreach at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Shannon Koch, the wife of NASCAR XFINITY Series driver, Blake Koch , took the checkered flag. She overcame some early-race trouble when the back body panel of her No. 8 machine was blown off by the wind. "I really didn't know that I lost part of my car until I came back around and they were picking it up off the track," Shannon Koch said after the race. "My husband just said, 'keep going, they didn't black flag you yet.' " Congratulations Shannon Koch! @CLTMotorSpdwy : Shannon Koch wins #BetterHalfDash ! pic.twitter.com/utaZBrZH2u http://t.co/A8pZxzvjsB — NASCAR Off Track (@OffTrackNASCAR) October 8, 2015 When asked whether that gave her an aerodynamic advantage, Shannon Koch said, "I don't know, maybe it did. Did lap times pick up? I have no idea. It didn't feel any different to me." To which second-place finisher Katelyn Sweet, girlfriend of Kyle Larson , quickly said to a loud round of laughter, "Your motor got way more air." No word on whether the car passed post-race inspection. Shannon Koch wins the #BetterHalfDash at @CLTMotorSpdwy pic.twitter.com/dbjY7tmYkm — Pete McCole (@PeteMcCole) October 8, 2015 The race benefits MRO and Speedway Children's Charities as well as each participant's individual charity. Koch's $10,000 winnings went to MRO, which was the charity she was representing. The participants raised $75,000, according to MRO and track officials With the win comes a really big trophy for Koch. She described it as "definitely the biggest that we have. It will go right up there with the rest of them." And Koch is also going out on top, saying in the post-race press conference, "I'm retiring." NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Larson and Denny Hamlin were among the spotters for their respective significant others, Sweet and Jordan Fish. NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr . were among those to check out the action as well. Sweet led several laps in the event and overcame an early spin out to finish second. Tandra Greenfield, the wife of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Clay Greenfield , finished third. Greenfield is eager to come back next year. "It was fun to compete with them because they were so aggressive and competitive," she said. Wendy Venturini, a NASCAR reporter and wife of Jarrad Egert, director of track operations for Joe Gibbs Racing , was not able to pull off the MRO event sweep after taking the High Heel Dash in May. Over the past few weeks, there have been practice sessions leading up to the race, all while the competitors were busy raising money prior to the event. As in years past, the participant to raise the most money earned the opportunity to select their starting spot for the race. Koch earned the pole honor. The results: 1. Shannon Koch (wife of driver Blake Koch ) 2. Katelyn Sweet (girlfriend of driver Kyle Larson ) 3. Tandra Greenfield (wife of driver Clay Greenfield ) 4. Jordan Fish (girlfriend of driver Denny Hamlin ) 5. Kristen Yeley (wife of driver J.J. Yeley) 6. Tatiana Papis (wife of driver Max Papis ) 7. Ashley Deihl Stremme (wife of driver David Stremme ) 8. Melanie Self (Motor Racing Outreach Community Center Coordinator) 9. Jenna Robinson (wife of No. 19 tire changer Clay Robinson) 10. Whitney Kay Scott (wife of driver Brian Scott ) 11. Wendy Venturini (NASCAR reporter, wife of JGR director of track operations Jarrad Egert)
Below is a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared at Dover International Speedway . 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick scored his spot in the Round of 12 in dramatic fashion by leading a career-best 355 laps and notching the 750th victory for manufacturer Chevrolet. 2. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Post-race, Busch said he was pleased with where his team finished, citing it had a second-place car, but also adding it had quite a bit of ground to make up to catch the "lightning-fast" No. 4 team. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The final caution flag was a lucky break for Earnhardt, who took the opportunity to address a loose wheel. He then used a solid restart to slip past fellow Chase contender Jamie McMurray and punch his ticket to the next round. 4. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . "Nice work guys. Nothing to be ashamed of," McMurray radioed his team after just missing the cut for Round 2. For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 5. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola was posting top-five lap times with 55 laps to go, but needed those remaining circuits to pick up seven spots and match his best Dover result. 6. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The decision to stop twice during the fifth caution period to ensure the No. 5 was full of fuel didn't hurt Kahne, who earned his seventh Dover top 10. 7. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth, already a Round 2 contender thanks to his Loudon victory, spent the remaining 125 laps on Sunday looking for more corner speed. 8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse restarted 10th after the fifth caution flag, and he held on for his best Dover finish. 9 . Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson looked to play the spoiler when he moved into the top three in the final 100 laps, but a decision to stay out during the final caution flag hurt his chances. 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano advances to the next round of the Chase with his ninth Dover top 10. 11. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex, a Round 2 contender, climbed through the field after starting from the rear when NASCAR had a post-inspection issue with the flare on his side skirt. 12. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . " Man, it's never easy," Gordon told his team after a rough final restart. "I know that wasn't easy," spotter Eddie D'Hondt said. "But we did what we needed to" (to advance). For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 13. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing. Biffle got sideways with 11 laps to go, but saved his car while running 15th . 14. Clint Bowyer , No. 15, Michael Waltrip Racing . Bowyer recovered after dropping from eighth to 25th when he made an unscheduled stop on Lap 175 for a loose wheel. 15. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Crew chief Darian Grubb didn't want to risk the No. 19's spot in the next round of the Chase so he called his driver back down pit road during the sixth caution flag for a right-front tire issue. 16. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Around Lap 60, Keselowski was running 16th when he reported that his engine temperatures were dropping. He maintained and will compete in the second round of the Chase. 17. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . An issue with the left-front jack bolt caused Busch to lose ride height late in the race. The team corrected the issue but still had to make additional repairs during the Lap 374 stop under caution. 18. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin won the race off pit road after a four-tire stop during the competition caution, but his forward momentum was stalled because he was tagged for speeding. A second penalty sealed the deal, but he still advanced because he won Chicagoland. 19. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman earned the beneficiary pass after the third caution flag and managed to stay only one lap down as the race progressed. He advanced to the second round of the Chase. 20. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Hornish and his team chased the handling of his No. 9 Ford all day, even as the track took on rubber. 21. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick worked with her team to help her No. 10 Chevy take off better around Dover's 1-mile oval. 22. David Ragan , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Ragan, who fell off the lead lap by Lap 105, had previously told his team he was "too free on exit and pretty snug in the center." 23. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon's team made several chassis adjustments during the second half of the race to help him get into the corner better. 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears was running 25th during the first half of Sunday's race when he was hooked in the right rear and saved his car from spinning on-track. 25. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard rolled off the grid 14th and almost immediately went backward as he watched his first Chase run fade. 26. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart recently announced he'd retire from driving after 2016 to focus on ownership. But on Sunday, the driver of the No. 14 focused on pit strategy to improve his track position. 27. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier received the beneficiary pass during the competition caution, but spent much of the race looking for mid-corner grip. 28. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Like his teammate Brett Moffitt , Whitt discovered that his car improved around Dover as the 1-mile concrete oval took on rubber. 29. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG-Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was going too fast trying to get onto pit road when he spun up the track on Lap 311. 30. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Gilliland reported a tight-handling condition during the final 60 laps of Sunday's race, which his team worked to address. 31. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Halfway through a fuel run when the fifth caution flag was waved, Bayne elected to take the wave-around like most cars one or more laps down. 32. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Bowman and his team continually made adjustments on the No. 7 Chevy throughout Sunday's race trying to find balance. 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Already three laps down and in 36th, Sorenson told his team that he was "just racing the track right now" when they informed him leader Kevin Harvick was bearing down. 34. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . "Holy crap," DiBenedetto said while running 37th on Lap 101 when he learned leader Kevin Harvick was on his bumper -- again. 35. J.J. Yeley, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . Long green-flag runs were a struggle Sunday for Yeley. 36. Josh Wise , No. 32 Ford, Go FAS Racing. Wise sustained minimal nose damage after making contact with Jeb Burton on Lap 3. 37. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . During the fifth caution flag, Annett reported that his entry was neutral and he couldn't pick up the gas when he wanted to. 38. Alex Kennedy , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport . Kennedy rolled off the grid 36th in his Dover debut. 39. Timmy Hill , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports . Starting 43rd at the fast 1-mile oval made forward progress an immediate issue for Hill in his fourth Dover appearance. 40. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. Cassill's fear that his engine was "letting go" was realized on Lap 372 and prompted the eighth caution flag. 41. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . A torn rear axle seal sidelined Johnson in his 500th Cup start and ended his quest for a seventh championship. 42. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Moffitt's lap times were improving as the track picked up rubber, but his car was "killed" when he blew a right-front and made hard contact with the wall to bring out the seventh caution flag. 43. Jeb Burton , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Burton spun on Lap 3 and cut a tire on Lap 192 to bring out the caution flag twice on Sunday.
RELATED: Where does No. 88 team stack up in this week's pit crew rankings? CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Dale Earnhardt Jr . said he doesn't anticipate any further changes to his pit crew even though teammate Jimmie Johnson has been knocked out of this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Earnhardt and fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon advanced into the Contender Round of the Chase, which begins this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Johnson, a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, did not secure one of the 12 Chase positions, falling by the wayside when a rear axle seal failed during Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . RELATED: Johnson's dream of seventh title in 2015 washed away at Dover Speaking to the media Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Earnhardt couldn't guarantee that there would be no changes in his over-the-wall crew, "but I would like to keep my guys," he said. Earnhardt's last win came in July at Daytona. His pass of Jamie McMurray in the closing laps at Dover vaulted him into the Contender Round, but he and his team had to overcome a loose wheel during the race to put themselves back in contention. A caution allowed Earnhardt to pit and correct the problem and kept him from having to come to pit road under green-flag conditions. "I'll be honest with you. … I don't know what's going to happen. You might find out tomorrow that somebody got changed," he said. "I don't think you build a guy's trust … he needs to know that you believe in him; the same for the driver. The driver needs to know the team believes he can do it. "I think the (tire) carrier, the (tire) changer, all those guys want to think that the driver and everyone involved believes in them when they go over the wall. "If I take the 48 guys because I think they're better, then what am I going to do next year when we have to start from scratch again? All those guys that are on my car now are going to be pissed off because I don't believe in them because I took the 48 guys when the going got tough. "So I don't believe in doing that. I think that my guys can do it; I think we will find the combination that works for us to get to the end of the season and beyond." RELATED: Change made to No. 88 pit crew Earnhardt's No. 88 crew has been retooled in recent weeks, most recently for Dover as front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski replaced David Mayo, who had earlier been replaced by Kevin Novak but had been brought back onto the main crew. The addition of Brzozowski can possibly be a game-changer for the team, according to Earnhardt. "I hope that Scott wants to stick around beyond this season," he said. "I actually talked to him today. "It's not like we need two new (tire) changers. We just need one key guy that can come in and kind of elevate the standard and push everyone. Over the past couple of years when we've had great pit crews, a lot of the guys that we've been working with this year were on those teams. "If you get one guy in there that’s kind of a key player … like a wide receiver or a quarterback is to a football team, he can really elevate the play of everybody around him and boost the entire crew; just the confidence that those guys have going over the wall when he's a part of it changes the whole consistency of the team." Gordon's No. 24 team picked up the services of tire changer Nick Odell recently, which freed up the move for Brzozowski to the 88. Gordon, a four-time champion in his final full-time season, is still searching for his first win in 2015. "We really want Scott to try to wrap his brain around sticking with us," Earnhardt said. "We could really use a guy like him on the 88 car to bring some stability to the rest of the group. I've got a lot of faith in our guys; it's not like we need to go crazy and blow it up, go looking outside our system." Any crew changes for his team, he said, would be orchestrated by crew chief Greg Ives and Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt. Swapping individual crew members heading into the Chase isn't unusual. There have even been cases of swapping entire crews, in the middle of a race no less, as Johnson and Gordon did in 2010. "I know teams have done that before but I just feel like, yeah you might get somewhere in the short term and get some stability but over the long term you basically have just destroyed the integrity of the team you have," Earnhardt said. "Having those guys back at the beginning of next season is not going to be an option. They're not going to want to work for you once you take them off the car during the Chase."
GarageCam host Matthew Dillner takes you through the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway and picks up a sweet gift.
GarageCam host Matthew Dillner kicks off the Contender Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by taking you through the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway and talks with multiple drivers along the way.
Daniel Suarez is happy with his finish at Charlotte and his progress in the 2015 Xfinity Series season.
Former Joe Gibbs Racing tire changer Nick Odell has signed a deal with Hendrick Motorsports that will make him a member of the No. 24 pit crew, the team confirmed. Odell drew interest from several teams after he was released by JGR last week. He was a longtime front tire changer for the No. 18 Toyota driven by Kyle Busch . Scott Brzozowski was the front tire changer for the No. 24 team. He came to Hendrick Motorsports after working with the No. 39 crew of Ryan Newman at Stewart-Haas Racing . Brzozowski will move from the No. 24 team to the No. 88 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr . as its starting front tire changer. Brzozowski will replace David Mayo, who will return to a backup role. The roster moves are in effect starting at Dover. It's the second tweak to Earnhardt's pit crew in the past month. The changes to the No. 18 team last week came after changes to several teams in Chase contention, including the No. 88 pit crew, the No. 2 crew for Brad Keselowski 's Ford and the No. 78 group that services Martin Truex Jr .'s Chevrolet. For more pit crew information, visit PitTalks.com .
Interim driver hoping to continue in No. 55 ride RELATED: Toyota not sure what MWR will do BRISTOL, Tenn. -- David Ragan , 10 starts into his role as driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota, said he's yet to speak with MWR officials, or anyone else, about his future role with the organization. Ragan joined MWR earlier this season after a nine-race stint with Joe Gibbs Racing as interim driver for the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch . His first start of the year, the Daytona 500 in February, came with Front Row Motorsports . "I haven't talked about next year with anybody for anything," Ragan said before the start of an open test on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "In regards to some of the rumors that are out there, I've read just like everybody else has online, but all I can do is the best I can do week in and week out and hopefully everything will take care of themselves." Ragan qualified third for the second consecutive race this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was his fourth top-10 start in the past five races. However, he has only two finishes inside the top 15 since joining the team in a relief role for driver Brian Vickers , who remains sidelined due to medical issues. Aaron's, a long-time MWR sponsor and currently the primary sponsor for the No. 55 entry, has yet to announce its plans beyond the 2015 season. In addition to the No. 55, MWR also fields the No. 15 Sprint Cup entry with driver Clint Bowyer . Sponsorship is provided by 5-hour ENERGY and both Bowyer and the sponsor are in the first year of multi-year agreements with the organization. Ragan, 29, is a two-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series. His first win came in July of 2011 at Daytona with Roush Fenway Racing . In 2013, he put Front Row Motorsports in Victory Lane for the first time when he won at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. MWR is said to be considering a split from Toyota, which has provided engines and technical support to the organization since the automaker moved into Sprint Cup in 2007. Dave Wilson, President & General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, told NASCAR.com that he did not know if the relationship with MWR would continue beyond 2015. In the meantime, Ragan said he would like to remain at MWR going forward if that is an option. "I like everyone at MWR and the Aaron's folks have been great to work with," he said. "We've got a good thing going ... hopefully we can keep it going. That'd be fun." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Teen who's a patient at Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati will attend Cup race SPARTA, Ky. -- David Ragan will have a special guest with him when he hits the track this weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Hunter Rogers, an avid NASCAR fan and patient at Shriners Hospital for Children -- Cincinnati, will be cheering on the No. 55 from the pit box during Sunday’s Quaker State 400. The 13-year-old was burned as an infant and will visit the hospital regularly for scar revisions and treatments until he reaches the age of 21. Ragan, a Shriner and avid supporter of the hospital, was able to meet his guest of honor Thursday, when he visited the Cincinnati branch of the hospital. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver spent one-on-one time with Rogers, in addition to partaking in a variety of games and activities with the rest of the children. The visit was part of Ragan’s awareness and fundraising initiative for the hospital, which Ragan named his official charity in 2008. He will continue to visit hospital branches throughout the United States and one lucky patient will be invited to accompany him at the race track following each gathering. In 17 starts this season for three different race teams, Ragan has three top-15 finishes, including one fifth-place result at Martinsvillle. With no Cup activities going on in Kentucky, I am headed to @shrinershosp in Cincinnati. Visiting a few of the patients and their families. — David Ragan (@DavidRagan) July 9, 2015 Sprint Cup 's @DavidRagan made Hunter Rogers' day at Cincy @shrinershosp . Story at 10 @FOX19 . @KySpeedway @IJennnaahh pic.twitter.com/e7C9yHWP6T — Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) July 9, 2015 FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule