Elliott, NAPA drive awareness for Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund The JR Motorsports Chevrolet driven by defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott this weekend will sport a new patriotic look. The reason behind it is further cause to remember those who served. The JRM No. 9 team will join several NASCAR organizations in flying the United States red, white and blue this weekend, both as part of the overarching NASCAR Salutes initiative and specifically through a campaign to drive awareness to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. NAPA Auto Parts, Elliott's primary sponsor and an IFHF partner, launched the campaign Thursday, a day before opening practice at Daytona International Speedway. The IFHF program is intended to raise awareness of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, not just for veterans returning from active duty but also their families. The non-profit organization, which operates three Intrepid Spirit Centers near military bases in the U.S., claims it has provided more than $150 million in support of families of military personnel killed or wounded in service since its inception in 2000. Elliott, third in the XFINITY standings entering Saturday's Subway Firecracker 250 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), said he plans to take time out from his weekend schedule to meet with military members and their families at the 2.5-mile track. "It's an honor to carry the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund on the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet this weekend at Daytona," Elliott said in a release provided by the team. "NAPA does a great job with this program and I'm excited to represent them under the lights at Daytona. Saturday's meet-and-greets with the Honorary Pit Crew Members will be fulfilling experiences, knowing the sacrifice each has given to our country. I have so much respect for our military and can't wait to show these guys a great time. NAPA has a tremendous amount of admiration for the men and women who fight for our freedom and I'm looking forward to celebrating them this weekend." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Gordon comes up short in final race in home state SONOMA, Calif. -- The finality of his last race at Sonoma Raceway -- his last NASCAR event in his home state of California -- hit home for Jeff Gordon before the engine ever fired on his No. 24 Chevrolet Sunday. Pre-race commemorations and a rousing welcome from a healthy crowd in driver introductions drove the point home. During the race itself, though, the deeper personal significance was secondary to the heat of the battle and what the result meant to his final championship run. "It would've been emotional if I was over in Victory Lane," Gordon joked as Kyle Busch celebrated his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season. "Coming into today, seeing all the 24 flags, driver introductions was kind of overwhelming and it was cool. I hadn't really thought about it since then. You get in the race and you get so focused on the race that you don't think about anything other than just trying to get the best finish that you can, but I've got a lot of friends and family out here and they're here because this is my last race here. That means a lot to me, and then a good day overall other than we didn't get a better finish." The four-time champion's Golden State swan song in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 featured a little taste of everything -- a flat tire, a pit-road penalty, a major handling adjustment and a bold strategy play from crew chief Alan Gustafson near the finish. The composite result was a 16th-place finish for Gordon, who couldn't overcome the combination of factors to make his Sonoma farewell sweeter. Gordon spent most of the 110-lap race's first half among the top five, but he pitted the No. 24 Chevy on Lap 51 as his handling began to deteriorate. As he returned to the track, his Hendrick Motorsports crew told him that the left-front tire was cut and low on air pressure. "Still something's not right, but I'll make the best of it," Gordon answered through the team radio. But the car's feel didn't drastically improve, and by Lap 76 during the race's third caution period, Gustafson took the time for an extra-long pit stop to remove the No. 24's spring rubbers to emulate the setup of Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson , who wound up leading the most laps Sunday. "That's the opposite of what we usually race here," Gustafson said of the altered setup. "The stuff we had unfortunately wasn't very good today and we improved it. Just part of the exercise was learning to see what we were off on. We had a flat left-front during the middle of the race which got us behind. If we wouldn't have had that, we could've executed and kept our car up front and probably got a top-10, but just rough right now. Got to fight through it." Whether it was the effect of the lengthy stop or the subsequent penalty to his team for throwing equipment over the pit wall, the visit left Gordon at the back of the pack in 26th place for the restart that followed. Gordon inched back into the top 20, but when the race's final yellow flag emerged with 11 laps remaining, Gustafson opted to keep his driver on the track to help him move up the leaderboard. Gordon lined up third for the seven-lap sprint to the finish, but wasn't able to make the gained ground pay off. He slipped to his 16th-place finishing position on well-worn tires. "I just tried to make something happen there at the end and who knows, we may have lost a spot or two because of it," Gustafson said, "but trying to make a big reward, it didn't work out that way. That's part of it. You've got to try. You can't just sit on it." The bigger reward beyond Sunday's checkered flag would be the virtually automatic berth into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs that accompanies it. Busch was the latest to potentially punch his ticket, though he'll need to finish the regular season in the top 30 in Sprint Cup driver points to officially enter playoff contention. The turn of events left Gordon in the 14th of 16 spots on the provisional Chase gird, third-best of the five winless drivers this season who are in playoff position. With 10 races remaining before the Chase field is set, Gordon said it's too early to let scoreboard-watching or panic alter the No. 24 team's approach. "We're just trying to go out and perform the best we can every weekend," Gordon said. "I've always said, it's not about making the Chase, it's about being a factor in the Chase, and while there is meaning to being in it, we want to be more than just in it. So we've got some improving to do, we know that. We're working on it. I really thought we were going to be good today, and I don't know how good Kyle really was, but he certainly was good when it counted at the end." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR chairman and CEO: 'There is a line' MORE: Official NASCAR release " Penalities issued to crew members, crew chiefs RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said Tuesday afternoon in an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the sanctioning body was reviewing the tapes from a post-race fight Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway , and the sanctioning body was prepared to dole out some "harsh punishment." By Tuesday evening, NASCAR had suspended three Hendrick Motorsports crew members for six championship points races and fined $25,000 apiece. A fourth crew member was docked $25,000 and suspended for three races. The crew chiefs for the No. 5 and No. 24 teams, Kenny Francis and Alan Gustafson, were each fined $50,000 and placed on probation for six races. Jeff Gordon approached Brad Keselowski on pit road following the AAA Texas 500 after the two made contact late in the race, which resulted in Gordon cutting a tire and led to a 29th-place finish. He was running in the top-five at the time of the incident. Gordon removed his helmet and walked toward Keselowski as tensions and proximity among the teams' crew members increased. Once Kevin Harvick pushed Keselowski closer to the fray, the pushing intensified and some punches were landed. "In particular with the other participants in the sport, crew members or anyone else, … we don't have dugouts or sidelines," France said. "The drivers often are parked in the garage, next to one another. … It's not uncommon at all for someone to express how they feel, with a lot of emotion sometimes. We're good with that, we understand that's part of the game. But there is a line. When things escalate to the level that they did, or anything close to what happened Sunday, we will step in and deal with that very carefully." France also noted that Keselowski's late-race move was one of a veteran going all-out to get the win. "Quite frankly, he did exactly what I would expect any driver with that much on the line to do," France said. "He was looking at an opportunity to shoot a gap, if you will. It was unfortunate they touched and Gordon's tire obviously got cut, which was very unfortunate, but the idea is, that late in the race, things are going to happen when guys are legitimately trying to win races." Keselowski's move, and the emotions that it caused, were the product of a new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in its first year of existence. As for the added drama to the sport? "Welcome to big-time sports with big moments," France said. With two races remaining in the 2014 season, eight drivers are still eligible to win this year's championship. That includes the parties involved in Sunday's incident -- Gordon, Keselowski and Harvick -- as well as Joey Logano , Denny Hamlin , Ryan Newman , Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth . Following this Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) four drivers will advance to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at the crown. "I think on balance, we still have a lot of consistency," France said. "Points still matter a lot. … I think we struck the right balance. We like what we see. It's elevating the racing, and that's our No. 1 goal." Newman and Kenseth remain in the title hunt despite both being winless this year. If either driver were to advance to Homestead and win the championship without winning a race, France said the sanctioning body would be "fine" with that outcome. "That could happen in any format that we have," France said. "In any one we've ever had or might have, we may be in that situation. You can have teams in other sports with losing records in the regular season win the Super Bowl or World Series. It happens." In 2010, France talked about the Chase capturing "the essence of Game 7s, eliminations," and with wins guaranteeing drivers a spot in NASCAR's playoffs, those moments can happen in any of the 26 regular-season races. "That's what we're trying to always have," France said. "Even when we're not in the Chase, we want the Daytona 500 , which obviously doesn't fall in the Chase, to be the biggest, most important event it can be. Given that we don't have hundreds and hundreds of races throughout our season -- we only have 36 -- they all ought to mean as much as possible. This Chase is certainly doing that." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Brad Keselowski defends his move on the race track, saying he came here to race, not to fight .
Kevin Harvick comments on the post-race altercations at Texas Motor Speedway, saying Brad Keselowski needs to learn to fight his own fights.
Carl Edwards and David Ragan get into each other and collide with the wall in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, leaving Ragan frustrated with some of the racing taking place.
See the top five moments from Sonoma Raceway this past weekend as Kyle Busch gets his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season with his brother, Kurt Busch, finishing right behind him.
Tony Stewart and Joey Logano fight after Stewart gets upset about his racing at Auto Club Speedway.
Sherry Pollex's cancer fight adds perspective, purpose behind charity RELATED: Catwalk for a Cause raises money for cancer research Martin Truex Jr . rolls into his "home track" Dover International Speedway this week the most dominant driver without a win this season. For the last two points races, the New Jersey native's No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevy has led the most laps. He and reigning Sprint Cup Series champ Kevin Harvick have earned the most top-10 finishes (11) of any driver in the series. And, Truex sports a whopping 25-point lead on the next closest points position to qualify for the 16-driver Chase for theCup. Truex' 2014 struggles on track -- consistent bad luck and frequent car problems in his first year with the Furniture Row team -- now seem firmly in the rear-view mirror. And away from the track, Truex's girlfriend Sherry Pollex is responding well in treatment for ovarian cancer -- diagnosed last summer. By all reasonable standards, Truex is already a winner this year. He just hasn't hoisted a trophy. Yet. Perspective has come from facing great hardship and it has been evident even in disappointment for Truex. After leading a race-best 131 laps in Sunday night's grueling Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , he was interviewed on pit road and initially grimaced at yet another near-miss -- a fifth place finish. But before the camera pulled away, Truex had summoned a smile and offered perspective. MORE: #TBT: Truex earns first career Cup win After all that he and Pollex have endured in the past year, good days behind the wheel are a bonus. And Truex is collecting lots of bonus right now. "Toward the end of last year things were looking bad and the car wasn't running well and I was in front-line treatment (for cancer),'' Pollex said. "Now his team is on fire and they have the car to beat every weekend. I'm still in my maintenance chemo, but I live a normal life with it. "Even if Martin wasn't doing well on track, we're kinda winning at life. There are so many things we are thankful for." And as they have for years, Truex and Pollex have generously given back on their blessings through the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation. The foundation's marquee event, Catwalk for a Cause -- a fundraiser for pediatric cancer research and treatment at the Charlotte-based Levine Children’s Hospital -- was held May 13 and raised nearly $300,000. The awareness generated and hearts warmed were priceless. A couple dozen of the sport's biggest names showed up to bid on silent auction items and cheer the participants on as they walked the runway wearing fashions from local boutiques and Belk's. The Mooresville, N.C., facility's décor was created by former NASCAR driver Shawna Robinson, who recently completed treatment for breast cancer herself. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kasey Kahne , Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick were among those who walked the runway with young cancer patients. "Sherry (Pollex) does so much and these kids have such great spirit and they don't know any different,'' said Danica Patrick , who dazzled on stage alongside fellow NASCAR driver and boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr . and 6-year old, Mya, who is undergoing chemotherapy for a form of leukemia. "It shows how you can be in those situations if you don't think too far forward, and live in the moment." It's a lesson Pollex has had reinforced. Her commitment to the spring event never wavered even in the immediate days after being diagnosed with cancer herself. "God works in mysterious ways,'' Truex said. "When Sherry first got diagnosed she thought about all the kids she had in the Catwalk before and the kids to come and said, 'If they can do this, I can do this.' ' "That was honestly the first thing she thought, 'I'm going to show them I can do it, then they will do it.' And it's a constant snowball effect." Pollex is philosophical about the irony of the situation. For years she has dedicated herself to helping this cause through the foundation's resources. "I remember not long after I was diagnosed, telling my mom that God must have had a plan for me because I've spent half my life teaching kids how to beat this disease then I ended up with it,'' Pollex said. "I definitely think it's ironic. Maybe God knew I would have to teach them how to fight and then one day I'd know what they went through. I can't imagine there being any other plan for me. "If you try to just look at the positive side of it, it's an opportunity to know what they've been through and what the treatments are like. "Nobody really knows what cancer is like unless you have it. You have an empathy that no one can explain unless you're a survivor. It gives me an opportunity to teach them to beat the disease." Because it is considered a "rare" form of cancer, pediatric cancer receives only a small fraction of the funding for research and new treatment that adult forms of cancer receive, according to Dr. Javier Oesterheld, interim director of Levine's Pediatric Hematology and Oncology unit. The money raised by Truex and Pollex is extremely important. "I will tell you, NASCAR as a whole is incredible about this,'' Oesterheld said. "This event is so amazing, how much it raises and just the awareness it puts out there. "All we need (for our cause) is our one person to really push it forward. People like Martin and Jeff Gordon . They've really made a huge difference for us." Beyond the practical side of raising money, the Catwalk has a special and undeniable tangible effect. The very people benefitting get to be a part of the process. And by the end of the evening, it was genuinely hard to see who was helping whom. The kids were grinning and laughing and hamming it up despite their tough circumstances. And the adults were smiling back at them, inspired by their strength and spirit, awed by the lesson of living in the moment. It's impossible not to leave Catwalk without being moved. "Imagine the feeling these kids get when they're up here helping their peers,'' Truex said. "They have friends back in the hospital that were too sick to come here tonight. Imagine what they feel in their heart when they're up here and everyone's cheering for them and they say, 'This is for our friends back in the hospital and for kids that haven't been diagnosed yet.' "These kids raise the money. We don't. "At the end of the day, we're both blessed to be healthy enough to do it, especially Sherry with what she's been through. This year was extra special to her for that reason." Pollex agreed. "We were so humbled all those people were there, and I feel like this year was different because of my diagnosis,'' she said. "We've always wanted to help people. And now that we can't have kids of our own it takes on a new importance in our lives. Those kids become our kids. " With the way Truex has been contending, it won't be long until the couple gets to celebrate their perseverance and resolve in Victory Lane. He's a legitimate favorite this weekend. Truex scored his career first Cup win at Dover's Monster Mile in 2007 and has an impressive two pole positions and eight top-10s in 18 starts at the notoriously tough concrete oval. "I would never want our lives necessarily to turn out this way, but Martin is a completely different person (since I was diagnosed with cancer) and looks at everything differently, not just racing,'' Pollex said. "I don't know how anyone could be the same person after going through this. "I look at it like we got an opportunity to show God what we're made of." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Dirty Mo Radio: Discusses key pit-road speeding penalty Carrying the very unofficial title of NASCAR's official grillmaster, Dale Earnhardt Jr . has plenty of experience getting the timing right in his frequent barbecues. Perhaps that's why overcooking his entry onto pit road last weekend at Dover International Speedway left such a sour taste. A crucial pit-road speeding penalty just past the halfway point proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to Earnhardt's chances in the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks . But Earnhardt, in his weekly analysis on the "Dale Jr. Download" podcast on Dirty Mo Radio, said that he was pleased with the speed in his Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet as he twice rallied from deep in the field to a 14th-place finish. "I still had fun driving the car. I hate I fouled up there and screwed up coming onto pit road and disappointed the guys," Earnhardt said. "We just worked so hard to get all that ground back and get back on the lead lap, and I sort of screwed it all up. So that's difficult to deal with but you've got to put it behind you to be able to move on to the next event, and we're going to some tracks where I think we can do really well and I'm looking forward to it." Earnhardt started from the rear of the 43-car field, dropping back during pace laps after the crew was forced to make repairs to the No. 88's rear gearing during Saturday's final practice. Earnhardt lost a lap early, but regained it with some savvy pit strategy from crew chief Greg Ives and the fortunate timing of the race's second caution period. That lead-lap advantage, however, went away with a penalty during the next round of green-flag pit stops. Earnhardt lost two laps in the process, but the net effect wasn't terribly costly in the scope of the season. The 40-year-old driver has already all but sealed his berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs after posting a regular-season win at Talladega Superspeedway last month, allowing him to take more chances ahead of the 10-race championship fight . "Trying to get everything we can," Earnhardt said. "We can be real aggressive with pretty much everything we do since we have the win and we're locked into the Chase. Sometimes, that's going to bite us, and it bit me today. After that we just worked real hard to get everything else we could out of the race. Ended up gaining a bunch more spots and getting back into the top 15 there, but definitely had a much better car -- a top-five car for sure." While the result was less than desirable, Earnhardt emerged confident that the performance should carry over to the series' October visit to Dover, site of the finale to the Chase-opening Challenger Round. Earnhardt and Co. finished a disappointing 17th at the Monster Mile last fall, but hopes Sunday's comeback-filled effort is something the team can build upon. "Starting in the back definitely made things difficult for us, so I'm pretty happy with the speed in the car," Earnhardt said. "Once we found out we were starting in the back, I really wrote off the result no matter what it was and just wanted to make sure we had good speed, because that track is where we really stumbled last year in the Chase. So we need to run better there for sure later in the season, and I think we've got a good baseline of something that'll work." Before Dover ever comes into view, Earnhardt has more pressing matters in Sunday's Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Pocono Raceway , where he has a recent hot streak cooking. Earnhardt was 0-for-28 for his career at the Tricky Triangle until last season, when he swept both annual events at the Pennsylvania track. If Earnhardt is able to connect for a third straight victory at Pocono, he'll join elite company in NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison and the late Tim Richmond as the track's only three-in-a-row winners. Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky, on hand in Victory Lane for both ends of Earnhardt's double last season, told Dirty Mo Radio that the effect of his success was palpable. "He takes the lead, and any track, anywhere -- the place goes bonkers and it was the same thing here last year, watching fans' reaction," Igdalsky said. "Then to see him do it a second time and now to be trying to go for what only two drivers have accomplished with winning three in a row, it's going to be quite a feat if he can do it." Big Download. @DaleJr discusses up-and-down day. @bigdalsky talks about a @poconoraceway 3-peat. #tdjd by @spyoptic : http://t.co/nrBNfRddzU — Dirty Mo Radio (@DirtyMoRadio) June 2, 2015 FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule