Comcast announces finalists for Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award

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Announced on Thursday’s episode of NASCAR America, Comcast has named the three finalists for the 2016 Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award.

Created to recognize charitable efforts by members within the NASCAR industry, the award will be presented for just the second time this year.

The finalists are Ray Wright, the pit crew coach at Richard Childress Racing in the Sprint Cup Series; Wade Jackson, a fabricator in the Xfinity Series at JR Motorsports; and Samantha Busch, co-owner of Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series.

“Each year, it is both humbling and empowering to hear so many examples of how NASCAR is making a difference beyond the track,” said Matt Lederer, Executive Director of Sports Marketing at Comcast. “The Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award was created to extend our Xfinity partnership with NASCAR outside of the competitive space to reinforce the importance of bringing positive change to one’s own community, and it’s an honor to recognize this year’s finalists.”

Comcast will award $60,000 to the winner’s charity, as well as $30,000 to each of the two remaining finalists’ charities.

In 2015, Joey Gase was named the winner of the inaugural Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award for his work with the Iowa Donor Network, which is an organization that provides education on the importance of organ donation.

About the 2016 finalists:

Ray Wright (Welcome, North Carolina) is the founder of Pit Stops for Hope. The organization serves youth in America by providing food for children while helping create a positive classroom environment. Wright collects old pit crew items and sells them on pit road where fans make a donation toward the organization with their purchase. Wright also reached an agreement with Richard Childress Racing drivers to collect donations based on top-performing pit stops. Working with other organizations such as the Salvation Army and Second Harvest Food Bank, Pit Stops for Hope donates thousands of dollars to educators each year. A number of fundraising events are also held annually.

Wade Jackson (Mooresville, North Carolina) lost his son, Jacob Jackson, at 17 years old following congenital heart defect after open heart surgery. Wade and his wife Kim have since created Camp LUCK (Lucky Unlimited Cardiac Kids), which is a camp that provides a place for kids suffering heart disease to gather and experience the community. The Jackson’s put in countless hours promoting the organization’s mission that stretches across many other programs Camp LUCK offers, such as Kids Camp, where campers can bring one of their siblings to enjoy the experience with them. Family camp allows families to spend a long weekend together. Baby LUCK, Youth Board, Parent Support Network, Camp LUCK Cares, Camp LUCK Closet and Hug ‘n Heal Pillows is also offered by the organization.

Samantha Busch (Mooresville, North Carolina) and her husband, Kyle, discovered the expenses, lack of awareness on infertility and the rarity in insurance coverage associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) when they turned to the REACH Clinic in 2014 for help conceiving their son. The Busch’s then created the Kyle and Samantha Busch Bundle of Joy Fund, which works to empower families to overcome the hardship by providing the essential tools to do so. Thirteen couples have benefited from the program in the last year and more than $140,000 have gone toward IVF treatments at the REACH Clinic. Samantha Busch also puts time into her annual Prom Dress Drive, where dresses are collected for young girls who cannot afford formalwear, in addition to working with the Pretty in Pink Foundation, which raises money for uninsured or under-insured breast cancer patients. Busch also spends each holiday season shopping for items she can provide to underprivileged families.

The winner of the 2016 Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award will be announced during the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series awards banquet on November 21. He or she will be selected by a panel of Comcast and NASCAR executives, as well as former driver Kyle Petty, and NASCAR.com reporter Holly Cain.

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NASCAR America: A Matt Kenseth return to Roush Fenway Racing would mean …

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Roush Fenway Racing will make what it is calling a major partner announcement at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and a report states that it will include details on Matt Kenseth returning to drive for the team.

NASCAR on NBC’s Nate Ryan reported Tuesday that Roush Fenway Racing declined comment on SB Nation’s report that Kenseth would run select races for Trevor Bayne beginning May 12 at Kansas Speedway. Ryan reported that multiple principles, including a former Roush Fenway Racing driver will be at Wednesday’s announcement.

Kenseth, who turned 46 in March, won Cup Rookie of the Year honors with Roush Fenway Racing in 2000 and remained there through the 2012 season.

Kenseth left for Joe Gibbs Racing and raced there from 2013-17. He was replaced after last season in the No. 20 car by Erik Jones, leaving Kenseth without a full-time ride for this season.

NASCAR on NBC’s Kyle Petty said on NASCAR America that should the report of Kenseth’s return to Roush Fenway Racing be true, it would provide a nice homecoming.

“He knows the players,’’ Petty said of Kenseth. “He knows everything about the place. He grew up there. He came of age there. He won (a) championship. He won races there. So from all those pieces, it makes sense for a guy like Matt Kenseth to go back there just as it would if Jeff Gordon said I want to go back to Hendrick. It makes perfect sense. But only Matt can answer that question (of why).’’

Ryan noted it is not unusual for teams to put another driver in a car to benchmark that car’s performance.

Bayne is 26th in the points. The 2011 Daytona 500 winner has not finished better than 12th (Texas) this season. Every driver ahead of him in the points has at least one top-10 finish this season.

“Even in a part-time basis, what could he bring?’’ Petty said of Kenseth. “He brings so much. It’s an intangible. I think we saw it when he went to Joe Gibbs Racing. What did he bring there? That team just, all of a sudden, just took off. Was it all Matt Kenseth? No, but it’s part Matt Kenseth, it’s part that knowledge, it’s part that experience, it’s part that desire to run up front, win races and build something and I think Matt felt he had built something that first go around.’’

Kenseth scored the 39th Cup win of his career in November at Phoenix. A week before that win, Kenseth talked to Ryan on the NASCAR on NBC podcast about realizing the end of his career seemed near.

“But like I said, I feel like the way things have gone that for whatever reason — reasons I don’t understand that I think will become really, really clear in the future — that it’s just not meant for me to race next year,” Kenseth said. “I think it’s that simple. Everything lined up this way because I wasn’t going to make the decision myself, so someone made it for me. It’s just not supposed to happen.”

Car owner Joe Gibbs said Tuesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he would look forward to a return by Kenseth to Cup.

“I’ve got to tell you I would love it,’’ Gibbs said. “What a great guy, a great person, a great representative for the sport and for sponsors and extremely competitive. I would love that, and I hope that is going to be the case. I hope he can be there on a steady basis.

“It would be a thrill for us to have Matt back. I think he’s a real credit to the NASCAR Series and love the family. I think that would be great for us. I hope that’s going to be the case. I hope he gets to run a bunch of races.’’

For more, watch the video above.

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Deontay Wilder named Geico 500 honorary pace car driver

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
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Talladega SuperSpeedway has a reputation for delivering blows to the competition, so it is only fitting that the honorary pace car driver for the Geico 500 will be a man known to deliver knockouts to his opponents. Reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) World Heavyweight Champion and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native Deontay Wilder will pace the field before the initial green flag Sunday.

Wilder, 32, has a record of 40-0 with 39 of his wins by knockout.

Known as the “Bronze Bomber” because of the 2008 Bronze medal he won in the Beijing Olympics, Wilder found boxing as a way to provide for a daughter diagnosed with spina bifida. He immediately found that he was a natural by scoring a technical knockout over Ethan Cox in November, 2008.

Wilder has held the title since January 2015 after defeating Bermane Stiverne in his only bout that was not decided by a knockout. Wilder scored a unanimous decision and has defended his belt seven times since.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Update on Matt Kenseth report, Matt DiBenedetto visits

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features Matt DiBenedetto, who is coming off a 16th-place finish at Richmond Raceway.

Marty Snider hosts and will be joined at the Big Oak Table by Kyle Petty, Nate Ryan and DiBenedetto.

On today’ show:
  • NBCSports.com’s Nate Ryan joins the show with the latest news following last night’s report from SB Nation that said Matt Kenseth is returning to the Monster Energy Series in a part-time role with Roush Fenway Racing.
  • Go Fas Racing driver Matt DiBenedetto will be our special guest! The leader of ‘DiBurrito Nation’ will discuss his solid run last weekend at Richmond and reveal his throwback scheme for this year’s Southern 500 at Darlington. But one question remains – will Matt bring fresh-baked treats from his Mom’s kitchen to the Big Oak Table?
  • We’ll have footage from the latest Dale Jr. Download, as Junior sits down with Kasey Kahne’s crew chief, Travis Mack – who tells the incredible story of how he unexpectedly delivered his own baby at home!
  • And our Tuesday tradition continues … We’ll listen in on all the action from drivers, crew chiefs and spotters on a Saturday night under the lights in Scan All Richmond!
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Preliminary entry lists for Cup, Xfinity at Talladega

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Forty cars are entered for Sunday’s Geico 500 Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Joey Gase will be in the No. 00 car for StarCom Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is back in the No. 62 this weekend for Beard Motorsports.

Timothy Peters is set to make his Cup debut in the No. 92 for RBR Enterprises.

Cole Custer is listed in the No. 51 car for Rick Ware Racing but a team spokesperson told NBC Sports that Custer will not be driving the car.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won this race a year ago in overtime, beating Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch.

Click here for Cup entry list

Xfinity Series

There are 41 cars entered for the Sparks Energy 300 Xfinity race.

The race is a Dash 4 Cash event, so no drivers who earn points in the Cup Series are permitted to race in this event.

Noah Gragson, who finished second in his series debut last weekend at Richmond, is back in the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing this weekend.

Shane Lee, who finished 14th in his series debut two weeks ago at Bristol, is back in the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing.

Aric Almirola won this race a year ago, finishing ahead of Elliott Sadler and Joey Logano.

Click here for Xfinity entry list