Truex, Gase and Martha Nemechek named finalists for inaugural Comcast award

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Three members of the NASCAR community have been named finalists for the inaugural Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award.

The award recognizes the philanthropic efforts of a race team member.

The finalists are:

* Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet SS in the Sprint Cup Series.

* Joey Gase, driver of the No. 52 Ford Mustang in the Xfinity Series.

* Martha Nemechek, whose son Joe and grandson John Hunter Nemechek, compete in the Camping World Truck Series.

“Comcast works hard to make a positive impact in the local communities where our employees and customers live and work, and that philosophy is now embedded into our partnership with NASCAR,” said Matt Lederer, Executive Director of Sports Marketing at Comcast.

“We are proud to have Martin Truex Jr., Joey Gase and Martha Nemechek as finalists for the inaugural Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award,” Lederer added. “They embody the spirit of the award through their dedication to community service and we look forward to highlighting their causes through the award process.”

The Champion of the Year will be determined by executives from Comcast, The NASCAR Foundation, NASCAR on NBC analyst Kyle Petty and NASCAR.com reporter Holly Cain.

Comcast will make a donation of $60,000 to the Champion of the Year’s affiliated charity. An additional $30,000 apiece will be made to each of the remaining two finalists’ designated charity.

“Comcast has done a great job of coming in and viewing the sport in its totality,” Petty said. “Not just what they can get out of it, but what they can give back to it and how they become a part of the fabric of NASCAR.

“I think that’s what the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award encompasses – the giving spirit that has always been a big part of NASCAR.”

The winner will be announced Nov. 23 at the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Banquet in Hollywood, Florida. The banquet will air on NBCSN at 7 pm on Sunday, Nov. 29.

The 2015 Comcast Community Champion of the Year finalists are:

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:

Martin Truex Jr. (Mayetta, New Jersey) and long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex launched the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation in 2007 with the goal of raising funds and awareness for children suffering from poverty, abuse and illness – specifically pediatric cancers.  The foundation continued to grow over the next eight years, providing significant assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and building a pediatric emergency care center in Truex’s home state of New Jersey. In August 2014, Pollex was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Through this experience, the couple was inspired to expand their fundraising efforts and change the foundation’s mission to include a range of underfunded cancer initiatives specific to childhood and ovarian cancers. In 2015, the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation began a three-year partnership with Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina to assist in finding breakthrough treatments specific to pediatric cancers. Every day, Truex sports a bracelet encompassing his personal motto as well as the Foundation’s inspiration: Never Give Up.

NASCAR Xfinity Series:

Joey Gase (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) lost his mother Mary Jo to a brain aneurysm when he was just 18 years old. Since she was not married at the time, Gase was faced with the decision of whether or not she would want to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor. Later on, he found out that the decision he made to donate his mother’s organs helped save and improve the lives of 66 people. Overwhelmed by the impact, Gase sought opportunities to promote donation through the local organ procurement organizations (OPO) in each state. Throughout the past few years, he has been able to use his platform as a NASCAR driver to host meet-and-greets with families who have been impacted by organ donation, visit children who have been hospitalized, promote organ donation through sharing his story at high schools, and more. At just 22 years old, his efforts have already produced great dividends. Gase often has people reach out to let him know that had it not been for his story, they never would have thought to sign up as an organ donor.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series:

Martha Nemechek (Mooresville, North Carolina) lost her son John Nemechek to complications from head injuries sustained in an accident during a 1997 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In the months following the death of her 27-year old son, she was inconsolable until Nemechek received a call from Gordon Collins, a stranger empathizing with her grief, that she was able to channel into a driving force for helping those in similar situations. For the past 18 years, Nemechek has given her heart to many causes, including the exchange of supportive emails with U.S. troops in Iraq, assisting cancer patients with their wishes to meet NASCAR drivers, maintaining her World Prayer List, feeding the underprivileged, and much more. Her priority, however, is reaching out to parents who have lost children – especially those within the racing circuit. Those impacted by her efforts are amazed at Nemechek’s willingness to open up in an area that is painful for her to relive, but she is driven by her desire to reach out. The way she puts it is simple: once she began giving back, Nemechek felt like she was living again.

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Las Vegas race results, driver points

Las Vegas race results
Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Kurt Busch scored his first career Cup victory at his hometown track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and is the first driver to advance to third round of the playoffs.

Busch led the final 26 laps, taking advantage when a caution came out in the middle of a green-flag pit cycle. Busch was the only playoff driver who had yet to pit before the caution.

Matt DiBenedetto finished second and was followed by Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.

Click here for Cup race results

DRIVER POINTS

Alex Bowman holds the final transfer spot to the next round. Kyle Busch trails Bowman by nine points. Clint Bowyer trails Bowman by 20 points. Aric Almirola trails Bowman by 27 points. Austin Dillon trails Bowman by 32 points.

Click here for driver points

Kurt Busch wins Las Vegas Cup race in overtime

Kurt Busch
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After entering the Round of 12 last in the playoff standings, Kurt Busch won Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an overtime finish, claiming his first win of the season and advancing him into the Round of 8.

Busch held off Matt DiBenedetto and Denny Hamlin to also claim his first Cup win at his home track.

Busch led 29 of the last 34 laps. His time at the front of the pack was a result of leading when a caution came out during green flag pit stops late in the final stage. DiBenedetto was on pit road when the caution came out with 33 laps to go and restarted first with Busch second.

“This is what kids dream of,” an emotional Busch told NBCSN in Victory Lane. “When they grow up racing you dream of winning at your hometown track and for two decades it’s kicked my butt. And tonight with this Monster Energy Chevy, I’m in awe. I knew the race would come to us, we needed to get to nightfall. One of those quirky (crew chief) Matt McCall pit sequences finally unfolded. We got lucky.

“You got to be lucky. And you have to be lucky in any race. But we did it tonight with teamwork and pulling through and not giving up. But this is Vegas, I miss the fans. I miss them so much. … My hometown is special. This Vegas place is special.”

The top five was completed by Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.

More: Race results, point standings

The two-lap dash to the finish was caused by an incident involving William Byron, Christopher Bell and Corey LaJoie with seven laps to go. Bell cut a tire from contact with the wall and as he slowed Byron ran into the back of his car before going into a spin.

Hamlin was among a large group of drivers who pit for fresh tires following a caution with 18 laps to go, but was unable to complete his charge through the field.

“(Hamlin) had a ton of speed, I was wide open,” Busch said. “You have to manipulate the draft. I pulled out some old drag racing skills on the restarts. I knew that that was our strong suit. I knew that was the Ford’s (DiBenedetto) weak suit. We just put ourselves in position and we held off.”

 

STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Joey Logano finished 14th after he had to pit on Lap 91 to fix a left rear tire rub, a result of contact with Kyle Busch following Denny Hamlin’s three-wide pass for the lead on Lap 88Tyler Reddick finished 38th after he tagged the wall late in Stage 2 and went to the garage ending his day … After finishing sixth in the first two stages, Austin Dillon finished 32nd after an overheating problem forced him to pit road for repairs with 50 laps to go.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 2 p.m. ET Oct. 4 on NBC

Check back for more

Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 25

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

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Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”