Photo: Dustin Long

Bundle of Joy provides families with play date they never could have imagined

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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — They made noises, happy grunts, screams and squeals as they ran, climbed, swung, jumped and bounced around as toddlers do.

A few others too small to play, including one born July 31, rested in the arms of their parents and were admired by others.

Four years ago none of these adults would have been at this children’s gym and didn’t know if they ever would have a child. Infertility issues left them unable to conceive and the costs for treatments were beyond the means of many.

Tuesday night, they gathered as one big family, recipients of grants from the Bundle of Joy fund. Kyle and Samantha Busch started the Bundle of Joy fund after their struggles to have son Brexton, who was born May 18, 2015. They wanted to help infertile couples by providing financial gifts to pay for fertility treatments.

Since the program started in September 2015, the Bundle of Joy Foundation has distributed nearly $400,000 and had 14 children born with two more on the way this year.

All but one family, which moved to Colorado, that has had a child through Bundle of Joy grants were together for their first play date Tuesday, something Samantha Busch said two years ago she hoped they could have some day.

“I don’t think words can explain this,” Samantha Busch told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “Having them all here together and just seeing them all playing and interacting and the parents sharing their (In Vitro Fertilization) battles and journeys, this is what I always hoped for. This is why God had us go through IVF because look at all these families that are created through it.”

Among the newest couples with a child there was Ashley and Jeremy Rhoney with daughter Karoline, who was born May 9.

They had tried to have a child for five years. Doctors couldn’t explain why they were unable to conceive. Their lab work looked good but they still weren’t able to have a child.

Jeremy, Karoline and Ashley Rhoney. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Making it more difficult was that for the past four years Ashley has been a nursing assistant in the labor and delivery department at the Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, North Carolina. There she had seen the joys of childbirth while unable to experience that herself. She admits it got to a point she considered switching jobs because of the constant reminder of what she couldn’t have.

They tried various treatments, including one that cost more than $5,000 that didn’t work. The next alternative was In Vitro Fertilization, which would cost Ashley and Jeremy more than $20,000, money they didn’t have. Then they heard about the Bundle of Joy fund and completed application just before the deadline.

When Samantha told Ashley and Jeremy that they would receive a $15,000 grant for additional treatments, Ashley could not speak. She cried when she got to the car.

Last September, she and Jeremy waited at home for lab results to determine if the treatment worked and she would be pregnant. Eventually they had to go to work. As they drove, Ashley got a phone call. She immediately declined it so it would go to voice mail when she saw the number. She waved her arm out the window to her husband in the trailing car, pulled over and called him to come to her car and listen to the voice mail. Even now, Ashley admits when she passes that patch of land on her way to work she thinks about the phone call that told her she was pregnant.

Also playing on Tuesday was Willie Lee Carswell III — call him Lee. He arrived April 12, 2017, ending a years-long journey for Will and Susan Carswell to have a child. 

Susan, Lee and Will Carswell. Photo: Dustin Long

Three treatments had failed. The costs were escalating for Will, a state police investigator, and Susan, who owns an embroidery business. They applied for a Bundle of Joy grant and received $12,600. When they found out Susan was pregnant, she noted that they had waited 1,116 days for that moment.

No moment can compare for Susan then when she held their son for the first time.

“My worst fear was … I thought oh my gosh, they hand me this child and I can’t get him to quit crying?” Susan Carswell said. “What am I going to do?

“As soon as they put him down on me and I said, ‘Hey baby, I love you,’ he quit crying immediately. It was like he knew I was his momma. I just could not believe that he could sense that I was his momma already and he knew that he was safe laying on my chest. That was the greatest feeling in the world that I’m his momma and he knows it.”

Will calls fatherhood: “Absolutely the best thing in my life.”

They both laugh as they recall when Lee was born and the first thing Susan said after seeing her son.

“We have to do this again,” she said.

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Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson to pursue $100K bounty in Truck Series

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The $100,000 bounty on Kyle Busch has its first contenders.

Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson each confirmed Thursday evening on Twitter that they’ll take a shot at the bounty placed by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis last week.

Elliott will compete in the March 14 Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the May 30 race at Kansas Speedway with GMS Racing. Larson will compete with GMS Racing in the March 20 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott will be sponsored by Hooters for the Atlanta race.

The declarations by the two drivers came the same day that Busch said he didn’t believe any full-time Cup Series drivers would go after the bounty.

Elliott has 12 career Truck Series starts. His last two, at Atlanta and Martinsville in 2017, came with GMS Racing. Elliott won the Martinsville race. Busch was not in that race.

“Once the word got out about the challenge, we were able to put this together with Mike Beam at GMS in just a couple of days,” Elliott said in a press release. “Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks, so I’m really looking forward to getting back into a GMS truck there with Hooters on the truck and make a run for a win.”

Larson has 13 career starts and his last three, including a win at Eldora and top five at Homestead in 2016, came with GMS Racing.

“When I heard about the $100,000 bounty I wanted in!” Larson said in a press release. “I’m thankful for GMS and Chevy giving me this opportunity, Homestead is one of my favorite tracks so looking for to the challenge!”

There’s a potential third bounty hunter waiting in the wings.

Not long after Larson’s announcement, Denny Hamlin, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, tweeted that he’s acquired the funding to field a ride. There’s just one hangup, and it’s Kyle Busch Motorsports:

The $100,000 bounty against Busch was proposed by Harvick and Lemonis, CEO of Gander RV & Outdoors, last week. It will go to any full-time Cup Series driver who beats Busch in any of his remaining four Truck Series starts this year. Busch has won the last seven Truck Series races he’s entered.

If Elliott or no other Cup driver beats Busch in those four races, the bounty will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

“We are blessed with this opportunity. To have an owner that is up for the challenge and a manufacturer that will support the extra effort necessary is really special,” said Mike Beam, President of GMS Racing, in a press release. “It’s great to have these two talented young men back behind the wheel for us and to have the extra attention on the Truck series is great.”

Kyle Busch: $100K Truck Series bounty is a losing proposition

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Kyle Busch doesn’t believe any full-time Cup Series driver will attempt to claim the $100,000 bounty placed on him last week by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis.

Harvick and Lemonis, the CEO of Truck Series sponsor Gander RV & Outdoors, said they’d award that bounty to any full-time Cup Series driver who is able to beat Busch in any of his four remaining Truck Series starts this year.

Busch, who has won the last seven Truck races he’s entered, sees the challenge as a losing investment, especially if someone attempted it in one of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Toyotas.

Thursday on the Barstool Sports’ “Rubbin’ is Racing” podcast, Busch said it costs $140,000 to rent one of his Trucks for a race.

“Right off the bat (it’s a losing proposition),” Busch said. “It’s not going to happen. Nobody is going to pay the 140 grand to rent a truck, whether it’s from me or from somebody else. (Show co-host Clint) Bowyer didn’t tell you the fact he can’t even rent a truck from me because I’m a Toyota team and he drives for a Ford team. So he has to go find a Ford truck in order to drive. So there’s those complications that fit into all of this, too.”

Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, expressed his interest in the bounty, as well Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who said he was “working on” a deal.

After his win last Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch’s four remaining Truck Series starts are:

March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

March 27 at Texas Motor Speedway

May 30 at Kansas Speedway.

If no one beats Busch, the bounty will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

NASCAR America presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan.

James Hinchliffe will call into the show to discuss his new role as an analyst for NBC’s coverage of IndyCar, Indy Lights, IMSA and NASCAR.

You can call into the show via 844-NASCAR-NBC or submit your questions/comments via Twitter using #LetMeSayThis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch 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.

Auto Club Speedway’s old surface provides ‘moving target’ for drivers

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Auto Club Speedway has a lot of character.

It’s a character that comes from the 2-mile track’s racing surface being among the oldest on the NASCAR circuit.

The surface hasn’t been repaved since the track first opened in 1997. That’s the same year that the surface for Atlanta Motor Speedway was last resurfaced (a planned repave was put on hold indefinitely in 2017 after outcry from drivers).

In the 23 years since, races at the track in Fontana, California, have turned into producers of multi-groove spectacles (especially on restarts) that come at the cost of high levels of tire wear.

The aged surface provides a “moving target” to drivers throughout the race weekend, according to Tyler Reddick.

“During the start of the weekend, you have to watch for the seams since it’s so slick out there,” the rookie Cup driver said in a media release. “Normally, the Xfinity cars are the first ones on the track, so I’m normally very careful. Now that I’m in the Cup Series, it may be a little different. I think this weekend will be fairly similar to Las Vegas where we started out running wide open, and I’ll have to run like that until the handling starts to go away in our No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet (and) you have to start lifting. Then it’ll be important to assess why the handling is changing and how to adjust our car correctly to battle that.”

Cup and Xfinity teams only visit Auto Club Speedway once a year and this will be the second year they’ll do so with the high downforce aero package.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones believes Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox) will be a “different race” from the one seen last year.

“Going into Fontana last year, no one really knew what we needed car-wise, balance-wise and this year we have a whole notebook to look back on to try to get better,” Jones, who finished 19th in last year’s race, said in a media release.

“I think there will be a lot more lifting, the cars will be faster. Everybody has just gotten their cars better and more efficient and faster on the straightaways and that makes for more lifting in the corners. It will probably be a little different race, but Fontana is always a good show.”

But that show depends on where a driver chooses to run around the track.

Racing along the top of the track compared to running in the bottom lane proves for “two completely different types of racing” according to defending race winner Kyle Busch.

“You can run from the top to the bottom but, when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack,” Busch said in a media release. “You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”

When it comes to how rough the track is, Matt DiBenedetto cites how bumpy Turns 3 and 4 are, but said in a media release that traversing the “back straightaway is like going over jumps.”

But just like with the old surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway, there are those who never want to see Auto Club’s surface actually improve.

“I did an appearance at Auto Club Speedway not too long ago and I told the track officials, ‘Whatever you do, don’t repave it!'” Austin Dillon said in a media release. “Or, wait to repave it until you can figure out how to make an asphalt that is very similar to what is on the track now.”

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