Thursday, Oct. 9

EARNHARDT JR. GETS A CAR - Birthday surprises have been the norm this week for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who turns 40 Friday. In addition to a week filled with surprise parties and gifts, the excitement continued Thursday in the Charlotte Motor Speedway media center, as Earnhardt received a brand new car.

Marcus Smith, Charlotte Motor Speedway president and general manager, and Don Hawk, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. senior vice president for corporate affairs, presented Earnhardt with the U.S. Legends Dirt Modified car, which was a replica of the dirt car driven by Earnhardt's grandfather, NASCAR racer Ralph Earnhardt. Earnhardt also drove a U.S Legends car with the same design for his first victory at Charlotte in the beginning of his career, a photo of which was displayed on the media center TV monitors during the presentation.

"This is exactly the way the car looked," said Earnhardt. "Wow! I am very appreciative of this. It's a nice-looking little piece."

BETTER HALF DASH SETS RECORD - While the ladies of the fourth annual Better Half Dash have had a little competitive fun in preparing for Thursday's event, they have also raised a record amount of money for charity. The final tally for the charity event was $69,412 - more than double last year's total. 

Those record donations actually helped determine the starting lineup. By virtue of being the top donation earner, Ashton Bayne, wife of driver Trevor Bayne, was given the choice to decide whether to start inside or outside of the front row. She elected to start from the inside.

"I wanted to start P2," said Bayne. "But Trevor said to start P1, so that's where I am going."

Second in donations was Amy Reimann, girlfriend of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will start second.

All told, 11 wives and girlfriends - a.k.a "Better Halves" of the NASCAR drivers - will duke it out on the frontstretch quarter-mile in U.S. Legends Cars International Bandoleros. The race will run 25 green flag laps, and if necessary, there will be a competition caution at lap 15.

The winner receives a purse of $10,000 with $2,500 going to Speedway Children's Charities, $2,500 to MotoRacing Outreach, and $5,000 to a charity of the winning driver's choice.

Past winners include Jacquelyn (Butler) Ragan (2011), Lyn-Z Pastrana (2012) and Ashley Stremme (2013).

AUTOGRAPH SESSION FOR FANS - Race fans attending Friday's Drive for the Cure 300 Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina have the opportunity to meet their favorite NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers during an autograph session held Friday at 1 p.m. on pit road.

The event is open to Charlotte Motor Speedway season ticket holders, who must visit Smith Tower any time before Friday's event to show their Driver for the Cure 300 race ticket. The first 150 fans who do so will be given armbands to enter the speedway at Gate 1 and go to pit road by the infield care center, where the autograph session will be held.