From The Marbles

  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring from NASCAR at the end of 2017.

    Hendrick Motorsports announced Junior’s decision Tuesday morning and said the driver would have a press conference Tuesday afternoon to explain the reasoning behind the decision.

    Junior, 43, missed the second half of the 2016 season after suffering a midseason concussion and said he was going to wait a few races into the 2017 season to begin talks on a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports.

    His current contract expires at the end of 2017, and the announcement was the answer to why Junior tweeted Tuesday morning that he was up so early.

    His retirement means NASCAR’s three biggest stars will have retired in consecutive seasons. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who helped sub for Earnhardt last season, retired at the end of the 2015 season, while three-time champ Tony Stewart hung up his firesuit

    Read More »from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to retire from Cup Series after 2017
  • Kurt Busch finished 25th on Sunday and is 18th in the points standings. (Getty)

    Consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.

    • Kurt Busch and his No. 41 team were a model of excellence in the first half of 2016. This season? Notsomuch.

    Yeah, Busch won the Daytona 500, but he’s been pretty awful since. And the bad start continued Monday at Bristol when a spin and wall-contact by Busch brought out the first caution of the race.

    Busch was able to continue on and finish 25th, six laps down. He’s now 18th in the points standings — a finish that does nothing to change the stat that Busch is having the worst start to a season for a Daytona 500 champion since 2011.

    At this point a year ago Busch was seventh.

    Jimmie Johnson’s second

    Read More »from Quick takeaways from Bristol: Kurt Busch's start to 2017 is nothing like his start to 2016
  • Junior has four finishes of 30th or worse in the first eight races of 2017. (Getty)

    Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Monday at Bristol was a frustrating one.

    Junior was stuck mid-pack for most of the day until his car careened into the wall on lap 217. The field had just taken the green flag and as soon as Junior’s car headed towards turn 1 it simply didn’t turn left.

    “I don’t know we broke something in the oil system under caution,” Junior said. “The guys said there was some oil in the pit stall after our pit stop. I noticed when I was getting lined up double file for the restart the car was smoking. I just thought maybe we had a tire rub for some reason, but I couldn’t remember what might have caused that. And went into Turn 1 on the restart and the car went straight into the wall with oil all over the tires.”

    Junior drove his car back to the garage but had to head to the infield care center because of NASCAR’s new rules. As he walked to the care center and

    Read More »from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s race at Bristol ends early with mechanical failure
  • It’s been a pretty good three weeks for Jimmie Johnson.

    Two weeks ago, he won his first race of 2017 at Texas. Then he went to Mexico on the Cup Series’ first off-weekend of the year. And in Monday’s rain delayed race at Bristol he passed Kevin Harvick and pulled away from Clint Bowyer for a second win in as many races.

    Johnson wasn’t a factor at the front of the field for nearly the first 400 laps of the 500 lap race. But he stayed in the top 10 and pounced on Joey Logano for the lead shortly after a restart on lap 390.

    After Johnson took the lead he didn’t stray far from the front of the field again. He was the first car off pit road with four fresh tires for a restart with 32 laps to go and easily passed Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Larson before swiping the lead from Harvick with 21 laps to go.

    “This track’s been difficult over the years but we really hit on something Saturday afternoon,” Johnson said. “And that last practice session we ran the

    Read More »from Jimmie Johnson wins at Bristol for second-straight victory of 2017
  • The rain wasn’t going away at Bristol on Sunday. (Getty)

    There will be no Cup Series race at Bristol on Sunday.

    Because of constant rain throughout Sunday morning and a forecast for more rain the rest of the day, NASCAR has pushed Sunday’s race to Monday. The race will begin at 1 p.m. ET and air on Fox.

    Rain wiped out qualifying on Friday, though NASCAR was able to get in a Cup Series practice session on Friday and two practices on Saturday. The starting lineup is set by owner points because there was no qualifying and that means Kyle Larson starts first and Chase Elliott will start second.

    The Xfinity Series race was able to be run as scheduled Saturday afternoon, though it was interrupted by a brief rain delay. That rain delay led to a punch from Ross Chastain on Jeremy Clements.

    After both drivers climbed from their cars as rain halted the race, Clements approached Chastain from behind. He put his hand on Chastain’s shoulder and Chastain apparently turned and socked Clements in the

    Read More »from Bristol Cup race postponed to Monday
  • Kyle Busch has five Bristol wins … but hasn’t won in the past five years. (Getty)

    With five wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch is arguably the best active Cup Series driver at the half-mile track. But, perhaps strangely, Busch hasn’t won at the track since 2011.

    And not only has Busch not won in the last five years, his results have been pretty dreadful. While he has three top-10 finishes in the last 10 races, he’s also finished outside the top 30 four times including finishes of 38th and 39th in 2016.

    It’s easy to ask if Busch has lost something at Bristol, but a deeper look doesn’t support an affirmative conclusion to that question. Before he was 39th in August he led 256 of the 357 laps he completed before a part failure led to a crash. In August of 2015 he led 192 laps.

    “We found we had an issue with our car last spring where we were blowing right front tires and that was self-inflicted, not driver, but us as a team with what we did in practice and stuff kind of alluded to

    Read More »from Will Kyle Busch get to victory lane in Bristol for the first time since 2011?
  • Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott (middle) will start on the front row Sunday. (Getty)

    For the second straight race, Bristol has applied a substance to enhance grip in the bottom groove of its corners for Sunday’s Cup Series race. But according to polesitter and points leader Kyle Larson, the application this year is wider than last year’s.

    The track added VHT resin — you’ll notice a black streak in the corners where it is — to provide for more grip (and therefore speed) at the bottom of the track. After Bristol added progressive banking in 2007, the top groove slowly became the preferred way to go around the track. In an effort to make the bottom lane more enticing, the track added the resin to the bottom groove for last year’s summer race. And it worked, as the bottom lane was usable, especially when cars had fresh tires.

    But Larson said Friday that the resin application area for Sunday’s race makes the bottom groove much easier to use than in 2016. The finesse the groove required eight

    Read More »from Kyle Larson not a fan of the width of the grippy substance in Bristol's bottom groove
  • Larson started first at Martinsville after rain canceled qualifying two weeks ago. (Getty)

    Kyle Larson is the main beneficiary of rain wiping out qualifying for the second time in three races.

    Larson, the series points leader, will start first for Sunday’s race at Bristol. NASCAR canceled Cup Series qualifying for Friday afternoon after rain caused the cancellation of practice. Instead of holding qualifying as scheduled in the afternoon, NASCAR will have practice and the field will be set by owner points.

    Larson started first at Martinsville two weeks ago when rain canceled qualifying there. In between the two qualifying rainouts, Larson finished second at Texas.

    Here’s how the field will line up for Sunday’s tentative race. We say tentative because rain is forecast for the entire weekend and there’s a chance Sunday’s race could be run on Monday if Sunday is dreary.

    1. Kyle Larson
    2. Chase Elliott
    3. Martin Truex Jr.
    4. Brad Keselowski
    5. Joey Logano
    6. Ryan Blaney
    7. Kyle Busch
    8.

    Read More »from Bristol qualifying rained out, Kyle Larson on the pole
  • The fall race at Charlotte is now scheduled for Sunday for the first time since 2002. (Getty)

    The fall race at Charlotte will be run on a Sunday for the third-straight year. But this time, the change isn’t happening because of rain.

    NASCAR said on Thursday that the Oct. 7 Saturday night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway would be run Sunday afternoon on Oct. 8. The race has been on Sunday the past two seasons because of inclement weather on Saturday night.

    The race is staying on the 1.5-mile oval at the track. While there seems to be a good chance of the infield road course being utilized for the 2018 fall race at the track, the only thing changing in 2017 is the date.

    The move makes sense, especially from a racing quality perspective. With the sun up during the afternoon, the surface of the track should be slicker and provide more multi-groove racing than a night race would have.

    The sanctioning body also said that the Martinsville race three weeks later would start after 3 p.m. ET. The

    Read More »from NASCAR moves fall Charlotte race from Saturday night to Sunday
  • Matt Kenseth’s Cup Series career doesn’t have an end date. At least publicly, anyway.

    Kenseth and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team announced a six-race sponsorship with Circle K convenience stores on Wednesday. The announcement wasn’t a surprise to many. But there was apparently a segment of conspiracy theorists convinced Kenseth’s announcement was going to be a retirement one.

    Kenseth isn’t going anywhere. And he said that when he does hang up his fire suit he may not even make an announcement. From NBC Sports:

    “I probably just wouldn’t show up at Daytona and just everybody say was Matt racing this week? Or I’d send out like a four-word tweet.

    “I don’t know if I’d announce it all.”

    In other words, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver hasn’t considered the proposition?

    “Not really.”

    Kenseth was aware of the conspiracy theorists too.

    “I’m just glad I’m still driving tomorrow,” he said. “I wasn’t sure after all the reports on the internet all weekend. People

    Read More »from No, Matt Kenseth didn't announce his retirement Wednesday
  • Billy Monger didn’t have time to avoid a slow car ahead of him. (Screenshot via YouTube)

    Formula 4 driver Billy Monger had parts of both his legs amputated after a scary crash on Sunday at Donington Park in England.

    Monger’s car ran into the back of a car that had slowed abruptly on the track. You can watch the video here — discretion is advised — and see that Monger had little time to react to Patrik Pasma’s car ahead of him.

    Monger, 17, is in his second year of competing in Formula 4, which is one of the lower series for Formula 1, the world’s biggest auto racing series.

    It took over two hours for Monger to be extricated from his car following the crash. He was airlifted to a local hospital once he was finally gotten out of the car. His team set up a fundraising page to help pay for Monger’s medical expenses. 

    Well known in Motorsport for being not only an extremely talented young driver but for also being a truly special 17 year old – loved and admired by his team, fellow

    Read More »from Formula 4 racer loses parts of both legs following terrifying crash
  • Just because NASCAR took the Easter weekend off doesn’t mean we have to go a weekend without writing about the Cup Series. Next Sunday’s race at Bristol is the eighth of the season; meaning that the 2017 schedule is almost a quarter complete. Here are a few things to know after the first seven races of the season.

    • The introduction of stage points is creating large intervals in the points standings. The most points a driver could earn in a Cup race in 2016 was 45: 40 points for first, three bonus points for winning the race and then a bonus point for leading a lap and a bonus point for leading the most laps.

    In 2017, a driver can earn up to 60 points if he wins the first two stages of the race and then the race itself. And that’s not counting bonus points; a driver can get seven bonus points (one for each stage and five for a win) for the playoffs; up from three a year ago.

    Those extra points for stages are being hogged by the same drivers too. While 23 drivers have scored stage

    Read More »from Facts to know after the first 7 races of the Cup Series season
  • Stewart retired from the Cup Series after the 2016 season. (Getty)

    Tony Stewart said he tried to turn left when he realized Kevin Ward was on the track in a sprint car race in August 2014.

    Stewart struck and killed Ward on Aug. 9, 2014 after the two were racing against each other in a race at Canandaigua Motorsports park in Ontario County, New York. Stewart and Ward were racing for position when Ward’s car hit the wall off the corner right behind Stewart. Ward exited his car to walk down the track to confront Stewart and was hit by the right-rear tire of Stewart’s car.

    Ward’s family filed a wrongful death suit vs. Stewart in 2015. A hearing regarding the suit is schedule for April 28. Stewart’s deposition, given in December, is part of the suit. From NBC Sports: (Stewart is the “A.” below)

    Q. All right. Now, in relation to the car that was on the track, where was the person that you saw on the track?

    A. Initially when I saw the car, I didn’t realize there wasn’t a driver in the car.

    Read More »from Tony Stewart says in deposition he attempted to turn left when he saw Kevin Ward
  • Is Texas Motor Speedway 1.44 miles long? 1.5? Based on your line, it could change from lap to lap. (Getty)

    Is Texas Motor Speedway a 1.5-mile track? It depends on who you ask.

    The track’s actual length was debated on Wednesday as IndyCar held an open test at the speedway in anticipation of its June race at Texas. Since 2001, IndyCar has  officially listed Texas as a 1.455-mile course and adjusted that to 1.44 miles in light of Texas’ recent repaving and reconfiguration efforts.

    As IndyCar’s measurements were discussed on Twitter, TMS president Eddie Gossage went so far as to say that IndyCar would be correcting its “error” that Texas wasn’t a 1.5-mile track like it’s officially listed.

    But IndyCar and Texas can both be right. Here’s why:

    • Tracks themselves list the published distance for NASCAR

    Read More »from How a track like Texas Motor Speedway can be listed accurately at two different lengths
  • Paul Wolfe and Brad Keselowski. (Getty)

    A NASCAR appeals panel has denied Team Penske’s appeal of a penalty levied against Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 team, meaning crew chief Paul Wolfe will miss two more races.

    The penalties date to the March 19 Phoenix race, when Keselowski’s team was popped for having more than 0.56 degrees of skew in the rear suspension. Keselowski lost 35 points, the team was fined $65,000, and Wolfe was suspended for three races. Wolfe sat out one race before appealing.

    Wolfe was atop the box for Martinsville, a race which Keselowski ended up winning. After that race, team owner Roger Penske noted, “I need him on that box every weekend. I pay him to be on that box every weekend, not sitting in his motorhome looking at a bunch of monitors.”

    “Who knows?” Keselowski replied at Martinsville when asked whether he could have won without Wolfe. “I ain’t thinking about that. I’m just glad I got a checkered flag and a clock.”

    This marked the first violation of postrace skew

    Read More »from Paul Wolfe, Brad Keselowski's crew chief, will miss two more races as suspension upheld
  • Alonso won the F1 title in 2005 and 2006. (Getty)

    Fernando Alonso is choosing Indianapolis over Monaco.

    The Honda McLaren Formula 1 driver said Wednesday he’ll be driving a sixth Andretti Autosport car in the Indianapolis 500 on May 28. Andretti Autosport is powered by Honda, which makes it a seamless transition on the engine manufacturer side for Alonso’s move.

    “I’m immensely excited that I’ll be racing in this year’s Indy 500 with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport,” Alonso, 35, said in a statement. “The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivaled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix.”

    Alonso won back-to-back F1 titles in 2005 and 2006 while driving for Renault. Widely considered one of the best drivers in the series, Alonso has finished 17th and 10th the last two years as McLaren has struggled to keep up with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

    Alonso’s IndyCar appearance will also mean it’s the third-straight year where he’s

    Read More »from F1 champion Fernando Alonso to run 2017 Indianapolis 500
  • Welcome to Power Rankings. As always, Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it’s the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. Direct all your complaints to us at nickbromberg@yahoo.com and we’ll try to have some fun.

    1. Brad Keselowski (LW: 1): Keselowski gets the edge over Kyle Larson for the top spot heading into the first off-weekend of the season because of his wins and top-10 finishes. Both drivers have five top fives but Keselowski has one more win and one more top-10 finish.

    Keselowski finished sixth at Texas and had one of the fastest cars all weekend. But somewhat surprisingly he only led four laps and that was because of the way pit stops cycled through under green.

    “We just kind of seemed stuck in that fifth or sixth place range for most of the race,” Keselowski said. “We were fighting a few things and got a little better there at the end and maybe had a little bit more in the tank there if there was a little bit of time left but

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Is Kyle Larson back at No. 1?
  • Teams will have a choice of tires during 2017 All Star Race.

    NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced the format for the May 20 race on Tuesday. The 70-lap race will be divided into four segments (20, 20, 20, 10) and teams will get one set of softer tires to choose during any of the race’s four stages. The softer tires will conceivably have more grip, and thus more speed.

    If a team decides to use the softer tires for the final stage of the race, it has to start at the back of the pack for the last 10 laps.

    But “back of the pack” isn’t as far back as it could be. Only 10 drivers will make it to the final stage of the race. The winners of the first three stages are guaranteed entry to the final stage — assuming they stay on the lead lap — and the rest of the field of 10 is determined via the drivers with the highest average finishes in the first three stages.

    The softer tire is designed for varying strategies over the final 10 laps of the race and it’s conceivable that a team or two

    Read More »from 2017 All-Star Race to feature softer tire option for teams to use
  • This pit stop went according to plan for Chris Buescher. His first on Sunday did not. (Getty)

    Chris Buescher’s jack man Zack Young got pummeled on pit road during Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

    Buescher got hit by Erik Jones and his car went sliding backward into his pit stall. As his team was anticipating a normal pit stop, they were already over the wall as Buscher’s car came careening toward them. Young got hit by the side of Buescher’s car and thrown backward toward the pit wall.

    Here’s what it looked like from the pit. It’s insane.

    Young was taken to the care center following the incident but tweeted after the race that he was OK despite his hand and thumb being “tore up.”

    Buescher ended up finishing 21st.

    – – – – – – –

    Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email

    Read More »from What it looked like from the pit when Chris Buescher's car got spun on pit road
  • If you’ve watched any Cup Series racing so far in 2017, you’ve probably seen Cup Series rookie Erik Jones recommending an upgrade in a 5-Hour Energy commercial.

    It’s the first TV ad the company did with its new driver and it’s also Jones’ first starring role in a commercial. He told Yahoo Sports last week that a 30-second commercial takes a bit more than 30 seconds to film.

    “It was different,” Jones said. “It was an all-day thing. We started at like 7 in the morning and we didn’t get done until 5:30 at night. It was a long day.

    “I’ve done some filming stuff before so I know that we do about 20 takes to get the one shot, but it’s crazy to think that it’s one 30 to 45-second commercial and it took us 10-11 hours. And then they stayed there after — I left, my part was done — they still had more pieces to film.”

    5-Hour previously sponsored Clint Bowyer at both Michael Waltrip Racing and HScott Racing. But with Bowyer’s move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 and Monster Energy’s presence on

    Read More »from The funny similarity between Erik Jones' new commercial and one from 10 years ago