From The Marbles

  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. stood next to a steel-railed barrier, trying to make sense of a Daytona week that had begun with such promise and ended halfway through the Daytona 500 with a sudden shearing of sheet metal.

    Earnhardt stood near Daytona International Speedway’s infield care center, one of the first drivers of the 2017 season to undergo NASCAR’s new mandatory safety protocols. And as he was breaking down his race, analyzing what went wrong, and thanking the fans, he had to lean hard into the fence, because an ambulance carrying his teammate Jimmie Johnson was trying to squeeze past him.

    It was just before 5 p.m. Eastern, and a strange parade of NASCAR’s best and brightest from the track to the care center was just beginning.

    __________
    NASCAR’s new safety protocols mandate that drivers involved in any wreck must stop by the infield care center for evaluation. This is an outgrowth of increased concerns about concussions, both Read More »from The busiest spot at Daytona was the infield care center
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR’s new stage format was evident very early in Sunday’s Daytona 500 when the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing hit pit road on Lap 18.

    NASCAR is dividing all of its races into three segments in 2017. The segments for the Daytona 500 were 60, 60 and 80 laps respectively. The idea with the segments – which award points – is to incentivize drivers to race harder in the early parts of races and give Fox and NBC time to show commercials without missing any action.

    [Related: Kurt Busch wins Daytona 500]

    With teams able to go more than 40 laps on a tank of fuel at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, there was no reason to pit so early barring a problem in the 2016 Daytona 500. But this year, it was advantageous. At least for Kyle Busch.

    Because of the known caution on Lap 60, the Toyota teams wanted to be the first cars on pit road. Pitting on Lap 18 allowed them to make it to the end of the first segment on fuel and, potentially, stay on

    Read More »from Stages jumble up strategy throughout Daytona 500
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 with a last-lap pass of Kyle Larson, giving new NASCAR Cup Series title sponsor Monster Energy a serendipitous start to its relationship with the sport.

    Busch passed Larson in Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap. Not long after Busch passed Larson, Larson’s car ran out of fuel and faded to the back.

    ““There is nothing predictable about this race anymore and the more years that have gone by that I didn’t win I kept trying to go back to patterns that I had seen in the past,” the 38-year-old Busch said in victory lane. “My mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind. The more unpredictability that keeps unfolding at the Daytona 500, I predicted it.”

    Ryan Blaney, who gave Busch the winning push past Larson, finished second, while AJ Allmendinger was third.

    The 500 was contested on a glorious February Sunday. The only

    Read More »from Kurt Busch wins wreck-filled Daytona 500 with last-lap pass
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch’s day at the Daytona 500 went from sublime to ruined in a matter of minutes. Forty-six laps after winning NASCAR’s first-ever race stage, Busch wrecked out of the race, victim of a blown tire. And after climbing from the ruins of his car, Busch didn’t waste time leveling blame.

    “Goodyear tires just suck,” Busch told a handful of reporters in the garage.

    Busch’s wreck collected fellow Toyota driver Erik Jones and teammate Matt Kenseth, as well as fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. Busch said he’d felt a rear tire losing air prior to the wreck, and soon afterward, he was in the wall. One driver’s splitter ended up embedded in the wall, causing a 17-minute red flag after the wreck.

    “Obviously,” Busch told a TV audience, “Goodyear tires aren’t very good at holding air.”

    This wasn’t a sudden development; according to Busch, tires had been a problem all week, from practice to the preseason Clash to the field-setting Duels. “Every time we put a set on they

    Read More »from Kyle Busch wrecks out of Daytona, rips Goodyear tires
  • Rob Gronkowski with Lauren Hernandez and Waka Flocka Flame at the Daytona 500. (Getty Images)

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — New England Patriots tight end and tailgate-in-human-form Rob Gronkowski is in Florida for the Daytona 500, and he’s enjoying himself immensely as a guest of both NASCAR and Monster Energy:

    It’s the 59th annual running of the Daytona 500, and Yahoo Sports’ own Nick Bromberg decided to ask Gronkowski if he was already making plans for the one ten years from now…

    An hour later, Gronk did the “grid walk”—a walk-and-talk interview segment out amongst the cars and drivers preparing to run the race. And while fellow Fox Sports commentator Michael Waltrip interviewed drivers, Gronkowski went all in with the Monster Girls:

    Read More »from Rob Gronkowski had a very nice time at the Daytona 500
  • The second huge wreck in the first stage of the Xfinity race was nasty. (Getty)

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Just 13 cars avoided two massive crashes in the first 30 laps of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Daytona.

    The first big crash came on lap 23 when Scott Lagasse got into the back of Tyler Reddick and turned Reddick into the wall on the backstretch. Somehow, the wreck continued into turn 3 as cars kept piling in from the back of the pack.

    The sequel to the lap 23 wreck was even worse. On lap 29, two laps after the race resumed after the crash, another massive wreck happened when Daniel Hemric’s car skated into Justin Allgaier’s.

    Allgaier’s car made contact with Brandon Jones, whose car smashed viciously into the outside wall. Daniel Suarez also hit the wall head-on in the accident.

    Thankfully, all drivers involved in the accident were OK. The two red flags following both accidents meant the 30-lap stage took 90 minutes. The entire 120-lap race

    Read More »from Big wrecks in first stage of Daytona Xfinity race involve 27 of race's 40 cars
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Every so often, Matt Crafton has a bad day at the office. But unlike you or me, where a bad day might involve coffee spilled in your lap or a phone dropped on the sidewalk, for Matt Crafton, a bad day involves getting upside down at 190 miles an hour.

    Scene: Friday evening, Daytona International Speedway. The final lap of the Truck Series’ NextEra Energy Resources 250. Matt Crafton, the two-time Truck Series champion, is leading the race, just three turns from shaking off nearly two decades’ worth of frustration at Daytona.

    And then … chaos.

    A wreck behind him suddenly leaped forward and bit him, sending Crafton’s race hopes, as well as his truck, up in smoke. The video of Crafton’s truck spiraling into the sky, then landing back right-side-up, made the rounds of social media, and with good reason: this is a cinematic wreck, one where cars scatter like toys thrown by an angry toddler.

    We wondered, what’s it like to endure one of these wrecks, where everything in

    Read More »from 'Daddy, you were flying like a feather': What it's like to flip a truck at 190 mph
  • (Getty Images)

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A man wanted for murder in Texas apparently wanted to spend his potential final moments as a free person at Daytona International Speedway.

    Joe Earl Smith is accused of killing his uncle over a property dispute in Marion County, Texas. He was arrested in Daytona Beach Shores on Thursday and told authorities that he was in town to attend the events of Speedweeks at Daytona. Though, as the Daytona Beach News-Journal notes, it’s unclear if he ever got to fulfill his desire of seeing racing at the track.

    Smith also made it pretty easy for authorities to find him. His family told investigators in Texas that he was likely headed in the direction of NASCAR’s opening weekend. That put authorities on alert in Volusia County and he was found sleeping in his SUV.

    “He was parked in the lot right next to City Hall so he made it easy for us,” Fowler said.

    Fowler said officers recognized Smith’s 1993 Explorer from the descriptions given in an alert by Volusia

    Read More »from Man wanted for murder in Texas arrested after going to Daytona 'for the races'
  • Danica Patrick drove the Nature’s Bakery car for just one season. (Getty)

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Nature’s Bakery alleges Danica Patrick’s agreement with a nutritional supplement company conflicted with the company’s agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing, and is grounds for immediate termination.

    The company filed its counterclaims to Stewart-Haas Racing’s breach of contract lawsuit Friday. Nature’s Bakery alleges in the 58-page filing that SHR didn’t inform the team of a personal services deal Patrick has with Six Star Nutrition when pitching Patrick’s NASCAR sponsorships to the company before the deal was signed.

    Nature’s Bakery believes that since Six Star products include protein bars in the “on the go” snack category, Patrick’s deal with the company conflicted with her role as a spokesperson for the fig bar and brownie maker.

    “It was as if Michael Jordan decided to wear adidas while being paid by Nike,” the suit said.

    The counterclaim contends Patrick didn’t promote the company enough

    Read More »from Nature's Bakery makes Michael Jordan analogy in Danica Patrick counterclaim
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — As he surged ahead of Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth faded away in his rear view mirror on the final lap of the 2016 Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin touched his brake pedal.

    Yes, with seconds left in the race – and the Daytona 500 at stake – Hamlin made a conscious decision to slow his car down. He knew he had to give Truex a head start in the sprint to the finish. It was the only way he had a shot to win the race.

    “It sounds counter-intuitive when you see the finish line and you’re hitting the brake, but I knew I needed to be behind him about 300 yards before the start-finish to be ahead of him by the time of the start-finish,” Hamlin told Yahoo Sports.

    So Hamlin grazed the brake pedal enough to pull his front bumper right behind Truex’s right front tire.

    “That was the most optimum place to be on his car,” Hamlin said.

    The move worked out – barely – as Hamlin’s car surged forward at the last possible instant and beat Truex’s car to the line by 12 inches.

    Denny
    Read More »from Sometimes you have to slow down to win the Daytona 500
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The voice was familiar. The grin was, too. It’s just the finishing position that was strange.

    Clint Bowyer walked into the media center after a second-place finish in the second of Thursday night’s two Can-Am Duels and smiled. “Been a long time since I’ve been in here,” he said, then picked up a placard in front of him. “Look at that! Got my name on it and everything.”

    Bowyer’s wide-eyed enthusiasm is understandable, given that he’s spent the last 18 months in career limbo. One peculiar aspect of NASCAR’s have-and-have-not environment is the fact that there are more good drivers than there are cars in which to place them. So when Bowyer’s old team, Michael Waltrip Racing, announced in 2015 it would be closing its doors, that left Bowyer – once a reliable top-10 driver and a former Cup championship runner-up – without a ride available at a top-flight team.

    HScott Motorsports stepped up, as best it could, giving Bowyer a seat while everyone waited for Tony Stewart to

    Read More »from Clint Bowyer, rested and ready, looks forward to putting his career back in gear
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — As lap 60 of Sunday’s Daytona 500 approaches, teams at the back of the pack may face a dilemma. Do you pit on lap 57 before the pits close? Or do you stay out and hope to work your way to the front in the second segment?

    The introduction of stages within races in the Cup Series in 2017 adds a huge wrinkle to in-race strategy. During last year’s Daytona 500, there was no guarantee a caution would fly around lap 60. But with guaranteed cautions on lap 60 and lap 120 of the 200-lap race and points awarded to drivers in the top 10 at the time of each of those cautions, some teams may try some previously unconventional methods to score points.

    “I think the biggest difference you’ll see — again I don’t know because I haven’t seen it either — but I would think the biggest difference you’d see is if there’s a caution 20 laps before a segment or something like that,” Matt Kenseth said. “You have some cars running really good up front, trying to plan to win the race. You

    Read More »from Will NASCAR's new race format affect race strategies?
  • Joey Logano joined Team Penske in 2013. (Getty)

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — By the time Joey Logano signs his next NASCAR contract, ads for the 2024 presidential campaign will be polluting our televisions.

    Friday at Daytona, Logano and Team Penske announced a contract extension for the driver that will keep him with the team through “2022 and beyond.” Shell-Pennzoil, Logano’s current sponsor, will also remain with the No. 22 team through that time period.

    “I’ve known my entire life I wanted to be a NASCAR Cup Series driver,” Logano said in a statement. “Now, to be able to know that I get the opportunity to drive for Roger Penske for the foreseeable future where I can focus solely on winning races and championships, is a life-long dream for me.”

    The contract means Logano now has one of the longest contracts in the Cup Series garage. And, perhaps staggeringly to some, it’s only through his age-33 season counting the 2023 season as the “beyond” in the announcement. That means Logano likely has

    Read More »from Joey Logano is going to be with Team Penske for a long, long time
  • Truex finished seventh in the first Duel. (Getty)

    NASCAR’s new points format means AJ Allmendinger and Martin Truex Jr. have already earned and lost points.

    The two drivers finished in the top 10 of their respective Duel Daytona 500 qualifying races Thursday night. But along with Allmendinger’s teammate Chris Buescher, the three failed post-race inspection. Their cars were too low.

    In previous years, the infraction simply means the three drivers would start at the back of the field for Sunday’s Daytona 500. And they’ll still do that. But for Allmendinger and Truex, they went from having points to not having points.

    As part of the points changes NASCAR instituted for the 2017 season, the top-10 finishers in each Duel qualifying race earned points. The winners of each race — Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — received 10 points while the drivers who finished 10th each received a point.

    Truex finished seventh in the first Duel while Allmendinger finished fourth in the second Duel. Truex

    Read More »from Duel inspection failures for Allmendinger and Truex mean a loss of points
  • Denny Hamlin won the 2016 Daytona 500. He’ll start fourth Sunday. (Getty)

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Hamlin thwarted the possibility of a triumphant return for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Hamlin passed Earnhardt Jr. with two laps to go in the second Daytona 500 Duel qualifying race Thursday night and pulled away from Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch over the final lap.

    Junior, making his first (albeit unofficial) start since missing the final 18 races of 2016, ended up finishing sixth. He’ll start second for Sunday’s Daytona 500, however, after qualifying there during single-car qualifying last weekend. As the winner of Duel No. 2, Hamlin will start right behind Junior in fourth.

    Hamlin, the defending Daytona 500 champion, will also enter the 500 tied with Chase Elliott atop the points standings entering the Daytona 500 with 10 points. Elliott won the first Duel race. As part of changes NASCAR made to its point system in 2017, the top 10 finishers in the Duel qualifying races received points.

    Junior

    Read More »from Denny Hamlin passes Dale Earnhardt Jr. on penultimate lap for Duel win
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Corey LaJoie bumped his way into the Daytona 500.

    During the first of two Duel qualifying races Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, LaJoie was competing with Reed Sorenson for one of the final spots in Sunday’s race and found himself trailing Sorenson on the outside line as Lap 49 (of the 60-lap race) began.

    As Sorenson’s car slowed up just a bit exiting the tri-oval, LaJoie’s didn’t. The two made contact, and Sorenson went sliding into Paul Menard and an inside retaining wall.

    The impact crushed the front of Sorenson’s car. And his Daytona 500 hopes.

    “I really do feel bad about Reed,” LaJoie said. “I just tried to fill a hole and it was getting down to it and I probably did have position on him, but man when I’m trying to get into the Daytona 500, if my mom was in that spot I’d probably wreck her too.”

    The Duels are NASCAR’s unique way to set the starting field for the Daytona 500. Most of the field is already

    Read More »from Corey LaJoie crashes Reed Sorenson out of the Daytona 500
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Chase Elliott held off challenges by Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray to win the first Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Thursday.

    Because the Can-Am Duel races are awarding points, Elliott is now guaranteed to start the Daytona 500 tied with the winner of the second Duel atop the points standings. Elliott earned 10 points for the race win.

    Elliott won the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500 last weekend, posting the fastest time of all 42 cars attempting to make the race. Because he was guaranteed a spot on the front row, he could have taken Thursday night’s race easy and rode around in the back of the pack and saved his car.

    Instead, Elliott raced up front the entire race. He fought back after being shuffled to the back part of the top 10 early in the race and once he got the lead late in the 60-lap race, he never relinquished it. As Harvick and McMurray tried to make runs behind him, they never got enough help to mount

    Read More »from Chase Elliott wins first Duel qualifying race
  • Welcome to the first points-paying edition of the Can-Am Duel qualifying races for the Daytona 500.

    NASCAR’s new points format means the traditional 150-mile qualifying races to set the field for the Daytona 500 will award points to the top 10 drivers in each race. Each race winner will get 10 points while 10th in each Duel will receive a single point (you can figure out how points for second-ninth are awarded). The points mean NASCAR will have official points standings before the first race of the season.

    The points given for the Duels are just like the points NASCAR will pay for the first two segments of races in 2017. The top 10 teams in each of the first two segments of all 36 Cup Series races will be awarded on a sliding 10-1 scale for the top 10. Full points, as always, will be awarded at the conclusion of official races.

    • Just 42 cars and drivers are entered for the 40 spots in the race. 36 of the 40 spots are guaranteed to teams with charters. And with non-charter team drivers

    Read More »from Your 2017 Daytona 500 qualifying races primer
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Teams haven’t done anything other than qualifying runs with their Daytona 500 cars and yet it may be easy find a couple of favorites for Sunday’s race.

    “I would definitely point towards to the Fords and Penske,” Kevin Harvick said.

    Harvick is referring to teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Logano won last week’s exhibition Clash race after Keselowski collided with leader Denny Hamlin on the final lap of the race. Keselowski — thanks to a push from Logano — went to pass Hamlin, who made a very late block and allowed Logano to fly past.

    Keselowski and Logano have won four of the eight points-paying restrictor plate races since 2015. That past history, Jamie McMurray said, is what makes them a favorite before Thursday night’s Duel qualifying races.

    “But, the two Penske cars were already there because they have run well for the last two years at every plate race,” McMurray said. “They’ve been fast. So, before we got here, we knew they were going to be

    Read More »from Are Team Penske's Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski the early Daytona 500 favorites?
  • DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Danica Patrick said she could relate to Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he said he’d suffered numerous concussions throughout his time as a driver.

    “I’ve had concussions,” Patrick said. “Every time you crash you have a concussion on a varying degree, I’m sure. So when he said something about having 12 concussions I was like, ‘Oh, I’m sure I’ve had 12 concussions.’”

    Earnhardt Jr. is making his return to the Cup Series in 2017 after missing the second half of 2016 because of concussions sustained over the summer. Junior has discussed his transparency during his recovery process numerous times, and Patrick said that openness has helped raise the level of awareness in the garage.

    “Now, I don’t think anyone else has as much luxury sponsorship-wise as Dale Jr. probably does to be able to just get out of the car like that, but it also is coming from a big-name driver that is setting the standard for well-being and it’s admirable,” Patrick said. “I think we like to sweep it

    Read More »from Danica Patrick believes she's suffered multiple concussions in her racing career