From The Marbles

  • A court ruling Friday means Stewart is responsible for fees and any damages (Getty).
    A court ruling Friday means Stewart is responsible for fees and any damages (Getty).

    A court ruling Friday said Tony Stewart’s insurance company wasn’t obligated to pay any damages or fees regarding an incident at a dirt track in upstate New York where Stewart struck and killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward.

    Stewart and Ward were racing each other at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in a sprint car race when Ward hit the wall. Ward exited his car and walked down the track to gesture to Stewart and was hit by the right-rear tire on Stewart’s car. Stewart was not charged in the incident and has said he didn’t see Ward walking on the track until it was too late.

    The Ward family has filed a civil suit against Stewart regarding Kevin’s death.

    Stewart’s insurance company had contended it wasn’t obligated to cover Stewart’s sprint car teams for what happened on August 9, 2014. It said Tony Stewart Racing’s insurance policy outlined specific events for the policy – the race at Canandaigua not being

    Read More »from Tony Stewart's insurance not liable for damages stemming from Ward incident
  • It's Martin Truex Jr.'s second pole of the season (Getty).
    It’s Martin Truex Jr.’s second pole of the season (Getty).

    Martin Truex Jr. posted the fastest speed of the third round of qualifying at Pocono on Friday to grab the top starting position for Sunday’s race.

    His lap of 179.244 MPH beat out Carl Edwards’ lap of 178.873 MPH as Edwards will start second. Denny Hamlin, another driver from Joe Gibbs Racing (Truex’s Furniture Row Racing has a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing) was fourth. Paul Menard qualified third and Ryan Newman was fifth.

    Truex won the first race at Pocono last year, his only win of 2015 before making it to the final round of the Chase. Friday’s pole is also his third of the season; he qualified first at Kansas at Charlotte, where he dominated and won in May.

    1. Martin Truex Jr.
    2. Carl Edwards
    3. Paul Menard
    4. Denny Hamlin
    5. Ryan Newman
    6. Tony Stewart
    7. Brad Keselowski
    8. Chase Elliott
    9. Matt Kenseth
    10. Joey Logano
    11. Kyle Larson
    12. Austin Dillon
    13. AJ Allmendinger
    14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
    15. Kurt Busch

    Read More »from Martin Truex Jr. qualifies first at Pocono
  • Could Jeff Gordon drive at Watkins Glen if Dale Earnhardt Jr. can't? (Getty Images)
    Could Jeff Gordon drive at Watkins Glen if Dale Earnhardt Jr. can’t? (Getty Images)

    Jeff Gordon left the possibility open that he could fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for more than two races if Hendrick Motorsports continues to need a substitute driver for the No. 88 car.

    Junior is missing his third race Sunday because of concussion-like symptoms and said earlier in the week he would head to doctors after the Pocono race for progress update. When HMS said Gordon would fill in at Indianapolis last week, it also said Gordon would be the team’s driver at Pocono.

    I tell you after going through what I went through at Indy I have a much greater appreciation for [New Hampshire fill-in driver Alex Bowman] because that was one of the toughest things I ever did. Not just getting in the race car after eight months, but trying to fill-in for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. knowing the kind of attention that it gets. My heart was beating out of my chest because of the pressure and the eyes that were on you as

    Read More »from Jeff Gordon says 'loosely' he'll 'be here as long as they need me'
  • The stands during a red flag in Sunday's race (Getty).
    The stands during a red flag in Sunday’s race (Getty).

    It’s time for Happy Hour. As always, tweet us your thoughts or shoot us an email at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com if you want to participate.

    A couple housekeeping notes before we get to your feedback from what we wrote about attendance at Indianapolis on Sunday.

    NASCAR said Thursday that it’s going to run the lower downforce 2017 rules preview at Michigan in August. The move makes sense given that the lower downforce rules were in effect at Michigan earlier this year. There’s no point in making teams run two different rules configurations at the same track.

    It’s also making some safety improvements when it comes to the area around a driver’s feet to protect the lower extremities. In hard front-impact crashes, bodywork and pedals, etc can be forced towards the driver’s body (how Kyle Busch suffered his injuries in 2015). With some reinforcements and rules changes, NASCAR hopes to do what it can to prevent other drivers from suffering

    Read More »from Happy Hour: Your responses to Indy's race attendance and more
  • Many NASCAR races are starting later in 2017 (Getty).
    NASCAR wants you to watch more often (Getty).

    If you like your racing later in the day, you’re going to be happy to see the 2017 NASCAR schedule.

    NASCAR released the start times of Sprint Cup Series races on Wednesday and many races, including the Daytona 500, will start an hour or so later than they do in 2016. The Daytona 500, on Feb. 26, will have a start time of 2 p.m. ET. The green flag for the 2016 500 was just after 1 p.m.

    Sunset in Daytona on Feb. 26 is at 6:22 ET, so it’s unlikely the race will end under darkness without a delay or a bunch of cautions.

    The answer for the later start times is simple. So simple that NASCAR itself was even willing to mention it. More people watch television later in the day, so the goal is to improve television ratings, which have seen declines in recent years.

    Here’s the start times of all the races in 2017. NBC only has one race that starts at 1 p.m. ET and that’s the fall Martinsville race. If the half-mile track had lights, you can bet it

    Read More »from NASCAR pushes back numerous race start times in 2017
  • Target will no longer sponsor Scott Dixon after 2016 (Getty).
    Target will no longer sponsor Scott Dixon after 2016 (Getty).

    The most recognizable IndyCar sponsorship is ending at the end of the year.

    Per the AP, Target will not return to Chip Ganassi Racing after the conclusion of the 2016 season. The company and team have had a sponsorship relationship for 27 years. The company has a new chairman and is looking at its sponsorship agreements per the report.

    From the AP:

    “It was a really difficult decision that we made — we’ve been with Chip Ganassi Racing for 27 years and we are ridiculously proud of the success,” [senior vice president Scott] Nygaard said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “But the Target brand is about being fresh and new, so we felt like this was the time to make the difficult decision and expand our sports marketing platform.”

    Nygaard also apparently didn’t give any hints about the company’s Sprint Cup Series sponsorship of Kyle Larson, which could mean some bad news at the end of next season for Ganassi’s No.

    Read More »from Target leaving IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing after 2016
  • Childers has been with Harvick since 2014 (Getty).
    Childers has been with Harvick since 2014 (Getty).

    Kevin Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers has been suspended for a race for a lug nut violation at Indianapolis on Sunday.

    NASCAR announced the penalty on Wednesday in yet another example of the incongruity of some NASCAR rules. Childers, as has become standard since NASCAR changed its rules and penalties regarding lug nut violations in April, was suspended for a race after NASCAR found not all 20 lug nuts (five per wheel) were tight after the Brickyard 400.

    At the race prior (New Hampshire), Matt Kenseth’s car failed post-race inspection. Kenseth won the race. Yet NASCAR simply penalized Kenseth 15 points and fined crew chief Jason Ratcliff, who was not suspended.

    Childers noted that on Twitter after the penalty was announced. He’s been Harvick’s crew chief since the driver joined Stewart-Haas Racing from Richard Childress Racing in 2014 and the two won the championship that season.

    Read More »from Kevin Harvick's crew chief suspended for lug nut violation
  • Brad Keselowski is tied for the Cup lead in wins with 4 (Getty).
    Brad Keselowski is tied for the Cup lead in wins with 4 (Getty).

    Brad Keselowski was evaluated and released from the Watkins Glen care center after a nasty wreck during testing on Tuesday.

    Keselowski hit the wall head on in turn 1, which is a downhill 90-degree right-hand turn after a long straightaway. Keselowski posted the onboard footage from his car, and according to the telemetry, he was going almost 100 MPH at the time of impact.

    This is what Keselowski’s car looked like from the outside after the crash. Thank goodness for that foam lining the steel barriers outside of the corner. He said he had a brake failure heading into the turn.

    The Sprint Cup Series races on Sunday at Watkins Glen. In 2011, Keselowski suffered a broken ankle in a testing crash at Road Atlanta in a similar

    Read More »from Watch the in-car camera from Brad Keselowski's head-on testing crash (Video)
  • Bernie Ecclestone and his wife, Fabiana Flosi (Getty).
    Bernie Ecclestone and his wife, Fabiana Flosi (Getty).

    Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone’s eventful life has taken a scary turn.

    According to reports, Ecclestone’s mother-in-law was kidnapped in Brazil. Per Veja, the kidnappers of 67-year-old Aparecida Schunck are requesting a ransom of more than $36 million. If paid, it would be the largest known ransom payment in Brazil.

    Schunck, the mother of Ecclestone’s 38-year-old wife Fabiana Flosi, was reportedly kidnapped from her home in Sao Paulo. The kidnappers have also reportedly requested the ransom be paid in pounds sterling and divided into four bags.

    Ecclestone, 85, met Flosi when she was working for the Brazilian Grand Prix. He then divorced his wife at the time, Slavica Radic, in 2009 and married Flosi in 2012. Per Eurosport and the BBC, Ecclestone has not commented regarding the kidnapping reports.

    As the head of Formula 1, Ecclestone’s worth is estimated to be nearly $4 billion. He was robbed in 2010 while he was with Flosi outside

    Read More »from Reports: Bernie Ecclestone's mother-in-law kidnapped in Brazil
  • Kyle Busch's win at Indy was his fourth of 2016 (Getty).
    Kyle Busch’s win at Indy was his fourth of 2016 (Getty).

    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 happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com and we’ll try to have some fun.

    1. Kyle Busch (LW: 5): When you lead 149 of 170 laps and no one can come close to passing you for the lead on the track, then there’s no argument against being atop Power Rankings. It was a performance as dominant as Martin Truex Jr.’s at Charlotte; there’s clearly something the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have hit on when it comes to the combination of deft handling and outright speed. Busch also became the first driver to win Xfinity and Cup Series races from the pole in the same weekend.

    2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): While Busch’s ass-kicking made the race boring for many, here’s a fun hypothetical. Who had the second-best car throughout the course of Sunday’s race? The

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Kyle Busch ascends to No. 1 after Indy win
  • Paul Menard is 23rd in the points standings (Getty).
    Paul Menard is 23rd in the points standings (Getty).

    Paul Menard will have a new crew chief for the final 16 races of 2016.

    Richard Childress Racing said Monday, a day after Menard finished 10th at Indianapolis, that Danny Stockman would serve as Menard’s crew chief for the rest of the season. Justin Alexander, Menard’s crew chief for the first 20 races of the year, will have a new role that’s announced in the near future, according to Fox.

    Menard is currently 23rd in the points standings, nine spots off where he finished in 2015 after making the Chase for the first time. Sunday’s top-10 at Indy was just his second of the season. His only other top-10 finish came at Martinsville when he finished eighth. He’s finished between 11th and 20th 11 times in 2016.

    Stockman has been serving as the crew chief for the No. 2 car in the Xfinity Series. The No. 2 car, driven by Austin Dillon, Ben Kennedy and Menard has finished in the top 10 in all but two of 18 races this season and Dillon won at

    Read More »from Danny Stockman becomes Paul Menard's crew chief
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss his third race of the season at Pocono (Getty).
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss his third race of the season at Pocono (Getty).

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. will soon find out about his potential status for the Aug. 7 Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen.

    Earnhardt Jr. has missed the last two Cup races because of what Hendrick Motorsports has termed concussion-like symptoms and will miss Sunday’s race at Pocono while Jeff Gordon fills in.

    “I’m going for another evaluation here soon to see what kind of gains we’ve made, get in front of my doctors and let them get a good look at me and let them tell me where they think I’m at and that will help us make the decision on what we’re going to do for Watkins Glen. ” Junior said on his weekly podcast.

    He said he’d update his status on the podcast again after the Pocono race. Junior, who said he’d been experiencing balance issues and nausea, noted that the daily exercises he’s been doing for his symptoms range from 2-2.5 hours and some are ‘tough’ while others are ‘tedious.’

    “The balance deal is a critical part

    Read More »from Earnhardt Jr. heading to docs 'soon' for update to help determine Watkins Glen status
  • Stewart-Haas is moving to Ford in 2017 (Getty).
    Stewart-Haas is moving to Ford in 2017 (Getty).

    Stewart Haas Racing’s move to Ford will include an expansion.

    The team said Monday it’d be fielding an Xfinity Series team in 2017. While the team has expanded from two to four cars since its inception in 2009, it hasn’t fielded an Xfinity team.

    “In order to maintain the competitiveness that has earned SHR two championships since our debut in 2009, we needed an outlet to develop drivers and team personnel for the Sprint Cup Series,” SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a statement. “People make the difference between winning and losing. An Xfinity Series team gives us added depth that will allow us to promote from within whenever necessary.”

    Tony Stewart was asked about a feeder system for the team on Friday within the context of Jeff Gordon’s return to the Sprint Cup Series. Gordon is driving in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports for two races. Here’s what Stewart, who is retiring at the end of the

    Read More »from Stewart-Haas Racing announces formation of Xfinity Series team for 2017
  • One estimate pegged Sunday's attendance at 50,000 (Getty).
    One estimate pegged Sunday’s attendance at 50,000 (Getty).

    Throughout 2016 we may have way too many quick thoughts for our post-race posts. So 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.

    • It was impossible to not notice the empty grandstands all over Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Brickyard 400.

    It’s also impossible to really know how many people were in attendance too, given that NASCAR no longer releases official attendance figures (that were perhaps enhanced anyway). The capacity of IMS is 235,000 people, and according to a guess by the Indianapolis Star, estimations pegged Sunday’s crowd at 50,000.

    We’re not going to sit here and say that 50,000 isn’t a lot of people. It is. But compared to the crowds that used

    Read More »from Quick takeaways from Indianapolis: What's got to be done to increase attendance?
  • Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon took a lap after Sunday's race (Getty).
    Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon took a lap after Sunday’s race (Getty).

    INDIANAPOLIS — Entering Sunday’s Brickyard 400, Tony Stewart said he was glad Jeff Gordon was returning to the Cup Series as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s substitute driver because Gordon would take some of the spotlight away. And following Sunday’s race, Stewart showed just how much he wanted Gordon in that spotlight.

    After Stewart finished 11th and Gordon finished 13th, the two drivers took a slow victory lap around the track side-by-side in what’s likely the final appearance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for either driver.

    “I can say that just ranks in the top three coolest moments of my 18 years in this series,” Stewart said. “To share that moment with Jeff here at Indianapolis I don’t know. I don’t even have the words for it.  That is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

    Stewart said he got the idea to get Gordon to take a lap with him before the race ended.

    “I

    Read More »from Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon share celebratory lap together after Brickyard 400
  • Kyle Busch dominated on Sunday at Indianapolis (Getty).
    Kyle Busch dominated on Sunday at Indianapolis (Getty).

    INDIANAPOLIS – There was no passing Kyle Busch on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And that’s not a hyperbolic statement either.

    Busch started first and was never passed for the lead of the Brickyard 400 on the race track. Sure, he surrendered the lead at times, but that was because of pit stops and, at least early in the race, a pit strategy play by Team Penske. Straight up, no one had anything for Busch.

    Though the end of the race certainly provided some challenges. Busch had to survive three restarts over the final 17 laps to ensure that he would win his second-straight Brickyard 400 and get his fourth-straight at Indianapolis. He’s won the last two Xfinity Series races at the track and won Saturday’s Xfinity race from the pole.

    [Related: Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon share celebratory post-race lap]

    This Toyota was awesome today, it was just so fast and able to get out front and stay

    Read More »from Kyle Busch wins second-straight Brickyard 400
  • Danica Patrick is 24th in the points standings in 2016 (Getty).
    Danica Patrick is 24th in the points standings in 2016 (Getty).

    Danica Patrick wants to be running better in the Sprint Cup Series. And she knows that progress will come in steps rather than all at once.

    Patrick is currently 24th in the standings through the first 19 races of 2016. It’s the same position in the points she occupied in 2015 after finishing 27th in 2013 and 28th in 2014.

    She’s working with a new crew chief in Billy Scott this season and hasn’t finished in the top 10 yet this season after six top-10 finishes in her first three full seasons. Saturday, Patrick was asked about improving on her performance throughout the final 16 races of the year as just four of the races are at tracks where the Cup Series hasn’t visited earlier in the year.

    “We don’t really get that many shots at making the car that much better when we get there,” Patrick said. “It’s more about optimizing what you have. So, hopefully that will be a good second-half of the season for us to have that foundation

    Read More »from Danica Patrick: It's 'miserable' running in 20th place
  • Kyle Busch (R) won the 2015 Brickyard 400 (Getty).
    Kyle Busch (R) won the 2015 Brickyard 400 (Getty).

    INDIANAPOLIS ‐ Kyle Busch has a prime opportunity to defend his 2015 Brickyard 400 win.

    Busch took the pole away from Carl Edwards just seconds after his teammate had crossed the finish line in the final round of qualifying for Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    Busch’s lap of 184.634 MPH was just faster than Edwards’ lap of 184.547 MPH. Edwards had narrowly edged out Tony Stewart for the top spot as Busch was exiting turn 4 on his qualifying lap.

    Stewart, an Indiana native who is retiring at the end of the season, is making his final start at Indianapolis. He started fourth in last year’s race but the race itself went awry and he finished outside the top 20. But that fourth-place starting position last year felt a bit like a fluke. With the speed Stewart has shown over the last few weeks, a top-three spot on Sunday wouldn’t be too surprising either.

    The top five was rounded out by Denny Hamlin, a Joe Gibbs Racing teammate to

    Read More »from Kyle Busch wins Brickyard pole; Stewart starts 3rd and Gordon 21st
  • Tony Stewart won the Brickyard 400 in 2005 and 2007 (Getty).
    Tony Stewart won the Brickyard 400 in 2005 and 2007 (Getty).

    INDIANAPOLIS – Tony Stewart doesn’t know how many family and friends will be in attendance for Sunday’s Brickyard 400. And he doesn’t want to know.

    Stewart, an Indiana native and two-time winner of the Brickyard 400, is retiring at the end of the 2016 season. Since Indianapolis Motor Speedway is so special to Stewart – he’s competed in the Indianapolis 500 five times as well – it’s natural to think Stewart will be sentimental this weekend.

    He’s not. Or if he is, he didn’t want to show it on Friday.

    “You guys are going to make a lot more out of this than what I’m going to make out of it this weekend,” Stewart said. “I am literally just coming here in my mind like it is just another race, and it’s another weekend here at Indy. I’m not doing all the sentimental crying stuff that you guys think I’m going to be doing. I’m going to race this weekend.  I’m more focused – I’m probably more prepared for a Brickyard than I have been any

    Read More »from Tony Stewart 'relaxed and focused' heading into final Indianapolis start
  • Jeff Gordon said he couldn't drive at Daytona because of his Fox commitment (Getty).
    Jeff Gordon said he couldn’t drive at Daytona because of his Fox commitment (Getty).

    INDIANAPOLIS – Did television get in the way of Jeff Gordon getting behind the wheel in the 2016 Daytona 500?

    Gordon, who has served as an analyst for Fox for its coverage of the Sprint Cup Series and is subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Brickyard 400, said Friday at Indy that this was at least the second substitute-driver approach he’s had from a team this season. The four-time champion said Stewart-Haas Racing asked Gordon to drive Tony Stewart’s No. 14 car at Daytona, but Gordon said he had to decline because of his responsibilities as an analyst for Fox, which broadcasts the Daytona 500.

    “Well the crazy thing about all this I was asked to drive Tony Stewart’s car in Daytona to start the season out with his injuries and the incident that happened there,” Gordon said. “No, I wasn’t able to do it because of my commitments to Fox.”

    When asked later about Gordon’s comment, Stewart said he wasn’t

    Read More »from Jeff Gordon says he was approached to drive Tony Stewart's car at Daytona