From The Marbles

  • Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman met in the NASCAR hauler Friday morning (AP).
    Tony Stewart (R) and Ryan Newman met in the NASCAR hauler Friday morning (AP).

    The past five days haven’t made Ryan Newman regret the things he said about Tony Stewart following the drivers’ crash at Richmond on Saturday.

    After Stewart drove Newman down the backstretch and the two ended up with mangled race cars, Newman said he guessed Stewart “thought he was in a sprint car, he couldn’t control his anger,” in a reference to the 2014 incident where Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward in a dirt track race.

    A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

    Newman then called Stewart “bipolar” and said his former team owner and teammate had anger issues. Stewart, who is facing a wrongful death suit from the Ward family regarding the accident, was not charged with a crime.

    The two drivers met inside the NASCAR hauler Friday morning. After they exited, Newman had this to say via NBC Sports.

    “I don’t have any regrets about what I said. I am frustrated by the situations and the actions that came about

    Read More »from Ryan Newman doesn't regret what he said about Tony Stewart at Richmond
  • It rained at Chicago on Friday, so qualifying got canceled (Getty Images).
    It rained at Chicago on Friday, so qualifying got canceled (Getty Images).

    The top two seeds in the Chase will start on the front row after NASCAR’s decision to cancel Friday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Chicago.

    Kyle Busch is awarded the pole while Brad Keselowski will start second as the field is set by owner points via the rulebook for the first race of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

    Rain arrived at Chicago during the middle of the day Friday and postponed the first practice session. NASCAR made the decision with practice for race setups being deemed more important than qualifying given the day’s packed schedule. Xfinity Series practice is also scheduled for the day as well as Friday evening’s Camping World Truck Series race and a qualifying session to precede it.

    As Busch and Keselowski will start first, the 14 other Chase drivers will start behind them in positions 3-16. The qualifying washout creates the closest thing to a straight-up battle

    Read More »from Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski will start on front row as Chicago qualifying axed
  • BOWMANVILLE, ON - SEPTEMBER 04: Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, poses beside his car before the start of teh race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on September 4, 2016 in Bowmanville, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/NASCAR/NASCAR via Getty Images)
    BOWMANVILLE, ON – SEPTEMBER 04: Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, poses beside his car before the start of teh race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on September 4, 2016 in Bowmanville, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/NASCAR/NASCAR via Getty Images)

    Cole Custer will move to the Xfinity Series in 2017 and drive for Stewart-Haas Racing’s future entry.

    Custer’s move to NASCAR’s No. 2 series isn’t a surprise; he’s the son of SHR executive Joe Custer and has driven for JR Motorsports in 2016 with the sponsorship of Haas Automation. The company is owned by SHR co-owner Gene Haas and will also sponsor Custer in the Xfinity Series.

    “Cole Custer has accomplished a lot at a very young age and is well positioned to make the next step to the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a statement “Our goal with our Xfinity Series program is to develop young talent, and that includes behind the wheel. Cole has earned this opportunity

    Read More »from Cole Custer to drive for Stewart-Haas' Xfinity Series team in 2017
  • Denny Hamlin has three wins in 2016, including the Daytona 500 (Getty).
    Denny Hamlin has three wins in 2016, including the Daytona 500 (Getty).

    Don’t try to tell Denny Hamlin your favorite driver has had more heartbreak in the Chase than he has. He’ll have none of it.

    “There’s nobody that’s had worse luck in the Chase than I have,” Hamlin said Thursday. “That’s a fact. I can rattle off every year – when I look at performance I think that 2014 we went all the way to the Final 4 and we were one caution away – nine laps to go leading the race from winning that championship.

    “2010 [when Hamlin lost the points lead over the last two races to Jimmie Johnson] we got beat, we made some mistakes … Last year we were leading the points and the roof hatch happened. So, if I’m going to be eliminated I want it to be straight up and nothing happen and – knock on wood – things have been very, very ultra-reliable in our race cars over the course of the season and really since Texas of last year … Eventually, even the Red Sox won the World Series so for sure I’m thinking I

    Read More »from Denny Hamlin: No one has had worse luck in the Chase than I have
  • Jimmie Johnson's two wins came in the first five races of 2016 (Getty).
    Jimmie Johnson’s two wins came in the first five races of 2016 (Getty).

    Jimmie Johnson is in an unfamiliar role entering the 2016 Chase.

    The six-time champion’s team hasn’t shown much speed this season. Yeah, Johnson has two race wins, but they both came within the first five races of the season.

    He’s tied for 11th in the series with 10 top-10 finishes. 11th! That’s also the points position he was in after the Southern 500 at Darlington before sneaking back into the top 10 in points before the points reset for the start of the Chase.

    This whole thing is new for Johnson. And he’s not a fan of it.

    “Hell, I’d rather be dominating and be on top and be the top pick,” Johnson said. “I don’t like where we’re at. We’re working hard. There’s a lot of optimism and a lot of great things happening. We just need to deliver consistently and execute at the track.

    “The way that the Chase works, if we can run in the top five and stay alive and make it to Homestead, you know, we do have some time to sort

    Read More »from No, Jimmie Johnson is not enjoying being an underdog as the Chase begins
  • Tony Stewart is retiring at the end of the 2016 season (Getty).
    Tony Stewart is retiring at the end of the 2016 season (Getty).

    Tony Stewart is publicly determined to not let the inflammatory things Ryan Newman said about him at Richmond affect his mindset for the Chase.

    Stewart and Newman tangled in the final quarter of Saturday’s race. Newman made contact with Stewart — not the first time the two had touched while racing for position during the race — and Stewart put a backstretch-long block on him before the two finally crashed.

    After the accident, Newman made a veiled reference to Stewart hitting and killing Kevin Ward at a sprint car race in 2014 and called the three-time champion “bipolar” while encouraging fans to search Stewart’s name with the word “anger.”

    “I haven’t heard anything from him,” Stewart said Thursday at NASCAR’s Chase media day. You know, it’s like I said, it would be easy to take it personal.  But, I mean, that was the deciding factor in his season, whether he was going to make the Chase or not.”

    Newman entered the Richmond

    Read More »from Tony Stewart doesn't blame Ryan Newman for lashing out in frustration at Richmond
  • UPDATED 8:30 p.m. ET

    Robby Gordon made a brief statement in front of his father’s home Thursday afternoon and said the truth about what happened would come out.

    “The truth will come out, what went down there,” Gordon said via the AP.

    According to police, Robert Gordon strangled his wife Sharon and shot himself.

    Gordon’s father, known by many as “Baja Bob,” helped immensely with his son’s racing career and also helped drivers like six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson move through the racing ranks.

    “He taught me at a young age that 1 horsepower wasn’t going to be enough – go do something different,” Gordon said. “And I was fortunate enough to do something different.”

    ——-

    Robby Gordon’s father and his father’s wife were found dead in an Orange County, California, home Wednesday evening.

    The bodies of Robert Gordon,

    Read More »from Ex-NASCAR driver Robby Gordon's father and his wife found dead in California
  • Erik Jones has even been sponsored by the video game this year (Getty).
    Erik Jones has even been sponsored by the video game this year (Getty).

    If you’re a NASCAR fan, it’s been impossible to avoid the Tuesday release of NASCAR Heat Evolution. Commercials for the video game have been omnipresent during NASCAR programming and the sanctioning body’s official Twitter account has even taken up the cause to encourage people to buy it.

    The hype created around the Dusenberry-Martin product is a good thing. NASCAR fans have needed a quality racing game. While gamers disagree on what the last great NASCAR game was, the consensus is that the last quality game came a long time ago.

    And, unfortunately, it remains a long time since there was a good NASCAR racing game. Hell, the coordination of promotion surrounding NASCAR Heat: Evolution may be the only good thing about this game.

    I’ll be blunt; I wasn’t expecting greatness from this game. Given the awfulness of recent NASCAR games, my expectations were low and my optimism was high. Through my first few hours playing

    Read More »from NASCAR Heat Evolution First Impressions: Boy, this game is not good at all
  • Those lug nuts should be fastened onto the wheel hubs when the wheels are put on the car (Getty).
    Teams are now allowed to have two lug nuts missing after a race without a penalty (Getty).

    With the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup beginning on Sunday, NASCAR tweaked the rules regarding lug nut installation and the consequences for teams who fail post-race laser inspection.

    After Tony Stewart was fined for his statements regarding NASCAR’s lack of enforcement regarding lug nuts in April, the sanctioning body instituted a rule mandating that teams have all 20 lug nuts (five per tire) installed securely at the end of the race. If a team was found to have been missing a lug nut or two, the crew chief was suspended for the next race.

    The penalty for a lug nut infraction is now more severe. But so is the barometer for the infraction. A team will have to be missing three lug nuts off the wheels of its car to now get a penalty. If a driver’s car has 17 or fewer lug nuts, he will lose 35 points and the services of his crew chief for three races. The crew chief will also be fined $65,000.

    Read More »from NASCAR modifies lug nut and laser inspection penalties for Chase
  • Almirola made the Chase in 2014 and is 27th this season (Getty).
    Almirola made the Chase in 2014 and is 27th this season (Getty).

    Richard Petty Motorsports is giving Aric Almirola a new crew chief for the Chase. The team said Tuesday that Drew Blickensderfer would serve as Almirola’s crew chief for the final 10 races of the season and replace Trent Owens.

    “We’ve made significant investments in both teams, and the results for the No. 43 team have not been what we expected, team CEO Brian Moffitt said in a statement. “By making this change now, we hope that Drew (Blickensderfer) can begin momentum to improving on-track performance and get the team in a good place for the 2017 season. Trent Owens has been a valued member of our organization and will continue to play a significant role with Richard Petty Motorsports.”

    As you can guess by Moffitt’s comments, the No. 43 team is not a part of the 16-driver playoff field this season. And really was never a contender. Almirola is 27th in the points standings and hasn’t finished in the top 10 in any race this

    Read More »from Aric Almirola to have new crew chief for final 10 races of 2016
  • Denny Hamlin leads the field at Richmond and in Power Rankings (Getty).
    Denny Hamlin leads the field at Richmond and in Power Rankings (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. Denny Hamlin (LW: 3): Come on Denny, that was a weak performance Saturday night. Only leading 189 laps from the pole on the way to the win? Should have done better than that.

    Hopefully you sense the sarcasm there. Last time Hamlin started first at Richmond he led 381 laps. But he didn’t win the race because of a tire problem. Going out on a huge limb here, but we’re assuming Hamlin would take Saturday’s performance over that domination-turned-heartbreak.

    We noted it Monday in our breakdown of all 16 Chase drivers, but Hamlin’s currently the hottest driver in NASCAR. He’s got 11-straight top-10 finishes and drives for the fastest team on the circuit.

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin heads into the Chase at No. 1
  • Welcome to the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Who is going to be the last driver to say he won a Sprint Cup Trophy before the title sponsor departs at the end of the season? Your guess is probably as good as ours, though we’re going to make an attempt at predicting how the Chase will go at the bottom of this post.

    The 2016 Chase field (Getty Images)
    The 2016 Chase field (Getty Images)

    The four-round elimination format, now in its third season, is almost impossible to predict because of the randomness it creates. While a driver was able to recover from one or two bad finishes over the course of the Chase from 2004-2013, a win is about the only thing that can repair the damage of a poor race in a round.

    Remember, the four lowest-scoring drivers in the first three-race rounds are eliminated, leaving four drivers to race heads up for the championship at Homestead. A race win in a round means automatic advancement to the next round.

    So yes, winning is key. But so is the ability to avoid a disastrous finish. 2015 champion Kyle

    Read More »from What you need to know about all 16 Chase drivers
  • Denny Hamlin will start No. 1 at Richmond for the first time since 2010 (Getty Images).
    Denny Hamlin. (Getty Images).

    RICHMOND—It wasn’t pretty, but for Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott, the Federated Auto Parts 400 will rank as one of the loveliest races of their lives.

    None of them won the caution-filled tire skrag that was the Saturday night Richmond race—that honor went to Denny Hamlin—but all three of them will make their very first Chase for the Sprint Cup, sweating out a 400-lap race that was, by turns, infuriating and exhilarating.

    Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin cemented their status as two favorites for the Chase, dueling right on through overtime. Hamlin

    The Chase scenarios coming into the race broke down this way:

    -Chris Buescher, the first driver ever to be in danger of missing the Chase for slipping out of the top 30, held an 11-point lead over David Ragan for 30th place, meaning his easiest route to a Chase spot was finishing 11 points ahead of Ragan.

    -Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon sat 18 and 9 points ahead of Jamie McMurray in the 16th

    Read More »from Denny Hamlin wins at Richmond as Chase field is set
  • RICHMOND–A routine, caution-filled night at Richmond abruptly turned bitter and cringeworthy as former teammates tangled.

    With only 37 laps remaining in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman collided several times heading into the backstretch at Richmond International Raceway. Stewart appeared to cut down into Newman, setting off a chain reaction that destroyed Newman’s car and fading Chase hopes.

    Newman climbed from his car, working his way around the #83 of Dylan Lupton that had come to rest on his hood, and soon afterward unloaded on Stewart with a venom rarely seen in pro sports.

    Asked about the wreck, Newman responded, “I guess he thought he was in a sprint car, he couldn’t control his anger,” a clear reference to the August 2014 incident in which Stewart ran over Kevin Ward Jr. at a sprint car race in upstate New York. Ward died of his injuries, but Stewart was cleared of all charges in the incident.

    But

    Read More »from Ryan Newman absolutely unloads on Tony Stewart after wreck
  • Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt talk strategy prior to a Gordon run in the 88. (Getty Images)

    RICHMOND–Two months ago, Jeff Gordon was dining with friends in Paris, and talk turned to racing. The future Hall of Famer had just wrapped a well-received rookie season as a Fox Sports commentator. Racing, for Gordon, was eight months in the past and a lifetime ago.

    “So you’re never going to get back in a car?” asked the son of one of Gordon’s friends.

    “Don’t think so,” Gordon said. He’d been enjoying time away from the track, playing with his kids in New York and jetting to France with his wife. Life after the track was very, very good.

    “What if,” the son continued, “one of your teammates at Hendrick had an issue and you had to fill in? Would you?”

    Gordon pondered the question for a moment and finally nodded. “I guess I would.”

    The very next day, he got a call from Rick Hendrick.

    ***

    Gordon’s summertime stint subbing for the concussion-stricken Dale Earnhardt Jr. began with so much hope and

    Read More »from Jeff Gordon soldiers on through frustrating Earnhardt replacement run
  • Denny Hamlin will start No. 1 at Richmond for the first time since 2010 (Getty Images).
    Denny Hamlin will start No. 1 at Richmond for the first time since 2010 (Getty Images).

    Denny Hamlin will start first at Richmond.

    The Richmond-area native’s fast lap in the third round survived two challenges by Kyle Larson over the final seconds of the last round.

    The pole continues an incredible streak for Hamlin. He’s made the final round of qualifying for every race in 2016 and has started in the top 10 in every race since the third race of the season. His starting spot for the first two races were 11th (Daytona) and 12th (Atlanta). Not bad at all.

    It’s Hamlin’s third pole at Richmond but his first at the track since the spring 2008. That’s the race Hamlin led 381 laps in but didn’t win. He finished 24th thanks to a tire problem.

    Hamlin last won at Richmond in the fall of 2010.

    Here’s how the field will line up for the race. Since 41 cars attempted the race, Cole Whitt is the driver that misses out in competing Saturday night as he was the lone driver that failed to qualify.

    1.

    Read More »from Denny Hamlin wins pole for Richmond
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the first NASCAR driver to appear on GameDay (Getty).
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the first NASCAR driver to appear on GameDay (Getty).

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. is making a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday.

    Earnhardt Jr. will serve as the celebrity guest picker for ESPN’s College GameDay. The weekly traveling college football pre-game show will originate from the Battle at Bristol between Virginia Tech and Tennessee. The track, located between the campuses of the two schools, is hosting its first football game.

    The appearance will be courtesy of Goodyear. Junior is out for the rest of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season because of a concussion he suffered over the summer. The Cup Series races Saturday evening at Richmond, so it likely wouldn’t have been logistically possible for Junior to appear on the show if he was racing Saturday night.

    “The Battle at Bristol is something we’ve been anticipating for a long time, and I’m fortunate to be invited by Goodyear to participate in ESPN’s College GameDay broadcast,” Junior said in a statement. “I’m

    Read More »from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to serve as guest picker for College GameDay
  • The Chase field will likely have four or five new faces in 2016 (Getty).
    The Chase field will likely have four or five new faces in 2016 (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.

    Should we blame Ryan Newman and his team for sucking all the tension about setting the 16-driver field for the Chase during Saturday night’s race at Richmond?

    That’s a strongly-worded and slightly-hyperbolic statement. But the underlying point still stands. Immediately after Sunday’s race at Darlington, Newman was trailing Jamie McMurray by seven points for the final spot in the 10-race Chase that begins next weekend at Chicago.

    Seven points is just six positions when bonus points are taken away, so a gap of that nature was undoubtedly going to lead to some serious scoreboard watching throughout the course of the race.

    But, as you know if you haven’t been living in a NASCAR-free hole this week, Newman and team were penalized 15 points for a post-race inspection failure. The

    Read More »from Happy Hour: Is the Richmond Chase drama gone?
  • Custer comes in for the form tackle (FS1).
    Custer comes in for the form tackle (FS1).

    While Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman each got points penalties for their cars failing post-race inspection after the Sprint Cup Series’ Southern 500 on Sunday night, two Truck Series drivers who tangled during that afternoon’s race weren’t officially sanctioned by NASCAR.

    Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek made contact while racing for the win on the last lap at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. After bumping Custer, Nemechek drove him off the track and the two careened off the wall and through the grass towards the finish line.

    Nemechek was declared the winner because his truck crossed the finish line first. As he was waiting for the checkered flag as NASCAR was reviewing the race results, Custer sprinted at Nemechek and tackled him.

    Read More »from Truck Series drivers Custer and Nemechek not penalized for on and off-track contact
  • Ryan Newman is probably not smiling after his penalty (Getty).
    Ryan Newman is probably not smiling after his penalty (Getty).

    Ryan Newman’s path to the 2016 Chase is much more difficult than it was immediately after Sunday night’s race at Darlington.

    Newman’s car failed post-race laser inspection following his ninth-place finish. NASCAR said Wednesday that Newman and his team would be docked 15 points for the infraction. Newman left Darlington provisionally trailing Jamie McMurray by seven points for the final spot in the Chase via points. That deficit to McMurray is now 22 points after the penalty before the Chase field is set after Saturday night’s race at Richmond.

    Remember, each position is worth a point under NASCAR’s point system. Drivers get a three-point bonus for winning a race, a point for leading a lap and another point for leading the most laps in a given race.

    Thirteen drivers have won races in 2016, leaving three spots in the Chase open on points at Richmond provided a driver already with a win takes the checkered flag Saturday night.

    Read More »from Ryan Newman's deficit to Jamie McMurray now 22 points after penalty