From The Marbles

  • Jimmie Johnson was the highest-finishing Hendrick driver at NHMS. He was 12th (Getty).
    Jimmie Johnson was the highest-finishing Hendrick driver at NHMS. He was 12th (Getty).

    • It was not the finest of days for Hendrick Motorsports.

    Three of the team’s cars ended up crashed while Jimmie Johnson had a long pit stop near the end of the race that relegated him to a position outside the top 10.

    We’ll start with Alex Bowman, who spent the day subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88. Bowman ran well and steadily improved his position throughout the day. He cracked the top 10 and seemed headed for a finish in that neighborhood until a tire rub happened from a discombobulated restart.

    The tire exploded on Bowman’s car with 31 laps to go as he headed into turn 1. His car careened into the wall at the entrance of the corner and his day competing for a good finish was toast.

    At almost the same time Bowman hit the wall, Chase Elliott, who was a few cars ahead of the No. 88, did so as well. A tire rub was the culprit for Elliott too.

    His sheetmetal was damaged when Martin Truex

    Read More »from Quick takeaways from New Hampshire: Hendrick's bad day
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. is out indefinitely because of concussion concerns (Getty).
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. is out indefinitely because of concussion concerns (Getty).

    Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s absence in the Sprint Cup Series could set up a race for dueling championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

    How so? Well, if he doesn’t qualify for the Chase himself, the No. 88 car could still be part of the Chase for the owner’s championship. And if that scenario happens, the No. 88 could be racing for the owner’s title at Homestead against three other cars while four different drivers battle for the driver’s title, similar to scenarios we’ve seen in recent years in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series when teams have celebrated owner’s titles as drivers from different organizations have won drivers titles.

    The possibility, of course, of this happening is very low. And given the scary nature of concussions, a driver’s brain health is of the utmost concern. But the limited chance of this Sprint Cup oddity happening is worth the explanation.

    • As of now, Earnhardt Jr. is

    Read More »from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s absence could mean 2 different champions at Homestead
  • Jimmie Johnson has three wins at New Hampshire (Getty).
    Jimmie Johnson has three wins at New Hampshire (Getty).

    There aren’t too many firsts left for six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson to accomplish. Friday at New Hampshire was a first.

    Johnson posted the fastest lap in the third round of qualifying at New Hampshire to grab his 35th-career pole and his first at the 1.058-mile track. Johnson’s lap beat out Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.

    It’s also the first pole of 2016 for Johnson. His last came at Phoenix in the next-to-last race of 2015. Johnson has three wins at the track though his most recent win came in 2010. His first two wins came when he swept the races in 2003.

    Alex Bowman, subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88, qualified 20th. Junior is missing Sunday’s race because of concussion worries.

    1. Jimmie Johnson
    2. Kyle Busch
    3. Martin Truex Jr.
    4. Kurt Busch
    5. Denny Hamlin
    6. Joey Logano
    7. Chase Elliott
    8. Kevin Harvick
    9. Brad Keselowski
    10. AJ Allmendinger
    11. Kasey Kahne
    12. Tony Stewart
    13. Carl Edwards
    14.

    Read More »from Jimmie Johnson wins pole at New Hampshire
  • Jeff Gordon could be behind the wheel of the No. 88 at Indy (Getty).
    Jeff Gordon could be behind the wheel of the No. 88 at Indy (Getty).

    Hendrick Motorsports’ contingency plan for Dale Earnhardt Jr. includes Jeff Gordon.

    HMS general manager Doug Duchardt said Friday that Gordon would replace Junior in the No. 88 car in the Brickyard 400 if Junior isn’t cleared to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    Junior is out for Sunday’s race at New Hampshire because of concussion concerns. The team said Thursday that Junior was experiencing concussion-like symptoms and he had been advised by a neurologist not to race at New Hampshire.

    “When Dale is ready it’s his car to get back into,” Duchardt said. “But if Dale can’t go next week, Jeff Gordon will be the driver at Indianapolis.”

    Gordon, who retired at the end of the 2015 season, has served as an analyst for Fox Sports in 2016. With NBC having the second part of the NASCAR television schedule, he’s available to sub for Junior.

    Alex Bowman is in the car for Junior at New Hampshire; Gordon is currently vacationing

    Read More »from If Dale Earnhardt Jr. misses Indy, Jeff Gordon will take his place
  • Junior missed two races in 2012 because of concussions (Getty).
    Junior missed two races in 2012 because of concussions (Getty).

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. won’t drive at New Hampshire on Sunday on the advice of a neurologist because of concussion concerns.

    A statement from Hendrick Motorsports said Junior didn’t feel well entering the last Sprint Cup race at Kentucky. The race before Kentucky, at Daytona, Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a crash. He also crashed out at Michigan two races before Daytona.

    The release said Junior was experiencing “concussion-like symptoms.”

    I wasn’t feeling great the week going into Kentucky (Speedway) and thought it was possibly severe allergies,” Earnhardt said in the statement. “I saw a family doctor and was given medication for allergies and a sinus infection. When that didn’t help, I decided to dig a little deeper. Because of my symptoms and my history with concussions, and after my recent wrecks at Michigan and Daytona, I reached out and met with a neurological specialist. After further evaluation, they felt it was best for

    Read More »from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to miss New Hampshire due to concussion concerns
  • Don't get worked up about Jeff Gordon not getting an Espy (Getty Images).
    Don’t get worked up about Jeff Gordon not getting an Espy (Getty Images).

    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.

    Let’s get straight to it. Jeff Gordon was not honored as an “Icon” at Wednesday night’s ESPY awards. This upset a lot of NASCAR fans on Twitter. Those same fans were also upset Driver of the Year was not shown on the telecast (Kyle Busch won that award).

    Our response to the anger is a simple “Why?”

    Gordon is currently a Fox employee. You may know that Fox is one of ESPN’s biggest competitors, though the four-letter network consistently outrates Fox when it comes to cable programming. While it may not be as simple as ESPN not wanting to honor a man who works for a rival, it’s a fact that has to be taken into context.

    Secondly, it’s

    Read More »from Happy Hour: Gordon's 'snub,' tires and midweek races
  • (Getty Images)
    (Getty Images)

    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. Brad Keselowski (LW: 1): Yeah, like there was any chance Keselowski was going to drop a spot after his second-straight win and fourth of the season. Maybe we should just skip this graph and move on to the rest of the rankings. Or maybe we should note that the No. 2 team’s “uncoventional” strategies during races, including the way the team raced and saved fuel, may be a whole hell of a lot more reasoned than many realize.

    2. Kurt Busch (LW: 3): Busch has his 15th top-10 finish and is now 16 points back of Kevin Harvick heading into New Hampshire. Busch was one of the drivers who didn’t pit at the end of Saturday night’s race and ended up stretching his fuel to finish fourth.

    3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 6): After

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Brad Keselowski stays at No. 1
  • Martin Truex Jr. finished 10th Saturday night (Getty).
    Martin Truex Jr. finished 10th Saturday night (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

    • Martin Truex Jr. was confused as to why he got a pit road penalty during the last caution of the evening at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night.

    [Related: Brad Keselowski wins at Kentucky thanks to his fuel conservation]

    Truex entered pit road second behind Kevin Harvick and his pit was closer to the entrance of pit road than Harvick’s. So Truex dove to Harvick’s left and mashed the gas to get to his pit stall while Harvick motored down pit road towards his.

    Martin Truex's penalty (NBC Sports)
    Martin Truex’s penalty (NBC Sports)

     

    Pit lane in NASCAR is treated similarly to a

    Read More »from Quick Takeaways from Kentucky: Examining Truex's pit road penalty
  • (Getty Images)
    (Getty Images)

     

    Brad Keselowski won a week ago at Daytona through pure domination. Saturday night at Kentucky, he won thanks to a nifty strategy ploy.

    The race’s final caution came on lap 194 of 267 as teams were on the precipice of making it to the race’s 400-mile distance on one more pit stop. As the entire field pitted, teams knew that they were running the risk of running out of gas before the end of the race if there weren’t any other caution flags.

    [Related: Quick Takeaways from Kentucky]

    There were no other cautions. And as the drivers around him all had to pit for fuel late in the race, Keselowski got all he could out of his gas tank to make it to the finish line just ahead of Carl Edwards.

    Edwards closed from eight seconds back of Keselowski with four laps to go to right behind the Daytona winner’s bumper on the final lap, but Keselowski was able to hold him off through the final two corners.

    It’s Keselowski’s series-leading fourth win of the season and he’s now guaranteed a

    Read More »from Brad Keselowski saves enough fuel to win at Kentucky
  • (Getty Images)
    (Getty Images)

     

    A man was pulled from a burning truck in the parking lot behind the grandstands at Kentucky Speedway during Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race.

    The fire turned out to be a distraction from the race for many fans.

    Read More »from Truck in Kentucky Speedway parking lot catches fire during race
  • Kentucky Speedway was repaved after the 2015 race (Getty).
    Kentucky Speedway was repaved after the 2015 race (Getty).

     

    There’s very little history to rely on this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

    The track has been repaved since last year’s race and the Sprint Cup Series is running the lower-downforce rules it’s only run once this year (Michigan). So not only is there a limited set of data from the rules, there’s nothing but simulations and a tire test (for lucky teams that participated) to rely on to prepare for Saturday night’s race.

    So how will Saturday night’s race go? No one may really know, though some familiar characteristics of races at recently repaved tracks may be apparent. Here’s a sampling of comments from drivers in the garage about what they expect to see Saturday night.

    • “Goodyear usually brings a real durable tire to the repaves, so what you can do in the race is really not take tires at all or take two tires,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “You probably won’t change lefts every time you come down pit road. That is a great way to get

    Read More »from What drivers expect for Saturday night's Kentucky race
  • Kevin Harvick didn't have to qualify to start first (Getty).
    Kevin Harvick didn’t have to qualify to start first (Getty).

     

    Midday rain meant the cancellation of Friday’s Sprint Cup qualifying session at Kentucky.

    Kentucky Speedway is hosting its first race after the track was repaved and the rain washed out practice time on Friday. While NASCAR could have gotten the track dried before qualifying started, the sanctioning body opted to add in another practice session and cancel qualifying.

    Since qualifying for Saturday’s race is canceled, Kevin Harvick will start first. Brad Keselowski starts second and Kurt Busch will start third.

    Not only is this the first Cup race at Kentucky with the new pavement, it’s also the second race with NASCAR’s lower downforce experimental rules. The first race, at Michigan, was won by Joey Logano.

    The lower downforce, which requires drivers to slow down more in the corners due to less aerodynamic grip, has led to an abnormality. Cars in the Xfinity Series, which races Friday night, are going just as fast around the

    Read More »from Kentucky qualifying canceled; Kevin Harvick will start first
  • Daytona winner Brad Keselowski during Thursday's practice (Getty).
    Daytona winner Brad Keselowski during Thursday’s practice (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.

    Fair warning, NASCAR fans. Qualifying at Kentucky won’t be shown live on Friday (Update!) unless you have a sports tier or live in an area with a Comcast regional network.

    NBC Sports Network is televising Track and Field Olympic Trials before Friday night’s Xfinity Series race as Cup qualifying is going on. Since NASCAR Twitter doesn’t handle change too well, we’re anxious to see the anger that’s shelled out Friday evening as fans discover they can’t watch qualifying.

    Well, they can. And on the devices they’ll be tweeting from. NBC is streaming qualifying on its Live Extra App, which is pretty handy. So it’s not like you’ll be shut out of qualifying. Just fire it up on your phone, tablet or computer and you’ll be set.

    Read More »from Happy Hour: Qualifying coverage and the new NASCAR video game
  • Darrell Wallace is $15,000 poorer after NASCAR's fine (Getty).
    Darrell Wallace is $15,000 poorer after NASCAR’s fine (Getty).

    Xfinity Series driver Darrell Wallace expressed his unhappiness with NASCAR’s officiating at the end of Friday night’s race at Daytona. That expression has cost him $15,000.

    NASCAR announced it fined Wallace Wednesday morning for the tweet. To Wallace’s great credit, he didn’t delete the tweet, which is below:

    NASCAR officials waited way too long to throw a caution after a crash on the backstretch during the race’s final lap. Instead of waiting for the leaders to cross the finish line, NASCAR decided to throw a caution as Justin Allgaier and Aric Almirola were exiting turn 4. The caution call – 19 seconds after the first car hit the wall – meant NASCAR was forced to sync replays to determine which driver (Almirola) was leading at the moment of caution.

    According to NASCAR’s

    Read More »from Darrell Wallace fined $15K for post-race 'muppets' officiating tweet
  • Maybe Keselowski's saying it's A-OK to be No. 1? (Getty)
    Maybe Keselowski’s saying it’s A-OK to be No. 1? (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. Brad Keselowski (LW: 5): Keselowski now has five restrictor plate wins since 2009, the most of any driver in that timeframe. You’ve probably seen that statistic by now, so it’s not news to you. Does that statistic make him the best restrictor plate driver in recent years?

    We’re inclined to say yes, especially if we’re talking about this type of restrictor plate racing that’s increasingly influenced by the side draft. Dale Earnhardt’s 2000 charge at Talladega would be impossible with the 2016 rules — no driver, no matter how good he is at restrictor plate racing, can make up those spots in such a short timeframe with the current setup.

    Keselowski’s greatest

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Brad Keselowski gets No. 1
  • Nico Rosberg couldn't block Lewis Hamilton on the final lap (Getty).
    Nico Rosberg couldn’t block Lewis Hamilton on the final lap (Getty).

     

    Nico Rosberg didn’t want his teammate to pass him on the last lap. Lewis Hamilton ended up completing the pass and Rosberg missed out on a top-three finish because of his actions.

    Rosberg, who was leading the race ahead of Hamilton, had the low line entering turn 2 at Austria. Hamilton went to Rosberg’s outside to make a pass around the tight corner and swung wide. So did Rosberg, who ran into Hamilton as the two were in the corner.

     

    The contact ran Hamilton off the track. But it also significantly damaged Rosberg’s car. Hamilton swung back on track to take the lead and the win while Rosberg limped home with a fourth-place finish thanks to the damage.

    Rosberg, who said his brakes started to overheat on the final lap, defended his actions after the race, saying that he had the inside line and Hamilton turned into him. Do you agree with him after watching the GIF below?

    RosbergHamilton

    “I was still in a good position to defend. And

    Read More »from Nico Rosberg's block of Lewis Hamilton backfires on last lap
  • Tony Stewart finished 26th at Daytona Saturday (AP).
    Tony Stewart finished 26th at Daytona Saturday (AP).

     

    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

    • The watch for Tony Stewart to get into the top 30 has ended. At least temporarily.

    Despite crashing out late during Saturday night’s race (won by Brad Keselowski) Stewart made it to the top 30 in the points standings thanks to a 22-car pileup that he avoided earlier in the race.

    Stewart needs to be in the top 30 to qualify for the Chase after his win last week at Sonoma. So as long as Stewart stays in the top 30 – a feat that shouldn’t be exceptionally hard – he’s bound for the Chase.

    Stewart finished 26th Saturday night and is three points

    Read More »from Quick Takeaways from Daytona: Tony Stewart's in the top 30
  • Brad Keselowski got his third win of the season on Saturday (AP).
    Brad Keselowski got his third win of the season on Saturday (AP).

     

    Brad Keselowski has a win at Daytona.

    The 2012 Sprint Cup champion held off Kurt and Kyle Busch on a two-lap sprint to the finish during Saturday night’s Cup race at Daytona for his first win at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

    Keselowski, along with his teammate Joey Logano, had one of the best cars throughout the entire race. He was out front when the restart happened and played the draft to perfection while watching the Busch brothers duel for second behind him after he got a push from Logano on the restart.

    [Related: Quick Takeaways from Daytona]

    Neither Kurt nor Kyle could gain an advantage as they raced side-by-side behind Keselowski. That meant Keselowski could simply play defense, going from high line to low line to defend against each brother if one would gain momentum.

    The momentum never happened. And Kurt ended up sliding towards the infield wall off turn 4 on the final lap

    Read More »from Brad Keselowski wins at Daytona for 3rd win of the season
  • The big crash at Daytona (NBC).
    The big crash at Daytona (NBC).

    The Big One happened just past halfway during Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona.

    Jamie McMurray appeared to get loose after making contact with his teammate Kyle Larson. McMurray then got hit by Jimmie Johnson and careened into the wall.

    22 cars were involved in the accident including Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick. Harvick was involved in the scariest part of the accident. Look at Brian Scott’s car (No. 44) get jacked up on top of Harvick’s car after Harvick piled into him.

    BrianScottHarvick

    Thankfully, no one was injured in the crash.

    – – – – – – –

    Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

    Read More »from 22-car wreck takes out host of contenders at Daytona
  • Almirola (No. 98) was declared the winner of Friday's race (Getty).
    Almirola (No. 98) was declared the winner of Friday’s race (Getty).

     

    When you have a choice between two options, it’s not often that the best choice is to go halfway between them.

    NASCAR went halfway at the end of Friday night’s Xfinity Series race. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work out.

    When a caution came out on the final lap of the race for a crash on the backstretch, NASCAR elected to not throw a caution immediately after the crash (Option 1). Instead, the control tower decided to let Aric Almirola and Justin Allgaier duel for the lead as they raced towards the finish line (Option 2).

    Or not. NASCAR decided to throw the caution as Almirola and Allgaier exited turn 4 on the final lap. When NASCAR threw the caution, the leader was nearly indistinguishable. Was it Allgaier? Was it Almirola?

    After a few minutes of suspense and some video dissection, NASCAR declared Almirola was barely in front of Allgaier when the caution came out.

    We understand why NASCAR wants to be cautious – no pun

    Read More »from Almirola wins Xfinity race thanks to NASCAR's ill-timed caution decision