From The Marbles

  • Tommy Baldwin Racing has 391 starts over eight years in the Cup Series. (Getty)
    Tommy Baldwin Racing has 391 starts over eight years in the Cup Series. (Getty)

    Another charter has been sold in the Sprint Cup Series.

    Tommy Baldwin Racing said Thursday that it had sold its charter and guaranteed starting position in the Sprint Cup Series field to Leavine Family Racing. The move goes into effect for Sunday’s race at Homestead, meaning Regan Smith needs to post a fast enough speed in TBR’s No. 7 in qualifying Friday to make Sunday’s race.

    Leavine Family Racing partnered with Circle Sport Racing to operate the No. 95 car driven by Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon in 2016. The team used a charter Circle Sport was given as part of the new operating agreement between team owners and NASCAR.

    36 teams who participated in the Cup Series over the previous three seasons were named charter teams at the beginning of the 2016 season. A charter meant a team was guaranteed to start every Cup Series race and helped assign a valuable asset to each race team.

    The charter LFR and Circle

    Read More »from Tommy Baldwin Racing sells charter to Leavine Family Racing effective immediately
  • Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have won nine Sprint Cup titles combined. (Getty)
    Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have won nine Sprint Cup titles combined. (Getty)

    MIAMI BEACH — About 10 years ago, Tony Stewart fed he and Jimmie Johnson Burger King after treating rescue dogs to a nice steak dinner.

    As Stewart is running the final race of his storied Sprint Cup career on Sunday, Johnson was asked Thursday at championship media day what his favorite Stewart story was. And the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion did not disappoint.

    Johnson and Stewart were teammates in the 2004 and 2005 Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car races. The two plane-pooled from a test session to one of the races and Johnson got an idea of Stewart’s refined palate.

    “I’ve gotten to know him very well over the years, and one of my big eye‑opening moments about the vast differences in his personality,” Johnson said. “Daytona 500, we’re in the transporter fighting it out.  [NASCAR president] Mike Helton is not happy with either one of us.  Crew chiefs and owners are there.
    “And then the following year
    Read More »from Jimmie Johnson once had Burger King with Tony Stewart while Stewart fed dogs steak
  • Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were all in a good mood Thursday. (Getty)
    Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were all in a good mood Thursday. (Getty)

    MIAMI BEACH — The four drivers racing for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series title are enjoying each other’s company. So far, anyway.

    The media day gathering with Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson produced much more in the way of jokes and laughter than it did trash talk. Though Johnson did deliver a threat to the three other drivers on stage.

    “I’m going to wreck them all in practice,” Johnson said. “First lap of practice, just wreck everybody.”

    We’re not going to pretend for a moment that the six-time champion was serious.

    The jovial day was a good sign for the respect Logano has from the three drivers he’s racing against. When Logano was a part of the final four two years ago he was at the receiving end of the intimidation, most notably from Kevin Harvick, who won the 2014 title. But Harvick wasn’t here to play mind games with anyone. And neither Busch, Edwards or Johnson

    Read More »from Title contenders have fun with each other during jovial pre-finale media session
  • Tony Stewart will turn his last laps as a NASCAR driver at Homestead this weekend, and when he rolls off into the Florida sunset, so too will NASCAR’s last link to its fiery, brawling, race-anything-that-moves past. The world has moved on since the hell-bent days of Earnhardt and Wallace and Waltrip and Yarborough, and while Stewart carried their flag as deep into the 21st century as he could, time has finally come for him, too.

    On one hand, Stewart posted one of the great NASCAR careers in history: three championships, 49 Cup races won, victories at virtually every track on the circuit, and a connection with a fan base rarely managed before and maybe never again.

    But the first page of any career retrospective of the man nicknamed “Smoke” must also include the fatal accident at a small track in upstate New York, and stories of a mercurial, run-wide-open temper that made enemies up and down pit road.

    Truth is, when it came to racing cars, no one outdueled Tony Stewart. But his demons

    Read More »from Tony Stewart's career began with a bang, ends with a whisper
  • The Trump truck will be back at Homestead. (Getty)
    The Trump truck will be back at Homestead. (Getty)

    We have a sequel to the 2016 version of the Trump Truck.

    The No. 22 AM Racing team will run a “Trump Victory” truck during the Camping World Truck Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday night.

    The truck, driven by Austin Wayne Self, first had a Donald Trump for president paint scheme in October at Talladega. The team’s release about the “victory” truck claims that Trump “woke up America” with his presidential election win. Maybe we should inform the team that Trump will likely receive more than a million fewer votes than his opponent Hillary Clinton?

    The No. 22 truck will likely need some serious NASCAR electoral college shenanigans if it wants to honor Trump appropriately with a win Friday night. Self has

    Read More »from Team that ran Trump truck in October to run 'Trump Victory' truck at Homestead
  • Joey Logano leads Jimmie Johnson this week. (Getty)
    Joey Logano leads Jimmie Johnson this week. (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. Joey Logano (LW: 3): Logano said two days before Sunday’s race that he pretty much had to win the race. Well, thanks to Matt Kenseth’s crash, he got the win.

    Logano was in position to tie Kyle Busch in the points standings with a fourth-place finish before the next-to-last restart. And quite frankly, that tiebreaker position is probably what got him the win. Had Logano been in Busch’s spot (third), he could have been the one bumping Bowman and being forced to slow down more for the accident between Bowman and Kenseth.

    Instead, since Logano had the high line, he was the driver scored highest at the last scoring loop before the caution — the protocol NASCAR uses to

    Read More »from Power Rankings: The top 4 gets reshuffled after Joey Logano's win
  • Jimmie Johnson was confused about the penalty he got Sunday. (Getty)
    Jimmie Johnson was confused about the penalty he got Sunday. (Getty)

    • Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. each got penalties for pulling up to pit during Sunday’s race at Phoenix. If you’re unfamiliar with what pulling up to pit means, it’s OK. It’s a penalty that NASCAR rarely calls.

    Both Johnson and Truex were dinged for the infractions during the first half of Sunday’s race. The two drivers were each the first cars heading to pit road at the time and accelerated towards pit road as they left the track from behind the pace car.

    [Related: Joey Logano and Kyle Busch advance to championship round at Homestead]

    In each instance, Johnson (who qualified for the final round of the Chase because of a win at Martinsville) and Truex (eliminated from the Chase) passed the pace car while they were accelerating towards the pit road commitment line before slowing down for pit road speed. Johnson called the call “mind-blowing.”

    “In the 15 years I’ve been here that has never been officiated that

    Read More »from Quick takeaways from Phoenix: Johnson and Truex get rare pitting penalties
  • With three (scheduled) laps to go in Sunday’s race at Phoenix, it sure looked like Matt Kenseth was on his way to securing a spot among the four drivers racing for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

    But after Michael McDowell’s car had a tire explode and his car went sliding into turn three, the margin of Kenseth’s lead of the race disappeared. And his chances of making the final round of the Chase disappeared not long after that. Let’s go through how it happened, shall we?

    [Related: Joey Logano and Kyle Busch advance to championship round at Homestead]

    McDowell’s caution sent the race past its scheduled distance and into a two-lap race to the finish. Kenseth started first and took the outside line entering turn 1. Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s substitute driver who led the most laps, was on his inside in second. Kyle Busch was on the inside of the second row in third and Joey Logano was alongside Busch in fourth.

    Bowman laid back

    Read More »from Breaking down the restart that cost Matt Kenseth a shot at the title
  • Joey Logano and Kyle Busch are joining Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards in Homestead. (Getty)
    Joey Logano and Kyle Busch are joining Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards in Homestead. (Getty)

    Matt Kenseth’s misfortune was Joey Logano and Kyle Busch’s gain.

    Kenseth crashed from the lead on what was the race’s next-to-last restart, opening a path for Logano to win Sunday’s race at Phoenix and Busch to finish second. Logano and Busch will join Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson as the four drivers with a chance to win the 2016 Sprint Cup Series title at Homestead.

    Kenseth was leading when Michael McDowell’s car blew a tire and went careening across the track with two laps to go. On the subsequent restart with two laps to go, Kenseth started on the outside with Alex Bowman on the inside.

    Bowman protected his position vs. Busch, who tagged him in the bumper. As Bowman went to take the inside line in turn 1, Kenseth’s spotter said Kenseth was clear and the No. 20 dove to the bottom of the track.

    Kenseth wasn’t clear. Bowman tagged Kenseth in the left rear and Kenseth’s car went spinning

    Read More »from Joey Logano wins at Phoenix ahead of Kyle Busch who has chance to win 2nd-straight title
  • Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are separated by two points. (Getty)
    Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are separated by two points. (Getty)

    Three of Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers are within two points of each other as they attempt to make the final round of the Chase.

    Given the team’s success in 2016, it’s not inconceivable in the slightest to think Kyle Busch (4,074 points), Denny Hamlin (4,072) and Matt Kenseth (4,073) could be running around each other in the closing laps of Sunday’s race at Phoenix. How would they race each other if passing a teammate meant a berth in the final round of the Chase? Would a driver be willing to use the bumper and move a teammate out of the way?

    “No I would not, that’s my answer today,” Hamlin said.

    “Absolutely,” Busch said.

    The three drivers are racing for two open spots in the final round. Though if Kevin Harvick (or someone else) is leading the race late, there could only be one spot up for grabs. No matter what, we know that at least one of the three Gibbs cars will miss the Chase.

    In 2014, Ryan Newman slammed

    Read More »from How do you race a teammate for a title shot? JGR drivers may find out Sunday
  • Alex Bowman will lead the field to green on Sunday. (Getty)
    Alex Bowman will lead the field to green on Sunday. (Getty)

    With the focus six Chase drivers battling for the final two spots in the final round of NASCAR’s Chase, a driver who is running a grand total of 10 Sprint Cup Series races in 2016 stole the qualifying show Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.

    Arizona native Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap of the third round of qualifying and will start first. Bowman is subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Junior recovers from a concussion he suffered over the summer. Bowman has split time with Jeff Gordon in the No. 88 car and has two top-10 finishes in eight starts so far this season. He said earlier Friday that he didn’t have any ride for 2017 lined up. Maybe the pole and another good finish or two will help with getting a good shot somewhere.

    Joey Logano was the highest-qualifying Chase driver in fourth. Six of the Chase’s eight remaining drivers made the final round of qualifying. Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kyle Busch (19th) missed out,

    Read More »from Alex Bowman to start first at Phoenix
  • Alex Bowman (L) has two top-10 finishes while subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. (R) (Getty)
    Alex Bowman (L) has two top-10 finishes while subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. (R) (Getty)

    Despite showing some serious potential in his substitute role for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Alex Bowman hasn’t signed a contract to drive for anyone in 2017.

    While Bowman hinted that he’s received offers, he’s not taking the first opportunity.

    “No, I’m still waiting for the right opportunity to come along,” Bowman said. There’s nothing that has really fit that has come along. I’ll still probably have my day job at Hendrick Motorsports driving the simulator. We’ll go from there.”

    Bowman was without a Sprint Cup Series ride in 2016 until Junior was sidelined this summer because of a concussion. Bowman was Junior’s first substitute driver and then ended up splitting duties in the No. 88 with Jeff Gordon after Junior’s absence extended through the rest of the season.

    In eight races so far this season, Bowman has finished in the top 10 twice. He was 13th last week at Texas after a right-front tire problem

    Read More »from Alex Bowman doesn't have a ride secured for 2017
  • Joey Logano is tied for the points lead in the third round. (Getty)
    Joey Logano is tied for the points lead in the third round. (Getty)

    Despite being tied atop the third-round points standings with multiple spots still open in the final round of the Chase, Joey Logano is viewing Sunday’s race at Phoenix in the prism of a must-win.

    “We pretty much have to win,” Logano said Friday.

    The view is understandable too. Logano is tied with Kyle Busch, another driver who isn’t locked into the final round of the Chase. Matt Kenseth is a point back and Denny Hamlin is two points back. Neither driver won in the third round either and is also attempting to join Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson in the Chase’s final round at Homestead.

    Logano needs to finish ahead of Busch, Hamlin and Kenseth. Or, if Kevin Harvick or Kurt Busch don’t win on Sunday, behind just one. Harvick has won five of the last six races at Phoenix, though Logano thinks he’s beatable.

    “I will say it seems like he is very fast here but he is also beatable here,” Logano said. “If you look at the spring

    Read More »from Joey Logano: 'We pretty much have to win' at Phoenix
  • Kevin Harvick barely beat Carl Edwards at Phoenix in the spring. (Getty)
    Kevin Harvick barely beat Carl Edwards at Phoenix in the spring. (Getty)

    Is it us, or is there a lack of organic excitement about the three races at Phoenix this weekend?

    With the Chase in all three of NASCAR’s series now, the sanctioning body is certainly giddy that one point separates the cutoff line for the final four at Homestead in each series. But are fans?

    Now that it’s the third year of the elimination Chase format in the Cup Series, fans are used to the system generating artificial excitement. And while Ryan Newman’s bump-and-run of Kyle Larson in 2014 is a memorable moment, the most memorable Phoenix moment is from 2012 when Clint Bowyer went on a garage sprint after getting crashed by Jeff Gordon.

    It’s hard to watch that replay and not think that the circumstances that led to it can’t be replicated again. Gordon was able to crash Bowyer because NASCAR didn’t call a caution after he slid into the wall and limped around the track. It feels preposterous to believe NASCAR

    Read More »from Happy Hour: Making a wild projection about what happens at Phoenix
  • Brian Scott is 32nd in the standings. (Getty)
    Brian Scott is 32nd in the standings. (Getty)

    Richard Petty Motorsports is looking for a replacement for Brian Scott.

    Scott announced his retirement from the Cup Series in a team release Thursday morning. The driver said he made the decision to spend more time with his family.

    “This was a difficult decision, but one that I made myself for my family,” Scott said in a statement. “Racing and specifically NASCAR has been and will always be in my heart, but right now, I want to turn all my attention to my family and to be able to spend more time with them. Racing has blessed me with great opportunities, and I’m very grateful for everything that it has allowed me to do, but for me, it’s time to move on. I can’t thank everyone enough who helped me in my career. I would not have made it to where I am at today without their trust and commitment.”

    Scott is currently 32nd in the Sprint Cup standings with two races to go. He finished second at Talladega three races ago, the only top-five finish of

    Read More »from Brian Scott to retire from driving after 2016
  • (Getty Images)
    (Getty Images)

    Members of numerous NASCAR teams gave us a great example of unity and being there for one another as a country with their actions Tuesday.

    5-year-old Jake Leatherman died Nov. 2 after fighting myelomoncytic leukemia. He had become a big NASCAR fan and his mother asked WBTV in Charlotte for help in getting people from Sprint Cup Series teams to attend his funeral.

    From WBTV:

    “I want to give my son the sendoff he deserves,” she wrote. “He recently got into NASCAR and absolutely loves Richard Petty. He loved calling him ‘The King’. But Jake loves a lot of the other cars as well. The Lowe’s car. The M&M’s U.S.A. car. Lots of cars. He loved them all. I was wondering if you knew anyone who would be willing to come in uniform and help carry my baby?”

    “Jake never got the chance to go to a race,” Crystal wrote. “I know it seems an odd ask, but we’d love to honor Jake this way. It would mean so much. We’d greatly appreciate any ideas.”

    She signed her note, “Love and hugs, Crystal.”

    Read More »from Members of NASCAR teams fulfill wish and attend funeral of 5-year-old
  • Joey Logano finished second at Texas. (Getty)
    Joey Logano finished second at Texas. (Getty)

    Todd Gordon, the crew chief for Joey Logano, was fined $10,000 by NASCAR because the No. 22 car didn’t have all the lug nuts on it after Sunday’s race at Texas.

    Logano’s car had 19 of 20 lug nuts fastened to the wheels when it was checked following the conclusion of the rain-shortened race. Logano led 178 laps on Sunday night and finished second to race-winner Carl Edwards.

    Earlier this spring, NASCAR started penalizing teams who didn’t have all the lug nuts fastened to the wheels at the end of the race. Before the Chase began, the penalty for Gordon would have included a one-race suspension. But NASCAR changed the lug nut rule before the Chase. A crew chief is suspended only if a team has 17 or fewer lug nuts fastened to the car.

    The lug nut rule was modified at the same time the sanctioning body increased the tolerances for a penalty for failing laser inspection.

    While Gordon was simply fined, there were potential Chase-altering penalties

    Read More »from Joey Logano's crew chief fined $10,000 for lug nut violation
  • These two drivers are at the top of our Power Rankings. But in what order? (Getty)
    These two drivers are at the top of our Power Rankings. But in what order? (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. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1): Let’s put Johnson’s Texas dominance into perspective. His 11th-place finish (after pitting on the final caution in a no-lose strategy in case the race went back green) was his worst finish at the track since the spring race in 2014.

    And if you want to go back in Johnson’s career at Texas, it’s a really bad finish too. His average finish in 27 starts at the track is 8.4. Sunday night’s finish ties for his sixth-worst among those 27 starts. Absolutely crazy.

    2. Carl Edwards (LW: 8): Edwards’ Martinsville finish is why we can’t vault him up to No. 1 this week. But it’s still good enough for a six-spot jump and a

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Should Carl Edwards be No. 1?
  • Will Matt Kenseth (R) be joining Carl Edwards in the title hunt at Homestead? (Getty)
    Will Matt Kenseth (R) be joining Carl Edwards in the title hunt at Homestead? (Getty)

    • We know Carl Edwards is heading to Homestead with a shot at the championship. Will any of his teammates be joining him?

    With Edwards’ win Sunday night at Texas, Joe Gibbs Racing has won 12 of 34 races in 2016. But it’s not farfetched to think Edwards will be the only title-eligible Joe Gibbs Racing car at Homestead even though his three teammates are in contention for the last two spots in the final four.

    3. Joey Logano, 4,074 points
    4. Kyle Busch, 4,074
    5. Matt Kenseth, 4,073
    6. Denny Hamlin, 4,072

    While Busch, Kenseth, and Hamlin have Logano outflanked in the points standings, Kevin Harvick is 16 points behind Hamlin. And he’s the big favorite at Phoenix.

    Harvick has won six of the past eight races at Phoenix. And if that wasn’t staggering enough, the stat looks better if you only look at Harvick’s races with Stewart-Haas Racing. Since 2014 he’s won four of five Phoenix races. The lone non-win was

    Read More »from Day-after takeaways from Texas: What are the chances of JGR only getting 1 car in final 4?
  • Carl Edwards has a chance at the 2016 title. (Getty)
    Carl Edwards has a chance at the 2016 title. (Getty)

    Carl Edwards will be racing for the Sprint Cup championship at Homestead.

    Edwards won Sunday’s rain-delayed and rain-shortened race at Texas Motor Speedway, holding off Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. It’s Edwards’ first chance to win a title at Homestead since he lost the title via tiebreaker to Tony Stewart in 2011.

    And it’s a bit of rain karma for Edwards as well. He was eliminated from the third round of the Chase last season at Phoenix. That race was called early due to rain and Edwards was left out of the final four to race for the title at Homestead by five points.

    Edwards, who led the final 36 laps of the race, took the lead off what was the race’s final round of pit stops on lap 257. He beat out Truex and Logano and then drove away from the two as they battled for second place behind him.

    The race was called on lap 293 of a scheduled 334 laps because rain hit the speedway once again.

    Read More »from Carl Edwards wins delayed and rain-shortened race at Texas