From The Marbles

  • Here's the new NASCAR logo and official Cup Series name.
    Here’s the new NASCAR logo and official Cup Series name.

    NASCAR isn’t dropping the term “Cup Series” from its top level with the addition of new sponsor Monster Energy.

    The sanctioning body announced Monday that the soon-to-be former Sprint Cup Series will be renamed the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. NASCAR and Monster announced in early December that the company would replace Sprint as the Cup title sponsor.

    NASCAR also unveiled an updated series logo. The old logo, in use since 1976, is below the new logo.

    New NASCAR logo
    New NASCAR logo
    Old NASCAR logo
    Old NASCAR logo

    “Our new NASCAR mark is modern, timeless, and embraces the heritage of our sport,” NASCAR chief marketing officer Jill Gregory said in a statement. “It was important for us to recognize our history and implement a piece of each previous mark in the new design. Our goal was to evolve the sport’s visual identity to make it concise, relevant and functional, while respecting and maintaining the unique qualities of the original mark.”

    Perhaps Gregory’s

    Read More »from NASCAR unveils updated logo, keeps 'Cup Series' in new Monster-sponsored name
  • Aric Almirola won't have a teammate in 2017. (Getty)
    Aric Almirola won’t have a teammate in 2017. (Getty)

    The Cup Series field is shrinking for 2017.

    Richard Petty Motorsports said Friday it would field just one car next season. The team had the No. 43 car for Aric Almirola and the No. 44 for Brian Scott in 2016. But Scott announced in November that he would be retiring at the end of the year.

    So with just Almirola for the 2017 season, the team is moving forward with one car.

    “At the conclusion of the 2016 season, we evaluated how to best improve our on-track product. We feel that it’s in the best interest of our partners and for Richard Petty Motorsports to focus our resources on the No. 43 Ford Fusion and Aric in 2017,” RPM CEO Brian Moffitt said in a statement.

    “A concentrated effort on one team will position us for improvement while giving us adequate time to re-establish our two-car team in 2018. For the interim, we will lease one of our two charters.”

    The leased charter is, per multiple reports, going to Go Fas Racing for the 2017

    Read More »from Richard Petty Motorsports to field only No. 43 car in 2017
  • Chris Buescher made the Chase because of his Pocono win and will drive for a different team in 2017. (Getty)
    Chris Buescher made the Chase because of his Pocono win and will drive for a different team in 2017. (Getty)

    Did you know we’re closer to the start of the 2017 Daytona 500 than we are to when the Chase began at Chicago in September? Crazy.

    But before we start getting ready for 2017, let’s take a look back at 2016.

    FRONT ROW MOTORSPORTS
    Drivers: Chris Buescher, Landon Cassill

    Buescher
    Points position: 16th
    Wins: 1
    Top 5s: 2
    Top 10s: 2

    Cassill
    Points position: 29th (did not run for Cup points in 2015)
    Top 5s: 0
    Top 10s: 0

    Buescher’s rain-delayed and shortened win at Pocono was the team’s second win ever. And it vaulted Front Row into its first-ever Chase berth.

    But if you thought Buescher was going to be a factor in the Chase, you were sadly mistaken. It’s not a jab to say that Buescher lucked into his win at Pocono. It’s the truth. The team didn’t pit as fog enveloped the track while contenders played it safe, assuming the race wouldn’t be restarted.

    Buescher was so far back in the pack

    Read More »from 2016 Team Reviews: Front Row Motorsports
  • David Ragan last drove for Front Row Motorsports in the 2015 Daytona 500. (Getty)
    David Ragan last drove for Front Row Motorsports in the 2015 Daytona 500. (Getty)

    Landon Cassill will have David Ragan as a teammate at Front Row Motorsports.

    The team said Friday that Ragan would rejoin the team after he spent the 2016 season at BK Racing. Ragan will drive the No. 38 car that Cassill drove in 2016 while Cassill moves to the No. 34 that was occupied by Chris Buescher in 2016.

    Buescher is moving to JTG-Daugherty Racing’s new second car for 2017.

    “These are two hard-working guys, both in the car and away from the car working with our partners,” team owner Bob Jenkins said. “We went out and got Landon last season because we knew he was talented and we wanted him in our racecar, and now we’re really happy he will be back another year.

    “And we’re really excited to have David back. He’s a big part of Front Row’s history, bringing us our first win. He’s got a lot of experience in his career – things that you can’t teach – that will be big assets to us and our partners.”

    Ragan

    Read More »from David Ragan rejoining Front Row Motorsports in 2017
  • Casey Mears (L) won't return to Germain in 2017 while AJ Allmendinger gains a teammate at JTG-Daugherty. (Getty)
    Casey Mears (L) won’t return to Germain in 2017 while AJ Allmendinger gains a teammate at JTG-Daugherty. (Getty)

    Did you know we’re closer to the start of the 2017 Daytona 500 than we are to when the Chase began at Chicago in September? Crazy.

    But before we start getting ready for 2017, let’s take a look back at 2016. We’re combining JTG-Daugherty and Germain Racing into a single post because both are affiliated with Richard Childress Racing.

    GERMAIN RACING
    Driver: Casey Mears

    Points position: 28th (five spots lower than 2015)
    Top 5s: 0
    Top 10s: 0

    Mears got an ad campaign with his family in 2016, but that didn’t translate to greater success on the track. In addition to dropping five spots in the points standings — and having a best finish of 12th — Mears’ average finish fell 2.5 positions, completed 71 fewer laps than the year before and had four fewer lead lap finishes.

    The season ended on a relative high note, however. Mears finished with two-straight 18th-place finishes after having

    Read More »from 2016 Team Reviews: JTG-Daugherty and Germain Racing
  • Matt DiBenedetto was 35th in the points standings in 2016. (Getty)
    Matt DiBenedetto was 35th in the points standings in 2016. (Getty)

    Matt DiBenedetto is moving from BK Racing to Go Fas Racing.

    The team said DiBenedetto would drive the full schedule in 2017. Go Fas had a rotation of drivers in 2016 while DiBenedetto finished 35th in the points standings for BK Racing.

    DiBenedetto, 25, was the feel-good story of the spring after he finished sixth at Bristol, BK Racing’s best-ever finish.

    But the team wasn’t able to discover success anywhere else. With the exception of a 17th-place finish at Bristol in August, DiBenedetto didn’t have a top-20 finish the rest of the season.

    Go Fas Racing fielded cars for Bobby Labonte, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Joey Gase, Jeb Burton, Patrick Carpentier, Eddie MacDonald, Boris Said and Dylan Lupton throughout the season. The addition of DiBenedetto gives the team some stability in the cockpit.

    The team’s best finish came in the spring at Talladega when Labonte finished 19th. Outside of restrictor plate races and road courses, the

    Read More »from Matt DiBenedetto to drive No. 32 full time in 2017
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (L) led the way for Roush with a 21st-place finish in the 2016 points standings. (Getty)
    Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (L) led the way for Roush with a 21st-place finish in the 2016 points standings. (Getty)

    Did you know we’re closer to the start of the 2017 Daytona 500 than we are to when the Chase began at Chicago in September? Crazy.

    But before we start getting ready for 2017, let’s take a look back at 2016.

    ROUSH FENWAY RACING
    Drivers: Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

    Stenhouse Jr.
    Points position: 21st (four spots higher than 2015)
    Top 5s: 4
    Top 10s: 6

    Bayne
    Points position: 22nd (seven spots higher than 2015)
    Top 5s: 2
    Top 10s: 5

    Biffle
    Points position: 23rd (three spots lower than 2015)
    Top 5s: 1
    Top 10s: 3

    Incremental progress? The final standings show Roush made strides from a disastrous 2015. But the team has a long way to go to be the staunch contender it once was in the early to mid-2000s.

    Stenhouse entered the season with three career top-five finishes. He had four in 2016. Predictably, one of those was at Bristol, where he finished second to Kevin Harvick

    Read More »from 2016 Team Reviews: Roush Fenway Racing
  • Aric Almirola and Brian Scott had their best finishes of the year at Talladega in the fall. (Getty)
    Aric Almirola and Brian Scott had their best finishes of the year at Talladega in the fall. (Getty)

    Did you know we’re closer to the start of the 2017 Daytona 500 than we are to when the Chase began at Chicago in September? Crazy.

    But before we start getting ready for 2017, let’s take a look back at 2016. Our team reviews start with Richard Petty Motorsports and we’ll work our way up the standings.

    RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS
    Drivers:
    Aric Almirola and Brian Scott

    Almirola
    Points position: 26th (nine spots lower than 2015)
    Top 5s: 0
    Top 10s: 1

    Scott
    Points position: 31st
    Top 5s: 1
    Top 10s: 1

    It’s hard to describe 2016’s performance as anything other than a disaster for RPM. Almirola went from being on the cusp of the Chase to having his worst year in five full-time seasons in the Cup Series.

    The team made the decision before the 2016 season to build its own chassis program and entered the season saying it was positioned for its “best start to date.” That did not come true at all. While

    Read More »from 2016 Team Reviews: Richard Petty Motorsports
  • Monster is succeeding Sprint as the Cup Series' title sponsor. (Getty)
    Monster is succeeding Sprint as the Cup Series’ title sponsor. (Getty)

    Monster Energy is reportedly getting the sponsorship rights to NASCAR’s No. 1 series at a per-year rate far less than what Sprint paid.

    According to a report from Sports Business Daily, Monster’s agreement to sponsor NASCAR’s Cup Series is a two-year agreement with an option for two more years. The energy drink company is reportedly paying $20 million per season, though NASCAR CEO Brian France said the numbers reported weren’t “accurate.”

    Sprint’s agreement (when Nextel took over in 2004) was initially a $750 million deal over 10 years — an average $75 million a season. Sprint extended that contract for another three seasons through the 2016 season at a rate reported to be about $50 million a year and $65-75 million with activation included per the report.

    “Those are not accurate numbers,” France said Monday on SiriusXM about the reported Monster deal financials (via NBC Sports). “We have a good understanding about

    Read More »from Report: Monster paying $20 million a year to sponsor Cup Series
  • Matt DiBenedetto (L) finished sixth at Bristol in the spring. (Getty)
    Matt DiBenedetto (L) finished sixth at Bristol in the spring. (Getty)

    BK Racing will have new full-time drivers next season.

    The team confirmed that Matt DiBenedetto and David Ragan wouldn’t be returning in 2017. DiBenedetto tweeted Thursday that he wouldn’t drive for the team for a second full season.

    Ragan finished 33rd in the 2016 standings in his first year with the team. He joined BK after leaving Front Row Motorsports after the 2015 season. He made appearances for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015 as a substitute driver for Kyle Busch while Busch was recovering from injuries suffered in February at Daytona.

    DiBenedetto was 35th in the standings and drove in 35 of 36 races. He missed the fall Texas race after crashing in the Xfinity Series race the day before and was held out by doctors because of a possible concussion. He drove most of the season in the

    Read More »from Matt DiBenedetto and David Ragan won't drive for BK Racing in 2017
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be back for the 2017 Daytona 500. (Getty)
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be back for the 2017 Daytona 500. (Getty)

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the rehabilitation he’s gone through after suffering a concussion over the summer means he isn’t at an increased risk for another one once he resumes racing in 2017.

    Junior has been medically cleared to rejoin the Sprint Cup Series in 2017 after missing the final 18 races of the 2016 season. He struggled with symptoms including vision stability and his equilibrium while recovering from the concussion he suffered when his car hit the wall at Michigan.

    The concussion was the second known one Junior suffered in the past four years. He missed two races in 2012 after he sustained a concussion in a test session after his car blew a tire and smacked into the wall.

    “I wouldn’t be coming back to the seat and wanting to drive and excited about driving cars if there was any risk, other than the typical risk that every driver faces on Sunday,” Junior said Friday. “I feel very confident in what I’ve seen in

    Read More »from Dale Earnhardt Jr. confident he isn't at increased risk for another concussion
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed 18 races in 2016. (Getty)
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed 18 races in 2016. (Getty)

    Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s return to the Sprint Cup Series in 2017 is all but official.

    Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Junior had been medically cleared to compete next season. Junior missed the last half of the 2016 season because of a concussion suffered at Michigan in June.

    Junior missed every race after Kentucky — where he initially thought he was suffering sinus issues — and had been dealing with balance and vision problems after the concussion.

    He was cleared by doctors following a five-hour test session at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday.

    “I feel great, and I’m excited to officially be back,” Earnhardt said in a statement. “I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened. Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017. Thanks to the staff at Darlington for hosting our team and to NASCAR for giving us the opportunity to put a

    Read More »from He's back: Dale Earnhardt Jr. medically cleared to drive in 2017
  • Michael Annett (L) was 36th in 2016 while Clint Bowyer was 27th. (Getty)
    Michael Annett (L) was 36th in 2016 while Clint Bowyer was 27th. (Getty)

    After the departures of drivers Michael Annett and Clint Bowyer to other teams for the 2017 season, HScott Motorsports won’t be competing in NASCAR for the upcoming season.

    The team announced the decision Monday. With no drivers or sponsors lined up for a season that begins in less than 100 days, the news wasn’t incredibly surprising.

    “Over the past several months I considered a number of options for moving forward with the team. Regrettably there are no viable sponsor/driver options immediately available to allow the team to participate in 2017,” team owner Harry Scott said.

    Annett is set to drive for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series next season while Bowyer is replacing Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing. HSM expanded to two teams to accommodate both drivers in 2016 after fielding a single car for Justin Allgaier in 2014 and 2015.

    In three-plus seasons in the Cup Series, HSM cars made 189 starts and had four

    Read More »from HScott Motorsports shuttering operations for the near future
  • Nico Rosberg's 2016 title was his first (and last). (Getty)
    Nico Rosberg’s 2016 title was his first — and last. (Getty)

    Nico Rosberg is ending his Formula 1 career with a title.

    Rosberg announced Friday that he was going to retire. He won his first world championship on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, clinching the title by finishing second behind race-winner Lewis Hamilton.

    “When I won the race in Suzuka, from the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became World Champion,” Rosberg said in a statement he posted to social media. “On Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, I knew that it could be my last race and that feeling cleared my head before the start. I wanted to enjoy every part of the experience, knowing it might be the last time… and then the lights went out and I had the most intense 55 laps of my life. I took my decision on Monday evening. After reflecting for a day, the first people I told were [wife] Vivian and George Nolte, followed by [Mercedes-Benz

    Read More »from 2016 Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg decides to retire
  • NASCAR and Monster executives toast the sponsorship announcement. (Getty)
    NASCAR and Monster executives toast the sponsorship announcement. (Getty)

    It didn’t take long to discover the demographic NASCAR wants to court with the announcement of Monster Energy as the new Cup Series sponsor.

    “The reality for how impactful they are and what they can do differently is obviously they’re an edgy brand,” Brian France said in response to the first question about Monster’s expanded relationship with NASCAR. “They’re a fun brand. They get at a millenial audience in a different way clearly than we’ve ever been associated with, particularly at this level, and they know what they’re doing.”

    It’s probably a safe assumption no one in NASCAR ever publicly called outgoing sponsor Sprint “edgy” and “fun.” Monster replaces Sprint after the telecommunications company declined to renew its sponsorship of NASCAR’s No. 1 series following the conclusion of the 2016 season.

    Say goodbye to Sprint yellow and hello to Monster green. And, if France’s comments are any indication, promotion

    Read More »from NASCAR makes push for younger demographic with Monster sponsorship
  • Monster Energy sponsored Kurt Busch in 2016. (Getty)
    Monster Energy sponsored Kurt Busch in 2016. (Getty)

    Monster Energy is NASCAR’s replacement for Sprint.

    NASCAR made the new sponsor announcement official Thursday in Las Vegas as the Sprint Cup will be replaced with Monster Energy. Sprint’s deal to sponsor NASCAR’s top series expired after the 2016 season.

    It appears the word “Cup” will no longer be affiliated with the series — at least by the looks of the NASCAR press release, which referred to the Cup Series as the “NASCAR premier series.” That’s not a surprise based off a report from Sports Business Daily earlier in the week as well as the jokes that would undoubtedly ensue with the “Monster Cup.”

    According to NASCAR CEO Brian France, an official name for the series has not been decided.

    Monster Energy currently sponsors the No. 41 car of Kurt Busch as well as the Monster Energy Supercross Series. The appeal of supercross to younger fans is something NASCAR wanted to tap into as its fanbase is one of the oldest among all major

    Read More »from Monster Energy to replace Sprint as NASCAR's top sponsor
  • Jeff Gordon drove in eight races in 2016 after he retired followed the 2015 season. (Getty)
    Jeff Gordon drove in eight races in 2016 after he retired followed the 2015 season. (Getty)

    Jeff Gordon will make his second Rolex 24 start in January.

    The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion will drive for Wayne Taylor Racing in the season-opening IMSA sports-car race at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 28-29. Gordon will team with Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor.

    Gordon, 45, drove in the 2007 race alongside Wayne Taylor, Angelelli and Jan Magnussen and the team finished third.

    “I really enjoyed racing in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2007 with Max, Wayne and Jan,” Gordon said in a statement. “When I announced I would no longer be competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, my hope was that I would get an opportunity like this to compete again in such a prestigious event – with Konica Minolta and Wayne Taylor Racing – with the hopes of winning it this time. I know that Ricky and Jordan are super-fast, and I believe it will be a very strong combination.”

    After

    Read More »from Jeff Gordon to drive in 2017 Rolex 24
  • The Sprint Unlimited name for the race lasted for four years. (Getty)
    The Sprint Unlimited name for the race lasted for four years. (Getty)

    The Clash is back. The race name, not the band.

    Daytona International Speedway announced Wednesday that the Feb. 18 preseason exhibition race — most recently the Sprint Unlimited — held the weekend before the Daytona 500 will now be titled “The Clash at Daytona.”

    The race does not have a title sponsor, perhaps because there’s no Cup Series title sponsor as of yet. Sprint had sponsored the race ever since Budweiser moved its Daytona sponsorship from the race to the qualifying races for the Daytona 500 in 2013.

    2016 pole winners, drivers who have won the exhibition race previously, Daytona 500 pole winners and all drivers from the 2016 Chase that don’t fit into the previous three criteria are eligible for the race.

    As of now, the field would include Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Carl Edwards, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr.

    Read More »from Preseason Daytona exhibition race once again bearing the 'Clash' name
  • NASCAR has reportedly pitched potential sponsors without
    NASCAR has reportedly pitched potential sponsors without “Cup” in the Cup Series name. (Getty)

    Is the era of the Cup Series over?

    According to a Sports Business Daily report, NASCAR has approached potential sponsors for the now-former Sprint Cup Series by referring to the top level as the “premier series.” NASCAR’s No. 1 series has been referred to as the Cup Series since 1971 when Winston became the series’ title sponsor.

    The word “Cup” stayed in the name when Nextel took over for Winston after the 2003 season. Sprint’s final year as the Cup Series sponsor was 2016 and the sanctioning body has not announced a new title sponsor for 2017 and beyond.

    From SBD:

    In at least some sales pitches, NASCAR has referred to the Cup Series as its “premier series” with no reference to the word “Cup,“ which would represent a notable brand change if it comes to fruition. Whether NASCAR had pitched any companies on a deal that would keep “Cup” included was unclear.

    NASCAR declined comment to SBD. In a

    Read More »from Could NASCAR be dropping the 'Cup Series' moniker in 2017 and beyond?
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't compete in the final 18 races of the 2016 season. (Getty)
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t compete in the final 18 races of the 2016 season. (Getty)

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted Tuesday that he wondered if he’d ever be able to rejoin the Sprint Cup Series as he dealt with the symptoms of a mid-summer concussion.

    Junior told NBC Sports that he expects to be cleared to drive a race car in December after a final medical test. But he said there were times he wondered if what’s next didn’t involve getting back into a race car. From NBC:

    “I mean I went through some really doubtful moments with this whole process when I was not doing well and my symptoms were really, really bad, and they lingered,” he said. “I’d never had the symptoms stay that long.

    “I was thinking, ‘I may never race again. I don’t know how this is going to end.’ So I went from not knowing if I could do it to having to build my confidence back one little Lego at a time.”

    Junior missed the second half of the 2016 season after suffering a concussion from an accident at Michigan. He started to

    Read More »from Concussion symptoms gave Dale Jr. 'doubtful moments' about racing again