From The Marbles

  • Will we see fewer Cup driver appearances in the Xfinity Series in 2017? (Getty)
    Will we see fewer Cup driver appearances in the Xfinity Series in 2017? (Getty)

    Welcome to Happy Hour. As always, you can tweet or email us your NASCAR thoughts 24/7 at the links below.

    Y’all were moved by NASCAR saying earlier this week there was a possibility of a limitation on Sprint Cup Series drivers in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series.

    Any limitation would be imposed in 2017 and if the internet is any example, will be met with open arms by a vast majority of NASCAR fans. Cup drivers competing in lower series races has become one of the biggest NASCAR topics of the past few years.

    Part of that likely has to do with Kyle Busch. 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion has dominated the Xfinity Series over the past 10 seasons. Over half of his 169 career NASCAR wins have come in the series and he’s won an average of 7.6 races in each of those 10 seasons despite competing in about 70 percent of the series’ races in that same span.

    But while Busch may be the driver that raises fans’

    Read More »from Happy Hour: Your thoughts on potentially limiting Cup drivers in lower series
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. last raced at Kentucky in July. (Getty)
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. last raced at Kentucky in July. (Getty)

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be on your television in more than just commercials for the next two Sundays.

    Junior will serve as a guest analyst for NBC during their coverage of Talladega on Sunday and next week’s race at Martinsville.

    “I’m excited to see these races from a different vantage point and hopefully offer some insight to the viewers,” Earnhardt said in a statement. “I thoroughly enjoyed my opportunity to broadcast the Xfinity race at Michigan earlier this year, so I expect getting to spend time in the booth with the NBC team to be just as fun.”

    Junior is currently sitting out the rest of the 2016 season because of a concussion he suffered over the summer. He’s said his rehab is progressing well and expects to be back in the No. 88 for the 2017 Daytona 500.

    Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon have filled in for Junior in his absence. Bowman will be in the car at Talladega while Gordon will

    Read More »from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to be in NBC booth for Talladega and Martinsville
  • Brad Keselowski beat Kyle Busch in May at Talladega. (Getty)
    Brad Keselowski beat Kyle Busch in May at Talladega. (Getty)

    Predicting what will happen at Talladega is an exercise in futility. Unless it’s a prediction that there will be a winner of the race, a driver that will finish last, there will be a crash (or two) and that teams will have to make pit stops.

    Those predictions will be accurate. OK, maybe not the crash prediction. There have been two caution-free races at Talladega, though they happened in 1997 and 2001.

    Nevertheless, we’re going to take a shot at guessing who the eight drivers advancing to the Chase’s third round after Talladega will be. Let’s get to it after a refresher on the points standings.

    1. Jimmie Johnson – Won at Charlotte
    2. Kevin Harvick – Won at Kansas
    3. Matt Kenseth, 3,074
    4. Kyle Busch, 3,072
    5. Carl Edwards, 3,069
    6. Kurt Busch, 3,062
    7. Martin Truex Jr., 3,058
    8. Joey Logano, 3,045
    9. Austin Dillon, 3,045
    10. Denny Hamlin, 3,039
    11. Brad Keselowski, 3,038
    12. Chase Elliott, 3,020

    HEADING TO THE THIRD ROUND NO

    Read More »from Who will make it to the 3rd round of the Chase? Here's our best guess
  • Jeffrey Earnhardt has two top-30 finishes in 17 races in 2016. (AP)
    Jeffrey Earnhardt has four top-30 finishes in 17 races in 2016. (AP)

    Jeffrey Earnhardt is set to pay homage to his grandfather for the second time this season.

    Earnhardt, the grandson of seven-time Sprint Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., is racing for BK Racing at Talladega. His No. 83 car will be painted black with silver trim like Dale Earnhardt’s famous No. 3 car.

    Jeffrey Earnhardt's car for Talladega. (BK Racing)
    Jeffrey Earnhardt’s car for Talladega. (BK Racing)

    His firesuit will also be similar to the one his grandfather wore. Jeffrey Earnhardt paid tribute to his grandfather’s Wrangler-sponsored car at Darlington in September.

    Earnhardt has driven the majority of the season for GoFas Racing’s No. 32. But the team has former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte in the car for Talladega, so

    Read More »from Jeffrey Earnhardt to run another Dale Earnhardt tribute scheme at Talladega
  • Kevin Harvick led 74 laps on Sunday. (Getty)Kevin Harvick led 74 laps on Sunday. (Getty)[/caption]

    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. Kevin Harvick (LW: 7): There’s only one time Kevin Harvick hasn’t gotten a win when he’s needed it in the Chase. And that was at last year’s season finale at Homestead when he finished second to Kyle Busch. Not bad at all.

    Had Harvick not gotten a win at Kansas to move on to the third round his Talladega could have been a bit more distracting than most. Remember what happened in 2015 with the cautions at the end of last year’s race and Trevor Bayne? It’s impossible to forget. The win means Harvick can simply laugh at any and all mentions and simply flash three fingers for the third round instead of wondering if a similar situation will dictate his Chase chances once

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick stakes his claim to No. 1
  • Kyle Busch has nine wins in the Xfinity Series in 2016. (Getty)
    Kyle Busch has nine wins in the Xfinity Series in 2016. (Getty)

    NASCAR appears close to potentially limiting the number of Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races a Sprint Cup Series driver can participate in.

    NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said Monday on SiriusXM that the series is taking a “really hard look” at changing the rules for Cup drivers’ participation and could have something to announce in the near future.

    “It certainly is on our radar,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve heard the fans … They like seeing those drivers come up through the ranks and it’s our job to make sure that Xfinity is the name where names are made. We have to do that on the racetrack. So that is something we’re taking a really hard look at for next year. I’d say stay tuned. We’re going to look at that and probably have something to announce very soon.”

    Kyle Busch won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Kansas, his ninth win in NASCAR’s No. 2 series this season. 19 of 30 Xfinity Series races have been won

    Read More »from NASCAR taking 'hard look' at Cup drivers in Xfinity and Camping World Series
  • Denny Hamlin's car apparently hit something early in the race to break the splitter. (Getty)
    Denny Hamlin’s car apparently hit something early in the race to break the splitter. (Getty)

    KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Damn that Denny Hamlin luck.

    A week after a blown engine with less than 30 laps to go derailed a potential second-place finish, wacky circumstances struck the No. 11 team once again. It was a day, in Hamlin’s words, that was “Terrible.”

    [Related: Kevin Harvick wins at Kansas]

    On lap 115, Hamlin slowed quickly when he thought he had a right-front tire issue. As the team pitted under caution for Josh Wise’s crash, it discovered the splitter had come apart on the front of the car and needed to be patched back together.

    The repairs put Hamlin back in the pack, though he started to make his way forward again … until he hit Brad Keselowski when Keselowski got loose in front of Hamlin on lap 190. The team had to scramble for repairs again, this time to the nose of the car.

    And then on lap 225, Hamlin’s team was penalized for an uncontrolled

    Read More »from Quick takeaways from Kansas: What could go wrong did go wrong for Denny Hamlin
  • Brad Keselowski fell from 4th to 11th in the standings thanks to his lap 190 spin. (Getty)
    Brad Keselowski fell from 4th to 11th in the standings thanks to his lap 190 spin. (Getty)

    KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Brad Keselowski entered Sunday’s race at Kansas 25 points ahead of the Chase’s cutoff line for the second round. Thanks to a spin through the infield, Keselowski leaves Kansas seven points behind the line.

    After starting eighth, Keselowski ran in the top 15 for most of the first half of the race. But any hopes of a top-10 finish disappeared when Keselowski’s car snapped loose exiting turn 4 on lap 190. He saved the car, but had to get out of the gas so much that Denny Hamlin had nowhere to go behind him.

    Hamlin’s bump sent Keselowski’s car careening through the grass, which destroyed the front end of the car. He said that while he could have “laid up” at Kansas — potentially avoiding a scenario of pushing the car over the limit — he wanted to drive hard.

    “I probably could have raced less hard with a big points gap coming in,” Keselowski

    Read More »from Mangled race car after spin through infield erases points cushion for Brad Keselowski
  • KANSAS CITY, Kansas — If Kevin Harvick needs a win to keep his Chase alive, odds are he’s going to get it.

    Harvick won his second race of the Chase on Sunday at Kansas Speedway, passing Carl Edwards on the race’s final restart. The win means Harvick is automatically advancing to the third round of the Chase despite a terrible finish last week at Kansas.

    Both Edwards and Harvick stayed out on the race’s final caution flag and Edwards chose the high line. Harvick had the better restart on the inside lane and pulled away from Edwards, who had to contend with teammate Kyle Busch on fresher tires.

    “He didn’t have a car [behind] quite as close to him, and I was able to break that draft before I got to the middle of [turns 1 and 2] and get away from him, so that was pretty awesome,” Harvick said. “I just needed to go for and that is really the mindset we go into every race in the Chase was to go for, and we did.”

    Edwards ultimately prevailed and finished

    Read More »from Kevin Harvick comes through again, wins at Kansas to move on to Chase's 3rd round
  • Matt Kenseth finished second at Charlotte last week. (Getty)
    Matt Kenseth finished second at Charlotte last week. (Getty)

    Is Sunday setting up to be a day of Toyota dominance?

    Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth beat out teammate Kyle Busch by 0.001 seconds to take the pole at Kansas Speedway for Sunday’s race. And while JGR swept the front row, its Toyota cars took five of the top seven spots when you count Furniture Row’s Martin Truex Jr. in with the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars.

    Truex dominated the spring race at Kansas Speedway but lost the lead on a late-race pit stop when the team had an issue on the left front of the car. Truex’s misfortune meant Busch ended up winning the race.

    Kenseth is also looking for redemption at Kansas. We probably don’t need to remind you that he went spinning off the bumper of Joey Logano’s car late in the race last fall. Had Kenseth won the race he would have made it to the third round of the Chase. Instead, he finished 14th, failed to advance in the Chase and then got a two-race suspension when he crashed Logano at

    Read More »from Matt Kenseth wins Kansas pole as JGR-equipped cars take 5 of top 7 spots
  • KANSAS CITY, Kansas — NASCAR is cutting downforce from Sprint Cup cars once again.

    Officials said Friday that cars will have smaller spoilers and splitters in 2017, among other changes. The rules, which will be official after the conclusion of the 2016 season, have been sent to Cup teams so they can start working ahead for next season.

    Per NASCAR.com, cars in 2017 will have seen nearly a 50 percent reduction in downforce from the original 2015 rules. Aerodynamic downforce will be 1,500 pounds in 2017. It was 2,700 pounds at the start of each season and 2,000 in 2016.

    “There probably could be a bit more” downforce taken away, NASCAR vice president Gene Stefanyshyn told reporters Friday. But Stefanyshyn also added it was a “chicken and egg” scenario with teams attempting to engineer more downforce into their cars after rules changes.

    Downforce, of course, helps cars go faster but can also hinder racing. When cars are too reliant on aerodynamic downforce, turbulent air (like when a car is

    Read More »from Additional downforce will be taken away from Sprint Cup cars in 2017
  • Stewart-Haas Racing has led nearly 2,000 more laps than Hendrick Motorsports since the start of 2014. (Getty)
    Stewart-Haas Racing has led nearly 2,000 more laps than Hendrick Motorsports since the start of 2014. (Getty)

    KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Stewart-Haas Racing has been competing in 2016 without any data sharing from Hendrick Motorsports.

    Stewart-Haas and Hendrick have had a technical alliance since Stewart-Haas Racing was Haas CNC Racing. The alliance is officially ending at the conclusion of the season when SHR moves from Chevrolet to Ford. Though the relationship between the two changed significantly at the start of 2016 when SHR said it was making the manufacturer switch.

    “The relationship from a data standpoint was a two-way relationship,” Hendrick Motorsports general manager Doug Duchardt told a small group of reporters Friday afternoon. “They received our information, we received their information. That is the way it had worked from the time I have been at Hendrick Motorsports … We received information from Stewart-Haas when we worked with them. Obviously, when they made their

    Read More »from Hendrick Motorsports: Data sharing with Stewart-Haas stopped before season
  • Kyle Busch won the spring race at Kansas Speedway. (Getty)
    Kyle Busch won the spring race at Kansas Speedway. (Getty)

    Welcome to Happy Hour. You can tweet or email us your comments throughout the week for our weekly Thursday fun.

    Sunday’s race at Kansas marks the halfway point in the Chase. Has it gone by ridiculously quickly for anyone else? And after three 1.5-mile tracks and two one-mile tracks in the first five Chase races, the second half gets a lot more diverse with Martinsville and Talladega sprinkled in.

    We’ve talked at length this week about the craziness that happened at Charlotte. It’s doubtful we’ll see anything resembling that on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean there’s no intrigue for Sunday’s race. Five drivers having to be as aggressive as possible while seven drivers can play it safe promises to be good. Right?

    Ben’s referencing what Brad Keselowski said

    Read More »from Happy Hour: How should the top 7 drivers attack Kansas?
  • Martinsville is getting lights soon. (Getty)
    Martinsville is getting lights soon. (Getty)

    Martinsville is adding lights after this fall’s Sprint Cup Series race.

    The track has been hosting Sprint Cup Series races since 1949 and hasn’t had lights. That will change soon as the track announced Wednesday that lights will be installed as a security blanket in case races go long. For now, anyway.

    The 2015 fall race, won by Jeff Gordon, took over 3 hours and 45 minutes and concluded as darkness enveloped the track thanks to cloudy skies. Lights would prevent a situation like that from happening again and, of course, give the track the ability to host a night race in the future. Martinsville’s two races next year are scheduled for the daytime.

    “Speculation beyond [2017] would be a moot point,” Martinsville president Clay Campbell said via USA Today about the time of future Martinsville races. “It does enable us to explore more options than we have now, so that’s the main thing.”

    Night races can sometimes be less entertaining than their

    Read More »from Martinsville Speedway adding lights for 2017
  • Five Chase drivers finished 30th or worse at Charlotte. (Getty)
    Five Chase drivers finished 30th or worse at Charlotte. (Getty)

    Are we going to see two different races within the remainder of the second round of the Chase?

    After five drivers finished 30th or worse at Charlotte, seventh-place Martin Truex Jr. — who finished 13th on Sunday — has a 19-point lead on ninth place in the points standings. Meanwhile, eighth-place Denny Hamlin is just up by three points over Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon.

    “If you’re a car that has any kind of gap right now, you’re going to just go and lay up at Kansas,” Keselowski said Tuesday at a media appearance in Charlotte via USA Today. “You’re going to try really hard to not put yourself in any situations. … The reality is if you have a pretty good gap, you’re going to take a log off the fire.”

    Eight drivers move on to the third round, meaning the top seven drivers can play it conservatively over the past two weeks as the five drivers at the bottom of the standings scramble to be the driver who advances to the final

    Read More »from Keselowski says Charlotte chaos means some could 'lay up' if they want at Kansas
  • Jimmie Johnson vaults up seven spots this week. (Getty)
    Jimmie Johnson moves up seven spots 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. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 8): Let’s get wild in this week’s set of Power Rankings. The wackiness of Sunday’s race along with the points reset following Dover makes it easy to shuffle the deck, so we’re going to vault Jimmie Johnson to the top spot. The win is exceptionally important for Johnson because of his luck at Talladega over the past few years. Since he won the spring race in 2011 he’s gotten two top-five finishes and his average finish is 18.5.

    Past performance is especially not an indicator of future results at Talladega, but now the strategy plays are wide open. Johnson can drive to avoid a crash, run for the win to deny another driver an opportunity to move on

    Read More »from Power Rankings: A win vaults Jimmie Johnson to No. 1
  • Ryan Newman finished second to Kevin Harvick for the 2014 championship. (Getty)
    Ryan Newman finished second to Kevin Harvick for the 2014 championship. (Getty)

    Ryan Newman and Richard Childress Racing are keeping their relationship going after this season.

    The team announced Monday that Newman had signed an extension to remain in the No. 31 car. Newman’s three-year contract with the team was set to expire at the end of 2016.

    “I am pleased to continue driving for Richard Childress Racing,” Newman said in a statement. “Our goal to win a championship all but turned into a reality during our first year together. I feel like since then, we have some unfinished business to complete. I’m fortunate to have forged a great relationship with my crew chief Luke Lambert, and I very much want to not only help him reach our goal of winning a Cup championship but also getting him his first Cup victory.”

    Newman’s last Cup win came in the 2013 Brickyard 400 with Stewart-Haas Racing.

    The driver joined RCR before the 2014 season after parting ways with SHR. Newman made it to the final

    Read More »from Ryan Newman signs contract extension with Richard Childress Racing
  • Jimmie Johnson is advancing to the third round of the Chase. (Getty)
    Jimmie Johnson is advancing to the third round of the Chase. (Getty)

    A straightforward first round of the 2016 Chase gave way to madness on Sunday at Charlotte.

    As Jimmie Johnson won the race, five Chase drivers finished 30th or worse. Denny Hamlin was 30th after a blown engine, Austin Dillon was 32nd and Chase Elliott 33rd after the two were involved in a restart crash. Joey Logano was 36th after hitting the wall twice thanks to tire issues and Kevin Harvick was 38th after a problem with his car’s engine.

    Charlotte is the first of three races in the second round. Following Kansas and Talladega, four cars will be eliminated. Since five cars were in the 30s on Sunday, Hamlin is currently three points ahead of Dillon for the final spot in the third round.

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

    A lot can change over two races — the wackiness that can happen in one race was on full display Sunday — so it’s a bit early to talk about points. But given the small sample size that is this Chase

    Read More »from Quick takeaways from Charlotte: Well, that race was certainly crazy
  • Jimmie Johnson is heading to the third round of the Chase as five of his fellow Chase competitors had major problems Sunday afternoon at Charlotte.

    Johnson controlled the second half of the race and sprinted away on the race’s final restart after Denny Hamlin’s blown engine. The win breaks the longest winless streak of Johnson’s career. It had been 24 races since he last won in April at California.

    As Johnson did a burnout towards Charlotte Motor Speedway’s turn 4, crew chief Chad Knaus jokingly radioed that “I didn’t know you could still do that.”

    The win is Johnson’s eighth at Charlotte.

    “We knew we’d get back [to victory lane],” Johnson said. “Yes, it was slower than we wanted it to be.”

    Johnson won the second race of the season at Atlanta and then won at California for his second win of the year. Since then, his team — and all of Hendrick Motorsports — had struggled to keep up with the speed shown by the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas.

    From his

    Read More »from Jimmie Johnson wins at Charlotte as numerous Chase drivers have issues
  • ARCA's top level races for the final time in 2016 on Friday night. (AP)
    ARCA’s top level races for the final time in 2016 on Friday night. (AP)

    The ARCA Racing Series’ office was severely damaged in a fire on Sunday morning.

    According to the Monroe News, Bedford Township, Michigan, firefighters got the alarm for the fire at 8:30 a.m. They were on scene at the office in Temperance, until after noon. The series said the building was “destroyed.”

    “We know we’ve lost some documents, computers and some historical artifacts we can’t replace; however, we know we’re racing today at Winchester Speedway, racing today at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway, and we’re full ahead for Friday’s Kansas 150 at Kansas Speedway,” ARCA president Ron Drager said in a statement.

    The series operates multiple levels of competition. ARCA’s top series is the No. 4 stock car series in the United States behind NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series. ARCA runs at Daytona and Talladega as well as smaller dirt and short tracks in the midwest.

    Many drivers

    Read More »from ARCA says office 'destroyed' by fire