From The Marbles

  • Sunday's race at Dover had the fewest number of people watching on TV in Chase history (Getty).
    Sunday’s race at Dover had the fewest number of people watching on TV in Chase history. (Getty)

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

    Though this news isn’t fun. Per Sports Media Watch, television ratings for last Sunday’s race at Dover were the lowest they’ve ever been in the history of the Chase. Yes. The history of the Chase.

    The 1.5 rating and 2.6 million viewers are the fewest people to ever watch a NASCAR postseason race. The ratings for the race were down over 20 percent from last year. And take a gander at this paragraph too.

    Again excluding rainouts, nine of the past ten NASCAR races have hit a multi-year low in ratings and viewership. Each of those nine has either set a record-low or hit the lowest mark in at least 15 years, and seven of those nine have dropped double-digits from the previous low. Keep in mind that only one of those races, Watkins Glen, had the excuse of facing the Olympics.

    Talking

    Read More »from Happy Hour: Chasing TV ratings, and will Saturday night's race get postponed?
  • Martin Truex Jr. won at Charlotte earlier this season while Kevin Harvick was second (Getty).
    Martin Truex Jr. won at Charlotte earlier this season while Kevin Harvick was second (Getty).

    The second round of the Chase is the first of two rounds in NASCAR’s playoffs that is composed entirely of tracks the Sprint Cup Series is visiting for a second time. So we figured this would be a good opportunity to see how the 12 remaining Chase drivers have performed at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega, the three tracks that make up the second round.

    Martin Truex Jr.

    Charlotte: 1st
    Kansas: 14th
    Talladega: 13th

    If we’re looking outside the box score, Truex has the strongest track record at the second-round tracks this year. He dominated at Charlotte (392 laps led!) and Kansas (172) but doesn’t have two wins because a late pit stop issue derailed his chances at Kansas.

    Kevin Harvick

    Charlotte: 2nd
    Kansas: 2nd
    Talladega: 15th

    Mr. Consistency rides again. It’s going to take an issue for Harvick to not be in the top five at Charlotte and Kansas. We won’t talk about Talladega right now because

    Read More »from How the 12 remaining Chase drivers have done at the 2nd round tracks
  • DOVER, DE - OCTOBER 02: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Citizen Solider 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 2, 2016 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
    Martin Truex Jr. celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Citizen Solider 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 2, 2016 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/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. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 2): There’s no drama here for No. 1. Truex led 187 laps and could’ve had a Dover sweep if it wasn’t for the wreck that took him out of contention in the spring.

    Not only is Truex heading to the second round with two wins in three races, he’s going to two tracks where he’s kicked serious ass so far this season. Truex has led a combined 564 out of 667 laps at Charlotte and Kansas, the next two tracks on the schedule.

    This week we’re going to take a look at the finishes of each

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Truex leads the pack once again
  • Martin Truex Jr. (L) and Jamie McMurray
    Martin Truex Jr. won Dover as Jamie McMurray (right) and three other drivers were eliminated from the Chase. (AP)

    Martin Truex Jr. has established himself as NASCAR’s 2016 championship favorite as Tony Stewart’s championship hopes in his final season came to a close.

    Truex ran a simply dominating Dover race, his second win of the Chase. While points reset heading into the next round of the Chase, momentum does not, and Truex and his team are simply the most efficient operation on the track right now. This win marked Truex’s fourth on the year.

    Truex held off Kyle Busch for the win, with Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Matt Kenseth rounding out the top five.

    The rain-delayed Xfinity race ran earlier in the morning, providing an unexpected benefit: a rubbered-in track that allowed drivers to run high lanes right from the start.  Keselowski held the early lead, but Truex and Busch soon claimed their own time at the front. The leaders caught the back of the pack just 16 laps into the

    Read More »from Martin Truex Jr. wins Dover as four drivers bounced from Chase
  • Matt Kenseth won at Dover in May (Getty).
    Matt Kenseth won at Dover in May (Getty).

    As inspection has dominated the first two weeks of the 2016 Chase, a common refrain is hope that the focus in the NASCAR world will go back to the racing on the track.

    If only it was that simple.

    Just Thursday NASCAR issued a rules update defining what an encumbered finish is. The word “encumbered” entered the NASCAR lexicon before the Chase when the sanctioning body said severe penalties would jeopardize a team’s chances at using a win for Chase advancement.

    An encumbered finish doesn’t take the win away, however. It simply means that if a team wins a race but receives a lug nut or laser inspection penalty (or any other severe penalty) worthy of an encumbered finish, the win does not count for the next round of the Chase. A points penalty is also added, meaning the team will be in a severe hole trying to move forward.

    The win, while still existing in the box scores and in the location of the trophy at the winning team’s residence, still

    Read More »from Happy Hour: It's never going to only be about the racing
  • Tony Stewart is currently outside the top 12 in the Chase standings (Getty).
    Tony Stewart is currently outside the top 12 in the Chase standings (Getty).

    It’s no secret Tony Stewart isn’t a fan of the evolution of the cars in the Sprint Cup Series. As front splitters have been added to cars and aerodynamic downforce has increased in importance, Stewart has lamented the equipment shift.

    Sunday, Stewart was frustrated with his car and an inability to make a move through the field. He finished a lap down in 23rd and enters the final race of the first round of the Chase outside the top 12. If Stewart isn’t one of the top 12 drivers in the standings after Sunday’s race at Dover, he’s not moving on in the playoffs.

    Stewart explained his frustration Wednesday. And no, the frustration doesn’t simply stem from New Hampshire. From USA Today:

    “When we come off the truck, we fight the same thing for three days and there’s nothing I can do to fix it,” he said. “And that’s part of what’s so frustrating for me as a driver and part of the reason I’m ready to do something

    Read More »from Tony Stewart: 'I can't make a difference anymore' finding speed as a driver
  • Kyle Busch presents President Barack Obama with a helmet (Getty).
    Kyle Busch presents President Barack Obama with a helmet (Getty).

    Kyle Busch got to meet with President Barack Obama on Wednesday to celebrate his 2015 Sprint Cup Series championship.

    The trip comes between the Sprint Cup Series’ races at New Hampshire and Dover, which is less than 100 miles from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    In his remarks about Busch, Obama noted Busch’s comeback from the broken leg and foot he suffered in February at Daytona to return and qualify for the Chase. Busch won the final race of the Chase to take the championship over Kevin Harvick, who won the title in 2014.

    Busch and the team presented Obama with a signed helmet.

    “I think there were some people who thought we were going to see a Bush back here in the White House this year,” Obama joked about the possibility of former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s attempt to run for president. “But they didn’t know it was going to be Kyle. “Especially after he broke his leg and his foot at Daytona, and missed the first three

    Read More »from Kyle Busch takes championship visit to White House
  • Kevin Harvick didn't run out of gas this year at New Hampshire (Getty).
    Kevin Harvick didn’t run out of gas this year at New Hampshire (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. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4): We’re going with recency and rewarding Harvick for the New Hampshire win. Harvick’s move from starting 19th to the win was the most spots anyone gained throughout the entirety of Sunday’s race. And it also avenged his losing moment from 2015 when he ran out of gas while racing Kenseth for the win late in the race.

    The win also solidifies Harvick as the top non-Toyota contender for the championship. He entered the Chase with that status and the first two races of the playoffs have done nothing to dissuade anyone from that thought.

    2. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 2): Truex’s mistimed restart on the next-to-last restart ultimately cost

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Should Truex or Harvick occupy the top spot?
  • Inspect that car, NASCAR (Getty).
    Inspect that car, NASCAR (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.

    • The craziness that wasn’t, well, crazy to expect Sunday never materialized. The New Hampshire race was pretty straightforward.

    There wasn’t a crazy moment that hurt or benefited a Chase driver. Fourteen of the Chase’s 16 drivers finished in the top 20; 13 of 16 started there. There wasn’t much movement.

    The biggest mover was Austin Dillon, who finished 16th after starting 19th. The lack of movement was evident throughout the top 20. 17 of the drivers who started in the top 20 finished there and Paul Menard (who started 14th) was the highest-qualifying driver to

    Read More »from Takeaways from New Hampshire: That race was not sublime
  • Kevin Harvick is moving on to the second round of the Chase (Getty).
    Kevin Harvick is moving on to the second round of the Chase (Getty).

    Sunday’s race at New Hampshire came down to Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick again. And this time Harvick was the one entering victory lane.

    Harvick passed Kenseth with five laps to go off the race’s final restart and pulled away over the final two laps to lock himself in the second round of the Chase. A win in each of the Chase’s first three rounds gives a driver an automatic berth into the next round.

    The two dueled for the lead late at New Hampshire last year and Harvick ran out of fuel a week after crashing out at Chicago thanks to a cut tire. The fuel gamble meant Harvick was forced to go to Dover, the final race of the first round, needing a win to advance. He got that win and ended up making the Chase’s final round.

    And now with the New Hampshire win, there’s not nearly the pressure at Dover this year as there was in 2015.

    “One of our main goals this year was to not stress

    Read More »from Kevin Harvick passes Matt Kenseth for New Hampshire win
  • Carl Edwards swept the pole positions at New Hampshire in 2015 (Getty).
    Carl Edwards swept the pole positions at New Hampshire in 2015 (Getty).

    Carl Edwards and his team have discovered the secret to qualifying well at New Hampshire.

    Edwards will start Sunday’s race at the 1-mile track on the pole for the third time in four races after posting the fastest lap in the third round of Friday’s qualifying session. Edwards swept the pole positions in 2015 at New Hampshire and finished fifth and seventh in those two races.

    His fast lap beat out last week’s winner Martin Truex Jr., who qualified second. Counting Truex, whose team has an alliance with Edwards’ Joe Gibbs Racing, JGR-equipped Toyotas all qualified in the top 12. Denny Hamlin will start fifth, Matt Kenseth eighth and Kyle Busch 12th.

    It’s the sixth pole of Edwards’ 2016 season. It doubles his previous career record of three poles in a season (set three different times).

    10 of the 16 Chase drivers made it to the final round and 14 advanced to the second round of qualifying. The two Chase drivers that

    Read More »from Carl Edwards wins pole at New Hampshire for third time in four races
  • Matt Kenseth finished 9th at Chicago on Sunday (Getty).
    Matt Kenseth finished 9th at Chicago on Sunday (Getty).

    Matt Kenseth sees why NASCAR made the changes it did to the penalty structure surrounding laser inspection but would have liked to see the change made before the Chase began.

    NASCAR said Wednesday there would be no more minor penalties for teams whose cars fail laser inspection on the rear of the car. Both Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr.’s cars failed inspection by a slight amount after Sunday’s race at Chicago and NASCAR made the decision to penalize neither team after coming to the realization Johnson’s penalty would be much more impactful than Truex’s because Truex won the race.

    “Personally, I’m okay with the change,” Kenseth said Friday. “I feel like maybe we should have changed it a couple months ago. I’m okay with that going forward, but I’m not so sure how I feel about no penalties because we all knew what the rules were last Sunday and what the penalties were if you broke those rules and then to come out a week later

    Read More »from Matt Kenseth OK with inspection rules change but wishes it was made earlier
  • Welcome to Happy Hour. Feel free to tweet or email us your NASCAR thoughts and questions throughout the week.

    Unsurprisingly, this week’s mailbag focuses around the laser inspection failures that happened after Sunday’s race at Chicago and NASCAR’s decision to not penalize Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson after their cars failed inspection.

    There’s no need for a long intro this week. We’re getting right to it.

    If you were living under a NASCAR rock on Wednesday, you missed that NASCAR will no longer penalize teams for a minor laser inspection fraction after the conundrum it found itself in after Sunday’s race. Both race-winner Truex and 12th-place finisher Johnson had their cars fail inspection by a minor amount.

    By the NASCAR rule book, the punishment for either was a points penalty; the infraction was

    Read More »from Happy Hour: All your laser inspection talk in one place
  • The 12 Xfinity Series Chase drivers pose for a picture after Chicago (Getty).
    The 12 Xfinity Series Chase drivers pose for a picture after Chicago (Getty).

    Welcome to our Chase-dominated world.

    No, we’re not talking about Chase Elliott, though he could be dominating NASCAR at some point in the near future. We’re referencing the Chase format in the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series. Both series are veering from the season-long points format for the first time, meaning the championship in NASCAR’s top three series will all be decided with a winner-take-all race at Homestead in November.

    XFINITY SERIES

    Chase format: 12 drivers, seven races, three rounds. Four drivers are eliminated each round, leaving four drivers to compete for the championship at Homestead.

    The Drivers:

    Erik Jones (4 wins)
    Elliott Sadler (2 wins)
    Daniel Suarez (1 win)
    Justin Allgaier
    Ty Dillon
    Brendan Gaughan
    Brennan Poole
    Brandon Jones
    Bubba Wallace
    Ryan Reed
    Ryan Sieg
    Blake Koch

    The Races:

    Kentucky
    Dover
    Charlotte

    Kansas
    Texas
    Phoenix

    Homestead

    The Xfinity Chase is diluted. Reed, Sieg and Koch

    Read More »from Looking at the Xfinity and Truck Series Chase fields
  • Observations: Bob Margolis

    Bob Margolis

    I first met Bob Margolis at a NASCAR race. This is to say I was at a NASCAR race that Bob Margolis was also at, because to be in his physical proximity was to meet him.

    There was no avoiding him. There was no not-noticing him. He had this thick black hair and sometimes wore actually fashionable clothes. (To say this caused him to stand out at the track is an understatement.) He was unique. He was a musician. He had worked in the recording industry. He did some television production. He was a character. He was cool. He was a self-described hippie. He was fun.

    He talked loud and fast and for a long time. He laughed. A lot. He laughed in a way that you looked across a room, saw these people crowded around him and wondered A) what is that guy laughing about? and B) how exactly can I get in on the group?

    The latter was simple; you just went and spoke to Bob or, more likely, he came over and introduced himself first. He loved meeting people and being around people and having fun arguing

    Read More »from Observations: Bob Margolis
  • Exterior windows at the NASCAR Hall of Fame were damaged Wednesday (Getty).
    Exterior windows at the NASCAR Hall of Fame were damaged Wednesday (Getty).

    Windows at the NASCAR Hall of Fame were broken Wednesday night during violent protests in downtown Charlotte.

    The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority confirmed the damage to the exterior windows at the Charlotte Convention Center and the Hall of Fame. There was also damage to a Buffalo Wild Wings in the Hall of Fame building.

    The Hall of Fame will be open as scheduled on Thursday.

    “We do have events scheduled to take place in the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame today and in the coming days,” a statement from the CRVA said. “The safety of those meeting attendees who have traveled significant distances to convene in Charlotte is especially important to us and we’re working to take appropriate security precautions in collaboration with our partners at CMPD. We’ll continue to assess and communicate with our partners throughout the day.”

    The protests started after Keith Scott, a black man, was

    Read More »from NASCAR Hall of Fame windows broken during Charlotte protests
  • Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson's car's failed inspection at Chicago but won't be docked points (Getty).
    Martin Truex Jr. (78) and Jimmie Johnson’s cars failed inspection at Chicago but won’t be docked points (Getty).

    A lack of foresight into how its own penalty system works in the structure of the Chase for the Sprint Cup means NASCAR won’t be penalizing Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. for post-race laser inspection failures at Chicago.

    Truex won the race while Johnson finished 12th. NASCAR said the inspection failures regarding the rear measurements of the cars were at the level of a 10-point penalty, meaning Johnson would have 10 points deducted from his Chicago total in his bid to accumulate enough points over the three races in the Chase’s first round to be one of 12 drivers advancing to the second round.

    Truex’s point total from the race would be deducted by 10 as well … but his points from the race don’t matter. His win means Truex is guaranteed to make the second round of the Chase even if he finishes last in the next two races of the first round. Drivers who win in one of the

    Read More »from NASCAR not penalizing Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. for inspection failures
  • Martin Truex Jr. celebrates after winning Sunday (Getty).
    Martin Truex Jr. celebrates after winning Sunday. (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. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 3): Just how much does the miniscule amount that Truex’s car failed inspection by matter when it comes to winning a race? It can’t be much, right? And if NASCAR laser-inspected every car in the field, just how many would have the same result that Truex’s car did following the race? Should every Chase car be inspected following Chase races?

    OK, enough with the questions. Regarding inspection, we’re thinking Truex’s spot on the race’s final restart played a bigger role than the rear of his car potentially being out of alignment. By starting on the high side, Truex was able to have plenty of open space in turns 1 and 2 to pass the three cars

    Read More »from Power Rankings: Truex goes from third to first with the win
  • Driscoll alleged Busch abused her in 2014. Criminal charges were never filed (Getty).
    Driscoll alleged Busch abused her in 2014. Criminal charges weren’t filed due to a lack of evidence (Getty).

    Patricia Driscoll, the ex-girlfriend of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, is facing seven charges regarding accusations she took money from the military foundation she ran.

    Per the AP, Driscoll has been indicted on two counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud and two charges of tax evasion for stealing money from the Armed Forces Foundation. The seventh charge is for interfering with the IRS. Driscoll resigned as the president of the AFF in June of 2015.

    Court documents don’t say how much prosecutors believe Patricia Driscoll took from the District of Columbia-based Armed Forces Foundation, whose mission is to support service members, veterans and their families.

    But a 2014 tax return for the non-profit says that the “foundation has become aware of suspected misappropriations” by Driscoll totaling more than $599,000 for the years 2006 to 2014. It says she misused money for meals,

    Read More »from Report: Kurt Busch's ex facing 7 charges from accusations of stealing from charity
  • Diversity Motorsports CEO Terrance Cox is not listed as a team owner on Racing Reference (Getty).
    Diversity Motorsports CEO Terrance Cox is not listed as a team owner on Racing Reference (Getty).

    Terrance Cox, the CEO of a motorsports team named Diversity Motorsports, filed a $500 million lawsuit vs. NASCAR and member teams on Friday alleging that his team’s efforts to be successful were intentionally stifled.

    Per the Los Angeles Times, Cox’s suit says NASCAR “has intentionally interfered with the efforts of Cox and Diversity Motorsports to integrate the U.S. motorsports industry by perpetuating, condoning and actively participating in actions designed to humiliate, degrade, ostracize and exclude Cox.”

    The suit says NASCAR has been “complicit” and “supportive” of an environment excluding African-Americans. It points out that Xfinity Series driver Bubba Wallace is the only African-American driver in NASCAR’s top two series.

    A NASCAR spokesperson told TMZ that Cox’s suit was without merit and that “Diversity both on and off the track continues to be a top priority for NASCAR and its

    Read More »from NASCAR says $500M discrimination suit citing Steve Harvey has 'no merit'