Elliott Sadler ended up the winner of a wild, controversial Talladega Xfinity Series race ... but he wasn't the first one. Sadler, riding a 66-race winless streak in the Xfinity Series and racing on his birthday, was named the winner of the race after a last-lap wreck threw the entire field into chaos.

Sadler was trailing leader Joey Logano out of the final turn when Logano attempted a block but lost control. Logano slid up into the wall as the field passed both him and Sadler. Brennan Poole was the first to cross the finish line, but a five-minute review awarded Sadler, the driver who was leading at the time the caution flew, with the race victory.

Oh yeah, that'll buff right out pic.twitter.com/8DAsxbWGRd

— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) April 30, 2016

It was a controversial win, to say the least; Sadler had apparently bump-drafted and dipped below the double yellow line in the course of the final laps, both of which could have disqualified the win. Poole, who had thought he'd nabbed his first series win, was gracious in sudden defeat.

The rest of the race was a characteristic Talladega affair, with flirts at bump-drafting and spectacular wrecks:

 

How will Saturday's judgment call affect Sunday's Cup race? This could be a fascinating Sunday afternoon at Talladega.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 30, 2016, 10:19 pm

It's time for Happy Hour. As always, tweet us your thoughts or shoot us an email at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com if you want to participate.

Tony Stewart is going to start Sunday's race before he hands the car off to Ty Dillon. According to Stewart, that handoff will be at the first caution, whether it's at lap 2 or lap 102. Stewart said his plan is to drop to the back of the field and ride around before that caution happens.

"And if it means we go 80 laps or 100 laps or whatever, it’s not likely that the race will go that long without a caution, but if it does, the level of intensity is pretty sanitary at that point," Stewart said Friday."It’s not really ramping-up yet. So, I don’t feel like there’s any danger in that. It’s later in the race when guys are really having to make things happen; that’s the part of the race when we really need to be out of the car. There will be ample time to get that caution to get us out. The good thing is that Talladega is so big that even if it’s 40 laps from the end of the race when Ty gets in it, he’s going to have enough time to do what he needs to do."

Stewart is getting out of the car during the race because of doctor's orders on his healing back. If Stewart was to be caught in a vicious crash at Talladega (a place that has potentially the highest big crash risk in NASCAR) and potentially reinjure himself.

By starting the race, Stewart gets the points for the finishing position Dillon accomplishes. And yes, if Dillon was to win the race, Stewart would qualify for the Chase. Is there a likelihood of that happening? Yes. It is a strong one? We certainly don't think so.

On to your questions and comments.

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Who would win a fight between Erik Jones and Mike Harmon? - Jim

If you missed the Xfinity race on Saturday, Harmon went spinning after contact from Jones. Harmon was in his own car, a car that's typically seconds off the pace. Jones was in JGR equipment, stuff that's typically setting the pace.

While Harmon was understandably upset about the incident because of the huge financial impact the crash has on his race team, there's no denying he was in the way. And it's quite surprising that, given the gulf between the haves and have-nots in the series, incidents like this don't happen more often.

@NickBromberg Could you feel the rage at RIR after another Cup winner in the Xfinity Series? Can the heat races be easily improved?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 27, 2016

No one is unhappy when Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins, right? Perhaps the best way to get that drum to stop beating is to rig races for Junior to win every week?

That's a joke, people.

As far as the heat races go, there needs to be more incentive. What if there was a random draw for heat race starting positions instead of qualifying before? You could at least have the drama of good teams and drivers having to work their way through the pack. Or perhaps assign more value to the races when it comes to money or even a few points?

@NickBromberg why can't I go to McDonald's and order a Jamie McFlurry

— joostinrextin (@jshanerector) April 27, 2016

This is the question we should all be asking. Along with what flavors a Jamie McFlurry would be.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 29, 2016, 8:16 pm

Tony Stewart is going to pay his NASCAR fine himself and the Drivers Council pledge to pay it will instead go to charity.

Stewart said Wednesday the group decided to give the $35,000 it said it would pay on Stewart's behalf to Autism Delaware, a group founded by Fox Sports NASCAR director Artie Kempner and his wife Marcie.

“I appreciated the Drivers Council support, but I didn’t want them to pay the fine," Stewart said in a release. "We decided as a group to donate the money to charity. “Artie is such a good friend to all of us and his foundation does a lot of great work.”

Stewart was fined $35,000 last week by NASCAR for the tone of his comments regarding the sanctioning body's rules on lug nuts. Five days after Stewart made his remarks, the sanctioning body changed the rulesomething Stewart said he wanted done in the name of safety.

But Stewart's fine has remained in place. The council, a group of drivers that includes Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, said hours after Stewart was fined that it would pay the fine because it believed Stewart had the right to speak his mind.

Hamlin will present the check to the foundation on behalf of the council at a golf tournament before the May 15 race at Dover. Fines paid to NASCAR go to the NASCAR Foundation.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 27, 2016, 9:04 pm

Nick Sandler, the crew chief for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., has been suspended for Sunday's race at Talladega for a violation found during pre-race inspection at Richmond.

According to NASCAR's penalty report, it's a safety violation and stems from the steering wheel connection in the car. Sandler was also fined $20,000 and put on probation through the end of the year. The penalty is classified as a P3 penalty according to NASCAR's penalty system.

Roush Fenway could choose to appeal the penalty, which would simply delay Sandler's suspension if the appeal was not overturned. But declining to appeal could be the best option, especially if the team isn't confident in its appeal chances. Talladega isn't as intensive for a crew chief as other tracks are because of the draft and the pack racing that takes place there.

Stenhouse is currently 19th in the points standings. He was 11th after the third race of the season but hasn't finished in the top 15 in any of the past four races.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 27, 2016, 3:23 pm

We have confirmation of the reasoning behind NASCAR's $35,000 fine of Tony Stewart.

NASCAR CEO Brian France appeared on SiriusXM on Monday after the sanctioning body's decision to mandate teams fasten all lug nuts to wheels effective immediately. As you likely know by now, Stewart was fined $35,000 for his criticism of NASCAR's lug nut enforcement.

And as you also likely know, NASCAR isn't changing its lug nut rules if Stewart doesn't make his comments. But while the sanctioning body ultimately believed Stewart had an incredibly valid point, it was unhappy with the way he expressed himself. From NBC Sports:

“I think we have to make judgment calls and how we look at the tone of what someone says, how they’re saying it,’’ France said. “They have ample opportunities, particularly with safety, to deal with us directly on that. But to insinuate that we’re taking the sport down a road that doesn’t care about safety or we’re trying to hurt people, those kind of comments, that goes to the integrity of the sport and we’ll have to deal with that. We go way beyond what any other league would allow in terms of how far people can go in voicing their view.

“There’s just a little line out there that is a bright line and everybody is aware of. Every once in a while we’ll have a driver or somebody else that gets over that line and we’ll just have to deal with it. It’s not a big thing. We deal with it. They understand it and we move on. That’s how it goes.’’

NASCAR's Drivers Council, made up of influential drivers in the sport including Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and others, said a few hours after Stewart was fined that it would pay the fine for the three-time champion. Friday, Hamlin said he didn't know where the line NASCAR had drawn in the sand between acceptable and objectionable was.

“I don’t know where the line is, I don’t know if there is a line – obviously there is a line, but obviously we just believe that you should be able to express your opinion as long as you’re not just totally trashing the sport itself or anything like that," Hamlin said.

Do France's comments make the location of the line clearer? A little bit. While it's nice to see NASCAR clarify why Stewart was fined, the location of the line still feels arbitrary and, at best, semi-permanent.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 26, 2016, 4:00 pm

1. Carl Edwards (LW: 1): After struggling to figure out who deserved the top spot last week, there's no such mental gymnastics needed this week. Edwards gets to stay at No. 1 after he knocked teammate Kyle Busch out of the way for the win at Richmond. While his move for the win has gotten a lot of attention, it's imperative to not forget what Edwards did in the closing laps of that race. He got in position to make the bump on Busch by pressing the issue every lap. He was trying different lines and driving styles to force Busch to push as hard as possible. And it eventually paid off.

2. Kyle Busch (LW: 3): Busch has every right to be mad after what happened. No one likes losing a race, and no one likes getting knocked out of the way to lose a race. But there's a difference between being unhappy and being angry/compelled to retaliate, and what Edwards did to Busch falls in the unhappy category. And if you're unhappy about the finish -- and you aren't a Kyle Busch fan -- what the hell is wrong with you?

3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 4): Johnson finished third on Sunday, so he gets to move up to the matching position in Power Rankings. He had one of the best cars of the day, but it wasn't the best car. That honor could have gone to three or four other drivers and teams. But the No. 48 team stayed near the front all day and didn't make any mistakes to jeopardize their great track position. As boring as that sounds, it's becoming a bigger and bigger accomplishment in the Cup Series.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 2): Junior ended up 13th. He could have gotten a better finish had there not been so many cautions in the second half of the race. He had a long run car and his car ended up getting real tight over the final two runs of the race. And going back to the Kyle Busch entry for a moment, here's what Junior said about the finish. “It was awesome.  I know Kyle was probably disappointed, but it’s short track racing man. The fans come to see something like that. If you can reach them, if you can get to them on the last lap you better be leaning on them a little bit. He didn’t wreck him; as long as you don’t put a guy in the fence."

5. Joey Logano (LW: 5): Logano came back to finish eighth after going a lap down at one point in the race. As the vast majority of the top 10 starters stayed in the top 10 for most of the day, Logano had a fight to get back to the top 10. He started second but simply didn't have any long-run speed to start the race. Given that the first caution of the race came on lap 158, that was a problem. At one point, Logano fell as far back to 25th, but with some good adjustments and the Lucky Dog on lap 269 after contact with Tony Stewart cut Stewart's tire, Logano was back on the lead lap.

6. Kevin Harvick (LW: 6): Harvick finished fifth and once again got a top five finish and led multiple laps (63) with a car that was far from perfect. 41 of those laps led came during the middle sections of the race -- and with good reason. That's when Harvick said his car was performing the best. He was too loose to start, and then it wasn't as good at the end as it was in the middle. "We threw a lot at it and just never could find that magic balance for the car that we had there in the middle of the race," Harvick said.

7. Kurt Busch (LW: 7): Before the final caution of the race it certainly looked like the battle for the win was going to come down to Kurt or Kyle Busch. Instead, Kurt lost four spots on pit road and ended up playing a lot more defense than offense as he slid back to 10th during the race's final 36 laps.

8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 9): Keselowski and the No. 2 team were the only top 10 team to try a tire strategy move for track position. It was worth the shot even if it didn't pay off. He inherited the lead on lap 275 following a six-lap green flag run as the rest of the field pitted behind him. Six laps on his tires felt like 60 laps as Keselowski kept the lead for six of the next seven laps before ceding to Kurt Busch. He finished 11th.

9. Chase Elliott (LW: 8): Elliott was a spot behind Keselowski in 12th. We're going to mainly take this time to emphasize just how awesome his four-wide move on an early-race restart was. You know, the one Tony Stewart said was "sexy." Elliott timed the restart perfectly and occupied the lane at the top to go around Stewart. Stewart, who was ahead of Elliott, tried the same thing, just a fraction too late and as Elliott was already alongside him. The rookie has very little fear.

10. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 10): Truex started 22nd and finished ninth. He was one of only two drivers who finished in the top 10 that didn't start there. He's 10th in the points standings through nine races, ahead of drivers like Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Yet it feels like a bit of a slump given that Truex was third in the standings after Richmond last season.

11. Kasey Kahne (LW: NR): Kahne got his best finish of the year at Richmond with a fourth. Is everything trending upwards for the No. 5 team? "I think it's more being together, being a group, a solid team," Kahne said of his team's recent performance. "As we do that, we've been getting better each week. To me that started three, four weeks ago. Each week it seems to get better from the previous week. We're going to keep heading in that direction, I know that, and hopefully the performance stays the same."

12. Denny Hamlin (LW: NR): Hamlin came back to finish sixth at what's considered his home track. He had to pick his way through the field early in the race after his team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation on pit road. But to counter that early miscue, his team ended up being the fastest of the day over seven stops.

Lucky Dog: Matt Kenseth got his second top-10 of the season. Yet his seventh-place finish put him fourth out of the four JGR teams. That feels appropriate.

The DNF: All 40 cars were running at the end of the race, so we'll give it to Brian Scott. He was the driver that dropped the most spots from his starting position (20th) to his finishin position (35th). But he did have a taco truck parked in the driver lot all weekend.

Dropped Out: Trevor Bayne, Matt DiBenedetto

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 26, 2016, 2:05 pm

NASCAR is changing its lug nut rule. And Tony Stewart is still fined $35,000.

The sanctioning body issued a rules release Monday telling all teams that all five lug nuts must be fastened to each wheel effective with the weekend's Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega.

Stewart said Wednesday that he was mad NASCAR stopped officiating the rule before the 2015 season and that a driver was going to get hurt because of a loose wheel causing an accident.

The sanctioning body fined him $35,000 on Thursday and then said Friday it would be re-evaluating the rule after public concerns had been raised. Other drivers, including Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had voiced their opinions about the rule before Stewart's comments.

However, it's not re-evaluating Stewart's fine. It still stands. The Drivers Council followed NASCAR's penalty announcement Thursday evening with a statement that said it would be chipping in to pay for Stewart's fine.

Just checked with NASCAR...Tony Stewart's penalty remains in place.

— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) April 25, 2016

If this all feels very hypocritical to you, you're not alone. And that contradiction stems not from the rule change, but from NASCAR's insistence to be both stubborn and willing to adapt at the same time.

NASCAR loves to tout its record on safety; and there's no denying the sport has made several large safety advances over the past 15+ years. But those safety measures have largely been reactive and not proactive. Just look at the driver injuries and, sadly, deaths, that have brought increased SAFER barrier protection, better head and neck restraints and more.

Changing the lug nut rule was a chance for the sanctioning body to be proactive. Many people had pointed out there had been no injuries or major incidents because of a loose wheel. But there was also no denying that there was the potential for an issue.

"You don't want to be in a position with 20 laps to go and you are leading and you haven't won a race and you need that to have to make a decision as a driver whether to come in or ride it out and hope it stays," Stewart said before Sunday's race. "That's not a good position for us to be in. I think some of people at NASCAR took it the wrong way. They have done an awesome job with safety. This is one thing we need to look at. It wasn't saying they're not doing their job. I felt like they dropped the ball. they're doing a good job. They're looking at it and address it and make it right. Down the road, we won't have to worry about this again."

Yet NASCAR – apparently, because it still hasn't specified the exact reason for the fine – thought Stewart was criticizing its safety record, perhaps because of his word choice ("mad" and "P.O.'d" were both used) or perhaps for another reason. And instead of thanking Stewart for providing incentive to help improve the sport's safety and rescinding the fine (or at least announcing a matching donation from the sanctioning body to Stewart's charity of choice), it apparently feels the need to remind him that its world is not a democratic one. NASCAR is still in charge and that needs to be known.

But let's face it, we're not talking about a modified lug nut rule without the three-time champion saying what he said.

It's also worth noting that NASCAR's revised rule could open itself up to new problems. From NBC Sports:

NASCAR’s updated rule states that if any missing lug nuts are found on a wheel before the race it must be corrected immediately and is listed as an unapproved adjustment, forcing the competitor to start at the rear. Any tire intended for race use without all five lug nuts glued to the wheel must be fixed immediately.

If the issue is found after the race, the crew chief will be suspended for one race, placed on probation and fined $20,000 on the first offense. Multiple events will result in escalated penalties.

NASCAR had stopped mandating teams fasten all five lug nuts to wheels in 2015 when it moved to a camera-based pit road officiating system. Officials had previously been located on pit road and counted lug nuts as teams changed tires.

The rules bulletin states that “Additionally, we will be introducing updated methods for officiating these rules. That process will continue to evolve over time and we will provide further updates as that model progresses.” So there's a good chance the sanctioning body is working for a way to more thoroughly officiate the new rule with the camera system (the cameras only show the right sides of the cars). But there could be some stickiness in the interim.

Lug nuts have been known to come off of wheels during competition. So it's incredibly feasible the winning team could fasten all five lug nuts on its final pit stop of the race and have the car show up in victory lane with less than five lug nuts on each wheel. From Kevin Harvick's crew chief and Brad Keselowski's spotter:

All the years of hitting 5, and hardly ever was all 20 on post race.. I will sit at home for a week at some point.. https://t.co/4U5rNlmpFn

— Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) April 25, 2016

Will the scenario Childers and Meier mention play out as NASCAR fine-tunes the rule? We're about to find out.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 25, 2016, 10:34 pm

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RICHMOND, Virginia – 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.

• Was Sunday's race at Richmond the best of the season? We're thinking, at least in the hours after the race, that it was.

The track opened up and had multiple grooves in the corners. Tire fall off was substantial and drivers who were conservative with their tires at the beginning could make up time at the end. Oh, and there was that bump and run finish that Carl Edwards pulled off at the end to get the win. That certainly didn't hurt how we rank the race.

Though we did wonder what the race would have been like if there was more separation between teams. While drivers were scrambling to find as much speed as they could with the different lines in the corners, teams were generally racing the same drivers throughout the race. If you look at the box score, there wasn't much movement up and down the field.

The biggest gainer of the race was Martin Truex Jr., who finished ninth after starting 22nd. The biggest dropper of the race was Brian Scott; he finished 35th after starting 2th. And that was because he crashed. All of the race's top 10 qualifiers (via practice on Friday) finished in the top 11 and nine of the 10 drivers that started between 31st and 40th finished in those positions.

• And while the racing was great, don't let it overshadow NASCAR's ham-handed decision to fine Tony Stewart. For as much as people will want to pay attention to what we saw at the 3/4-mile track over Stewart's fine, the sanctioning body shouldn't suddenly get less scrutiny because the racing product was exceptional.

If NASCAR wanted the racing to be the focal point, it shouldn't have fined Stewart in the first place.

• We asked if people thought Edwards' pass on Busch for the win was dirty. Y'all thankfully said no.

@NickBromberg Nope. Kyle tried to park it in the corner. Edwards was faster and bumped him out of the way. Did exactly what he needed to.

— DOmedicine (@DOmedicine) April 24, 2016

@NickBromberg not at all. Some Xfinity Series regulars should take note of it and do it to him as well.

— Nate Vandermeer (@vandernate) April 24, 2016

@NickBromberg No problem at all on the final lap, to paraphrase Herm Edwards "You drive to win the race!"

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 24, 2016

@NickBromberg 18 fans

— Blake Atchley (@batchley3) April 24, 2016

@NickBromberg I have a problem with Kyle Busch magically slowing in turn 1 last lap. Team orders? NASCAR orders?

— Rich Tucker (@iamrich83) April 24, 2016

If there were team orders, Edwards wouldn't have spun Busch.

• The Mountain Dew cars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne ran on Sunday need to go away forever. Not good looking cars. Hell, Elliott's car is too ugly for Junior's car graveyard, though the four-wide move he made on a restart in the first half of the race (one Stewart called "sexy" on his radio) was certainly not ugly. Damn, that was an incredible pass.

• The California race (on March 20) is the last race that was not led by Joe Gibbs Racing equipped cars for the majority. That's just crazy.

Sunday was our first trip to Richmond. It was a thoroughly enjoyable one. Next year's race is worth attending if you're considering it.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 24, 2016, 11:14 pm

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Richmond, Virginia – Tony Stewart sure had a lot of fun for a driver who missed out on the top 10.

Stewart made his first start of 2016 on Sunday and cracked the top 20 over the final run of the race with a car that, frankly, could have finished in the top 15 if not the top 10. Instead, he finished 19th after getting back on the lead lap during the race's next-to-last caution period of the day.

"This place is so cool anyway," Stewart said. "It’s always been my favorite race track. Like we predicted, a day race we’d be all over the race track. That’s what made it fun. The drivers got to dictate it today as far as – You weren’t just stuck in one line. You had the ability to move around and change lines. We got in a spot there with a group of five cars racing for position once and it was fun because the five of us totally ran the track totally different."

Stewart had missed the first eight races of the season after suffering a fractured vertebra in a dune buggy accident in late January. He announced he was cleared to return to competition by doctors on Thursday.

The three-time champion had a competitive car, but was put a lap down early as the first half of the race went largely caution free. And then as the caution flags bunched up at the end of the race for debris and a couple of spins, Stewart was always seemingly one spot away from getting his lap back as the first car one lap down.

"I got a lap down and almost drove back by and got my lap back," Stewart said. But Carl was strong. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hang on long, but I was going to hold on as long as I could and hope we got a caution. It just seemed like we would get really close to being able to get that Lucky Dog spot back, and something would happen and we’d miss it by one. So, magic cautions coming out at wrong times for us, but it was fun."

OK, so he didn't have fun the entire race. The not fun part probably includes the caution that came out for Stewart himself. He had a left-rear tire go flat on lap 269 after contact with Joey Logano. The flat tire put Stewart at the back end of the field and he finally got the Lucky Dog to rejoin the lead lap on lap 327 when a caution came out for a spin.

"There were some things I didn't miss," Stewart said. "Say two-thirds I missed a lot. The thing I missed was driving a race car. That was fun. All the other stuff that happens and the circumstances that happen, I don't miss that part of it. I missed driving this race car."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 24, 2016, 9:26 pm

RICHMOND, Virginia – Joe Gibbs Racing is proving that there are no team orders at the end of races as Carl Edwards bumped teammate Kyle Busch out of the way in turns 3 and 4 on the final lap of Sunday's race at Richmond for his second consecutive win of 2016.

Edwards had the best car over a long run during Sunday's race. Busch had one of the best cars over a short run, especially towards the end of the race. And the 37-lap run to the finish provided the perfect petri dish to see which car could take over.

With five laps to go, Busch looked like he was going to take the win. While Edwards could get close to him, he didn't look capable of getting close enough to attempt or complete a pass. Heck, the same thing could be said with two laps to go.

But Edwards found some speed Busch didn't have on the final lap. He closed the gap completely in turns 1 and 2 and was on Busch's bumper down the backstretch. As the two entered the final corners, Edwards nudged him hard enough to move Busch out of the groove and soft enough to keep him from crashing his car. As Busch slid up the track, Edwards cruised to the win.

“So going into the white flag [crew chief Dave Rogers] said something on the radio basically like, ‘Get your butt in gear and go get him.’ So, I thought, ‘Heck, I’ll drive down there in turn one really far and it looked like Kyle, his car got real slow that last lap like his tires were just burnt up," Edwards said. "He did a really good job keeping me held at bay until then but then we went down the back straightaway and I saw him spin the tires.

"So, going back down the back straightaway I thought, ‘I’m going for the bottom. That’s where I’m going.’ He went down there and just parked it and his car was sliding and I was just so much faster I had to give him a little tap and we got by him. I didn’t think I was going to get him hard enough. I thought it would just be a bump and go but we got the win."

It was a textbook pass, one that Dale Earnhardt would have had no fear of making and would have subsequently been lauded for. And Edwards said he would have expected the same move from Busch had the roles been reversed.

Was it dirty? You can only come to that conclusion if you believe there are different rules when teammates are racing together; and there are many NASCAR fans who hate the concept of team orders. It was the perfect short track move. Especially in the final corners of the last lap. 

Edwards led 151 of the race's 400 laps. Busch led 78, meaning that JGR cars once again led the majority of laps. The last time the team's cars were in a last-lap pass situation together was in the Daytona 500 when Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth were all at the front. Hamlin made a move (initially to block the advances of Kevin Harvick) on the final lap and ended up passing Kenseth for the lead and holding off Martin Truex Jr. for the win.

Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Harvick rounded out the top five while Tony Stewart finished 19th in his first race back from a

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 24, 2016, 8:57 pm

RICHMOND, Virginia – Tony Stewart doesn't seem too deterred by the $35,000 fine NASCAR levied against him on Thursday.

Stewart, who was interviewed at his car before Sunday's race by Fox Sports 1, said he considered his fine for (likely) speaking out against NASCAR's lug nut rules "well-invested. Via NBC Sports:

“I understand what NASCAR is trying to do but I’m always going to speak my mind,” the three-time champion told Fox Sports before Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway. “And I don’t know what the key word or key phrase was that got me fined, but when it comes to safety, I’m not going to hold back. That’s $35,000 well invested if it makes it safer for these guys.”

NASCAR didn't specify what Stewart's fine was for, but given his public comments during the week involved lug nut rules and his return to the Sprint Cup Series, we can safely assume what topic got Stewart in trouble.

The Drivers Council, which Stewart is a member of, said it would step up and pay Stewart's fine because it didn't agree with the penalty. Denny Hamlin, who issued the statement from the council, said the drivers felt they should be able to speak their minds freely.

“I think it kind of shows a unity amongst us," Hamlin said Friday. "It really has nothing to do with lug nuts or no lug nuts or anything like that, it’s more so the drivers believing that they have a right to express their opinion especially when asked in an interview ... We just think that there should be a little bit of leniency there for someone that knows a lot about our sport and has been in our sport a long time. He gave his opinion and especially when it’s something on safety too."

Less than 24 hours after fining Stewart, NASCAR said it would re-evaluate the rules regarding lug nuts. When the sanctioning body changed its procedures for officiating pit stops before the 2015 season, it stopped mandating that teams fasten all five lug nuts to secure the wheels on the wheel hubs.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 24, 2016, 5:59 pm

RICHMOND, Virginia – Even though Tony Stewart was fined by NASCAR for saying he was mad at NASCAR for its current rules regarding lug nuts, his comments could help spur the sanctioning body make changes to the way it officiates tire changes during a pit stop.

NASCAR Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said Friday that the sanctioning body is re-evaluating the current rules regarding the fastening of wheels to the car. While the NASCAR rule book has provisions for penalties against teams who don't fasten a wheel to a car securely, it currently doesn't mandate how many lug nuts teams must fasten to a wheel.

"We've had the same rules on lug nuts for the past two seasons and the rules have been pretty clear and until this point never really had too much trouble," Miller said. "But obviously there's been strong rules in place, pretty severe penalties associated with the rules that are in place since the drivers are now questioning it, it's time for us to kind of re-evaluate our position and work with the community on looking at possibly different ways to enforce the pit road rules."

No timetable was given for any potential changes – Miller's press availability was just over five minutes as a NASCAR spokesperson said Miller needed to communicate with teams about the topic. Stewart was fined $35,000 less than 24 hours before Miller appeared in the Richmond media center, apparently because series officials deemed his remarks were disparaging to the sport.

As Miller noted, if a wheel comes off a car during competition, a crew chief can face a four-race suspension per the rule book.

Loose wheels have forced many teams to pit road during the recent Sprint Cup races at Texas and Bristol. As teams are fastening less than five lug nuts to wheels in an effort to save time, the wheels aren't sometimes fastened securely to the hubs. If a wheel isn't fastened securely, the wheel starts to vibrate and a driver hits pit road upon feeling that sensation.

Stewart said he believed a driver could eventually get hurt if a driver ended up crashing because of a loose wheel. He was not the first driver to talk about the lug nut rule; Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had previously expressed their opinions on the topic.

"The teams are being very aggressive with [lug nuts] and it's been brought up as a concern," Miller said. "And when any of our competitors raise concern it's time to take a bit of a harder look at it."

The lug nut rules changed after the 2014 season when NASCAR moved to a different officiating system on pit road. Prior to 2015, NASCAR had officials stationed on pit road near each stall to look for violations, including those involving lug nuts. Now, NASCAR officials are stationed in a trailer and watch each pit stop via high-definition cameras positioned to view pit road.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 22, 2016, 8:28 pm

RICHMOND, Virginia – It was a good idea to post the fastest practice speed during Friday practice, Kevin Harvick. It means you're starting first for Sunday's race at Richmond.

Rain wiped out Friday's scheduled qualifying session meaning that the field will be set based off the speeds during Friday's practice session (which was also cut short by the storms). Harvick had the fastest lap at just over 129 MPH, so he gets to start first.

Joey Logano will start second while Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin will round out the top five. It's the first time since the Daytona 500 that more than 40 cars have attempted the race, meaning a car did not qualify. That car is the No. 98 of Cole Whitt, which was the slowest non-charter car during practice.

In an ironic twist, Premium Motorsports, Whitt's team, leased its charter to HScott Motorsports' No. 46 of Michael Annett before the season. Annett crashed his car during practice and didn't post a practice speed. If the No. 98 had its charter, it would be in the race and Annett would be out of luck.

Here's the starting order for Sunday's race:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Joey Logano
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Carl Edwards
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Kurt Busch
8. Kasey Kahne
9. Kyle Busch
10. AJ Allmendinger
11. Austin Dillon
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13. Matt Kenseth
14. Ryan Newman
15. Kyle Larson
16. Trevor Bayne
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
18. Tony Stewart
19. Greg Biffle
20. Brian Scott
21. Danica Patrick
22. Martin Truex Jr.
23. Chase Elliott
24. Aric Almirola
25. Casey Mears
26. Paul Menard
27. Jamie McMurray
28. Landon Cassill
29. Ryan Blaney
30. David Ragan
31. Josh Wise
32. Michael McDowell
33. Chris Buescher
34. Regan Smith
35. Reed Sorenson
36. Matt DiBenedetto
37. Ryan Ellis
38. Jeffrey Earnhardt
39. Clint Bowyer
40. Michael Annett

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 22, 2016, 7:59 pm

RICHMOND, Virginia –Denny Hamlin reiterated Friday that the statement from the Drivers Council regarding Tony Stewart's fine from NASCAR was a signal of support for a driver's right to share his opinion.

Stewart was fined $35,000 Thursday, very likely for comments regarding the lack of a rule in NASCAR mandating teams fasten all five lugnuts on a pit stop. Fewer lug nuts on a wheel increase the chances of a loose wheel.

After Stewart's fine was announced, the council issued a statement through Hamlin that said its members would pitch in to pay the penalty.

"When Tony informed us of the fine, we didn’t agree with it and no one agreed with it and we thought there was something we should do about it," Hamlin said. "This was a way for us to send a message back to NASCAR, not that we were trying to send any specific message that we just believe that we should have the right to speak our opinion. I don’t know whether everyone agrees with the opinion he had or not, but it doesn’t matter. It’s what he was asked so he answered the question. I think that was the biggest thing for us. We should have the right to speak our opinion.”

Hamlin added he had not heard from NASCAR since the release of the statement Thursday evening.

Stewart, who said he was "P.O.'d" and "mad," about the lack of the rule, cited the potential for an incident where a wheel comes off a car and a driver gets injured. While other drivers had previously mentioned possible safety concerns about the rule, Stewart was the first to be fined for his comments on the issue by NASCAR leading one to believe that the delivery of the message was more of an issue to NASCAR than the content was.

Do drivers believe the penalty came because of the words Stewart used when professing his concerns? Both Hamlin and Brad Keselowski said they weren't sure where NASCAR had drawn the line regarding driver remarks.

“I don’t know where the line is, I don’t know if there is a line – obviously there is a line, but obviously we just believe that you should be able to express your opinion as long as you’re not just totally trashing the sport itself or anything like that," Hamlin said.

The statement from the council makes it clear that the drivers don't feel Stewart was trashing the sport.

“I would say that I don’t have an answer because I don’t know myself as well," Keselowski said when asked if drivers had found a line. "It is murky waters for me.”

The council has a text message chain among its members; those members include Stewart, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson. The committee was formed last year to help coordinate discussion of issues with NASCAR and the move to publicly rebuke NASCAR's ruling is the first major public disagreement between the parties.

“I think that the driver’s interests and the owner’s interests is 95 percent aligned most of the time," Hamlin said. "There’s some things that we feel like we would like to see changed, sometimes it doesn’t align with what NASCAR thinks or what the teams think, but I think that this was a pretty black and white thing from a driver’s perspective to have a guy that’s coming back and is in the middle of an interview and gets asked a question and he responds to the question and gets fined for it..."

"Our meetings with NASCAR have changed the sport and will continue to change the sport for many years. Mostly it’s all positive, every now and then we feel like we should show solidarity to a guy whose done a lot for the sport and we still don’t want to be so politically correct all the time and have to filter our thoughts and think about it because we have sponsors on our cars or owners we have to answer to or NASCAR, sometimes you just want to say what you feel and we feel like you should be able to do that at times.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 22, 2016, 7:02 pm

Tony Stewart will have some help paying his $35,000 fine.

Stewart was fined by NASCAR on Thursday for (apparent) comments the sanctioning body believe degraded the sport. The Drivers Council, a group of drivers formed in 2015 to give drivers a unified voice when it came to discussing issues with NASCAR, released a statement to NBC Sports through Denny Hamlin that said it supported Stewart and would pay his fine.

We as drivers believe Tony has the right to speak his opinion on topics that pertain to a sport that he has spent nearly two decades helping build as both a driver and an owner. While we do not condone drivers lashing out freely at NASCAR, we do feel Tony was in his rights to state his opinion. We as a Council support him and do not agree with the fine. Therefore, we fellow council members have agreed to contribute equally to paying his fine.

The three-time champion said he was mad at NASCAR for the 2015 removal of a rule that mandated teams fasten all five lug nuts to a wheel. Teams are now fastening fewer than five lugs on a wheel at times in an effort to save fractions of a second on pit road and drivers are subsequently complaining of more loose wheels. Stewart said he felt loose wheels were a safety issue and was not the first driver to talk about his concerns with the rule.

And while NASCAR didn't specify in its penalty release what Stewart's fine was for, it doesn't take much to believe that the sanctioning body was unhappy with the words Stewart used in expressing his displeasure.

Stewart is a member of the driver's council, which also includes Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson. The statement is the first major public disagreement with NASCAR from the council and could set an interesting precedent going forward when drivers feel NASCAR is acting unjustly in doling out punishments.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 22, 2016, 3:09 am

Hours after announcing he was returning to the cockpit of the No. 14 car in the Sprint Cup Series, Tony Stewart was fined $35,000 by NASCAR for remarks deemed disparaging.

The comments are, ostensibly, the ones he made on Wednesday at a promotional appearance. Stewart said the absence of NASCAR's rule mandating teams tighten all five lug nuts on a wheel was a safety issue. There are no specifics in the NASCAR release regarding what comments led to the fine.

Stewart's fine falls under Section 12 of the rule book, specifically member conduct guidelines.

According to Section 12.8.1, actions that could result in a $10,000-$50,000 fine include disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR's leadership, or verbal abuse of a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.

Here's part of what Stewart said about the rule. Before 2015, teams were forced to tighten all five lug nuts on a wheel. Now teams can tighten as many as they would like, though the decision comes with the risk of a wheel coming loose and falling off.

“I’m beyond mad, I’m P.O.’d at NASCAR about it, to be honest. For all the work and everything all the bulletins and all the new stuff we have to do to superspeedway cars and all these other things they want us to do for safety, we can’t even make sure we put five lug nuts on the wheel.

“It’s not even mandatory anymore. I mean, you don’t have to have but one on there if you don’t want. It’s however many you think you can get away with. So we’re putting the drivers in jeopardy to get track position. It’s not bit anybody yet, but I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt. You will not have heard a rant that’s going to be as bad as what’s going to come out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel that hurts one of them. With all the crap we’re going through with all the safety stuff, and for them to sit there and sit on their hands on this one … ”

He also said this. Via NBC:

“We didn’t make the change to begin with,” he said. ”It’s not our responsibility. That’s their responsibility. We did it for how many years in the sport? Sixty-plus years? And now in the last two years now we don’t have to do that.

“Last year it started; this year you see the problem getting worse. Well if you see a problem getting worse like that, where’s the bottom of that trend going to happen? It’s going to happen when somebody gets hurt, and that’s going to be one of the largest black eyes I can see NASCAR getting when they’ve worked so hard and done such a good job to make it safe. In this one particular area, they are totally dropping the ball on and I feel like really made a grossly bad decision on.”

It's not the first time Stewart has spoken out about NASCAR this year, though it's the first time he's been fined. Earlier this season he said he wanted to see NASCAR CEO Brian France at the track more often.

The fine is part of NASCAR's new penalty guidelines outlined before the season began. The sanctioning body has wanted to be more transparent when it came to driver fines and has said it would publicly penalize drivers who spoke out against the sport. Drivers had been previously given secret fines for comments about NASCAR.

Were Stewart's comments fine-worthy? While you can understand NASCAR taking offense to the language Stewart used to express his feelings, he was making a legitimate point. And you can also wonder if NASCAR is putting itself in a corner with the fine if it does decide to alter the existing lug nut rule in the future . It would take a serious bit of verbal gymnastics to justify a lug nut rule change (especially if it is for safety reasons) after it fined a driver for raising the issue of safety.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 21, 2016, 9:51 pm

It's time for Happy Hour. As always, tweet us your thoughts or shoot us an email at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com if you want to participate.

We're out in Richmond for the race this weekend, and saw the announcement from Stewart-Haas Racing of Tony Stewart's return upon landing. Quite the unexpected news.

Stewart is returning three races before Kyle Busch did in 2015. And, like Busch, Stewart has been given a waiver to be eligible to participate in the Chase if he qualifies.

@NickBromberg What's the point in a rule if everyone gets a waiver? Im not against Stewart getting a waiver, but it was a non NASCAR injury

— Deuce Deucer (@dallasjhawk) April 21, 2016

This is once again an opportunity to talk about the ridiculousness of the Chase waiver. If everyone gets one, there's no need to have one. There have now been four drivers receive Chase waivers over the past two seasons (Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers and Stewart); it's time to get rid of the waiver altogether.

The waiver is necessary because NASCAR says a driver must attempt to qualify for every race to be eligible for the Chase. But if the waiver is simply a formality (and it is) why does the rule exist? NASCAR should simply make Chase eligibility contingent on a driver winning a race and being in the top 30 in points whether he runs 12 races before the Chase begins or 26.

@NickBromberg BIGGER STORY: TONY STEWART RETURNING OR THE SEASON PREMIERE OF GAME OF THRONES?

— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) April 21, 2016

We've never watched GoT, so we're going Smoke.

@NickBromberg Smoke spoke out against lugnut situation, so does he make his guys go with 5 at Richmond, or go with what the rest do?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 21, 2016

Ooohhh, the always fun NASCAR moral dilemma. We talked about the lug nut rule here yesterday after Stewart made his comments. The guess is Stewart's team is cautious this week simply because there are no race-winning expectations. Rather the goal is to get Stewart comfortable in the car and complete the race. Could we be completely off-base? Of course, but less than five lug nuts are a necessary risk when you're running for wins. It feels like an unnecessary risk in Stewart's case.

Here's a sampling of emails we received after Bristol regarding Kyle Busch's car hitting a fan. The point that this was an accident and that jumping to assign blame to either party is foolish still stands.

I would HAVE to defend Kyle in this unfortunate accident. I have had many, many  ( Hot Passes ) from NASCAR and tracks, over the past 20+ years. It makes me wonder why a complete fool such as this lady, was allowed anything from NASCAR or SMI racing. Seems to me if her husband was or is a driver, she should know the "RULES"... Or is she going to plead ignorance and try and sue Kyle, JGR, and or Marcus Smith, and SMI Racing. I say to all of the above, PLEASE don't give this fool, another pass, or allow her to EVER attend ANY NASCAR SANCTION TRACK in the world. Marcus, take it from me. This idiot is a LAWSUIT in the making. Good luck to you, Marcus, Kyle, and NASCAR. - Al

In my opinion, any fan allowed in the 'Pit Area' must stay aware of elements that happen surrounding the race; especially at Bristol's short track. Anyone in the 'Garage Area' taking pictures while standing in an area of escape for the Sprint Cup Drivers should not be standing in the direct route of entry ... After my carefully review of the incident on video, Erin Vandyke could not have been paying attention to the race in question. It appears she was more interested in 'her pictures' too help fill her photo album. Please do not place blame on Kyle Busch, and if you follow the skid markings of his car, you will see the markings attempting to turn left, making a strong attempt to avoid contact with Ms. Vandyke. - Luther

In your article about Kyle Busch hitting a woman in the pit area at Bristol you state that it is surprising that these type of incidents don't happen more often given THE LEVEL OF FAN ACCESS AT NASCAR RACES. In your dreams .Fan access at NASCAR is almost none existent. Only the BIG money people (movie stars, sponsor personnel,their friends & relatives and other various butt kissers have access to anything NASCAR. The real fans can only dream about it. - Jim

There seem to be a lot of "real" fans in the garages at NASCAR races. Perhaps we're delusional.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 21, 2016, 8:07 pm

Tony Stewart's final Sprint Cup Series season is about to begin.

Stewart, who has missed the first eight races of the season after suffering a fractured vertebra in a dune buggy incident in January, will return to the driver's seat of the No. 14 car at Richmond on Sunday after being cleared by doctors to race.

“As soon as the doctors said they were happy with my scans, I wasn’t going to wait any longer to get back in my racecar,” Stewart said in a statement. “I want to make the most of my last season in Sprint Cup, and I’ve been on the sidelines long enough.”

Brian Vickers was tabbed to drive the No. 14 car at Richmond in Stewart's absence. He's filled in for Stewart along with Ty Dillon.

Dillon will drive with Stewart at Talladega, the race after Richmond on the schedule. Stewart will start the race to get the points and he will be replaced by Dillon at some point in the early stages of the race. The team doesn't want to risk Stewart being caught in one of the inevitable multi-car crashes at Talladega.

“We’re taking a strategic approach to my return,” Stewart said. “Richmond is a track where I feel very comfortable and because it’s a short track, the speeds are substantially less. The Goodyear test in Indy is sort of a controlled environment, allowing me to get more acclimated with my car at higher speeds. We’ll start the Talladega race to get the points, but understanding the style of racing and the higher potential of getting involved in an incident, we thought it was best to minimize the amount of time I’m in the car. I’ll return fulltime at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup."

The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion announced in the fall of 2015 that 2016 would be his final season. Clint Bowyer, currently driving on a one-year deal for HScott Motorsports, is taking over the No. 14 in 2017.

Stewart is making his return to the Cup Series three races sooner than Kyle Busch did in 2015 after suffering a broken leg and a broken foot in an Xfinity Series race at Daytona. As you know, Busch won the 2015 Chase. Like Busch, Stewart has gotten a waiver to participate in the Chase despite not attempting to qualify for every race.

"NASCAR received the appropriate medical clearance documentation allowing Tony Stewart to resume normal racing activities," NASCAR vice president Steve O'Donnell said in a statement. "We also have granted the request from Stewart-Haas Racing for a waiver for Tony to be eligible to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. As he begins his final season, we wish Tony the best of luck."

But Busch made the Chase by winning multiple races over the summer months. Stewart hasn't won a race since 2013 when he won at Dover. He's struggled with the higher-downforce setups the Sprint Cup Series rules have employed over the past two seasons and the lower-downforce rules this year should be to his benefit. But how much to his benefit? We're about to find out.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 21, 2016, 3:58 pm

In our latest installment of our Making the Driver series, we feature David Gilliland, who spent over nine years in the Cup Series and attempted the 2016 Daytona 500 for Front Row Racing.

While Gilliland doesn't currently have a full-time ride in NASCAR, we thought he'd be a good subject given the way his career rose to prominence and how his son Todd is on the path to becoming a name known by many NASCAR fans. So we asked Gilliland earlier this spring about the big break he got winning that 2006 Xfinity Series race in Kentucky and helping manage the career of a 15-year-old driving prodigy.

Gilliland got his start in the K&N Pro Series West. His dad, Butch, was a champion of the series and Gilliland made his first official starts start-and-parking while also crew chiefing for his father.

He won his first West Series race in 2004 at Mesa Marin Speedway and finished third in the standings that season. The win at Mesa Marin started the process of joining forces with car owner Clay Andrews.

DG: He had a kid driving for him and they went to Mesa Marin and they were really fast. They ended up finishing the race and Clay was just getting in to the K&N Series and I was with a team that was obviously, we had won multiple races that year, but I was always trying to move up and try and better myself, move up the ladder and get that next opportunity. And Clay came by and we ended up winning the K&N race at Mesa Marin and they were there racing and he called me the next day after that race and I wasn’t sure of my plans for the next year. He said he wanted to run K&N Series and possibly some Xfinity races and so we got to talking and the rest is kind of history.

Gilliland finished fourth in the West Series in 2005 and also made his Xfinity Series debut. He and Andrews focused on the Xfinity Series in 2006 and Kentucky was his fifth start of the season. He qualified fourth and led 11 laps, beating Joe Gibbs Racing's J.J. Yeley to the finish.

The win by a part-time driver for an independent team (crew chiefed by former Sprint Cup Series crew chief Bill Wilburn), was an improbable one. It looks more and more improbable today given the way that Cup drivers and teams are dominating the Xfinity Series.

DG: When we won at Kentucky they were saying the same thing [about Cup drivers]. They were calling them Buschwhackers, they didn’t think a regular stand-alone team could go out and win. At the time I was working my guts out, helped start that team. I moved from California to North Carolina. I had won multiple races before that and I was working hard because I felt we could win. And when we did win I was kind of like ‘Man, why is everyone making a big deal out of this, we’ve been working 14, 16 hours a day for the last four months, what do people think we’ve been working for?’

I felt all along that we could do it. But now looking back at it, obviously it’s been 10 years and it was a much bigger accomplishment than I felt like it was at the time. Just because looking back, when you’re in the trenches sometime you can’t get a good clear, clean picture of what you’re really up against.

FTM: What was your biggest memory from that race?

DG: Probably the biggest memory is after the race, [former Cup driver] Jerry Nadeau had been helping me, kind of coaching me a little bit. He had been to a lot of the tracks I hadn’t been to. In victory lane I remember him telling me 'Hey man, your life has changed forever tonight.’ And I thought ‘I’ve spent my whole career waiting for something to happen. … I’d been racing for close to 10 years and we’d been so close so many times and I just didn’t feel like that was going to do anything. I didn’t feel like it was going to do anything differently than any of the other wins I had had.

Gilliland quickly learned the win would change a lot of things. His phone blew up with phone calls and the first was from Richard Childress. He ended up moving to Yates Racing and making his first start in the No. 38 car at Michigan just over two months later. The seat at Yates had opened up because Elliott Sadler made an in-season move to Ray Evernham's team. His dream of a full-time ride in the Cup Series had quickly been realized. Does he ever wonder whatever would have happened without winning that race?

DG: You can go back and look at everything. The Kentucky race probably wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t have won a K&N race at Phoenix. That wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t have won a big race … I built my first dirt car out of a single car garage when my wife and I got married in an 800 square foot house. ... There’s so many things you look back on and the opportunities that people have given me along the way. None of it would have been possible without any of those people giving me opportunities along the way and I’m very grateful and thankful for that.

After parting ways with Yates following the 2008 season, Gilliland drove a season for TRG Motorsports before joining Front Row Racing for six seasons. Now, he's helping Todd navigate his first full season in the K&N West Series. Todd Gilliland has won all three of his K&N West Series starts and won his first start in the East Series (at New Smyrna in February), becoming the first driver to win his first four career K&N Series starts since Dan Gurney. The streak ended at four when Todd finished ninth at Bristol on Saturday in the East Series race.

David said Todd's first time in a late model was at 12 years old after running quarter midgets. By the end of his first test session he was running incredibly quick lap times -- times as fast as David had run.

DG: I was pretty surprised, actually. When we went, he’s like ‘Dad what are we going to work on today?’ And I’m like ‘Well you’re going to work on learning to drive a car that you’re offset in.’ Everything he had ever driven he was in the center of the car. Open wheel.

The biggest thing I need to remind myself on a daily basis is that he’s just still 15 years old. It’s hard. You go race with him and how he acts, and how he presents himself and how he drives and his maturity level is much beyond 15 years old and definitely not what I was doing at 15 years old.

Todd's proficiency has also changed David's way of thinking about how drivers should work their way up the racing ladder.

DG: When I worked my way up, I built my own race cars, I had a business working and building cars for other people. That’s what helped make me successful and that’s what helped make me a better driver was understanding the cars. Which definitely helped my dad too. So the whole time that’s what I thought how you do it. And then being in the Cup Series and seeing guys like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney and the future stars and current stars of the Cup Series come along and even Jimmie Johnson, he raced off-road trucks, right … kind of made me rethink my thinking on what it takes to be a successful racer.

With my son Todd, he started racing at a young age and he just gets it. He has something that I don’t have and never did have. He just gets it. He’s a good racer. He’s smart, he’s fast. And so it’s kind of helped me to shift gears and think well maybe he still works on the cars and helps us but I know it’s not a necessity to be in the Cup Series where he wants to go.

And Todd, who turns 16 in May, will soon be eligible to run in the Camping World Truck Series on a limited basis.

DG: My ultimate goal right now is – with him being at 16 years old you can run truck races, the short track truck races. What I’ve been thinking about going to work on right now is trying to put a truck deal together to maybe share that ride with him next year and run the bigger tracks like Joe [Nemechek] did with John Hunter Nemechek. I think that would be a lot of fun and to race with him and obviously race against him would be a lot of fun. We raced against each other, my dad myself and Todd all raced against each other two years ago at Irwindale Speedway in a super late model race. That was really special, probably one of the best memories I’ve probably had at the race track.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 21, 2016, 1:44 pm

Tony Stewart thinks teams putting less than five lug nuts on a wheel is a safety issue.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion spoke out against the absence of NASCAR's lug nut rule. The sanctioning body removed the requirement that teams had to have all five lug nuts fastened on each wheel before the 2015 season. Without a lug nut requirement, teams have been putting fewer than five lugnuts on in some cases in an effort to have faster pit stops.

Subsequently, the lack of five lug nuts being fastened has contributed to a lot more loose wheels, forcing teams to pit again. Those second pit stops end up taking away all of the fractions of a second teams gain on pit road by fastening fewer than five lugs. If you watched Sunday's race at Bristol (and the previous race at Texas), it was hard to miss all the teams forced to come back to pit road because of loose wheels.

Without the all five rule in place, Stewart said it's only a matter of time until a loose wheel results in something with more consequences than a second pit stop. From NBC Sports:

“I’m beyond mad, I’m P.O.’d at NASCAR about it, to be honest,” Stewart said Wednesday during an event to promote sponsor Mobil 1’s green initiatives. “For all the work and everything all the bulletins and all the new stuff we have to do to superspeedway cars and all these other things they want us to do for safety, we can’t even make sure we put five lug nuts on the wheel.

“It’s not even mandatory anymore. I mean, you don’t have to have but one on there if you don’t want. It’s however many you think you can get away with. So we’re putting the drivers in jeopardy to get track position. It’s not bit anybody yet, but I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt. You will not have heard a rant that’s going to be as bad as what’s going to come out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel that hurts one of them. With all the crap we’re going through with all the safety stuff, and for them to sit there and sit on their hands on this one … ”

You can certainly see Stewart's point. Teams are going to exploit anything they can for the sake of speed. But at the same time, teams themselves aren't entirely blameless either. You can say that you were incentivized to do something in the name of competition, but the point that you did that thing still stands.

And while teams are playing it safe on the track after a loose wheel now, it doesn't take much of a leap to believe that conservatism would change in the Chase. If a team had a loose wheel late in a race and was clinging to the hope of Chase advancement, would it stay on the track and risk a crash or come to pit road and all but quash its Chase hopes?

The disappearance of the lug nut rule also coincided with the use of NASCAR's pit road cameras. The cameras, mounted to face each pit stall from the front stretch, are used by NASCAR officials in a trailer to officiate all pit stops. The system replaced officials stationed on pit road who watched for violations.

But while officials on pit road could see both sides of a car, the camera only sees one side. If NASCAR was to reinstitute the lug nut rule, tweaks would have to be made to the current officiating system to watch for violations.

Oh, and one more thing. Loose wheels are a safety issue, as Stewart said. Which is why it makes the disappearance of the rule a bit hypocritical by NASCAR, a sport that has touted its safety advancements over the past 15 years.

However, it's fair to say that many of the safety advancements in NASCAR have been reactionary rather than proactive like the proliferation of SAFER barriers or mandated head and neck restraints and throttle kill switches. Unless NASCAR is suddenly moved by Stewart's words and/or the rash of loose wheels throughout 2016, it could take a major incident for the lug nut rule to come back.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 20, 2016, 9:21 pm

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. Carl Edwards (LW: 7): Edwards gets the opportunity to make a six-spot jump in this week's rankings after both Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson had issues during Sunday's race. The win means Edwards is the third Joe Gibbs Racing car to essentially be in the Chase (we expect Matt Kenseth to make it as well) and also means Bristol is his winningest track. Edwards has four wins at Bristol and three at Atlanta and Texas. And while Edwards has 10 of his 26 career wins at those three tracks, they haven't been his best from an average finish standpoint. They're all outside the top 10.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5): We thought about putting Junior at No. 1 because he was two spots ahead of Edwards last week and came back to finish second after essentially giving the entire field a two-lap head start thanks to the power issues he suffered at the beginning of the race. We decided to give the bump to Edwards based off the win, however, because we're in favor of more bonus points being given to race winners. And we should put our feeling where our power rankings are.

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): Busch had a very fast car. He also had a car that had a propensity to hit the wall (twice) and spin (once). He hit the wall after two right-front tire failures and the spin came off the bumper of Chris Buescher after a few cars jammed up ahead of Busch. In the midst of those incidents, he passed a lot of cars. Oh, and he's gotten a lot of attention for what happened in the garage after he hit the wall a second time. If you want our thoughts on that incident

4. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 2): Johnson was heading for a good day and a good finish until the dreaded message came from crew chief Chad Knaus. The team may not have gotten all of the lugnuts tight on one of the wheels during a pit stop. Sure enough, Johnson was forced to pit under green for the problem and ended up finishing 23rd. Though the pit stop did give us the opportunity to witness a great battle with AJ Allmendinger.

5. Joey Logano (LW: 3): Logano is looking at Junior and is saying "yeah, so what?" After he had to pit under green for a loose wheel (this is a theme this season), Logano's team was penalized for a tire violation on the pit stop. The penalty meant that he went three laps down after serving the penalty. Thanks to timing and strategy, Logano was able to get back on the lead lap and ended up finishing 10th after gaining eight spots over the final green flag stretch of the race.

6. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4): Man, what a bad day for Kevin Harvick. He finished seventh, right where he qualified. Harvick is really struggling lately with three-straight finishes outside the top five. Maybe he'll get back on track with a top three in Richmond.

7. Kurt Busch (LW: NR): His third-place finish on Sunday was his second-straight top 10 after his first two finishes outside of it of the season. It was also his first top-three finish at Bristol since the spring of 2010 when he was driving for Team Penske. We like his chances for a third-straight top 10 at Richmond. Busch won last year's spring race at the track, which was also run on a Sunday because of rain.

8. Chase Elliott (LW: 10): Elliott finished fourth on Sunday, his fifth top-10 of the season. He now has more top 10s than Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and a whole host of other drivers. Yet he's behind all four of those drivers above in the points standings. If he keeps racking up the top 10s he'll be passing them.

9. Brad Keselowski (LW: 6): Like his teammate, Keselowski also had a pit road penalty. He got caught speeding early in the race and had to restart at the back of the field. After moving back to the front, he then had another mishap after he had to pit under green for a flat tire with less than 120 laps to go. Keselowski finished 18th (and on the lead lap).

10. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 8): Truex also rebounded from a late-race green flag pit stop when he had to come to pit road because of a loose wheel ... for the second time. The first loose wheel incident happened under caution and Truex had worked his way back in to the top 10. He wasn't able to get bear the front of the field by the end of the race following the second one, but he finished 14th. It could have been a whole lot worse.

11. Trevor Bayne (LW: NR): Sunday was Bayne's first top five since he won at Daytona in 2011. So yes, it was the second top-five finish of his career. He's now back in the top 20 in points for the third time this season. Can he stay there?

12. Matt DiBenedetto (LW: NR): DiBenedetto's sixth-place finish was the best of his career and just the third time he's finished in the top 20. Well done, DiBurrito (the nickname he's been given at Reddit's NASCAR section).

Lucky Dog: Clint Bowyer. His 8th-place finish was his first top 10 of the season.

The DNF: Poor Matt Kenseth

Dropped Out: Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 19, 2016, 8:08 pm

Stuntman Damien Walters did a backflip over a Formula E car. The car was moving. And it was approaching Walters from behind.

Yes, really. Here's the incredible video.

How many people can perform a standing backflip like that, let alone have the guts to attempt something like that? We're not sure about you, but we didn't need the disclaimer at the beginning of the video to be dissuaded from going out and attempting to replicate this manuever.

Walters, 34, is a former gymnast and has done stunts for 16 movies, including SkyFall and Assassin's Creed. Before he got into show business, he was participated in the Team World Trampoline Championships for Great Britain.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 18, 2016, 7:05 pm

A woman who was bumped by Kyle Busch's wounded car in the infield at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday said she was sore and headed to the hospital following the race for precautionary reasons.

Busch brought his car to the infield after he hit the wall a second time from a flat right-front tire. The right side of Busch's car was severely damaged and the right-front wheel was bent. As his car slowly slid to a stop in the infield, it clipped Erin Vandyke in the back of the left leg.

From Fox Sports:

“After it happened, I didn’t go get checked initially when it happened,” Vandyke told FOXSports.com. “But after I started bending around, it starting hurting. So I went to the infield medical center and got checked out. And they told me if it started hurting more to go on and get checked completely, because they didn’t have X-rays there.”

Vandyke also reportedly posted this to Facebook Sunday evening after the collision.

Facebook post from fan hit by Busch today. Note she's the wife of a popular Late Model driver and should know better pic.twitter.com/yXIHuB9V10

— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverSBN) April 18, 2016

Busch also spun during Sunday's race. He retired his car after hitting the wall a second time and ended up finishing 38th.

It's easy to assign blame in a situation like this to either Busch or the woman, who was the only person in the path of Busch's car. But, at least initially, this doesn't seem to be a case where there's any fault. If you watch the GIF closely, an official had to jump out of the way of Busch's car. And Busch's car appears to be traveling underneath a rope dividing parts of the garage.

Given the noise levels at Bristol, you can't say with any certainty that the woman could have heard Busch's car coming. And given the condition of his right-front wheel, Busch's car doesn't look like it would have been easy to steer or stop. He was trying to get to the garage and was pulling in towards a Joe Gibbs Racing team pit box. There appear to be more people on that concrete patch Busch was on before veering to the left.

It's a bit surprising that incidents like this don't happen more often in the garage at NASCAR races given the level of fan access at NASCAR races. The garage can be a very crowded place, especially at smaller tracks or high-profile races. It can be hard to stay clear of every car when you're paying complete attention. Thankfully in this case, Vandyke wasn't seriously hurt.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 18, 2016, 2:46 pm

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.

• Look at the top 10 from Sunday's race at Bristol. If you showed this top 10 to a fellow race fan and asked them to guess the track, the most common guesses would be Daytona and Talladega.

[Related: Carl Edwards wins at Bristol]

1. Carl Edwards
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Kurt Busch
4. Chase Elliott
5. Trevor Bayne
6. Matt DiBenedetto
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Ryan Newman
10. Joey Logano

[Related: Junior bounces back from dead battery at race start to finish second]

DiBenedetto's finish is the best finish for BK Racing in team history and his career-best finish. It's also his first top-10. His previous career-best finish was 18th at Talladega last spring.

Bayne's top five is his first top-five finish since winning the 2011 Daytona 500 for his only Sprint Cup Series win. It's also his best finish for Roush Fenway Racing, which had all three of its cars in the top 10 at one point late in the race. Greg Biffle ended up finishing 12th and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 16th.

Bowyer's top 10 is his first of the season and his first top 10 since Talladega in the fall.

[Related: Kyle Busch hits wall twice and spins as effort for third-straight win falls short]

• Matt Kenseth is the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver without a win now. There's still no need to panic. He led 352 of 400 laps at Richmond in the fall. Richmond is the site of the next Cup race.

• Kyle Larson's season is quite the roller coaster. After climbing into the top 20 in points, he promptly had an issue with the track bar on the car and finished 35th.

• Ty Dillon took out Landon Cassill in Friday's qualifying when he spun into Cassill's slowing car. Sunday, Cassill tried to slide in front of Dillon late in the race and the two made solid contact again. Dillon was dealing with a wounded car after contact a few laps earlier, and Cassill was attempting to capitalize on great track position he garnered through some solid pit strategy. And while the thoughts of payback for Friday are likely more dream than reality, you can't blame Cassill for being a bit reckless given the driver he was passing.

• Will there be any procedural changes after Aric Almirola's crash? After Almirola hit the wall, his car eventually came to rest facing an inside wall separating the track and pit road. He had lost reverse gear in his car and with the way his car was positioned, needed help from track workers to get his car off the wall and pointed in the right direction.

Instead, Almirola was apparently instructed by workers to get out of his car despite it being able to carry on if was simply moved. He was called to the NASCAR hauler after the race, according to the Fox broadcast and his car was towed away from the scene.

Had Almirola been able to stay in his car he could have continued on. Reverse isn't vital. While we understand track safety workers are erring on the side of caution, Almirola should be able to continue on in a circumstance like that.

 

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 17, 2016, 9:54 pm

Not even the most ardent of Dale Earnhardt Jr. supporters could have claimed with a straight face that NASCAR's most popular driver was going to have a chance to win the race after watching what transpired on the opening lap at Bristol.

When the field took the green flag, 39 drivers accelerated. The 40th was Earnhardt Jr., who attempted to accelerate too. But his car didn't cooperate. As the entire field hurtled into turns 1 and 2 – well, those not stuck behind Junior – drivers in your neighborhood might have been going faster than Junior's car.

What happened? Well, Junior said he accidentally engaged the engine kill switch on the car.

"Yeah, we got the Roush system on our cars for the stuck‑throttle issue, and just warming the brakes up, I engaged that system to kill the throttle," Junior said. "I was warming the brakes up like I always do, and apparently I applied too much pressure and it killed the motor.

[Related: Kyle Busch hits wall twice and spins as effort for third-straight win falls short]

To get the engine to refire, Junior said he needed to cycle the electronic control unit on the car.

"So I just needed to cycle the ECU, reset that, came to pit road and did that," He said. "I probably could've done it on the track and saved ourselves a lot of trouble, but you don't know what's going on at that particular point, and you listen to the first thing anybody tells you when it comes to direction, and the first thing that my spotter said was that if I need to pit, I need to come on now."

Since Bristol is a place where laps at speed take 15 seconds, Junior was two laps down before he rejoined the race.  

He got those laps back thanks to some good strategy and some timely cautions. The race featured 15 yellow flags, so Junior was able to get on the lead lap with plenty of time to spare before the end of the race.

[Related: Quick takeaways from Bristol]

Getting to the front was partially due to simple circumstance too. As the caution flags bunched up over the race's final 100 laps, Earnhardt Jr. kept finding himself in an even-numbered position. That meant he would start in the preferred outside line on restarts.

"We got a lot of luck on those last several restarts to start on the outside," Junior said. "And gained some spots just being in the right lane. We didn't have a good enough car to run in the top five today but [crew chief Greg Ives and crew] did a great job getting those laps back."

He was sixth on the second-to-last restart. When Regan Smith hit the wall shortly after the green flag flew, Junior was fourth. That meant he got to start on the outside of the second row on the final restart – a spot that may be more advantageous than the inside of the front row.

[Related: Carl Edwards wins at Bristol]

And when the green flag flew for the final time, Junior bolted in front of the rest of the field behind race-winner Carl Edwards, making enjoying the challenge of fighting back from a huge early setback a whole hell of a lot easier.

"Yeah, just trying to have more fun and enjoy it," Junior said when asked about trying to not panic when the problem hit. "We had a little trouble early, and it just made today more difficult and made the challenge more fun, made it a bigger challenge than it was, and to run second, it's a great feeling to come back from what we did. It's something to smile about.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 17, 2016, 9:17 pm

Unsurprisingly, the entire Joe Gibbs Racing team was strong at Bristol on Sunday. Surprisingly, Carl Edwards was the only car that made it to the finish without incident.

He was the first car to cross the finish line too. After starting from the pole, Edwards led over half the race (276 of 500 laps) and pulled away from the field on the race's final restart with less than 10 laps to after Regan Smith's crash.

[Related: Quick takeaways from Bristol]

Not only did Edwards have a good car on longer runs, he was nearly unbeatable on restarts. Of course, by leading more than 50 percent of the race, you get to be near or at the front for its entirety. And when you're out front at Bristol, you get to start in the much-preferred outer line. It's incredibly hard to pass a car on the inside.

It was Edwards' fourth-career win at Bristol and his first with JGR, the team he joined in 2015.

Edwards' teammates had horrible days. Two of them didn't even make it to the finish. Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth both had fast cars but they each had multiple tire issues. After each driver slapped the wall a second time for a flat right-front tire, his race was done.

[Related: Kyle Busch hits wall twice and spins as effort for third-straight win falls short]

Denny Hamlin had tire issues too along with early-race contact on pit road with Brian Scott. Overall, the team had seven tire problems (Busch's first flat tire was because of a melted bead, Goodyear noted the cause of the others were under investigation) but Edwards was immune from them.

Hamlin at least made it to the finish, however. He finished 20th while Kenseth finished 36th and Busch was 38th. Despite his problems, Kenseth led the second-most laps of the race with 142. While Busch said his car was extremely tight – a condition that puts more stress on the right-front tire – Kenseth said he had no handling issues. And once again ended up with a poor finish in 2016 despite showing a bunch of speed.

“We just keep blowing right front tires, I don’t know why," Kenseth said after emerging from his car. "The first one was a little confusing, I knew I blew a right front, but I thought they were telling me it wasn’t flat so I was a little confused. This one just blew a lot earlier and the angle was a lot worse hitting the wall ... I was encouraged again today even though we don’t have the result. I have a smile on my face and we’ll go to Richmond and try again.”

Why is Kenseth smiling? Well, he won the last Cup race at Richmond and led 352 laps in the process.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second after dropping two laps almost immediately at the start of the race. Kurt Busch finished third while Chase Elliott and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top five.

[Related: Junior bounces back from dead battery at race start to finish second]

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 17, 2016, 8:57 pm

Instead of a third-straight win on Sunday, Kyle Busch had three accidents.

Busch, who had won the last two Sprint Cup Series races, hit the wall early in the race at Bristol because of a flat right-front tire. The tire popped as Busch was in the corner, and since he was already in the corner and on the high side of the track, the damage to his car wasn't too severe.

He was able to keep going, though he then spun off the bumper of Chris Buescher after cars stacked up ahead of Busch.

Busch rebounded once again and was knocking on the door of the top 10. Then he got a speeding penalty on pit road under caution and was forced to restart at the back of the field.

The death blow to his race came with a second wall-slam. His car lost another right-front tire and the damage from the second hit was too severe for Busch to continue. As Busch's car came to a stop in the infield, he collided with a fan who had her back turned to his car. The contact with the fan was slight and she appeared to be OK. Always keep your head on a swivel in the garage.

"We just kept getting tighter in the long run," Busch said. "Our car was really good yesterday and we were fast in practice and fast again today. We came from the back to the front a few times and probably one of the few cars able to do that today with as hard as it is the pass.

Since he has two wins, Busch's Chase hopes are just fine and barely worth mentioning. Instead, we'll take this time to tell you that the next Sprint Cup Series race is at Richmond.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 17, 2016, 7:10 pm

Hey, a driver who isn't a Sprint Cup Series regular won Saturday's Xfinity Series race at Bristol.

Though we can't claim it was much of an upset. Race-winner Erik Jones was the preseason title favorite after all. And he drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team that's won four races (through Kyle Busch) and seen its three cars finish in the top 10 17 of a possible 21 times this season.

 

Jones made his race-winning pass on a Sprint Cup Series driver. That driver is Kyle Larson, and then Jones held off Busch for the win. By winning the race, Jones is essentially locked in to making the 12-driver Xfinity Series Chase in its inaugural season. Given that it took seven races for an Xfinity Series regular to win a race, there are better odds of you becoming a NASCAR regular than of 13 or more Xfinity drivers winning a race before the Chase begins.

Saturday was also the first day that the Xfinity Series ran heat races before the main race. The two races were not dramatic, as we predicted earlier in the week. There were no lead changes or cautions in either race and the Dash 4 Cash promotion didn't even provide any drama. The top two Xfinity Series regulars in each heat were eligible for the promotion and the Dash 4 Cash spots ended up going to each of the two Xfinity drivers that were the highest qualifiers in their heats.

The heat races are back next week at Richmond. Maybe we'll see a lead change there.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 16, 2016, 9:28 pm

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Joe Gibbs Racing continued its run as the fastest team in the Sprint Cup Series during qualifying at Bristol on Friday.

The team took four of the top five starting spots including the entire front row. Carl Edwards will start first while Matt Kenseth starts second. Team Penske's Joey Logano is third while Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.

It's the second-straight time JGR has had the majority of cars in the top five for qualifying at the Bristol spring race. The starting grid for last year's race, won by Kenseth from the pole, had three JGR cars in the top five.

The team has been absolutely dominant in qualifying so far in 2016. Through the first eight races, its cars have made the final round of qualifying 26 of a possible 32 times including a top-three sweep at Phoenix. Damn.

There was a weird moment during the first round of qualifying as well, and no, it didn't involve any of the JGR cars. Ty Dillon, subbing for Tony Stewart in the No. 14 this weekend, spun during his qualifying attempt. His car ended up sliding into the back of Landon Cassill's as Cassill was slowing down to go back to pit road.

Here's how the field will line up at Bristol:

1. Carl Edwards
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Joey Logano
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Kyle Busch
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. AJ Allmendinger
10. Trevor Bayne
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Brad Keselowski
13. Jamie McMurray
14. Paul Menard
15. Austin Dillon
16. Casey Mears
17. Ryan Newman
18. Ryan Blaney
19. Chase Elliott
20. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
21. Chris Buescher
22. Aric Almirola
23. Greg Biffle
24. David Ragan
25. Kyle Larson
26. Kurt Busch
27. Brian Scott
28. Landon Cassill
29. Regan Smith
30. Matt DiBenedetto
31. Michael McDowell
32. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
33. Danica Patrick
34. Ty Dillon
35. Josh Wise
36. Clint Bowyer
37. Jeffrey Earnhardt
38. Reed Sorenson
39. Cole Whitt
40. Michael Annett

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 15, 2016, 9:35 pm

Don't consider Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a driver who is entirely comfortable with teams not fastening all five lug nuts to to the wheels during pit stops.

Before 2015, NASCAR mandated that teams fasten all five lug nuts per wheel when changing tires on a pit stop. The sanctioning body did away with the rule before last season and teams are now fastening four (or even three lug nuts) in an effort to save time on pit road.

“No, I don’t want to know," Junior said when asked Friday if he paid attention to how many lugnuts his team fastened per pit stop. "It’s freaky man. For me I’m one of the guys who is freaked out by it. I wish I could not care when the wheels are shaking, but you do. I’ve had a few come off and it never ends well."

There were multiple occasions during Saturday night's race at Texas when drivers had to pit because of tires that weren't completely fastened to the cars. The rule was taken away partially because it's a self-solving violation. If you run over an air hose on pit road there's no on-track penalty.

If a tire isn't fastened tightly, it'll start shaking and a driver will end up coming to pit road to take care of the vibration before the tire works its way off the stud completely. And if a tire comes off while a car is on the track, well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that's going to be a problem.

"I was blown away that NASCAR quit officiating that aspect," Junior said. "I could not believe that was the choice that they made. But that is the world we live in. There are not enough officials today to revert so it’s a knot that can’t be retied.  We will just have to try to do the best we can as drivers not to end up in the fence.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 15, 2016, 8:27 pm

Could Kyle Busch be joining his brother Kurt as drivers to race the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600? If you ask Kyle, it's not out of the realm of possibility.

The 2015 Sprint Cup Champ had been dropping hints about possibly running both races sometime and said Friday at Bristol that he's had some sponsor interest about doing the double. If Kyle was to try the 1100-mile drive, the two would be the first set of brothers to run both races.

“Joe’s going to be the hardest one for sure," Busch said. "[Wife] Samantha is not necessarily a fan of it and I’ve talked to her about it a little bit and she’s just like, ‘I’ll be there when the time comes, but don’t tell me.’"

"Then the sponsor aspect, they’ve actually shown some interest in it and that was kind of fun for me to hear that there might actually be an opportunity there if I continue my relationship with them from the Cup side to the IndyCar side. We have to work out all those details and it’s certainly not going to happen for this year, but maybe in some future years we’ll see what we can put together.”

Joe is of course Joe Gibbs, Busch's team owner. And while Gibbs could understandably be hesitant about letting his title-winning driver run both races after seeing him miss 11 races in 2015 because of nasty leg injuries suffered at Daytona, he's had experience with drivers trying both races before. When Tony Stewart ran both races in 1999 and 2001 he was racing for Gibbs.

Stewart's 2001 effort is still the best combined run in both races. He finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500 and third in the Coca-Cola 600. He's the only driver to finish in the top 10 in both races and he also did it in 1999. Kurt Busch was sixth in the 500 in 2014 but 40th in the 600 after an engine issue.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 15, 2016, 6:57 pm

It's time for Happy Hour. As always, tweet us your thoughts or shoot us an email at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com if you want to participate.

Oh boy, the email inbox was packed this week. And there was a common theme: the prayer before Saturday night's race at Texas. If you somehow misssed it, here's a post with the transcript of the prayer and here are Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage's comments defending the prayer and our thoughts regarding the defense. 

Below is a sampling of the emails we received regarding what we wrote. Some told us we needed to be saved, others questioned the faith of certain world leaders and even more weren't fit to print because of the grammar mistakes and/or profanity.

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His prayer didn't hurt one person there and could have possibly helped a few. I am not a right winger nor am I a person who attends church. It just gets old when you guys pick out this type thing and represent it as something bad. Our country has way too many issues that need discussing instead of one prayer at a race track. Please pick issues than concern us as Americans instead of trying to invoke issues they divide us. You are part of the problem. Use your talents for good. - Todd

This email was quite ironic as the prayer itself was divisive, which was the point of what we wrote on Saturday night and re-emphasized on Monday. There's no need to divide via religion before a NASCAR race. None.

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Nick, get a life. If you can’t find one for yourself Jesus will help, just ask him. - Ron

I find it amusing that as a NASCAR sports writer, you write an entire article that has nothing to do with racing but about your personal hurt feelings about what HAPPENED before a race. MAN UP! - Chad

What I read from your transcript of Mr. Robertson prayer at the NASCAR event was a prayer for all of us and our country. I really don't think Mr. Robertson cares, even though he endorsed Cruz, who is President if the said person is a Jesus man. Mr. Robertson knows and accepts God's will, and knows God's will trumps human wants and needs before all else. After reading your article, I guess you don't care about the facts, especially since Mr. Robertson views are not the same as yours and the Democrats. - Jeffrey

If you don't like the prayer that was offered at the race then why don't you simply turn the channel or turn the television off? The answer is because you only believe in freedom of speech as long as someone is saying something that you agree with. Whenever someone says something that goes against your politics then you moan and complain and call foul. Shame on you. You hypocrite. - Bob

The prayer could have been for an alien to invade the White House in a turnabout of Independence Day and the point still remains the same. There's no need to turn a race invocation political, even if the politics are playing to a very vocal segment of the fanbase. Why is wanting a sport to be apolitical such a hard concept to understand? We wonder how many people complaining about us being "offended" by the prayer (trust us, it takes a lot to move the offend-o-meter needle) would be unhappy if someone prayed for a political candidate they didn't support.

And by the way, nowhere did we advocate for the removal of pre-race prayers.

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Great column about the TX Motor Speedway's president defending the "prayer" last weekend. Keep them coming! - Paul

Hey, one positive email!

@NickBromberg what is Brian France's legacy so far?

— Caleb Whisler (@caleb_whisler) April 14, 2016

Simple answer: The Chase.

The definition of "The Chase" is still being defined, however. It was a necessary move in the crowded fall landscape as NASCAR made the move towards the national stage. It's no secret that we're much more in favor of the 10-race cumulative format and after two seasons, it's way too early to make a significant judgment on the the elimination-style Chase.

Part of the reason it's too early is because of NASCAR's propensity to change the Chase. While the sport seems committed to the current Chase format, you can never rule out any near-future changes just because of the pattern that's been established since the Chase's inception.

@NickBromberg So JGR winning 3 times and KyBu winning twice in Xfinity Sat will go over much better than a normal KyBu/JGR Saturday, right?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 14, 2016

This is the devil's spin on the heat races that will debut at Bristol on Saturday. Perhaps the best outcome for the dominance-hating NASCAR fan is to have all three of the JGR cars in one of the heats, meaning the other has to be won by a driver who isn't in a JGR car. Because given the way the season has unfolded so far, the odds of a three-race sweep involving Kyle Busch in some fashion are pretty good.

It'll be fun to see the reaction if/when a JGR car wins a race with an Xfinity driver like Erik Jones or Daniel Suarez behind the wheel. Will the relative relief of NASCAR fans that a Cup driver didn't win the race outweigh the fact that they're in equipment that's currently head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the series?

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 14, 2016, 7:48 pm

Saturday is a first for the Xfinity Series.

No, we're not referencing when a non-Sprint Cup driver wins the race (like that's going to happen anyway), but rather the heat races that will take place before Saturday's main race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The heat races at Bristol are the first of four Xfinity race weekends that will feature the format in 2016. The four races, all part of the Dash 4 Cash promotion, are at Bristol, Richmond, Dover and Indianapolis. Here's how they'll work.

• Drivers will single-car qualify (rather than the group format) before the heat races. The odd-numbered qualifiers (1st, 3rd, etc) will run in the first heat while the even-numbered qualifiers will race in the second heat.

• The heats, 50 laps each at Bristol, will determine the starting grid. The first heat will start in order on the inside and the second heat will start on the outside. 42 cars are currently entered for the race, meaning two will miss the race. [EDIT: The two DNQ cars will be eliminated before the heat races.]

• The main race, set to start shortly after the second heat Saturday afternoon, will be 200 laps.

There's a catch, however. And we think it's a pretty big one if you're looking for the heat races to be an incredbily dramatic and entertaining way to set the field.

Teams who blow an engine or crash a car in a heat race are not allowed to go to a backup. If you can't fix the car in time for the race to begin, you're screwed. You're either starting the race laps down or not starting the race at all.

We get why NASCAR instituted the rule; it's expensive in terms of parts and labor to have a backup car prepped and ready to go at a moment's notice if the primary car has a problem that isn't fixable. But the rule could make the heat races pretty boring affairs. Why risk daring maneuvers in the name of a starting spot or two when you could miss the race entirely if you crash?

There's also a Chase wrinkle too. The Dash 4 Cash prizes at the end of each race are awarded to the highest-finishing Xfinity Series regular in the race. If the same Xfinity Series driver is the highest finishing regular in two Dash 4 Cash races, he gets an automatic berth in the Chase. Given the rate that Sprint Cup Series drivers (*cough* Kyle Busch) have dominated the Xfinity Series so far this season, winning two Dash 4 Cash prizes may be the easiest way in to the Chase.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 13, 2016, 4:28 pm

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.

Before we get going, we feel obligated to embed the greatest pre-race prayer in NASCAR history. Happy thoughts!

Let's get to the rankings.

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): Busch needed a caution and some pit strategy to go his way Saturday night and he got it. When restarting fourth with fresh tires, he likely wasn't going to make up all the ground he needed to on Martin Truex Jr. to take the lead if the race was to go green the rest of the way. But Austin Dillon crashed as he fell through the pack and that put Busch on the front row of what ended up being the final restart. Combine that position with fresher tires than Truex, who didn't pit, and you know how the race ended.

2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 2): Johnson's race got off to an inauspicious start during the competition caution when he ran into the back of Busch's car on pit road. The contact left a giant dent in the front of the No. 48 that got taped over in subsequent pit stops. Did the dent hurt Johnson's chances at a win? Well, we can safely say they probably didn't help. He still finished fourth.

3. Joey Logano (LW: 5): Logano's car wasn't terrible throughout the race but it certainly wasn't in the stratosphere that the Joe Gibbs Racing cars were in. The No. 22 team worked on it all night and he was the fastest he'd been at the end of the race. Logano finished third.

4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3): Harvick was a bit frustrated with the handling of his car throughout the entirety of the race. The No. 4 team couldn't get the car to Harvick's liking so he could challenge for a top three position. Instead, he spend a majority of the race comfortably in the back part of the top 10. Of course, it's a great problem to have when you have a bad car and are still in the top 10, but these are the standards Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have set.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 9): Hey there, Junior. He took home the win in the non-JGR class by finishing second to Busch. He also had this to say about the final run of the race: "Obviously our car was good ... we had a lot of passing, which with the '14 or '15 package, I'd have never got by Joey," Junior said. "So it was fun to have an opportunity to sort of set somebody up and get it by him there at the end, and that's due to the direction we went this year with the low downforce."

Pretty good endorsement.

6. Brad Keselowski (LW: 4): While Logano and his team kept their car in the ballpark the entire night, the same can't be said for his teammate. Keselowski had a pit road penalty and a car that simply wasn't very fast as the race progressed. He ended up finishing 18th, two laps down in a Richard Childress Racing sandwich between Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon.

7. Carl Edwards (LW: 7): If you're looking at the entirety of the race, it's feasible to believe Edwards had the second-best car to Martin Truex Jr. And it's feasible to wonder if it would have been Edwards in victory lane instead of Busch had he not had to come down pit road for a loose wheel after a restart. Edwards bounced back to finish seventh, and we'll take the Junior line of thinking with his finish too. It's dubious to think he'd have climbed back in to the top 10 last year.

8. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: NR): Truex fell back to sixth by the end of the race because of the tire strategy the team was on. Had Truex had fresh(er) tires at the end of the race, he probably would have won. But would he have won had he pitted on that final restart? We're not sure. He would have needed to climb through a few really good cars. Once the strategy bed was made, he had to drive in it.

9. Denny Hamlin (LW: 6): Hamlin finished 12th, the worst of the four JGR cars (plus Truex). But good enough to keep him in a tie for eighth in the points standings. Without quotes from Hamlin following the race and a notable in-race moment, we're kind of at a loss for words to describe his day.

10. Chase Elliott (LW: NR): Elliott is quietly 14th in the points standings through seven races. That's an even bigger accomplishment than you think when you take into consideration his crashes at Daytona and Las Vegas. He could have 50 more points without those crashes, and if he did, he'd be sixth in the standings. He finished fifth at Texas.

11. Austin Dillon (LW: 8): Dillon restarted second late in the race on older tires and slid back through the field. Then he crashed. He ended up 19th, two laps down. The finish was his second-worst of the first seven races ... and two positions higher than his average finish in 2015. That's when you know you've made a huge improvement.

12. Kasey Kahne (LW: NR): For the second time in three races, a driver went into the wall after contact with Kahne. This time it was Greg Biffle. Kahne's car didn't have any damage and he ended up finishing eighth. The top 10s could keep coming assuming Kahne doesn't make an enemy of half the field by the time the summer hits.

Lucky Dog: Hey, Matt Kenseth finished 11th. Though he had a top-five car.

The DNF: It was a struggle for Brian Vickers.

Dropped Out: AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 12, 2016, 2:58 pm

Phil Robertson's son, Willie (R), and Eddie Gossage. (Getty)Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage used a couple of trite phrases to defend the prayer Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson delivered before Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race at Texas.

While starting his prayer with "We got here via Bibles and guns" Robertson, who endorsed Ted Cruz earlier this year, prayed for "a Jesus man in the White House. He gave the prayer because his family's company, Duck Commander, was the title sponsor of the race.

Here's what Gossage had to say about Robertson's prayer to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“He said what he felt and believed and there are a lot of people that agree with him and a lot that disagree with him,” Gossage said. “Nowadays, you cannot say what you think because of political correctness. So I guess everyone has a right to free speech or nobody does.

“Bruce Springsteen cancels his show in North Carolina on his viewpoints [on that state’s controversial ‘bathroom law’], and a lot of people agreed with him and a lot of people disagree with him. I defend Bruce Springsteen’s rights to take his position and, if you do that, then you’ve got to defend everybody else’s too.”

Before dipping a toe into the murky and shifting realm that is "political correctness," it's necessary to point out that Robertson's prayer has absolutely nothing to do with freedom of speech. As anyone with a basic understanding of civics knows, freedom of speech relates to the protection from government punishment of specific remarks. Not from criticism of people or companies. Invoking "freedom of speech" when it comes to what happened Saturday night is not only tired, but inapplicable.

Besides, it's not about NASCAR and those associated with it going outside whatever the bounds of "political correctness" are but being apolitical in the appropriate settings. And Robertson's prayer was the second time in a matter of weeks that self-serving political agendas were associated with the sport.

Many non-NASCAR fans took notice of NASCAR CEO Brian France's "personal, private" and very public endorsement of Trump following the second race of the season. While France, like Robertson and every other private citizen, has the right to support any candidate he so chooses, it can be hard to separate the actions of a private citizen from the company he runs as his public presence at the endorsement is due entirely to the family company.

Which brings us back to Saturday night. Most pre-race prayers call for the safety of all those involved, whether it's the track safety workers, team members or the drivers themselves hurtling around an oval at nearly 200 MPH inches from each other. The safety of everyone involved in the traveling spectacle that is NASCAR is something everyone can endorse. No rational human wants to see another get hurt.

Robertson's prayer had no call for safety or any mention of the four-hour race that was set to take place following his remarks. Instead, it was an incredibly specific set of appeals.

Those appeals were made public and possible because of NASCAR and Texas Motor Speedway's platform, which is why the track and the sanctioning body should deserve most of the attention when discussing the situation. As we noted Saturday, Robertson's beliefs, especially regarding his views towards homosexuality, are no secret. It's hard to finger point at the guy with the TMS-branded megaphone when those in charge of the megaphone are aware of his background and have no problem handing it over anyway (despite not reportedly expecting political remarks). 

NASCAR Vice President Steve O'Donnell said Monday that pre-race ceremony roles are primarily the responsibility of tracks. Via NASCAR Talk:

“Those are, for lack of a better term, track assets, so those are usually sold as part of their race entitlement,” O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday. “In this case, ‘Duck Dynasty,’ I think, had every position, the pace car driver, waving the green flag, the invocation, the anthem. All of those are usually track assets.

“We do have a group in (Los Angeles) who does work with the tracks to try and bring celebrities in whenever possible. We saw a huge group come in to (Auto Club Speedway), so from time to time, if the tracks don’t have that position filled, we’ll try to work with them. In this case, Texas had that as part of their race entitlement.”

However, it's still NASCAR's sport, and it's a sport that's now had two of the three biggest mainstream stories involving Texas Motor Speedway over the past five seasons involve the people and companies associated with sponsoring the race rather than the racing itself. In 2013, TMS inked the NRA to be the title-sponsor of this same race. That sponsorship, four months after the school shooting that left 26 dead in Newtown, Connecticut, put NASCAR squarely in the crosshairs of the gun rights debate.

NASCAR didn't need to be anywhere near that conversation just like it doesn't need to be anywhere near prayerful calls for a specific president. But here it is, and the stereotypes that many outside of the racing world have of the sport and those who follow it can unfortunately be way-too-easily applied again.

NASCAR (a sport with 86 percent of fans over 34 and 94 percent who are white) has attempted to broaden its appeal as wide as possible and subsequently distance itself from those stereotypes with its diversity efforts, expansion into other countries, a wide range of Fortune 500 sponsors and a public disassociation with the Confederate flag.

The 2016 season has seen a the closest finish in Daytona 500 history and another race decided by less than a fender. Yet two of the season's most attention-getting stories have had little to do with cars or the people that drive them and way too much to do with poltical statements. It's as confounding as it is disappointing.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 11, 2016, 11:52 pm

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Throughout 2016 we may have way too many quick thoughts for our post-race posts. So consider our new 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 myriad of strategies that unfolded during the final 80 laps of Saturday night's race at Texas (won by Kyle Busch) were fascinating. Let's take a look at them, starting with the winner.

Busch took four tires after Greg Biffle crashed to bring out the caution flag on lap 287. When Austin Dillon triggered a 13-car pileup soon after the restart following Biffle's crash, Busch stayed out. He restarted second and took the lead from Martin Truex Jr. as he drove off to the win.

Truex was on his second restart with not-fresh tires. Truex pitted under the caution preceding Biffle's, but stayed out when the No. 16 crash. With one more heat cycle on his tires than Busch and some cars behind him, he faded to sixth.

Dillon tried the same strategy as Truex. He restarted next to Truex after Biffle's caution but started sliding backwards. And then he crashed, which made his strategy irrelevant. He ended up finishing 19th.

Chase Elliott took two tires during Biffle's caution. He restarted third behind Truex and Dillon and was second when the caution flag flew for the big crash. Instead of staying out like Truex, Elliott came down to pit road where his team changed four tires. As Truex slid backwards over the final laps of the race, Elliott moved forward and finished fifth. It was probably about where he'd finished if he'd have stayed out.

Then there was Trevor Bayne. As the race had gone green for a while before a debris caution that set up the late three-caution flurry, Bayne and his team tried to make it to the end of the race on one stop instead of two, like the leaders of the race would have likely attempted.

The move meant Bayne led 12 laps as the cars ahead of him got fresher tires, and had a chance to work out had the race not had a caution the rest of the way. But Bayne ended up pitting just before the caution came out for debris and was eventually caught up in Dillon's crash. He finished 15th, a pretty good finish given the accident. And probably where he would have finished had his team not tried the different strategy.

• Is anyone going to be surprised if Busch leaves Bristol with six-straight NASCAR wins after winning the Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series races there next weeked? He has 13 wins combined in both series there.

• While Dillon has gotten a lot of deserved attention for his good runs this season, we may vote for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s team as most improved so far in 2016. Stenhouse had a top-10 run going before he was caught up in the 13-car accident. The difference in speed from 2015 (none) to 2016 has been stark. And he's gotten his best finish in each of the past two seasons at the Bristol spring race. Watch out for him next week.

• Once again, Matt Kenseth's race performance doesn't reflect his finishing position. Kenseth had to come back down pit road late in the race after his team didn't get all of the lugnuts tight on a rear wheel. He ended up finishing 11th when he could have (and probably should have) been battling for a top five.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 10, 2016, 6:11 am

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There's no stopping Kyle Busch at the moment.

The reigning Sprint Cup Series champion took the lead off the race's final restart and led the final 34 laps at Texas to win his second-straight Cup Series race and fourth-straight race in NASCAR's top three series. Busch won in both the Truck and Cup Series at Martinsville last weekend and won Friday night's Xfinity Series race.

And while he dominated that Xfinity Series race, he wasn't the main contender for the win throughout the entirety of the Cup race. The race's best car went to Martin Truex Jr., who Busch passed for the win.

[Related: Quick takeaways from Texas]

Truex had the lead on the final restart, but it was the second-straight caution flag where he didn't pit. He first stayed out when Greg Biffle hit the wall shortly after a caution flag and also stayed out again after Austin Dillon slid into the wall and triggered a 13-car crash after he got loose in front of Denny Hamlin and got tapped by Jimmie Johnson.

Dillon's crash put Busch, who had pitted after Biffle's crash for fresh tires, on the outside of the front row for the restart. With fresher tires than Truex, Busch easily dispatched of his satellite teammate (Furniture Row Racing has a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing) and drove away from the rest of the field.

"The restart was going to be key," Busch said. "If I could just get out in front of him, I knew I could protect the rest of the race. They had a good restart, but we got a better one and I just had to get up on his door. He chose the inside and the inside has been winning the race all night long, but this time on the last restart it finally prevailed for us.”

Truex said his crew chief Cole Pearn called him in to pit road late during the caution for the 13-car crash but he didn't dive on to pit road because he didn't think he could make it inside the commitment cone and not commit a penalty.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second and Joey Logano finished third. Truex ended up sixth. Truex led 141 laps while Busch teammate Carl Edwards, who finished seventh and started first, led 124. Edwards fought back for the top 10 after he was forced to pit for a loose wheel shortly after a restart and went a lap down.

Matt Kenseth, another Joe Gibbs Racing driver, led 20 laps. In all, Joe Gibbs Racing cars (counting Truex) led 319 of the race's 334 laps. To say the team controlled the race may be an understatement.

The highest non-JGR car in the laps led column was Trevor Bayne. And he only led his 12 laps because his team tried to make one less pit stop over the final 80 laps than the rest of the field. When a caution came out for debris to precede the yellow before Biffle's crash, Bayne's strategy was kaput.

You may also be wndering if Busch has ever won four-straight NASCAR events before. The answer is yes, and he accomplished the feat very recently. Busch won four straight races in July and August of 2015 as he won the Cup race at New Hampshire, both the Xfinity and Cup races at Indianapolis and the Truck Series race at Pocono. The Cup win at Indy was also his fourth Cup win in five races.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 10, 2016, 5:34 am

Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson asked for 'a Jesus man in the White House' during the pre-race prayer for the Sprint Cup Series' race at Texas on Saturday night.

Robertson gave the prayer because the family company, Duck Commander, is the title sponsor of the race. Robertson started the prayer with a reference to the Bible and guns. Here's the prayer in full:

Alright Texas, we got here via Bibles and guns. I'm fixing to pray to the one who made that possible. Father thank you for founding our nation. I pray father that we don't forget who brought us. You. Our faith in the blood of Jesus and his resurrection. Help us father to get back to that. Help us dear God understand that the men and women on my right, the U.S. military. On my right and on my left. Our faith in you and the U.S. military is the reason we're still here. I pray Father that we put a Jesus man in the White House. Help us do that and help us all to repent to do what's right to love you more and to love each other. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Taking Robertson's words on the surface, the prayer is asking for either Republicans Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or John Kasich to be elected. All three are professed Christians. Democrat Bernie Sanders is Jewish and Democrat Hillary Clinton, well she's not a man.

To go a step further, you could also believe that Robertson was praying for Cruz's chances. Robertson has endorsed Cruz for president and said he wanted people to "Keep your sex right there" when referring to heterosexual marriages at a Cruz rally in February. Robertson was previously suspended from "Duck Dynasty" regarding comments he made about homosexuality to GQ.

NASCAR is the only major sport that regularly has a pre-event prayer. And while Robertson's prayer became outwardly political, it's also not unusual for the pre-race prayers to be exclusive to Christianity like his was.

Yes, NASCAR audiences are predominantly Christian, but it wouldn't take much effort to have non-denominational prayers become the norm at races. It would fit nicely with NASCAR's diversity efforts; efforts that have been scrutinized with NASCAR CEO Brian France's presidential endorsement of Donald Trump.

And while Robertson has done the prayer at previous races his company has sponsored, you can also question NASCAR's oversight in letting a man known for his intolerant comments be a pre-race face of your sport.

Duck Commander took over in 2014 as the primary sponsor of the spring Texas race from the NRA. The race sponsorship from the NRA received extensive criticism and NASCAR responded with a statement that it would be reviewing race sponsorship agreements more closely.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 10, 2016, 12:56 am

Carl Edwards has his first pole position of 2016.

Edwards outqualified Joey Logano for the right to start first in Saturday night's race at Texas Motor Speedway. Logano made a late run to knock Edwards off the top spot but couldn't get it done at the end of the round.

It's Edwards' second No. 1 qualifying position at Texas and the 17th of his career. He qualified first for the fall race in 2013 at Texas and ended up 37th after he had engine trouble.

Logano won last week's pole at Martinsville and finished 11th. Martin Truex will start third Saturday night while Chase Elliott starts fourth (his highest start since winning the pole at Daytona) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. starts fifth.

Here's the full lineup:

1. Carl Edwards
2. Joey Logano
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Chase Elliott
5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Ryan Blaney
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Austin Dillon
11. Jimmie Johnson
12. Trevor Bayne
13. Brian Vickers
14. Greg Biffle
15. Kyle Busch
16. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
17. Kasey Kahne
18. Jamie McMurray
19. Ryan Newman
20. Kyle Larson
21. Kurt Busch
22. Kevin Harvick
23. AJ Allmendinger
24. Aric Almirola
25. Paul Menard
26. Danica Patrick
27. Brian Scott
28. Regan Smith
29. Matt DiBenedetto
30. Ty Dillon
31. David Ragan
32. Casey Mears
33. Landon Cassill
34. Chris Buescher
35. Michael Annett
36. Clint Bowyer
37. Cole Whitt
38. Jeffrey Earnhardt
39. Josh Wise
40. Reed Sorenson

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 8, 2016, 8:03 pm

You can always count on Texas Motor Speedway doing something noteworthy.

The track, known for its promotions and race sponsorships that have included the NRA and Duck Commander and concessions like the beer and bacon milkshake, has acquired the body of "Lil Dale" and had it taxidermied. "Lil Dale," a goat, rose to fame when it was born in 2002 near Daytona Beach, Florida, with markings on its side that looked like the No. 3.

Texas Motor Speedway has apparently bought & stuffed this goat after it died. The goat had gained notoriety in 2002. pic.twitter.com/XwJL5CaCM9

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) April 8, 2016

The goat only had the marking on its right side and was born approximately 14 months after Dale Earnhardt died in the 2001 Daytona 500. Earnhardt, as you know, drove the No. 3 car.

In a story from 2002, the goat's then-owner, Jerry Pierson said ""It's weird. I've seen people take pictures and get tears in their eyes."

Now, those Earnhardt fans will have a chance to get tears in their eyes at Texas. The goat even has its own credential too.

Only in #NLTX. pic.twitter.com/Q6XhpEkAFA

— Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) April 8, 2016

Oh Texas, what will you think of next?

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 8, 2016, 6:28 pm

We can put this one to rest, right?

Kevin Harvick tweeted Thursday evening that he was looking forward to driving the No. 4 car for "many years to come."

Looking forward to driving the #4 car for many years to come. Never had more fun racing & love my team. #4thewin

— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) April 7, 2016

Harvick's team, Stewart-Haas Racing, is switching to Ford for the 2017 season and Harvick's original contract with the team was believed to be up at the 2016 season. The manufacturer switch stoked some people's thoughts that Harvick would want to stay in the Chevrolet camp despite the driver making no public statements to support the validity of such musings. Harvick has driven nothing but Chevrolets throughout his NASCAR career.

And besides, there was no top-tier place for the 2014 champion to go if he wanted to stick with Chevrolet. He's already driven for Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports has no openings.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 8, 2016, 12:13 am

It's time for Happy Hour. As always, tweet us your thoughts or shoot us an email at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com if you want to participate.

There have been 34 cautions through the first six races of 2016. That's a decrease of 22 from the 56 cautions that happened during the first six races of 2015.

A significant factor in the decrease in cautions are the races at Atlanta and Martinsville. The two races combined for 11 cautions in 2016 while there were 26 (10 at Atlanta, 16 at Martinsvlle) in 2015. That's where 15 of the 22 come from, leaving just a seven-caution difference over the other four races.

Another factor is a decrease in debris cautions through the first six races of this season. 2016 has seen six debris cautions vs. 18 at this point a season ago. We asked NASCAR about the discrepancy and a spokesperson said yes, it's simply a coincidence and nothing has changed when it comes to the officiating of debris cautions.

And besides, six races in a 36-race season isn't much of a sample size anyway. Cautions tend to vary from year-to-year (and from race-to-race at a given track) so drawing conclusions is a bit premature. But even though we can't draw any conclusions other than noticing variance, it's still fun to look at the numbers for each race and wonder if there will be a continued trend.

Daytona
2015: 7 cautions, 1 for debris, 2 for fluid
2016: 6 cautions, 1 for debris

Atlanta
2015: 10 cautions, 1 competition, 4 for debris, 1 for fluid
2016: 3 cautions, 1 for debris

Las Vegas
2015: 6 cautions, 1 competition, 2 for debris
2016: 6 cautions, 1 competition, 2 for debris

Phoenix
2015: 10 cautions, 3 for debris
2016: 5 cautions, 1 for debris

Auto Club
2015: 7 cautions, 5 for debris
2016: 6 cautions, 1 for debris

Martinsville
2015: 16 cautions, 3 for debris
2016: 8 cautions

And since we're talking about cautions, expect 6 or 7 cautions during Saturday night's race at Texas. That seems to be the norm.

Before we forget, the March Madness Final Four is an interesting one. It's Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth. It'd be funny if Kenseth won our meaningless competition given the start to the season he's had.

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I couldn't believe my eyes when NASCAR refused to black flag Jamie McMurray late in the race with the obvious tire rub. If they love contrived restarts soooo much let them go with the caution clock like they have started in the Camping World Truck Series. - Don

Don's referring to the final caution of Sunday's race which was thrown when Jamie McMurray spun following a flat tire. The tire going flat was very predictable as McMurray drove for a while with a tire rub. We noted after Sunday's race that NASCAR waited for McMurray's car to drive a half lap slowly before spinning to throw the caution while being quick on the caution trigger earlier in the race.

It's not NASCAR protocol to throw a caution because a driver has a tire rub. Sometimes those issues work themselves out without a flat tire. While it was evident McMurray was likely going to have a problem, it's neither his nor NASCAR's fault for not pitting there. The team was hoping he'd make it to the finish without the tire going flat.

@NickBromberg is a hot dog a sandwich

— Dillion's Lobos (@dgoodin24) April 7, 2016

@NickBromberg Is a hot dog a sandwich? Dammit...

— PJ (@FNPNASCAR) April 7, 2016

@NickBromberg do you want a Hellmans Dale JR sandwich or Harvick knuckle sandwich?

— Deuce Deucer (@dallasjhawk) April 7, 2016

@NickBromberg banana & mayo?

— Stephenie (@StephTyel) April 7, 2016

This is what we get for making fun of the ridiculous reaction to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s sponsor plug tweet on Tuesday of his banana and mayonnaise sandwich. As we told you Tuesday, we first talked about Junior's love of the sandwich in 2014, but the content world apparently has a very short memory and was fascinated by the novelty of his tastes this week.

Today, a fundraising quest came of the tweet. Hopefully some kids can not be hungry thanks to the fascination.

Didn't like my sandwich? I don't hate you. Forget about it and let's feed some hungry kids. I'll match up to $50k. https://t.co/iMLnstx7ga

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) April 7, 2016

What's the NASCAR equivalent of Els 7-putting No. 1 at Augusta? https://t.co/X10qXLUywy

— Matt Taliaferro (@MattTaliaferro) April 7, 2016

Ernie Els had a disastrous start to his Masters on Thursday. He carded a 10 after 7-putting from (six from two feet!) on the first hole. Yes, really.

We've been thinking about this for a while. Since it came on the first hole it's not a "choke," but rather a horrible mishap at the beginning of a race that knocks your whole day out of sorts. So we're going to go with the 2002 fall Talladega race when Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson collided before the race began.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 7, 2016, 9:24 pm

Could you see Brian Vickers in the 100th Indianapolis 500 this May?

It's not out of the question. Vickers, currently substituting for Tony Stewart in the No. 14 car in the Sprint Cup Series, has been mentioned as a candidate for a seat in the Memorial Day weekend race. And while Vickers stressed he doesn't have a deal to run the race at the moment, the possibility isn't dead, either.

"I’m open to all of those opportunities," Vickers said after mentioning he'd love to run at Le Mans again. "Indy is one of them. I would love to have something to announce, unfortunately, there is nothing to announce at this point. It is still on the table. It’s not done, but it’s not off the table yet either. We will continue exploring that and if it happens great, if not, move on to the next opportunity and maybe next year.”

Vickers was previously linked to being a candidate for a ride with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. The team currently fields full-time cars in the IndyCar Series for James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin.

Vickers is publicly on a week-to-week basis as the substitute driver for Stewart. Ty Dillon has also driven for Stewart in the races that the No. 14 has been sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and seems likely to continue in that role until Stewart gets back. There's no official timetable for Stewart's return to the Cup Series.

We do know that Vickers' Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch won't be doing the Indianapolis 500 in 2015. Busch, who finished sixth at Indianapolis in 2014 before running the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day, said earlier this spring that he would not participate in the 500. He's the most recent Cup Series driver to do the Memorial Day weekend double.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 7, 2016, 7:44 pm

Peyton Manning will be at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 on April 17.

The recently-retired NFL quarterback has been named an honorary official for the race and will watch the race from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s pit box. Since you're a sports fan and you're reading a NASCAR blog, you know that Manning and Earnhardt Jr. are both spokespeople for Nationwide Insurance.

“I’m thrilled to get a chance to watch Dale compete at Bristol Motor Speedway,” Manning said in a release. “I want to thank Nationwide for bringing me to one of the great NASCAR tracks to watch what I’m sure will be an exciting race in front of some of the most passionate fans in the sport.”

Manning's appearance at Bristol also precedes the Battle at Bristol football game, which will pit his alma mater (Tennessee) against Virginia Tech in September in the infield of the track. Perhaps Manning will be making two pilgrimages to Bristol in 2016?

He's also going to accompany Earnhardt Jr. in driver intros. Those intros will be done by Goldberg, making the combination of professional wrestler, five-time NFL MVP and NASCAR's most popular driver one that is certainly unique.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 6, 2016, 6:10 pm

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. Kyle Busch (LW: 4): When a guy in the top four of last week's rankings  wins his first race(s) at a track where he's never won at and leads 352 of 400 laps in the process, there's no way you can argue against having him No. 1. And we weren't going to make that argument anyway. While Busch dominating and winning at Martinsville might have been a surprise, Busch winning a race so early in the season definitely isn't one after how he ran through the first five races of the season.

2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1): Oh no, Jimmie Johnson hasn't won at Martinsville since 2013. Has the active master of the half-mile track lost his mojo? No, not really. Since Johnson got his last win at Martinsville he's had two finishes of 32nd or worse ... and four finishes in the top 12. And his ninth-place finish at Martinsville on Sunday was his 23rd top-10 finish in 29 races.

3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick finished 17th at Martinsville, but he ran much better than that all day. Why did he fade so far down in the running order? Well, Harvick's team was one of the ones at the front of the field that stayed out during the final pit stop. But most everyone behind Harvick came in, meaning he was one of the first drivers to get passed by those with fresher tires.

4. Brad Keselowski (LW: 6): Keselowski hung near the top 10 all day, though you may not have guessed it when looking at his car. It looked like it had a bit part in a demolition derby. The 2012 champion ended up finishing fifth after he was one of the drivers that pitted on the final caution and drove through the field.

5. Joey Logano (LW: 5): Logano started Sunday's race on the pole. He was lapped 80 laps into the race along with fellow front-row starter Kasey Kahne. He simply didn't have long-run speed as soon as the green flag flew. Logano's car came to (relative) life after some adjustments and he fought back to finish 11th. Will he get another win at Texas to (all but) lock himself in to the Chase? We wouldn't be shocked in the slightest.

6. Denny Hamlin (LW: 3): Hamlin said he was a bit embarrassed after he crashed on Sunday. Yeah, wheel-hopping into the wall when you're the defending champion of the race isn't the best of looks. But Hamlin had a fast car before he crashed and ultimately, isn't that what matters? Shake off the wreck and you have confidence for the Chase race in the fall.

7. Carl Edwards (LW: 7): If Logano thought he had it going poorly throughout the majority of the race, he shouldn't commiserate with Edwards. Edwards spent basically as many laps a lap down as Busch spent ahead of the field. But he got on the lead lap late in the race and thanks to some fresh tires worked himself all the way up to sixth before the race was over.

8. Austin Dillon (LW: 10): The year of Austin Dillon is continuing. Dillon finished fourth on Sunday, his second top-five finish of the year. He now has four in his career, so you can do the math as to how that works out compared to his first two seasons in the Cup Series. We're still not sure if Dillon is going to get to victory lane in 2016, but if he keeps a top-10 rate of 66 percent up, he's easily making the Chase.

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 8): Junior's day could have gone south in a hurry after he was the source of Sunday's first caution after spinning following a cut tire. But he bounced back for a 14th-place finish and wowed the world Tuesday with a tweet that he was eating a banana and mayonnaise sandwich. The news sent the internet into a tizzy, though if you're a reader of From The Marbles you've already known about Junior's affinity for more than two years. We're ahead of the curve, people.

10. Kurt Busch (LW: 9): Busch finished a spot ahead of Earnhardt Jr. in 13th. Do you think Kurt Busch likes banana and mayonnaise sandwiches paired with Monster Energy drinks while operating a Haas CNC machine next to a State Water Heater?

11. AJ Allmendinger (LW: NR): After two top-10 finishes in the early part of 2015, Allmendinger's season fell apart with three finishes of 30th or worse in the next five races. His second-place finish on Sunday was the second top-10 of 2016. The Dinger better hope deja vu doesn't strike again. He's currently 12th in the points standings and a bad stretch like that could drop him outside the top 20 in the points standings before you got done naming all the sponsors on his car.

12. Kyle Larson (LW: NR): A third-place finish after missing the same race a year ago isn't a bad way to come back. Larson is back in the top 20 in points after falling out thanks to a crash at California. He has three top-12 finishes so far in 2016 but he's 20th in the standings because he also has three finishes of 25th or worse.

Lucky Dog: How about Brian Vickers? The substitute driver of the No. 14 had a fast car all weekend and got a top 10. The seventh was the best finish for anyone in the No. 14 car since Tony Stewart finished sixth at Bristol in the spring of 2015.

The DNF: Aric Almirola's engine didn't have any stamina.

Dropped out: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chase Elliott

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 5, 2016, 8:51 pm

Xfinity Series driver Derek White has been indefinitely suspended by NASCAR following his arrest in connection with a tobacco smuggling ring.

White turned himself into authorities last week as part of what Canadian police termed the largest tobacco smuggling bust in North American history. Authorities had said 52,800 kilograms of tobacco, 836 kilograms of cocaine, 21 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 35 pounds of pot were seized as part of the bust and that White was a high-ranking member in the ring.

Here's a summary of his charges from NASCAR Talk:

  • Three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud against the government.
  • Three counts of fraud toward the government.
  • One count of profiteering as a criminal organization.

News of White's suspension came down as part of NASCAR's penalty report Monday afternoon. White has 22 career Xfinity Series starts and made a Sprint Cup Series start in 2015.

According to APTN, documents show White has been under police surveillance since 2006. The site also reported he was ID'd but never charged in a marijuana smuggling investigation in 2008 and he was the No. 3 ranking member in the "Projet Mygale" organization chart.

APTN also cited a quote White gave to Eastern Door newspaper in which he said all of his charges were tobacco-related and also said he had no affiliation with ISIS. Glad we cleared that up.

“All it has to do with is with tobacco, it has nothing to do with any of the other stuff they’re making up,” White told the Eastern Door. “I have nothing to do with drugs, or ISIS or terrorism…I have nothing to do with that shit, absolutely zero. They want their tax money, that’s all.”

White told the Eastern Door he posted $20,000 bail. He also told the Eastern Door he knows only one other person in the organizational chart released by the SQ, Paul Jean.

White has made one Xfinity Series start this season; it was a 36th-place finish at Las Vegas. He's been listed as his own car owner according to Racing Reference since the beginning of the 2015 season. His highest finish (and only top 20) came in his first career Xfinity Series start when he finished 18th at Montreal.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 4, 2016, 10:18 pm

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This fan certainly didn't expect to see Kyle Busch drive up next to her.

Busch, after winning Sunday's race at Martinsville, pulled up alongside her after the race. She had her window down, he had his down, and voila:

Watch this!! pic.twitter.com/q89zucuHcw

— Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) April 3, 2016

Martinsville is within driving distance of Charlotte, so many people elect to make the less than two-hour drive to and from the track. While that woman might have known Busch was going to be driving home, she had no idea he was going to be taking the same route at the same time that she was.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 4, 2016, 1:30 pm

Throughout 2016 we may have way too many quick thoughts for our post-race posts. So consider our new 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.

• Don't simply look at the results and think you can get a good idea of Matt Kenseth's season through the first six races of 2016.

The 2003 champion finished 15th on Sunday at Martinsville. But he restarted the race with 12 laps to go in second. He just had the unfortunate circumstance of starting on the outside line on the final restart. You'd almost rather wrestle a couple bears with no weapons than start the final restart of the race at Martinsville on the outside. It's near-impossible to hold your ground.

[Related: Kyle Busch gets first Martinsville win]

Kenseth has just one top-10 finish this season. But remember, he was in first in turn 3 on the final lap at Daytona where he finished 14th. He finished 19th at Atlanta – leading 47 laps – after a crazy circumstance involving a pit-road penalty and a lack of communication that he had nothing to do with. He had a fast car at Las Vegas before he spun. And at California he finished a 19th that probably wasn't what he deserved.

Kenseth has had plenty of speed so far this season. That's impossible to deny. And given the Chase's win-and-in format, there's no reason to get worried about his Chase chances even though the regular season is almost 1/4th over. It's one thing if Kenseth is scraping together top-20 finishes. This is another.

• AJ Allmendinger's second-place finish was the second second (say that 10 times fast) of his career.

Allmendinger didn't have anything for race-winner Kyle Busch over the race's final laps but his finish was no fluke. He had a top-10 car all day long and kept the brakes good enough to be able to divebomb drivers like Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson as he worked his way up through the field.

"We passed Jimmie Johnson like five times at Martinsville, that's pretty cool," Allmendinger said.

His other second-place finish came at Martinsville as well. Allmendinger was second in 2012 when he was driving for Team Penske. Now he's in the middle of a long-term contract with JTG-Daugherty Racing.

You have to be very good under braking (among other things) at Martinsville, similar to how you would drive a car on a tight turn at a road course. We all know that Allmendinger is one of NASCAR's best on road courses, so it's not surprising that he's good at Martinsville too. Though he downplayed a link between road course racing and Martinsville.

"I wouldn't say it's – if you're good at road course racing you're going to come here – I know the first couple times I came here, I couldn't figure this place out to save my life.

You know, it's just a rhythm racetrack.  There's a fine line between needing to be aggressive enough, using the brakes and the things you have to do and be fast, and then overusing them, and that's kind of the way road course driving is. It's always a fine line. You can be aggressive but you've got to know that line to where you overstep it. I would say a place like Richmond, that's more way finesse and things like that.

And perhaps his success at the half-mile paperclip comes with a lack of perceived pressure. When the Cup Series heads to Sonoma and Watkins Glen, Allmendinger is instantly mentioned as one of the favorites and how the races are his best chances to get in the Chase. There's little (outside) feeling of that coming to Martinsville.

Allmendinger mentioned after the race that he didn't like who he was in 2015 and how he was "frustrated." Well, through six races in 2016 he's 12th in the points standings. He got off to a hot start in 2015 before fading during the summer. The challenge is to make sure it doesn't happen again.

• NASCAR's caution-calling once again seemed inconsistent. During the middle portion of the race, a portion that Fox broadcaster Mike Joy had just mentioned was the longest green-flag run of the day, Martin Truex Jr. sent the slower car of Josh Wise out of the groove.

Wise slowed before hitting the wall and kept going. NASCAR threw a caution before he was even a quarter of the way down the backstretch despite virtually no evidence that there was something wrong with Wise's car. And if there was, there didn't seem like enough time had elapsed to make the determination that his car was wounded and an impediment to the rest of the field.

He slowed down so let's throw the caution pic.twitter.com/0QWN4wMRMS

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) April 3, 2016

Fast forward to 15 laps to go. Jamie McMurray's car had a left-rear tire rub that finally caused it to deflate. The tire lost air in turns 3 and 4 and McMurray limped his car down the frontstretch. All under green. It wasn't until McMurray looped his car in turns 1 and 2 that NASCAR threw the caution.

We get that NASCAR wanted to finish the race under green and hoped McMurray would make it to pit road without incident. But that same courtesy should have been given to Wise earlier in the race. Treating similar incidents very differently isn't a good look. Oh, did we mention that Dale Earnhardt Jr. got back on the lead lap because of Wise's caution too?

Don't give the conspiracy theorists a fresh roll of tinfoil, NASCAR.

• Sunday's race was the first short-track race of the season. And broadcasting a race on a short track is different than one on a 1.5 or 2.5-mile track. But boy, there were a lot of rough spots throughout Fox's telecast on Sunday.

On multiple occasions – especially towards the end of the race – the booth of Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon would be talking about something happening on the track while Fox's cameras were focused on another. Then, either Fox's cameras would swap too late to what the booth was referencing or not switch at all. It was a somewhat-maddening viewer experience.

It would also be appreciated if Waltrip would quit guessing what maladies were affecting cars who had trouble. When Denny Hamlin slammed into the wall, he opined that "something happened to the car." While factually true; Hamlin did crash his car, the phrase provides absolutely no insight whatsoever.

• Thanks to Kevin Harvick's still-very-good-but-not-as-torrid start to the season, the gap from first to 20th in the points standings is 30 points smaller than it was at this point last year. 20th-place Kyle Larson is 95 points back of Harvick. Last year, Greg Biffle and AJ Allmendinger (tied for 19th) were 125 back of Harvick.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 3, 2016, 9:44 pm

Kyle Busch has a Cup win at Martinsville.

Busch entered Sunday's race 0-21 at the half-mile track and absolutely dominated, leading 352 of the race's 500 laps. He pulled away from teammate Matt Kenseth on a late-race restart and kept AJ Allmendinger at bay as the laps ticked down.

Kenseth, who restarted to Busch's outside on the front row of that restart with 12 laps to go, finished 15th.

[Related: Thoughts on Kenseth, Allmendinger and more from Martinsville]

"To win here at Martinsville is pretty cool," Busch said. "Finally take a clock home. People said I didn't deserve yesterday's – maybe I don't. But I got one today."

"Yesterday" is a reference towards Saturday's Truck Series race, which Busch entered and also dominated. The win was his 45th in 130 Truck starts but his first win at Martinsville in either of NASCAR's top three series.

So yes, even if you wanted to nitpick Busch's win the day before for coming against a lower-level field, there's no denying he's now a legitimate owner of the grandfather clocks the track hands out as trophies to the winners of its races.

The 2015 champion's car was flat-out the best throughout the entire race. He said near the end of the race that the brake pedal was chattering, but that chattering must not have been too bad. Or maybe his car was that much better than the rest of the field.

Restarts were competitors' best chance to get past Busch in the last half of the race and no one was able to take advantage.

"That was the key to the race, being able to restart on the bottom like that," Busch said of the final restart. "[Joe Gibbs Racing] all talked as a group earlier this morning about how we were going to do that and what we were going to do and we all said 'OK with 10 to go it's pretty much off-limits.' And it was 12 to go so it was pretty much on the brink there. Sorry, Matt."

Busch had the bottom lane – and preferred groove – on the final restart of the race. But on the restart before that, he took the top side and utilized the agreement mentioned above among teammates. Kenseth restarted second on that second-to-last restart too and Busch was able to cut in front of him on the bottom side before getting in to turn 1.

The win also puts Busch a track closer to a Sprint Cup schedule sweep. Of the 22 tracks on the Cup Series schedule, Busch has now won at all but Charlotte, Kansas and Pocono. As all three of those tracks host two races a season, it wouldn't be too surprising to see Busch grab wins at all three in the very near future.

 

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 3, 2016, 9:09 pm

Denny Hamlin got his fifth Martinsville win in the spring of 2015. He wasn't getting his sixth Sunday.

Hamlin had one of the fastest cars at the beginning of the race but wheel-hopped his car entering turn 1. As Hamlin slid up the track he couldn't keep his car off the wall and slammed into the outside barrier.

“It’s my first time ever doing it here, so it’s a little embarrassing," Hamlin said of wheel-hopping his car. "But I mean we were the fastest car those last 30 laps and we got back to the top-five and I was making up a lot of my speed on entry. As the tires wear, the rears get hotter, less grip, you can’t brake at the same amount and I just – it was really out of the blue. I didn’t ever have a hint of it up until that moment, so a bit of a rookie move on my part – been around here too much to do something like that, but learning for the fall and I’m really encouraged about how good our car came up through the pack and I really thought we had a car that could win."

Wheel-hopping is when a car's rear wheels lock up under braking (it can happen when a car has too much rear brake). As the rear wheels stop spinning, the rear of the car can hop off the ground. At that point, a driver has very little control of the car and can simply be along for the ride.

Since winning the Daytona 500 to open 2016, Hamlin has been on a bit of a roller coaster. He finished 16th and 19th at Atlanta and Las Vegas before finishing third at Phoenix and California in the previous two races.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 3, 2016, 7:51 pm

Joey Logano is the newest qualifying master at Martinsville.

Logano, who swept the pole positions at Martinsville in 2015, will start first for the third-straight time at the half-mile track on Sunday. Logano's lap of 97.043 MPH just edged out Kasey Kahne, who will start second. Brian Vickers, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman round out the top five.

Logano has never won at Martinsville. He finished third in the spring race in 2015 and a famous 37th in the fall race after he was punted into the wall by Matt Kenseth as revenge for a spin that happened two weeks earlier at Kansas. Logano led a combined 315 laps in both those races and had the best car throughout the fall race. He was in first when Kenseth took him out of contention.

40 cars are attempting the race so no one misses out. Here's how they'll line up.

1. Joey Logano
2. Kasey Kahne
3. Brian Vickers
4. Paul Menard
5. Ryan Newman
6. AJ Allmendinger
7. Kyle Busch
8. Denny Hamlin
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Chase Elliott
11. Brad Keselowski
12. Ryan Blaney
13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
14. Greg Biffle
15. Jamie McMurray
16. Martin Truex Jr.
17. Kyle Larson
18. Casey Mears
19. Kevin Harvick
20. Aric Almirola
21. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
22. David Ragan
23. Kurt Busch
24. Jimmie Johnson
25. Carl Edwards
26. Brian Scott
27. Michael McDowell
28. Danica Patrick
29. Austin Dillon
30. Clint Bowyer
31. Cole Whitt
32. Trevor Bayne
33. Landon Cassill
34. Regan Smith
35. Matt DiBenedetto
36. Chris Buescher
37. Joey Gase
38. Michael Annett
39. Josh Wise
40. Reed Sorenson

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 1, 2016, 9:15 pm

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Friday that his tweet over the off-weekend saying he would be donating his brain for concussion research was a spur-of-the-moment announcement.

Junior has suffered multiple concussions in his NASCAR career. He said he had one in 2002 that he hid to keep racing and a second concussion in a matter of two months in 2012 sidelined him for two races. The first concussion of that year, which came in a tire test, was discovered when Junior was evaluated after crashing at Talladega.

His tweet was in response to a story about former Oakland Raiders players announcing they'd be donating their brains for concussion research in honor of teammate Ken Stabler. He said he learned a bunch about concussions and brain health while recovering from the concussions he sustained over three years ago.

“I saw a story, we obviously had the week off, and I was just sitting around reading Twitter and saw that story about the Raiders donating their brains. I just thought that was amazing that those guys did that in honor of their teammate.  I read where [former U.S. Women's National Team defender Brandi Chastain] had done that maybe a month ago. That just was really inspiring and I saw someone mention, I don’t even know what the context of the tweet I was responding to was.

"I probably should have -- [JR Motorsports public relations manager] Mike Davis would prefer me to have done that in a more put together fashion where we could have put together a release or whatever. I just was in the moment of conversation and that is sometimes the comfort that you find yourself in on Twitter sometimes and I didn’t expect it to turn into the story it did, but by all means if it raises more awareness and inspires people to donate their brains and pledge their brains. They don’t need just athletes. They need everybody. I’m going to give up all the organs that are worth anything when it’s over with. They can have it all.”

Why? What use is it to you at that point? I'm gonna donate mine. https://t.co/cBMZ8yIQuA

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) March 27, 2016

Discussion about concussions and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has once again been at the sports forefront over the last week with the NFL's demand that the New York Times retract a story about the NFL's concussion research.

While the NFL has been a major focus of the discussion surrounding head trauma, the racing world is a part of it too. IndyCar driver Will Power was misdiagnosed with a concussion before the season-opening race at St. Petersburg. Power, who was suffering from an inner-ear infection, was exhibiting signs that are commonly associated with concussions despite acclerometer data indicating he did not suffer a concussion when he crashed in practice before the race.

Earnhardt Jr. said he saw the purpose of the conversation that ensued after Power's diagnosis – one spurred by Power's Team Penske teammate and 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski – as one to help athletes that it's "understand that it’s okay to self-diagnose [concussions] and go get help."
Much like football, the racing community is much more aware of concussions and their effects on the human body.

It's not indycar or NASCAR's fault that doctors don't understand concussions and/or can't agree on them to diagnose. https://t.co/hazV85wHI9

— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) March 13, 2016

It is every sports league's fault for giving life altering decisions to the medical community in order to absolve themselves of liability.

— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) March 13, 2016

"I feel very good about the protocols that are in place," Earnhardt Jr. said. "[NASCAR] have stepped up and they have gotten more, like using the impact test, I believe in the impact test and what it’s used for and how it’s used. I think it’s a great tool not only for understanding a concussion or trying to diagnose a concussion, but it’s also a great tool to treat the concussion once you have been diagnosed and understand that you have the concussion how to treat it."

As he said he hoped researched had advanced to the point where scientists didn't need his brain, Earnhardt Jr. said he would be donating his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation and hoped to get a chance to make a visit to the foundation, located in Waltham, Massachusetts, during the season.

"I’m looking forward to having the opportunity when we go to New Hampshire maybe to go up to Boston University and talk to some people up there with the brain bank and learn more.  I’m really excited or passionate I guess a little bit to know more about it and understand the whole process.  I certainly want to know everything you can do. That is a very serious and personal decision. It would be interesting to go up there and see the bank and understand more.”

 

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

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 1, 2016, 7:10 pm

Ryan Shea, the car chief for Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 42 car in the Xfinity Series, died Wednesday night according to the team. He was 34 years old.

The team released a statement about Shea's death Thursday.

"It is a sad day for our team as we mourn the untimely loss of Ryan," Ganassi said in a statement. "Ryan was a dedicated worker and a great friend to those on our team, as well as others in the garage. Our hearts go out to Ryan’s family and friends during this difficult time."

The No. 42 has been driven by Kyle Larson and Justin Marks this year.

Saddened by the loss of my car chief in the xfinity series. Can't believe he's gone so soon! My condolences go out to him and his family.

— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) March 31, 2016

My thoughts on the passing of Ryan Shea: pic.twitter.com/XzKUBibck1

— Justin Marks (@JMarksDE) March 31, 2016

Shea joined CGR in 2015 after working at Michael Waltrip Racing. A GoFundMe was posted for Shea's family on Friday. IT raised over $4,000 in two hours since it was posted.

If you knew Ryan Shea and want to help his family through this awful time.. https://t.co/gNsvJJ2CEd pic.twitter.com/7DScYNuacV

— Ashley Parlett (@Just_AP) April 1, 2016

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 1, 2016, 5:55 pm

It's time for Happy Hour. As always, tweet us your thoughts or shoot us an email at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com if you want to participate.

Did you enjoy your off-weekend? It was a sports wasteland over Easter weekend, especially during the day. We made sure to catch at least parts of every Elite Eight game in the evenings, but the daytimes were tough. While the season is only five weeks old, the ubiquity of NASCAR makes off weekends feel a bit empty, especially when there's no baseball or club soccer to watch.

We're heading to the Elite Eight in our NASCAR March Madness tournament. The matchups for Martinsville are as follows:

Jamie McMurray vs. Denny Hamlin
Joey Logano vs. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jimmie Johnson vs. Carl Edwards
Kevin Harvick vs. Matt Kenseth

Not a bad slate there at all. Let's get going with your questions this week.

Are we ready to admit that Kyle's 200 wins will be as great as Petty beating up on the local yokels for his 200?- Jim

Oh, don't tell the loyal citizens of Twitter about this question. After Jimmie Johnson won at Phoenix, we made this joke. Kyle Busch has 157 wins across all three of NASCAR's top series.

Kyle Busch chasing Richard Petty's win mark, Jimmie Johnson besting Dale Earnhardt's... What a time to be alive

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) March 20, 2016

And.... kablooie.

@NickBromberg @jaywpennell You have @NASCAR credentials? @KyleBusch doesn't even have 35 wins in the series top level.

— Microphone Check (@happyholjes) March 20, 2016

@NickBromberg @jaywpennell Totally different...Petty's wins weren't minor league. Johnson OTOH could still tie title mark.

— Amy Henderson (@Writer_Amy) March 20, 2016

@NickBromberg @jaywpennell Richard Petty's 200 wins were all in the Winston Cup series, no other series like Xfinity. No one will match that

— Dale Brown (@dalebrg99) March 20, 2016

A direct comparison of Petty's 200 wins to a possible 200 wins (or more) for Busch is impossible. But are the accomplishments really that far off? While it's clear there's a massive disparity in the Truck Series and the Xfinity Series from top to bottom, there was one in the early years of the Cup Series too. To act like Petty was beating fields like exist now in the Cup Series is foolish.

When and if Busch gets to 200 wins, there should be a reasonable discussion about the significance of the number. However, given the love for NASCAR history that many fans have, we're not too confident it'll happen.

If a train left Maine 2 hrs ago while a bus left Chicago 8 minutes behind schedule, whats the square root of potato? https://t.co/nyOeTEANwe

— LugNot (@CharlotteLugNot) March 31, 2016

Freedom fries.

@NickBromberg Sticking to tourney, your final 4 of tracks that have/will be best for 2016 packages. And congrats/WTH pic.twitter.com/fjnD8wKf6q

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) March 31, 2016

Can we figure out a universal synonym or two for "package" when it comes to discussing NASCAR rule specifications? Thanks.

Our final four would have to be Atlanta, California, Michigan (hopefully) and Darlington. We miss the old Michigan before it was repaved. And don't speak of the abomination that was the Michigan race in August.

If you're looking for more NASCAR talk, you can stop reading now. The backstory behind the picture is this: We went out and bought enough Cadbury eggs to last through the end of 2016 at a pace of one per day.

Crazy? Yes. Depressing? Yes. Brilliant? Maybe. We're not even sure Cadbury eggs are that good (and neither are Martinsvill hot dogs /hottaked). But when you get them for 10 cents each, it's not much of a financial investment. And it's a fun and weird way to celebrate Easter.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 31, 2016, 6:34 pm

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Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso will miss Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix after he was diagnosed with a fractured rib from a scary crash he was in at Australia.

Alonso walked away from the accident at Australia, where his car launched over the top of Esteban Gutierrez's, flew through the air and barrel-rolled. He has not been cleared to race by FIA doctors at Bahrain and will be replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne.

Fernando Alonso reveals the extent of the injuries he suffered in Australia, after being ruled out of the #BahrainGP https://t.co/gxTTyDL6hp

— Formula 1 (@F1) March 31, 2016

Vandoorne, McLaren F1's reserve driver, is making his Formula 1 debut.

Alonso, who won the F1 title in 2005 and 2006 rejoined McLaren in the 2015 season following a stint at Ferrari. He came over to the team when McLaren made the switch to Honda engines as Honda was re-entering Formula 1. The engines have been underpowered and unreliable and Alonso has just one top-five finish with the team.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 31, 2016, 2:15 pm

Derek WhiteXfinity Series driver Derek White was reportedly arrested in what law enforcement officials termed the biggest tobbaco smuggling bust in North American history.

According to Bloomberg, White, 45, was a high-ranking member in the smuggling operation. White is a member of the Mohawk tribe in Kahnawake, Quebec, and the Kahnawake chief peacekeeper said White was one of three people in the tribe who had an arrest warrant.

Lieutenant Jason Allard, spokesman for the Quebec provincial police, said the tobacco operation was tightly organized. It bought shipments of tobacco leaf in North Carolina, trucking them north and reselling them in Canada. Profits from tobacco were used to purchase cocaine, and some of the money was laundered abroad, in Europe, he said. The tobacco shipments were not declared at the border and disclosed to government officials, thereby avoiding taxes and allowing the cigarettes to be manufactured and sold for less money. Baggies of 200 cigarettes can be purchased for $5 at Native smoke shops on the U.S. side of the border.

The arrests took place in 70 raids at residences and shops in Montreal and surrounding areas, as well as in Ontario, police said. Almost 700 Canadian and U.S. police were involved in the bust, according to a statement from Frederick Gaudreau, an investigator at the Surete du Quebec. Zacharie said no searches or arrests took place on Kahnawake territory in connection with the investigation.

According to NBC Sports, White turned himself in after learning of his arrest warrant and he's set to face seven charges.

Police said 52,800 kilograms of tobacco, 836 kilograms of cocaine, 21 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 35 pounds of pot were seized. If you're not familiar with the metric system, a kilogram is approximately 2.2 pounds.

White has made 22 career Xfinity Series starts including 13 in 2015. He also made his first Sprint Cup Series start in 2015, finishing 39th at New Hampshire. Per Motorsport.com, NASCAR is "looking into" the report of his arrest.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 30, 2016, 11:19 pm

Any NASCAR fan with a pulse knows Matt Kenseth was suspended two races for his punt of Joey Logano at last year's Martinsville Chase race.

The crash effectively ended Logano's title hopes; he was leading the race when Kenseth crashed and didn't get a win at Texas or Phoenix to make it to the final round of the Chase. Kenseth was mad because Logano had ended up effectively ending his Chase chances with a bump at Kansas two weeks prior.

Kenseth's punt has been replayed over and over. And over. And over. Some of those replays have included marketing from Martinsville Speedway itself. Track president Clay Campbell said Tuesday that he didn't have a problem using the incident as a promotional tool.

From Popular Speed:

“Yeah, it stirred up controversy but what do people want me to show, the pace lap? That would be like (the media), you write about the deal after it happened but you can’t do it anymore,” Campbell said on Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame promoting this weekend’s race. “Is that going to sell newspapers? Is that going to sell what you do?

“I get paid to sell tickets. I don’t think that crossed over the line.”

Fox Sports 1 hasn't shied away from using the incident either. The network's commercial for Sunday's race telecast promotes the bumper-banging style of the Cup Series at the half-mile track and climaxes with Kenseth's piledrive of Logano into the wall. It's not subtle; but then again, Fox promotion rarely ever is.

It raises a promotional paradox; while it was the most-talked about event of the 2015 season, it was bad enough to result in a two-race suspension, the first time a driver was suspended for on-track actions since Kyle Busch at Texas in 2011. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but would the NFL be showing the actions New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. took in 2015 to earn a one-game suspension as a vehicle to hype the 2016 season?

Likely not. But NASCAR is a sport that came to the forefront of American sports culture because of a confrontation between drivers and tends to receive the most national attention when drivers are having at it amongst themselves. That's why there's no direct comparison available for another sport. And Martinsville isn't the first to use a controversial act as a promotional tool.

“No, I wouldn’t think twice about it. Unfortunately, somebody did get penalized on it, that was the bad part about it, but we didn’t make a highlight out of that incident. It was just a small blurb of it. Was it a difficult decision, no,” Campbell reiterated. “I wouldn’t be doing my job, and I don’t think anyone sitting in this room would have done anything any different if what I’m paid to do is sell tickets.

“The golden rule is that if there’s an injury or anything like that, certainly you don’t cross over that line. That was a different deal than what NASCAR did with the two drivers; that’s between them. It’s like people saying now you look at a history book and people want to take certain chapters out of it like it didn’t happen.

“That did happen. So you can’t ignore history.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 30, 2016, 12:20 am

Without any racing last weekend, we need a special edition of Power Rankings. So why not relive the 12 finishes from the 2016 NASCAR season so far?

We've had five Sprint Cup Series races, five Xfinity Series races and two Camping World Truck Series races in 2016. Let's thrown them all in the same pot and see what rises to the top.

NOTE: "Finish" is not the same as the race. Rather than rate entire races, we're just focusing on the endings. These rankings would likely look different if we took entire races into account.

1. Sprint Cup Series, Daytona 500: Yeah, there's no way we can come close to justifying anything else being ahead of the Daytona 500. Not only was it the closest finish in Daytona 500 history at 0.01 seconds, Denny Hamlin's win over Martin Truex Jr. seemingly came out of nowhere. Halfway down the backstretch on the final lap you might have been thinking we were heading for a letdown of a checkered flag.

This was no letdown.

2. Xfinity Series, Auto Club Speedway: Had this race happened in the Cup Series, it perhaps snags the top spot ahead of the Daytona 500. That's how bonkers it was. We can't remember the last time we saw the leader blow a tire on the final lap (the 1990 Daytona 500 comes to mind), and not only that, his two closest pursuers ran out of gas. That meant the driver who was a distant fourth when the white flag flew ended up winning the race.

3. Sprint Cup Series, Phoenix: Tires mattered at Phoenix. When was the last time that we said that? In previous Phoenix races, Kevin Harvick would have been a guarantee to win the race if he stayed out simply because of the lack of tire falloff at the recently-paved track. Not this year. Carl Edwards' two-tire pit strategy was inches from paying off as he ran down Harvick over the final two laps and was 0.01 seconds from swiping the surprise win.

4. Xfinity Series, Daytona: There wasn't a lead change over the last 14 laps, but the finish was dramatic. Chase Elliott held off Joey Logano as the field somehow didn't have a massive crash in the waning laps. We feel like the race deserves a bonus for the lack of a crash.

5. Sprint Cup Series, Las Vegas: Yeah, Brad Keselowski ended up running away from everyone else over the final few laps, but his win felt a bit improbable. After staying out on the final caution of the race, Keselowski had older tires than Kyle Busch, who took the lead. But Keselowski's car was incredibly good on long runs and he got past Joey Logano. Then as Busch's tires went away, Keselowski cruised on past for his second Vegas win in three races.

6. Sprint Cup Series, California: You're so sneaky, Jimmie Johnson. Harvick dominated this race and was in position to get his second-straight win when Johnson drove past him on the final restart. Once Johnson got past Harvick, the 2014 champion was helpless to get past. Had Kyle Busch not had a tire issue late in the race to bring out that final caution, no one was catching Harvick.

7. Truck Series, Atlanta: John Hunter Nemechek scored his second career win by surviving an amalgamation of incidents over the last part of the race. The relative calm of the finish was a stark contrast from the craziness that enveloped the second half of the race, but it was still entertaining.

8. Sprint Cup Series, Atlanta: Johnson took the lead from Harvick with a faster and earlier pit stop. While Harvick was able to close the gap to Johnson, when he got within six seconds of the six-time champion, he stalled out. Harvick had a chance to go after Johnson when Ryan Newman crashed to bring out a green-white-checker finish, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended up being the driver who finished second.

9. Truck Series, Daytona: Since we said the Daytona Xfinity race deserved bonus points for not having a caution near the end of the race, we're not going to give this race a boost for the crazy crash that included Christopher Bell's truck flipping through the air. Had the caution not come out at the beginning of the final lap, we're not sure Johnny Sauter would have held on to win the race.

10. (TIE) The Xfinity Series races Kyle Busch won: Busch won at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix. He led 493 laps in those three races and the shortest time led at the end of the race was 14 laps at Phoenix. And that was only because of a green flag pit stop cycle that was manipulated by Keselowski and the No. 22 team. All the drama we lacked in these three wins combined to give us that crazy Auto Club finish.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 29, 2016, 1:50 pm

Having NASCAR withdrawals? The first off weekend of the year is always a tough one. Just when you think you're in the groove of the season, Easter brings it to an abrupt halt as none of NASCAR's three series is racing this weekend.

We're not sure we're going to be able to help much with those withdrawal symptoms. But we're going to try anyway with some statistics through the first five races of the season.

• Kevin Harvick has led 413 laps. The next three drivers in terms of laps led (Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin) have led 412 laps. As we noted Wednesday, Harvick is the only driver with five top-10 finishes in the first five races. And it may not be a good omen for his title chances.

• Harvick's 413 laps led are more than he led in all but two of his 13 seasons at Richard Childress Racing before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

• Six drivers – Harvick, Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Johnson – have completed every lap.

• Harvick could sit out the April 3 race at Martinsville and would be no worse than sixth in the points standings. If he sat out two races, he'd still be in the top 20 in points.

• While the gap between 1st and 10th in the points standings is 56 points, the gap between 21st and 30th is 28 points.

• 14 different drivers have two or more top-10 finishes.

• Denny Hamlin is the best qualifier so far in 2016. His average starting position is 7.6.

• Jimmie Johnson is the best driver at making up spots throughout a race. His average starting position is 16th, while his average finish is 6.4. On the flipside, Matt Kenseth has the privilege of being "the best." His average start is 8.8 while his average finish is 19.2.

• Kyle Larson has completed the fewest miles (1801.58) of any driver who has started all of the first five races.

• Sprint Cup Series drivers have led 776 of the 833 laps the Xfinity Series has completed in 2016. Kyle Busch has led 626 of those laps.

• The Xfinity Series driver with the most laps led is Justin Allgaier. He's led 15 laps. Ty Dillon has led 13 laps.

• Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler are the only two Xfinity Series drivers with top 10s in each of the first five racs. 11 Xfinity Series drivers have scored a top 10 (31 total) through the first five races.

• 21 drivers have started all five Xfinity Series races. The drivers among those 21 with the fewest points per race are Joey Gase and Ray Black Jr. They each have 52 points.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 25, 2016, 5:43 pm

The penalties are here. The penalties are here.

NASCAR finally announced the penalties from Saturday and Sunday's races at Auto Club Speedway and Danica Patrick and Kyle Busch each were fined for what they did over the weekend.

Patrick was fined $20,000 for coming towards the track to gesture towards Kasey Kahne after she crashed following contact with Kahne. Drivers are not allowed to go near the apron or racing surface following an incident and Patrick walked on to the apron. The rule was instituted after the fatal accident involving Kevin Ward Jr. and Tony Stewart at a dirt track in New York.

Patrick was also put on probation for four races.

Busch was fined $10,000 for not going to the media center after the Xfinity Series race on Saturday. Busch was livid that NASCAR did not throw a caution on the final lap when he blew a tire while leading the race. Had NASCAR thrown a caution, Busch would have won the race. Instead, he was passed by Austin Dillon exiting turn 4.

Busch had heatedly made a reference to NASCAR fixing races on his radio. He was also put on probation for four races. He said Sunday night that by not doing interviews he saved himself from a larger fine. 

Why? By not doing interview, I'll b getting a discount on my fine on Tuesday. RT @keeprovenrolin: @KyleBusch ... https://t.co/0yUItWo1pl

— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) March 21, 2016

Cole Pearn, Martin Truex's crew chief, was not penalized for his tweet regarding Joey Logano's appearance following the race. Pearn apologized for the tweet, which has since been deleted. Logano got into Truex during the race and Truex hit the wall. Truex finished 32nd and Logano took responsibility for the wreck afterwards.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 24, 2016, 5:55 pm

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