Brett Moffitt has a ride for NASCAR's western swing.

The Michael Waltrip Racing driver will pilot the No. 34 for Front Row Motorsports for the next three races. The No. 34 is open because its original driver, David Ragan, is filling in for Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing. Moffitt will drive at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway.

Moffitt filled in for Brian Vickers at Atlanta in MWR's No. 55 and drove it to an eighth-place finish despite sustaining crash damage early in the race. His performance was so exceptional that it elicited a statement from MWR on Monday afternoon.

“We are proud of how the entire No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine team has performed while Brian Vickers was recovering from his December surgery," MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said. "The race in Atlanta showcased the progress of the entire organization, as well as a promising young driver in Brett Moffitt. Brett has been in the MWR system the past couple of years and we’re enthusiastic about his potential. Brett is under a multi-year agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing. MWR would love to get back to a three-car team and grow with him into the future.  Before this past weekend we stated that we felt his name should be mentioned among the impressive crop of young drivers coming into the sport, and the Atlanta result validated that claim. While we work towards a fully supported in-house program, it is MWR’s desire that Brett get more quality opportunities in either of NASCAR’s top divisions and we will work diligently to make that happen."

But since MWR doesn't have a third team for Moffitt and Vickers is returning to the Sprint Cup Series at Las Vegas, Moffitt didn't have a ride, making him an appealing option for Front Row Motorsports.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to run some races for Front Row," Moffitt said in a Front Row release. "After last weekend, I'm obviously eager to get back into a car and keep racing. I'm grateful to Bob Jenkins and his team for giving me the chance to do that. I'll do my best to get some good finishes for them. I'm also thankful that Michael Waltrip Racing is allowing me to pursue this opportunity. I think it's going to benefit everyone in the end."

Joe Nemechek drove the No. 34 car at Atlanta and was involved in a late-race crash with Greg Biffle and a host of others.

Moffitt drove in seven Sprint Cup Series races in 2014 and before Atlanta, his highest finish was 22nd.

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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 4, 2015, 3:27 pm

Welcome to Random Recaps, our new weekly feature at From The Marbles. In this space, we'll recap a race from the past at the track the where Sprint Cup Series is racing next.

This week's race is the 2010 Shelby American. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here.

Jimmie Johnson scored his 49th career victory in the Shelby American with a 1.87 second win over Kevin Harvick.

Hendrick Motorsports cars swept three of the top four positions as Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin finished third and fourth. The team's fourth car, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 16th. Will he ever win again? He has just one win since 2006.

Johnson, the four-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion, led the final 17 laps after passing Gordon under green. Gordon, who dominated the race, had the lead after the race's final restart for 17 laps until Johnson snuck by. New four-time led just 18 laps all race while old four-time led 219 of the 267 circuits.

The final caution of the race was brought out by Rookie of the Year candidate Kevin Conway, who looks to have a bright future in the Sprint Cup Series with the mega financial backing of sponsor ExtenZe, who may or may not be involved in a study that will be the talk of the first week of March in the year 2015.

The race's biggest crash happened on lap 94 when Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya got together.

Harvick has the points lead through three races by 47 points over teammate Clint Bowyer.

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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 4, 2015, 2:44 pm

NASCAR is reportedly asking the next title sponsor of the Sprint Cup Series to pay significantly more than Nextel did when it took over for Winston.

Sprint, which assumed the role of Cup Series title sponsor after the Sprint-Nextel merger, announced in December it was discontinuing its sponsorship of NASCAR's top level after the conclusion of its current contract in 2016. According to the Sports Business Journal, NASCAR is asking the next title sponsor of the Cup Series to commit approximately $1 billion over 10 years in naming rights and activation.

From SBJ:

The sanctioning body has hit the market for Sprint’s replacement with a price tag of $45 million to $50 million annually in rights fees and the same in activation over a decade, according to sources. Sprint confirmed in December that it would end its 13-year sponsorship of NASCAR’s top series after the 2016 season.
NASCAR declined to comment for this story.

The asking price represents a 33 percent increase from the original deal, which was signed in 2004 with Nextel for a reported $750 million over 10 years before Sprint and Nextel merged. Amid struggling TV ratings and attendance for NASCAR at the time, Sprint negotiated that down to approximately $50 million annually when it signed a three-year extension in 2011, according to sources.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not only is the asking price $25 million more than the reported annual figure in 2004, it's double what the SBJ reports Sprint is paying per year in its three-year contract extension.

Of course, we all know how negotiations work, especially in these types of scenarios. What NASCAR is asking for won't likely be the figure that's officially agreed to. It's like buying a house, unless there are extenuating circumstances, you're going to negotiate with the seller and not immediately meet the asking price. And it's fair to say that NASCAR is entering the sponsorship search in a buyer's market.

When Nextel took over, the final race of the 2003 season, per Jayski, drew 7,326,000 viewers on television. Remember, that was the final non-Chase season and Matt Kenseth clinched the title the week before at Rockingham. Last year, the race on ESPN drew 5,223,000 viewers, a slight increase from 2013.

And as with most sports financial figures, the reported increase that NASCAR is seeking is higher than the rate of inflation over the past 11 years. Per this inflation calculator, there's been a 23.7 percent increase in inflation since Nextel took over.

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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 3, 2015, 4:10 pm

1. Joey Logano (LW: 1): There's no way to drop Joey after finishing fourth. Yeah, three of his closest pursuers in Power Rankings all finished ahead of him, but after he got the pole and ran in the top five for most of the day, there's no point in dropping him from the top spot. Before the race, Logano also said he was going to donate all his winnings from it to the Folds of Honor, the program sponsoring the Atlanta race.

2 (Tie). Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): This is a cop out here. Similar to Logano, we can't bump a guy down from second in Power Rankings after his average finish through two races is ... second. So Harvick stays here, even if it's by virtue of a tie. He might have had something for Jimmie Johnson at the end of the race, but he didn't start close enough to the No. 48 to make it a race at the end.

2 (Tie). Jimmie Johnson (LW: 3): A symbolic bump! Johnson and Chad Knaus are back! But how can they be back if they never left? This was Johnson's 71st win in the Cup Series, which puts him five behind Dale Earnhardt. What if he won five or six more races this season and the final race was at Homestead, to not only tie or pass Earnhardt but to win his seventh Cup title? That'd be infuriating for the Johnson haters and a pretty cool moment.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5): Junior had a massive hole in the front end of his car thanks to a puncture from debris near the end of the race. The hole affected his car's downforce and it ruined every chance that Junior had of making a run at Johnson. He had a shot immediately off the restart, but had he passed Johnson, he probably wouldn't have been able to hold on to the lead for long anyway.

5. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 8): MTJ to the top five. His opposite-from-2014 start continued at Atlanta where he was a top-10 car for most of the day and finished sixth. The absence of the Busch brothers for an extended period of time opens up two (presumed) Chase positions and don't be surprised if Truex ends up being a Chase driver. And also, don't be surprised if he is higher in the points standings than the three RCR cars. We're not leaping off the jump to conclusions mat here (we wondered if this was possible at the beginning of the season), just telling you to beware.

6. Casey Mears (LW: 7): Here's where it starts to get messy. If you watched the entire race at Atlanta, your only memory of Casey Mears may be the time he smashed the wall off turn four in front of the leaders. However, he did so pretty cleanly (well, as clean as one can hit the wall) and you'll notice that his car kept up with Johnson and Harvick fairly well in the immediate aftermath. Well, he finished 15th.

7. Kasey Kahne (LW: 9): Kahne was 15th at Atlanta. On Friday, he was asked, per the transcript "can you talk about the race in the fall?" Unfortunately, Kahne didn't go into descriptive detail of the day, or merely say "I won." While he did not finish in first place on Sunday, he was once again the third-highest-finishing Hendrick driver, ahead of Jeff Gordon. 5/24 shop bragging rights aren't moving across the hall.

8. Clint Bowyer (LW: 4): Can't fault Bowyer too much for getting caught up in the crash on lap 306. He had absolutely nowhere to go after Greg Biffle and Joe Nemechek made contact ahead of him and kablooie, the crash got bigger. It's probably also fair to wonder why Biffle and Nemechek were racing like they did; both were laps down. And for Biffle, it took him out of Power Rankings this week. He needs to be thinking of these things while he's in the car.

9. Denny Hamlin (LW: 6): Hamlin simply lost control of his car while racing near the front of the field and collected Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon. And while Gordon's impact against a non-SAFER wall is the focal point of the crash, let's not forget that McMurray and Hamlin hit non-SAFER walls too. Sorry if you don't like the beat of this drum, but it's going to continue to play until there are commitments from NASCAR and every track to do everything possible to outfit all (realistic) walls with SAFER barriers.

10. Matt Kenseth (LW: NR): Slick move by Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff to stay out on the final restart. Their reasoning was simple. They figured that by staying out they'd lose more spots than they'd gain by pitting and attacking on fresh tires. While we don't know how the latter option would have played out, they were likely right. Kenseth fell from the lead to fifth, and countered his forgettable Daytona 500.

11. AJ Allmendinger (LW: NR): Allmendinger finished seventh at Atlanta, a huge run if it's a sign for the rest of the season. JTG-Daugherty wasn't exactly exceptional on intermediate tracks in 2014 and to be anywhere close to a credible Chase threat, Allmendinger and team can't simply be a road-course-trick pony. While we're not as bullish on the No. 47 as we are with another team with an RCR alliance, Allmendinger could be a sleeper.

12. Brett Moffitt (LW: NR): This will likely be Moffitt's only turn in Power Rankings, so we'll give him his due now. In his one-race replacement duty for Brian Vickers, Moffitt took a car that was damaged in an early incident and drove it to an eighth-place finish. Hell, it was a performance so good that MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman issued a statement praising Moffitt and said the team would love to have him drive a third car if the opportunity ever arose.

Lucky Dog: Danica Patrick would make the Chase if it started this week, y'all. No word if NASCAR will institute a 34-race Chase to make this a reality, however.

The DNF: Per Lastcar, Landon Cassill is the first driver since 1949 to finish last in the first two races of the season.

Dropped out: Greg Biffle, David Gilliland, Sam Hornish Jr.

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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 3, 2015, 3:42 pm

The May 9 Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway will be sponsored by Nickelodeon and titled the "SpongeBob SquarePants 400."

No, it's not a joke. This isn't Warped Wednesday.

Before you go crazy wondering what NASCAR has come to, it's probably a good idea to remind you this isn't the first time a NASCAR race has borne the SpongeBob name. When the SpongeBob movie was about to be released, the fall 2004 Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was named the "Lowe's Presents the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 300" per Racing Reference. 

Maybe we should check with Menard's or Home Depot about a presenting sponsorship for this race.

Per a release from the track, there will be a Nickelodeon Kids Zone at the speedway and a SpongeBob photo booth. If it's a way to get kids out to the track, it's probably a good idea, don't you think? NASCAR isn't exactly the most popular sport among the younger demographics.

And besides, if you really do think the name is ridiculous, let us present to you the 2014 Brickyard 400, which was referred to as the Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com. That name is infinitely more ridiculous than the fairly-succinct Kansas race title and if you don't think so, you should be forced to say "Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com" 100 times in a row.

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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 2, 2015, 8:56 pm

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Kurt Busch has begun his attempt to return to the Sprint Cup Series.

According to NBC Sports, Busch has agreed to terms set by NASCAR to be reinstated after his indefinite suspension following an accusation of domestic assault. Now, Busch must work to meet those terms, which NASCAR declined to identify.

“The outside experts, one of the things they had advised us from the beginning was no matter what actions we take … that it was very, very important for us to provide a road back,’’ NASCAR spokesperson David Higdon told NBC Sports “For those who are experts in this field, specifically in domestic violence, that is critical. We did follow that advice. We’re pleased that he has indicated he will begin the program that we have laid out for him.’’

The Delaware attorney general has not announced if Busch will be criminally charged from a September incident with ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, who says Busch slammed her head against the wall of his motorhome. Busch denies the assault accusation, though a Kent County Commissioner said that it was "more likely than not" that Busch committed an act of abuse in a decision regarding a request for protection granted for Driscoll against the driver.

The commissioner's decision was made public on the Friday before the Daytona 500. After the decision, NASCAR suspended Busch indefinitely. Regan Smith has driven for him in the first two Sprint Cup Series races of the season and will fill in again at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

According to Higdon, Busch will work with an outside expert who will report back to the sanctioning body as part of his efforts to get back behind the wheel of the No. 41 car. There is also no timetable for the process.

Following NASCAR's indefinite suspension, Chevrolet suspended its personal services relationship with the driver. Busch's car is sponsored by Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas' company.

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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 2, 2015, 4:34 pm

Mar 1, 2015; Hampton, GA, USA; Sitting with a electrical heater and a beer, Bennie Waller of Milledgeville, Ga., watches the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 50 from the infield at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports)HAMPTON, Ga. - 40. 52. 44. 66. 40.

No, it's not a list of the cars collected in either of the surprisingly large accidents on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It's a list of the mean Fahrenheit temperatures of this date at the track over the last five years. And since Jimmie Johnson ran a race that offered very little reason for question, we turn our attention to this: why on earth is there a race in Atlanta on the first day of March?

All right, fine, we'll give Johnson his due: his victory in the nobly-aimed, awkwardly-named Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is the 71st of his career. He's eighth on the all-time wins list, now only five behind Dale Earnhardt. He's one point off the Cup standings lead behind Joey Logano, and he's almost surely punched his ticket into the Chase. He started 38th thanks to Friday's qualifying debacle, and even so managed to weave right through the field and lead 92 of the race's 325 laps.

All of which means that the next time the Sprint Cup series comes around to Atlanta, Johnson could very well be the seven-time defending champion. And for the sake of the track and the fan base around it, that return should be well over a year from now.

NASCAR, its tracks, and its broadcast partners create every year's schedule using a mixture of fixed dates, ratings considerations, weather forecasts, and probably a bit of alchemy. With all that in mind, it's not hard to envision a scenario where Atlanta ended up with this immediate post-Daytona date because it was the only one available.

Problem is, consider the factors working against this race from an attendance standpoint. The weather this time of year in Atlanta is generally gray and miserable, the kind of not-quite-sun, not-quite-snow that inspires ennui and bad poetry. Plus, NASCAR scheduled the very first race after Daytona for the second-closest track to Daytona, which means that all but the most independently wealthy of the mobile RV segment of the fanbase would opt for warm Florida over drizzly Georgia. (During last week's Daytona 500, Fox's Mike Joy advised fans on the way home from Florida to stop in Atlanta. It was a good, if ridiculously far-fetched, effort.)

Granted, there's a case to be made that at-track attendance is less important than ratings, that as long as the product is delivered to the viewing public via NASCAR's massive new television contracts, it doesn't much matter the source. Onscreen, Atlanta looks like Texas looks like Charlotte looks like Kentucky looks like ... you get the idea. Of course, the scattered stands are a bit of a discordant backdrop, like a symphony with one kazoo, but mathematically, you can make a case that the millions watching on TV carry greater weight than the tens of thousands pushing through the turnstiles at any given track.

Atlanta itself also carries a measure of blame; this is a fickle, front-running sports town. The track lost a date a few years back in large part because of attendance (and because track owner Speedway Motorsports Inc. wanted to give a date to Kentucky). So the city's rep and fan behavior do it no favors.

Plus, the track date is a bit of a moving target. Too early in the year, and you get the chilly mess of Sunday. Too late in the spring, and the temperature heats up hot enough to cook infield fans in their tents. Wait until after August, and college football and the NFL claim a huge chunk of potential ticket-buyers.

Nothing's ever simple in NASCAR; every action has a thousand unintended reactions. Still, this is one that,at first glance, seems fairly easy to implement: start the west coast swing one week earlier, and slot Atlanta into the season's fifth week. (Mean temperature data for the past three years, the only available: 64, 55, 70. A wee bit better than Sunday.)

Atlanta's one of NASCAR's best tracks from a pure driving perspective, as well as one of its most historic. Drivers love racing here, and championships have been won here. It deserves a better date, a better fate than Daytona afterthought.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. (Full disclosure, he lives in Atlanta.) Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: March 1, 2015, 11:56 pm

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Before last Saturday's Xfinity Series race, the lap 256 crash that happened among Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman at Atlanta on Sunday would be just another crash. But now that we're in a post-Kyle Busch broken-bones world, it'll hopefully be yet another catalyst for change.

After Hamlin got loose coming off turn two, he collected McMurray and Newman. McMurray's car spun into Gordon's and both of their cars slammed into walls that weren't covered with protective SAFER barrier, the same type of bare concrete walls that Busch's car slammed into at Daytona, breaking his right leg and his left foot.

“I am very frustrated with the fact there are no SAFER barriers down there," Gordon said. "I knew it was a hard hit.  I was like ‘man I can’t believe…’ I didn’t expect it to be that hard. Then I got out and I looked and I saw ‘oh wow big surprise I found the one wall here on the back straightaway that doesn’t have a SAFER barrier. I don’t think we can say any more after Kyle’s (Busch) incident at Daytona. Everybody knows we have to do something and it should have been done a long time ago. All we can do now is hope they do it as fast as they possibly can.”

All of the drivers involved in the crash were uninjured.

Pretty convenient to c that SAFER Barrier end just before @jeffgordonweb pounds wall. Hope he's healthy! When will this end @NASCAR

— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) March 1, 2015

After Busch's crash at Daytona, Atlanta announced that it would add protective tire barriers onto the inside wall of turn four. Gordon hit the inside wall entering turn three, mere feet after SAFER barrier on the inside of the backstretch wall ended.

And he didn't find the only spot without SAFER barriers, either. The entire backstretch outside wall is not covered and it it wasn't for Gordon's car serving as a roadblock, McMurray was heading for a major impact with the unprotected backstretch wall.

Given the changes Daytona set in motion with its announcement of safety improvements following Busch's crash, Atlanta Motor Speedway was scrambling to react with less than a week until its race weekend began. And while it's fair to criticize the track for not having the bare inside walls more protected than it did, there's nothing it could have done for the outside wall for Sunday's race.

However, there's definitely things that can be done in preparation for 2016. And there's things that will be done, as, ideally, NASCAR makes SAFER mandatory at every inch of wall possible in anticipation of the coming season. Sunday's crash was just another example that it's not in enough places right now.

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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 1, 2015, 10:54 pm

The reported stolen No. 44 Team Xtreme car was found Saturday morning.

The team tweeted a picture of the car's owner with the car, which was found in suburban Atlanta. The Morrow Police Department confirmed to the AP that the car had been recovered.

So Happy to have "old faithful" back. Favorite race car. pic.twitter.com/ZtAdKyPSg6

— Team XTREME Racing (@Teamxtreme44) February 28, 2015

The hauler the car was in was reported stolen from the parking lot of a Drury Inn on Friday morning. According to police, the hauler was taken from the parking lot at 5:34 a.m. and was reported stolen at 5:52 a.m.

The team was forced to withdraw from Sunday's Sprint Cup race because it was the only car it had prepared for the weekend.

Surveillance video from the hotel showed a silver Jeep enter the hotel parking lot. A man then walked across the lot and seconds later, the hauler drove off in the opposite direction. The car was in the hauler because the team sent its transporter to the track to be parked for Thursday's test session at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the car wasn't ready for the race when the transporter left.

Team Xtreme qualified for the Daytona 500 and finished 32nd despite a crash in front row qualifying. The team has said it plans to attempt next week's race in Las Vegas.

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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: February 28, 2015, 4:45 pm

Friday's qualifying session at Atlanta was blighted by inspection issues that apparently plagued 13 teams

More than a quarter of the 47 cars attempting the race didn't get to make a qualifying attempt because they didn't get through inspection on time. According to Fox Sports 1, NASCAR said all 13 cars were at least on their second attempt for inspection after not passing their first time through.

Jeff Gordon, one of the drivers whose car didn't get through inspection to make a qualifying attempt, called it "embarrassing."

"First time ever. First time for everything I guess," Gordon said about the number of cars missing out on the first round. "This is absolutely embarrassing ... I just feel so bad for my guys ... to not even get a chance to go out on the race track is ridiculous. I know the fans, they deserve an apology. I don't know how many cars there must be back here that never even got a chance to go on the track.

"I know we went through twice. When you have this many -- I've seen five or six, you know, maybe even 10 cars, that have issues going through and certain little things, but this many cars that didn't go, that's not on these teams. They deserve better than this ... I assume I made the race, who knows what even happens with the points going in and there's guys that don't have the points that I know are going home and never had the chance to get out there. It's a big letdown for me and our series that this happened because there's no way that this should have ever happened."

While hedging with an "I don't know" in typical Matt Kenseth style, the 2003 champion quipped that "Obviously they weren't organized to get everyone through tech it appears."

I don't know what to say about today. Spent all of our practice working on qualifying. Didn't even get a chance to make a lap. Frustrating!

— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) February 27, 2015

If we would have known this was going to happen, we could have worked on the race setup. Was a total waste of a day at the track

— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) February 27, 2015

@TonyStewart start 39 now because of this crap. Now I'm pissed off

— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) February 27, 2015

Both Cup qualifying sessions in 2015 have now had issues. In Daytona, many drivers complained about the group qualifying format, including Clint Bowyer, who was involved in a crash.

It's not uncommon for a car to not get through pre-qualifying inspection on the first try. However, it is uncommon to have so many cars miss qualifying. NASCAR moved the qualifying session back 15 minutes from its scheduled 5:45 p.m. starting time, but that only helped a few drivers like Bowyer, who drove onto the track after clearing inspection with less than eight minutes remaining in the first round.

"We treat everybody the same," Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck said. "There was cars that came through there two and even a couple cars that came through three times, effort. Everybody got a fair shot at coming through there in a timely manner, and then obviously at the end, we saw the time frame and we were hustling and pushing. I was pushing all of our officials, but that pushing on the officials was -- is pushing to physically keep the same accuracy when it was a mechanical job, but the laser itself, it's automated, so there's no -- there was no difference from the first cars that went through there to the last ones."

Alex Bowman, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Gordon, Jeb Burton, Reed Sorenson, Cole Whitt, Landon Cassill, Regan Smith, Michael Annett, Jimmie Johnson, Mike Wallace and Matt DiBenedetto were the drivers who didn't get through the inspection line. According to the rules NASCAR uses to set the field via a rainout, Annett, DiBenedetto, Sorenson and Wallace would miss the race.

Missing qualifying is an incredibly harsh punishment for not getting through inspection on the first try. And while being sent back through the line for a violation isn't uncommon, should it be entirely accepted? Does NASCAR need to have a rule limiting the number of times a car can go through inspection? Should any inspection attempt after the first be considered on an "if time allows" basis? Does inspection time need to be longer? Should qualifying wait if X teams have issues getting through tech? Should each car be granted a second attempt through inspection before qualifying can begin? 

There are a lot of questions.

The last question could be a possible solution, though it could also prove problematic at a track with a busy schedule. There was nothing scheduled at Atlanta after qualifying, so NASCAR could have delayed the session for an hour if it needed to. However, at a track where qualifying precedes an Xfinity or Camping World Truck Series race, there's a finite window to get qualifying in.

What happened on Friday appears to be a preventable scenario. Just don't immediately jump to blame either NASCAR or the teams just yet.

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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: February 27, 2015, 11:48 pm

The video from the hotel where Travis Kvapil's No. 44 car was located isn't too revealing.

TMZ obtained the security footage from the Drury Inn where the hauler containing Kvapil's car for Sunday's race at Atlanta was reported stolen.

The video shows a silver Jeep, identified in previous reports as belonging to the person(s) suspected of taking the truck. The Jeep is shown going into the parking lot and then backing up. A man then walks across the screen from the right to the left.

However, it's inconclusive if the man shown in the video gets in the truck or not. He disappears and then headlights appear as the truck and hauler drive off to the left.

The alleged theft took place shortly after 5:30 a.m. From USA Today:

According to the police report, surveillance footage captured part of the theft. At 5:25 a.m., a newer model silver or grey Jeep Cherokee was observed driving into the Drury Inn parking lot. It was seen returning at 5:32 a.m.; two minutes later, the trailer and the car inside were seen leaving the property.

Team Xtreme crew chief Peter Sospenzo called police at 5:52 a.m. to report the trailer missing.

The No. 44 team withdrew from Sunday's race and team owner John Cohen has said the team plans to be at Las Vegas.

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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: February 27, 2015, 10:31 pm

Jeff Gordon has said he doesn't want 2015 to become a farewell tour. But you can be damn sure he's going to get a lot of gifts throughout the season.

The gift he got from Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday was pretty cool. The track gave him a No. 24 bandalero car for his kids Ella and Leo.

“That is amazing," Gordon said after accepting the gift. "I appreciate you not giving me anything. Leo is going to want to sleep in this thing at night. I have a feeling this might end up in his bedroom for a year or two before he can drive it. That is awesome. Thank you so much. I was watching practice earlier with Xfinity and I saw the ‘Thanks 24’ out there in the grass. It really put a big smile on my face."

Gordon's first Sprint Cup start came at Atlanta in 1992. It was also Richard Petty's last race. In 41 starts at the track he has five wins and 26 top-10 finishes.

Will Ella, 7, and Leo, 4, race it? Ella turned laps in a quarter midget car last year.

“Well first of all Mom and Dad are going to have to figure out if [Leo] can because we did the quarter midget track last year a couple of times. Ella was ready to go. Leo is not quite ready, but I can see him being ready soon, but Mom and Dad were not ready for that. That was terrifying. This thing goes a lot faster than a quarter midget. As cool as this thing is it is going to be more on me getting my heart ready for it. We have ordered two quarter midgets this year because we do plan on doing more of it. 

“When Leo is ready we have got one for him.  I think that they are going to drive some cars I just don’t know where it all is going to go.”

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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: February 27, 2015, 9:44 pm

Following two surgeries for the injuries he sustained in a crash in Saturday's Xfinity Series race, Kyle Busch has been released from the hospital.

While my teams r still doin amazing work, we r here doin up final adjustments getting ready for recovery at home! pic.twitter.com/SK8oAFNmWL

— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) February 27, 2015

Two surgeries, two hospitals, one very long week! So grateful we finally get to go home! Thank you God 🙏 pic.twitter.com/MSdvWybOe8

— Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) February 27, 2015

Busch had surgery on his broken left foot at a hospital in North Carolina after leaving Daytona. He had his right legoperated on while in Daytona.

David Ragan is filling in for Busch in the No. 18 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: February 27, 2015, 6:22 pm

Team Xtreme has withdrawn from Sunday's race at Atlanta after the No. 44 car Travis Kvapil was scheduled to drive was reported stolen from the parking lot of a hotel overnight Thursday.

The team said the car was in a hauler attached to the back of a truck.

Ok, to clarify. @Teamxtreme44 transporter is @amsupdates. The guys stayed and worked on the car Thursday at the shop in NC. They drove....

— Travis Kvapil (@TravisKvapil) February 27, 2015

down last night in a Ford dually and enclosed trailer with racecar inside. That was stolen out of hotel parking lot this am in Morrow, GA

— Travis Kvapil (@TravisKvapil) February 27, 2015

From NBC Sports:

The black Ford pickup, white trailer (both with New Jersey license plates) and the No. 44 car were taken early Friday morning from outside the team’s hotel in Morrow, Ga. [Team Xtreme owner] John Cohen said hotel security video shows a silver Jeep pull up before the trailer was taken.

“That was a thief that stole that,’’ Cohen told NASCAR Talk.

It's the only car the team has prepared for the race, which is why it withdrew. In parts of four seasons, the team has made 16 Sprint Cup Series starts.

Here it is......New Jersey plates pic.twitter.com/YayDb2Ya6u

— Travis Kvapil (@TravisKvapil) February 27, 2015

With this inside! @Teamxtreme44 pic.twitter.com/H5p1Boc9Cm

— Travis Kvapil (@TravisKvapil) February 27, 2015

From USA Today:

"Sometimes what happens when thieves see trailers, they might just assume there's something in the trailer they can go off and sell," Morrow Police Sgt. Larry Oglesby told USA Today Sports. "Sometimes when things like this occur, they will drop off the items in a parking lot somewhere – like a Walmart parking lot – once they realize what they have.

"They'll open it up and say, 'Oh my God, this is not what we thought it was. Let's get out of here.' And they'll take off and leave it sitting there. We're hoping that will be the situation so he can get back to his races this weekend, because they drove quite a distance to participate."

The team qualified for the Daytona 500 last week after scrambling to prepare a backup car because of a qualifying crash. Reed Sorenson drove the car in the 500 and crashed with Clint Bowyer in qualifying. The team got Sorenson's backup to Daytona in time for the Duels and he raced his way into the Daytona 500. Sorenson's 32nd in the 500 is the team's highest-ever finish.

According to Cohen, the team's owner, the team is planning to be at Las Vegas.

This episode may bring back memories of the last NASCAR hauler-stealing escapade, which happened in 2013. Jennifer Jo Cobb alleged that Mike Harmon, a fellow driver and team owner, stole her hauler. The hauler was part of a dispute involving the ownership of assets between Cobb and a former business and romantic partner, David Novak. While Cobb won a judgment in state court involving the incident, she asked for the criminal charges against Novak and Harmon to be dropped.

UPDATE: Here's the security video from the hotel, as obtained by TMZ:

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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: February 27, 2015, 4:24 pm

David Ragan's arrangement with Joe Gibbs Racing was aided by a tenuous full-time status at Front Row Motorsports.

Ragan, who is filling in for Kyle Busch in the No. 18 car in the near-term, said it was "iffy" if he'd be able to run the full season in the No. 34 car.

"Our situation at Front Row this year was a little iffy on whether we were going to be able to run the entire schedule," Ragan said. "We had some good sponsorship with some of our partners – CSX and KFC for the Daytona 500. I got a call from one of the management at Joe Gibbs Racing on Monday afternoon and they just asked if I had any interest in talking to them. They had heard that I wasn't committed or didn't have a firm commitment for the full, entire Sprint Cup season. I told them that I would have some interest if we could get all the parties to mutually agree on a package that would benefit us all."

A winner at Talladega in 2013, Ragan has run the full season in all three of his seasons with the team after moving over from Roush Fenway Racing. However, the team re-expanded to three full-time cars in 2015 with the addition of Cole Whitt. Whitt also brought sponsorship to the team and he had the owner's points from the No. 34 car for the Daytona 500. Ragan was forced to qualify on speed.

He said Thursday that he didn't know how long he'd be filling in for Busch, who is sidelined with a broken right leg and a broken left foot after his crash on Saturday.

"I think as a driver you just have to take it week by week and race by race," Ragan said. "As far as the length of time that Kyle will be out, I don't think anyone really knows that yet. That's probably a good question for the Gibbs folks. I know for the next several weeks, I'll be in the 18 car. I don't know that we really have a hard time frame on it just yet."

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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: February 27, 2015, 12:04 am

Happy Hour is back, back again. Happy Hour is back, back, tell a friend.

Throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com or @NickBromberg. We'll post them here and have a good time.

Llamas, llamas everywhere on Thursday. We even heard they were testing a car or two at the track as part of a new NASCAR program designed to get animals into the sport. In case you were wondering if a llama could make the Chase, here are five reasons it could.

QuikTrip is the title sponsor of Sunday's race, and to celebrate, QT is providing the media food for the weekend.

Thanks @QuikTrip for the media center food this weekend! #FoHQT500 pic.twitter.com/IefMW48NBi

— AtlantaMotorSpeedway (@amsupdates) February 26, 2015

Holy carbohydrates. If you live in an area with QuikTrips, you probably like them. QT seems like the type of convenience store that's impossible to dislike. Fountain drinks are cheap, the food is pretty good (relative to gas station food, not a nice steakhouse, of course) and they're clean. Back in our younger days we could take down some cheese taquitos and a 52 oz. fountain drink with no problem. Of course the fountain drink was Diet Dr. Pepper, though. Because health.

Let's start with an email regarding the Daytona 500 finish.

-------

Saturday night's wreck was unfortunate sure, but should have had no bearing on [Sunday's] race as long Daytona management did what they said the were doing. It should have been a clear race to the checker, not a finish under caution. I bet money that I am not the only one who thinks this way! - Joel

No, it shouldn't have been a race to the finish under green. And Joel brings up Saturday's race because of our explanation here.

It was a mess on the backstretch and there's no way to call a caution flag for just part of the field. You can't tell the drivers behind the crash to stop barreling through it in the hopes of improving their finishing position while allowing the leaders to race to the checkered flag.

Do we really want drivers knowing that there will (almost) never be a caution flag on the final lap? Or do we want a rule saying that every race must end under green even if there is a caution flag?

And for the sake of discussion, let's extrapolate the latter option out for a moment and say NASCAR institutes a rule that if a caution flag comes out on the last lap, the race isn't over and it needs to finish under green.

What happens the first time someone crashes in turn four as the leader (with a sizeable lead) is about to hit the start/finish line for the win? And then when the ensuing restart happens, that leader loses the lead and the race? Can you imagine the amount of complaining then? Do we really want both that situation and the complaining? We certainly don't.

You may think the green-white-checkered rule that's in place right now may be flawed, but you're not going to find a perfect solution.

@NickBromberg With the Rice and Peterson saga this year in the NFL why hasn't NASCAR been looked at w/ the same outrage with the Busch situa

— Josh Anderson (@JoshAnderson09) February 26, 2015

@NickBromberg situation. Did NASCAR handle it better? Or was the outrage always there through the process, it was just not as documented?

— Josh Anderson (@JoshAnderson09) February 26, 2015

No matter what NASCAR did, there were going to be complaints. The sanctioning body was, quite frankly, in a scenario with no good options. Either side was going to elicit complaints from observers.

(Now, if the Delaware attorney general announces soon there will be no charges stemming from the alleged incident, then it's going to get tricky. But we'll worry about that scenario if/when it happens.)

Simply put, the precedent that the NFL set with it's handling of the Ray Rice case is the big factor here. It's fair to wonder if Busch is suspended before the NFL was the disaster it was because of the way it handled Travis Kvapil's situation. However, with the increased scrutiny, the public opinion parameters are certainly different.

And it's also important to note that NASCAR is not nearly on the same scale the NFL is in the minds of the casual sports observer. The NFL's platform magnified the scrutiny it received.

@NickBromberg question if one of the substitute drivers wins in the 18,34 or 41 which driver gets the chase spot ? The regular or the sub

— Todd C. Lewis (@NJParrtHead) February 26, 2015

It depends on the Chase! Yes, there are two Chases.

Let's say David Ragan wins in the No. 18 car and goes back to Front Row Motorsports in July. He would be qualified for the Chase no matter what car he's driving, so he'd be a member of the Chase in the No. 34 car in the driver's points standings. However, the win is also credited to the owner, so when it comes to owner's points, the No. 18 car would be in the Chase while the No. 34 wouldn't. Clear as mud, right?

Just think of it like the title scenarios in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series last year. While Chase Elliott and Matt Crafton were the drivers' champions, the Team Penske No. 22 and Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 were the owner's points champions.

So if you're a fan of complicated scenarios, you're rooting for a substitute driver to get a win and vacate his ride before the Chase. And then for either Kyle Busch or Kurt Busch – assuming either return this season to be incredible in the Chase (despite not qualifying themselves). If either Busch brother was top points-accumulating driver in the Chase and his car was in it, the car would win the owner's championship while another driver would win the driver's title.

Imagine trying to explain that to any casual observers who tune in for the final race of the season.

@NickBromberg Want a Chase redo since Busch Nations were toppled? Is the hat part of NASCAR loud clothes collection? pic.twitter.com/BnSJzpkkoW

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) February 26, 2015

Do we all get mulligans? If so, let's go with Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex Jr. as the replacements for the Busch brothers in the Chase.

And yes, that hat officially goes into the loud category. We were looking forward to the look of the hat given NASCAR's New Era partnership, and, well, it underwhelmed. Too bad it couldn't have been closer to this Dale Earnhardt Jr. hat.

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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: February 26, 2015, 11:12 pm

Kyle Busch had his second surgery on Wednesday.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Busch had what it termed successful surgery on his fractured left foot. The surgery happened after Busch was transferred back to North Carolina from Daytona Beach, where he had surgery on the broken leg he sustained in the Xfinity Series crash Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

No timetable has been given on Busch's absence from NASCAR, but it's likely it'll be a lengthy one; long enough to prevent Busch from being eligible to receive a NASCAR waiver to make the Chase. Unless the rules change, drivers have to be in the top 30 of the points standings to make the Chase.

Busch will be replaced in the Cup Series for the foreseeable future by David Ragan, who will be replaced in his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports car by Joe Nemechek in Atlanta. Erik Jones, who drives for Busch's Camping World Truck Series team, will drive Busch's Xfinity Series car at Atlanta.

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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: February 26, 2015, 12:38 pm

Joe Nemechek is David Ragan's replacement at Atlanta.

Front Row Motorsports said Wednesday that Nemechek would pilot the No. 34 car on Sunday. The team needed a replacement for Ragan after he became the temporary driver of the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing in place of Kyle Busch, who suffered a broken right leg and broken left foot in a crash at Daytona on Saturday.

If Nemechek makes the race, it'll be start No. 667 in the Cup Series for him. If you're a fan of Blblical numerology, you may think that's a big deal.

Nemechek, 51, is a four-time winner in the Cup Series, most recently with MB2 Motorsports at Kansas in 2004. Since leaving Furniture Row Racing at the conclusion of the 2008 season, he's primarily driven for his own team. Last year was the first time in six years that he made a Sprint Cup Series start for a team other than Nemco Motorsports.

He was originally entered in the Daytona 500 but withdrew and instead attempted the Xfinity Series race and ran the Camping World Truck Series race. He splits time with his son, John Hunter Nemechek, in the family's No. 8 truck.

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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: February 25, 2015, 6:39 pm

Welcome to Random Recaps, our new weekly feature at From The Marbles. In this space, we'll recap a race from the past at the track the where Sprint Cup Series is racing next.

Here's how it works. Thanks to the box score data at Racing Reference, we know how many Sprint Cup Series races have been held at a track. At Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Cup race, there have been 107 cup races.

With that knowledge in hand, we head over to Random.org and set our minimum to 1 and our maximum to 107. Whatever number the generator gives us is the race we'll recap. The generator gave us 18, so we'll start with the 18th race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

1968 Atlanta 500

Date: March 31, 1968

The 1968 Atlanta 500 was dominated and won by Cale Yarborough in the 60 Minute Cleaners 1968 Mercury for the Wood Brothers. Yarborough led 172 of the race's 334 laps and won nearly $21,000 for his efforts.

He beat LeeRoy Yarbrough to the line by nine seconds in the race that was marred by 11 cautions and took nearly four hours to complete. The Yarborough/Yarbrough brothers were the only two cars on the lead lap. Donnie Allison finished third, one lap down. Charlie Glotzbach and Darel Dieringer rounded out the top five two laps down.

(Editor's note: Do you really want to go back to the good old days of NASCAR?)

Yarborough led the last 29 laps of the race en route to the fifth victory of his career and his second of the 1968 season. He won the Daytona 500 in February. He also beat Yarbrough to the line in the 500.

Bobby Allison led 42 laps but finished 19th because of crash. He completed 291 laps.

44 cars raced at Atlanta and only 19 were running at the finish. Wendell Scott was 25th after completing 129 laps because of an oil pressure problem. Three drivers, Red Farmer, Bill Seifert and Henley Gray, did not finish the race with a listed reason of "quit."

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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: February 25, 2015, 3:34 pm

David Ragan will fill in at Atlanta and beyond for Kyle Busch in the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Ragan emerged as a candidate for the car on Tuesday. According to the team's release, Ragan "will pilot the No. 18 M&M's Crispy Toyota for at least the next several weeks." No timetable on Busch's recovery was given. Busch was transported back to North Carolina on Tuesday after suffering a compound fracture in his lower right leg and a broken left foot in a crash on Saturday at Daytona.

“We appreciate being able to work with Front Row Motorsports and CSX for David’s (Ragan) availability,” Joe Gibbs said in the statement. “We are fortunate to be able to have someone of David’s caliber behind the wheel while Kyle recovers. Erik is a big part of our future at JGR and we will be increasing his schedule in the XFINITY Series beginning this weekend in Atlanta and seeking the earliest opportunity to provide him Cup experience. We appreciate all the support we have received from the NASCAR community including our fans and we look forward to getting Kyle back in the car as soon as possible.”

Erik is Erik Jones, who will drive the No. 54 Xfinity Series car for Busch at Atlanta.

Ragan has been with Front Row Motorsports in the Cup Series since the beginning of the 2012 season. His temporary move to Joe Gibbs Racing gives the team three former Roush Fenway Racing drivers in Ragan, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.

FRM utlizes Fords in the Cup Series but the manufacturer change proved to ultimately not be an obstacle. His No. 34 car had no owner's points in 2015 after Cole Whitt's No. 35 had the points transferred to it. Whitt brought a sponsor to Front Row. Had Ragan tried to qualify for Atlanta with FRM, he would have had to make the race on qualifying speed.

The move gives Ragan a chance to compete in top-tier equipment once again. Front Row is the No. 4 Ford team in the Cup Series behind Team Penske, Roush Fenway and Richard Petty Motorsports.

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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: February 24, 2015, 11:14 pm

Atlanta Motor Speedway is taking some extra measures for its race weekend.

The track is now the second weekend on the NASCAR circuit and announced Tuesday that it would put tire barriers on the inside turn four wall. In Saturday's Xfinity Series race at Daytona, Kyle Busch hit an unprotected concrete wall and broke his right leg and left foot. After the Xfinity Series race, Daytona added tires to the inside wall Busch hit for the Daytona 500.

There isn't enough time to have SAFER barriers installed before race activities begin, and the track said it would look at areas for SAFER barriers after the race. It's also extending the pit road wall.

Tire packs from @CLTMotorSpdwy will be set up @amsupdates for added safety. @NASCARONFOX #nascar @FOXSports1 pic.twitter.com/S9wHPESkap

— Andrew Doud (@AndrewDoud) February 24, 2015

Both Charlotte Motor Speedway and Atlanta are tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc.

Charlotte, New Hampshire and Kentucky (the latter two are SMI tracks as well) are also adding more SAFER barriers. Expect other tracks to make similar announcements as the season goes on.

Talladega president Grant Lynch told USA Today that he expects his track to follow the steps Daytona is taking.

While it's easy to applaud the fact that tracks are making the move to install more protection for drivers, it's a move that's way, way too late. it doesn't excuse that safety measures should have been at A-level standards at all tracks across the board before Busch's crash.

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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: February 24, 2015, 8:52 pm

Joe Gibbs Racing could be looking to an established Sprint Cup Series driver to fill in for Kyle Busch.

According to both NBC Sports and the Charlotte Observer, David Ragan is a possibility to drive the No. 18 in Busch's absence. Ragan currently drives for Front Row Motorsports in the No. 34 car.

From NBC:

JGR is considering a plan that would share the ride between Ragan and Camping World Truck Series driver Erik Jones, who is under contract to the team, while Busch recovers from his injury. There is no timetable on the return for Busch, who spent a third consecutive night in a Daytona Beach, Fla., hospital after being hurt in a Saturday crash during the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Jones, 18, has a developmental contract with JGR but has never driven in a Sprint Cup Series race and has four Xfinity Series starts, including Saturday's race (Coincidentally, contact between Busch and Jones is what started the crash that Busch sustained a broken leg and foot in). He won three Truck Series races in 12 starts last season.

If Busch's injury would have happened last year, JGR would have no shortage of in-house replacements for him. Elliott Sadler drove for the team in the Xfinity Series last year and so did Darrell Wallace Jr. However, now both are at Roush Fenway Racing. According to NBC, Sadler was a candidate to replace Busch in the 500 (with Ford's approval) until Matt Crafton was selected to drive the car.

Busch was transported to North Carolina on Tuesday.

Off to NC! Thank u to everyone at Halifax for taking such good care of Kyle n to all of U for the continued prayers! pic.twitter.com/7SXHHb4UWl

— Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) February 24, 2015

Ragan's contract status with Ford and Front Row would obviously have to be figured out for a move to Gibbs to happen. Ragan has been with Ford since he moved to the Cup Series and has been with Front Row since he left Roush after the 2011 season.

Though he won at Talladega in 2013, Ragan has been a backmarker in his time at Front Row. His highest finish in the points standings is 28th and he has five top-10 finishes in three seasons and Sunday's Daytona 500.

While Ragan may be giving up a full-time ride (unless an arrangement could be worked out), he may view the shot in top-tier equipment as too good to pass up. At 29, it's not too late for Ragan to get a ride with an upper level team again.

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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: February 24, 2015, 4:08 pm

1. Joey Logano: After the race was over, Logano radioed to his crew during their jubilation and exclaimed that he couldn't have beaten a better person. The driver who finished second? Kevin Harvick, the man who confronted Logano for his Sprint Unlimited pushing tactics. Logano and Harvick have had tensions before (remember who wears the firesuit in the family?) and Unlimited aside, it had to be incredibly special for Logano to beat Harvick to the line, caution or not. At the media gathering before last year's race at Homestead, Logano became the trash-talk target. He chose to believe it was because he was Harvick's biggest threat for the title. He might have been, except for that late race pit stop. And he now has as many Daytona 500 wins as the 2014 Sprint Cup champ does.

2. Kevin Harvick: Hey, Harvick, we were just talking about you. Cupcake ran most of the race up front but didn't lead any laps at all. And heck, we can probably credit him with Logano's win too. While Clint Bowyer gets a lot of credit (and more on him in a second), Harvick's push of Bowyer is what got the top line moving on the final restart and allowed Logano to get out in front of the field. As soon as the green flag waved, Harvick's car was glued to Bowyer's bumper.

3. Clint Bowyer: Yeah, Bowyer finished seventh, but he goes here because of the push. We had the opportunity to watch the race on television on Monday and the push he gave Logano with eight laps to go was something else. The field was three-wide and Bowyer added some turboboost to Logano's car and sent him clear of the field. Another fun thing to watch over the last 20 laps? Bowyer's driving style at the end, He was diving into the corners, drifting the car up to the wall and then mashing the gas again.

4. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. might be the stories of the race if it wasn't for the caution for Justin Allgaier. The two cars teamed up and had an incredible run before the caution came out. Our guess is that they would have gotten the lead because Logano had no one glued to his bumper, and while the leader has a lot of control in these races, two cars nose-to-tail working together are incredibly hard to stop.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Is this the bad move penalty for Junior? He had one of the best cars during the race and one bad move was disastrous. While they could be unrelated, but at different points in the race, Jeff Gordon, Johnson and Junior all fell back through the pack without drafting help from the front of the field. Was the lack of drafting help in those scenarios calculated moves by other drivers to remove a strong car from the front of the field? While we certainly can't answer in the affirmative, we wouldn't blame other drivers if so.

6. Denny Hamlin: Well done, Denny. By staying at the front of the field near the entire race you avoided Danica Patrick and any possible thoughts of retribution. And, most importantly, didn't give yourself the chance to be involved in a crash with her again. After the race, Harvick and Hamlin had this exchange as Harvick was talking about the different conditions on Sunday

"We went a little too far, wound up too tight," Harvick said And then he added the following with a smile. "My car was very manageable so I could be pushed.  My car was tight enough, Denny, to be pushed

"Good, man," Hamlin said. "That's why I push you guys."

7. Casey Mears: Hey, Mears finished sixth. Not bad for a dude that was literally the last car on the track for a good portion of the first half of the race. He had lost the draft with AJ Allmendinger and Mike Wallace and the three cars had formed a line about 10 seconds behind the leaders. And it's also not bad for a guy who made the race by the skin of his teeth after a blown engine in the qualifying races on Thursday.

8. Martin Truex Jr.: Given the way that Truex performed at Speedweeks, perhaps eighth is too low. But damn, what a difference a year makes. Last year at Daytona, Truex had a fast car but blew an engine in the 500. This year, he ran well in the Sprint Unlimited, his Budweiser Duel and the 500. Given how last year's 500 was a bit of an omen for his season, if this year is an omen too, Truex is a Chase contender.

9. Kasey Kahne: Poor Kasey Kahne, he was the fourth car all weekend at Hendrick Motorsports. Wait, what's that? He finished ninth? Oh, OK, it certainly can be worse, can't it? Kahne was the forgotten car of sorts for Hendrick at the 500 as Gordon, Johnson and Junior all snagged the headlines at one point or another during Speedweeks. But Kahne's car had speed too. He was at the front of the first Duel and in the top 15 for most of the Daytona 500.

10. Greg Biffle: During the Unlimited, Biffle's car hit the Daytona inside backstretch wall incredibly hard. But guess what? The backstretch wall there is covered with SAFER barrier, and thankfully Biffle was fine despite an arguably harder hit than Kyle Busch had on Saturday. OK, OK, we won't harp on that again because it's been done, but we're looking forward to the SAFER barrier additions to other tracks.

11. David Gilliland: After practice in the Sprint Cup garage, Gilliland was meeting people who appeared to be guests of his sponsor, Love's Travel Stops. Despite recently climbing from his car and in his driver hat and firesuit, Gilliland shook everyone's hand and introduced himself. It was a fun and unassuming scene to watch and can serve as a bit of a metaphor for Gilliland and Front Row in the Sprint Cup Series. Because he finished 11th on Sunday, and you probably didn't realize that.

12. Sam Hornish Jr.: Welcome back to the Cup Series, Sam. Hornish crashed in his Duel race but ran a solid Daytona 500 and finished 12th. 26 of Hornish's races are unsponsored this year and he's got Medallion Bank on his car this weekend. That's the company that RPM investor Andrew Murstein founded. With a few more good runs, piecing together sponsorship shouldn't be as difficult.

Lucky Dog: Michael Annett crashed his primary car on Wednesday, slipped into the Daytona 500 with a top-15 in his Duel and ended up 13th thanks to the last lap crash.

The DNF: Oh man, Tony Stewart.

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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: February 24, 2015, 3:24 pm

Regan Smith will be in the No. 41 car for a second straight week.

Stewart-Haas Racing said Smith would fill in for Busch again after he finished 16th in Sunday's Daytona 500. Smith was named the replacement driver for Busch at Daytona on Saturday after Busch was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Friday. The indefinite suspension came after a Delaware county commissioner said that it was more likely than not that Busch committed an act of abuse against ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.

The commissioner's decision came after a proctection order was granted against Busch. The two parties engaged in a hearing over the course of December and January regarding Driscoll's request for the restraining order.

Smith, who drives for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, subbed for Tony Stewart in 2014 at Watkins Glen after Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward at a dirt track in upstate New York.

SHR said that a driver for Las Vegas or any other Cup races has not been determined. Team co-owner Gene Haas' company sponsors Busch's car because of his desire to have Busch on his team.

Busch appealed the suspension twice to NASCAR on Saturday and lost both. 

"We are unhappy with the latest decision to deny our re-appeal, but we will continue to exhaust every procedural and legal remedy we have available to us until Kurt Busch is vindicated," his attorney Rusty Hardin said in a statement after Busch lost his final appeal to NASCAR. "Along the way we intend to continue to call attention to the facts and witnesses that will shed light on Ms. Driscoll's true character, motivations and 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: February 23, 2015, 11:13 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chalk this one up to a guy who's been married for about two months.

Joey Logano, about an hour removed from winning the Daytona 500, is sitting on the dais inside the media center at Daytona International Speedway.

Standing some 20 feet to his left is his wife Brittany, whom he married back in December.

On his left hand, his wedding band. On his right, a giant ring he'd just received for winning the Great American Race.

Now let's go to the Q&A:

Question: Given your track record with rings, what are you going to do with that one (the Daytona ring)?

(Logano lost his wedding ring on his honeymoon when he flipped his kayak in Costa Rica.)

Still, a veteran in the marriage world would have swatted this softball over the fence.

I'll keep it somewhere safe …

I'll wear it tonight, but really, I already have the most important ring right here …

It's special, but it's not as special as this one …

Here's how Logano handled it:

"This one is harder to replace, I think."

(Audience groans)

"Well, I take that back. I screwed up, didn't I?"

Yep.

"Insert foot here," crew chief Todd Gordon said.

"What I meant to say," Logano said, digging in, "she's still here with me, it's just a symbol."

Just a symbol! Just a symbol!

Oh, Joey, pull the rip cord buddy.

"She would be impossible to replace."

There ya go.

"That's how you redeem yourself."

Good thing you just won the biggest race of your life, so chances are she'll give you a pass.

"I'm going to stop."

Good idea.

"I feel like I came out neutral on that one."

For tonight, yeah, but don't worry, you'll hear about it again.

 

Author: Jay Hart
Posted: February 23, 2015, 12:36 am

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – There's no debate: NASCAR should have thrown the caution flag on the final lap of the Daytona 500.

As Joey Logano led Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. down the backstretch and into Turn 3, they had clear track ahead of them. But behind them on the backstretch chaos was ensuing, as a big crash was collecting a bunch of cars.

The caution officially came out when Logano was in Turn 3 of Lap 203, freezing the field at the moment and making him the Daytona 500 winner.

With the green-white-checker restart rule, NASCAR tries anything and everything it can do to ensure that its races can finish under green flag conditions. However, when the caution flag comes out on the final lap of the race, whoever is leading at that point is the winner.

Part of the reasoning behind the rule is that fans deserve to see as many races as possible end under green flag conditions. And sometimes, some may say, that includes the inconsistent application of the caution flag on the final lap.

Two years ago, Jimmie Johnson was leading the Daytona 500 when cars near the back of the lead pack crashed in Turns 1 and 2. As Travis Kvapil and Paul Menard crashed (coincidentally collecting Logano), Johnson, Earnhardt, Danica Patrick and others barreled down the backstretch as the race stayed green.

But watch the crash closely. While the cars involved sustained significant damage, the track was never blocked for cars behind them and those involved were able to keep going. It wasn't immediately apparent if the cars involved in Sunday's race would be able to continue on, plus, as you can see from the replays, it happened with many cars still behind it as well.

From #NASCAR on why final caution: When cars get disrupted and hit the wall hard like that, safety crew must be dispatched immediately.

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) February 22, 2015

Plus, let's consider this: The 500 came less than 24 hours after Kyle Busch sustained a broken leg when he crashed into an unprotected wall.

Who knows whether or not the deserved criticism from Saturday's incident played a prominent role in a move to to throw the caution flag on the final lap of Sunday's race. But just like it's human nature to wonder what would have happened if the race stayed green, it's human nature to have the events of the previous evening fresh, even just subconsciously.

Is it anticlimactic to have a race finish under caution? Sure. But not everything has to be as dramatic as possible. It's incredibly unfair to the riveting racing throughout the entirety of the race to let the fact that it didn't finish with a thrilling highlight overshadow it. And after Saturday, it was imperative to err on the side 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: February 22, 2015, 11:49 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. felt he had one of the Daytona 500's fastest cars, felt he should have won the race.

But fast cars have to be put in the right positions over the course of a 500-mile race to get a win and Junior's inability to repeat as Daytona 500 champion can be directly attributed to a bad move he made with 19 laps to go.

Earnhardt restarted in third, but as the pack slowly got up to speed on the first green flag lap, he found himself without drafting partners.

What the heck happened?

"Jimmie [Johnson] was on my quarter panel," Earnhardt said. "He was in a great spot on the guy in front of me. And I thought if I could get in behind him he was going to shoot past to the lead. I could tuck in on the quarter panel a little bit as soon as I got on that right rear quarterpanel."

However, the thoughts of sidedrafting and working with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate were tempered by a reality that the cars on the outside line were closer to Junior than he realized.

"I didn't think they were that close on the outside line," Junior said. "I thought we had a couple car lengths on the outside line but they were right there.

"You know, just one of them moves. You make some good ones, you make some bad ones, I made a bad one late."

Junior finally slotted into line in 15th position and when the green flag flew for a green-white-checker restart with two laps to go, Junior started in eighth. He made a charge to the front to challenge eventual winner Joey Logano, but he had too much ground to make up in too little time. And again, that was his own doing.

"[Expletive], I didn't have nothing going on," he cracked.

Here's where we can go back to the good move/bad move principle. And we'll also make it clear that with eight restrictor plate wins, Junior's good moves overshadow the bad ones.

The low line on the last restart wasn't very organized. Logano, leading the race, got a push from Clint Bowyer, who was being shoved by Kevin Harvick, who had Junior on his bumper. By the time Junior was at the same spot on the track where he started to slide through the field 17 laps prior, he was in third place.

He was still in third behind Logano and Harvick when the caution came out on the last lap. Did he have an opportunity to make a move for the win? Earnhardt isn't so sure and said he wasn't in a good position to think about winning.

"Once we got clear, we sort of strung out," he said. "Just not enough laps to form anything. I think even if Kevin backed up, I don't know whether I would have stayed with him or whether Denny [Hamlin] would have stayed with me. You never know what decision you would have made."

Had he won, Earnhardt would have been the first driver since Sterling Marlin to win consecutive Daytona 500s. Because of the win-and-in nature of NASCAR's new Chase format, Junior's referenced many times of his team's ability in 2014 to be aggressive knowing that a Chase spot was waiting for them in the fall.

While the first-week virtual Chase guarantee is in Logano's hands this year, Earnhardt tried to look on the bright side of finishing third.

"You don't imagine the 16 guys are going to win races and you want to try to put points together in case you need to lean on that, fall back on that to make the Chase," Junior said. "But there's no guarantees.

"You like to take good cars like we had today and win with them when you get a chance."

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: February 22, 2015, 10:53 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For a guy who'd just lost the last Daytona 500 he'll likely ever run, Jeff Gordon sure looked like a man at peace.

The race had just ended. Some cars were parked out on pit road; others, like Gordon's mangled 24, were already being loaded onto their haulers. As fireworks sounded and race winner Joey Logano celebrated over in victory lane, other drivers walked from pit road back toward their haulers, some alone, some accompanied by a couple of autograph hounds or cameras. All wore a similar expression: exhaustion with more than a tinge of scowling frustration.

All except Gordon. Gordon, who towed a crowd in his wake that grew like an avalanche, wore an absolutely beatific smile.

Jeff Gordon signs his final autographs at Daytona with a smile on his face. pic.twitter.com/1uwXW6bmvS

— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) February 22, 2015

Of course, why shouldn't Gordon be at peace? He's done everything it's possible to do in the sport. He's won four championships. He's celebrated in victory lane more times than all but two drivers in history. He stood toe-to-toe with The Intimidator as a newcomer, and he's mentored an entire generation of champions as a veteran.

"Being able to race against [Gordon] for the lead in the Daytona 500 is a dream come true for any kid," said Logano, an avowed Gordon fan from way back, in his winners' press conference, "and I'll always remember that."

Yes, acclaim is nice, but let's be honest: trophies are nicer, and for Gordon, Sunday had to be inordinately frustrating. Make no mistake, he still wants to win. Being at peace doesn't necessarily mean being content. Gordon won the pole, and led the most laps (87) all day. The afternoon was setting up as another of those proverbial storybook finishes that Daytona seems to deliver every so often.

But no, it wasn't to be. As the race wore on, Gordon had trouble sticking with the leaders, and he continued to get shuffled back on restarts. By the time the final green-white-checker came around, Gordon was starting ninth, and that left him vulnerable. On the race's final lap, Austin Dillon, who once starred as a child in a television commercial with Gordon, tapped Gordon's left bumper, sent the 24 spinning, and effectively extinguished any last hopes Gordon might have had of winning his final Daytona 500.

Think back to last year at Texas -- just four races ago, schedule-wise -- and recall how furious Gordon was then at Brad Keselowski. The normally placid Gordon unleashed both rage and profanity, knowing what we didn't: that perhaps his last best chance at a championship had just gone spinning.

On Sunday, Gordon wasn't raging. He didn't even seem outwardly particularly upset. He knew his chances for winning had slipped away long before he spun.

"This was an amazing week and an amazing day," he said after the race. "I am just in a different place that is so foreign to me, but so incredible, to just be taking it all in and enjoying every moment."

He then began the hundred-yard walk from pit road to his hauler, picking up more and more autograph seekers with every step. Gordon never stopped moving -- that's an old Richard Petty move, don't let the crowd surround you -- and the fans picked up their pace to stay in step.

"Jeff! You're not quitting, are ya?" one fan shouted. "Tell me you're not quitting!"

Jeff just smiled, not replying. He signed a few more hats and jackets for fans who shrieked with glee, then walked inside the #24 hauler. One race down, just 35 left to go.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 22, 2015, 10:51 pm

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Joey Logano, the kid who's had greatness predicted for him since he was 15, won the 57th running of the Daytona 500.

A frenetic final few laps as most of the 43-car field barreled around the 2.5-mile superspeedway three-wide, injected some life into what had been a snoozer for most of the first three-quarters of the race.

Justin Allgaier wrecked with three laps to go, setting up a two-lap sprint to the finish. They restarted with Logano in the lead, followed by Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson. Logano got a great restart, held off a late charge from Kevin Harvick (2nd) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3rd) before a wreck behind them on the final lap brought out a caution, ending the race.

For the 24-year-old Logano, it marked his first Daytona 500 win.

Joey Logano celebrates after winning the Daytona 500. (AP)"I can't believe it," Logano said as he got out of his car, still gripping his steering wheel as he celebrated. "This is absolutely amazing. Daytona 500, oh my God. Are you kidding me? I was so nervous the whole race."

Sunday’s race marked the end of one of the most chaotic Speedweeks in recent memory. Consider that in just the last few days, NASCAR, its fans, and drivers have dealt with:

The indefinite suspension of Kurt Busch for an incident of alleged domestic violence, along with the subsequent rejection of two appeals. The second appeal rejection came just 15 hours before Daytona’s green flag.

A vicious wreck in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race that left Kurt’s brother Kyle Busch with a broken right leg and broken left foot, an accident that set off a new round of debates over the need for SAFER barriers at all walls around the track. There's no timetable for the return of Kyle Busch, always a championship contender.

The pending retirement of NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon. Although Gordon hasn’t revealed the extent of his post-racing plans, he’s been adamant that this was his final Daytona 500.

Gordon, who started on the pole and led the most laps, got caught in the final-lap accident. He finished 33rd.

An epic anti-NASCAR rant from Clint Bowyer complaining about the qualifying format.

• A desperate pair of Budweiser Duels as drivers sought to punch their ticket for the world’s most lucrative race, an event that included Danica Patrick unloading on Denny Hamlin after very nearly missing the Daytona 500.

Still, the 57th running of the Great American Race began rolling under the best weather, and before one of the largest crowds, in recent race history. Gordon, on the pole, led the first lap, and from there he and his fellow Hendrick drivers Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the majority of the way.

Johnson held control of the race early on until a pit-road penalty forced him deep into the field. NASCAR’s new computerized pit road penalty system ruled that the 48’s crew had leaped over the wall too early, incensing crew chief Chad Knaus. It was one of a surprisingly large number of pit road penalties as a result of the computerized penalty system.

The earliest big-name drama came on lap 43, when Tony Stewart got loose coming out of Turn 4 and caught Matt Kenseth. Stewart, who is still seeking his first Daytona 500 win in a two-decade career, suffered damage to his hood and attempted to return to the race 64 laps down, but eventually surrendered and left Daytona early.

The rest of the race was a relatively calm affair until the closing laps, with only Brad Keselowski exiting the festivities early due to a blown engine. That still left more than a dozen of NASCAR's best all in position to win the season's biggest race.

Logano wasn't among the favorites coming in, but as the Hendrick boys dominated the front, he was about the only one who could hang with them. By the end, they were left chasing him and never caught up.

In his first five Cup seasons, Logano notched three wins. Last season he won five times and finished fourth in the championship run. Now he starts 2015 with a victory in NASCAR's biggest race.

"He's a different driver really," said former teammate Denny Hamlin, who finished fourth. "He's really become one of the elite drivers in our sport. Every single weekend you know you're going to have beat the 22. That's something we didn't say 3 years ago."

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 22, 2015, 9:50 pm

Feb 22, 2015; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart (14) hits the wall during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)The 1998 Daytona 500 marked the end of one of NASCAR's most ignoble streaks, that of Dale Earnhardt's winless run at the Great American Race. The very next year kicked off another such streak for another championship driver, one that runs right to, and through, today.

Tony Stewart has won three Sprint Cup championships. His 18 wins all-time at Daytona International Speedway rank second only to Earnhardt's 34. But in all those years, Stewart has never won the big one, never won the Daytona 500, and after an early-race incident on Sunday, he wouldn't win this year.

On Lap 43, Stewart's car got loose and he clipped the wall, then the cars of Ryan Blaney and Matt Kenseth. Stewart's car took the worst of it, hitting the wall hard enough to necessitate a new front hood. When Stewart finally returned to the track, he was 64 laps down.

Stewart, of course, has suffered through two brutal seasons. In 2013, he broke his leg during a sprint car race, and one year later, he was involved in a sprint car accident in which driver Kevin Ward Jr. died after being run over by Stewart's car. While the memory of Ward's death will remain with Stewart for the rest of his life, Stewart the driver had appeared to be regaining some of the old swagger that had helped him win 48 races.

Still, Stewart hasn't won a race since June 2013. And now, the one he wants most of all will have to wait until at least 2016.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 22, 2015, 8:12 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Busch is likely out a significant amount of time after suffering a broken leg and a broken foot in Saturday's Xfinity Series race. On Sunday morning, his team owner Joe Gibbs said the team hadn't made any plans for a substitute driver past Sunday's Daytona 500.

Matt Crafton, the defending Camping World Truck Series champion and a good friend of Busch's, is taking is place in the 500. It's Crafton's first career Sprint Cup Series start.

"We haven't put thought into other than just today," Gibbs said. "We were thrilled to get Matt – I should have brought the fact that Matt has driven some of Kyle's stuff. He's a veteran guy and we felt like it was the perfect fit. We sent him over to the race shop last night. He met our person in charge of seats and they sat in all of our cars and he's real comfortable with Kyle's seat. We brought him down last night and he climbed into the car today and he told me, 'everything's perfect.' I appreciate Matt.

Gibbs also said he wasn't sure at the time how long Busch would be out.

"As far as time or length, I don't have a good understanding of that with the doctors and everything – I think we're just going to pray for him to bounce back," Gibbs said. "I can tell you this, Kyle's already telling Sam, he said, 'Hey, I just want to get back to racing.' He has a great spirit about things like that."

According to the Associated Press, Busch's absence could be 8-12 weeks.

Hearing 8 weeks is soonest Kyle Busch can return; 12 weeks on the more realistic side.

— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) February 22, 2015

NASCAR has a waiver for Chase eligibility available for drivers who miss races. However, it's unclear at this point whether Busch would get a waiver or not given the length of his injury. Tony Stewart received a waiver last year after missing three races and Denny Hamlin missed a race in 2013. Busch would miss much more than three if he was out for 8-12 weeks or a related period of time.

"I really hadn't got into that other than I had a brief conversation last night about it and I'm not even sure that I'm clarified on all the rules and what would take place," Gibbs said about a waiver. "I think our focus, we had so much going on [Saturday], it was just to get everything arranged as best we could for today. I'm sure there will be some conversations on that going forward."

Busch's wife Samantha tweeted a picture of him getting ready to watch the 500 on Sunday. He had surgery on his right leg fracture on Saturday night and still needs surgery on his left foot.

Getting ready to watch the Daytona 500! Cheering on our 18 boys! 🏁 pic.twitter.com/3dJnsYICa8

— Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) February 22, 2015

Kevin Harvick hit the same unprotected concrete wall area Busch hit Saturday during last year's Daytona 500. For the 500, there are tire barriers now covering the wall on the inside of the tri-oval heading into turn one. After the race, Daytona will install SAFER barrier (an insulated wall that absorbs and dissipates impact) on every bare spot at the track.

“Well, I think that’s just it. It’s a reaction from the race track, unfortunately," Harvick said. "I hit the same wall a little further up, last year, at this particular race and kind of voiced my opinion and unfortunately I was just a ‘dot’ on the chart and there was no reaction. Now there’s a reaction from the race track. So, hopefully this is a lesson learned. You don’t want to have a reaction. The race tracks have to be proactive and they have to look ahead of an accident that did happen. They have to look ahead and look for accidents that might happen. And there’s been great improvement. We know what fixes these walls and that’s to put a wall in front of them. And that’s why we wear a helmet. That’s why we wear HANS. That’s why we wear fire suits. That’s why we have fire bottles. It’s for that one moment that you have to protect yourself against. Ninety-eight percent of the time, 99 percent of the time, things are going to be fine. So, help us by trying to prevent that one situation. Just like we did with Dale Earnhardt."

"You have Kyle Busch, one of our sport’s biggest stars, who is out and not being able to race because of the lack of attention that it takes to the safety on these superspeedways and instead of being proactive, the track was reactive.”

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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: February 22, 2015, 6:05 pm

Formula 1's Fernando Alonso was taken to a hospital after a crash in testing in Spain.

His new team, McLaren, said he was undergoing precautionary tests after he was transported to the hospital from the Barcelona circuit's medical center.

"Today at 12:35 CET, while testing at the Circuit de Catalunya (Barcelona), during the fourth and final day of the current test, Fernando Alonso's McLaren-Honda car left the track at Turn Three, causing the right-hand side of his car to strike the wall," said McLaren in a statement.
 
"Fernando was driven to the circuit's Medical Centre where the circuit's doctors gave him first aid.
 
"He was conscious and spoke with the doctors.

"However, as per usual procedure in such circumstances, he was then airlifted to hospital where he is undergoing precautionary checks.
 
"We will issue a further update in due course."

As he was being transported, medical workers used sheets to shield Alonso.

Alonso, the 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 champion, moved to McLaren for the 2015 season after driving the past four seasons for Ferrari. He drove for McLaren for a season in 2007 with Lewis Hamilton as his teammate. That season, he and Hamilton tied for second in the points standings, a single point behind champion Kimi Raikkonen (Alonso's teammate at Ferrari in 2014).

McLaren is moving to Honda as its engine supplier in 2015. Alonso will be paired with Jensen Button at McLaren while his Ferrari seat has been taken by Sebastian Vettel.

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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: February 22, 2015, 3:13 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It's baaaaack.

Join us for Yahoo Sports' live chat for the 2015 Daytona 500. We'll watch the race together, have some fun, talk about racing and talk about many things that don't have to do with racing. It's the best way to watch a race, especially the biggest race of the season. Come hang with us, won't you? We'll get things going at 1:15 p.m. ET as the race is scheduled to go gree shortly after 1:30 p.m.

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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: February 22, 2015, 2:53 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Not long after Kyle Busch's crash in the Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR and the track announced that SAFER barriers would be installed on every exposed wall at the track.

While the move to act swiftly is admirable, it's too little too late.

The estimated cost of Daytona Rising, Daytona International Speedway's renovation project, is $400 million.

It likely wouldn't cost more than $10 million to outfit the rest of Daytona's walls with SAFER barrier.

In other words, the cost of making the track safer for the drivers entertaining the fans benefitting from the renovations is just a few percentage points of the renovation project itself. It was an absolute no-brainer, though it wasn't put into action until Busch possibly sustained a serious injury.

The wall that Kyle Busch slammed into on Saturday night was not covered in SAFER barrier. The impact from the unforgiving concrete jacked the rear tires of Busch's car into the air. Busch was taken to Halifax Medical Center on a stretcher with his right leg braced.

Thankfully he'll recover, but as a result he will not race in Sunday's Daytona 500.

Why wasn't the wall covered? There are no good reasons and Daytona president Joie Chitwood basically admitted as much on Saturday night. In 2013, NASCAR CEO Brian France said nothing prevented the sanctioning body from adding SAFER barriers over nearly every square foot of concrete walls on all of the tracks where it races. But two years later, not every wall is covered. 

"We look at this, we think we have them in all the right places, and if we don't, we'll make an improvement, like anything else," France said then.

We didn't need Busch's potential serious injury to his right leg to tell us that SAFER barriers aren't in all of the right places. In last year's Daytona 500, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick hit walls that weren't covered with SAFER. You may remember a similar refrain from us after those crashes.

At a cost of approximately $500 a square foot, a mile of SAFER barrier would cost approximately $2.6 million. Many of the walls of the 2.5-mile Daytona track are already covered in SAFER. There aren't more than four miles of wall left to cover.

But let's be clear, this isn't a problem limited to Daytona's high banks. Nearly every NASCAR track has sections of bare concrete and it wasn't too long ago that Pocono had steel guardrails on the inside of one of its straightaways. For all of the advances NASCAR and its teams have made when it comes to the safety of cars and the equipment that drivers wear, the steps haven't been taken to the same length when it comes to the track themselves. Unless other tracks unanimously start to follow Daytona's lead.

(The wall Busch hit will be protected by tire barriers on Sunday)

NASCAR is in the first points-paying weekend of an $8 billion television contract. While tracks receive a portion of the contract and could afford to outfit the entirety of the walls at their facilities with SAFER barrier, NASCAR's pockets are deeper. And a refusal to reach into them is increasingly indefensible.

We have a tendency to ignore the process in favor of results sometimes. And because of the safety of the cars, NASCAR drivers have largely walked away unscathed from recent encounters with unprotected concrete, potentially minimizing the cadre of voices in favor of expanded SAFER barrier protection.

After what happened on Saturday, Busch wasn't so lucky. Will a change in the result be what finally nets a change in the process for not only Daytona, but other tracks? It's better late than never.

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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: February 22, 2015, 12:41 am

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Kyle Busch suffered a compound fracture in his right leg, as well as a fractured left foot after a vicious late-race wreck at the Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway. He is out indefinitely.

Matt Crafton will replace him in Sunday's Daytona 500. Joe Gibbs Racing said an interim driver beyond Daytona has not been determined.

The accident, met with criticism from a number of drivers because it occured at a place on the track which did not have SAFER barriers, prompted an almost immediate response from track president Joie Chitwood, who pledged to wrap the track in the afforementioned soft walls immediately following Sunday's race.

"SAFER barriers should have been there tonight," Chitwood said. "We can't allow this again."

On Lap 113 of the Xfinity Series race, Busch spun while pushing Erik Jones coming through the front-stretch tri-oval. Busch's car rocketed straight toward a section of wall that did not have SAFER barriers in place. Busch immediately attempted to exit the car, but as safety crews covered the car in fire extinguisher foam, Busch apparently got hung up getting his right leg out of the car.

[Related: Here's how much it would cost to install SAFER barriers around Daytona]

Emergency crews attended to Busch, wrapping his right leg and ankle in a splint. He left the scene in an ambulance, and was transported to a nearby hospital. Approximately 90 minutes later, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Busch would not be racing in Sunday's Daytona 500, but did not name a replacement driver and did not indicate how long Busch would be out.

The wreck occurred just 90 minutes before Kyle's brother Kurt was scheduled to appeal his indefinite suspension from NASCAR. As Kurt Busch's appeal was denied, this will mark the first Daytona 500 since 2000 without a Busch brother.

[UPDATE: On Sunday morning, Joe Gibbs offered an update, saying that Kyle was in good spirits as he went into surgery. As of Sunday, Busch was still in Daytona waiting to fly home. Matt Crafton will be Busch's replacement during the Daytona 500, and the team will re-evaluate options for drivers early next week.]

Drivers immediately took to Twitter to express support for Kyle and frustration with the fact that SAFER barriers, which collapse and reduce force on impact, are not present all around every track:

I'm genuinely furious right now. Any wall in any of the top 3 series without safer barriers is INEXCUSABLE. It's 2015.

— Regan Smith (@ReganSmith) February 21, 2015

Terrible crash for @KyleBusch I wish him well. I will be praying.

— Mark Martin (@markmartin) February 21, 2015

Man I hope @KyleBusch is alright... It's beyond me why we don't have soft walls everywhere. #nascar @DISupdates

— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) February 21, 2015

Hope @KyleBusch is ok. That was a huge, terrible hit. Don’t like seeing that anytime to anyone.

— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) February 21, 2015

All we do is wreck at Daytona and that massive wall has no safer barrier? Unbelievable! Hope Kyle is ok...

— Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) February 21, 2015

In a Saturday evening press conference, Chitwood announced that Daytona would be setting up tire barriers on Saturday night to cover all non-SAFER-covered sections of track, and that DIS would be installing SAFER barriers on every inch of exposed wall.

NASCAR SVP Steve O'Donnell noted that the sanctioning body would be in touch with tracks, seeking to expedite the implementation of all available safety measures. "We will accelerate those [SAFER barrier] talks with the tracks," O'Donnell said. "We want this sport to be as safe as possible."

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 21, 2015, 11:21 pm
Lake Lloyd at Daytona International Speedway. (Via Yahoo Sports)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When he raced at Daytona in 1960, Tiger Tom Pistone used to drive with a complete set of scuba gear in his car. Why? Because he was afraid of drowning in Lake Lloyd, of course.

Laugh if you want, but hey, Pistone didn’t drown. Of course, he never got anywhere close to the lake, but that's beside the point.

Nestled amid the high-banked turns, soaring grandstands, blur-fast cars, and occasionally soused patrons of Daytona International Speedway sits the 29-acre Lake Lloyd, one of NASCAR’s iconic-slash-peculiar landmarks.

Construction crews created the lake in 1958 by excavating dirt to form the banks in turns 1-2 and 3-4. The lake, named for J. Saxton Lloyd, a local Daytona notable, served as a retention pond to prevent flooding in all but the most extreme circumstances. NASCAR founder Bill France ordered the lake stocked with 65,000 fish, and that’s where the legend of Lake Lloyd began.

Stocking Lake Lloyd with fish. (Courtesy DIS)

If there’s a stationary object anywhere near a race track, eventually a driver will run into it, and the lake is no exception. Tommy Irwin was the first to put a car in the lake, the year after the track opened in 1960.

Tommy Irwin's car pulled from Lake Lloyd.

Irwin’s trip to Daytona’s briny not-so-deep inspired Pistone to race with the breathing apparatus in his car, since Pistone couldn’t swim.

Fortunately, Pistone never made Lake Lloyd’s acquaintance. The same can’t be said for Bay Darnell in 1964 or Dave Stacy in 1994, who leaped an entire embankment to end up in the water:

Reinforced walls now ensure that no driver will put a car into the lake again unless they're trying really, really hard.

Oh, but it's not just cars that make their way into Lake Lloyd. One day in 1968, driver Jim Hurtubuise landed his seaplane in the lake and walked over to the garage to run that year's Daytona 500. Fellow racer Tiny Lund, who at 320 pounds was definitely not "tiny," jumped aboard for a ride home ... but the overloaded plane couldn't take off with Lund aboard.

Much more often, Lake Lloyd has hosted vehicles that are actually supposed to be there. The lake briefly hosted powerboat events until Byrne E. Taylor, a physician, was ejected from his boat during a wreck and struck by a fellow competitor's boat. Taylor died of a broken neck, and speedboat races at Daytona were no more.

More recently, Roy "Zee" Ogletree established a Guinness world record for most miles traveled by jet ski in 24 hours, circling the lake for 900 laps or 1,080 miles during the Rolex 24 in 2009. (The attention paid to Ogletree's record reportedly irritated the drivers who'd spent 24 straight hours circling the speedway.) 

Today, the lake's more of a placid element, a place where drivers, fans and media can sneak off to catch a few fish. It's the site of some gimmicks like the floating golf hole pictured above, and it makes for a picturesque backdrop.

One last story, and naturally it involves Dale Earnhardt. In the '90s, the lake hosted an annual fishing tournament, and nobody was more competitive about fishing -- or, really, anything -- than Earnhardt. The Intimidator had spotted a large bass in the shallows of the lake but, over the course of several days, couldn't get it to bite.

Enter Earnhardt's best friend, Neil Bonnett. Earnhardt told Bonnett about the bass, making him promise not to catch it while Earnhardt ran a race in what is now the Xfinity Series. Bonnett didn't catch the fish; he went much further. Earnhardt had a vicious wreck in the back stretch that tore pieces off his car, and Bonnett made sure to grab the hood.

Later, Bonnett told Earnhardt he'd finally figured out how to catch the fish. He took an excited Dale out to the spot where they'd seen the bass. Earnhardt peered into the water, then burst out in surprise: "What the [censored]?"

There was the bass, circling lazily right over Earnhardt's hood, which Bonnett had dumped in the waters of Lake Lloyd.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 21, 2015, 10:04 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The results of Saturday's Xfinity Series qualifying session sent Tri-Star Motorsports into a frenzy.

Scott Lagasse, driving for the team with a one-race sponsorship deal from the Florida Department of Transportation, missed the race. Jeff Green, who drives the team's unsponsored start-and-park car, made the race.

To get the sponsorship money from the deal with FDOT, it needed to be in the race. So the team made the decison to put Lagasse in Green's car. But not only did the driver's seat have to be changed, the car did too.

In 69 minutes, from 2:01 to 3:10 p.m. ET, the team wrapped Green's blank No. 10 car with the FDOT scheme that adorned Lagasse's car. Here's how they did it.

After a second set of decals arrived at Green's car, the the team put the right side design on first over the number and decals adorning Green's white No. 10.

The hood was next.

The blowtorch is used to help smooth out any wrinkles in the decals.

>

As team members worked on decals (anywhere between 6-10 people were working on the car at a given time), Green's name was also peeled off above the door.

Since Green's No. 10 was decaled over, a new number needed to be created. Lagasse's original number was 19, so the team used the backup set of decals and put the No. 19 on the car. Then it ripped the 9 from the car that didn't qualify, put it upside down over the 9 on Green's old car, and with some creativity, a 0 was made.

 

The whole process was mesmerizing. Fans roaming the garage stopped to gawk at the process, which, while happening rapidly, didn't happen quickly enough to get the entire car looking exactly like Lagasse's originai one.

By the time it had to roll out of the garage at 3:10 to top off with fuel and head to the grid for the start of the race scheduled for just after 3:30 p.m. ET, the B-posts and roof of the car wer the same and the front bumper was still white. And former crew chief and Kyle Busch Motorsports competition director Rick Ren, who had wandered over to watch the rest of the process, was putting the tape for the hoodpins on the car as it rolled out.

But damn, it was a quick turnaround. And thankfully for the team, no crashes happened in the first few laps of the race, meaning the work didn't get mangled shortly after the green flag.

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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: February 21, 2015, 9:14 pm

Kurt Busch leaves his appeal hearing at NASCAR headquarters. (USAT)DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - NASCAR has denied Kurt Busch's initial appeal for reinstatement from the suspension handed down Friday afternoon.

Busch will not race in Sunday's Daytona 500. He'll be replaced by Regan Smith.

"We are very disappointed that our appeal was rejected by NASCAR's appeal panel," Busch's attorney Rusty Hardin said in a statement. "We are re-appealing immediately, per the proscribed process. We have significant and strong evidence that contradicts the Commissioner’s conclusions. In the end we are confident that Kurt will be vindicated and he will be back racing. Until then we will continue to fight on his behalf by ensuring that the entire truth is known."

The case will now go before Bryan Moss, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer. Moss, the former president of Gulfstream Aerospace, will make the final decision. The appeal will be heard at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday night.

Even if Busch were to win the appeal, Stewart-Haas Racing has indicated it will go ahead with its plan to have Smith in the No. 41 Chevrolet. The car has been fitted for Smith and black tape has been placed across Busch's name above the doors.

Busch's name has already been scrubbed from NASCAR's merchandise page.

NASCAR suspended Busch indefinitely Friday after a Dover (Del.) court released its decision on a domestic dispute involving Busch and his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll. In the decision, Kent County (Del.) commissioner David Jones wrote that "more likely than not" Busch strangled his girlfriend during an argument inside Busch's motorcoach at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 26, 2014.

Busch appealed the indefinite suspension and spent several hours Saturday in front of NASCAR's three-person appeals board, which comprised of former NASCAR executive Paul Brooks, former driver Lynn St. James, and Kevin Whitaker, owner of Greenville Pickens Speedway.

The hearing was held at NASCAR's headquarters, just across Speedway Boulevard from Daytona International Speedway, where cars were qualifying for Saturday's Xfinity race. A few supporters of Busch stood around outside the building holding signs.

Kurt Busch walks with Patricia Driscoll last May. (AP)After making his case, Busch climbed into a silver SUV and left without speaking.

The former champion and current driver for Stewart-Haas has spent the last six months embroiled in a dispute with his former girlfriend, Driscoll. The precipitating event was an incident at Dover, Del., last fall in which Busch allegedly choked Driscoll. During that Sept. 26 incident at Busch's motor home, Busch claimed he simply "cupped her head" and she struck her head by accident, while Driscoll claimed she was choked and thrown into a wall.

In the subsequent protective order hearing, Driscoll and Busch threw increasingly severe charges at one another, with Busch saying Driscoll claimed she was a trained assassin. In the end, the court sided with Driscoll, approving a protective order against Busch. Still unresolved are criminal charges against Busch; local police have completed their report but no charges against Busch have been filed.

Busch's attorney fought back on Thursday, seeking to reopen the protective order and charging that Driscoll had perjured herself. On Friday, Kent County commissioner David Jones released a report that indicated Busch's "actions on that occasion constituted conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening or harmful."

Jones' decision reads, in part:

The court is satisfied that the evidence presented at trial established that it is more likely than not that on September 26, 2014, Respondent committed an act of abuse against Petitioner by manually strangling Petitioner with his left hand on her throat while placing his right hand against her chin and face, causing her head to forcefully strike the interior wall of Respondent's motor home, thereby recklessly causing physical injury to Petitioner and recklessly placing Petitioner in reasonable apprehension of physical injury. The Court further finds that Respondent's actions on that occasion constituted conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening or harmful.

In granting Driscoll a protective order, Jones ordered Busch to remain a "practicable" distance from his ex-girlfriend and that he be evaluated “for mental health problems related to anger control and impulse control."

NASCAR had waited for further outside confirmation before taking action.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 21, 2015, 8:30 pm

NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing are moving on without Kurt Busch.

Just hours after NASCAR announced Busch's indefinite suspension in relation to an alleged incident of domestic violence, Busch's name had been scrubbed from the list of available drivers in NASCAR's shop:

NASCAR's driver shop.

Of note: still present in the shop is merchandise bearing the name of Digger, the old Fox Sports mascot who was "retired" four years ago, as well as merch for drivers who haven't appeared on-track in years or decades. The link to Busch's NASCAR Shop page now redirects to the main shop page.

Stewart-Haas Racing has also begun to move on without Busch. Early Saturday morning, replacement driver Regan Smith's name had already appeared on the garage window:

Regan Smith's name is already on the garage window. The "Ray Rice" graffiti is not. pic.twitter.com/2M6a44yL7Q

— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) February 21, 2015

At the Saturday morning press conference announcing Smith as the driver of the No. 41 for the Daytona 500, Stewart-Haas confirmed that even if Busch wins his appeal of NASCAR's decision, he would not be driving on Sunday. That's a definitive statement on Busch's position within the organization, at least for the moment.

As of 11 a.m. ET, Busch's gear was still on sale in the Stewart-Haas store. Busch's image still adorns Chevrolet trucks at the track, even though Chevy has suspended its personal-services relationship with Busch.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 21, 2015, 4:05 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A year after winning the Daytona 500 with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte is back in Daytona. But instead of making the pit calls for Junior's team or worrying about the setup of his No. 88, Letarte is at the track preparing for his new role as an analyst for NBC Sports.

NBC takes over the television coverage for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in July, and Letarte will be part of the broadcast booth. Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited was the first Sprint Cup Series race since he left his role as Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, and Letarte spent the evening watching the race from his house.

"I know watching the Sprint Unlimited from my couch was unique," Letarte said Thursday. "I had a hard time watching it a little bit, because for all these years you had a vested interest and for the last 10 i've been able to make a call to adjust my vested interest. And this is the first time I had nothing to do with it. So it's unique, I'm still learning how to do it."

Was he doing any couch crew-chiefing while watching the race? No. It had his divided attention.

"I watched about half the race and then I got frustrated with some things so I wandered off and came back and then I played Scrabble with my kids so that beat watching the race," Letarte said.

In Letarte's final season with Earnhardt the No. 88 team won four races and Junior was a title contender until a blown tire at Kansas and a crash at Talladega eliminated him from the second round of the Chase. The four wins were the most Junior's had since 2004.

Now, Junior has Greg Ives as his crew chief and the two have started off where Letarte and Junior left off at Daytona last February. Junior won his Budweiser Duel Daytona 500 qualifying race on Thursday night and will start third in the 500 on Sunday. It was a race that Letarte said he watched from the track as an outsider for the first time.

He made the announcement that he was stepping away from his post as Junior's crew chief in January of 2014. Instead of setting up cars in the garage and worrying about strategy for the Duel this season, he had time to take a tour of NASCAR's new pit road officiating system with a coffee in his hand.

"I made this choice to spend time with my kids," Letarte said. "I take my kids to school every day in the carpool line and every day at 7:45 when i drop them off I have a smile on my face to know that I made the right choice. As much as I love racing and I miss the competition side of it – those four hours on a Sunday will never be replaced, I'm not going to try and replace them – there's nothing like being a crew chief in the toughest auto sport in the world. But there's nothing that replaces that time with my kids."

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: February 21, 2015, 3:39 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Stewart-Haas Racing says it's going ahead with plans for Regan Smith to be in the Daytona 500 instead of Kurt Busch.

Smith is listed as the substitute driver for Busch, who was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Friday after a Delaware county commissioner said it was "more likely than not" that Busch committed an act of abuse against ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. The decision came after Driscoll was granted a protective order against Busch after a hearing regarding the allegations of abuse in September at Dover.

Busch is currently filing an appeal against NASCAR that will be heard Saturday. When asked if Smith would be the driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet regardless of the results of Saturday's appeal, Stewart-Haas Racing spokesperson Mike Arning said, "Stewart Haas Racing is planning on having Regan Smith race in the No. 41 car in the Daytona 500."

No criminal charges have been decided in the incident. The Delaware attorney general's office has the evidence and has not made an announcement.

Smith, who currently drives in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, has become somewhat of a substitute for the stars at Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing. He first was a last-minute sub for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2012 after Junior suffered a concussion and missed two races and then last year for Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen after Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt track in upstate New York.

"I would say anytime you have a chance to hop in a race car that you know is fast and know is more than capable of winning races, it's always an opportunity to showcase talent," Smith said. "No matter what the circumstances or situations are, you've got to always think that way and got to always be prepared that way. So, yeah, I think we have a shot to go out and win this race on Sunday. I absolutely think we do."

Smith, 31, has one Sprint Cup Series win on his resumé. He won in 2011 at Darlington while driving for Furniture Row Racing. He drove for the majority of 2012 with the team before he essentially traded rides with Busch in anticipation of the 2013 season. Busch was signed to drive for Furniture Row in 2013 while Smith drove the final two races of 2012 and six races in 2013 with Phoenix Racing, Busch's team in 2012.

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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: February 21, 2015, 3:14 pm

Kurt Busch "more likely than not" strangled his girlfriend during an argument inside Busch's motorcoach at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 26, 2014, that according to Kent County (Del.) commissioner David Jones.

Four days after granting Patricia Driscoll a protection order from Busch, Jones released his decision, concluding that Busch committed "an act of abuse" against Driscoll.

The court is satisfied that the evidence presented at trial established that it is more likely than not that on September 26, 2014, Respondent committed an act of abuse against Petitioner by manually strangling Petitioner with his left hand on her throat while placing his right hand against her chin and face, causing her head to forcefully strike the interior wall of Respondent's motor home, thereby recklessly causing physical injury to Petitioner and recklessly placing Petitioner in reasonable apprehension of physical injury. The Court further finds that Respondent's actions on that occasion constituted conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening or harmful.

NASCAR is currently "completing its review" of the decision, according NASCAR vice president of communications David Higdon. As of now, Busch is scheduled to race in Sunday's Daytona 500.

Busch has said he cupped Driscoll's face in his hands after she came to visit him uninvited that Friday night in Dover. He also testified in the hearing that she was a trained assassin, a claim that she denies by saying Busch can't separate fact from fiction.

Jones' decision comes a day after Busch's attorney, Rusty Hardin, filed a motion to re-open the hearing regarding the protection order.

The criminal case is still with the Delaware attorney general's office and no decision has been made regarding criminal charges.

Earlier in the week, NASCAR said that it was awaiting "the full findings of the Commissioner and any actions by the Attorney General of Delaware related to the allegations against Busch."

You can read the entire decision below.

Kurt Busch Patricia Driscoll PFA Decision

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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: February 20, 2015, 9:23 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Sunday's Daytona 500 will be the first Sprint Cup Series points race for NASCAR's new pit road officiating system.

Instead of having officials positioned on pit road watching stops as they happen, pit stops are now monitored with a bank of 45 or more cameras looking at pit road from across the track. The new system, NASCAR says, will increase the accuracy and efficiency of pit calls and the sanctioning body will be able to call penalties it might have missed under the old system.

NASCAR tested the new system in the final 11 races of 2014 and found a number of penalties that weren't being called in the race.

So how rough was the adjustment period for teams during Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited exhibition race? Not very brutal at all.

"In the offseason we met with all the crew chiefs and the coaches and stuff and said 'Hey guys, we need to -- this is how we're looking at it, these are important rules, that's why we left them in here, let's all try to do a better job of following them," NASCAR director of business operations Shawn Rogers said during a tour of the new officiating system on Thursday. "And what came out of that was, 'Hey, can you help us with the one-away line, we have difficulty seeing it if there's a car next to us. Would you put an extra hash mark out there?'"

Crew members – sans the gas man – aren't allowed to be over the wall until a car is one stall away from its pit box. The hash mark was added to Daytona's pit road to give drivers a better idea of where they can turn in to avoid a violation.

"So then, we get to Saturday night, we have very little violations," Rogers said. "Teams did a great job. They obviously tightened up on some of the rules about neighbors helping you … that didn't even happen. They were great about that and you can see they were really very compliant and cognizant of the rules and [it was] a very clean race I thought.

The system is equipped with a 3-D imaging system that outlines the cars on pit road on track. The imaging can then tell to the fraction of an inch where a car is on pit road.

That way, NASCAR see whether or not a car is, for example one stall away  when crew members jump over the wall. If the car hasn't hit the one-stall-away line yet and a crew member's foot is on the ground on pit road, it's a penalty. A judgment call by a NASCAR official is now pretty clear-cut, as the eight officials in the monitoring trailer can pause and rewind video.

Because of the amount of data being fed from the cameras to NASCAR, the trailer where the officials are now housed is in the television compound at each track. The computers in the trailer have 960 GB of RAM and there's 40 TB of memory available.

NASCAR estimates that fewer than 15 cars pit at a single time during a race. With eight officials, the workload is distributed pretty evenly. If the whole field pits during an early-race caution flag, that's still only five pit stops to review per official, and, when viewed in double-speed, means that officials can efficiently work their way through all of the stops in a pit road cycle.

While the system is automated and can flag possible violations like crew members jumping over the wall too soon or a car pitting outside of its pit box, officials review each stop to ensure a penalty did or did not take place. For example, if a car slid across the front line of its pit stall and backed up before the pit stop took place, the software flags a potential violation. As the official watches the stop, he or she can uncheck that a violation took place, and if the stop is clean, no penalty is called.

If there is a penalty, the flagging official simply cues the officials' radio channel and announces the penalty. Runners are still stationed on pit road and can inform teams' face-to-face of a penalty. (Teams can request to view video after the race.)

While the accuracy of pit calls will be increased with the new system, NASCAR knows it won't catch every single mistake. If a pit miscue under yellow isn't seen under the first review and the race is already back under green, the offending team won't be penalized. But if you're a fan of wanting to automate the strike zone in baseball, or simply someone looking to minimize officiating conspiracy theories, this system is for you.

"Our goal is full transparency," Rogers said. "So afterwards, and soon real-time, you'll sit there and look at the same view and two reasonable humans will come to the same conclusions. Fortune 500 companies sponsor this sport. Big decisions, funding and sponsorship of teams are made based on outcomes of races and what we do affects that so we have to be right and we want to be able to show it's clear."

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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: February 20, 2015, 7:10 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Have you ever wondered why some NASCAR apparel is so ... um ... distinctive? We did.

Whether you're a NASCAR fan or not, there's a good chance you can spot a NASCAR shirt from a good distance away. And if we told you to think of a piece of NASCAR apparel, you probably thought of something similar to these, where the screen print large and on both sides of the shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you're a fan and have a shirt or two resembling these, you're not alone (and we're not judging, there may be a similar shirt or three buried in our closet somewhere). There's a reason a certain segment of NASCAR apparel looks the way it does, and it's pretty simple.

People buy them.

"We might call them all-over print tees which is used quite a bit," NASCAR vice president of licensing and official products Blake Davidson told Yahoo Sports. "We also use, in deference to our fans, our loyal fan base, we'll call them loud and proud tees. So they definitely have been historically a big seller for us. Probably the number one selling style t-shirt that we have. And I think a lot of that stems from, going back to the fans, that they, in our estimation are the most loyal in all of sports, and they like to display their fandom."

How did the trend start? Davidson, who has been with NASCAR nearly 20 years, points to when NASCAR started attracting a diversified sponsor base in the 1990s.

"You had different brands coming into the sport using the sport to market in different ways," Davidson said. "You had a number of [consumer packaged goods] brands. You think back to Tide when they came into the sport. Targeting different consumers and I think a lot of those brands, they were about – they were colorful, impactful, bold, and those styles dictated what happened on the product.

"So if you were to use that example if you're Tide and it's Darrell Waltrip or it's Ricky Rudd in those cars. The product is always reflective of the sponsor, the sponsors are the team if you will. That's the identity. So the products I think changed around that time when you had a lot of those brands coming into the sport that at the time you would call non-traditional brands as it relates to NASCAR. They weren't from the automotive sector, they were just different for us."

According to Sports Business Journal, NASCAR merchandise had reportedly $1 billion in sales in 2010.

Davidson is quick to point out that NASCAR apparel isn't limited to the loud and proud T-shirts. The sanctioning body has continued to diversify its apparel offerings over recent years. As part of a new agreement with retailer Fanatics to run the sport's at the track sales, the number of NASCAR-licensed products available to purchase at the track will only increase because of Fanatics' new point-of-sale concept.

"Fashion plays a big role in what you buy ..." Fanatics Authentic president Ross Tannenbaum told Yahoo Sports. "You want to look good in what you're wearing, not just brand Jeff Gordon."

NASCAR partnered with Touch, an Alyssa Milano clothing line, in 2013 to sell fashion-forward NASCAR-themed women's apparel. It's not a stretch to say 20 years ago that the thought of partnering with the former star of Who's the Boss to sell NASCAR apparel didn't exist.

The sport also now has an expanded partnership with New Era, the hat-maker that provides the official hats for Major League Baseball. The company is making a number of different driver-branded hats and will provide the official Daytona 500 winner hats immediately after the conclusion of the race for both fans and the winning driver.

Instead of being prepared with hats for 43 different winners (think of the value of a 2015 Alex Bowman Daytona 500 champion hat), the company will use a heat seal technology to add the winning driver's number and signature to the hat after the race. According to NASCAR, New Era can produce four hats a minute.

In early 2014, Hendrick Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing entered into official partnerships with Under Armour to outfit their teams and pit crews with apparel. Officials from both teams mentioned the sleek and minimalistic look of UA's apparel as a selling point for the partnerships. Walking the garages, the jackets and hats are noticeable for those reasons.

However, that type of merchandise doesn't currently have a big segment in the NASCAR retail space, possibly because it's so different than the most popular NASCAR apparel. When talk of selling Under Armour branded NASCAR apparel came up, Tannenbaum didn't hesitate and said, "We're going to work hard to bring them in."

MWR said the partnership with Under Armour was intended as a team-only deal when it was signed and there are no current plans to sell MWR Under Armour apparel in the near future.

"Right now, I think just between us and Under Armour, we're really happy with where the relationship is at," MWR senior director of marketing Tyler Key said. "When it comes to the retail space, to be honest, I don't know if our drivers would sell enough to make it worth the investment by Under Armour to create [Clint Bowyer] Under Armour apparel."

Key didn't rule the possibility out, however, especially if the team has a successful 2015.

Hendrick, which has had a relationship with Under Armour since the mid-2000s, has already started selling some Under Armour hats and shirts on its website and according to HMS vice president of marketing Pat Perkins, is expanding its UA team offerings later this season.

"It gives us a good baseline to kind of test and say 'OK, what's working,' " Perkins said. "... And I think if we're seeing good traction with the fan, as imagine we will, because of the UA mark – people want that – and then couple that with the Hendrick mark, I think it will resonate real well with the fan."

Even if HMS Under Armour apparel sells well, it probably won't approach the level the all-over print shirts do.

"I believe loud and proud, the all over tee, will be the number one seller," Tannenbaum said. "But it sure doesn't mean that we can't grow this business pretty dramatically by creating all of these other products … better products for the person who is a Jeff Gordon fan but maybe not to that level of 'I live and die and want everyone in the world to know I'm doing 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: February 20, 2015, 5:31 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Jimmie Johnson dominated the second Budweiser Duel qualifying race at Daytona for the win, while Danica Patrick raced her way in to the Daytona 500 after being caught up in a crash.

Patrick was wrecked after she and Denny Hamlin were in close proximity on the track with only a handful of laps to go. Her car went spinning and collected Brian Scott and Bobby Labonte. However, the damage that Patrick's car sustained was relatively minimal and after some work by her crew, she was back on the track for the green-white-checker finish.

After restarting in 18th and outside the top 16 cutoff point to automatically qualify for Sunday's Daytona 500, Patrick got a push from teammate Kurt Busch on the outside lane on the final lap and ended up 10th. She'll start 20th on Sunday.

"It shouldn't go unsaid, Kurt was there for me," Patrick said. "Without Kurt I wouldn't have finished where I did."

But she wouldn't have needed the push from Busch if Hamlin hadn't spun her for the second day in a row. During Wednesday's practice, the same two got together, with Patrick ending up wtih a destroyed race car.

"I said yesterday that it's horrible that it's left up to other people and what they can do to you to whether or not you get in the race or not," she said after Thursday's race, "and I said I just need to not get caught up in anything or not have something like yesterday happen and the exact same thing as yesterday happened." 

When the race was over, Patrick and Hamlin had an animated discussion about what happened. Here's a snippet courtesy of Yahoo Sports' Jay Busbee.

"Dude you give me nothing, you give me nothing," Patrick told Hamlin. "It spun my back end around."

"I understand, it's because you're loose," Hamlin replied. "It's not my fault."

"It's not. Nobody else did it to me," Patrick said.

"Nobody else is getting close to you," Hamlin said. "You have to get close to people."

Johnson started first in the Duel and never left the front of the field throughout the race. His dominance was reminiscent of the speed his Hendrick teammates showed in the first Duel. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race while Jeff Gordon was second and Kasey Kahne finished seventh.

Kyle Busch finished second behind Johnson in Duel No. 2, while Carl Edwards was third. The full results from the second race are below.

The drivers missing the Daytona 500 are Jeb Burton, Alex Bowman, Justin Marks, Ron Hornaday, Scott and Josh Wise.

Burton and Bowman were caught in a crash in the second race when Burton and Sam Hornish Jr. made contact. Wise's car had issues before the green flag even dropped in race No. 2.

RACE 2 RESULTS

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Kyle Busch
3. Carl Edwards
4. Greg Biffle
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Ryan Blaney
7. Reed Sorenson
8. Mike Wallace
9. Justin Allgaier
10. Danica Patrick
11. Ryan Newman
12. Kurt Busch
13. David Gilliland
14. David Ragan
15. Austin Dillon
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17. Biran Scott
18. Denny Hamlin
19. Michael Waltrip
20. Bobby Labonte
21. Sam Hornish Jr.
22. Jeb Burton
23. Alex Bowman
24. Josh Wise

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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: February 20, 2015, 3:48 am

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hey, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a strong car.

And he's a pretty damn good driver at Daytona too.

The defending Daytona 500 champion, starting dead last Thursday night, powered his way to the front in the first Budweiser Duel and held off a charge from Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon to win the Daytona 500 qualifying race. Earnhardt will start third in the Daytona 500.

Logano had a run on the last lap but couldn't do anything with it. He moved to the low side but Gordon was there in the space he needed. Combined with Junior moving low to block on the low side and Logano had nowhere to go.

Gordon, the 500 polesitter, finished second. Logano will start fifth after finishing third.

Junior started last after his qualifying time from Sunday's front-row qualifying session was disallowed because his car was too low. He quickly moved to the front of the field and battled with Gordon and Matt Kenseth, who won Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited, for the lead during most of the race.

You can make the case that Kenseth vied with Junior for the rights to the race's strongest car. But with less than 20 laps to go, the field looked like it had enough with Kenseth and he was left out to dry as cars passed on both sides of him. Once he moved outside the top three, he couldn't get back to the front and finished 17th after a late pit stop.

The top-15 finishers outside of Gordon automatically qualified themselves for the Daytona 500. Because of a blown engine, Casey Mears is needing all the top drivers in the second race to finish in the top 15. Danica Patrick is also faced with a top-15-and-in scenario because of the finish of drivers in the first duel. If she doesn't finish among the top 15 finishers outside of Jimmie Johnson, she will likely miss the Daytona 500.

Here are the results of Budweiser Duel No. 1:

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Joey Logano
4. Tony Stewart5. Clint Bowyer
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Landon Cassill
10. Cole Whitt
11. Paul Menard
12. Michael McDowell
13. J.J. Yeley
14. Michael Annett
15. Kyle Larson
16. Ty Dillon
17. Matt Kenseth
18. Justin Marks
19. Brad Keselowski
20. Aric Almirola
21. Ron Hornaday Jr.
22. Trevor Bayne
23. AJ Allmendinger
24. Johnny Sauter
25. Casey Mears

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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: February 20, 2015, 1:34 am

Feb 14, 2015; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch (41) before the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)Even as Kurt Busch prepares for Sunday's Daytona 500, his attorney has filed a motion to reopen a hearing on a protective order Busch's former girlfriend filed against him last year.

On Monday, a Delaware judge ruled that Busch must maintain a reasonable distance from Patricia Driscoll, and may not own or purchase firearms for a year. Driscoll had filed the protective order after a disputed incident in Busch's motorhome last September while at Dover International Speedway. Driscoll claimed Busch assaulted her, while Busch said the incident was far more benign and did not warrant a protective order.

Driscoll told SI.com in a story published Wednesday that she had a physical altercation with Busch the week before the Dover one.

Driscoll said the doomed encounter with Busch on the night of Sept. 26, which lasted 10 minutes, was the first time the driver overheated around her son—but not around her. She said that a week before the Dover incident, while en route to a romantic tour of New England following a race in Loudon, N.H., Busch strangled her with a seatbelt and struck her in the thigh with a rearview mirror that he had ripped from the windshield of a rental car. She also said there was another instance of abuse in 2012, but declined to go into specifics.

This is is the first time Driscoll has spoken publicly about the alleged New Hampshire incident. No criminal charges have been filed regarding it.

The complete statement from Busch's attorney Rusty Hardin follows:

“Today, Kurt Busch’s legal team filed a motion in the Delaware family court to reopen the hearings on the court ruling imposed against Mr. Busch on Monday. As Ms. Driscoll’s contentions became ever more public, independent witnesses, who are close personal acquaintances of Ms. Driscoll’s, have come forward and provided information that contradict her version of events after the split, before the alleged assault and immediately following the incident.

“All the witnesses confirm Mr. Busch’s testimony that Ms. Driscoll presented herself to close friends and acquaintances as a covert agent involved in deadly conduct on behalf of the government. One witness was threatened not to talk; and another finds Ms. Driscoll’s story completely incredulous based on his knowledge of the parties involved.

“Ms. Driscoll’s frantic media onslaught of the last 48 hours at a time Mr. Busch is scheduled to drive in the most important NASCAR race of the year is further evidence that this is not about domestic violence, but instead about ruining the career and reputation of the man who left her. We are also asking the Attorney General’s Office to open an investigation of Ms. Driscoll to determine whether or not she has violated the Delaware criminal code offense of Tampering with a Witness through her repeated attempts to harass and intimidate witnesses who she fears will come forward with evidence that will totally undermine her credibility.

“We fervently hope that the Commissioner will delay his issuing findings in support of his order until we are given an opportunity to present sworn testimony from these newly available witnesses, which we know will support findings of perjury and lack of merit to her allegations.’’

Busch could face criminal charges, as well. The Delaware attorney general's office is currently weighing whether or not to charge the former NASCAR champion. That decision is expected soon.

NASCAR has stated it will wait for that decision before deciding whether or not to discipline Busch.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 19, 2015, 11:45 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – There's a chance a NASCAR star could miss the Daytona 500.

It's a true statement, though on the surface, it is a bit hyperbolic. Because of the abolishment of the top-35 rule, 13 drivers are locked in to Sunday's Daytona 500, leaving 36 drivers to race for 30 spots in Thursday night's Budweiser Duels.

Here's how it works:

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are starting the Daytona 500 on the front row. If they crash and are forced to go to a backup car in either of Thursday's qualifying races, they'll have to start at the back of the field. But they're still in the race no matter what happens.

Outside of Gordon and Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are also guaranteed to be in the 500. They posted the four-fastest non-front row times on Sunday.

However, it's not guaranteed where those four will start the race. The top-15 finishers (outside of Gordon and Johnson) in each Duel take starting spots 2-32 in the race. If the four drivers above finish in the top 15 of their duels, the spots guaranteed on speed move to the next eligible drivers who didn't finish in the top 15.

Then, rounding out the field are seven provisional spots, including one for a past Sprint Cup Series champion. The first one up on that list (who isn't guaranteed a provisional via the 2014 owner's points standings) is Tony Stewart. He's guaranteed in the Daytona 500, but if he finishes in the top 15 in his race or gets in on speed, it could go to Kurt Busch or Bobby Labonte.

The chances of Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing the 500 are quite slim. Junior isn't guaranteed in because he didn't have a top-six speed in Sunday's qualifying session and didn't finish high enough in the 2014 owner's points standings to guarantee himself a provisional. But for Junior to miss the 500, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth (all guaranteed into the 500) would all have to take provisionals. It's (incredibly likely) not happening.

Danica Patrick? Well, her chances of missing the 500 are bigger. After posting the 31st-fastest qualifying time on Sunday, Patrick needs a lot of cars faster than she was on Sunday to race into the top 15 in their duels and not need a provisional. That is, of course, if Patrick doesn't finish in the top 15 of her duel. If she does, she's in.

Here are the starting lineups for the Budweiser Duels and who our best guesses as to who will make the Daytona 500. We're not expecting any surprises, but just one crash could throw a wrench into anyone's best guesses.

RACE 1

1. Jeff Gordon - LOCKED IN
2. Matt Kenseth - LOCKED IN
3. Kasey Kahne - LIKELY IN
4. Ty Dillon - LIKELY IN
5. Jamie McMurray - LIKELY IN
6. Johnny Sauter - LIKELY IN
7. Trevor Bayne - LIKELY IN
8. Aric Almirola - LOCKED IN
9. Brad Keselowski - LOCKED IN
10. Joey Logano - LOCKED IN
11. J.J. Yeley - LIKELY IN
12. Paul Menard - LIKELY IN
13. AJ Allmendinger - LIKELY IN
14. Kevin Harvick - LOCKED IN
15. Tony Stewart - LOCKED IN
16. Casey Mears - LIKELY IN
17. Michael Annett - LIKELY OUT
18. Kyle Larson - LIKELY IN
19. Michael McDowell - BUBBLE
20. Clint Bowyer - LIKELY IN
21. Justin Marks - LIKELY OUT
22. Cole Whitt - BUBBLE
23. Landon Cassill - BUBBLE
24. Ron Hornaday Jr. - LIKELY OUT
25. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - LIKELY IN

RACE 2

1. Jimmie Johnson - LOCKED IN
2. Kyle Busch - LIKELY IN
3. Carl Edwards - LOCKED IN
4. Austin Dillon - LIKELY IN
5. Martin Truex Jr. - LIKELY IN
6. Greg Biffle - LIKELY IN
7. Sam Hornish Jr. - LIKELY IN
8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - LOCKED IN
9. Ryan Blaney - BUBBLE
10. Michael Waltrip - LIKELY IN
11. Bobby Labonte - LIKELY IN
12. Alex Bowman - BUBBLE
13. Ryan Newman - LOCKED IN
14. Kurt Busch - LIKELY IN
15. Danica Patrick - LIKELY IN
16. Brian Scott - BUBBLE
17. Justin Allgaier - LIKELY IN
18. David Gilliland - LIKELY IN
19. Jeb Burton - BUBBLE
20. Reed Sorenson - LIKELY OUT
21. David Ragan - BUBBLE
22. Josh Wise - BUBBLE
23. Mike Wallace - LIKELY OUT
24. Denny Hamlin - LOCKED IN

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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: February 19, 2015, 5:49 pm

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick still has some work to do to qualify for Sunday’s Daytona 500, a task that grew at least a little more difficult when she was caught up in a wreck here Wednesday during practice.

Patrick will have to run a back-up car, from the rear of the pack in Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel races where anything but a top 15 finish would leave her in a precarious position.

“We knew we’d have to run hard in the duels no matter what and that hasn’t changed … still have to,” Patrick said while standing outside the infield medical center here.

The field for the 500 will mostly be set on Thursday. The front row of pole sitter Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are in. The top 15 finishers in each of the duels (sans Gordon and/or Johnson) will be slotted into the next 30 spots. After that, four spots go to qualifying speeds across the week (Patrick isn’t likely there), then six spots based on total owner points and one for a past champion.

Forty-three cars will race Sunday. 49 cars are entered and participating in Thursday's qualifying races.

Patrick's car was 28th in the 2014 Sprint Cup Series owner points, so she could be boxed out with a poor performance Thursday if a number of upstarts are able to jam into the top 15. She went out for Wednesday's second practice with her backup car and posted the 19th-fastest speed while making single-car runs.

The qualifying setup for the 500 is unique and with the provisional starting spots, can be a little tricky. Patrick, along with other drivers, expressed bewilderment at how it works.

“I really don’t know the circumstances,” Patrick said. “I was fairly confused in an of itself. Other than not being in top 15.”

Denny Hamlin took responsibility for the crash, which Patrick was caught up in as drivers roared around the famed speedway in a typical pack. Patrick wound up spinning through the track and into the grass infield, her car totaled.

Her backup car, her team said, was used last year by Kurt Busch and finished third here in July, so there remains some confidence. Still, for a driver in Patrick who is a major fan and sponsor draw, has had success at superspeedways and is still proving herself on the circuit, the pressure to qualify is considerable.

“I’m fine other than obviously being disappointed,” she said. “It was a good car and that’s never good thing to crash … that’s just group racing at Daytona, that’s the gamble that we all face. That’s what makes it exciting and frustrating.

“I just know I have to race hard and that’s the end of it.”

If nothing else, the prime time duels just got a bit more interesting.

Author: Dan Wetzel
Posted: February 18, 2015, 8:09 pm

NASCAR announced changes in the Daytona group qualifying format for the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series on Wednesday. The tweaks come days after Sprint Cup Series qualifying for the front row of the Daytona 500 elicited many complaints from drivers and featured a wreck with Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson and J.J. Yeley.

The Cup Series qualifying was two five-minute rounds in the first round, followed by 24 cars in the second round for five minutes and 12 cars in the final round for five minutes. The sessions are now halved in the Xfinity Series (which qualifies Saturday) and the Truck Series (on Friday) and are 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Speaking after qualifying on Sunday, NASCAR vice president of operations Steve O'Donnell said the sanctioning body would continue to seek feedback about how best to qualify cars at restrictor plate tracks via the group qualifying format.

The Cup Series field was divided into two groups in the first round of qualifying. For the Xfinity and Truck Series, the first round will feature four groups. The second round of the 24 fastest times from the first round, which was one group in Cup qualifying, will now be two groups of 12 cars. The final round will feature all 12 cars that move on from the second round.

Cars will also be lined up single-file on pit road via a random draw instead of backing out of their pit stalls like at non-restrictor plate tracks, preventing the traffic jam of cars clogging the exit of pit lane to wait for the latest possible moment like on Sunday. The order of the line will be determined by speed in the second and third rounds. Once cars move, they must head out on to the track.

If NASCAR is satisfied with the changes Xfinity and Truck Series, don't be surprised if the Cup qualifying format at Talladega is similar in May. Talladega is the next restrictor plate race on the schedule.

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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: February 18, 2015, 6:44 pm

Happy Hour is back, back again. Happy Hour is back, back, tell a friend.

Throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com or @NickBromberg. We'll post them here and have a good time.

Welcome to 2015, everyone. We've got just over 24 hours until the Budweiser Duels, and are we the only ones who instinctively want to say "Gatorade" before the Duels? Is it just us? We don't have trouble with Twin/Duel, however.

It's also the 14th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001, when he was running third to Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap of the Daytona 500.

One this day I do not mourn his death. I thank God he lived. #DaleEarnhardt

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 18, 2015

If you weren't on the Twitters last night, you need to check out this site. It was first tweeted by USA Today's Jeff Gluck and it's great for some amusement, especially if you're on Twitter. Here's one of the bios it generated for us.

Unsurprisingly, the dominant topic is what happened on Sunday with group qualifying for the front row. Here's a sampling of the emails we received.

It was just outrageous! Stupid! Unsafe! What the hell is NASCAR thinking? I can't think of many fans who would've enjoyed that despite what the Waltrip mouthpieces say. - Tom

Michael Waltrip's answer after he returned to the Fox broadcast when he was done with his turn in qualifying was, uh, politically correct to say the least. It was clear he made sure to speak from the sugarcoated broadcaster's view. And, well, he's not going to be driving for much longer, so it was a play for the long term.

Kenny Wallace was also espousing the entertainment value of what happened Sunday and Tony Stewart smacked him down.

@Kenny_Wallace that's not a show, it's a joke and you know it

— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) February 15, 2015

I am writing you in regards to NASCAR's new knockout qualifying format. I am a longtime NASCAR fan who not only watches from the tv but also travels to various cities to watch the race live from the track. After watching the drivers qualify for the Daytona 500 using new format I must say it is very confusing to the fans and seems useless and meaningless. I think the drivers should qualify as they have always qualified one by one alone on the track. It saves money and lives. - Rhonda

Let's slow our roll just a little bit here. Saves money, sure. But there's no need to introduce a hypothetical as a reality along with it.

Yes, there are obviously big downsides to crashes -- injuries can happen. And thankfully we're only talking about torn up sheetmetal and extra expenses right now.

While drivers may like to go back to one-by-one qualifying for the front row, now that it's gone away, can it come back? It's a question that has to be answered effectively and finally before options can be seriously discussed.

I really don't understand how a group of leaders at NASCAR whom are supposed to be at least semi-intelligent could come up with such a hair-brained idea. The race teams spend hundreds of hours fine tuning every aspect of those cars to get them to go as fast as possible only to have the idiots running the show jeopardize their safety for WHAT ? I am an old time racer from the 60"s when you won the pole it was because you had the fasted car against the clock one car at a time-no help from team members or other cars. I have watched every Daytona race since 1979 and Indy race since 1963. I am no longer a fan of NASCAR as of today. Please ask for a ground swell of fans to object to the morons running NASCAR to go back to the old way on the restrictor plate racetracks in caution to safety and to help the 1 car teams who can't afford to smash up a dozen cars . - Randy

Similar to the previous email, let's slow this one down again. Giving up NASCAR because of a qualifying session? Huh?

It's become clear from every tweak to group qualifying that teams will eventually figure out a counter to the tweak to find a competitive advantage. That's the nature of racing. You go to every nook and cranny you can within the rules to get as much edge out of everything that you can.

If single-car qualifying is not the answer in 2016, what if group qualifying goes off Kurt Busch's four-lap average idea?

The four-lap average would start when each car takes the green flag for its first full lap. It has to be four consecutive laps, and if a car pulls off during the four laps, the qualifying attempt is aborted. That way, teams are forced to run all-out for each lap and can't try to slow on the track to mess other cars' laps up.

The rounds could be five minutes for four laps, or a longer period without the field being divided in half like it was for the first round on Sunday. And while we're at it, what if the pit road box lines served as a commitment line of sorts? Once a driver backed out of his pit stall and cleared the line, he or she was committing to going out on the track and not allowed to stop on the edge of pit road. Hell, that could be implemented at every track if it was feasible.

My 1st time for qualifying. Been to more than 10, 500's. I won the tickets from Wind 95.5 radio station Ocala Fl area. I will never go to qualifying again. It sucked big time. Sitting on pit row, ridiculous. Why didn't any of them ream up as 2 and cut a few laps and then change places and run a few more. - Mark

I was at the exit of pit road for the start of the first round and wow, I had a lump in my stomach for a second. The traffic jam was absolutely remarkable. I have no clue how it looked on television, but there was not very much space between Danica and the wall when she tried to squeeze in between a car and the inside of pit lane. It was like being two feet from a crazy traffic jam.

@NickBromberg Saw you preview, how many of those win races? How was the view as a fan from the top of Daytona Rising?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) February 17, 2015

In case you missed our guaranteed to be inaccurate Chase predictions, you can view them right here.

We think 13 cars win races this year. Which, of course, is an average of two wins per winning driver. Last year, 13 cars won races and seven won multiple races (led by Brad Keselowski with four) and six had a win apiece. The guess is we'll see a similar breakdown this season.

The view from the top of the new Daytona grandstands is absolutely fantastic. You can see every part of the track (and very far beyond), though we do recommend some binoculars if you're so inclined. It's also windy up that high, so it's something to keep in mind too.

Also, don't be surprised if the stands look emptier than normal for Thursday's Duels – for good reason. The forecast temps for Thursday are roughly a high of 50 and a low near freezing. If there's a breeze it will be mighty chilly (for Florida) in those grandstands. we're not going to blame people for wanting to stay warm one bit.

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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: February 18, 2015, 5:40 pm

The Daytona 500 has brought us some of the greatest finishes in NASCAR history, but two stand above the rest. Today, Yahoo Sports' Kevin Kaduk (@kevinkaduk) and Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) kick around the two finest finishes in Daytona history: the very first one, in 1959, and the instant-classic showdown in 2007. Plus: a ranking of the best paint schemes in NASCAR! This clip brought to you by the Dodge Charger, so keep that in mind as you watch.

This is the latest in an ongoing series of Kaduk/Busbee sports arguments, and we both want you on our side. Have your say on both topics right here in the comments or on Twitter at #kbarguments. Fire up!

Previously:Earnhardt or fighting: what was the greatest Daytona 500 moment ever?

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 18, 2015, 3:00 pm

It's that time of year again, folks.

Fantasy Auto Racing is back and so is our Fans of From the Marbles League. To sign up for our group, simply click this link. If you prefer to search for the league within the Fantasy Auto Racing site, the Group ID is 38 and the password is marbles.

Make sure you get your picks in for Daytona by 1:25 ET on Sunday. Looking for some help? Here's a few of our top picks for each group. So if you want to succeed, don't pay attention to us

Group A

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Kevin Harvick
Jimmie Johnson
Jeff Gordon

Group B

Tony Stewart
Carl Edwards
Martin Truex Jr.
Jamie McMurray

Group C

Michael Waltrip
Danica Patrick
David Ragan
Ty Dillon

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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: February 18, 2015, 2:01 pm

Power Rankings are back!

The 2015 season is (officially) nearly upon us, so we figured there's no better place to break out Power Rankings for the first time this year than by making it the space for our official, unchangeable and definitely 100 percent accurate Chase predictions.

Here are the 16 drivers we think will make the Chase in 2015. The top four are our final four and the other 12 are who we think will be Nos. 5-16 after the season. Let's get to it.

1. Brad Keselowski: Title No. 2 for team No. 2? That's where we are leaning. Remember, he had the most wins in the Cup Series last year (6), one more than 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick (5). However, here is a possible reason to take caution. Other than Jimmie Johnson (three times), no driver since 2006 who tallied the most wins in a Sprint Cup season has equaled or improved his finish in the points standings the following season. Keselowski is in that group, as he and Denny Hamlin tied Johnson for the circuit lead in wins in 2012. Though, yes, it's hard to repeat as a champion.

If Keselowski gets to a final four, we like he and crew chief Paul Wolfe in a winner-take-all format. And we're going to go out on a limb and say while Brad may still be considered the antagonist in the Cup Series story at the end of the season, there won't be any prolonged public conflicts in 2015.

Bovada odds for the title: 8/1

2. Carl Edwards: Here's to the third straight year of a driver with a new team being a Chase contender. If Edwards gets off to a hot start in 2015 you're going to quickly lose count of all the comparisons to Matt Kenseth's 2013 with Joe Gibbs Racing. Will Edwards win seven races like Kenseth did in 2013? No. But he's going to be faster than he was last year, and we saw how consistent he can be.

Bovada odds for the title: 10/1

3. Jimmie Johnson: The six-time champion has had his two worst Sprint Cup seasons in the past four years. Is Johnson in the midst of a career swoon? Pardon us as we giggle from typing a low-grade television news teaser there. No, he's not. Yeah, 2014 wasn't a good season for Johnson as his Chase finish would have been (relatively) porous with either the old or new format. But we're not going to say it's the sign of any sort of trend.

Bovada odds for the title: 13/2

4. Kevin Harvick: Can Harvick be the first non-Johnson to repeat as champion since Jeff Gordon? We don't dislike his chances. But just ask Joey Logano about the crazy stuff that can happen to take away your title shot in a one-race format. If these four drivers make the final race, it's truly a toss-up between the four.

Bovada odds for the title: 15/2

5. Jeff Gordon: What's a bigger storyline at Homestead? Gordon's possible final race or the championship? Sure, they're married together if the four-time champion is in the final four, but if he's not, he'll be a close second to the title chase, especially depending on the drivers racing for the championship. Bold prediction time. Gordon wins at least one of the following: the Daytona 500, All-Star Race, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400, Southern 500 or the Sprint Cup title.

Bovada odds for the title: 15/2

6. Matt Kenseth: Yeah, this was the only JGR team that didn't get a win in 2014. But it was also the only JGR team that kept the driver and crew chief together. Why? Because Kenseth had 22 top-10 finishes, four more than Denny Hamlin and seven more than Kyle Busch. Expect more of the same in 2015, except with a win or two.

Bovada odds for the title: 10/1

7. Joey Logano: Being eliminated from the cahse before the final race shouldn't be seen as a step backwards for Logano. Unless he struggles all year and doesn't make it out of the first round. If he gets to round two or round three and has a win or two in 2015, it's a continuation of the foundation that was built last year. Logano is going to win a title, and it's going to happen sooner rather than later.

Bovada odds for the title: 9/1

8. Kyle Busch: Is Logano taking the "is going to win a title, and it's going to happen sooner rather than later" mantle from Busch? It's a fair question to ask, though title expectations have also been heaped on Busch without steady consistency. He's finished in the top five of the standings twice, and those finishes happened six years apart. If the new rules package mimics the way the Xfinity Series cars drive, don't be surprised if this is the year Busch is a true challenger for the title.

Bovada odds for the title: 10/1

9. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin snuck through the Chase more than Ryan Newman did. He was the guy who was the epitome of avoiding bad finishes throughout the Chase. Can Hamlin be in the final four again? Yes. Can he be the guy who finishes fourth among the Gibbs cars? Yes to that too. But you can answer yes for any of the four JGR drivers to that question. How the team adapts to an extra car in 2015 will be a focal point, especially if there are struggles.

Bovada odds for the title: 14/1

10. Tony Stewart: Smoke back? He's the pick for the 2015 Daytona 500, which would guarantee a spot in the Chase. He's back to being ornery (see the weight issue during Unlimited practice) and aggressive (he had a point to prove in the first part of the Unlimited and ran near the front before being crashed). Stewart is going to win a race in 2015. Will week-to-week consistency follow?

Bovada odds for the title: 22/1

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: If Junior finishes outside the top 10, it's got to be the crew chief change, right? Sigh. Even if it's not, it'll be Junior Nation's most overanalyzed aspect of the 2015 season. Junior's going to be good again and he's going to win a race again. It's just a matter of not having a misstep int he Chase.

Bovada odds for the title: 10/1

12. Kurt Busch: 2015 sleeper? 2015 sleeper. Busch's partnership with Tony Gibson was fruitful at the end of the season and don't act surprised if he's a serious contender for the title. The wild card, of course, is any pending action from the Delaware attorney general's office, but we won't assume anything at this point. Busch's 2014 roller coaster evens out this year.

Bovada odds for the title: 25/1

13. Kyle Larson: If we're presuming that Larson wins a race this year, where does it happen? We'll take the easy way out and say Auto Club Speedway, where he won his first Xfinity Series race last year and closed in a hurry in the Cup Series. The worn out pavement suits his driving style as he can wheel the car up near the wall and zip around everyone, a la Kyle Busch did in 2013 to win.

Bovada odds for the title: 16/1

14. Kasey Kahne: Will Kahne once again be the fourth car in terms of performance at Hendrick? Will he need to win to get into the Chase or sneak in on points? Will Keith Rodden's return to the team be the magic elixir the No. 5 needs? Notice how one of the questions we're not asking is about Kahne's long-term future at Hendrick Motorsports. That's a big positive. He finished fourth in 2012 but the big year for Kahne at HMS could still be to come.

Bovada odds for the title: 25/1

15. Clint Bowyer: At Daytona media days, Bowyer said he figured consistency would be enough to get in the Chase in 2014. It didn't happen, so now he's all about the wins. The truth is somewhere in the middle, and Bowyer likely knows it. The No. 15 was consistent last year, but consistently meh. If Bowyer ups the performance without a win, a Chase berth isn't impossible.

Bovada odds for the title: 40/1

16. Ryan Newman: What's more indicative of Ryan Newman's chances in 2015? His first 26 races of 2014 where he top-15'd the field like crazy and made the Chase or his final 10 where he was a serious contender for the title despite not winning a race? If it's the latter, move Newman up seven or eight spots in this ranking.

Bovada odds for the title: 40/1

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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: February 17, 2015, 4:12 pm

The Daytona 500 is a marquee event every year, but every so often, the race achieves transcendence. Today, Yahoo Sports' Kevin Kaduk (@kevinkaduk) and Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) kick around two classic moments: Dale Earnhardt's win in 1998 and the infamous 1979 fight in the grass. Plus: a ranking of the best tracks in NASCAR! Have your say on both topics right here in the comments or on Twitter at #kbarguments. Fire up!

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 17, 2015, 3:44 pm

FILE - In this May 22, 2014, file photo, Kurt Busch, left, walks with Patricia Driscoll before qualifying for a NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. The police investigation into allegations that NASCAR driver Kurt Busch assaulted his ex-girlfriend has been finished and forwarded to Delaware state prosecutors to decide whether charges will be filed. Cpl. Mark Hoffman with the Dover Police Department said Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, that the agency's investigation into the allegations was finished, but he declined to say whether investigators were recommending that Busch be charged. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)A Delaware judge has granted Patricia Driscoll a protective order against Kurt Busch, and has also ordered that Busch undergo counseling. 

Busch must maintain a "practicable" distance away from his ex-girlfriend, and may make no effort to contact her. He must maintain a distance of 100 yards away from Driscoll except in events at NASCAR tracks and other locations where such distance would be impossible to maintain.

He must also be evaluated “for mental health problems related to anger control and impulse control,’’ according to Family Court Commissioner David Jones. Busch is also not permitted to purchase or possess firearms.

Driscoll had filed for the protective order in November after a dispute in Busch's motorhome at Dover. Driscoll also filed a criminal complaint with Delaware police, and that issue remains outstanding. The Delaware attorney general's office has not yet decided whether to prosecute Busch for alleged assault. The case drew national attention after Busch said that Driscoll claimed to be a trained assassin. 

Busch's attorney, Rusty Hardin, offered a statement in the wake of the judge's announcement:

“Though we are not surprised by the Commissioner’s ruling, in light of the restrictions on the evidence he considered, we are deeply disappointed because we believe the evidence of Ms. Driscoll’s total lack of believability was overwhelming.  It is important to note that the Commissioner’s ruling is a civil family court matter and totally unconnected to any criminal investigation or finding.

“Regardless of the Commissioner’s finding, we know that Kurt never committed an act of family violence.  The evidence was un-contradicted that Ms. Driscoll committed the criminal offense of trespass when she entered his motor home at night, while he was sleeping, uninvited, without permission,  and refused to leave when he repeatedly asked her to get out.  Mr. Busch’s conduct was totally reasonable and legal under the circumstances.  He never intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused her any injury.

“We intend to appeal the Commissioner’s ruling and will seek to persuade the family court judge hearing the appeal to consider new and previously unknown evidence from various people that have come forward since the conclusion of the hearing before the Commissioner.  We have provided this additional evidence challenging Ms. Driscoll’s testimony and credibility to the Attorney General’s office for their criminal investigation, and we hope to persuade the family court judge to consider the same evidence.

“Ms. Driscoll clearly committed perjury during her testimony before the Commissioner, and we deeply regret  that Ms. Driscoll has been allowed to abuse the justice system in such a flagrant way.”

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 16, 2015, 7:53 pm

If you're a NASCAR fan, one of the best parts of the approaching season is the unveiling of cars' paint schemes.

Through announcements and the first days of cars being on track at Daytona, we've gotten a glimpse of what most rides will look like in 2015. And, well, it's underwhelming.

We're admitted simpletons when it comes to paint schemes. The simpler and cleaner the better. Some cars in the Cup Series have that look going on. Some definitely don't.

Let's start with a couple of the cars we like. Nationwide's paint scheme for Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the best new design of the season.

It's a contender up against Brad Keselowski's No. 2 for best-looking car. Props to Team Penske for keeping the white look.

Carl Edwards' new No. 19 isn't bad, though the red numbers on the side seem to blend in a bit against the orange background.

We don't mind the black and red combination of Kurt Busch's car, but the diagonal side-stripe makes the car look a bit like a Texas Tech-themed Tetris puzzle.

They get worse from here. Denny Hamlin's FedEx schemes over the past couple years weren't bad. The addition of purple with orange trim are obviously for company colors, but the utilization is suspect. Especially with the purple roof.

Greg Biffle's Ortho car looks kind of like a red-faced anteater. Though given the sponsor's products, maybe that was the objective?

Danica Patrick's car may be the ugliest main paint scheme of the year. We've discussed our dislike of the combination in this space previously, but the car looks so 1990s that it's worth mentioning again.

What happened to the crispness of Patrick's 2013 car?

What schemes do you like or dislike? Drop us a line at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday 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: February 16, 2015, 4:02 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Every professional sport has an embarrassing moment.

Major League Baseball has the 2002 All-Star Game. The NFL dealt with the game-changing affects of replacement referees in Seattle in 2012. The NBA inauspiciously debuted a new basketball in 2006.

Sometimes embarrassing moments can be forgiven. Others live in infamy. While it's unclear if Sunday's qualifying session for the front row of the Daytona 500 will be the former, latter or (more likely) somewhere in between, there's a common theme in the three circumstances mentioned above; all of the leagues learned from their mistakes and made a corresponding change.

NASCAR needs to make a change after what transpired during the first group qualifying session for the Daytona 500.

What that change should be is, of course, open to suggestion. But the cacophony of voices from drivers participating in the session made it clear that what happened Sunday and got Jeff Gordon the pole in his final Daytona 500 should be a one-time thing.

Today use to be about showcasing the hard work from the teams over the winter. Now it a complete embarrassment for our series. #NASCAR

— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) February 15, 2015

Excited about Thursday's races our car is extremely fast! Sucks that 56 years of tradition at Daytona where fast cars ruled had ended.......

— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) February 15, 2015

Before the group qualifying format was implemented, Daytona's qualifying format consisted of each car making a two-lap single car run on the Sunday before the 500. The top two cars were then guaranteed the front row and the rest of the field was set via Thursday's Budweiser Duels qualifying races.

The unique setup has always set the biggest race of the season apart from every other NASCAR race – no other Cup Series race holds qualifying races. And it's served the buildup to the season well. After a cold offseason, the week-long buildup is a tasty appetizer for fans starved for speed.

That appetite is what makes the group qualifying format appealing, at least on the surface. It was introduced significantly in part to spice up qualifying telecasts that had been considered monotonous. And while it's an experiment that seems to be working at non-restrictor plate tracks, at Talladega and Daytona it's not.

It's needlessly dangerous. Not only is there a risk of multi-car crash on the track, but each plate qualifying session has at least one jumble of cars on pit road awkwardly waiting to go on the track with drafting partners, creating a scenario where drivers have time for one lap at most.

NASCAR has continually tweaked the group process at restrictor plate tracks and according to Vice President Steve O'Donnell, more tweaks are possible.

"I believe we've got a really good track record of making adjustments where we need to and we'll evaluate what took place today, we'll continue to get feedback from the industry, from the drivers, as we did to get where we were today," O'Donnell said.

While the format may be entertaining to some, it's hard to argue it's anything other than a maddening lottery.

Just ask Clint Bowyer, who let his frustrations loose after he was a loser in a first-round crash. Or Ryan Newman.

"The frustrating part is dealing with this whole system which makes no sense whatsoever," Newman said. "It's hard to stand behind NASCAR when everybody I talk to up and down pit road doesn't understand why we're doing this."

O'Donnell said no drivers criticizing the qualifying format would be fined.

"We all share the same vision with the drivers," O'Donnell said. "They want to put on the most exciting race possible and so we all knew that single-car qualifying was a challenge for us. There are a lot of different ideas out there. We do believe this is more exciting feedback, but when you hear from a Clint Bowyer, a Tony Stewart, that's passion. This is the biggest race of the year. They want to make the race and we understand that. I think as we look at that, if there are ways we can make adjustments, we will. Not everyone's going to be happy, that's always part of this.

If they happen, those adjustments could be a return to the old way of qualifying or a new and improved group format for 2016.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. likes the former option.

I like this qualifying format for the non-plate racetracks.👍 I believe in tradition for the #DAYTONA500.

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 15, 2015

Yes, tradition can be used as an excuse for those unwilling to change, but it's hard to see much of a tangible benefit to the current group qualifying format at restrictor plate tracks. Many may consider single-car qualifying at restrictor plate tracks to be boring, but it's a much better test of speed and prowess than what happened on Sunday.

"We're a lot of smart people here," Busch said. "There's drivers, owners, NASCAR. We got to find a better system. So much hard work goes into these cars, then you have this roulette wheel for qualifying.  It doesn't seem the proper system."

He continued and suggested a new twist on the old format.

"We should just take the cars as we build them in the offseason, unload, pass tech, then go qualify one car at a time, fourlap average. That would really give a sense of pride to putting effort towards building a car to qualify for the Daytona 500 instead of shaking up bingo balls."

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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: February 15, 2015, 9:46 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jeff Gordon will start first for the final Daytona 500 of his illustrious career.

Gordon posted the fastest lap in the final round of Sunday's qualifying session for the biggest (and first) NASCAR race of the year. He'll start alongside his teammate and six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson on the front row.

The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion announced in January that 2015 would be his final full-time season in the Cup Series. While Gordon hasn't used the word "retirement" to describe his departure, he has ruled out running restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega again past this season.

"What I'm finding unique about this, and [crew chief Alan Gustafson] told me this before the season started when I told him this was happening, even after I announced to the team, he was like, I love it because you're going to have a unique mindset that you've probably never had before," Gordon said.

"He's right. I felt it last night and I feel it right now. That's the way I'm looking at it going into these next couple races here this week. It's kind of all or nothing for me. I got one last chance.  I can take chances.
I mean, yeah, I want to win the championship. I want points. But right now it's the Daytona 500. All I want to focus on is winning the Daytona 500. I'm just enjoying the ride, enjoying the moment."

The first two starting spots were the only two decided in Sunday's qualifying format. The other 41 spots for the race on Feb. 22 will be figured out via the Budweiser Duel qualifying races on Thursday evening.

Gordon and Johnson were two of the last cars out in the final qualifying session. It meant they got a draft off the 10 cars ahead of them and utlized the lack of air to their advantage. It's Gordon's second career Daytona 500 pole. The first time he won the pole, in 1999, he won the race.

Both drivers barely made it to the line to begin their laps. According to NASCAR's group qualifying rules, a car must start a lap before the time remaining in the session expires. Gordon and Johnson crossed the line with just under a couple seconds left as the entire field waited as long as possible to go out and make one lap.

Sunday's session was the first time that the group qualifying format, first introduced in 2014, had been utilized for the front row of the Daytona 500. Previously, all cars attempting the race went out one-by-one and the fastest car (on raw speed sans the draft) won the pole.

It was not well-received. Many drivers criticized the format including Tony Stewart and defending champion Kevin Harvick. The most vocal critic was Clint Bowyer, who was crashed out in the first round of qualifying. Bowyer let rip a huge rant towards NASCAR about the qualifying circumstances.

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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: February 15, 2015, 8:01 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – We can count Clint Bowyer as someone who isn't a fan of knockout qualifying at restrictor plate tracks.

Bowyer was taken out in a crash in the first round of pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. It's the first time NASCAR has tried the knockout qualifying format (introduced in 2014) for the Daytona 500. Instead of cars running one-by-one and the two fastest cars on raw speed earning the top two starting spots for the Daytona 500, cars are bunched into groups and drafting is imperative, just like it is in a race.

Bowyer got into the back of Reed Sorenson's car a lap earlier. The Impact crumpled Sorenson's right rear fender and a lap later, Sorenson got turned in front of Bowyer, collecting the driver of the No. 15, J.J. Yeley and others.

After being released from the infield care center (and animatedly having a word with Sorenson immediately after the crash), Bowyer unleashed his frustrations about what happened and the circumstances surrounding it.

"I wasn't behind [Sorenson]," Bowyer said. "He come flying around, come up on the apron, jumps in front of me then runs over [Justin Allgaier] in line, stacks us all up and I run in to him. It's idiotic to be out here doing this anyway. There's no sense in being able to try to put on some cute show or whatever the hell this is.

"And then you've got a guy out there in desperation doing this crap like this. I mean, it's just, there's no reason to be out here. These guys have spent six months working on these cars, busting their ass on these cars to have some guy out of desperation do that crap.

"But it ain't his fault. It's not. It's NASCAR's fault for putting us out here in the middle of this crap for nothing. We used to come down here and worry about who's going to sit on the front row and the pole for the biggest race of the year. Now all we do is come down here and worry about how a start and park like this out of desperation is going to knock us out of the Daytona 500.

"We've been in meetings for 45 minutes just trying to figure out what in the hell everybody's is going to do just so we could make the race. It's stupid. There's no sense in doing this."

Bowyer was caught up in a crash in Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited, meaning he totaled two cars in less than 24 hours. Sorenson's No. 44 team came without a backup car for Daytona and he said he was unsure of his team's plans after the crash.

Sorenson's team, an underfunded small team that doesn't attempt the full season, doesn't have the benefit of a high standing in NASCAR's owner's points to benefit from a provisional starting spot if the team had a poor qualifying effort.

“Yeah, [Bowyer] came up to the window," Sorenson said. "He was pretty upset. He has a right to be upset. I was trying to block. I think what he saw is what I was trying to do. I was just trying to stay in front of him to get that good lap. I didn’t think that he was all the way up to me yet. And, listening to my spotter, I was going high, and then he says going low and I went low as soon as he said that. The next thing I know, I’m spinning. I guess I didn’t think he was quite that far up. It’s just a product of trying to run that one good lap and I was trying to stay in front of that line. That was our only shot to run a good lap was to stay in front of him. You see blocking here all the time. It’s part of this racing and now it’s part of the qualifying here.”

While NASCAR has previously said it doesn't like drivers criticizing the on-track product (and drivers have been fined for doing so), Bowyer was hardly the only driver to disapprove of the qualifying format. He just was, understandably, the most vocal. Sunday afternoon, NASCAR Vice President Steve O'Donnell said drivers would not be fined for their comments about the qualifying format.

"I think what [NASCAR CEO Brian France] said is you can take us on," O'Donnell said. We're NASCAR, that's part of our job.  When I look at the comments that Clint made or Tony made, those are based on wanting to see the best racing out there."

"So certainly tough to hear. But those are things we have to have conversations with them on and work with those guys to figure out if there's a better way to do it. We will do it. But it's not something we're going to fine the drivers for today."

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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: February 15, 2015, 7:22 pm

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