A car crashed in an endurance race at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe in Germany on Saturday, flipping over a fence and killing at least one spectator and injuring others.

The car, driven by Jann Mardenborough, became vertical as it lost control. He then flipped over the catchfence after impact with the tire barriers in front of the wall. Here's video of the crash. You do not see the car land on the other side of the track. It then cuts to Mardenborough out of the car and a crowd around the scene.

The race was the first of the VLN Endurance Championship Nurburgring. Here's a statement from the VLN via Autosport:

"The opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship at the Nurburgring was marred by an accident on Saturday which injured several spectators.

"One of the spectators died, despite the immediate actions of the rescue crew in the medical centre at the circuit.

"The other injured spectators have been taken to hospital for ongoing medical care.

"The race was stopped to give emergency crew quick access to the circuit, and wasn't restarted.

"The accident occurred in the Flugplatz part of the circuit, with a competitor leaving the circuit for a yet unspecified reason and finishing up behind the safety fencing.

"The VLN and the organisers are deeply saddened by the accident, and their thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims."

The VLN series is a 10-race series at Nurburgring involving both amateurs and professional drivers. The Nissan was reportedly entered in the race to prepare for the 24-hour race at the track, which is considered one of the most dangerous in the world.

Mardenborough, 23, got his start in racing by winning a video game contest in 2011 and last year won a GP3 race. GP3 is a lower-level series to Formula 1.

Nissan Motorsport (NISMO), said it was cooperating with the investigation of the accident.

The driver, Jann Mardenborough got out of the car and, after initial checks in the circuit Medical Centre, has been taken to hospital for further routine checks.Today's events have been a tragedy. We are all deeply shocked and saddened by these events and our immediate thoughts go to the deceased, those injured and their families and friends.The team is fully co-operating with the race organisers to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into this incident.

In 2013, Kyle Larson's car flipped into the catchfence at Daytona International Speedway in an Xfinity Series race. The debris from the multi-car crash injured over 20 fans and crews worked the majority of the next night to fix the fence for the Daytona 500.

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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 28, 2015, 9:19 pm

Joey Logano got his second pole of 2015 at Martinsville.

Logano put down a lap of 98.461 MPH to best Ryan Newman for the top spot. Newman was the fastest car in the second round of qualifying.

It's Logano's first pole at Martinsville. His first pole in 2015 came at Atlanta where he finished fourth a week after winning the Daytona 500.

Martin Truex Jr. starts third to continue his early-season success. He's finished in the top 15 in every race this season and has started no lower than 15th.

Behind Truex are a few guys who have had success at Martinsville. Jeff Gordon starts fourth, while Jimmie Johnson starts fifth and Tony Stewart sixth. Gordon and Johnson have eight wins at the half-mile track while Stewart has three.

Chase Elliott will make his Sprint Cup Series debut on Sunday and he'll start 27th. Defending race winner Kurt Busch starts one spot ahead of him in 26th.

Two cars, Ron Hornaday and Brendan Gaughan, missed the race.

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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 27, 2015, 11:15 pm

A technician checks tires during practice for the Auto Club 400. (USAT)After the following two Sprint Cup Series races – at Phoenix and Auto Club – NASCAR has taken tires for review. On Friday, crew chiefs Alan Gustafson and Chad Knaus said they were told by the sanctioning body that any tampering with tires would be met with stiff penalties.

“I don’t want to say warned," Gustafson, Jeff Gordon's crew chief, said. "Warned may not be the right term, just reminded.”

What could the issues be? Apparently there's talk that teams have been drilling tiny holes in the tires. The holes would allow air to bleed, ever so slowly, to keep tire pressures lower throughout the duration of a tire stint (as heat builds in the tires, air pressures increase).

"In my experience there is a lot of smoke around that," Gustafson said. "There is a lot of talk, there is a lot of dialogue and there are a lot of rumors in the garage. Yeah, I think it is obvious that some people think something is going on and is NASCAR reacting to that? Or do they feel uncomfortable with what is going on? I don’t know that answer. But I do think that it is something that is on the forefront of a lot of people minds. Obviously NASCAR is trying to make sure that we are all on level playing field and if anybody is violating that they will pay the price, which they reminded us this morning is very stiff. That is all I know.”

Per USA Today, the focal point have been the teams of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch as well as Richard Childress Racing cars. Harvick has won two races this season. Busch has been fast since his return and RCR's Ryan Newman is showing speed similar to his Chase run in 2014 when he finished second to Harvick in the standings.

Gordon said he thinks teams were manipulating tires.

“Yeah, I do," Gordon said. "I do think they are. When it gets to this level and when you’re hearing about it and I’m hearing about it and they are talking about things in meetings with crew chiefs - that tells me that it’s being done. It’s just not clear on how it’s being done.”

It's important to note that no teams have been penalized for any tire shenanigans so far this season. The tires of Joey Logano and Harvick's cars at Phoenix showed no issues. Any results of an independent review of tires taken at ACS from Harvick, Busch, Menard and Newman haven't been released yet.

Is Rodney Childers worried about scrutiny of his tires & them being sent to 3rd party for evaluation? "No. Not at all." Denies shenanigans.

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 27, 2015

If teams were drilling holes in their tires, it'd be possible (and smart) to drill them small enough to make detection incredibly hard. And, of course, teams would have to be doing the drilling in a secretive enough area to make sure that no one saw what was going on.

I don't think  – I know NASCAR sat down all the crew chiefs last year in Phoenix and told them to stop doing it," Denny Hamlin said. "My guess is that if they said stop then they've seen something. If it's out there and they know about it, you should be gone forever. That's a major, major thing and this isn't like the old rodeo days of being able to go out there and run a big motor or soak the tires – this is a professional sport and people alter tires -- that's a big, big deal. Definitely no room for it in the sport, that's for sure.

Knaus, Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, said he didn't know what was going on. However he said he sent a (joking) text to Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck if he could poke holes in his tires.

"I really don’t," Knaus said. "I know I sent Richard Buck a text and said ‘hey man could we poke holes in our tires is that okay?’ He sent me a text back and said ‘absolutely not’. So that is all I know.”

Gustafson wondered about bleeders for the tires. Bleeders could be approved by NASCAR and achieve the same objective that drilling holes in tires could do.

"So yeah, I do think that is something that NASCAR could look at and it is something that really it could potentially help the durability of the tire also because you would start higher on pressure and lower on pressure and kind of stay within that optimum operating condition of that tire," Gustafson said.  " ... I think that is the thing that is going to be tough for NASCAR is that if this is going on as rumored it is a very difficult thing to police.  The way to police it may be to just allow it through a more conventional tool like a bleeder.”

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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 27, 2015, 4:46 pm

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.

Well, have you recovered from the events at Auto Club Speedway?

While Kurt Busch has been the focal point of the "he got a bad draw with the final cautions" anger, Matt Kenseth shouldn't be overlooked either. The race was his to win until the first of the three cautions happened and it was no longer his after the axle issue leaving pit road.

The IndyCar Series season starts this weekend at St. Petersburg. It was supposed to start earlier in March but there was a bit of an issue with the race organizer and it didn't happen. The race begins after 3 p.m. ET, so ideally it will be still going on when Martinsville is over. That's a good move by the series, which has had way too many races start and end during NASCAR's television window recently.

Yes, there's a dedicated subset of fans that will watch open-wheel racing over NASCAR, but for the motorsports fan who watches all or most types of racing (more common than the IndyCar superfan), this is a great move.

It's also the first weekend in 2015 that NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1 and NHRA are all racing. Motorsports season is officially upon us, y'all.

Alright, let's get back to California. Our topics are predictable. Let's roll.


I have been a staunch fan of NASCAR since the mid 90's hardly missed a race. I can't watch anymore. The crap and race manipulations NASCAR pulled at Fontana made me sick. Was a great race going on till 30 laps to go and the phantom cautions started happening. Kurt said it best "WWE." France owes every fan a public apology. Never happen so I can watch anymore. You and I both know the old fans are dropping like flies. Really to bad the drivers and crews are the best. I love watching them. - Dwight

This is the type of stuff that was bound to come from what happened on Sunday. Hell, it was happening right after the race. Go to a message board, social media outlet or wherever you can find NASCAR fans and you're going to find people incredibly frustrated about the outcome.

Of course, there's always going to be that emotion when a fan's not-favorite-driver wins. But the reaction had nothing to do with Brad Keselowski and the way that the last 25 laps of the race were presented to those watching. Is the anger there if NASCAR fans knew everything that was going on in terms of the location of debris, what it was, etc? Probably. But the guess is that it's significantly muted.

@NickBromberg Do you think NASCAR really cares about a perception issue, or do they just shrug it off as the loud tweets/radio 1% crowd?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) March 26, 2015

Yes. If NASCAR didn't care, Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck would not have been available after the race to the media to explain the race management over the last 25 laps. NASCAR knew from their monitoring hub (Hi people in the NASCAR center!) and probably saw how the race was presented and knew there was a serious perception issue.

Here's the thing though: There's no reason that Buck should have to come in to the media center and explain debris cautions in the first place. None. And we'd bet there are people in NASCAR that would agree with that statement.

It hopefully was a wakeup call to the sport and it's television networks that there needs to be much more communication when it comes to the explanation of debris cautions for the sake of the sport's fans and the race presentation.

There's always going to be the vocal minority. Once you realize it exists and will perpetually exist, it's easy to accept. But you never, ever, want to risk the vocal minority becoming close to a majority.

@NickBromberg So a Wreck on the back on a 2.5 mi track on last lap and caution due to safety, but on front stretch of 2 mi no? #HappyHour

— It's 4:30 somewhere (@nathanc82) March 22, 2015

The decision to race back to the line is defensible, but the context of what happened before it at Fontana really casts a shadow on it.

The crash at Daytona necessitated safety vehicles because there were cars that weren't going to drive away from it. That's a very good reason to throw the caution. At Daytona in 2013 and on Sunday, NASCAR correctly guessed that all cars involved would drive away and the race could end under green. It's a solid strategy and one we can support. Crashes on the last lap when all cars drive away = no caution. Safety vehicles needed = caution.

But here's where you can play devil's advocate for a second. The odds are pretty good that Greg Biffle's car left a piece of debris similar (or bigger) than the debris shown in turn four on the next-to-last caution, right? Spinning race cars with sheetmetal damage usually end up with things flying off of them.

It was easy watch the race and feel the sanctioning body was being, uh, overly cautious, when it came to debris. And then to see a spinning car not cause a caution is understandably jarring. The context didn't help matters at all. But given the rough standards that have been set by NASCAR in its explanations of last-lap cautions, the decision not to throw the yellow is an easily defenisible one when viewed independent of the cautions before it.

@NickBromberg wishy washy policy on what is "debris" only helps fuel theorists in situations like ACS...

— Darrell (@diriditi) March 26, 2015

@NickBromberg ... A piece of plastic out of the racing line is picked up on an unrelated caution 1 week and bunches the field the next.

— Darrell (@diriditi) March 26, 2015

A solid, concrete policy of what is and isn't a debris cautions would be great. However is it something that's greater in theory than in reality?

Sometimes you can't identify the danger of things unless you're very near it. At Martinsville, that's not too hard, but at Daytona, are binoculars really going to help?

It's also worth pointing out that there can be differing standards of cautions when it comes to crashes too. Sometimes a car can hit the wall and carry on without a caution while you've got a moment where Marcos Ambrose bobbles off turn four at Vegas, doesn't spin, and the caution flies.

Reality sometimes doesn't allow for perfection. Remember baseball and QuesTec?


I don't remember the exact requirements to make the chase beyond the top 16, or win plus top 30, but would Kurt possibly still be eligible if he just made the top 16? I don't see his recent pace continuing, and there is always the chance of a bad finish or DNF, but hypothetically could he make it still without a win. Just by looking at his current points he would only need to be consistent to really make up the 40+ point gap. Thanks, - Todd

It's all race winners in the top 30 + the top drivers in points without a win to fill the Chase field with 16.

Last year's Chase field had 13 winners, so it's reasonable to guess approximately three or so drivers will make the Chase via points. The three winless drivers were Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Biffle, who were sixth, eighth and 10th in the standings before the Chase began. Biffle, who was in 10th, had 753 points. That's about 29 points per race. For Busch, he'd need approximately 33 points per race to match Biffle's total from last year.

While he's ahead of that pace through two races, only two drivers (Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) had more than 33 points per race in the first 26 races last season. It's not impossible for Busch to get into the Chase via points, but it's not something to realistically think about either.

@nickbromberg will you eat one of them newfangled hot dogs on sunday or will you boycott cuz they killed tradition big fan plz reply

— Philip Jones (@philgoodstory) March 26, 2015

As of Sunday, we can no longer say we haven't been to Martinsville (as a fan, nonetheless). Will it involve a few $2 hot dogs? Never say never, but also don't say four or more either because that will be incorrect.

We had a great idea for apparel to wear to the track but with temperatures slated to be in the 50s, we may have to rethink that plan. Stay tuned. And no, it didn't involve camo.

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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 26, 2015, 9:53 pm

Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs is undergoing treatment for what the team termed "symptoms impacting areas of brain function."

"Gibbs has undergone a series of tests after experiencing a gradual onset of symptoms that includes speech and processing issues," the team said. "Gibbs’ doctors believe the complications he has experienced were triggered by head injuries likely suffered earlier in life, but no specific injury was referenced or identified. Gibbs has always enjoyed an active life participating in several sports including mountain biking, snowboarding, football, racing, and other extreme-type sports.

"Gibbs will be undergoing more testing and receiving treatments to help manage the symptoms. During that time, it is expected that his presence at the race track will be limited; however, he will continue many of his day-to-day responsibilities at JGR’s headquarters in Huntersville, NC as well as involvement with his various ministry endeavors."

Gibbs, the son of former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, played college football at William & Mary. From 1997-2002 he competed in five Xfinity Series races and eight Camping World Truck Series races.

“All members of the NASCAR and France family extend our thoughts and prayers to J.D. Gibbs and his loved ones," NASCAR CEO Brian France said in a statement. "We’ve all watched J.D. grow up within our community, and he always has represented himself, his family, the entire Joe Gibbs Racing organization and NASCAR with the utmost professionalism, enthusiasm and energy. We wish him the best during this time and eagerly anticipate his recovery.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 25, 2015, 6:16 pm

A year ago, Chase Elliott was preparing for his first in-season off weekend as a full-time Xfinity Series driver. He's got the weekend off from the series again this year, but instead of relaxing in Charlotte or spending the weekend somewhere else away from a racetrack, he's preparing to make his Sprint Cup Series debut.

Sunday's race at Martinsville is the first of five 2015 Cup Series attempts for the 19-year-old heir to Jeff Gordon's No. 24.

I don’t really know what to expect until we go and give it a shot," Elliott told Yahoo Sports. "You hope it goes well and my goal is to try and go and put together a solid weekend, do my job. If we can go and run all the laps … if we can battle to stay on the lead lap and run somewhere around the top 15 I think that would be a great day"

Martinsville can be hell on a rookie. Just ask David Ragan. He made his second career Cup Series start at Martinsville in 2006 and after being involved in three cautions, was tagged "a dart without feathers" by Tony Stewart.

It's doubtful you'll hear the phrase used to describe Elliott on Sunday. He's in a fifth car for Hendrick Motorsports, a team that's won 22 races at the flat half-mile track. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Elliott's car owner in the Xfinity Series, Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have all won at Martinsville in Hendrick cars.

"I hope they take it easy on me," Elliott said with a chuckle.

It's hard not to wonder just how soon people will be saying the same thing about Elliott after he won the Xfinity Series title in his first full NASCAR season and now has a reserved spot to replace one of the greatest NASCAR drivers in 2016.

"I’ll definitely be asking questions [over the weekend], probably to Jeff more than anyone else just because of the circumstances and the things moving forward – our car being built out of the [Gordon] and the [Kasey Kahne] shop," Elliott said. "I think it just makes sense to ask questions to those guys more than anyone else."

With 46 cars, Elliott's first order of business will be to simply qualify on Friday. While not guaranteed, it shouldn't be too complicated with a clean lap. And he's not going into Martinsville blindly. His first Truck Series start came at the track as a 17-year-old in 2013. He qualified eighth and finished sixth.

"I think the main goal is to use these five races to prepare for the Cup races next year. And at the same time, we’re going to go to these places and try and go and be as fast as we possibly can ... you don’t want to go and try and run 15th. If you can run better than that, that’d be great."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 25, 2015, 4:37 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 1962 Virginia 500. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here.

After Fireball Roberts had mechanical issues, Richard Petty cruised to victory in the Virginia 500.

Petty led the final 121 laps of the race, beating Joe Weatherly by a half lap for the win. While Weatherly was Petty's closest competitor, by the end he was his only real competitor either. He was the only driver to finish on the lead lap.

Petty led for 145 of the race's 500 laps and led for 24 laps from laps 112-135. He was passed by Roberts for the lead and he went on to lead the next 244 laps before Petty took the lead for good.

Roberts ended up having to retire because of a rear end problem. He completed 415 laps and finished in 18th place.

Rex White, Fred Lorenzen and Lee Petty rounded out the top five and they were all one lap down. From there, well, it was a long way back to sixth. Marvin Panch, who finished a spot behind Lee Petty, was eight laps down.

Darel Dieringer, the 10th-place finisher, finished 31 laps behind Richard Petty.

Only 14 of the race's 32 entrants were running at the end of the race, which featured two cautions. The most common parts failure was a rear end issue. In addition to Roberts, it plagued five other drivers.

Epilogue: In the last two races at Martinsville, the drivers who finished in 18th have ended the race on the lead lap. And if you think two cautions at Martinsville is crazy, it is for modern NASCAR. Every race since the 1989 spring race has had more than five caution flags. The 1971 spring race, also won by Richard Petty, featured just one caution for three laps. We're going to bet that won't happen on Sunday.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 25, 2015, 2:28 pm

Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it's the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com.

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Another race, another top two for Kevin Harvick. Ho-hum. Let's move on. He's so boring. OK, we won't just yet. Dude's setting a torrid pace and you do have to wonder if there's been some whispering wishes that this run was coming in the last five races of 2015 rather than the first five. For as great as the run Harvick is on has been, it's going to become a footnote if he doesn't win the Chase. It's not fair, but there's not much of the 2014 season pre-Chase that's replayed, is there?

2. Joey Logano (LW: 2): If the race had gone green the rest of the way, was Logano in the best position of anyone? After a speeding penalty on what could have been the final round of yellow-flag pit stops, Logano stopped again for fuel. He could have made it to the end without stopping while other drivers were forced to pit. We know that didn't work out, but the cautions did mean Logano could, like his teammate, take four tires late in the race without much fear of falling back and the fresh rubber helped net him a seventh-place finish.

3. Kurt Busch (LW: 12): Yes, it's a nine-place jump for Busch, but this isn't a statement. Look at how fast he's been over his two races. And, frankly, it was his race to win on Sunday before the wackiness of the final laps. Well, OK, it was his race to win after the first caution flag for debris that was never shown on television. Look, we're not supporting conspiracy theories. But when you have a segment of the fanbase that's already shown it doesn't consider the sport trustworthy and last 25 laps unfold the way they did, it's a recipe for minds to run wild.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 3): Dropping Truex a spot after finishing eighth while leaving Logano in second after finishing seventh may not be the fairest thing in the world. But eh, we're in charge here. Truex got under Tony Stewart's skin after contact on the backstretch. Truex said he felt Stewart ran into him while Stewart said Truex cut in front of him. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle? Either way, the nine-years-older Stewart referred to Truex as a kid.

5. Brad Keselowski (LW: 9): Keselowski's acceptance of the circumstances of the win after the race was appropriate. While his drive to the front shouldn't be discounted -- one wrong lane choice on a restart and he's probably not in victory lane -- it's also a win that has not going to happen until the cautions fell the way they did. But hey, both Penske cars are probably going to be in the Chase and now it's all about bonus points.

6. Ryan Newman (LW: 6): Newman is putting together top fives like last year didn't happen. Last year, he had five top fives in 36 races. This year, he already has three. At this pace, he'll have his sixth top five after Talladega. Though given Ryan Newman's history at Talladega, we aren't so sure that banking on a top five is the best idea. If you want to continue this pace, Newman, have six top fives after Richmond, OK?

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 7): Junior finished sixth at California, but he did a Twitter Q&A on the flight back from the west coast so that's totally more important. Now he's heading to the track where he got his last (points) win. How many times will his pass of Tony Stewart from the fall be replayed this weekend? No matter what the number is, it'll be higher than the number of Martinsville hot dogs we eat this weekend.

8. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 4): Yeah, this isn't fair to Jimmie Johnson either. But if you're looking at the drivers above him, who would you slot below Johnson? You can make an argument for his Hendrick teammate after his Phoenix finish, but that's about it. Johnson was fast, but not fast enough at California. And our guess is that he's got a great chance of being fast enough for a win at Martinsville.

9. Matt Kenseth (LW: 11): Your eyes aren't deceiving you. Flatline is getting a two-spot bump despite a poor finish. We're not the points standings, so we can reward good runs and "what if?" wins if we'd like. And we're awarding a "what-if?" win to Kenseth. Or at least a top five. There's no telling how a fuel-mileage race would have played out, but Kenseth had a great shot being the leader. And honestly? We would have preferred a fuel-mileage finish to the tailor-made-for-short-attention-spans thing that ended up being reality.

10. Paul Menard (LW: NR): Sunday was Menard's first top-five and top-10 finish of the season. But guess what? He's ninth in the points standings and has finished on the lead lap of every race this season. With an average finish of 13.6 so far, is he the 2015 version of Ryan Newman? Now, we're not saying that Menard is going to finish second in the points standings, but if the consistency continues, he's going to make the Chase.

11. Kasey Kahne (LW: 5): Kahne finished 17th after it looked like he got a bit of damage via contact on the backstretch. Kahne was in the midst of the melee that led to the debris caution from Kyle Larson's bumper flying off. He might have gotten a piece of Greg Biffle. 17th is also his lowest finish of the season. He's done it twice now coupling this with his kerfuffle with Carl Edwards.

12. Denny Hamlin (LW: 10): Hamlin was fast. Until he wasn't. He led 56 laps but his race went south after he hit the wall and had a pit road penalty. Instead of finishing up with Busch and Harvick, he hwas down with Brian Scott and Trevor Bayne. Quite the difference in company, don't you think? With Kenseth's troubles, Carl Edwards was the highest-finishing Joe Gibbs Racing car in 13th and David Ragan was 18th.

Lucky Dog: Two straight top-10 finishes for Jeff Gordon.

The DNF: Sam Hornish is 30th in the standings after his fourth non-lead lap finish of the year.

Dropped out: Jamie McMurray

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 24, 2015, 3:36 pm

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NASCAR conspiracy theories are ridiculous. No, NASCAR wasn't rigging races for Jimmie Johnson during his five-year title run. No, the sport doesn't manipulate things to benefit Dale Earnhardt Jr. whenever possible. The list goes on.

But if you want to make a conspiracy theory based on what you saw as a television viewer of Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway. you've got it pretty easy. You may not be right, but you can believe there was something amiss in the final laps in California without much effort.

Brad Keselowski won the race as he made a last-lap pass of Kurt Busch after Greg Biffle crashed back in the pack as the leaders took the white flag. However, NASCAR didn't throw a caution. But this isn't the only piece if you're choosing to make a conspiracy theory. Rather it's the final one and the one that will be the highlight of the race played over and over.

Busch, who NASCAR suspended for three races less than two days before the Daytona 500, was second to Matt Kenseth with 15 laps to go. After a restart with 43 laps remaining, drivers were jockeying to make it to the end without having to stop for fuel again. While the race for the lead wasn't necessarily the most intense, it was setting up to be dramatic, as it was unclear just how many cars would be able to make it to the end without stopping.

The thought of a fuel-mileage race disappeared with a caution for debris. Via the Fox broadcast, it was apparently for debris near the exit of pit road, but you'd never know that if you weren't at the track and looking at it yourself. Fox never showed the debris.

Busch grabbed the lead off the ensuing restart from teammate Kevin Harvick, winner of the previous two races. If Busch won – and he led 65 laps after starting on the pole – he'd be virtually guaranteed a spot in the Chase just two races after being reinstated. He was suspended indefinitely after a Delaware county commissioner ruled he "more likely than not" committed an act of abuse against his ex-girlfriend. A little more than two weeks later Busch wasn't criminally charged by the Delaware attorney general's office. Six days later, he was back in NASCAR.

He was holding off Harvick as the laps wound down, and with two laps to go, another caution for debris happened. It was allegedly in turn four, and this was the only camera shot provided of the corner following the caution.

Is this the debris? pic.twitter.com/sLWhIJrWZb

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) March 22, 2015

Richard Buck says piece of debris was metal of some kind but someone hit it before they could pick it up. Says NASCAR doesn't play favorites

— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) March 22, 2015

Busch, Harvick and a host of others pitted. They both took two tires, coincidentally the number of green flag laps they'd have to get past the three cars that didn't pit and into the lead. Not long after the green waved, Busch was in the lead with Harvick just behind him.

The caution came out again on the backstretch. This time, it was for Kyle Larson's rear bumper on the track after he hit the wall. Nothing to conspiracize over there.

It set up what was ultimately the final restart, and Keselowski, who was seventh after taking four tires when Busch and Harvick took two, was within striking distance after a half-lap. He was on Busch's bumper as they crossed the start-finish line for the white flag. But right as they did, Biffle's car was spinning off turn four.

A caution before the leaders crossed the line would necessitate another restart. A caution on the last lap, similar to what happened at the Daytona 500, when NASCAR rightfully called a caution as Joey Logano was leading, meant the field was frozen and Busch would win.

There was no caution. Keselowski, rather than Busch, is a virtual lock for the Chase after five races.

At best, the events leading to Keselowski's win looked like a mass of inconsistencies building to a two-minute highlight finish from an otherwise fun three-hour race. And NASCAR realized that, sending Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck to address the assembled media at the track after the race to explain the final laps.

"You know, we don't have any favorites," Buck said. "We try to keep every emotion out of it. Safety's number one.  We have over a hundred years worth of experience in the tower with [NASCAR officials] Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, David Hoots, myself. Between us we work very closely in a very dynamic way to identify the situation and look for the solution to it, then that solution is backed up by multiple layers. So we feel very, very confident about our actions."

However, at worst, the appearance of the inconsistent actions give the tinfoil hat set – a vocal minority that may have a few more members after Sunday's race – plenty of points to draw conclusions about race manipulation by the sport's sanctioning body.

It's inexcusable. The simple fact that Buck was available to media to explain debris cautions and post-race process speaks to the immediate perception issue NASCAR and Fox created.

Sometimes #Nascar doesn't tell TV right away where the debris is, & never say what it is. We look for it but it may be gone by then.

— Mike Joy (@mikejoy500) March 23, 2015

And really, it's a simple fix. All debris causing cautions should be shown by televison cameras. If it can't, NASCAR should be in immediate communication with the television production truck with explicit reasoning of why the debris couldn't be shown. Broadcasters should then relay that information to fans as soon as possible.

Everyone benefits from that scenario. Fans know what's going on and feel a sense of transparency. The television broadcast doesn't look incompetent or lacksadaisical about informing viewers of the events transpiring on screen. And NASCAR minimizes any wacky conclusions fans can draw about why a caution was thrown for no visible reason.

But it's a scenario that's apparently easier said than done, given the preponderance of debris cautions in recent years.

As NASCAR and its tracks are now being reactive over track safety in the wake of Kyle Busch's accident, Sunday's race is the perfect time to be reactive about the way debris cautions are presented to viewers. Conspiracy theories shouldn't be as easy, and the level of difficulty has nothing to do with those that make them.

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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 23, 2015, 12:21 am

Kurt Busch will start first at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.

It's Busch's second race weekend back from a three-race NASCAR suspension after an incident with his ex-girlfriend in September at Dover.

While a Delaware county commissioner ruled it was more likely than not that Busch committed an act of abuse in a decision regarding the grant of a protection order for Busch's ex, he wasn't charged with a crime by the Delaware Attorney General's office. Busch was suspended immediately after the commissioner's ruling two days before the Daytona 500 and reinstated less than a week after it was announced there would be no charges.

“This is huge for [Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner] Gene Haas," Busch said. Haas' automation company sponsors Busch's car. "That is what I wanted to start the interview with is thank you Gene for believing in me. This is my job. Come to the track, drive the car and put it up on the pole and go for wins. That is what Gene has told me to do from the get go and I’m glad I have this chance to go back out there and live up to why he hired me ... The car started off so fast and it is all due to the work back at the shop.  Thank you Stewart-Haas Racing appreciate it, No. 41 car up front feels good.”

Kevin Harvick, Busch's teammate who won the 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship and the previous two races of 2015, will start second. Joe Gibbs Racing has three of the next four starting spots as Matt Kenseth is third, David Ragan is fourth and Denny Hamlin is sixth. Kyle Larson starts fifth.

The fourth JGR driver, Carl Edwards, starts, 15th. He crashed his primary car in practice earlier on Friday.

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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 21, 2015, 1:16 am

Brian France said Friday that his (and NASCAR's) biggest mistake has been the Car of Tomorrow.

France was asked what his biggest mistake was at the Detroit Economic Club where he spoke to high school and college students.

From the Detroit Free Press:

"We are going to make mistakes," said France, who has pushed the competitive envelope at NASCAR since taking over from his father Bill France Jr. in 2003, making significant changes to series qualifying rules and the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship format, among other things. "Occasionally, we make a big one now and again. I would say that if there is one thing we could have done better in the last 10 years under my watch, is when we launched what we called 'the new car.' It is now called the Gen-5. We just didn't get the collaboration we needed to get from the industry, the owners, the drivers, the engineers and car manufacturers.

"They had a voice, but they didn't have a loud enough voice, and so we changed that."

The COT was the car introduced in 2007 that initially had the garish front splitter and the giant wing on the back. NASCAR used it through the 2012 season until the new car was introduced in 2013.

It's fair to wonder if the COT would be viewed as a big mistake if the sanctioning body had spent more time on it and originally gone with the spoilers and front splitters that were on the car when it was last used in 2012. Here's what a COT looked like in 2007 vs. 2012.

If you didn't know any better, you wouldn't think those were the same cars. Plus, if you look at the racing from 2012 to now, there isn't a monstrous visual performance gap. The cars are still very aerodynamically dependent. Perhaps a variation of the COT would still be in use if it didn't start out so garish-looking? It's at least worth a thought.

But props to France for admitting that NASCAR could have done a better job with the car. And if you notice, he didn't criticize the racing product while talking about it. That's good, because it prevents the awkwardness of having to fine himself.

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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 20, 2015, 10:04 pm

Does Kevin Harvick have a valid point about race dates in the Sprint Cup Series?

On Friday, the defending Sprint Cup Series champion said "90 percent" of tracks would be better off with one races instead of two. Auto Club Speedway, the site of Sunday's race, used to have two races. When the track opened in 1997, it was a hot ticket. It was granted a second race in 2004 and then crowds became porous (and it was really hot for its Labor Day weekend date).

ACS lost its second race date after the 2010 season and has been the fifth race of the season ever since. And, likely not-so-coincidentally, crowds have increased as the racing at Auto Club has been some of the best in the Sprint Cup Series. The 2013 race featured a three-wide race for the win in turn four (until Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin crashed) and Kyle Busch outran Kyle Larson for the win in 2014.

Here are Harvick's comments in full:

“I think this race track is a great example of a lot of lessons that a lot of people obviously don’t pay attention to that run race tracks," Harvick said. "Sometimes, if you take one really great thing and you can really easily make them into two mediocres, and we do that all the time in our sport. And I don’t understand that with race tracks a lot of the time, but this one has come full circle. And I think when you look at the crowds that we’ve had over the last couple of years, they’ve been really good. The racing has been really good here as that track surface has aged; and as a driver you look forward to coming here now because it’s one of those race tracks where you can run all over the place and the cars can slide around and you’re going to have fun from the driver’s seat. So, that bleeds over into the perception that the fans get as well, because everybody is talking about enjoying racing on this particular track.

He continued.

"And I think some markets are just one-race markets. I would say ninety percent of them are one-race markets, but a lot of them still have two races and you just see those mediocre crowds and I think when people know that you’re only coming one time a year, you have to go to that one particular race. Having a race with a good date is obviously good for the weather and the people to come out and enjoy it. It’s not 115 degrees in August, which was always fun to be a part of in the race car. But I think all in all, it’s all come full circle and I think everything is going good for this particular track.”

NASCAR no longer releases official attendance figures for its races and some tracks have started to reduce capacity after overbuilding in the hopes that the sport's popularity hadn't (at least temporarily) crested in the early 2000s.

13 tracks on the Sprint Cup Series schedule have two dates, meaning 26 of the series' 36 races are at those tracks. And only two of the 10 races in the Chase are at tracks that teams haven't visited previously in the season.

We'd support a schedule that features only one race per track, with possible exceptions going to Daytona, Talladega and a short track or two. It'd allow for much more track diversity throughout the schedule (more road courses and short tracks) and could possibly make the Chase more exciting. Less in-season data could mean for more parity. Sounds like a fun experiment, right? But we're not kidding ourselves. There's a miniscule chance a one-race-per-track maximum would happen. At least in the foreseeable future.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 20, 2015, 9:07 pm

Formula 1 announced Friday that the German Grand Prix has been taken off the calendar. It reduces the 20-race schedule to 19 races. The first race of the year was last weekend at Australia and won by Lewis Hamilton.

We're going to go out on a limb and say an in-season race cancellation over rights fees is something NASCAR won't be doing in 2015. It's already happened to the IndyCar Series. IndyCar was scheduled to open the season in Brazil on March 8, but race organizers announced in January that the race wouldn't happen.

The German Grand Prix normally alternates venues every year between the Nurburgring and Hockenheim. It was the former's turn to host this season, but with new ownership, was hesitant to pay the fees to host the race, scheduled for July 19.

The hesitation put the onus on Hockenheim if there was to be a German Grand Prix, it didn't agree on rights with the FIA to host the 2015 race. Hockenheim is again slated to host in 2016.

The saga over the race is the latest in an already dramatic year for F1. And we say that without any reference towards Mercedes' dominace at Australia and likely dominance of the 2015 season.

Giedo Van der Garde sued his team, Sauber, to drive in the Australian Grand Prix. A Swiss court sided with him, saying he should be in the car after he served as a reserve driver in 2014 and brought sponsorship with him. However, after talking with the team, he dropped his pursuit of either the seat of Marcus Ericsson or Felipe Nasr and agreed to a settlement that paid him $16 million. It's unclear how much or if any of that amount will go to the sponsors that van der Garde brought to the team to try to get the ride.

Manor Marussia, formerly Marussia last season, didn't even turn a lap at Australia, meaning 18 cars were scheduled to participate in the race. Marussia, along with the now-defunct Caterham team, had severe financial troubles at the end of 2014. It's the team Jules Bianchi was driving for when he skidded off track at Suzuka and crashed into a tractor. Bianchi is still unconscious from the crash.

And while 18 cars were scheduled to start the race, two broke before the race even began. Kevin Magnussen's McLaren Honda had issues and so did Daniil Kvyat's Red Bull Renault. Lotus Renault driver Pastor Maldonado crashed on the first lap while teammate Romain Grosjean's car had problems immediately upon the start and was forced to retire.

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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 20, 2015, 8:38 pm

Brian Vickers is out for Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway after experiencing a reoccurrence of blood clots.

The team said he'd be replaced by Brett Moffitt in the No. 55. Because of the clots, Vickers needs to be on blood-thinning medication. He can't drive while on blood-thinners.

“Thankfully, because I recognized the signs and symptoms, the doctors caught this early and I’m going to be ok. I had finished my treatment for the clot I had in my leg back in 2013 and I haven’t needed to be on a blood thinner for a clot in my leg or lung since,” Vickers said in a team statement. “Now I won’t be able to race because I’ll need to be back on a blood thinner. I’m going to follow doctor’s orders and do everything I need to do to get well.”

Vickers missed the first two races of 2015 after heart surgery in December. The surgery was to replace a patch in his heart that was installed when Vickers first experienced an issue with blood clots. Clots sidelined him for much of the 2010 season. He was also forced to miss the end of the 2013 season because of the clot in his right leg.

“First and foremost our thoughts are with Brian and his family,” Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Michael Waltrip said in a statement. “He isn’t just our race car driver, he is our friend and we know the NASCAR community will continue to rally around Brian. We are fortunate to have Brett Moffitt in our system and marveled at his great drive in Atlanta three weeks ago, so we know he can get the job done in the No. 55 this weekend. As this news is very fresh and the situation is very fluid, we can only plan for this weekend at this point.”

Moffitt finished eighth at Atlanta while subbing for Vickers. He's been in the No. 34 car for David Ragan since and no announcement has been made on his replacement for the No. 34, though Motorsport.com reports Chris Buescher will drive the car. Buescher drives for Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series.

According to Waltrip, Moffitt is the team's replacement driver "for the foreseeable future."

MWR didn't give a timeline for Vickers' return. He's already been given a waiver for the Chase after missing Daytona and Atlanta. The length of this absence will likely determine if NASCAR continues to grant him a waiver for the Chase and if it's realistically possible for him to be in the top 30 in points anyway.

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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 20, 2015, 5:15 pm

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.

If you're a sports fan and this isn't one of your two or three favorite weekends of the year, you're doing something wrong. 48 basketball games over four days. Racing at California. NBA and NHL in the homestretch. Baseball getting ready. Spring starts Friday... Glorious.

But before we go any further, we just want to say that we don't expect you to care about our Tourney Pick'Em Bracket and therefore we don't care about yours. Yes, we realize it's very, very likely you picked Iowa State and Baylor to win Thursday and possibly to go to the Final Four. You weren't picking a perfect bracket anyway, so just consider this an early cracking of your delusions.

Let's get to it.

Hey Nick. I liked your article on the SHR program and how Harvick is performing at the top while the others, particularly Tony Stewart, seem to be struggling. As far as the 41 goes, I think you can chalk that up to the situation with Kurt this year, a substitute driver and that host of issues. I wouldn’t be too concerned there unless Kurt falls off the map as far as speed/time goes when he returns and gets a couple weeks under his belt. Danica, well, is Danica, ‘nuff said. Happy is running lights out, no issues there. Which brings us to Tony. OK, I get that ‘setups’ don’t always work for each driver, and putting the #4 setup under Tony may not work. However, putting the #4 setup in the car, having Harv test it and getting it fast, could you not work from that base line with Tony in the car and adjust? Presently, there is no speed in the #14, so work from the same point as the #4 and ‘tweak’, or learn to adjust to drive more Harvick style with this current car if that’s what it’s going take. It’s embarrassing to see him running laps down every week. He’s a multiple past champion and too damn good a driver to be where he is right now. I just can’t understand why working from the #4 setup WITH speed in the car you can’t tweak, and if he loses that speed, then I guess you’re back to square one and he better make some adjustments. After that, then crew chiefs/teams may need to be re-worked. - M

Stewart-Haas has already tried putting Harvick's setups in Stewart's cars and Stewart can't drive them as successfully as Harvick can.

It's similar to cries of Gordon driving Johnson's setups when the No. 48 was in the midst of his five-year title streak and the two teams were in the same shop. Different setups work for different drivers (obviously), and you can bet that SHR figured out pretty quickly that they should try the setups Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have perfected in Stewart's cars.

It's still striking to think that Stewart has the fewest points of anyone who's participated in all four races this season. The guess is not, though who would have guessed Stewart would have fewer points than Landon Cassill right now in the first place?

P.S. Busch's fifth-place finish also underscores how ridiculous the notion of it being tough for Busch to get in the top 30 in points. He's already just outside it. Hell, with a good finish on Sunday, he could be in it.

@NickBromberg Can we judge the '15 rules package on the racing yet? Will NASCAR and the nation survive #MartinsvilleHotDogGate? #hadtoask

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) March 19, 2015

We can go with what we know, and that's while top-end speed may be throttled a bit with the horsepower reduction, corner speeds are up. If you're someone that prescribes to the theory that slower = better, well, that's not good for side-by-side racing in the corners.

It's imperative, however, to realize that this is a temporary fix given the rules that will be in place in 2016. And hopefully there will be some significant corner-speed reduction. We're not fans of 1.5-mile tracks becoming places where you don't touch the brake hardly at all (and can get away with barely lifting on qualifying laps). Let's make drivers work the brake some more and the throttle, even if it's on qualifying laps. The more drivers have to manipulate the pedals, the better the racing could be in terms of cars yo-yoing through the field.

As far as the hot dogs go, well, they were served at the Daytona media center during Speedweeks. Not to go all conspiracy-theory here, but wouldn't the media be a good test subject for the new hot dogs? And we can't say we heard any complaints, though we also didn't have a hot dog. No hot dogs for us meant thirds or fourths for others.

And if you want to continue the theme of the 2015 rules package ... behold and see if you can spot the best line we'll ever get in a reader email this year:

With all the technology these days nascar should be able to figure out how to make all the cars equal so on lap 20 the lead car ain;t lapping cars. Daytona was good but their mile and a half settups suck.. 25 years ago they didn't have much of a package settup to go by and plus back then that was hardcore racing. They need to fix something before this season is over or their going to lose a lot of fans. You can tell already that their not selling out like they use to by just looking at the stands during a race and seeing how empty they are. Nascar use to have good racing until they decided to tweet things and look where that got them. We got only a handfull of dominint cars right now with the #4 leading the pack. All I'm saying is it's not fun to watch anymore because you really don't have side by side racing anymore. You have a laeder that's 5 seconds in front of second place. That's not racing. Thanks for getting back to me but wish your reply was a little better. - Bobby

The cars are as "equal" as they've ever been. Look at the scoresheets in practice and you'll see that lap times are separated by tenths of a second in places. In Friday's first practice at Phoenix, the top 40 cars were separated by 1.04 seconds.

But parity brings out its own issues. With cars so close together (and also aerodynamically dependent) passing is tough. You can't pass someone on the highway if you're going the same speed, right?

It's Twitter's fault.

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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 19, 2015, 8:27 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 2001 NAPA Auto Parts 500. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here.

Rusty Wallace held off Jeff Gordon by 0.27 seconds at Caifornia Speedway. for his 54th career victory.

Wallace led 95 of the race's 250 laps and led the final 47, including maintaining the lead on a lap 232 restart. The caution was brought out by a turn four crash by Mark Martin and Ward Burton.

Wallace had the lead before a cycle of green flag pit stops and regained the lead after everyone pitted. He held the lead through a caution for a spin by Jerry Nadeau and then the final caution.

Gordon's chances of catching Wallace took a huge hit when the green flag waved with 19 laps to go. Wallace got a great jump and was able to put a lapped car between he and Gordon. While Gordon was able to close in as the laps wound down, the gap Wallace built immediately after the caution was more than enough.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third while Tony Stewart was fourth. Jeremy Mayfield, Wallace's teammate, finished fifth.

Perhaps a bit improbably, Nadeau finished eighth, climbing through the field in less than 40 green flag laps after his spin.

Despite a 24th-place finish, Dale Jarrett retains the points lead through 10 of 36 races. He has a 66-point lead over Gordon while Wallace is fourth in the standings, 119 points behind Jarrett and eight points behind Johnny Benson for third.

Epilogue: The win ended up being Wallace's next-to-last victory. His final one came at Martinsville in the spring of 2004. Gordon went on to win the 2001 championship, passing Jarrett in the standings while winning at Michigan in June.

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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 18, 2015, 3:28 pm

Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it's the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com.

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Let's get this out of the way: Kevin Harvick is on a historic streak. Four-straight top-two finishes to start the year and seven overall might have seemed unthinkable in this era of NASCAR. But thanks to Harvick, it's now a reality. And while what the No. 4 team is doing right now is incredible, let's not get ahead of ourselves and make comparisons to Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team just yet. Yes, Harvick is the defending Sprint Cup Series champion and the favorite for 2015 at this point. A point that's 1/9th of the way through the season. Johnson and co. reeled off five straight titles from 2006-2010. The No. 4 bunch needs three before we seriously start going in that direction.

2. Joey Logano (LW: 2): If we rewind to the beginning of the race, Logano drove past Harvick on the first lap while Harvick fell to fifth. Logano then led the first 25 laps before Harvick passed him and then led another 10 in the second half of the race. He finished eighth. Logano, after four-straight top-10 finishes to start the season, has 160 points and is second in the points standings. Last year, he would have been three points off the lead at this point, six points off the lead in 2013 and the points leader in 2012. He's 22 back of Harvick right now.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 4): Yes, we're mimicking the points standings right now, but that's also because of process of elimination. A driver who was above Truex last week finished last and we can't be justifying last place finishes all up in this joint. At worst, Truex is giving himself a nice points cushion to boost his chances of qualifying for the Chase if he doesn't win a race. At best, he's going to win a race and make the Chase. This doesn't seem like a fluke right now, does it?

4. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 5): Nice little comeback for Johnson, though did we really think he was going to be mired back in the pack after what happened with Brian Vickers? Phoenix is a notoriously tough track for spotters and Vickers was told he was clear. He wasn't, and he ended up in the wall. Johnson immediately pitted for his team to check the damange on his car and he was soon rifling his way back up through the field. He ended up 11th.

5. Kasey Kahne (LW: 9): Hey, Kahne finished fifth. He was fast all day and the fastest Hendrick Motorsports car. Well, he had the best track position, anyway. You never really know with Phoenix given the inability of cars to pass and how being back in traffic can ruin a day. We figure we're good to talk about these things as long as we don't diss the car, because as Denny Hamlin showed us, talking about the car's inability to pass at Phoenix can have financial consequences.

6. Ryan Newman (LW: 10): Newman finished third, the second-straight week he's done so. It's fair to say that Newman has showed more speed than he did in 2014. OK, for the majority of 2014. He was much faster as the Chase went on. There ain't going to be no claims of flukiness in the 2015 Chase at this rate. (Before you go looking at the average finish stats, Newman's average finish is actually lower in 2015 than it was last year. That's because of a 38th-place finish at Daytona.)

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 3): You know Junior finished last so we'll take this opportunity to talk about the new change to qualifying. Yes, there was another change. Starting Friday, cars won't be backing out of their stalls to exit pit road and head out on the track. We've previously wondered why they had to back out of their pit stalls to begin with, and this may be a fortunate change that's not precipitated by an accident.

8. Jamie McMurray (LW: NR): While it's fun to wonder what could have happened if McMurray cleared Harvick on the final restart, how many of the "what if?" scenarios actually have McMurray winning the race? 3 of 100? 4? Yes, it sounds quite remote, but that's how good Harvick's car was. Whenever he wasn't in the lead, he reeled in the leaders and was quickly back in front. Like the time he made up four seconds and passed Joey Logano for the lead and Fox completely ignored it in favor of commercials and the mid-race report. Remember that?

9. Brad Keselowski (LW: 12): Keselowski and Harvick are showing that they're both good race analysts as well as drivers. However, Fox hasn't had them both in the booth at the same time. Think of the ratings gold when Harvick pushes Keselowski during a boring stretch during an Xfinity race. Given the stunts Fox's coverage pulls at times, we wouldn't be surprised if this has been discussed.

10. Denny Hamlin (LW: 7): Hamlin was not happy with his team's performance at Phoenix. Carl Edwards was the highest-scoring Toyota driver and he was in 13th. On the bright side, Toyota has won the past two races at Auto Club Speedway. On the dark side, the driver who has won both those races isn't scheduled to race this weekend. Or anytime in the near future, unfortunately.

11. Matt Kenseth (LW: 8): Kenseth is back on Twitter. So there's that. He finished 16th at Phoenix, so there's that. He hasn't won in 48 races, so there's that. He'll still probably make the Chase this year, so there's that. This is our best "meh" Flatline impression and we're not doing to well at it. We need more Kenseth tweets for a better idea. Tweet more, Kenseth. Now.

12. Kurt Busch (LW: NR): No, this isn't going to serve as a paragraph of validation for Busch. The fifth-place finish (and running as high as second) is enough of that. He's already higher in the points standings than teammate Tony Stewart. And his run Sunday is also proof that getting into the top 30 in points is going to be ridiculously easy. Winning, not as easy, but we're not going to discount a former champion in Hendrick-provided equipment.

Lucky Dog: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s 12th-place finish is his highest finish since Bristol in August.

The DNF: Oh, Tony Stewart.

Dropped Out: AJ Allmendinger, 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: March 17, 2015, 5:07 pm

Former Sprint Cup Series driver Marcos Ambrose has requested to be temporarily removed from his Australian V8 Supercars seat, according to his team.

DJR Team Penske released a statement Tuesday that said Ambrose came to the team's owners, Dick Johnson and Roger Penske, and said he needed to be better prepared for his return to the series.

Ambrose came back to the V8 Supercars series after a stint in NASCAR. He drove full-time in the Sprint Cup Series from 2009-2014. Before he came to NASCAR, he had 28 Supercars wins and won championships in 2003 and 2004.

“I want to thank DJR Team Penske for the opportunity and support through the process of transitioning back into V8 Supercars. I would like to make it clear that I am fully committed to this team, ” Ambrose said in a statement.

“Although this is a decision which has been hard to make, it has become clear to me over the first two events of the season that I need more experience in these cars to do what is required of the lead driver and to be competitive for the team and our partners. Scott is a great driver, has already worked with the team and has more experience in these cars, which will give the team the best chance to be successful right now.

The team said Ambrose is expected to return to the team at some point in 2015. He participated in the last three races of the season in 2014 and didn't finish higher than 16th. In the first two races of 2015 he also finished 16th and finished 12th in the third race of the year. Those starting positions had been affected by poor qualifying results. Until the third race of 2015, he hadn't qualified inside the top 20.

In the four Supercars races at last weekend's Formula 1 weekend, Ambrose's highest finish was 18th.

V8 Supercars competitor Lee Holdsworth told Inside Supercars he believed Ambrose was thrown for a loop because his results in his return didn't match what he had done before he left for NASCAR.

“I think it’s probably been a massive shock for him to come back and see where he’s running,” the Walkinshaw racer said.

“The last time he was in the sport he was dominating and running right up the front all the time, and if he did have a bad qualifying he’d be back up the front after the first couple of laps.

“[At the] Grand Prix he stuck it on pole his first time there – so to come back and probably not be as competitive at the grand prix as he was in his first round has probably thrown him out a bit and [he’s thought], ‘this is really hard’.”

“You can’t be giving anything away at the moment, you need that bond with your engineer, you need a great car, you need more than one car in a team, you need the data to get from that other 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: March 17, 2015, 11:55 am

Kurt Busch made his first start of the season on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. He's three spots higher in the points standings than his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart.

Yes, that's how poor the beginning of 2015 has been for the three-time champion. Already in the worst three-race stretch of his career entering Sunday's race (four if you count a last-place finish in the final race of 2014), Stewart extended the run of bad finishes to four with two separate crashes at Phoenix.

The first happened after he battled up to the top 10. After starting 17th, Stewart ran most of the first half of the race in the back-end of the top 20. But as his team kept adjusting on the car it kept getting better and Stewart moved into 10th place.

He was battling for the position with Justin Allgaier on lap 237 when he drifted up the track and into Allgaier. Stewart's car spun around and he slammed into the wall.

Stewart drove to the pits for repairs but lost numerous laps. After returning to the track, he blew a tire exiting turn four and slammed into the frontstretch wall, collecting Sam Hornish Jr. on lap 290.

After his car was towed to the garage, Stewart was officially out of the race. He finished 39th.

Busch finished fifth, collecting 39 points. After finishes of 42nd, 30th, 33rd and now 39th, Stewart has 32 points in 2015. Busch is 32nd in the points standings. Stewart is 36th.

In fact, Stewart has the fewest points of any driver who has competed in all four Sprint Cup Series races in 2015. Landon Cassill, the first driver to start the season with back-to-back last-place finishes since 1949 is running for Xfinity Series points this season. But if he was running for Sprint Cup points, he'd have 33 points, or one more than Stewart does.

Is all hope lost for 2015 already for Stewart? Of course not. Busch and race-winner Kevin Harvick showed that Stewart-Haas Racing has speed. And Stewart did have speed on Sunday before he lost the car underneath Allgaier, the second time he's had a car hit the wall in a similar scenario in 2015.

Because of the quality of equipment Stewart-Haas has, Stewart is a near-lock for the top 30 in the points standings. And he just needs a win to make the Chase. While it seems like a big "just," we're not ready to count Stewart out just yet.

But we didn't expect a start to 2015 like this either.

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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 16, 2015, 12:00 am

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. was working his way back towards the front of the field after a pit-road speeding penalty when he heard a pop from the right rear of his car exiting turn two on lap 180 of Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway.

It was his right-rear tire exploding. Just after it popped, Earnhardt was in the wall, and his car was soon sliding down the track.

“They never tell you they are going to blow out, never," Junior said with a laugh. "You don’t ever have a warning.  It will be alright.”

The culprit for the tire issue? A loose-handling car. The lack of rear grip meant the rear tires were sliding around a lot. Couple that with Phoenix's hot temperatures and relatively new pavement and, well, kablooie.

“The car was really, really loose today and just wore the right rear tire out, and blew the tire," Junior said.

The damage to his car was so severe that his team wasn't able to return to the track. He finished 43rd and last, the first time he's finished last since the 2014 spring race at Texas, when he hit the wall after clipping the infield grass.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 15, 2015, 11:30 pm

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Breaking news: Kevin Harvick is the master of the repaved Phoenix International Raceway.

Sunday, Harvick got his fourth-straight win at the track and his fifth in six races, dominating after he started first.

There was some late drama, as Harvick had to hold off Jamie McMurray on a restart with 12 laps to go after a caution precipitated by Danica Patrick's spin. But while McMurray nudged ahead of Harvick off turns one and two, he couldn't clear him.

The defending Sprint Cup Series champion was able to keep McMurray pinched down just enough to get a run heading into turn three and cleared him through turn four and led the final 11 laps.

“The restarts were just really slippery and I learned that in the race yesterday," Harvick said. "You had to really maintain your entrance speed and really slide the thing through the center of the corner to try to help keep it pointed up off."

Phoenix was given a fresh coat of asphalt in the middle of 2011. Sunday's race was the eighth race at the track. Even accounting for a 19th-place finish in the first race on the track's new surface, Harvick's average finish at the track since the repave is fifth. Astounding. It's a fact that the entire field will be well-aware of when the circuit returns to Phoenix for the penultimate race of the season. If Harvick is still alive in the Chase, everyone will be chasing him for one of the bids to Homestead.

The win also meant Harvick recorded his seventh-straight top-two finish dating back to Texas, the third-to-last race of the 2014 season. He's the first driver since Richard Petty in 1974 to start a season with four-straight top-two finishes and the first driver since Petty in 1975 to have seven-straight top twos.

Harvick won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week and is the first driver to repeat in 2015 after Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson won the first two races of the year.

Kurt Busch finished fifth in his first race back after he was reinstated by NASCAR. He was running as high as second before he pitted under caution with 20 laps to go and fell back in the field because not everyone elected to pit.

While Harvick and Busch succeeded, the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing struggled. In addition to Patrick's spin, Tony Stewart crashed twice. The first one happened after he worked his way into the top 10 and spun around after contact with Justin Allgaier. The second came when his wounded car lost a tire on the frontstretch.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 15, 2015, 11:14 pm

NHRA driver Larry Dixon walked away after his car broke in half and both pieces flew into the air on Saturday.

Thankfully, Dixon's cockpit landed right-side up when it hit the ground.

“For sure the front-half failed,” Dixon told the Florida Times-Union. “We’re figuring it has 60-70 runs on it. It’s not like it’s got a lot of runs on it. It shouldn’t have done that. There’s no rhyme or reason for it.

“You just got to wait to land. It ain’t good for your insides when you get tumbling like that. Everything did its job. My car’s a mess but I’m here.”

Dixon, 48, said his back and knee were a bit sore, but otherwise he was fine.

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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 14, 2015, 8:48 pm

Mobile (Ala.) Speedway has no outside retaining walls in the corners. You will immediately see why this is an important fact.

The ARCA Racing Series – the fourth-biggest national stock car series – was racing at Mobile on Saturday and the throttle apparently stuck on Will Kimmel's car as he motored into turn one.

Since there was no wall on the outside, there was nothing to prevent Kimmel's car from flying off the track.

#ARCA: Will Kimmel flies off track in turn one. Red Flag 17 laps in @ARCAMobile200 @MobileSpeedway Enfinger leads. pic.twitter.com/asibgJ04E2

— Speed51.com (@speed51dotcom) March 14, 2015

Kimmel's car flipped multiple times after he exited the track and barged through a retaining wall set up to separate the parking lot from track property.

Will Kimmel flew off Turn 1 and ramped over the barriers and hit several fan vehicles in the parking lot. Whoa. pic.twitter.com/m029rpu3fl

— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverSBN) March 14, 2015

According to his Facebook page, Kimmel was "doing good" after the crash and later posted a picture of him chatting in the garage area. Here's what his car looked like after the accident.

#ARCA: Will Kimmel's car is towed back in. Driver is okay @ARCAMobile200 @MobileSpeedway pic.twitter.com/aCbSLlE6BU

— Speed51.com (@speed51dotcom) March 14, 2015

@jeff_gluck @MattWeaverSBN pic.twitter.com/QXJz0t2brx

— Matthew Bishop (@MBishopPhotos) March 14, 2015

He also apparently didn't hit multiple vehicles in the parking lot, just the trailer hitch of a truck.

This is where Kimmel hit the truck in the parking lot in the ARCA race -- trailer hitch. No noticeable damage. pic.twitter.com/XHAL2b0lYy

— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverSBN) March 14, 2015

One more shot of where Kimmel barreled over the concrete wall and into the parking lot. pic.twitter.com/IGSAle3TlD

— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverSBN) March 14, 2015

Yes, it's not unheard of for smaller racetracks to not have a retaining wall in the corners like Mobile's setup. And while Kimmel could have been seriously injured in a high-speed impact with a concrete wall (At $500 a foot, SAFER barriers are too expensive for many small speedways to install), the presence of a wall around the entire track should be mandatory for any and all national racing series. The ARCA series and Kimmel are both very fortunate that the crash wasn't worse than it was.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 14, 2015, 8:19 pm

Kevin Harvick's quest for seven-straight top-two finishes has an nice advantage on Sunday.

Harvick won the pole for the race at Phoenix, posting the fastest times in the second and third rounds of qualifying on Friday.

His compadre on the front row? Joey Logano, the Daytona 500 winner who has qualified in the top five of all four Sprint Cup races this season.

Harvick won at Phoenix last year in the penultimate race of the season before he won at Homestead to win the championship. Before the Phoenix race, he finished second at Texas and he was second to Logano in the season-opening Daytona 500. He was second at Atlanta to Jimmie Johnson and last week won at Las Vegas.

Yes, Harvick is rolling. But we don't have to tell you that, do we?

Tanner Berryhill and Travis Kvapil missed the race. The rest of the top five for Sunday's race is Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.

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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 14, 2015, 12:51 am

Phoenix International Raceway is mentioned as unique because of its configuration, namely the dogleg on the backstretch.

It's also unique because drivers have the option of shifting off the corners. Because of NASCAR's gear rule, drivers can shift from third to fourth gear to get better acceleration after shifting down in the corners. Typically, road courses and Pocono are the only places where Sprint Cup Series drivers use the shifter handle at race speed.

Denny Hamlin doesn't like shifting at Phoenix.

"I wish NASCAR would really come up with a ban on that," Hamlin said Friday. "There is no reason why we should be shifting on a one-mile race track. This is a short track, not a road course. Make the gearing so we cannot shift because it's just dumb for us to have the option to be able to shift. Everything that they're trying to do with the whole gear rule and less horsepower, it throws that all out the window when you're able to go out here and shift. It will be an option and people will try to do it. I'm sure late in the runs it will be effective, but it's just with the gear taken out and the horsepower, we're just lugging off these corners and you're just flat footing it. As a driver, it's tough to be able to race that way so we're having to shift to try to get up off the corner. Hopefully looking forward we can change it to where you don't have to do that."

NASCAR's new rules package for the Cup Series took away some horsepower via a tapered spacer. However, because of other tweaks, corner speeds have been up through the first two intermediate track races of the season and will likely also be increased at Phoenix.

If NASCAR wanted to get rid of the option of shifting for drivers at Phoenix, it could make a move before the penultimate race of the year in November. Or, since there will be even more rules changes in 2016, it could leave the gear rule alone with the idea that things will be different in 2016.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 13, 2015, 9:55 pm

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.

Before we get to our regularly scheduled programming, here's an update to the continued craziness surrounding Team Xtreme. We should have known there would be things afoot when they initially were Xxxtreme Racing. Three Xs is always an indication of wackiness.

John Cohen, the team owner, told ESPN that he never got the paperwork for the civil settlement he's involved in. As part of a settlement surrounding the failure of a nightclub proposal, Cohen is to pay $50,000 to two former business partners. However, he says he never got the order to enforce the settlement  issued earlier this year  after not changing his address with the court system,

While that may be true, settlements don't happen without the consent of both parties. We're not lawyers (and don't pretend to be), but it stands to reason that Cohen has known about the agreement to repay the two men for quite some time.

Anyway, let's start talking about teams and drivers that have a chance for a win this year.

@NickBromberg You really believe @KurtBusch's waiver is any less warranted than Stewarts? Stewart "chose to sit out. Not required.

— Rick Kaufman (@RickKaufman1) March 12, 2015

@nickbromberg what message do you think NASCAR is sending by offering kurt busch a chase waiver mere weeks after pulling him from the car?

— Philip Jones (@philgoodstory) March 12, 2015

The questions stem from this post Wednesday about the Chase waiver. And, to be blunt, the first discounts an event that took the life of someone.

As we said then, Stewart's absence can easily be explained as a health reason. While you can quibble with the team's desire to get a Chase waiver (though given his performance in 2014, making the Chase was a longshot), there was little doubt NASCAR would grant it if Stewart-Haas asked. It's just that the team indicated a waiver would not be a priority, though clearly it was when Stewart returned.

With Busch, a waiver, written in the rules to be granted in only rare instances, should not have been given when NASCAR forced Busch to sit out.

Given the way that the Chase eligibility rule is written – that a driver has to attempt to qualify for every race to make the Chase  NASCAR clearly knew that Chase eligibility was jeopardized when it removed Busch from the car. Now, with Busch set to make his season debut on Sunday, his ultimate goal of a championship is still ultimately in reach. What good is a punishment if it's really no punishment at all? Sure, NASCAR eliminated the buffer zone of Busch possibly qualifying for the Chase on points alone, but, as we again said Wednesday, the granting of the waiver can easily be inferred to be an acknowledgement of messing up by NASCAR.

The possible inferences are why the waiver needs to go and Chase eligibility should simply be defined as any driver in the top 30 in points with a win.

@NickBromberg Does NASCAR fear winners might skip Aug. races if they don't keep the every race rule? Want a re-mulligan on your Chase 16?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) March 12, 2015

This makes us think back to 2013, when Jimmie Johnson was already guaranteed into the Chase before it began and he was expecting the birth of his daughter. Johnson missed practice and qualifying after his wife Chandra gave birth to their second girl, but he was back for the race.

Lydia Johnson arrived at 2 a.m. on Friday. With a berth in the postseason clinched, would anyone really have objected if Johnson stayed with his wife through Saturday and missed the race? (If you have a soul, no.) Instead, he raced at Richmond and eventually won title No. 6.

Sponsor obligations make skipping races exceptionally hard in modern NASCAR. While companies obviously cherish the increased exposure a title run brings, they also pay for a specific number of races. What would happen if a team is running a five-race deal with a company and elected to skip a race that happened to be one of the five races? Is the team refunding the sponsor? How does the sponsor feel about the lack of return on the agreement?

The teams that are Chase contenders and in the top 20 year after year simply aren't going to skip a race. Could a team with a miracle win that's struggling to get by consider it? Sure. But there's that whole "make sure you're in the top 30" thing to deter them.

And we're still taking Truex in our Chase. The Roush cars haven't looked like they've found any speed.

@NickBromberg what is the over under number for non protected walls hit for the rest of the season?

— Keith D (@kdesorm2) March 12, 2015

Oh dang, is this all series? Races only? There are 33 points races left in the Cup season. We'll put the over/under at 20 and take the over. Should it be 25? Mind you, this is Cup Series races only.

We're hoping like hell it's the under though.

@NickBromberg What does it say about SHR when your 2 flagship teams are at opposite ends of the performance spectrum (4 vs 14)?

— Zack (@monon43) March 12, 2015

It first speaks to the brilliance of Rodney Childers.

Childers was crew chief at Michael Waltrip Racing before he went to SHR. He left the team after 28 races in 2013. In those 28 races, the No. 55 started in the top 10 on 11 occasions. In the final eight races, it qualified in the top 10 once. The team had 10 top 10 finishes in the first 28 races of 2013. It had none in the final eight.

The combination that Childers and Kevin Harvick have found is a magical one. While other teams can challenge them on a weekly basis, there's no disputing that the No. 4 has consistently been the fastest car since the start of 2014.

And there's no disputing the No. 14 has been a relative backmarker. Yes, Tony Stewart has talked about how the 2014 and 2015 rules package doesn't suit his driving style, but we all know that great drivers are adaptable. Stewart could drive something that he doesn't like to a win.

It's just that Stewart doesn't like the current combination and he doesn't have a consistently fast car. Both Harvick and Stewart have mentioned that all four SHR drivers have a different driving style. The team can't just put the No. 4 setups in the No. 14. But it also should be able to find a combination that works for Stewart. (Side note: this is the worst three-race stretch of Stewart's career, and it's four when you stretch it back to Homestead at the end of last year.)

We're not saying that there needs to be changes on the No. 14 team. And there's way too much time to give up on 2015 for the three-time champion. But it's fair to say that the team needs to find something that works really soon.

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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 12, 2015, 8:26 pm

A bench warrant has reportedly been issued for the arrest of Team Xtreme owner John Cohen over failure to pay a settlement in a civil lawsuit in New Jersey.

Nearly two weeks ago, Team Xtreme's No. 44 car was reported stolen from the parking lot of an Atlanta-area hotel before race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was recovered approximately 24 hours later. The team withdrew from the Atlanta race and failed to qualify at Las Vegas.

Per NJ.com, the settlement said that Cohen should pay two former business partners $55,000 after the failed launch of a Manhattan nightclub.

Cohen told the site that he wasn't the one named in the lawsuit.

From NJ.com:

Cohen, reached on his cell phone Thursday morning, denied any wrongdoing. "It's a story that's not true," he said. "I didn't make the settlement."

When asked specifically about the warrant, he replied, "That's not me. That's my father. That has nothing to do with me." He referred other questions to his lawyer, who could not be immediately reached. A NASCAR spokesman did not immediately have a response.

When Elliott Malone, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the civil case, was told Cohen denied making the settlement and being named in the arrest warrant, he replied, "My response is one word: Typical."

According to Malone, his two clients entered an agreement with Cohen to start a nightclub contingent on Cohen securing a liquor license. He never did, and one of the former business partners believes he used the money to fund Team Xtreme.

The site also reports that Cohen is involved in a lawsuit involving the purchase of a car from now-defunct Swan Racing in 2014. Swan expanded to a two-car operation at the beginning of last year but after early struggles, it disbanded, leaving Parker Kligerman without a ride. Cole Whitt went to BK Racing as a third member of the team.

While Cohen's reported stolen No. 44 car was recovered along with the truck pulling the trailer it was in, according to to the Morrow (Georgia) Police Department, the trailer is still missing. A warrant has been issued for a person of interest in the incident surrounding the car.

Team Xtreme is listed on the entry list for Sunday's race at Phoenix with Travis Kvapil scheduled to drive the car. After qualifying for the Daytona 500 (despite a crash in qualifying that forced the team to ship a backup car down to Daytona before the Budweiser Duels), the team has competed in 16 races over four years.

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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 12, 2015, 3:03 pm

Daytona International Speedway announced plans to install SAFER barrier on the wall that Kyle Busch hit during February's Xfinity Series race.

Busch hit a bare concrete wall and suffered a compound fracture in his right leg and a broken left foot. He's currently out of action and being replaced by David Ragan in his No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing.

The wall isn't the only place where Daytona is making improvements. After Busch's crash, Daytona president Joie Chitwood vowed that his track would make necessary safety improvements and said SAFER, energy-absorbing steel and foam wall, should have been in the spot where Busch hit. The track is currently in the midst of a $400 million renovation project and SAFER barrier is estimated to cost $500 a foot.

“In addition, based on material availability and timing, we will install SAFER barrier on the outside backstretch wall and will complete as much as possible prior to the July NASCAR weekend," Chitwood said.
"Following the July races, we will complete any remaining installation of SAFER barrier on the outside backstretch wall, and continue to install SAFER barrier on the remaining areas of the property. We will provide additional updates regarding our safety initiatives as circumstances warrant.  The safety of the competitors and our fans is our top priority.”

Here's a list of other Daytona changes:

Additional 20,000 square feet of asphalt in Turn 1

Realignment of a portion of the inside retaining wall from infield road course exit to Turn 1

• Installation of SAFER barrier (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) on realigned retaining wall and existing retaining wall in Turn 1

• Installation of SAFER barrier on retaining wall at pit road exit

• Installation of SAFER barrier between the exit of Turn 4 to pit road entry

The next NASCAR Daytona race weekend begins July 2. No mandates have been announced for NASCAR regarding SAFER barrier additions or other safety improvements at other tracks for the 2016 season.

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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 11, 2015, 8:10 pm

When NASCAR introduced its revamped Chase format in 2014, it said that drivers needed to attempt a full season to be eligible.

But with the announcement less than two years removed from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s concussion that sidelined him for two races and less than a year from Denny Hamlin's back injury that put him on the bench for four, the sanctioning body said there was an exemption for drivers who missed races.

From the official Chase fact sheet:

"What if a driver is prevented from competing in one or more of the first 26 races due to injury or illness?"

"NASCAR, for rare instances, can waive the requirement of attempting to qualify for all of the first 26 races as long as the driver is in the Top 30 in points."

Through the first 14 months of this Chase format's existence, four drivers have missed races not counting the lengthy broken leg absences of Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart.

• Hamlin missed last year's race at Auto Club Speedway with an eye issue. However, he attempted to qualify, and by the NASCAR rules, didn't need a Chase waiver.

• Stewart missed three races in August after he struck and killed Kevin Ward during a dirt track race. Upon Stewart's return to the track at Atlanta, he was given a waiver for the Chase. Stewart didn't win at Atlanta and Richmond and missed the Chase.

• Brian Vickers missed the first two races of the 2015 season after heart surgery in December. When Vickers' absence was announced NASCAR said that he would receive a waiver and be eligible for the Chase if he qualified.

• Wednesday, the sanctioning body reinstated Kurt Busch after his indefinite suspension that sidelined him for three races. With it, NASCAR waived the every race requirement to make the Chase as well.

Given how NASCAR has responded the same way to the three issues, "rare" isn't applicable any longer. But rather than simply removing the phrase "for rare instances" in its Chase fact sheet, NASCAR should just drop the waiver altogether along with the requirement that a driver must attempt every race. If a driver wins and is in the top 30 in points, he or she should make the Chase, no matter how many races he or she attempts.

In the case of Vickers and Stewart, there's little room to quibble with the Chase waiver. Vickers' heart issue seems to fit well within the boundaries for which the exemption was initially designed, and while Stewart's issue is a little less black and white, a man taking three weeks off to cope with an incredibly traumatic experience can certainly fit into the health category.

With Busch, the usage of the waiver is curious at best. The sanctioning body, tasked with both watching the civil and criminal courts involved in the assault accusation as well as the piercing stare of public perception in this post-Ray Rice world, decided to act swiftly when the civil court decision was explained. While you may feel that Busch was slighted with NASCAR's indefinite suspension on Feb. 20, you must also see that NASCAR wasn't presented with a scenario that had an obvious answer.

However, once the suspension was announced – for actions detrimental to stock car racing and a violation of the sport's behavioral code – NASCAR needed to stick to its statement referencing the "serious nature" of the findings of a Delaware county commissioner.

If Busch had committed an act so egregious that it warranted his absence from the Daytona 500 (and subsequently two other races) it was also an act egregious enough to disqualify him from postseason play. The use of the waiver allows observers to infer that it's a tacit admission by NASCAR that the suspension was harsh or even incorrect.

Dropping the waiver entirely would remove those inferences in any future situations.

As it stands right now, the "win and be in the top 30" rule to make the Chase is pretty self-selecting. A driver can't miss more than five races and have a realistic shot of finishing in the top 30 in points.  And besides, being in the top 30 is a moot point unless a driver wins one of first 26 races anyway. There's no way – barring a Richard Petty-like domination that's virtually impossible in the current state of the Cup Series – a driver can miss more than a race or two at most and hope to get into the Chase on points.

As NASCAR likes to point out, the beauty of the current system is that it values winning more than ever. And the emphasis on winning gives drivers – like Stewart, Vickers and Busch – the chance to make the Chase when they would stand no shot under old formats.

Excellence in the consistency department provides a nice buffer if a driver can't get to victory lane and a clause preventing part-time teams and drivers from making the Chase. Because of the Chase's outlines, Vickers and Busch still need to win one of the next 23 races to make the Chase. That's a pretty big accomplishment and one that should automatically be rewarded with a playoff berth without the necessity of a waiver.

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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 11, 2015, 5:39 pm

Kurt Busch missed three races before being reinstated on Wednesday. (AP)Kurt Busch was reinstated by NASCAR on Wednesday, will race this weekend at Phoenix and is eligible for the Chase.

“As we stated last week, the elimination of the possibility of criminal charges removed a significant impediment to Kurt Busch’s return to full status as a NASCAR member,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president, said in a statement. “We therefore have decided to move him to indefinite probation and waive the Chase requirement. He has fully complied with our reinstatement program during his suspension and the health care expert who conducted his evaluation recommended his immediate return.

“We have made it very clear to Kurt Busch our expectations for him moving forward, which includes participation in a treatment program and full compliance with all judicial requirements as a result of his off-track behavior.”

Busch was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Friday, Feb. 20, after the release of a decision following the grant of a protection order against his ex-girlfriend. In the decision, a Delaware county commissioner wrote it was more likely than not that Busch committed an act of domestic abuse against Patricia Driscoll on Friday, Sept. 26.

However, the Delaware attorney general announced last week that Busch wouldn't face criminal charges, saying there was insufficient evidence.

Following his reinstatement, Busch's team Stewart Haas Racing announced he will be in the No. 41 car for this weekend's race at Phoenix International Raceway.

"We appreciate the steps Kurt Busch has made while following NASCAR's process for reinstatement," SHR executive vice president Joe Custer said in a statement. "He has taken this path seriously, which allowed him to return to our race team. With his reinstatement and the conclusion by the Delaware Attorney General to not file charges, our focus is on the future."

Busch's suspension covered three races. Drivers are required to attempt to qualify for each NASCAR race to be eligible for the Chase. However, NASCAR holds the right to grant a waiver for drivers to be eligible for the Chase and has previously done so with Brian Vickers and Tony Stewart. This is the first time NASCAR has used the waiver with a suspension and possibly creates a curious precedent of allowing drivers to violate NASCAR's rules enough for a suspension while still granting them postseason eligibility.

"Well, I understand why NASCAR needed to take the action that it did," Busch said in a teleconference Thursday afternoon. "This is a very serious issue. I mean, the way that NASCAR reacted, it was different than what we had been told all along. They were more focused on the criminal side, as were we, but the commissioner's ruling was not necessarily what was the important factor here. The important factor is that what I was accused of was a complete fabrication, and I never wavered through this whole process because of the confidence in the truth, and I had the support from Gene Haas and everybody at SHR, and that's where my focus has been. It's been on the racing side of it, and I never lost that confidence and that drive, and so it's a humbling experience, but it's made me more focused and determined."

Chase eligibility for Busch doesn't seem like that much of a stretch either, provided he wins a race. To make the Chase, a driver must win a race and be in the top 30 in points or have enough points to fill the remaining Chase positions assuming there aren't 16 drivers with wins.

While Busch won't likely be able to accomplish the latter requirement, a win would do a lot to get him in the Chase. Last year's 30th-place driver, David Gilliland, averaged less than 16 points per race. On that standard, Busch would need to average a 25th-place finish to get in to the top 30 of the points standings by Richmond in September.

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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 11, 2015, 4:28 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 1991 Pyroil 500. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here.

Davey Allison closed the points gap on Dale Earnhardt in the 1991 Pyroil 500, though with Earnhardt's top 10, the Intimidator still has a strong grip on the title.

Allison led 162 of the race's 312 laps on the way to his fifth victory of the season. The five wins are the most 30-year-old Allison has ever won in a season. He now has 13 career victories.

He entered the race needing a great finish and some trouble for Earnhardt to have a shot for the championship at next week's race at Atlanta. He got the first part, but Earnhardt, who didn't lead a lap, finished ninth, a lap off the pace. Just six cars finished on the lead lap.

Earnhardt's finish means that Allison only gained 47 points and is now 156 points back. Had Earnhardt finished in front of Allison at Phoenix (or just behind him), he would have clinched the 1991 Winston Cup championship.

After qualifying 13th, Allison didn't storm to the front of the field. He took the lead for the first time on lap 140 under caution for the crash of Bill Schmitt. He took the lead again on lap 147 after the restart and led the next 111 laps. His final pit stop was under green and after the field cycled through, Allison led the final 50 laps to beat Darrell Waltrip to the line by more than 11 seconds. Sterling Marlin, Alan Kulwicki and Rusty Wallace rounded out the top five.

Ricky Rudd finished 11th in his Rick Hendrick Tide Chevy and is third in the points standings, nine behind Allison.

(Epilogue: Allison ended up finishing 17th at Atlanta the next week while Earnhardt finished fifth to clinch his fifth title. Allison was passed by Rudd in the standings and finished third in the points. In 1992, he again won five races and again finished third in the points. Then, in 1993, he was gone.)

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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 11, 2015, 3:16 pm

NASCAR announced Tuesday evening that two crew chiefs were disciplined after Sunday's race at Las Vegas.

Steve Addington, the crew chief for Justin Allgaier, was fined $25,000. Allgaier's car was too light in post-race inspection. Weight to make the car hit minimum weight came off during the race and was found on the track. Addington's fine is because of both incidents.

20.3.5: Added ballast containers:
a. Any and all ballast added to the vehicle must be bolted inside an added ballast container, inside the main frame rails, and/or inside the front sway bar.
b. Added ballast must be secured in a manner that will prevent movement of the ballast during an event. Overall vehicle weight after competition:
b. After a vehicle has raced, only water in the radiator, oil in the engine reservoir tank, and fuel in the fuel cell may be added. Wheels and tires may not be changed, unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR Officials.
c. After a vehicle has raced, the minimum overall vehicle weight of all vehicles must be within 0.5% of the minimum overall vehicle weight required at the start of the race.

According to NASCAR's new penalty system, it's a P3 penalty.

Paul Wolfe, the crew chief for Brad Keselowski's car, was put on probation until the end of the year. Before qualifying on Friday, the No. 2 car had to go through inspection after it was on the grid. NASCAR said it found both the right and left rear wheel openings were modified after qualifying inspection

20.4.b: Body – All approved OEM-manufactured body components must be used as supplied except as required to stiffen, or to attach to other vehicle components. Tolerances from CAD surfaces and template tolerances are provided to allow for manufacturing, fabrication, and installation variability;
: Surface Conformance – Coordinate measuring machines, scanning equipment, and templates, among other tools, will be used to inspect body surfaces for conformance to the approved OEM and NASCAR CAD files.

Wolfe's probation is a P2 level penalty. Both crew chiefs were also penalized for the always-applicable actions detrimental to stock car racing.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 11, 2015, 12:59 pm

Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it's the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com.

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick has started the season with three-straight top-two finishes. He ended 2014 with three-straight top-two finishes. Not terrible, eh? In any circumstance, six-straight finishes of that magnitude is an impressive achievement, but Harvick and company have done this with two distinct rules packages. It's not like they've been able to roll with the same formulas for all six weeks. However, it does give credence to the thought that the good teams will always be the first (and best) to adapt to rules changes.

2. Joey Logano (LW: 1): If this was the Chase, Logano's performance to scrap for a top-10 finish would be lauded as an achievement worthy of a title contender. After starting second, he survived two speeding penalties and came back for a top 10. Now, with the way that this Chase format is set up, the effort is almost an afterthought. Logano's in the Chase. All he needs to do is remain in the top 30 to make it. Of course, that's the simplistic view, but it also serves as an example of how not to overlook teams making chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what early in the year.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 4): Why wasn't the Chase format seen as the primary catalyst for the decision to put two tires on Junior's car on the final pit stop to steal track position and perhaps a win? Because people are learning from the ridiculousness of last year at Vegas? The decision for the No. 88 crew to go for two tires was an easy one. Without it, they didn't have a shot to win, and the worst-case scenario from the pit stop wasn't very bad. After leading four laps, Junior ended up fourth.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 5): A start like this is making Truex lose "Chase sleeper" status pretty quickly. If he doesn't win a race this year, the speed he's showing -- provided it continues, of course -- should be more than enough for a Chase berth. And even if he gets the crazy speed and bad luck combination that plagued Kurt Busch in the No. 78 in 2013, Truex should still be in good shape. Busch made the Chase that season despite eight finishes worse than 25th in the first 26 races.

5. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 2): Oh no, Johnson followed up a win with a tire issue. How will he be a championship contender? While Johnson had a fast car -- he was leading at the time he first started having issues -- his Vegas results show the ridiculousness of trying to figure out a "car to beat" after two races of the season. Was the No. 48 team the best team at Atlanta? Duh. But let's just all be aware of small sample sizes, OK?

6. AJ Allmendinger (LW: 11): Speaking of small sample sizes, it's funny that the two highest RCR cars in the points standings aren't actually RCR cars (in name). After finishing seventh and sixth at Atlanta and Las Vegas, Allmendinger is fifth in the points standings. Will this continue? With another good run at Auto Club, the evidence pointing to an intriguing season will keep mounting.

7. Denny Hamlin (LW: 9): How close was the kerfuffle between Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne from ruining Hamlin's day? We'll let him explain about the impact Edwards' car had with the right rear of Hamlin's car.

"It actually probably made my car a little bit better with the damage," Hamlin said. "It could have a millimeter worse and it would have been catastrophic for our car."

Plus, he also had a slice in the left headlight (decal) from contact on pit road. Not a bad day when you've got a car that's been dented on both sides and you still finish fifth at an intermediate track.

8. Matt Kenseth (LW: 10): Sunday was Kenseth's first race in a DeWalt-sponsored car since the final race of the 2009 season. Since then, Kenseth has had ... way too many sponsors to count, including sunglasses, multiple types of alcoholic beverages, sunglasses, Affliction clothing and even a bargain outlet. Because nothing says Matt Kenseth than buying your Affliction clothing at a bargain outlet.

9. Kasey Kahne (LW: 7): If you're ever looking to crash someone and not get caught up in it yourself, look to what Kahne did to Edwards. He cut his entry into turn one early and hit Edwards hard enough to get him to slide as he stayed away from the action. Of course, the penalties for Kahne's car wouldn't be incredibly severe had he been caught up in the accident anyway. Because of the previous contact with Edwards, he had a car that was smashed in on both sides. Still, he ended up 17th.

10. Ryan Newman (LW: NR): Newman's car resembled the one he had at Homestead over the final laps as he was charging to a third-place finish. Now he returns to Phoenix, where we all remember what happened the last time he was there. How many times will we see the replay of that throughout the race weekend? And if he's racing with Kyle Larson at any point on Sunday, how soon will it take for the incident to be mentioned?

11. Casey Mears (LW: 6): Mears hangs on to a spot in the top 12 after finishing 25th. One more finish like that and Casey won't be here next week. But he's still ahead of the three "real" RCR cars in the standings, so that's an accomplishment, even three races in. Will it happen for a fourth straight week? There's only five points separating Mears and Paul Menard.

12. Brad Keselowski (LW: NR): It was crazy how loose Keselowski's car was at times on Sunday, but the team kept working on it during every opportunity. And somehow Keselowski came home with a seventh-place finish. Not bad, eh? With the second-straight top 10, Keselowski is 17th in the standings, which speaks to how debilitating a bad finish is and how good Kevin Harvick has been.

Lucky Dog: Brian Scott finished 13th after having a hellacious Xfinity Series weekend.

The DNF: Alex Bowman suffered an engine failure 28 laps in.

Dropped Out: Clint Bowyer, Brett Moffitt

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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 10, 2015, 4:16 pm

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Carl Edwards pushed Kasey Kahne into the wall off of turn four. Kahne was not happy and returned the favor a lap later.

And while Kahne's car sustained damage on both sides from the impact, Edwards ended up with the worse end of the deal.

Let's rewind to how the conflict started. Edwards and Kahne were racing for a top-five spot just after a restart. Edwards' car washed up off turn four with Kahne to his outside and Kahne simply had nowhere to go.

"I was being too aggressive on that restart," Edwards said. "Kasey got on the outside of me and he got just the right position. I started to slide up and I should have backed out of it way earlier. That's completely my fault and that's what ruined our day."

Kahne's car was sandwiched between Edwards' and the wall, and as the two barreled down into turn one, Kahne drove close to Edwards to signal his displeasure. He then cut an early entry into turn one and made contact with Edwards, who clipped Denny Hamlin and went into a prolonged slide before eventually hitting the inside wall.

Kahne said Edwards apologized after the race and also said he felt his car could have competed with race-winner Kevin Harvick's. Well, at least until it was smashed in on both sides, anyway.

"He just stayed in the gas," Kahne said. "We just needed a full another car worth of racing room there, and just plowed us into the wall. That was discouraging. We had a really good Time Warner Cable Chevy and felt like on the last 20 laps of a race run, we were the best car. Before that, Harvick definitely had us covered. It would have been a lot of fun to at least try to race him there at the end. See if we could catch him. It would have been interesting. He was really, really good and won today. But I feel like we had the second best car and we were really close."

Edwards was forced to go behind the wall for repairs while Kahne was able to carry on. Edwards finished 42nd while Kahne came home 17th.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 8, 2015, 11:15 pm

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A year after after seeing a great car at Las Vegas go for naught because of a broken hub, Kevin Harvick's fast car was aptly rewarded on Sunday.

The defending Sprint Cup Series champion controlled the last half of Sunday's race at Vegas and captured his first win of the season and his third-straight top-two finish to start the year.

The win wasn't without a bit of drama. Or reported drama, anyway. With his car visibly loose over the final laps of the race, Harvick reported back to his crew that he had a vibration. However, he moved his car to the high side and if there was a vibration, it didn't affect his performance. The interval over second-place Martin Truex Jr. stabilized over the last seven laps and Harvick was able to cruise to the win.

"I don't know but it wasn't right," Harvick said. "Luckily we were able to hang on to it and had a good enough lead to where we could pace ourselves and were able to keep the lead, I guess."

Last year, Harvick led 23 laps before he finished 30 laps down because of the hub issue. He led 142 laps on Sunday.

Truex's second was his third-straight top 10 to start the season. He's never started a Sprint Cup Series season with three consecutive finishes so high.

Jimmie Johnson, last week's winner at Atlanta, had a car to challenge Harvick but he wasn't around for the finish. Johnson was forced to pit road after he was leading in the first half of the race because of a tire issue. The green flag stop put him a lap down and as he attempted to climb through the field he had problems. He smacked the wall twice, once because of an apparent flat tire in the trival and he then hit the wall again in turn four. He finished 41st.

Jeff Gordon won the pole for the race but didn't start there after contact with Danica Patrick in the final moments of practice on Saturday. Gordon had to go to a backup car and worked his way up to the top 10 at one point after starting 41st. However, when Johnson lost the tire in the tri-oval, Gordon got into the back of Jeb Burton, damaging the nose of his car.

"I guess Jimmie blew a right front tire," Gordon said. "I was right behind Jeb getting ready to make a move on him. I wasn't sure if I was going to go inside or outside and all of the sudden he starts checking up. And I thought he was doing it to let me go by him and I didn't realize until right at that moment when my spotter said something to me that Jimmie was having a problem and I ran into the back of him. Ruined the front -- ruined our day with this 3M Chevrolet. It certainly ruined the front end. The car just wouldn't go down the straightaway and then it was real tight."

Harvick's win is his first at Las Vegas and his 29th overall.

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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 8, 2015, 10:54 pm

The website for Eldora Speedway was hacked Saturday with a message referencing ISIS, the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

If you're as confused about that, don't worry, Tony Stewart, the track's owner, was too.

"Seriously?" Stewart said to USA Today when he was told about the hacking. "I guess we're a big enough blip on the radar now if we've gotten their attention. Maybe we can get them season passes.

"If there's anybody I'd want mad at me, I guess it would be them."

According to track president Roger Slack, the website was hacked for approximately 30 minutes.

Per Motorsport.com, the message on the site said "Hacked by Islamic State. We Are Everywhere :)." It's unclear if the hacking was done by anyone with ties to the group.

Slack also said the issue was with a plug-in and no personal info from any ticket buyers was compromised.

Roger Slack said hack issue was associated with a plug-in .... Track ended up having more website traffic/sold more tix than usual Saturday.

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 8, 2015

And no, Eldora wasn't singled out as a target – The thought of extremists especially despising dirt-track racing over other types of sports is an odd one. Other sites in the Ohio area were targeted as well.

Stewart purchased the half-mile track in 2004 and it now hosts a Camping World Truck Series race.

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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 8, 2015, 1:39 pm

Jeff Gordon will start first in what could be his final race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Gordon turned a lap of 194.68 MPH to win his second pole in the first three races of the 2015 season. When you count his pole run at Homestead in the final race of the 2014 season, it's three of the last four.

Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano, the driver who won the pole at Atlanta last week, will start second. All four Hendrick Motorsports cars made the 12-driver final round of qualifying.

After massive inspection issues during Atlanta's qualifying session when 13 cars failed to take a lap, Friday's session at Las Vegas wasn't without a bit of drama either. Brad Keselowski's car had to go through tech again after it was lined up on the grid after NASCAR apparently saw a crew member tugging on the fenders of the car. Manipulation of the fenders isn't allowed in 2015.

Kasey Kahne starts third and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is fourth. The slowpoke in the Hendrick group is Jimmie Johnson, who qualified ninth. In between Junior and Johnson are Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. Jamie McMurray qualified 10th.

48 cars attempted the race, so the drivers missing were Mike Wallace, Reed Sorenson, Mike Bliss, Matt DiBenedetto and Travis Kvapil, whose car was reported stolen before Atlanta last week.

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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 7, 2015, 1:54 am

Brian Vickers will make his 2015 Sprint Cup debut at Las Vegas on Sunday.

Vickers missed the first two races of the season after offseason heart surgery to address a complication from a patch that was inserted in his heart in 2010. And he said Friday that doctors originally weren't committal about his ability to return to driving in 2015.

"Going into the surgery, it was certainly a question I asked several times throughout the process, right?" Vickers said. "'Am I going to be able to race again,' and early on it was like – I think they were trying to set expectations and they were like, 'It's not looking good.' They didn't want to say no, but they were a far cry from yes"

"They needed to really kind of get in there and get into my heart basically – which kind of sounds weird to say – and kind of figure out what's going on before they could really give me an answer, but they were kind of setting the bar pretty low. I kind of dealt with that and then as they learned more, as they came out they were like, 'Okay, we definitely know what happened and why and we fixed it and we're not worried about it moving forward, so we think you're good to go, but let's do a checkup in a month and we'll see,' and, you know, kind of see how it goes. But of course I was asking them, 'Can I go racing?'"

However, as he continued, Vickers said he had learned over the recent years that racing didn't define him. He missed time in 2010 with blood clots and after Red Bull Racing shut down following the 2011 season, he was without a ride. He drove part-time for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012 and 2013, winning at New Hampshire in his second part-time season, and it led to a full-time deal in 2014 with the team.

"It's something I love. It's something over the last 10 years and my life and particularly the last five years dealing with everything, I've learned that my love for racing has only increased – my love for what I do and how much I appreciate it – but I've also learned that it's not who I am," Vickers said. "It's something I do and it's part of who I am. It's a very special part of who I am and it's something that means the world to me, but it's not who I am. If I can't race, that's okay – life is going to go on. I think from that perspective, yes, I asked the doctors, 'Can I go race and I want to go race,' but if they say no, I'm not going to fight them."

Last week, Brett Moffitt drove the No. 55 to an eighth-place finish. He's in the No. 34 for Front Row Motorsports for the next three weeks while Vickers is back and has been praised for his one-race performance while subbing for Vickers.

"I'd love to see him get more experience and seat time," Vickers said of Moffitt. "I think he's been a valuable asset to MWR. I think he could be unquestionably a contender in any series, but if he could get a ride in the XFINITY Series, Truck Series and get some experience and then get in the Cup – I mean listen, he's done well in the Cup Series, but I think that thinking back to my own personal experiences, you just need seat time, right? That's what he needs and I'd love to see him get that shot and maybe it's in a Cup car. He's got an opportunity the next few weeks in a Cup car and I think he'll do well."

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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 6, 2015, 9:42 pm

No other Sprint Cup Series team is going to run a collection of cars in 2015 better than the No. 2 team.

We've already expressed our love for Brad Keselowski's regular all-white scheme and on Thursday night in Las Vegas, Team Penske revealed two cars that Keselowski would run later in the season.

One is a replica of the black and gold No. 2 that Rusty Wallace drove. Keselowski will drive it at Michigan.

Midnight will be back! #25years #NASCAR @keselowski @MillerLite pic.twitter.com/uUDq1sTaRJ

— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) March 6, 2015

The other is a copy of the car that Bobby Allison used to drive with Miller sponsorship.

.@keselowski will also drive Bobby Allison’s 1983 scheme later this year! h/t @TheMikeBagley pic.twitter.com/bglB1sb0yT

— AtlantaMotorSpeedway (@amsupdates) March 6, 2015

They're absolutely fantastic, even if that's not an adjective you'd normally use to describe Miller Lite.

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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 6, 2015, 2:58 pm

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NASCAR said Thursday afternoon that Kurt Busch is still indefinitely suspended despite the Delaware Department of Justice announcing that it wouldn't press criminal charges against the driver regarding an allegation of domestic assault.

"NASCAR is aware of the Delaware Department of Justice announcement today regarding driver Kurt Busch," a statement said. "As we disclosed Monday, he has accepted the terms and conditions of a reinstatement program and is activelly participating in the program. Kurt Busch's eligibility for reinstatement will continue to be governed by that program and the NASCAR Rule Book, though the elimination of the possibility of criminal charges certainly removes a significant impediment to his reinstatement."

The sanctioning body hasn't publicly said what the timeline for Busch's reinstatement would be either before or after the announcement of no charges.

Earlier Thursday, the Delaware DOJ said there wasn't enough evidence to satisfy the burden of proof in the allegations by Busch's ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. She said Busch had slammed his head against the wall of her motorhome multiple times.

Thursday evening, Stewart-Haas Racing issued a statement:

"We appreciate the thoroughness of the Dover Police Department’s investigation into the allegations made against Kurt Busch and respect the time the Attorney General put into his decision," the statement said. "They are the experts in these matters and the decision not to pursue charges is an important one. We’re currently working with NASCAR to understand how this impacts Kurt’s reinstatement process.”

NASCAR indefinitely suspended Busch on Friday, Feb. 20 after the county commissioner assigned to the request for a protection order hearing between Driscoll and Busch said that Busch had more likely than not committed an act of domestic abuse against Driscoll. The commissioner had granted Driscoll a protection order against Busch earlier in the week.

Barring a quick reinstatement before Sunday's race at Las Vegas, it will be the third race Busch has missed in 2015. Regan Smith, who has filled in for Busch in the first two races of the season, is set to replace him again in the No. 41 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: March 5, 2015, 10:37 pm

Suspended Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch will not be facing charges from the September incident with ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.

The Delware Department of Justice announced Thursday there was insufficient evidence to charge Busch with a crime. Driscoll had accused Busch of domestic assault on Sept. 26, saying he slammed her head against the wall of his motorhome. Busch had denied the accusations.

The statement is below:

The Delaware Department of Justice has carefully reviewed the complaint made of an alleged act of domestic violence involving Kurt Busch in Dover on September 26, 2014, which was reported to the Dover Police Department on November 5, 2014 and investigated. After a thorough consideration of all of the available information about the case, it is determined that the admissible evidence and available witnesses would likely be insufficient to meet the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Busch committed a crime during the September 26th incident. Likelihood of meeting that high burden of proof is the standard for prosecutors in bringing a case. For this reason, the Department of Justice will not pursue criminal charges in this case.

Busch was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR on Friday, Feb. 20, two days before the Daytona 500. The suspension came following the release of a Kent County commissioner's decision in the request for protection order hearing surrounding the incident. In the decision, which was written after the protection order had been granted for Driscoll against Busch, the commissioner said it was more likely than not that Busch had committed an act of abuse against Driscoll.

NASCAR said Thursday afternoon that Busch was still suspended.

Thursday, Busch released the following statement:

"I am grateful that the prosecutors in Delaware listened, carefully considered the evidence, and after a thorough investigation decided to not file criminal charges against me.  I wish to thank my family, friends, fans, and race team who stood by me throughout this nightmare with their unwavering support.  Thanks also goes to my legal team for making sure that the truth got out and was fully provided to the prosecutors.  As I have said from the beginning, I did not commit domestic abuse.  I look forward to being back in racing as soon as possible and moving on with my life."

The 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion immediately appealed NASCAR's suspension but lost both appeals. Regan Smith has filled in for Busch in the first two races of the 2015 season and is scheduled to drive his car again on Sunday at Las Vegas.

Earlier this week, NASCAR said Busch had agreed to terms to start the process of reinstatement. However, no timetable would be given on the process. In it, Busch would work with an outside expert who would report back to NASCAR.

The suspension is Busch's second NASCAR-mandated suspension. He was suspended for a race in 2013 after making threatening remarks to a reporter.

The testimony during the protection order hearing, which was held over multiple days in December and January, was contentious. Busch contended that Driscoll had told him she was a trained assassin and his legal team said Driscoll committed perjury, while Driscoll said Busch struggled with alcoholism and depression and had issues separating fact from fiction.

In response to no criminal charges being filed, Driscoll said in a statement that she is "disappointed that full justice was not served."

"At great risk to my personal and professional reputation, I have spoken candidly, at length, and on the record, to a variety of outlets in an effort to correct the distortions and sensationalism that have unfortunately marked the coverage of this painful time in my family's life," she said via a statement. "I would urge anyone covering this case to stick to the well-established facts. Giving further air to baseless and discredited accusations about me does a disservice to the public and reduces a serious matter for law enforcement into tabloid gossip."

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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 5, 2015, 3:22 pm

NASCAR has made tweaks to the practice and qualifying schedules at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway in the goal of avoiding the mess that happened before qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The first practice at the three tracks has been shortened by 10 minutes. Qualifying has been moved back five minutes. If you're doing the math in your head, that's an adjustment of 15 minutes. More inspection time!

From NASCAR.com:

"We have a good track record of making adjustments that are in the best interest of the teams and the garage area," Richard Buck, NASCAR's managing director of the Sprint Cup Series, said, "and the revisions in these upcoming weekend schedules are an example of that."

The revised schedules, which also note that qualifying inspection now begins five minutes after the completion of Friday's practice, are for the three West Coast races. No adjustments have been made for races beyond the Auto Club event.

At Atlanta, 13 cars didn't get a chance to make a qualifying attempt after not getting through inspection. Those cars included Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart, as well as the four cars who ended up missing the race because they were on the sidelines during qualifying.

The blockage in the inspection line apparently stemmed from cars needing to make multiple attempts to get through. The order in which cars go through inspection is determined by a random draw.

Will the tweaks work? Well, they can't hurt, and the guess is here that teams now know where the lines are when it comes to pushing the boundaries of what's legal. If there's a similar issue at Las Vegas on Friday, there may be something fundamentally wrong with the process and the rules package.

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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 5, 2015, 1:11 pm

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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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

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!

Follow @NickBromberg

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: February 25, 2015, 6:39 pm

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