Matt Kenseth set a career record Thursday night at Charlotte.

Kenseth, the driver who accumulated the most points over the first three races of the Chase, won the pole for Saturday night's fourth race of the Chase. It's his fourth pole of the 2015 season; he's never had more than three in any of his 17 previous Sprint Cup Series seasons.

It's also his second pole at Charlotte in 2015. Kenseth won the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 in May and finished fourth. He'll be joined on the front row by teammate Kyle Busch.

All four of Joe Gibbs Racing's cars made it to the final round of qualifying. Denny Hamlin will start fifth and Carl Edwards, who won the 600, will start eighth.

Joey Logano starts third and Greg Biffle, the first driver on the grid who isn't in the Chase, will start fourth.

Nine of the 12 current Chase drivers are in the top 12. It's 10 of the 16 drivers who qualified for the Chase if you count Jimmie Johnson, who qualified seventh.

The rest of the Chasers in the top 12 are Kurt Busch (6th), Ryan Newman (10th), Kevin Harvick (11th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12th).

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 9, 2015, 12:19 am

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

Just like last year, we're going to be tracking the Chase throughout the entire 10 races. After Dover, the points reset for the 12 advancing drivers. So here's what the points standings would look like if it was a cumulative 10-race Chase. Joey Logano would have won the title last year under the old format.

Matt Kenseth would have a 14-point lead over Logano if the points weren't reset.

1. Matt Kenseth 2,137
2. Joey Logano 2,123

3. Denny Hamlin 2,119
4. Carl Edwards 2,118
5. Martin Truex Jr. 2,104
6. Kurt Busch 2,100
6. Brad Keselowski 2,100
6. Jeff Gordon 2,100
9. Kyle Busch 2,099
9. Ryan Newman 2,099
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2,098
12. Jamie McMurray 2,098
13. Jimmie Johnson, 2.086
14. Kevin Harvick 2,082
15. Paul Menard 2,075
16. Clint Bowyer 2.048

Talladega announced Thursday that it would have SAFER barrier around all the exterior and interior walls for its race in two weeks. It's a no-brainer move that's commendable simply because tracks have seemed reluctant to take the step to install SAFER around as many walls as possible.

Why? There's not a good enough reason, especially in the wake of Austin Theriault's compression fracture in his lower back after hitting a bare concrete wall at Las Vegas on Saturday in the Truck Series race. Yes, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., the same company that owns Bristol Motor Speedway, AKA the track that unveiled a 700-ton hanging television feature on Wednesday.

@NickBromberg Odd that SMI can spend tons of $ to erect a suspended scoreboard over Bristol, but has trucks hitting concrete walls at Vegas?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) October 8, 2015

We're glad we're not the only people that notice the separation. SMI loves its TVs. And we don't blame it; they do enhance the fan experience. But how about enhancing the driver safety experience while we're at it too?

Brad Keselowski said a lot by saying very little when he was asked about SAFER barriers this week. He's the owner of Theriault's truck.

“I cringe, but then I get back in the race car and say, ‘What are my options?’" Keselowski rhetorically asked when he was asked if he cringes when he sees hits like Theriault's. "As a team owner I have no ability to affect change on the tracks, and as a driver I’m consistently told how lucky I am to have a spot as a race car driver and I need to shut up and drive the car.  So there are no options available for me to remedy the situation, so I move on to things I can affect change on.”

@NickBromberg next "big" name driver to retire? Biffle? Someone else?

— Keith D (@kdesorm2) October 8, 2015

Biffle is an interesting option, not only because of his age (46 in December) but also the performance of Roush Fenway Racing. He has two young teammates and Roush doing a full reboot of sorts and going with three young drivers would make sense given the team's performance level.

Biffle was a free agent at an inopportune time last year. Edwards was the top candidate for a fourth car at Joe Gibbs Racing, and there was no real spot for him anywhere else. So he re-upped with Roush and his performance in 2015 is worse than it was last year. He made the Chase and finished 14th in 2014. He's currently 20th in the standings and has four top-10 finishes. He had 11 in 2014.

Can Biffle still win races? We think so, given the right equipment. But will that combination happen again? And Greg Biffle is really 46 years old this year?


I think the burnout should not be allowed in NASCAR. Everyone knows it’s really dumb and a way a cheater can get away with something illegal to make the car better than the rest. Not to mention choking the fans with all the dust and smoke in their face. I was at Phoenix when Alan Kulwicki won the inaugural and did his Polish victory lap. That was a first with true class. Going the opposite way on the track with the checker flag so the fans can see and wave to the driver. No need for all the smoke and mirrors which these drivers do now. Those drivers should take their bag of marbles and go play with the other kids “knuckle down” and let the real drivers that don’t need to burnout honor the real celebrations as it was intended. - Roger

Is the burnout an overrated celebration? We'd lean to "yes." Being unique is fun, and while burnouts can be fun, they're the norm right now. If we're thinking of notable celebrations, we've got Carl Edwards' backflip, Kyle Busch's bow, Brad Keselowski and the American flag, and maybe Tony Stewart will climb the fence one more time if he wins again.

So step it up, drivers. Go be creative.


Should Hendrick Motorsports swap Chad Knaus for Alan Gustafson or Greg Ives now that Jimmie Johnson has been eliminated from the Chase? - Jeff

This is a great what-if question. If humans were robots, then absolutely. Give Jeff Gordon the services of Chad Knaus for the next seven races. The cars won't be slower and race strategy will likely be better. And if Gordon got eliminated in the second round, Knaus could be moved over to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car if Junior was still in the Chase.

But we aren't robots, so this is nothing but a hypothetical. You can't execute a scenario like this without a ton of potential complications and conflicts. Hendrick Motorsports wouldn't do anything of the like, even if there was a chance of getting optimal results. The issues have been on pit stops for Junior's team, and there's not much a crew chief can help with on that. But damn, this is a fun one to kick around.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 8, 2015, 10:47 pm

2015 is the last year for Budweiser on Kevin Harvick's car.

Anheuser-Busch isn't going anywhere, however. Instead, the company is putting Busch on Harvick's car in 2016. Yes, the same Busch that sponsored what's now the Xfinity Series before it was the Nationwide Series. And the same Busch that used to sponsor the Busch Clash exhibition race before the Daytona 500.

NEWS: @BuschBeer will return to #NASCAR in 2016, sponsoring @KevinHarvick​ & the No. 4 team:

— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) October 8, 2015

“Busch’s NASCAR roots go back to 1978 and we’re thrilled to reconnect with these passionate fans that identify with our ‘Here’s to Earning It’ message on a daily basis,” AB director of value brands Chelsea Phillips said in a statement. “Kevin and the entire No. 4 team have been tremendous partners for Anheuser-Busch since 2011 and we have exciting plans to engage with the NASCAR community both on and off the track nationwide in 2016.”   

Most NASCAR fans still likely associate Budweiser with Dale Earnhardt Jr. The company sponsored Junior until he left for Hendrick Motorsports. Bud was then with Kasey Kahne until it moved to Harvick at Richard Childress Racing in 2011. The company went with Harvick to Stewart-Haas Racing when he joined the team in 2014.

The SHR release said the Busch sponsorship will be for "select" races in 2016. The company will sponsor 12 races, down from Budweiser's 20 in 2015.

SHR says Harvick car fully funded next year. Busch will do 12 (Bud did 20). Current sponsors (i.e. Jimmy John's) will absorb those other 8.

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) October 8, 2015

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 8, 2015, 4:04 pm

Bristol is joining sister tracks Texas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway in the giant television game.

The track unveiled the "Colossus" on Wednesday, a four-screened display that will be above the infield at races starting in 2016. And no, the feature won't be mounted on a giant pole in the middle of the infield. It will be suspended from four cables via support towers outside the corners of the grandstands around the track. Take a look.

Here are the specs of the screens. The display, according to Bristol, is the largest "center hung" feature of its kind.

Each of Colossus’ four custom-built screens is approximately 30 feet tall by 63 feet wide. In total, the system hosts nearly 54 million LEDs and 18 million pixels. At 6mm pitch, the pixels are grouped tighter than the large-scale outdoor displays in Times Square. The result: a glimmering visual experience capable of offering 281 trillion different color combinations, and one that’s 23 times brighter and 25 percent sharper than the typical home HD TV.

The display will hang from a halo-shaped truss and features an additional circular LED display beneath the screens which measures nearly six feet in height. Between the screens and the LED ring, that’s more than 8,500 square feet of high-resolution, active viewing area.

Colossus also boasts a state-of-the-art, 540,000-watt audio system powering 380 3-way loudspeakers and 48 stadium subwoofers, enough to make any rock star squirm with envy. By contrast, the current system hosts 2,400 watts of power, with only 10 2-way loudspeakers and 8 subwoofers.

The track also says that the feature weighs 700 tons. Bristol Motor Speedway is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., which also owns Charlotte and Texas. Both tracks have monstrous televisions located outside their respective backstretches. Texas Motor Speedway's TV also has a name: Big Hoss.

Both Charlotte and Texas are 1.5 miles in length. Bristol is just over a half-mile long and has grandstands around the entire track. Putting a screen where those two tracks have them isn't possible.

We must admit that when we see cables at a track, it's hard to forget what happened at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2013. The cable to Fox's cable cam snapped and injured fans and damaged cars as it was whipped around. 

Bristol said these cables are a lot stronger. The cabling will weigh 117 tons and the largest diameter cable is 63 pounds per foot. For perspective, the track said that the cables are larger than the suspension cables on the Golden Gate Bridge.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 7, 2015, 9:26 pm

Fifty years ago, a wool-suited writer journeyed to North Wilkesboro to profile a local racing legend, and in so doing transformed both the sport of racing and the art of journalism.

Esquire magazine sent Tom Wolfe to sift through the lore that surrounded bootlegger/driver Junior Johnson, and the story that Wolfe brought back, "The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson! Yes!" remains one of the most remarkable stories of the 20th century. That story, along with the culture that surrounded it and the two men at the center of it, is the centerpiece of a highly recommended new short film premiering Wednesday night on FS1's Race Hub.

It's tough to appreciate now how revolutionary Wolfe's story —which you can read in full right here—was in both its subject matter and its form. But Wolfe's story barreled into the staid New York literary scene like a hot rod into a garden party. Here's one particularly fiery passage, about Johnson's driving style:

It was Junior Johnson specifically ... who was famous for the “bootleg turn” or “about-face,” in which, if the Alcohol Tax agents had a roadblock up for you or were too close behind, you threw the car into second gear, cocked the wheel, stepped on the accelerator and made the car’s rear end skid around in a complete 180-degree arc, a complete about-face, and tore on back up the road exactly the way you came from. God! The Alcohol Tax agents used to burn over Junior Johnson. Practically every good old boy in town in Wilkesboro, the county seat, got to know the agents by sight in a very short time. They would rag them practically to their faces on the subject of Junior Johnson, so that it got to be an obsession. Finally, one night they had Junior trapped on the road up toward the bridge around Millersville, there’s no way out of there, they had the barricades up and they could hear this souped-up car roaring around the bend, and here it comes—but suddenly they can hear a siren and see a red light flashing in the grille, so they think it’s another agent, and boy, they run out like ants and pull those barrels and boards and sawhorses out of the way, and then—Ggghhzzzzzzzhhhhhhggggggzzzzzzzeeeeeong!—gawdam! there he goes again, it was him, Junior Johnson!, with a gawdam agent’s si-reen and a red light in his grille!

Detail, spectacle, kinetic's all right there, and Wolfe captured his subject perfectly for the time. In the mid-1960s as now, the Eastern literary establishment looked upon the racing South as a barbarous, subliterate land, but Wolfe saw more: he saw the courage it took to strap yourself in behind the wheel of an automobile you'd built with your own hands, he saw how the automobile was a means of escape from a humdrum life, not just a means of transportation. His story catapulted racing in general and Johnson in particular into the national spotlight, and helped inspire an entirely new form of cinematic, colorful journalism that persists to this day.

The documentary, which premieres at 6:00 ET, crams an awful lot into its 30 minutes, but it's well worth watching for every single segment, from the old racing footage to the reunion of Johnson and Wolfe earlier this year. It's a reminder of how, in the right hands, every story can be a transformative one, and the drivers of old deserve special recognition for both their bravery and bravado.

"I’ve never been scared in a race car or any other kind of car because I thought I was good enough to handle it," Johnson says, then pauses for effect. "And I was."

"The Last American Hero" (FS1, 6:00 p.m. ET Wednesday) is absolute must-watch for fans of old-school NASCAR, great sportswriting, or American journalism. Don’t miss it.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 7, 2015, 7:03 pm

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Kevin Harvick had a big celebratory burnout in his car after he dominated Sunday's race at Dover. Was it a little too exultory?

Harvick burned the rear tires off the car and the back of the car hit the wall while he was celebrating. Harvick said Tuesday that he didn't have any idea that his car hit the wall.

“I don’t even remember actually hitting the wall. I remember the tires blowing out, but I don’t know if I actually hit the wall," Harvick said via NBC Sports.

Some drivers weren't buying that Harvick didn't have any idea he hit the wall. Kyle Busch sarcastically noted that when you're doing a burnout you can't see where you are. According to NBC, he then gave a wink afterwards.

Following the race, Denny Hamlin's crew chief Dave Rogers noted to how Harvick's car had hit the wall.

Why would hitting the wall be an issue to others? Well, it can be a way of skirting a complete post-race inspection. The winner's car is inspected by NASCAR. With damage, that inspection can be less-than-complete. And Harvick's car was absolutely the best on the track on Sunday. He led 355 of 400 laps. By winning the race he advanced to the next round of the Chase. Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion, was in danger of missing out on a chance to repeat if he didn't win the race.

We're not claiming Harvick did anything on purpose. Drivers have ripped the rear tires off the car before -- Joey Logano is very good at doing so. And a driver using the wall to help with a burnout is not unheard of either.

Brad Keselowski noted that drivers intentionally damage their cars after races because of the tech process. NASCAR Vice President Steve O'Donnell said Monday morning on SiriusXM that the sanctioning body had no issue with Harvick's celebration.

"The cars aren’t teched the same way at the track as they can be teched at the R&D Center," Keselowski said. "It’s been going on for a long time.  I’m not making any accusations. If you look back even 10-15 years ago when they put that funky thing on the roof of the car. It’s not anything new to this sport.”

And yes, Keselowski said he's done it himself.

“I’ve definitely blown tires out," he said. "I think every driver has done something to do some kind of damage to their car.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 7, 2015, 3:42 pm

Big sponsor news, as Axalta has announced it will switch its primary sponsorship from Jeff Gordon's 24 to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 88 starting in the 2016 season. Axalta will also increase its sponsorship from 10 races to 13, and will do so through at least the 2018 season.

"Axalta and Hendrick Motorsports have an incredible story," Junior said in a statement. "For me, it's meaningful to work with a sponsor that's been so committed to our sport and has such a rich history in NASCAR. Continuing the partnership is special for all of us, and I'm already excited about what the car will look like. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity."

Axalta has been with Gordon for the last 23 years. Gordon, of course, is retiring at the end of this season. Chase Elliott will be taking over his car, and NAPA will be a primary sponsor for most of the season.

Both Gordon and Earnhardt remain alive in this year's Chase; Earnhardt advanced to the next round on a tiebreaker with Jamie McMurray, while Gordon was slightly ahead of his teammate.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 7, 2015, 12:42 am

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 and we'll try to have some fun.

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: NR): How do you go from not ranked to the top in a week? Lead 355 laps and win the race. Harvick became the second win-and-in-when-there-was-no-alternative driver in the brief history of this Chase format. And you know that NASCAR officials are hoping this becomes an occurrence that happens every year now. What Harvick did on Sunday was freaking impressive. He's going to be the favorite for the title as his team won't keep putting itself in bad positions with fast cars.

2. Matt Kenseth (LW: 1): Kenseth had the best average finish of anyone in the first round of the Chase. He finished in the top 10 all three races. Keep this up and he's going to be in the final four at Homestead. While Joe Gibbs Racing got all four cars into the second round of the Chase, the odds are against it in the second round. Which JGR car do you think has the smallest chance of moving on? If we're ranking them 1-4, we'd have Kenseth at the top right now.

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 9): Busch has been NASCAR's second-best driver at Dover in recent years. His presence at the front of the field was no surprise. He also recognized the importance of attempting to prevent Harvick from advancing to the second round. "That was a guy that we wanted to knock out, you know, that's a guy that can win all these races, and you don't want to have to compete against a guy like that," Busch said.

4. Carl Edwards (LW: 4): The most dramatic part of Edwards' race came when Kurt Busch's car slid in fluid coming on to pit road and rammed into the back of Edwards. The No. 19 had some slight bumper damage but that was about it. Edwards ended up finishing 15th and conceded the title of "most points in the third round among winless drivers" to Joey Logano.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 12): That was a heck of a drive by Junior over the final laps, don't you think? He knew he had to get around McMurray to advance and he did just that, even completing somewhat of an improbable pass. Now, let's play devil's advocate for a second. What if Junior doesn't make that pass? The Chase would be out Jimmie Johnson and Junior before the second round. A bit of an unfathomable scenario until

6. Denny Hamlin (LW: 2): Sunday's race was a bit of a throwaway race for Hamlin. There's no track like Dover in the next seven races and with a win to his credit, he didn't need to worry about his finishing position on Sunday. Should NASCAR give winners bonus points in the next round? It'd be a nice perk. Not that Hamlin didn't have an incentive to win; had he won, Kevin Harvick doesn't advance. And we're not accusing the No. 11 of sandbagging. But do you really need an in-depth paragraph about a meaningless 18th-place finish?

7. Joey Logano (LW: 5): Here's the other driver who finished in the top 10 in every Chase race. Logano had finishes of sixth, third and 10th. Though he led a grand total of one lap in those three races. In his previous three races he led 230 laps. Can Logano find the winning form? He's got a plate win to his name this year (though we know how random it can be) and he's finished fifth and 13th at Kansas and Charlotte. Logano could get three more top 10s in the second round.

8. Kurt Busch (LW: 6): Busch finished one spot ahead of Hamlin. He's in the second round on points. Given how his Dover race weekend went in 2014 (on multiple levels), this has to be considered a big victory. He's had cars that have been fast at intermediate tracks, so Busch could be a sneaky candidate to get a win over the next two weeks. He and the man just below him are the only two drivers with a chance this year to be the first to win in both Chase formats.

9. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): We noted in Keselowski's paragraph last week that he wouldn't be penalized for his comments that NASCAR was an "entertainment sport." And Keselowski's comments (and our paragraph about them) were validated with the barrage of tweets with derivatives of "entertain" from those associated with NASCAR. Given how boring Sunday's race was, the e-word within the context of the elimination format was used as a carrot to keep people from tuning out.

10. Jeff Gordon (LW: 10): We're not going to lie, it'd be funny if Gordon could advance to the final round at Homestead simply by avoiding disaster. He cut it close at Dover, so he's going to have to pick up the pace in the second round. Gordon is not a fan of plate racing; it'd be a cruel way for him to be eliminated from the Chase if he has a poor finish at Talladega.

11. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 11): Truex had to start at the back of the field in Sunday's race because his car didn't fit templates before the race. He recovered nicely and finished 11th. Will he have the speed he's shown at intermediate tracks earlier this season? If he doesn't, making it to the third round could be a dicey proposition.

12. Ryan Newman (LW: NR): Hey Newman, we see what you're doing here. Newman was the first car one lap down and finished 19th. After finishing fourth at Chicago, he finished 10th at New Hampshire. Two borderline top-10 finishes seem reasonable at Charlotte and Kansas. Then if he gets through Talladega without a wreck, Newman could be headed to the third round.

13. Jimmie Johnson: (LW: 3): This seems incredibly cruel, doesn't it? Johnson doesn't deserve this fate. But that's what this Chase format gives us. One of the best drivers throughout the season is out because he had an ill-timed (cheap) part failure. Will Johnson outscore everyone else through the final seven races of the Chase? It wouldn't surprise us.


Lucky Dog: Aric Almirola won best in class outside of the Chasers.

The DNF: Jeb Burton's day was not exceptional.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 6, 2015, 1:12 pm

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Jimmie Johnson had every reason to be confident heading into Sunday's race at Dover. The concrete one-mile oval has been his best Sprint Cup Series track and the six-time Sprint Cup champion had finished 11th and 6th in the first two races of the first round of the Chase.

Anything but disaster at Dover was going to get him into the second round. And the chances of disaser seemed slim. Through 28 career Dover races, Johnson had 10 wins and 20 top-10 finishes.

Disaster struck.

Johnson got a pit road speeding penalty on the race's first round of pit stops. That was no big deal. Even if Johnson had a mid-pack finish he'd be fine. But a seal broke in the car's driveline. There was visible grease on the right rear tire of the car.

Johnson felt the issue and took his car to pit road. Its next stop was the garage and he spent 37 laps in his garage stall as the team fixed the problem. The No. 48 made it back out on track but there wasn't enough attrition in the race to save his season. Johnson finished 41st and ended up missing the 12-driver second round of the Chase by 12 points.

"It’s tough having a very inexpensive axle seal be the culprit and take your championship hopes away," Johnson said. It’s racing, I’ve had mechanicals take me out of championships growing up that led to some success for myself and I’m sure helped me with a championship or two.  It’s just part of racing.  It just shows how critical everything is on a race team. And how important every component is and you can’t take anything for granted. Heartbreaking for sure, but I don’t know what else we can do about it we just have to go on and try to win races and close out the season strong.”

The key to surviving the first two rounds of the Chase is simple. Avoid bad finishes. Sure, a win moves you on to the next round – just ask Dover winner Kevin Harvick, who won to advance despite two poor finishes in the first two races – but nine winless drivers were moving on Sunday. And with just three races in each round, there's not enough margin to overcome a porous finish. Especially when it happens in the final round of the Chase.

Johnson was eliminated in the second round of the 2014 Chase. He ended up 11th in the standings thanks to finishes of worse-than-30th at Martinsville and Phoenix. But he won at Texas. Given that the No. 48 is now free to go for wins and not worry about points, expect to see Johnson play spoiler over the next seven races as his shot at record-tying title No. 7 will have to wait until 2016.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 4, 2015, 11:31 pm

Dale Earnhardt finished Sunday's race at Dover in third, one spot ahead of Jamie McMurray. The noting of that spot is extremely important. Had Junior not gotten by McMurray in the closing laps of the race, he would have been out of the Chase's second round and McMurray would have been in.

Instead, Junior is moving on to the second round while McMurray is eliminated from title contention. The two tied for the final spot in the next round on points. But since Junior's third place finish on Sunday was higher than any finish McMurray had in the first three rounds of the Chase, the driver of the No. 88 is the one that's advancing.

"I didn't know what the points looked like but they just told me that I had to beat Jamie or [Kyle Busch]," Junior said. "We got around him on that last run. On that last restart he was trying to get into the bottom in front of [Matt Kenseth] into [turn 3] and they just kind of rolled that corner real slow for some reason. I drove in there on the outside with pretty much my only shot to get Jamie – can't really pass here so once a guy gets in front of you he's just going to block you and give you dirty air and you can't go anywhere even if you're a little better than him.

"So I just had to jump out there and hopefully it turned in the middle of the corner and didn't push. And it worked so we got around him. He would have advanced if we hadn't got that caution because I don't think we could have run him down."

Junior finished 12th, 25th and third in the first three races of the Chase. McMurray had finishes of 16th, 14th and 4th. McMurray scored more points in the three races but Earnhardt Jr. started the Chase with six bonus points due to his two regular season wins.

The caution that Junior references was when Landon Cassill had an engine problem with 30 laps to go. The caution before Cassill's was for Brett Moffitt's crash. In the laps preceding the Moffitt caution, Earnhardt Jr. was complaining of a loose wheel. The caution allowed Junior's team to change tires and fix the problem.

Junior's had fast cars through the first three races of the Chase; he's just had a few pit road miscues. Had the two cautions not come out and Junior was forced to pit for the wheel issue, he's not in the next round. 

"We did run third and I think we should have run third," Junior said. "We had a top five car. We had some issues on pit road and we're going to keep working on that. I think our guys are going to remedy that and get that sorted out. Had a couple of loose wheels and stuff. [Crew chief Greg Ives] is setting up the car really well. We've had great speed at a lot of these tracks in the past several weeks. We've just got to put these races together. We can't have any issues."

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 4, 2015, 11:06 pm

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Kevin Harvick is heading to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

After two issues in the first two races of the first round, Harvick was faced with a simple situation on Sunday. He needed to win at Dover to advance to the second round of the Chase. He did just that, dominating the race and pulling away on the final restart for his third win of the year.

While Harvick made it through to the second round, a huge name did not. Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson had a driveline issue on Sunday and was forced to head to the garage for repairs. The points he lost while in the garage were massive. He finished 41st and ended up 14th in the Chase standings.

The top 12 drivers after the first three races advance. Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer are also not moving on to the second round. McMurray (who finished fourth) tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who finished third) for the last advancing spot in the points standings. But since Junior had the highest finish in the first three races, he's in.

Harvick, the 2014 champion, has been incredibly fast recently at Dover. His success at the one-mile track was no surprise. But those fast runs had been foiled by problems. He was one of the best cars in this race one year ago and suffered a cut valve stem on a tire. Jeff Gordon ended up winning the race.

He was super fast in the first two races of this Chase too. He was leading when he bumped with Johnson at Chicago. The bump led to a tire rub and a crash (and a punch to Johnson's chest after the race) when Harvick and his team elected to attempt to hope the tire rub would go away rather than pit and fix the problem. A week ago at New Hampshire, Harvick was leading with three laps to go when he ran out of fuel.

“I think we’re better than we were last year just because of the experiences and things that we’ve had," Harvick said about the pressure to win on Sunday. "I think when we look at everything that’s gone on over the last couple of years, it’s just been a lot of fun. So, it’s just that never quit attitude. That’s what [team co-owner] Tony Stewart said when we went to Homestead last year. He said, ‘Whatever you do, do not quit until they throw that checkered flag’”.

2015 is the second year of NASCAR's elimination Chase format and it's now the second-straight year that a driver has won in a win-and-in scenario. In 2014's second round of the Chase, Brad Keselowski won at Talladega to stave off elimination. And while the moments are dramatic, they're not necessarily the best way to ensure your survival into the next round. Keselowski himself seemed prescient about Harvick's first round when he reflected on his 2014 Chase experience before the first race at Chicago.

"We were able to kind of connect the Hail Mary pass at Talladega to make it to the next bracket and then, sure enough, we went to Martinsville and broke a rear gear in the car and played from behind and didn’t quite connect on the Hail Mary at Texas," Keselowski said. "You don’t want to live and die by that, and I think the lesson learned there is you just can’t have failures."

You can't. Unless you win. Both Johnson and Harvick witnessed that up-close on Sunday.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 4, 2015, 10:31 pm

Austin Theriault suffered a compression fracture in his lower back after a vicious crash during Saturday night's Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas.

Yes, you guessed it too. Theriault's truck didn't hit a wall that was protected by SAFER barrier.

Theriault's teammate, Josh Reddick, had hit the wall ahead of him. Reddick saved his truck from spinning out and as he came back down the track he and Theriault made contact. The contact sent Theriault head-on into the wall.

Theriault, who has two top-five finishes and four top 10s in eight Truck starts in 2015, was able to climb from his truck but sat on the ground once he did. He was taken on a backboard to a nearby ambulance and transported to a Las Vegas hospital.

Update from @TeamBKR on @AustinTheriault after last nights crash @LVMotorSpeedway

— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) October 4, 2015

Kyle Busch's leg and foot injuries at Daytona came after he hit into an unprotected wall. When Denny Hamlin suffered a compression fracture in his lower back at Auto Club Speedway in 2013, he also hit a bare concrete wall. While no one is saying that SAFER barriers, the walls that are energy-absorbing with foam in the middle, prevent injuries, it's incredibly clear to anyone who follows racing that they certainly minimize the risk of them.

And once again, we'll write that it's inexplicable that NASCAR and its tracks haven't figured out a way to have them lining every possible wall. The sanctioning body is rich; look at the $4+ billion TV contract it signed. If it takes NASCAR footing the bill for all of its tracks to be as safe as possible, then so be it. Drivers don't need to be unnecessarily getting hurt. It's no longer acceptable for NASCAR and its tracks to pretend the sport is as safe as possible.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 4, 2015, 3:28 pm

Clint Bowyer's temporary Sprint Cup Series home is now publicly known.

HScott Motorsports announced that Bowyer would drive for the team in 2016 before he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing to replace Tony Stewart in 2017. Stewart announced his retirement from the Sprint Cup Series on Wednesday.

HScott Motorsports has a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing, which gets its equipment from Hendrick Motorsports. Yes, it's an alliance of an alliance. And the announcement isn't surprising in the slightest. HScott had been mentioned as Bowyer's likely one-year destination when rumors started to swirl that he would replace Stewart in 2017.

"I’ve got the best of the best when you talk about equipment," Bowyer said Friday. "We’ve got Hendrick engines; we’ve got ties to Stewart-Haas Racing. These are the guys that are winning the races.  I now have that bond, that connection to this kind of equipment.  So, for me as a racecar driver that is huge.  I think there isn’t a downfall. When I look at next season I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.  There is not any pressure.  We are building…you know Harry has got a wonderful organization.  Look he’s spread clear across this sport in so many ways, Xfinity, Cup, his K&N; he is spread so drastically across this sport it’s neat to be a part of that.  I mean I want to do more racing. I’m a race fan if I can’t be a part of it I want to be helping his K&N guys, helping the Xfinity program and being a part of all that.  I’m looking forward to it.”

It's not crazy to think Bowyer will be getting some added support from Stewart-Haas in 2016. HScott Motorsports currently fields cars for Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett. Both drivers are outside the top 25 in owners' points.

Team owner Harry Scott was non-committal when asked about his team's car count in 2016. He's previously said Annett is coming back in 2016. Allgaier could be the odd man out if the team stays at two cars. If the team expands to three, both Allgaier and Annett could stay.

"We really haven’t ruled out anything for 2016 or beyond," Scott said. "So I am not prepared to give you and answer on that because I simply don’t know at this point.”

Bowyer's current team, Michael Waltrip Racing, is shutting down at the end of the year. 5-Hour Energy, his sponsor since he arrived at MWR in 2012, is going to HScott Motorsports as well.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 2, 2015, 6:21 pm

Friday is a washout at Dover.

Persistent rain and the threat of more of it meant NASCAR canceled all track activity for the day at the one-mile concrete oval. The cancellation included qualifying, so that means Matt Kenseth will start first in Sunday's scheduled race.

When qualifying is canceled without any practice before it, the field is set according to points. After three wins in the regular season and finishes of fifth and first in the first two races of the year, Kenseth is the points leader. Denny Hamlin, who won the first race of the Chase at Chicagoland, starts second. It also means that the 14 other drivers in the Chase start in spots 3-16.

Here's how the rest of the starting grid looks. Only 43 cars attempted the race so no one will not qualify.

1. Matt Kenseth
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Carl Edwards
4. Joey Logano
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Ryan Newman
7. Kurt Busch
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Martin Truex Jr.
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Jamie McMurray
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
13. Kyle Busch
14. Paul Menard
15. Kevin Harvick
16. Clint Bowyer
17. Kasey Kahne
18. Aric Almirola
19. Kyle Larson
20. Greg Biffle
21. Austin Dillon
22. Casey Mears
23. AJ Allmendinger
24. Danica Patrick
25. Tony Stewart
26. Sam Hornish Jr.
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
28. David Ragan
29. Trevor Bayne
30. Justin Allgaier
31. Cole Whitt
32. David Gilliland
33. Landon Cassill
34. Brett Moffitt
35. Alex Bowman
36. Alex Kennedy
37. Matt DiBenedetto
38. Michael Annett
39. Jeb Burton
40. Reed Sorenson
41. Josh Wise
42. J.J. Yeley
43. Timmy Hill

The forecast for Sunday's race looks better. According to Weather Underground, the chances of rain are less than 40 percent throughout the entire day.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 2, 2015, 3:02 pm

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

NASCAR's always more fun with a favorite driver. If you don't have one, you're in the minority. And we legitimately want to know what you watch for if you don't.

Given the popularity of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, a lot of NASCAR fans are going to be looking for new favorite drivers in 2016 and 2017.

If you're a Gordon or Stewart fan, what do you do? Do you jump on the bandwagons of Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer? Going first person singular for a moment, Stewart was the driver of my youth. So this question holds special significance. 

Quite honestly, Stewart was the only sports figure/team that actually fulfilled my expectations as a kid. The Royals were terrible all throughout my formative years, the alma mater's football program only emerged from the doldrums right before I went to college and the Chiefs last won a playoff game when I was in first grade.

Stewart's 2002 and 2005 titles were my chances to celebrate.

This isn't meant to be a hero-worship post. When you start to cover a sport you start to see through the orchestrated circus it can be. And the longer you're around the less and less you feel like the race fan you were growing up even if you still continue to love racing itself.

But Stewart's continued presence in the Cup Series was the link to my childhood. His retirement announcement Wednesday was yet another realization that I'm an adult. And while the monthly mortgage payments are an even more real reminder of my adulthood and responsibility that comes with it, Wednesday felt surreal. Wait, am I really old enough for this to be happening?

So I got to thinking. If I was in your shoes and in the market for a new favorite driver starting in 2017, what criteria should I use? I put it to Twitter. And y'all had some good responses. Let's get to them.

@NickBromberg I can only speak for myself, but I don't. Pretty unhappy with NASCAR as a whole, so once Gordon is gone, I pretty much am too

— Carlie (@car724) September 30, 2015

We're thinking this is a minority opinion. This was the only response of its kind.

@NickBromberg Bowyer (no offense to him) has the same kind of personality as Smoke, but is about 80% the driver. Elliot is next Gordon.

— Benjamin P. Glaser (@BenjaminPGlaser) September 30, 2015

Is 80 percent too harsh? Bowyer has had success in the Chase even if he hasn't been in top-tier teams. His best shot came and went with a penalty at New Hampshire when he was with Richard Childress Racing. And now his MWR career is ending with a Chase penalty. 

@NickBromberg @Noble_Jim I can get behind Chase & see what kind of driver/person he becomes. Can't get behind Bowyer. We already saw his act

— Sandra Johnson (@Jollyracer6) October 1, 2015

But should those penalties and what happened at Richmond in 2013 be a reflection of Bowyer? Or should they be more a reflection of the teams? It's not like Bowyer acted independently from his team's desires when he spun at Richmond. Or he told his team to have a car that would fail inspection.

If penalties were such a telling thing when it comes to a driver's character, why is Jimmie Johnson so popular? With Bowyer now in Hendrick equipment, he has a chance to be one of the faces of NASCAR in the near-term. And that's not a bad thing. His public persona lines up with what a lot of NASCAR fans say they want from a driver.

@NickBromberg pick up a young gun :) Kyle Larson has very similar backgrounds to the 24/14 and would be a great pick

— Devin Smrekar (@Devin_Smrekar) September 30, 2015

Larson is going to be the trendy pick to make the Chase until he finally does. We say finally in jest. He'll probably be in it in 2016. Though a lot of people thought Larson would be in the Chase (and victory lane) in 2015. It's easy to see a NASCAR dominated by Larson and Chase Elliott in 2025.

@NickBromberg do people root for teams or drivers? If latter have to go with the guy who you like, regardless of affiliation

— Jim D (@lesscubes) September 30, 2015

Here's another good question. If you have a second favorite driver, do you go with him even if he's on a rival team? 

@NickBromberg Bowyer is an interesting/fun guy to watch and SHR/Hendrick Equipment is better than RCR or Waltrips. Could be a player again.

— Jim D (@lesscubes) September 30, 2015

@NickBromberg I've thought about this for years before JG announced his retirement. I'm going with Elliott.

— Steven Hayes (@shayes2448) October 1, 2015

Elliott has a real chance to take the mantle from Dale Earnhardt Jr. as NASCAR's most popular driver. He'll likely inherit a lot of Gordon fans and also Junior fans when Junior retires given Junior's affinity for Elliott.

@NickBromberg To me if you liked Smoke you drift to KH, gruff at times but can drive. JJ is younger JG, but Chase good choice for future

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) October 1, 2015

Brian also brings up a good point. If you're switching drivers, are you doing it for the near-term or do you do it with an eye on the long-term? There's no problem in switching again in a few years if your new favorite retires, but you can't go hopping on the Elliott bandwagon a year after you're on the Bowyer bandwagon and he finishes 12th in points or something. 

@NickBromberg I would think a Smoke fan would want to stay w/ SHR since he owns it. Thats what I did for Dale Sr and will do for Jr

— Nick Knezevich (@itsKnez) October 1, 2015

@NickBromberg Clint just got a new fan. Gonna stick with SHR.

— Stewfan (@Stewfan1439) October 1, 2015

Stewart's continued presence at SHR could keep a lot of fans there too. If not Bowyer, then Harvick. While Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick could be options, Bowyer and Harvick seem like the clear cut choices of new-favorite SHR driver.

@NickBromberg As a Gordon fan I will probably root for Chase Elliott but not having a favorite is also fine to me. Makes it easier to enjoy.

— Now-Employed Phoenix (@TightOff) October 1, 2015

@NickBromberg as a Gordon fan since 1997, I will be in limbo. Although, I am leaning toward a couple people, but nothing like I had for Jeff

— James Little (@jflittle) October 1, 2015

@NickBromberg I just don't think I'll find IT in any other driver, but that could be because I am not a kid any more.

— James Little (@jflittle) October 1, 2015

And James is on to something as well. We all know that sports fandom changes from when you're a kid to you're an adult. You may not be as fanatical about one or two drivers as an adult as you were in high school. 

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 1, 2015, 5:07 pm

The restart zone at Dover will be twice the size it was previously scheduled to be.

NASCAR said Thursday that the restart zone would be 140 feet instead of 70 feet. The lengthening comes a week after Brad Keselowski was penalized for jumping a restart at New Hampshire. Keselowski, who restarted in second alongside race leader Greg Biffle, was the first car to the start/finish line. Keselowski was disciplined with a pass-through penalty on pit road.

Keselowski's penalty came after NASCAR had threatened to treat restarts differently than it had all season. The sanctioning body had been incredibly lenient when it comes to the games that drivers play on restarts throughout the 2015 season. While it's understandable that the sanctioning body wanted to crack down on the games in the Chase, it should never have allowed the restart shenanigans to get to the point where restarts were the dominant topic at the Chase media day.

In a perfect world, the longer restart zone gives the leader more of an opportunity to choose when he restarts the race. The zone is placed at the exit of turn four and the leader, when the race is about to go green after a caution flag, has control of the restart. Instead of starting the race via the starter in the flagstand and when he waives the green flag, the leader has the opportunity to start the race by being the first to accelerate.

With a longer restart zone, the second-place car has twice as long to anticipate the start and the leader would theoretically have a greater advantage. The restart zones will be lengthened for the rest of the 2015 races too. 

Will it work? We'll find out, though it may not be this weekend. With the possible track of Hurricane Joaquin and a storm system heading towards Dover for the weekend, Sunday's race may be in jeopardy. NASCAR has not made any official and public contingency plans for the race and is likely hoping Joaquin heads out to sea and there's enough of a break in the weather to run the race.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 1, 2015, 4:21 pm

Tony Stewart, your challenge has been accepted. 

Stewart, who announced his Sprint Cup Series retirement following the 2016 season on Wednesday, joked that he wanted to see a headline with Clint Bowyer's analogy. Bowyer, who is replacing Stewart in the No. 14 car in 2017, made a farm reference when talking about getting the opportunity to drive Stewart's car.

"I don't really – I don't think I got fired; it just went away, and somehow you landed in a way better situation," Bowyer said of the end of his tenure at Michael Waltrip Racing. "Do you ever hear that term when you fall in a pile of cow manure and come out smelling like roses? That's exactly what this is for me."

Bowyer's current team, Michael Waltrip Racing, is shutting down at the end of the season. Bowyer will be driving elsewhere in 2016, likely on a one-year deal, and then moving over to the No. 14 after Stewart completes his final tour of the Cup Series.

"You know, everything in racing is timing, and the opportunity to get somebody like Clint Bowyer, I mean, that's when you know you seize the opportunity," Stewart said. "We're probably going to have a hard time working together and communicating with each other. We probably won't have any fun racing. It's the right time, it's the right opportunity, and when somebody in a scenario like Clint's this year came about, you jump on those opportunities, and you know that timing is everything."

Bowyer is widely expected to have a ride at HScott Motorsports for the 2016 season. The team has an alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing. Bowyer said Wednesday that any announcements about his temporary home would be made later in the week.

Bowyer's unveiling at Stewart-Haas also came the same day that his current team's penalty appeal was denied by NASCAR's appeals panel. Bowyer, who is in the Chase, saw his team penalized 25 points for a violation during opening inspection at Chicago. The penalty wiped out the points he earned at Chicago. After the appeal was denied, MWR said it would not place a final appeal of the penalties.

The penalties also included a fine and three-race suspension for crew chief Billy Scott.

Bowyer hasn't won a race since 2012, when he finished second in the standings. He made the Chase in 2013 and while he's back for the third time in four seasons, he hasn't been consistently competitive as MWR slowly unraveled.

"Just like I said earlier, to think of that door opening, and holy cow, the timing couldn't have been any better for myself, just somebody was looking after me," Bowyer said. "To line up with this championship‑winning organization and then kind of alluding to what you asked Tony there, his championships and everything that he's done, it's really easy to understand what he's done on the racetrack, but his brand, I've lived through my whole life of Tony Stewart's brand and what that means to motorsports, what it means to younger drivers coming up through weekly racing series all through the country, my late model teams that are racing nationally."

"Attaching your name to that brand and building on that, the people you can attract, just look at this powerhouse that he has helped create, and it's because of that brand of Tony Stewart and the people flock to that, whether it's employees or partners or whatever the case may be. Definitely when I heard that that seat was open, I was on board. They didn't have to call me."

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

Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart said Wednesday that 2016 will be his final season in the Sprint Cup Series. Following Jeff Gordon's retirement announcement in January we noted 10 moments from Gordon's career. And given that Stewart is also a surefire Hall of Famer, he gets the same treatment.

Here are 10 of the defining moments of Tony Stewart's racing career. The list includes both the positive and the negative and aren't in any specific order.

Winning the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship: You can credit Stewart with NASCAR’s current one-race-winner-take-all-at-Homestead Chase format.

Stewart entered the 2011 Chase winless. He won the first race of the Chase at Chicago and proceeded to win four of the first eight races, while Carl Edwards stayed at the top of the points standings thanks to a bunch of top-10s. The two drivers entered the Chase’s final race at Homestead incredibly close in the standings and if Stewart got a fifth win, he’d win the title over Edwards no matter what the driver of the No. 99 did.

Edwards out-qualified Stewart and he was near the front all day while Stewart dropped back as his team fixed some minor damage early in the race. It was apparent the two had the two fastest cars of the weekend and thanks to a gutsy pit call and the timing of a yellow flag for rain, Stewart and Edwards raced heads-up for the title.

It was the greatest race in NASCAR’s Chase era. Stewart kept Edwards at an arm’s length over the final 30 laps for his fifth win while Edwards finished second. The two ended the Chase tied on points, but since Stewart had those five victories to Edwards’ one, he was crowned the champion.

Striking Kevin Ward in August 2014: A fun sprint car excursion the night before the Watkins Glen race turned sour after Stewart and Ward were racing together. Ward’s car hit the wall and he angrily exited his car to confront Stewart. As he walked down the track he gestured towards Stewart’s car and was hit by the right rear tire. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

After a lengthy investigation, Stewart was not ultimately criminally charged by an Ontario County (NY) grand jury. The Ontario County District Attorney said there was no evidence of aberrational driving by Stewart and Stewart has maintained that the incident was 100 percent an accident.

Stewart returned to the Sprint Cup Series after missing three races. He crashed in his first race back at Atlanta. In August of 2015, almost one year to the day, the Ward family filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Stewart. The case is pending. 

Winning five of seven races in 2005: Stewart won his second Sprint Cup title in 2005 and his first in the Chase era. And while he had an exceptional Chase, his season is more remembered for the remarkable summer run he had. Stewart won at Sonoma, Daytona, Loudon, Indianapolis and Watkins Glen in a stretch of seven races. He finished fifth and seventh in the other two races. The five wins also came within a stretch of 13 straight top-10 finishes.

The streak of top-10s ended at Dover in the second race of the Chase and Stewart slipped to fifth in the standings. But he moved up to first after finishing second at Talladega a week later and led the rest of the season. 

Suffering a broken leg in an August 2013 sprint car accident: Stewart missed the remainder of the Cup season after suffering a gnarly compound fracture in his lower right leg in a sprint car accident in Iowa.

Stewart was racing for fun when he was caught up in a crash and a piece of the car smashed his leg. He underwent multiple surgeries for the injury and has a nasty scar on his leg. The wreck also came not long after he was involved in an accident in a sprint car race in Canada. 

Stewart returned to the Sprint Cup circuit on crutches and a scooter not long after the accident and was back in the cockpit for the 2014 Daytona 500.

Coming up short in the Daytona 500: Stewart has had a ton of success at Daytona. He’s won the Coke Zero 400, the Daytona 500 qualifying races and the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race. He’s just never won the Daytona 500.

His list of Daytona heartbreaks is Earnhardtian at this rate. He blew an engine and completed two laps in 2002, the season of his first Cup title. He crashed while leading with Kurt Busch with 50 laps to go in 2007. And he was leading on the last lap in 2008 when he was passed by Ryan Newman.

Stewart has one more shot to win the Daytona 500 in 2016. Given his career to date, we won’t count him out. But we’re also cognizant of the ways Stewart has lost Daytona 500s throughout his 17-year career. If he doesn’t win in 2016, he’ll finish his career 0-18 in NASCAR’s biggest race.

Moving to Stewart-Haas Racing: Many people wondered what the heck Stewart was doing when he left Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2008 season. But Gene Haas had offered him a deal too good to pass up. 

Haas was fielding a struggling two-car team and offered Stewart 50-percent stake in the team if he’d come on board. Stewart agreed and the team hired Ryan Newman to be its second driver.

Stewart won his first points race for the team in June of 2009 and 15 of his 48 career Cup Series wins are with SHR. The team, which formed a strong technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports when Stewart arrived, is now a four-car team with three Sprint Cup champions on its roster. The team also has two Cup Series titles in the past five seasons after Kevin Harvick won the 2014 title.

Winning the USAC Triple Crown: Sprint car racing has always been Stewart’s racing love and he became widely known as an up-and-coming driver when he won the USAC Triple Crown in 1995. Stewart was the first driver to win USAC’s Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midget Car classes and only J.J. Yeley has been able to repeat the feat. 

A year after winning the Triple Crown, Stewart had a ride in the IndyCar Series. 

Winning the 1997 IndyCar title: Stewart competed in three IndyCar races in 1996. One of those was the Indianapolis 500, where he qualified first and led 44 laps before an engine failure took him out of the running before the race was even halfway over.

A year later, Stewart was an IndyCar champion. He won at Pikes peak in June and took home the series title at Las Vegas by finishing 11th. He beat Davey Hamilton by six points in his first of two full-time seasons in the series. He finished third in 1998 as he did double-duty between IndyCar and what’s now the Xfinity Series. 

A roller-coaster week in 2002: Stewart was frustrated after the 2002 Brickyard 400 and took his emotions out on an Indianapolis Star photographer. Stewart punched the photographer in the chest following the race as the photographer took pictures of Stewart walking through the garage. Stewart was put on probation by Joe Gibbs Racing and fined by NASCAR. 

He ended up winning the next race at Watkins Glen, leading the final 19 laps and pulling away from Ryan Newman. 

Winning his first Sprint Cup race: Stewart ran 22 races in the Xfinity Series in 1998 and had five top-five finishes. A year later he was in the Cup Series. Stewart was in the top-10 in the standings after the eighth race of the year and stayed there the rest of the way,

He got his first win at Richmond in the 25th race of the season when he led 333 of the race’s 400 laps. After three more top-five finishes over the next seven races, Stewart then won at Phoenix and Homestead. He finished fourth in the standings. 

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 30, 2015, 7:13 pm

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Tony Stewart said Wednesday that his decision to retire from the Sprint Cup Series was 100 percent his.

The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion seemed at ease and was self-deprecating as he announced he would be stepping away from the No. 14 car at the end of the 2016 season. Stewart's retirement will come after 18 years in the Sprint Cup Series. He currently has 48 wins, though he hasn't won since 2013.

Stewart, 44, said he had thought about retiring at the end of the 2015 season. However, he cited Jeff Gordon's retirement tour this season as inspiration for waiting another year. Gordon said in January that 2015 would be his last season in the Cup Series before moving to the announcing booth.

"To be perfectly honest there was a really good possibility that this would have happened at the end of this year," Stewart said. "And the reason that we decided is 100 percent because of the fans that have supported us through the years ... I've been able to follow what Jeff's done this year and see how much it's meant to the fans to watch him race and the knowledge and knowing that it's their last year to watch him, that's important to me to be able to do this for our fans who have stuck with us through thick and thin and supported us."

Stewart won't be doing TV in 2017. He'll still have his hands full being the co-owner of a four-car team at Stewart-Haas Racing. SHR currently also fields cars for Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick. The team also made it official on Wednesday that Clint Bowyer would replace Stewart in 2017 behind the wheel of the No. 14 car.

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Bowyer, who is considered likely to drive for HScott Motorsports on a one-year deal in 2016, is leaving Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the season.

Stewart won two Sprint Cup championships with Joe Gibbs Racing. He was offered a 50-percent stake in what was Haas CNC Racing before the 2009 season and seized the opportunity to be a Sprint Cup owner.

Haas CNC was a Cup Series backmarker before Stewart joined. The team formed a strong technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart was in victory lane before the halfway point of his debut season. He won his third championship in 2011 and Stewart-Haas won a second championship in 2014 with Harvick.

"But without Tony, we never would have turned in to the super team that we are now, winning two championships," co-owner Gene Haas said.

Harvick addressed Stewart's retirement on Instagram.

Stewart is currently 25th in the Sprint Cup standings. His last win came at Dover in June of 2013. He missed parts of 2013 and 2014. He broke his leg in a sprint car accident in August 2013 and missed the remainder of the season. In 2014, he missed three races after he hit and killed Kevin Ward in a sprint car race. Stewart was not criminally charged in the incident. The Ward family filed a civil lawsuit this past August.

Stewart said the broken leg and the Ward tragedy had "zero percent" effect on his decision to retire from the Cup Series. He hasn't run sprint cars since he struck Ward but said he won't be done racing completely after the 2016 season.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 30, 2015, 5:22 pm

NASCAR said Tuesday that the sport held a meeting with Sprint Cup Series owners to talk about the future of ownership in the sport.

Franchising has been a popular discussion point over the last few seasons. While NASCAR's statement didn't use the word franchise or any of its derivatives, it was clear that the sport did discuss a franchising model or something resembling one with the owners.

“Earlier today NASCAR met with all Sprint Cup Series owners and presented framework concepts for future qualification to compete in NASCAR’s top national series with an eye toward implementing a new model for the 2016 season. The on-going dialogue with the entire industry has been very good and today’s session was another productive step in that process. NASCAR, the tracks and the team owners all have the same collective goal: making the sport as strong and competitive as it can be for decades to come.

“Today’s meeting was one step in the process. There is still a lot of work to be done and that will continue over the coming months. We understand there will be speculation and rumors related to the concepts outlined today, but would caution against coming to any conclusions as we work toward final decisions. When it is appropriate to do so, NASCAR will make an official announcement. In the meantime, we are excited about the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and this weekend’s race at Dover.”

NASCAR's statement makes it obvious; there are more questions than answers at this point. Would there be an assigned value per team? Would two-car teams have half the value of a four-car team? How would new owners start out in NASCAR if there was a franchising model? Would a new system replace the current practice of selling points? When Michael Waltrip Racing shuts down at the end of the season, the team would be able to sell its points to an existing team or new team for the 2016 season. The new owner of the points would then have a higher priority if a provisional starting spot was needed early in the season.

The discussions are likely part of the goal of the Race Team Alliance, which consists of all the major Sprint Cup Series teams. The RTA has said that one of its main goals is to help create a better and more efficient business model for teams in the Cup Series.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 29, 2015, 10:08 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 and we'll try to have some fun.

1. Matt Kenseth (LW: 7): With the win on Sunday, Kenseth is guaranteed to move on to the second round and we're going to go out on a limb and say he makes it to the third. The JGR cars have been mighty fast at the 1.5-mile tracks recently and Kenseth has become very good at Talladega. If Kenseth does make it to the final round, can we avoid talk of how Kenseth slumped last year? Because, as we've said before, he really didn't. He just missed victory lane. With his win on Sunday, he's now had at least 12 top-five finishes in the last five seasons.

2. Denny Hamlin (LW: 2): So much for taking it easy for two races. Hamlin ended up second on Sunday, though he wasn't even close to the lead. He was 8.4 seconds from Kenseth with the checkered flag flew. It's a farfetched scenario, but what if the four JGR cars are near the front of the field late in Sunday's race? Do Kenseth, Hamlin and Carl Edwards pull over for Kyle Busch? While some NASCAR fans wouldn't approve, it's the best strategy. Especially if it could get Busch into the second round.

3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 4): After cutting a tire and fighting back to finish ninth, Johnson needs to avoid disaster at his best track and he'll cruise on in to the second round of the Chase. That shouldn't be a problem. But when thinking back to that flat left-front tire, it's easy to think that there's a chance Johnson could be down with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the standings if his car had careened into the wall. How nutty would a second-round Chase scenario without those three drivers be?

4. Carl Edwards (LW: 5): Edwards recovered nicely on Sunday and finished fifth. While fighting back from a penalty isn't necessarily playing it conservatively, Edwards can be the test case for why teams (read: Harvick) should always risk avoiding the worst-case scenario. Edwards had to serve a drive-through penalty for removing equipment from his pit box and fell all the way to 25th at one point. He made up 20 spots in the last half of the race.

5. Joey Logano (LW: 8): Logano mentioned Friday how he felt his team was hanging with Joe Gibbs Racing over the summer. The stats prove him right – Logano had two wins in August – and he was the first non-JGR car in the race results after finishing third. Plus, he's tied with Carl Edwards for the most points among drivers without a win in the first two races of the Chase.

6. Kurt Busch (LW: 3): Busch ended up finishing 19th after he was forced to pit for fuel late in the race. He's in a decent position heading into Dover, however. He's 17 points up on his brother, who is the first driver out of the Chase currently. Plus, Busch is in a much better position than he was last year. After he finished 36th at New Hampshire in 2014 he was eight points out of 12th. He was 18th at Dover and missed the second round of the Chase.

7. Ryan Newman (LW: 6): Newman finished 10th, though you're not liable to remember where Newman finished when asked about his most memorable moment of Sunday's race. That's his run-in with Danica Patrick. Newman's car appeared to skate up entering turn one and he tagged Patrick. She went spinning into the wall and then there was a giant foam explosion.

8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 9): Keselowski won't be penalized for his comments following Sunday's race. And that's good. Because his statement is correct when you look at it within the context of the Chase. Yes, we sound like a broken record, but the Chase is set up for entertainment and not fairness. A driver can have one bad race and be eliminated from contention under this system while another rides three mediocre finishes to the next round. That's not fair. And NASCAR likely knows this.

9. Kyle Busch (LW: 2): If Busch doesn't advance to the second round of the Chase at Dover, when do we start wondering about a Chase hex? We kid, though you'll certainly start to see talk of that nature if he's left out of the 12 drivers moving on. Busch is going to win a race over the next eight races. We're just not sure if it'll happen when he's a member of the Chase or not.

10 Jeff Gordon (LW: 12): Gordon is doing just enough to move on and that's perfectly acceptable. And, quite honestly, expected. Gordon getting to the second round isn't a surprise. But will he get to the third round? To do that, he'll have to get his first top-five since Pocono in August. Yes, it's been that long. Unless Gordon goes on an incredibly remarkable hot streak, 2015 is bound to be the worst year of his career in terms of top fives. He currently has three. He's never had less than seven.

11. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 11): How many times do you think it's crossed Truex's mind if he could have his teams switch manufacturers before the end of the season? Jumping into a Toyota with JGR-backed data must be incredibly appealing. Truex finished 8th at New Hampshire Sunday and if he gets to the second round of the Chase, expect to see a replay or two of his first career Cup Series win on Sunday.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 10): Outside of Kevin Harvick, the biggest fuel gamble that fell short at New Hampshire is Junior's. The No. 88 finished 25th and Junior is now one point from the outside of the top 12. Yes, it is conceivable (though not super likely) that three of the four drivers not moving on to the second round would be Busch, Earnhardt Jr. and Harvick. Oh boy.

The DNF: Harvick didn't DNF, but man, what a rough way to put yourself in a win-and-in scenario at Dover. Harvick had the day's dominant car, but the pit call on the final caution came too late and Harvick stayed out. He then wasn't able to save enough fuel over the course of the final run because of pressure from Matt Kenseth and ... well, good luck at Dover, champ.

Lucky Dog: Greg Biffle, congrats on winning the Sylvania 300 minus all of the Chase drivers. He finished 4th.

Dropped Out: No One:

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 29, 2015, 9:51 pm

Haas F1's inaugural effort will have an experienced Formula 1 driver behind the wheel.

The team said Tuesday that Romain Grosjean will be one of its two drivers. Haas F1, owned by Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas, is entering Formula 1 in 2016. The team will have Ferrari engines.

“What Gene Haas and everyone at Haas F1 Team is building is impressive, and I’m very proud to be a part of it,” Grosjean said in a statement. “Formula One is incredibly competitive and the only way to succeed is by finding new ways of doing things. This is a new opportunity with a new team that is taking a very different approach to Formula One. I believe in their approach and they believe in me. While I am committed to giving my absolute best to my current team in these last five races, I am very excited for what the future holds at Haas F1 Team.”

Grosjean, 29, currently drives for Lotus, which is in the midst of financial turmoil at the moment. Grosjean had six podium finishes and finished seventh in the 2013 standings. He was 14th in 2014 as the team struggled with reliability issues and is ninth in the 2015 standings. His only podium finish this season came at Spa where he finished third.

“We wanted an experienced driver capable of developing our car and our race team into one that can score points and better itself each race and each season. We found him in Romain Grosjean,” Haas said in a statement. “I’ve been involved in motorsports for a long time and learned early on the most crucial component is the driver. Romain has strong credentials and he will be an important asset to Haas F1 Team.”

A second driver is to be announced for the team. Many believe it will be Esteban Gutierrez, who is currently a Ferrari reserve driver. Gutierrez drove for Sauber in 2013 and 2014.

Haas F1 will be the first U.S.-based team to race in F1 since Haas Lola in 1985 and 1986 (Note: Haas Lola was owned by Carl Haas of open-wheel's Newman-Haas Racing).

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 29, 2015, 3:32 pm

Ben Carson isn't a fan of abolishing the Confederate flag completely.

The Republican presidential candidate was with seven-time Sprint Cup Series champion Richard Petty at one of Petty's Victory Junction camps on Monday. Given that he was in the presence of NASCAR greatness he was asked about the Confederate flag, which has been one of the biggest topics of the 2015 NASCAR season.

Discussion about the flag intensified across the country following the shootings at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June. NASCAR asked that its fans refrain from displaying the flag while attending NASCAR events. The request elicited reaction from those who didn't agree with the request and Confederate flags could still be seen at NASCAR races.

Carson said he felt people should still be able to fly the flag on their private property. NASCAR's request does not have anything to do with the First Amendment because tracks have the right to decide what is and isn't permissible on private property.

Carson's analogy, however, was a bit suspect. From the AP:

Carson told the AP that NASCAR fans should continue flying the flag ''if it's private property and that's what they want to do.''

He also acknowledged the flag remains ''a symbol of hate'' for many black people and compared it to the Nazi swastika.

''Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people, too. And yet they still exist in museums and places like that,'' Carson said, describing the decision about flying the flag ''a local issue.'' ''If it's a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn't take it down.''

Museums are, of course, a place where we remember and re-live history. And, quite frankly, that's where a lot of people want the Confederate flag to be. By bringing up museums, Carson indirectly referenced the argument that many people have made in supporting the abolition of the Confederate flag.

The flag was removed from the grounds of the South Carolina capitol after the shootings. A majority of South Carolina residents supported the flag's presence at the capitol grounds a year before the shootings; there was an explicit shift in public perception after the alleged hate crime.

Carson, who is one of the frontrunners for his party's nomination in 2016, got the support of Petty at the event.

'We're hoping he's endorsing the camp, we're not necessarily endorsing him, but we are - you know what I mean?'' Petty, in his trademark cowboy hat and sunglasses, said in a brief interview with the Associated Press. He later posed for pictures aboard Carson's campaign bus.

''He's very humane,'' Petty said when asked what he liked about Carson. ''That's one of his strong points as far as we're concerned.''

The first primary isn't until February.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 29, 2015, 2:28 pm

Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart will reportedly retire after the 2016 season. first reported the news that Stewart, 44, is set to vacate the No. 14 car and Clint Bowyer will take over in 2017. Stewart's retirement would come a year after another icon's departure. Jeff Gordon is retiring from driving full-time after the 2015 season.

Stewart-Haas Racing has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday afternoon with Stewart and team co-owner Gene Haas.

Stewart, who won the 2002, 2005 and 2011 Sprint Cup titles, has struggled over the past two seasons. In 2013, he missed the last third of the Sprint Cup Series season after suffering a broken leg in a sprint car accident. In 2014, he missed three races after he struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car accident in upstate New York. Stewart was not charged with a crime. Ward's family filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Stewart this August.

Stewart is currently 25th in the Sprint Cup standings. He finished 11th at New Hampshire on Sunday.

He came to the Cup Series in 1999 with Joe Gibbs Racing. He won two championships with the team and left after the 2008 season. He was given a 50 percent stake in Stewart-Haas Racing and became the first owner-driver in NASCAR since Alan Kulwicki to win the Cup Series title when he won in 2011. He beat Carl Edwards that season via tiebreaker. Stewart won the final race to tie Edwards on points and won the championship because he had more wins.

Stewart has 48 career Sprint Cup series victories and is also the 1997 IndyCar Series champion. He's also the owner of Eldora Speedway, a dirt track in Ohio where the Camping World Truck Series now hosts an annual race.

Bowyer has long been rumored to take over the No. 14 if Stewart decided to vacate it. He's leaving Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the year as the team shuts down. According to Motorsport, Bowyer is expected to drive for HScott Motorsports in 2016. The team has an equipment affiliation with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Bowyer is currently 16th in the Cup standings after he was penalized 25 points for an inspection violation at Chicago. Stewart-Haas Racing fields cars for Stewart, 2014 champion Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 27, 2015, 11:57 pm

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Matt Kenseth swiped his second fuel-mileage win of 2015 on Sunday at New Hampshire and is now guaranteed a berth in the second round of the Chase.

Kenseth wasn't in fuel conservation mode over the final laps of the race. He had pitted approximately 60 laps from the finish and had plenty of gas to make it. Kevin Harvick, the race's leader, was attempting to stretch his fuel. He ran out of gas with three laps to go to give Kenseth the win.

As Kenseth finished fifth at Chicago in the first race of the Chase, Harvick, the 2014 champion, was 42nd. He was going for the win and the automatic berth into the next round. But either he was pushed too hard by Kenseth to save enough fuel or his team simply miscalculated. And because of it, Harvick is in a win-and-in situation at Dover.

He's currently 15th in the points standings after finishing 21st and 23 points behind 12th. Not only does he have to make up the 23 points on Dale Earnhardt Jr. (or more on another driver), he has to leapfrog Kyle Busch and Paul Menard in the process.

Kenseth's win is the fourth-straight for Joe Gibbs Racing and the second time this season that the team has won four straight races. Not only are Kenseth and Denny Hamlin now in the second round of the Chase because of their wins, teammate Carl Edwards is tied with Joey Logano for the most points among drivers without wins.

Kenseth won at Pocono in August when the drivers ahead of him ran out of gas.

While the No. 4 team's fuel mismanagement will end up being the dominant storyline from Sunday's race, another one emerged that could potentially change the complexion of the Chase over the next eight races.

After being lenient regarding the tacitcs and games drivers play on restarts throughout the entirety of the 2015 season, the sanctioning body penalized Brad Keselowski for jumping the race's final restart. Here's a replay of the incident.

Greg Biffle, the car on the outside, was the leader. He maintained his speed, though given that the cars behind him stacked up, he might have spun his tires on the start. As Biffle stayed stagnant through the restart zone, Keselowski accelerated. Since Biffle was the leader and Keselowski went before him, the No. 2 car was penalized. He had to serve a drive-through penalty.

Looks like Biffle slowed down. And Kes went.

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) September 27, 2015

"It's a pretty basic understanding, it's an entertainment sport and not a fair sport," Keselowski said when asked by NBC of his understanding of the restart call. "We had a great car, the team on the No. 2 ... was really strong. I don't know if we would have beat [Kenseth] and [Denny Hamlin] it looked like they probably had four tires but like I said, heck of a rebound. Really proud of my guys today."

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Was it an egregious penalty if it was a penalty at all? It's tough to tell. And that's the problem NASCAR is facing when it comes to clarity about its restarts. In the first race of the Chase at Chicago, Jeff Gordon appeared to have jumped the restart much more severely than Keselowski did. NASCAR didn't penalize him.

Why? who knows. The restart zone and those aforementioned tactics and the whole host of variables (tires spinning, a missed shift, etc) open up restarts for a whole lot of interpretation for drivers, fans and the sanctioning body itself. Keselowski recovered to finish 15th and is still safely inside the top 12. But if NASCAR calls another restart penalty later in the Chase, there could be much more severe points consequences.

Here's how the Chase field looks heading into Dover:

1. Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth
3. Carl Edwards, +33 points on 13th
3. Joey Logano, +33
5. Jimmie Johnson, +27
6. Ryan Newman, +18
7. Kurt Busch, +17
8. Brad Keselowski, +16
9. Martin Truex Jr., +15
10. Jeff Gordon, +12
11. Jamie McMurray, +2
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr., +1: Junior was another driver who tried to stretch his fuel supply. He was forced to pit and finished 25th.
13. Kyle Busch, -1
14. Paul Menard, -1
15. Kevin Harvick, -23
16. Clint Bowyer, -39


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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 27, 2015, 9:53 pm

Kyle Busch is needing a win or some poor finishes from other drivers at Dover.

Busch, who had four wins in 15 regular season races in 2015, slammed the wall during Sunday's second race of the Chase at New Hampshire. He immediately took his car to the garage.

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The culprit appeared to be a flat right front tire. Busch's car went straight into the wall. The right side of his car was flattened and there was no way he'd be able to stay out on the track.

Busch will undoubtedly have a poor finish. The live points after his crash showed him outside the top 12 heading into Dover. After Dover, the third race of the Chase, the top 12 drivers in the Chase move on while the bottom four are eliminated. Busch can advance in the Chase by winning at Dover or getting into the top 12.

He missed the first 11 races of the season after he broke his leg and foot at Daytona in February in an Xfinity Series race. Busch got a waiver from NASCAR to be Chase eligible provided that he got into the top 30 in points. Thanks to those four wins, he did so easily.

Kevin Harvick, who has dominated at New Hampshire so far, is also in a similar situation. He finished 42nd at Chicago after a tire blew and he hit the wall.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 27, 2015, 8:05 pm

Jeff Gordon set a NASCAR record when Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire started.

The race was Gordon's 789th consecutive start in the Cup Series, breaking the mark once held by Ricky Rudd. Gordon has started every race in the Cup Series since the final race of the 1992 season.

"To me looking back throughout my career I never planned for this," Gordon said Friday. "I never thought about it a whole lot, but now as I’ve gotten closer to it…I remember talking to some people within my team over the last year. When you start getting closer to that number then you start recognizing the significance of it. Then the ‘wow’ factor comes in. I like stats. Stats are good, especially when they are wins and top fives and poles and championships. This is not a stat that I have ever thought about, but now that I’ve reached it I’m thinking about it a lot and I think it’s one of the most significant stats that I’ve had.”  

Barring anything unexpected, Gordon will retire at the end of the season with 797 consecutive starts in the Cup Series. He's stepping out of the No. 24 car at the end of the season to move to the broadcast booth for Fox Sports. Chase Elliott will replace him.

Gordon is in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup and shooting for his fifth Cup Series title. He hasn't won a series title since 2001, though he's finished in the top 10 in points in 11 of the previous 13 seasons.

It'll be a while before Gordon's record is challenged, too. Matt Kenseth is second among active drivers in career starts with 565. With 36 points races currently on NASCAR's schedule, Kenseth, 43, would need to drive for over six more seasons without missing a race to break Gordon's mark.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 27, 2015, 6:35 pm

Surprise, surprise. Furniture Row Racing will field a Toyota in 2016.

The partnership was made official Sunday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The team also announced that Martin Truex Jr. would be staying for 2016 as well. That news was no surprise either. Truex and the team had expressed their desire to stay together for the upcoming season.

Another look at the Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry 78 for the 2016 season. #NASCAR

— Furniture Row Racing (@FR78Racing) September 27, 2015

And why not? Furniture Row made the Chase for the second time in its history and Truex won the team's second race at Pocono earlier this year.

Furniture Row currently has an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and fields a Chevrolet. FRR will now get technical data from Joe Gibbs Racing and be the manufacturer's fifth factory-backed team for 2016. Michael Waltrip Racing, the other factory Toyota team in the Sprint Cup Series, likely won't exist in 2016.

"As we continue our quest to be a contender for this year’s Sprint Cup championship, it's hard not to feel the excitement and enthusiasm of becoming an integral partner with Toyota next season," Furniture Row team president Joe Garone said in a statement. "The added resources and technical support that Toyota will provide, along with having a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, definitely increases the growth potential for our team.

“The track record of Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing speaks for itself. They are both proven winners with an unyielding commitment to raising the performance bar in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series."

Joe Gibbs Racing has been the Cup Series' fastest team this summer. The team is looking for its fourth-straight win at New Hampshire on Sunday after winning the last three races.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 27, 2015, 4:23 pm

Furniture Row Racing's long-rumored move to Toyota looks like its becoming official.

The team is reportedly set to announce the switch on Sunday morning. Toyota has a press conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and Chevrolet confirmed to that the team was leaving the manufacturer.

“We thank Furniture Row Racing for all of the team’s hard work and accomplishments over the past decade, and we wish Barney Visser and his organization continued success with their future endeavors,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports.

By moving to Toyota, the team instantly moves higher on the totem pole with its new manufacturer. At Chevy, the team had an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and essentially served as the team's fourth car. But Chevy also had the four cars at Hendrick Motorsports and the four Hendrick-equipped cars at Stewart-Haas Racing to support. With the downfall of Michael Waltrip Racing, Furniture Row joins Joe Gibbs Racing as the only Toyota team in 2016.

The team, with Martin Truex Jr. driving the No. 78 car, is also expected to stay as a one-car team in 2016. Truex made the Chase in his second year with the team in 2015 and won earlier in the year at Pocono. He moved to Furniture Row for the 2014 season after he was forced to leave MWR when NAPA left the team following the September 2013 Richmond race manipulation scandal.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 26, 2015, 4:31 pm

Carl Edwards qualified first for the second straight time at new Hampshire and will lead the field to green on Sunday.

Edwards, who finished seventh in July at New Hampshire, is looking to not only win and automatically move on to the next round but also give Joe Gibbs Racing its second streak of four wins in a row this year. With Edwards' win at Darlington, Matt Kenseth's at Richmond and Denny Hamlin's at Chicago, the team has won the previous three races.

And while Edwards will start first, the man starting alongside of him might have generated more buzz throughout Friday. Kevin Harvick qualified second and had been silent towards reporters all day making inquiries about his post-Chicago incident with Jimmie Johnson. Since he qualified second, Harvick was mandated to come to the media center. He didn't offer much, however, and said he wasn't going to use the media to make threats.

Harvick: "We're not going to use you (media) guys to make threats. I can do that myself."

— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) September 25, 2015

Johnson said he hadn't talked to Harvick since the two saw each other post-race Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson says he and Harvick have not spoken. He isn't sure what to expect from Harvick on track, either.

— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) September 25, 2015

Kurt Busch starts third and Brad Keselowski starts fourth. Johnson will start fifth. 10 of the top 11 drivers on the grid are in the Chase. The only non-Chase driver in the top 10 is Kyle Larson. Clint Bowyer is the lowest Chase driver in the field. He'll start 26th.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 25, 2015, 10:08 pm

NASCAR has yet to announce the rules for the cars in 2016. But according to Joey Logano, the consensus among drivers is pretty unanimous for what direction NASCAR should go in.

Logano, part of the driver's council, said drivers want NASCAR to take away downforce next year. NASCAR has tried lower downforce packages to rave reviews at Kentucky and Darlington this year and is likely to put the rules in place for 2016 if the majority opinion is any indication.

“I would say all of us would like to see the low downforce package," Logano said Friday at New Hampshire. "I think everyone wants to see that for [2016].  I know the drivers want to be down that direction. I’m sure you guys have watched the races and have formed your own opinions from it, but from my standpoint I thought the low downforce package put on the best racing. I thought Darlington was one heckuva race and it’s really hard to have a good race there.  It’s a tough race track to put on a good race and it’s been quite a few years since we’ve seen a really good race at Darlington, and it was able to do that.

"Kentucky once again was also a great race, so the two data points that we have from that low downforce package was really good, so I think all of us want to go that direction.  There’s obviously a lot of other questions that go along with that.  What tire do you match up with it?  And other little parts and pieces that have to go along with the package, but I think if you look at the big piece of the puzzle I think everyone wants to go that direction. We’ll see where it goes.”

It's not a surprise that drivers would be in favor of NASCAR taking away downforce; there haven't been many (if any) public complaints about it. Fans want it too, judging by the reaction to the two races. Passing has been plentiful with the downforce reduction.

The rules in place at the beginning of the 2015 season are the ones being used for the Chase. Over the summer months Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske, Logano's team, have been the two fastest teams in the Cup Series. Logano won the New Hampshire Chase race last year and it's not much of a bold prediction to think the race win on Sunday will come down to Penske and JGR cars.

JGR has won the previous three races and is looking for its second streak of four wins in a row this season.

"I feel like we’re right there with them," Logano said. "Even last weekend in Chicago, I thought we had a very fast Shell/Pennzoil Ford that had speed in the car, ran up top-5 all day and had a legit shot at winning.  That last restart I felt like we were in position with our four tires and where we were starting, but when you’re racing against four cars that are very, very fast and they’re all pretty equally matched with speed, that’s what kind of makes them look like they’re the next level. 

"It’s not just one car that’s doing it. It’s not two cars that are doing it.  It’s all of them, which is impressive ... I think we’re really close. I think we’re fighting with them every weekend for wins, so I don’t think we have to take a step back and say, ‘Oh my God, we’re doing something wrong. They’re just so much faster than us.’  They’re not faster than us. There are a lot of circumstances that obviously have to go just right to win these things just like anybody else does, and I feel like we have speed in our race cars so we’re not far off at all.”

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 25, 2015, 5:47 pm

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

If Kevin Harvick comes back to win the 2015 championship, he'll have the worst start to the Chase of any Chase champion.

After the restart madness during the middle of the race – and Harvick not pitting to save a possible calamity Harvick ended up finishing 42nd. The poor finish got us wondering how all of the Chase champions have started the Chase. Here's how they did. Note that New Hampshire was the first race of the Chase through 2010.

2004: Kurt Busch, 1st
2005: Tony Stewart, 2nd
2006: Jimmie Johnson, 39th
2007: Johnson 6th
2008: Johnson, 2nd
2009: Johnson, 4th
2010: Johnson, 25th
2011: Stewart, 1st
2012: Brad Keselowski, 1st
2013: Johnson, 5th
2014: Harvick, 5th

As you can see, the only driver who had a bad start close to Harvick's was Johnson in 2006. And it's worth noting that the points system back then was much more favorable for bad finishes. The ratio of points in the current system is skewed against poor finishes.

However, it's also imperative that we note the elimination format of this Chase. These results don't tell us much other than noting where the champions have started the Chase. If Harvick can get into the second round in race four, the points are reset and he's back to level ground. The small-sample size plays against him if he doesn't get a win in the next two races too.

If you're looking at the last two years and expecting the 2015 champion to come from the fifth-place finisher at Chicago, Matt Kenseth is your guy.

We got some interesting responses to our post asking what the hell New Hampshire Motor Speedway is doing having Curt Schilling give the pre-race prayer for Sunday's race. Including this gem:

Are you serious about your ridiculously left wing editorial ranting about Curt Schilling's selection for the pre-race prayer?
Are you another liberal censorship Nazi, or do you pretend to be one?
Stick to sports reporting and do NOT preach ideology, my friend. You are not God, as you think you are.
Curt is NOT controversial, he expresses only what the vast majority of us in the real world feel, not what the small percentage of those of you in the media industry think everyone else believes. - SSG Edward Diaz
US Army

What in the world? If you separate the tweet that Schilling made (and your feelings for or against it) to get himself suspended from Sunday Night Baseball at ESPN from the suspension itself, it's still an incredibly, incredibly head-scratching decision by the track. They're picking someone suspended from his current position to be part of its pre-race prayer ceremonies. And that someone would clearly not have been an option if ESPN was still televising the Chase.

Shouldn't you be picking an incredibly inoffensive person for the prayer? Or, as we referenced yesterday, maybe this attention is what the track was perversely looking for. We're not talking about this if they picked someone else.

But seriously, Edward, you need to chill out. Heaven forbid someone have a different opinion than you do that's been thought out. Same goes for this dude too. Though we must admit that we're disappointed to find out that we are not, in fact, a higher power.

@NickBromberg keep your fingers crossed Nick. maybe @gehrig38 will take the bait. at least you'll get a few clicks and new followers.

— georgewanderson (@gwanders) September 24, 2015

We don't expect everyone to agree with all of our opinions on the blog. But we do at least expect y'all to understand that those opinions and columns aren't written for "a few clicks and new followers." If it's not believed and backed up, it's not going to be written. Period. There's plenty of nuance and rationality in the world if you allow yourself to see it.

@NickBromberg You're in the wrong goddamn sport then. Soccer is calling.

— BaerTraxx (@BaerTraxx) September 24, 2015

This tweet was in response to our reaction to the announcement that Florida-Georgia Line is the pre-race concert for the 2016 Daytona 500. They're bro-country's finest. The Creed of country music. The Fireball of country music. The Bud Light of country music.

But we don't have to like them. And neither do you. We really like soccer too. But just because we do doesn't mean you have to like it.

Speaking of the 2016 Daytona 500, it's getting a bit late for the 2016 Sprint Cup schedule. The 2015 schedule was released on August 26, 2014. Unless the 2016 schedule comes out in two days, it'll be over a month later this year. Though one reader tells us 2014 was relatively early.


— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) September 24, 2015

Sprint? The company isn't bailing early on its contract.

If we're picking 2017 sponsors (sarcastically), big pharma seems to be a strong candidate with the prevalence of health-related sponsorships and pharmaceutical ads during Sprint Cup races.

Or hey, maybe Dunkin' Donuts could sponsor it. Chase on in to Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee and a donut!

@NickBromberg @GeoffreyMiller Writting a college paper on debris cautions affecting outcomes of races. What ones stick out to you two?

— Bill Bowser (@BillBowser2015) September 24, 2015

The first race that pops in to our minds is Auto Club Speedway earlier in the year (sorry Brad). Kurt Busch had that race won until the caution. What pops into your brain first? Tweet Bill.

The MWR legacy will be what? Which CFB conference refs would have overturned the call on the field for 24 car?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) September 24, 2015

Well, if the team's appeal of Wednesday's penalty isn't overturned, it's going to be penalties. And even if it is ... it's going to be penalties. Bookending your Cup tenure with crippling penalties pretty much guarantees that you're going to be remembered for breaking the rules. Add in what happened at 2013 at Richmond and you're going to have jokes for years and years.

We're also going to be nice and not pick on any conference. The call on the field would have stood because there was no evidence to overturn. And we're also going to keep hoping that NASCAR's threat to review restarts doesn't result in any actual penalties. We have no doubt that drivers are pushing/breaking restart rules. But now's not the time to change the way those rules have been enforced.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 24, 2015, 6:29 pm

Michael Waltrip Racing's time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series started with a big penalty. It looks like it's ending with one too.

NASCAR announced Wednesday that Clint Bowyer and the No. 15 team had been penalized 25 points and crew chief Billy Scott had been suspended three races and fined $75,000. The penalties occurred during pre-race weekend inspection for the first race of the Chase Sunday at Chicagoland.

Bowyer, who is in the Chase, finished 19th. He got 25 points for the finish, meaning he's back to where he started when the Chase began. His team is planning an appeal of the penalties.

Here's the release, which doesn't detail what the penalties were:

The No. 15 team has been penalized for an infraction that occurred on opening day inspection Sept.18. This is a P4 level penalty (Section 12.1, 20. 14.c,,, & f, of the NASCAR rule book). Crew chief Billy W. Scott has been fined $75,000, suspended for the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship events and placed on NASCAR probation for six months following the issue of suspension. Driver Clint Bowyer has been penalized 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Driver points. Car owner Rob Kauffman has been penalized 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Owner points.  NASCAR has requested to the Appeals Administrator of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel that the appeals process described in the rule book be expedited.

Based off the sections mentioned in the rule book, the No. 15 commited a track bar penalty. says "beveled washers and/or other components that allow movement under load will not be permitted on the track bar helm joints or rod end and/or track bar mounting bolts."

The team said it felt it was correct.

Michael Waltrip Racing respectfully disagrees with today’s penalties and plans to immediately appeal. MWR has made mistakes in the past, but we feel we are correct in this instance. We look forward to the opportunity to present our case to the appeals committee and have no further public comment until the process is completed.

This is the second time in Bowyer's career that he's been penalized at the first race weekend of the Chase. In 2010 he was penalized 150 points after his car failed post-race inspection at New Hampshire. His team at the time, Richard Childress Racing, appealed the penalty and was denied. Now, as MWR is in the twilight of its existence as a two-car team, its slim championship hopes also appear dashed unless this penalty is overturned in its favor.

MWR won't run a full-time team in 2016 and Bowyer hasn't said where he'll be driving next season. Bowyer made the Chase without a win in 2015 – he hasn't won since 2012  and will likely have sponsorship from current sponsor 5-Hour Energy wherever he lands. In 2007, when MWR moved to the Cup Series with Toyota, the team was hit with a huge penalty for a substance in the intake manifold of its engines for Daytona 500 qualifying.

His penalty also means that defending champion Kevin Harvick moves up to 15th in the points standings after finishing 42nd at Chicago. Harvick now only has to pass three other drivers to get into the top 12.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 23, 2015, 7:56 pm

New Hampshire Motor Speedway has picked a former Boston Red Sox pitcher to deliver the pre-race prayer on Sunday.

And not only has the speedway picked a former Red Sox pitcher, it has chosen a controversial one. Curt Schilling. Yes. Really.

"It will be a tremendous honor to step onto that stage, in front of a sea of NASCAR fans, and give the invocation with the hopes of an exciting yet safe race in New Hampshire," Schilling said in a track statement. "I have so many fond memories of playing in front of Boston fans, New England fans. They're some of the best in the world and I look forward to standing in front of them once again."

All was not well in Schilling's career earlier this year. The ESPN analyst was removed from his duties at Sunday Night Baseball for the rest of the season after he posted an image to Twitter that mentioned both Islam and Nazis and featured a picture of Hitler. He ended up deleting the tweet.


— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) August 25, 2015

Schilling hasn't been shy about his personal beliefs throughout both his baseball and broadcasting career. But it's easy to see how the image was, at best, a bad thing to tweet. At worst, it was seen as a comparison between a religion and set of beliefs.

ESPN immediately called the tweet unacceptable and Schilling was suspended from his duties on the Little League World Series. He was suspended from Sunday Night Baseball a week later.

Had the track picked, say, Tim Wakefield, then the decision to honor former Red Sox pitchers is inoffensive, and perhaps most importantly, not noteworthy. The track knew it would get attention for its choice of Schilling. But is that attention worth it given Schilling's recent history?

It's not. New Hampshire could have, and should have done better. Pre-race prayers should not have any connotations of religious preference or superiority. And a Facebook account that Deadspin said is Schilling's also shared this post about the Confederate flag in August. NASCAR previously asked fans to refrain from displaying the flag at races.

But the track is also no stranger to negative attention. General manager Jerry Gappens pled guilty to lewdness in a parking lot encounter with a 19-year-old female in January. He kept his job after he was suspended and the president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., the company that owns NHMS, said SMI was extending forgiveness and prayers for him and his family.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 23, 2015, 2:45 pm

The No. 24 car will be silver for Jeff Gordon's final race in it.

The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is retiring from full-time driving at the end of the season and unveiled the paint scheme he'll run at Homestead, the final race of 2015, on Fox Sports 1 on Tuesday night.

Here it is-- @AxaltaRacing's final paint scheme of '15 & @JeffGordonWeb's final career paint scheme! #WePaintWinners

— Axalta Racing (@AxaltaRacing) September 22, 2015

Gordon's DuPont/Axalta paint schemes in the 2000s have featured the flames motif. And while the paint scheme isn't bad -- it's certainly not one of the worst cars Gordon has driven in his career -- the Homestead paint scheme was going to be underwhelming. Why? Because of the awesomeness of the rainbow paint scheme he ran at Bristol in August. Nothing was ever going to top this car.

Gordon finished 14th in the first race of the Chase on Sunday.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 22, 2015, 11:08 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 and we'll try to have some fun.

1. Denny Hamlin: We might as well reset our Power Rankings after attempting to predict the field heading into the Chase. So that means Denny Hamlin gets the top spot because he won. His win was the third-straight win for Joe Gibbs Racing, a team that's won four races in a row already this season. Can they do it again? The odds seem in their favor. The team has won three of the last six races at New Hampshire. And the last New Hampshire winner...

2. Kyle Busch: Was this guy, who led 121 laps at Chicago on Sunday. If Busch gets the season sweep at New Hampshire, he'll be the first driver since his brother in 2004 to win both New Hampshire races in a season. And guess what Kurt Busch did that season? Yup, he won the Sprint Cup Series championship. While the omen would be a nice one for Kyle, the win is more important for simple Chase advancement purposes given his Chase struggles.

3. Kurt Busch: Another race where Kurt Busch leads late and another late-race caution. No we're not alleging conspiracy here, but Busch had to wonder what the heck was going on as it looked like he was going to be the guy who was automatically advancing into the second round. He questioned the call to not take tires for the final restart. But the call ended up working out; just not in Busch's favor. He finished third. Simply avoiding disaster over the next two races should be good enough to move on.

4. Jimmie Johnson: While Johnson received the chest-punch wrath of Kevin Harvick after the race for the move he made on a mid-race restart, it's important to note two incidents of conservative and careful driving by Johnson. First, after he went three-wide with Harvick after the restart, he backed off instead of driving three-wide into turn one. If he was truly trying to screw with Harvick, wouldn't he have pressed the issue more? Second, on the final restart, he could have stayed in the gas while coming off turn two and forced Jeff Gordon into an untenable situation. Instead, he let off the gas and lost a bunch of spots. While Harvick may not think so, Johnson was being pragmatic.

5. Carl Edwards: Edwards finished second, the first driver on fresh tires at the end of the race. But he lost any chance of trying to get to his teammate for the lead when he struggled getting past Kurt Busch for second place. By the time he had disposed of Busch, he had run out of time. It was a heck of a comeback for Edwards too after he was tagged with a speeding penalty early in the race. Edwards and Hamlin were the poster boys for how early issues can be overcome with smart strategies. The No. 4 team should be taking note.

6. Ryan Newman: Newman finished fourth on Sunday. Check his tires! OK, NASCAR probably did. And we're joking anyway. But it's going to be fun if Newman is faster in the Chase again this year. The driver that is most likely to pull a Newman in 2015 is Newman himself. If he keeps finishing fourth, there's not going to be any way of preventing him from making the final four again.

7. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth led a solitary lap and finished fifth on Sunday. What a drop-off from Richmond. Should we be concerned about Kenseth moving forward? He finished four spots worse and led 99.72 percent fewer laps on Sunday than he did at Richmond. Commence the not-real-at-all panic time, especially if he doesn't win at New Hampshire on Sunday.

8. Joey Logano: Logano wanted nothing to do with the kerfuffle between Johnson and Harvick. After the race he said "“I had nothing to do with that. The 48 went three-wide bottom and I was just sitting there. I was no part of it.” Well, while Logano didn't have anything to do with Johnson forcing his way back on to the track, he helped Johnson get down to the apron when he pushed him on the restart. 

9. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski mounted a charge on the race's final restart but couldn't really get going. He had fresh tires and made them briefly work but ended up finishing eighth, one spot ahead of Kyle Busch. How fun is it going to be if Busch, Keselowski and Harvick are battling for the race win again at New Hampshire? If NASCAR could fast-forward the race to the turning point of the summer one and see if things would play out differently it probably would.

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior finished 12th and is now 10th in the standings. How crazy is that? It's what happens when you're the 10th Chase driver in the race standings. It also means that Junior is 14 points back of the lead. The top six in the standings are separated by four points and the gap from first to 12th is smaller than the gap from 12th to 16th. If someone in that top tier has a bad finish at New Hampshire, it's going to be ugly.

11. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex ran near the front of the field for most of the day and led 39 laps. He restarted fourth and also didn't take tires on the final restart. Like Jeff Gordon, he fell back into the teeth of the drivers who did have fresh tires. He finished 13th. That's about where he'll finished (based on past results) at New Hampshire too. He's finished anywhere from 8th-17th in the last nine New Hampshire races including three-straight 12th-place finishes.

12. Jeff Gordon: The dominant theme of the day for Gordon? What else but restarts. The first notable restart was "close" per NASCAR, but was deemed legal after Gordon got a good jump and the lead. Gordon didn't get a good jump on the last restart and was passed by Hamlin heading into turn one. Gordon couldn't keep his car stuck to the track in the middle and started sliding up the track and back through the field. He finished 14th.

The DNF: We're moving this slot up this week so we can talk about Kevin Harvick. Though Harvick finished 42nd, he didn't DNF as he got back out on track. But it might as well have been a DNF. If Harvick doesn't win at New Hampshire or Dover and can't wriggle his way into the top 12, being out of the Chase is not Jimmie Johnson's fault. It's the team's. Especially at this stage in the Chase it's absolutely imperative to minimize risk and damage and the No. 4 team should have immediately pitted for the post-restart tire rub. Had Harvick finished 20th instead of 42nd, he's tied with Jeff Gordon for 12th in the standings.

Lucky Dog: Congratulations to Kyle Larson for winning the "Not in the Chase" class of the race on Sunday. He finished second. He was joined on the podium by Aric Almirola and David Ragan.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 22, 2015, 3:11 pm

One of the first things Denny Hamlin said he had to do after winning Sunday's first race of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup was text Michael Jordan.

Hamlin and Jordan have become friends. Hamlin's firesuit has the Jordan Jumpman logo on it and he has courtside seats to the Charlotte Hornets. He said Jordan texted him Wednesday about the Chase and admitted that Hamlin was in fact a better driver than Michael Jordan. If – here's the caveat – Hamlin won the race.

He did. So Jordan's admission is now true.

"The first thing I'm going to do is text Michael Jordan," Hamlin said. "He texted me on Wednesday. He said he was in Monte‑Carlo. I popped in his head like I always do, which I thought was a little odd. He says, I know you're about to head into the playoffs. I just want you to know I've never admitted to anybody that anyone is better than me at anything my whole life. But if you win this race this weekend, I will admit that you're a better driver than I am."

"I thought, Wow, that would be awesome. I just thought of that just now. So the first thing I'm going to do is text him and say, Admit it, I'm better than you, and I want everyone to know."

Admitting a professional race car driver is a better driver than you are isn't much of an admission. But this is Michael Jordan we're talking about. His competitive streak isn't much less iconic as his NBA titles and his Nike brand.

With the win, Hamlin, who tore his ACL playing pickup basketball less than two weeks ago, is now automatically advanced into the second round of NASCAR's Chase, which begins in the fourth race of the 10-race playoffs. 16 drivers start the Chase and the field is whittled to four drivers for the final race of the season at Homestead.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 21, 2015, 1:30 pm

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The first race of the Chase got off to a horrible start for Denny Hamlin. It ended in victory lane.

Hamlin, who went sliding down the track in turns three and four on the second lap of the race, took the lead on a restart with five laps to go and drove away from the field for a win at Chicago on Sunday. With the win, Hamlin is now automatically advancing to the second round of the Chase in three weeks.

Hamlin restarted third on the final restart. He dove to the inside of Jeff Gordon, who was in second, and went three-wide with Gordon and Kurt Busch in turn one. Gordon wasn't able to keep his car stuck to the track in the middle groove and Hamlin got past both for the lead.

Oh, and Hamlin tore his right ACL less than two weeks ago playing a game of pickup basketball.

Dave Rogers, Hamlin's crew chief, made the decision to go for track position on the final restart. While many cars came to the pits for fresh tires, Busch, Gordon and Hamlin stayed on the track. That's why they restarted in the top three. Busch ended up finishing third while Gordon slid back.

Carl Edwards, one of the drivers who took fresh tires on the final caution, finished second.

While Hamlin is moving on in the Chase, the defending Sprint Cup Series champion is in 16th (and last) place in the Chase standings. Kevin Harvick cut a tire after contact on a restart and ended up crashing. He finished 42nd. After the race, Harvick said he had confidence that he could be one of the 12 drivers moving on to the second round of the Chase. He has 22 top-10 finishes in 27 races.

Harvick said he can easily still advance. They can win anywhere he said

— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) September 20, 2015

The contact that caused Harvick's cut tire came from Jimmie Johnson, who was also bumped by Joey Logano. After the race, Johnson went to talk to Harvick, who punched him in the chest.

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Hamlin started near the back of the pack because the field was set by practice speeds as qualifying was rained out. Hamlin didn't have an especially quick lap in practice and was in an incident with AJ Allmendinger. While his car didn't have any damage, he ended up losing a lap because he had limped around to the pits on flat tires. He had made up that lap in the early stages of the second half of the race.

Given the way the summer months have gone in the Cup Series, it was also fitting a Joe Gibbs Racing car had won the first race of the Chase. Gibbs cars had won seven of the 10 races entering the Chase. And they have the top four drivers in the standings now after the first Chase race.

12 of the top 14 finishers were Chase drivers. Here's how the standings look. As of now, Hamlin and the top 11 drivers in points would move on to the next round.

1. Matt Kenseth, 2,052 points
2. Denny Hamin (1 win), 2,050
3. Kyle Busch, 2,049
4. Carl Edwards, 2,049
5. Joey Logano, 2,048
6. Kurt Busck, 2,048
7. Jimmie Johnson 2,045
8. Ryan Newman, 2,040
9. Brad Keselowski, 2,039
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2,038
11. Martin Truex Jr., 2,035
12. Jeff Gordon, 2,031
13. Jamie McMurray, 2,028
14. Paul Menard, 2,027
15. Clint Bowyer, 2,025
16. Kevin Harvick, 2,009

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 20, 2015, 10:33 pm

A mid-race restart dramatically changed Sunday's first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway. It might have changed the entire Chase, too.

Race leader Kevin Harvick got bumped by Jimmie Johnson as the field accelerated towards the green flag. The impact caused a tire rub on Harvick's left-rear tire and a few laps after the incident, Harvick was into the wall and the tire was flat.

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Johnson said he was pushed into Harvick by Joey Logano and the replays indicated that as well. He asked his crew "What the hell is Logano doing?" Johnson's car was squirrely at the start and he was forced to go to the apron to prevent running over Harvick even further. He took Harvick three-wide (with Kyle Busch on the outside) into turn one but wisely backed off entering the corner.

Harvick was unhappy with Johnson and pointed towards the No. 48's pit box as he re-entered the track after his team fixed the damage to his car. He also asked where Johnson was on the track, though the two were never in the same vicinity. After the race, Johnson went to Harvick's RV in the driver lot to talk about the incident and Harvick whacked him in the chest.

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While the post-race incident can be a boon for drama and fan interest, it's also incredibly dumb. If we're going to count what happened after the Chicago race a "scuffle," then three scuffles have happened in the last seven Chase races dating back to 2014. They're becoming far too common.

Not every on-track incident is worthy of an off-track one and drivers are looking increasingly childish after these meetings. It also makes the emotion shown in them seem overblown or even fake. We've really reached the point of an on-track bump necessitating physical contact?

Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion finished 42nd. The bad result means he'll need a lot of other drivers in the 16-car Chase field to have horrible days over the next two weeks or he'll have to win at New Hampshire or Dover to make it to the second round of the Chase and avoid elimination.

It's also worth noting that Harvick and his team could have and should have avoided the finish. Had he pitted to fix the damage and get a new tire, he could have gotten a top-20 result and saved himself a lot of points. And maybe some frustration.

While Harvick's poor finish is surprising – he's finished outside the top 10 in four of the first 26 races of 2015 – a dramatic moment coming on a restart is not. Restarts have been the dominant topic in the Cup Series entering the Chase and NASCAR said it had mounted cameras to monitor drivers during restarts.

Drivers are allowed to accelerate towards the green flag in a designated zone before the start/finish line. But the zone and the double-file restarts in the Sprint Cup Series lead to a lot of gamesmanship among drivers to try to gain an advantage.

And that advantage is why Logano was likely trying to push Johnson past Harvick. With passing so hard to do in the Cup Series, drivers know that restarts are their best opportunities to make passes. Just look at how race-winner Denny Hamlin got the lead for the first and (last) time.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 20, 2015, 8:59 pm

Don't ever be as stupid as this person.

Sunday's Formula 1 race had to go under caution on lap 37 after a fan had walked out on to the track.

Your browser does not support iframes. Eventual race-winner Sebastian Vettel was heard on his in-car radio telling his team that there was a fan on the track. There was momentary confusion as to why the race had to be slowed until it was clear there was a man on the track where he wasn't supposed to be. We probably don't need to explain why a fan walking on the track while the race is going on is a bad idea, right?

He walked for a bit before he took a right over the wall and back through the fence. There's no indication how he was able to get into a position to have access to the track. Formula 1 races are very tightly controlled atmospheres, though with the street-race setup in Singapore, he clearly found a place that was unsecured. And he gave us flashbacks to the guy at the Richmond Sprint Cup race in 2014 who climbed to the top of the catchfence.

According to Sky Sports, the man who walked on the track in Singapore is 27 and was arrested after his transgression.

Lewis Hamilton, the season's dominant driver and points leader, was forced to retire from the race with throttle issues.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 20, 2015, 3:03 pm

The recipe for success in the Chase is going to be the same as it was in the first 26 races of the 2015 season. Among a ton of factors, drivers will need fast cars, great pit stops (especially in the later laps of the race) and really good restarts.

The order above may not be the order of importance of the listed attributes. Given yet another example of a restart that may not have been kosher in the waning laps at Richmond, getting a good jump on the final restart may be the most important thing a driver can do all race.

During the final restart at Richmond, race-winner Matt Kenseth – who had the dominant car of the night and likely would have won regardless – got a great jump and pulled away from the field. Perhaps, as some drivers may feel, it was too great. Though it wasn't according to NASCAR. Kenseth wasn't penalized.

The sanctioning body has been especially lenient when it comes to its double-file restarts recently. At each track, a zone is marked on the outside wall. At some point within that restart zone, the leader is allowed to accelerate and lead the field back to the green flag.

As you can imagine, drivers have figured out just how far they can stretch the boundaries of the restart zone. And that goes for more than just the leader on restarts as well. Since a driver in second place knows the leader is theoretically supposed to accelerate within a certain area, he can manipulate his position relative to the car.

The gamesmanship has been upped given NASCAR's seeming reluctance to call a penalty. Given what happened at Richmond – and the increased importance of track position as cars are harder and harder to pass – restarts were a hot topic at Thursday's Chase media day.

“Most of the time, let’s be honest, you can jump it by a car length and it is okay but you can’t jump it by four, five or six car-lengths," Joey Logano said of the fine-line and fine art of restart manipulation. "That is not okay in my opinion. There is always gamesmanship out there and everyone is trying to beat the car next to you or in front of you. The way you do that as the leader pulling up to the line and the second place car is laid back is just as big of an issue as the leader jumping the start because that forces the leader to jump the start when the second place car is laid back so much.

"The control car is no longer the control car, it becomes the second place car because he controls when the leader can go. Just as important as when the leader takes off is that the second place car is where he is supposed to be, side by side, like they tell us in the drivers meeting every week.”

Carl Edwards said there was a lot of gray area. Maybe that's why NASCAR hasn't been heavy-handed when it comes to restarts. It can be hard to tell if a driver jumped a restart or if another driver slowed down to create an optical illusion. Of course, the easy solution would be to have the official in the flagstand with the green flag start the race, but that's another argument for another day.

“I believe the restarts are still kind of – there’s still a lot of gray area there that I don’t think everyone in the garage understands exactly what is allowable and what’s not. There’s a lot of people that hang back pretty far and get runs," Edwards said. "When you’re on the front row – let me put it simply as I think that the leader now he’s in a little bit worse of a position than he’s ever been probably on the restarts just because everyone is getting so good at hanging back or pushing the envelope. It’s really – it’s tough to decide what to do as the leader.”

While drivers would like NASCAR to outline and clarify restart procedures, the most important thing going forward is consistency. Given that the trend has been a lack of penalties, NASCAR becoming heavy-handed when it comes to restarts over the past 10 races would be a bad idea.

Can you imagine if NASCAR penalized a Chase driver on a restart and the poor finish as a result ended up costing him a chance to move on? The 2015 season has already focused too much on the sanctioning body's decisions vs. the racing on the track. While a balls-and-strikes officiating decision influencing the Chase would be an apt continuation of the theme, it'd be yet another example that NASCAR has struggled with its rules application and implementation.

And given the small-sample size nature of the three three-race and final one-race round in the Chase, a restart penalty has more significance than it would in the previous format.

“I think the key to restarts is consistency," Brad Keselowski said. "If NASCAR wants to kind of let it play out on the race track then they need to continue to do that. If they don’t, then they need to make it a point to say that everything that has gone on to date is not okay. The ball is in their court.”

NASCAR shouldn't find a new ball. The Chase should play out as close to how the season has so far. It's the consistent thing to do. There's plenty of time to change and/or tighten the restart rules in the offseason.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 18, 2015, 7:50 pm

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

Wednesday's test at Kansas Speedway was a chance for Chase teams (and others) to get an opportunity to test out some configurations for the 1.5-mile tracks on the Chase schedule. Remember, five of the 10 races are at 1.5 mile tracks.

However, the most notable thing about the Chase might have been the experimental car that NASCAR had Austin Dillon test throughout the day. The car had some things that NASCAR reportedly is working on for the future (not 2016). But other than these pictures, we didn't have a chance to find out much information about the car.

A better shot of the experimental car today at Kansas.

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) September 16, 2015

Not sure how much you can see of the splitter here. Tried to get a good angle

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) September 16, 2015

Though it was an open test, no one from NASCAR associated with the test of the car was available for comment. While on one hand it's understandable that the sanctioning body wouldn't want the possible low-downforce tweaks for the future to overshadow the final 10 races, given the social media reaction to the pictures of the car, it was clearly the draw of the test for many fans.


@NickBromberg did they do only single car runs with the #Gen6.2 ?

— Jeremy Meadows (@jrm1219) September 17, 2015

We don't think many people did multi-car runs, experimental car or 2015 car. Heck, no one may have. We didn't see the entire test – writing and interviews takes up some time – but from what we saw and could hear, it was dominated by single-car runs.

@NickBromberg asking you to pick a winner of the chase is cliche, yes? So who will be the biggest early elimination?

— Travis Pineapple (@Rob_In_WI) September 17, 2015

We wouldn't be surprised if it's a Gibbs car, simply because having four cars in the final round is almost impossible. Though what would constitute early? First or second round? The driver that could be the biggest wild card is Jeff Gordon. While he'll be the sentimental favorite to get to the final round, it's entirely possible based off the way that the No. 24 is running that he could be out of the Chase after the first round.

@NickBromberg Your $.02 on restarts. How many engineers does it take to test an X-3? Figured FTM needed a flag too!

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) September 17, 2015

Thursday's topic at Chase media day has been restarts and how NASCAR could enforce them in the Chase. We'll have more on this tomorrow, but we're not sure NASCAR is in a position to police restarts much more than they have already. Because they've given teams a lot of leeway when it comes to determining restart penalties before the Chase, the sanctioning body runs a severe risk of affecting the Chase if it decides to police restarts more heavily starting with Chicago.

There were a bunch of engineers and people around the X-3 on Wednesday. After taking the first pic of the car we took a walk around the garage. Five minutes later after wandering back to the vicinity of the X-3, there were five people in a circle talking behind the car.

That's a brilliant From the Marbles Nation flag. If you're missing the reference, NASCAR now has a Chase app where you can create your own "flag" for your favorite driver in the nation concept that the sanctioning body is pushing. If you download the app on your phone and upload a funny picture for your driver's "nation" send it to us.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 17, 2015, 9:58 pm

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jimmie Johnson's next championship will be his seventh.

As many NASCAR fans know, a seventh title will tie Johnson, who turned 40 on Thursday, with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most Sprint Cup titles of any driver. And given that Johnson has no plans on ending his driving career soon – he said the two-year extension he recently signed won't be his last one – it's reasonable to think that the driver of the No. 48 will surpass Earnhardt and Petty before his career is over.

While Johnson admits that tying the two most iconic drivers in NASCAR history is cool, he said he's able to separate the internal drive for another championship from the fact that his next title would be such a significant one.

"What motivates me at night … where my drive comes from, it isn’t to tie Dale and Richard. It’s to win a championship," Johnson told Yahoo Sports while doing a driver appearance in Kansas City earlier in the week. "I’m not motivated by the number. Absolutely would love it. There’s so much upside that comes with it, let’s be honest. But it’s not what deeply motivates me. It’s about performing.

"Now having a family, I’m somebody that’s driven and need to accomplish things and be me to feel like I need to and want to. So to leave the house and to spend as much time as I do away from my family, I want to perform. I want to have success and take trophies home."

Johnson has four victories in 2015. He's starting the Chase as the co-top seed with Kyle Busch, who also has four wins. But Johnson's last win came 13 races ago, or the last race of the first half of the regular season. One could make the argument that Johnson and his Hendrick teammates have been passed up by the Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske cars.

But you can counter that pretty easily too. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have those six titles together. Knaus is one of the most purposeful and analytical crew chiefs in the garage. And Johnson is really, really, really good at the tracks that host the Chase's 10 races.

Plus, Johnson may not have as much pressure on himself than he once had. He said that when his team was eliminated from title contention in 2011, breaking a five-year title streak, he could feel the release of all the tension that had built up to keep the streak alive. The lack of pressure could be freeing, especially as the No. 48 team has learned from the first year of the Chase's elimination format.

"[2011] when it shut down and we were eliminated – I think in Phoenix from championship hopes mathematically – I didn’t realize the weight that was on my shoulders and the burden to keep that streak alive and what that did to me, my team, the way it affected my family life and life in general.

So the weeks following that was just like 'Wow, i didn’t realize I had that much pressure on myself.’ Learned from that. We didn’t have a great [2011] season and definitely a tough pill to swallow. [2012] we were competitive but [2013] when it all came around, that’s truthfully the most fun I’ve had in any year driving at the Cup level. We had fast cars, we won a lot, we had fun, the pressure wasn’t there to keep the streak alive, the pressure wasn’t there to win my first … It was just like ‘let’s go and win a championship or try and win a championship.'"

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 17, 2015, 6:21 pm

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Though he didn't make the final four of the 2014 Chase, Brad Keselowski provided the Sprint Cup Series with its most dramatic moments throughout the 10-race playoff.

He scored a win in the opening race at Chicago with a daring three-wide pass. Facing elimination at Talladega, he won to advance to the third round of the Chase. And of course, there's the moment that's been replayed too many times to count at Texas when he made contact with Jeff Gordon and was subsequently in the middle of a pit road kerfuffle.

Keselowski made the aggressive move at Texas because he knew his Chase future was on the line after a parts failure at Martinsville. He wound up eliminated from the Chase the following week at Phoenix.

He said Wednesday at Kansas Speedway that 2014 helped reinforce to his team how much of a penalty a poor finish in the Chase can be. But he said he doesn't want to get to the final round at Homestead in 2015 by playing it safe.

“You can make it all the way to Homestead without winning a race, that’s for sure," Keselowski said. "There’s some merit to a conservative approach.  It’s not one that I particularly enjoy or wish to play a role in, but I’m guessing someone will and they’ll probably get there – you know they will.  It’s simple math.  They’ll make their way to Homestead without winning, so that’s part of it, too.”

At most, three drivers can win a race in the penultimate round of the Chase, leaving at least one spot for a winless driver at Homestead. Only one driver in the final four (Kevin Harvick) won a race in the next-to-last round and Ryan Newman made it to the final round without winning a race for the entire 2014 season.

Keselowski has been one of the faster drivers in the Cup Series, even if the victory stats don't show it. His only win of the season came at Auto Club Speedway, where he capitalized on a late caution to lead the final lap and get the win.

The 2012 champion has said he sees a second championship as a form of validation. When asked if his drive for that second title has changed as the three-year anniversary of his championship approaches, Keselowski said it hasn't, though a title may have a different meaning than it would earlier in his career.

"The drive to win the championship, though, to me, is higher than it’s ever been," Keselowski said. "To win a second championship, to me, would be a huge career mark in the sense that I think Mark Martin probably summed it up the best as anyone, somewhere about a dozen years ago when I was reading a quote from him about winning your second race.  When you win your first race, there’s always someone that can stand up and say, ‘Anyone can win one race,’ but it’s when you win multiple races that you start to really grow confidence in who you are and happiness and I think find peace with what you’ve done and feeling justified in it"

"For me, I feel that way about winning a second championship. I think that would perhaps more solidify, not just in other peoples’ minds, where our team is, but in my own and that would be a tremendous feeling for me personally, considering where we’ve come from and how far we’ve come.  So I think we have that opportunity and I’m very driven to make it happen. I don’t want to miss this moment because we’re there and we have a great team. We have fast cars. We just need to execute and not have any bad luck.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 17, 2015, 3:33 pm

Aaron's isn't taking its sponsorship from Michael Waltrip Racing to another team.

The company told Sports Business Daily that it would not have a NASCAR sponsorship in 2016. Aaron's currently sponsors Michael Waltrip Racing, which is ceasing operations (as a full-time team) after the 2015 season.

“We have decided to take some time off from a team sponsorship for the 2016 season," the statement to SBD said. "The NASCAR fan base is an important audience for us and we have built substantial equity over the past 15 years. We are exploring creative ways to continue to participate in the sport in 2016 including media, brand relationships and track activation.”

SBD also reported that the company had been talking with other teams about staying in the sport for the 2016 season. No teams were named.

Aaron's had a previous relationship with Chase Elliott, who is moving to the No. 24 car in 2016. Elliott will have a majority of the season's sponsorship from NAPA but the entire season of sponsorship is yet to be announced.

Aaron's has been with MWR since before the team moved up to the Cup Series. It's been the full-time sponsor of MWR's No. 55 car currently driven by David Ragan and the team went to victory lane with Brian Vickers at New Hampshire in 2013.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 17, 2015, 1:25 pm

NHRA Funny Car champion John Force is going to pay homage to another racing champ at Charlotte.

Force will drive a Jeff Gordon tribute car over the weekend while the NHRA races in NASCAR's backyard. Gordon is retiring at the end of the season and will move into a broadcast role for Fox in 2016.

Check out the Jeff Gordon tribute @TeamChevy Camaro John Force will race this wknd

— John Force Racing (@JFR_Racing) September 15, 2015

“I got the idea for the flames from Jeff telling me years ago he was a fan because I was always on fire," Force told "He was right, when I got started we were on fire from here to Australia. I always enjoyed seeing Jeff at races and award banquets. The guy was just so polite and professional but you knew he had the eye of the tiger too. You don’t win all those championships on your good looks. This special Funny Car is just a way for me, my family, my team, my sponsors, NHRA and the fans to say thank you for being a great champion and being such a great driver in NASCAR. I put as many flames as my designer Brandon (Baker) could fit on my hot rod in Jeff’s honor.”

Force's team switched to Chevrolets after Ford dropped support of his Funny Car team in 2014. Gordon has driven a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for his entire Sprint Cup career. Force's car looks like the paint scheme Gordon's DuPont car had in the 2000s. Gordon previously ran a rainbow throwback scheme at Bristol earlier this year.

Force has won 16 NHRA Funny Car titles. Gordon, who qualified for the Chase, is going for his fifth Cup Series title and his first since 2001.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 15, 2015, 10:42 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 and we'll try to have some fun.

This week we're changing up the format for a bit. First, we're going to have 16 drivers and try to predict how the Chase will look like at the end of the year. Second, we're going to count from 16 to 1 to have some sort of suspense.

Remember, drivers eliminated before Homestead have the opportunity to finish anywhere from fifth to 16th in the standings. So a driver who finishes sixth could have been eliminated from the Chase after race three. Fifth place is everything.

16. Paul Menard: Welcome to the Chase, Paul. We think you're going to finish last. Actually, we think someone is going to do what Ryan Newman did and get to Homestead without being at threat to win in the first nine races. Menard could be that guy, but he's going to have to be a steroided-out version of 2014 Newman. Menard has just four top-10 finishes this year.

15. Clint Bowyer: How fun would it be if a late spin in an elimination race helps Clint Bowyer and he makes it to the next round because of it? We'd laugh. And it'd be sure to incite the black helicopter set. Michael Waltrip Racing has had some races where Bowyer has fought a lemon of a car. If he gets one of those in the first three races, he could be out early. What happens first, Bowyer is eliminated or he announces where he's driving in 2016?

 14. Jamie McMurray: Welcome to the Chase, Jamie. Can you find some more speed? McMurray has seven top-10 finishes and will probably need five or so to have any hope in the Chase. McMurray has been really good at avoiding terrible finishes this year – the bad ones plagued his 2014 – and that's a good strategy to get in the Chase. But is there going to be more speed for the final 10 races?

13. Ryan Newman: When the apocalypse hits the NASCAR planet, the roaches will be scurrying about the demolition searching for scraps and doing other roach-like things. The bugs will think they are the only things left in the NASCAR earth but will wonder what the rumbling is below them. The dirt underneath their feet will slowly crack. And rise up. What the heck is going on? It's Newman, the last driver standing, emerging from his bunker via his Caterpillar excavation equipment.

12. Martin Truex Jr.: So what's the real Truex in 2015? The driver and team that had 14 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races or the one that's had three top-10 finishes in the last 11 races? As with everything, the answer is probably something in the middle. If you believe that momentum is a concept that exists in racing (and if it does, it may be a bit overrated), then Truex doesn't really have it right now. If you believe that the 2015 rules package means Truex is a contender, well, you're pointing to the first part of the season and placing your bets.

11. Jeff Gordon: Yes, the biggest and best storyline for the popularity of the Homestead race is Gordon being a part of the final four. We're not going to sit here and say that the possibility of Gordon racing for the title in south Florida is impossible, just that it seems unlikely. The No. 24 is going to have to go on a Tony Stewart-type run to make it happen. Can you imagine the frenzy if he did?

10. Carl Edwards: Spoiler alert, we're not picking all four Joe Gibbs Racing cars to make the final four at Homestead. Given the randomness of the Chase format, such an event seems incredibly unlikely. The odds favor one or more of JGR's team's suffering an issue in the first couple rounds that puts the team in a serious points hole. We hate to pick on Edwards, but he's been the slowest of the four drivers over the entire season.

9. Kurt Busch: This guy has had just as much speed as his teammate, who we'll get to in a bit. He just hasn't had the consistency that Kevin Harvick has had. It wouldn't be surprising at all if Busch wins a race or two in the Chase and that would give him a big boost over where we have him slotted right now. We're also fairly comfortable saying that no matter what happens on-track for Busch in the Chase, his 2015 Chase is probably going to be a little less dramatic than last year's.

8. Denny Hamlin: If Hamlin is eliminated before the final race we don't envision him getting out of the car to have ACL surgery. The only real benefit would be if he's out of the Chase in the first round and has an extra seven weeks to rehab vs. maybe two or three. And we don't think that's going to happen either. Mark us down for a prediction that Hamlin is going to win at New Hampshire.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Remember when there was fretting about Junior's Chase prospects with a new crew chief? Kinda seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Right now the biggest question for the No. 88 seems to be on pit road. Junior should be fast, and if he can make it to Talladega he should be in good shape. While he crashed there last year, his Chase hopes were virtually gone because he hit the wall at Kansas.

6. Brad Keselowski: The Penske cars are the class of the "non-JGR" field right now, so expect both Keselowski and Logano to be contenders to the end. Can both of them get into the final round? Of course, but for team diversity's sake we took one and basically flipped a coin. Sorry Brad. If it's any consolation, we know these predictions will likely be wrong anyway.

5. Matt Kenseth: The No. 20 is on a roll. Hopefully Kenseth doesn't get PTSD flashbacks when he heads to Phoenix if he's still alive in the Chase at that point. If Kenseth does win the Chase, he'd become only the second driver to have a championship in both the season-long and Chase formats. And hey, maybe he'd inspire yet another set of changes to the way NASCAR decides its champion.

4. Kyle Busch: Here we go. We've gotten to the final four. What defines success for Kyle Busch in the Chase? While the it's clear that a championship is the ultimate goal, does being in contention at the end mean something given Busch's past Chase failures? Or is it win and that's basically it? And can you make the argument that Busch's season is already a success given what happened in February?

3. Joey Logano: One spot higher for Logano this year? If he's in contention at Homestead we don't know how many times that last pit stop in 2014 will be going through his head. Probably too many to count. Logano is going to win a championship soon. it could be this year. It could be 2020. But we're confident that Logano is going to keep putting himself in a position to roll the dice.

2. Jimmie Johnson: Hey, Johnson is sticking with Hendrick for 2016 and 2017. We're incredibly stunned like you are. And yeah, yeah, yeah the Hendrick cars aren't the fastest ones on track right now. But are you really going to let that count out Johnson? When you've got a guy who has more Chase titles (6) than everyone else combined (4) you really can't bet against him getting to the final race.

1. Kevin Harvick: But we're not picking Johnson for his seventh title. We're going with Harvick, who has been the strongest driver throughout the course of the 2015 season. He's got 22 top-10 finishes in the first 26 races, which puts him on pace for eight or nine top-10s in the Chase. And of his four not-top 10s, only one has come without an issue (crash at Bristol, cut tire at Michigan, engine at Pocono). That race was at Richmond on Saturday, when Harvick finished 14th.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 15, 2015, 8:31 pm

RICHMOND, Va.—Of all the vehicles you'd expect to get hit on a NASCAR track, the safety truck is among the last. But that's exactly what happened on Saturday night:

OH NO. Michael McDowell has MAJOR damage after hitting a safety truck! #NASCARreplay

— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 13, 2015

With roughly 100 laps remaining in the Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond, NASCAR threw a caution for debris in Turn 3, and as the cars were cycling around, Michael McDowell flat-out nailed the safety truck. No one was injured, though the safety workers in the truck were sent to the infield care center.

This marks the second collision with a safety truck this season; at Sonoma, Matt DiBenedetto hit a safety truck as well. It's no Juan Pablo Montoya-at-Daytona fireball, but still ... it's a matter of concern.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION (Harper, February 2016). Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: September 13, 2015, 2:27 am

Joey Logano (22) and Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth (20) race for position during the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday Sept. 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Jesse Hutchinson)RICHMOND, Va.— The lower end of the Chase standings was in some flux as the Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond began, but as Matt Kenseth demonstrated, there's not much doubt who's at the top.

Kenseth turned in another dominating performance, his fourth win of the season, to close out the regular season on the highest possible note for Joe Gibbs Racing. For a portion of the race, JGR cars were running 1-2-3-4, and Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards constitute the class of the field at the moment.

"I saw some beating and banging," Gibbs said, referencing some paint-trading between Edwards and Kenseth. "I saw a hand come out the window [it was Edwards'] and I wasn't sure what it was showing. I got a little nervous .... they handled it the right way. It was a thrill seeing ourselves up there."

The Chase takes 16 drivers, and 11 have already won races this year. Five Chase spots were therefore technically open as the race began, though Jamie McMurray locked up one of those the moment the green flag flew. This was McMurray's first time in the Chase and only the second Chase berth for a Ganassi driver, following Juan Pablo Montoya in 2009.

Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer entered the race holding the four final spots. And while all four worked their way into the final Chase lineup, Menard made it interesting by dropping deep into the pack even as Aric Almirola put on one of his finest runs of the season. Had Almirola won the race, Menard would have fallen out, but no one was catching Kenseth.

A caution with 25 laps remaining threw the field into doubt, halting Kenseth's phenomenal run and giving Almirola at least a sliver of hope. Kenseth came very, very, VERY close to jumping the restart, but honestly he could have started out in the parking lot and he would have come back to win this one. Kenseth led 352 of the 400 laps; no one else led more than 25. He now has four wins, tied with Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson for most heading into the Chase.

The Chase drivers spent the minutes after the race concluded posing onstage and answering brief questions about the Chase and their plans for it.

"We haven't run like we should over the summer months, so that's why we're not in the conversation," Johnson said. "But we've been here before.  Final 10 races are good for us, good tracks.  I think in some scenarios this championship battle is a bit more forgiving.  If we were consistent through the first nine, be a chance to be in the final four, we have 10 more weeks to get our stuff straightened out and find the speed we need."

Brad Keselowski agreed. "We learned last year that Top 10s all the way through [the Chase] can carry you all the way to Homestead," he said. "So the rule is, don't screw up. Be smooth."

At the far end of the standings, there's Clint Bowyer, winding down his run with Michael Waltrip Racing with one last Chase berth. His ragged summer done, Bowyer now heads into the Chase with, if not momentum, at least a place at the table: "A big monumental thing for an organization to go through what we're going through [with MWR winding down] and to push through and get into the Chase, this is the best of the best, the elite of all of motorsports," Bowyer said. "It actually is easier coming into it the way we are right now because the pressure's off. We go in there. We're pushing ahead and go for broke every single weekend."

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION (Harper, February 2016). Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: September 13, 2015, 1:48 am

RICHMOND, Va.—The name precedes you.

Two decades ago, when they were driving around the wilds of North Carolina running late-model races, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his sister Kelley were targets at every track they visited. Other drivers, assuming Dale and Kelley had received all the financial and technological benefits of their famous father, would do their best to beat, or beat down, the young Earnhardts. But both persisted; Kelley made a name for herself behind a desk, and Junior ... well, you know what's happened since to him.

So they, like few others in NASCAR, can understand what Jeffrey Earnhardt has gone through in his ascent through the NASCAR ranks, an ascent that reached another plateau Saturday night as Jeffrey made his Sprint Cup debut in the Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond. Earnhardt, the son of Dale Senior's oldest son Kerry, has fought his way upward, in part literally—he even had a brief stint as an MMA fighter.

Hard to believe Im gonna be racin my first @NASCARonNBC #SprintCuprace tomorrow cant thank everyone enough #startedfromthebottomnowwerehere

— Jeffrey Earnhardt (@JEarnhardt1) September 12, 2015

Earnhardt, 26, qualified the No. 32 Go Green Racing Ford Fusion (yes, an Earnhardt in a Ford) on time, and started 42nd. He has run 66 Xfinity Series races in his career, and indicated that his lone goal in this particular race was to finish the race. He has another Cup race lined up for New Hampshire, but no rides beyond that.

“I’m just thankful to have this opportunity,’’ Earnhardt told NBC Sports. “I’ve got a long, long way to go to learn these cars.’’

This marks the first time in a decade that two Earnhardts have run in a race together, since October 2005 when Junior and Jeffrey's father Kerry ran the October 2005 Talladega race together. Jeffrey Earnhardt is the first fourth-generation NASCAR driver since Adam Petty made his Cup-level debut in 2000.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION (Harper, February 2016). Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: September 13, 2015, 12:39 am

Joey Logano, right, fist-bumps a crew member after qualifying on the pole for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)RICHMOND, Va.— In a race that will force several underperforming drivers to step up or see their championship hopes end, leave it to one of the year's most reliable drivers to set the tone.

Joey Logano won his fifth pole of the season, taking the lead away from Matt Kenseth to start at the very front of the field for Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 500. Logano's 126.470 mph was good enough to lead the field, and will put Logano in an early strong position in the regular season's final race.

Logano has won two of the season's last four races, and is the only non-Joe Gibbs Racing driver to have won a race in the last eight. He's setting up as one of the favorites for the championship once again, alongside Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Busch, among others.

Several drivers must win in order to get into the Chase, which starts next week. David Ragan led that crew with a fifth-place run, while Tony Stewart will start 10th. Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, did not make it out of the first round of qualifying, and will start in the back half of the field. Timmy Hill and Josh Wise did not qualify for the race.

Rain threatens the Richmond race on Saturday night, but it is scheduled for a 7:30 ET green flag start.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: September 12, 2015, 12:14 am

Denny Hamlin sits in his garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Hamlin, who tore an ACL, will be racing despite his injury. (AP Photo/Chet Strange)RICHMOND, Va.—At this point, it's easier to find a spot on Denny Hamlin's body he hasn't hurt.

The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota has suffered injury to his legs, back, chest, and eye, and he's currently feeling the effects of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Hamlin tore the ligament while playing basketball—driving to the basket in overtime of a game, he insists—and will once again seek to race with his body at less than 100 percent.

"I really don't feel like this will set us back at all," Hamlin said, and, really, what else is he going to say? Hamlin still uses a crutch to walk, though he insisted he's close to regaining full mobility.

Hamlin has one win on the year (Martinsville), plus two poles, nine top-5 finishes and 12 top-10s. He's riding a strong streak, finishing 5-3-3 over the last three races. Which would lead one to ask the very reasonable question: why on earth risk anything playing basketball at this time?

"Joe (Gibbs, team owner) does a good job of letting us be whoever we want to be outside the race car," Hamlin said. "My activities really aren't that dangerous that I do. It just seems like I have had some freak accidents over the last few years that's gotten us, but I don't think there's anything that's kep us from being competitive on the race track."

Hamlin had torn the ligament in his left knee in 2010, and had that ligament repaired during the season. "We don't have that luxury this time around, especially with the Chase coming up next week," he said, "so I think that the best thing to do is just hold off and make sure we're 100 percent in the car."

Hamlin kept his sense of humor; when asked if Gibbs was a Chase favorite, he replied, "Joe's not a very good driver." He elaborated on the question: "I've got three of the best teammates speed-wise and talent-wise that I could possibly pick out if I had every single one of them to choose from," he said. "So I'm pretty optimistic...on a consistent, week-in, week-out basis, you're typically looking at JGR cars to beat."

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: September 11, 2015, 8:48 pm

If Clint Bowyer has decided on the team he's going to drive for in 2016, he's not saying it publicly. 

Bowyer said any negotiations for his future plans were put on a brief hold as he works to make sure he qualifies for the 2015 Chase. Bowyer is currently the final driver in the Chase. If there's no new winner at Richmond on Saturday night, he's likely in.

Aric Almirola, the first driver out of the Chase, needs Bowyer to struggle mightily if he wants a shot at the Chase without a win. If Bowyer finishes 28th and one of the 11 drivers in the Cup Series who has won a race this year wins again, he's in the Chase.

"I think first of all it’s very humbling, the phone calls," Bowyer said. "As soon as the news comes out that you’re not going to have a future at your present employment, obviously you’re nervous and you’re worried about what that means for yourself or your people and with everything. It’s humbling the people that have reached out and been interested in me, but truth be told man, look what we’re in the middle of.

"Timing is good that it’s ahead and not the end of the year that you’re finding this out, but nonetheless it’s pretty crunching times right here and it’s like I told them, ‘I don’t want to use the word back burner, but let’s just take a timeout right here for a couple weeks and take care of business.’ That’s kind of what we did this week."

Michael Waltrip Racing won't exist as a Sprint Cup team next year, or if it does, it will be running a part-time schedule. Despite going winless since 2012, Bowyer is still considered a top talent and has sponsor 5-Hour Energy that will likely go with him wherever he ends up in 2016. And that team could also be a different team from where he drives in 2017. Rides at top-tier teams aren't plentiful for the upcoming season.

Bowyer just missed out on the Chase a year ago at Richmond. The odds are with him this year, and he said he has his sights set on Paul Menard, who is 10 points ahead of him. If Bowyer makes up a spot in the standings Saturday night, the winner of the race doesn't matter. He'd be in the Chase. With 12 winners, four drivers make the Chase on points. Bowyer is currently the fifth driver in on points.

“He’s only 10 points ahead of me and it’s one of my best race tracks and honestly, that was the first thought in my mind when I looked at those points is that I saw where Menard was and thought that was doable. It’s kind of weird, nobody ever likes looking over their shoulder and worrying about what’s behind them. You want to worry about what’s ahead and for me in this weekend it’s an attainable task to beat him out of that."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 11, 2015, 6:49 pm

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

Still coming off the high of Darlington on Sunday? You're not alone. And your peer group likely includes a lot of drivers. If the silence and lack of direct comments after Michigan's high-drag abomination was telling, the glowing reviews after Darlington Sunday night should be even more so.

It's understandable why drivers would want to run the low-downforce rules in the Chase. The two best races of the year have been Kentucky and Darlington and those have been the two races that drivers have been most happy with. However, NASCAR made the right decision in August to stick with the 2015 rules in the Chase. And it's making the right decision to stick by the choice even if drivers would love NASCAR to make changes.

You can argue that any changes to the rules for the Chase would be an admittance of failure by NASCAR when it comes to the 2015 rules. But let's be real, the 2015 rules have already been revealed to be a disappointment by the sanctioning body. If they were good enough to not be tweaked, NASCAR would never have tried two different sets of rules packages over the course of the summer. The sanctioning body would have stayed the course.

NASCAR likes to say it's not a stick-and-ball sport but it also has to be compared to the big leagues if wants to be considered a major league U.S. sport. And no other major league sport would change its rules simply for the playoffs (Though we'll admit no other major league sport would experiment during the regular season as well. The NFL wouldn't move extra points back to the 40 in Week 9.)

The way the Chase is set up, drama is already built in. The racing doesn't have to be fantastic for the Chase to be compelling, and that's by design. NASCAR has rigged the system to promote small sample-size success. A runaway is impossible. And though this next sentence is (we think) a joke, it does have some basis in fact. Given NASCAR's history with changing the Chase, it's up for a tweak or two pretty soon anyway.

The optimism surrounding Darlington should be enough to carry over into February, when NASCAR will likely be running a low-downforce package for the majority of the season. While NASCAR may be the living embodiment of the phrase "the only constant is change," switching up the rules for the Chase is one change it didn't need to make.

Let's get to the questions.

@NickBromberg drivers complain about the splitter. Pic of '16 car today has splitter. Apart from downforce, whats the point of a splitter

— Nick Knezevich (@itsKnez) September 10, 2015

The car Nick writes about is this one, which will be tested at Kansas next week. It's a test car may or may not be the final one.

Looks a little sleeker, don't you think? And yes, the splitter is still there, though it looks like a C cut in the middle -- it juts out further on the side of the cars.

Taking away downforce on these cars isn't going to be something that you can hack off with a chainsaw (even though we'd love that to happen.) It's going to be deliberate. If this car tests well next week and is a step in the low-downforce direction, who knows, there could be even less of a splitter when the season begins next year.

It's just nice that this low-downforce movement is proving that it's not all talk.

Now, about that awesome Darlington retro part of the NBC broadcast Sunday night.


IIt was interesting to hear the guys broadcast but Squier has not changed. He still makes stupid mistakes. Example, Hamlin is not from the state of Washington and the race was not in Martinsville. Ned was his usually great self. Been fan since 1953 so not a newbee. Kinda got choked up when Ned was talking about Benny Parsons. Met Benny once and he was a great guy. - Jay

II agree! Squires, Jarrett, and Jarrett, was a tight broadcast team that sounded like they just called the last race a week ago. And they were up against what is arguably the best team to call a race, Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte. I used to be so upset when the Fox Team ended and we flipped networks, but to NBC's credit, the current team adds such depth to a broadcast. If they use a term any race fan knows, they explain what that is. And of course, the driver's and crew chief's insights are fantastic. - Paul

You couldn't have said it any better. My father and I used to watch the races from the very beginning. Some of my best memories were sitting in front of the TV and listening to those wonderful broadcasters. And tonight's race just brought back memories of my wonderful father and Ned and Ken and Dale - Tricia

Yes, Ken Squier made a couple mistakes. But he hadn't broadcast a race in a long time. We're able to give him a pass. While he and Ned Jarrett talked like they hadn't missed a beat together they can be forgiven for having a bit of rust.

There is a danger of getting too buried into the past. You see it a lot of times with NASCAR fans who think the racing was so much better back in the 1970s and 1980s. But a once-a-year tribute at Darlington with rotating themes would be a fantastic addition to the schedule.

NASCAR and those in it can take itself very seriously at times. Sunday was a great opportunity to remember that people are getting paid good money to participate in a sport that is about cars going fast in a circle. It should be a whole hell of a lot of fun.

@NickBromberg Richmond=NFL last preseason game, someone might play onto team/chase, but mostly useless,plus post Dar lull,so what to watch?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) September 10, 2015

Was on SiriusXM earlier in the day and said the odds of a new winner Saturday night were no greater than 5 percent. Even that seems high. With what we've seen so far in 2015, can anyone make a legitimate case for a new winner?

Sure, disaster could strike one of the drivers currently in the Chase on points and Aric Almirola could get a top five, but even that seems unlikely too. Instead the focus is on which repeat winner will get another three bonus points. Can Kyle Busch lead the series in wins before the Chase?

If you're going to watch something other than NASCAR – which may be a good idea if the forecast of rain Saturday in Richmond comes true – Oregon at Michigan State is going to be a fantastic football game. Oklahoma at Tennessee and LSU at Mississippi State too. We've got a busy Saturday night planned with all five televisions going.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 10, 2015, 9:01 pm

Denny Hamlin will be driving with a torn ACL again.

The driver of the No. 11 tore his right ACL on Tuesday. According to a statement from Joe Gibbs Racing, Hamlin has been cleared by doctors to drive at Richmond on Saturday and in the Chase. He tore it playing basketball.

"Hamlin had a MRI this morning to confirm the diagnosis and has been evaluated by the medical team at OrthoCarolina. He has received the medical clearance necessary to continue racing activities and is expected to race the remainder of the season and through the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Hamlin will require surgery to repair the ACL damage following the season."

Hamlin previously tore his left ACL in January 2010. Guess how he tore that one too? Yep, playing basketball. He drove with the ACL tear at the beginning of the 2010 season but decided to go ahead and have the surgery in March 2010.

He didn't miss any races that year and ended up winning eight times. It's his most successful Sprint Cup Series season to date, though he lost the championship in heartbreaking fashion. He entered the final race of the year with a 15-point lead over Jimmie Johnson and struggled at Homestead. Johnson ended up winning the title by 39 points.

Hamlin is currently eighth in the Sprint Cup Series points standings and is in the Chase thanks to his win at Martinsville. He's one of the favorites for the 2015 title at the moment given the speed of the four JGR cars. Hamlin was also the only JGR driver to make it to the final round of the 2014 Chase.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 9, 2015, 8:13 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 and we'll try to have some fun while keeping in mind the somber news of Monday night.

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Harvick keeps the top spot after he finished fifth. He had one of the race's fastest cars but wasn't able to make up any time on pit road. Remember, Carl Edwards got the win by going from third to first on pit road on the final stop. We're also going to go ahead and get this out of the way now: NASCAR could have easily not called a caution for Jeb Burton's slide to set up the finish. With the way Edwards, Harvick and Brad Keselowski were going after each other, we were in store for a great finish.

2. Joey Logano (LW: 2): Logano finished one spot ahead of Harvick and therefore gets to be one spot behind him again in Power Rankings. Yeah, we know. We make a lot of sense sometimes. Logano led 29 laps and came off pit road on the final restart in fourth. That's where he finished, but we kind of gave that away with the first sentence. He's now heading to Richmond, a track where both he and Harvick have been very good at lately.

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 3): Busch finished seventh Sunday night. But most importantly, he's guaranteed to be in the Chase no matter what because it's mathematically impossible for Busch to fall out of the top 30. As he went on his four wins in five races tear, the odds of Busch missing the Chase went down dramatically. But it wasn't guaranteed until Sunday. He's one of the favorites for the Chase, unless you believe the Chase still has a mind-hex on Busch and he'll flame out early (again).

4. Carl Edwards (LW: 10): It was a perfect night for Edwards. One of the low-downforce advocates won a low-downforce race and he had this to say after the race was over. "Pack racing" reference, anyone? "I really think we're at a bigger crossroads than most people realize," Edwards said. "I think this is an opportunity for the sport to go in one of two directions. They can go the direction of making the sport competitive because the cars are easy to drive and everyone's car is about the same and we can basically have Talladega every week, or they can go the direction of making the cars extremely hard to drive and showing the massive talent of the drivers, the crew chiefs and the pit crews, and I hope that they take the latter. I hope they really keep going this direction."

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 6): Add Junior to the list of drivers who said he was having fun Sunday night. He finished eighth and said "I love the package" (get your mind out of the gutter) and "The car was a lot of fun to drive all night." He said that also with the caveat that his team wasn't very good when it arrived at Darlington and spent the weekend searching for the right balance. If drivers' silence after Michigan said something, their compliments should speak even louder.

6. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): How about this. Instead of a late caution to set up drama during the final 10 Chase races, we hope that we don't have any cautions at all within the last 40 laps and instead have the three best cars at the end of the race trade passing attempts over a long green flag run to see who wins. Anyone else in favor of this? Because man, the final laps could have been epic on old tires without that last caution. Keselowski finished second, by the way.

7. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 7): Truex ended up finishing ninth. While we appreciated the teal-themed car that Truex ran in support of Ovarian cancer and his girlfriend Sherry Pollex, the teal words on his black car were a bit hard to read. It would have been awesome if he would have run a teal car. Because when you're running a teal car, everyone knows you're running a teal car.

8. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 5): Anyone else surprised Johnson didn't have a good night? After spinning and dropping back in the pack, Johnson ended up finishing 19th. But if you look at it from the wide view, does a bad finish at Darlington really mean anything when it comes to the Chase? No, it doesn't. These rules aren't going to be used for the next 11 weeks. So don't go saying Johnson isn't a contender because of what you saw on Sunday night.

9. Matt Kenseth (LW: 4): Kenseth had a fast car. Well, it looked like had a fast car in the early laps of the race. There really wasn't much time to make a judgment until he got loose off the corner and smacked into the wall. He hit at such an angle that it completely demolished the right-rear quarterpanel and knocked the decklid off the car too. He had to pit under green but since the incident came so early in the race, his team was able to get back on the lead lap for a 21st-place finish.

10. Denny Hamlin (LW: 9): Bumping Hamlin down a spot after finishing third seems cruel. But the two drivers ahead of him already had fallen three and five spots respectively and everyone else in the top 10 also finished in the top 10. Sorry, Denny. We're also wondering what the odds are going to be of the four Gibbs cars making it to the final round of the Chase. They're not going to be large by any means, but they're going to exist.

11. Kurt Busch (LW: 11): Here's another guy who went for a slide during Sunday night's race. He fought back to finish sixth, one spot ahead of his brother. Busch said his car was a race-winning car and also said that he could still feel the difference between clean and dirty air with the lower spoilers on the cars. “Definitely still where you struggle is in dirty air," Busch said. "There needs to be less differential between clean air and dirty air. I ran second most of the race, third, when we did get to the lead it was like the car found another gear.  The package in general is a nice balance of slip sliding around and being on the edge."

12. Ryan Newman (LW: 12): We were looking for another candidate for the final spot, but Newman quickly ended that search. Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne finished 10th-12th and were options for this spot. But Newman was 13th. Sorry guys, Newman gets to stay here. He's also pretty much guaranteed into the Chase, barring a catastrophe or tire manipulation penalty at Richmond. KEEP THOSE TIRES PRISTINE, RCR.

Lucky Dog: Let's give it to Landon Cassill, who got his third top-20 of the season.

The DNF: Danica Patrick finished 42nd.

Dropped Out: None

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 8, 2015, 2:59 pm

DARLINGTON, S.C.—NASCAR billed Sunday’s Bojangles Southern 500 as a “throwback” weekend, and virtually every race team responded in kind. Retro-paint-scheme cars evoking memories of Richard Petty’s classic red-and-blue STP ride, Ricky Craven’s orange Tide car, and the Days of Thunder Mello Yello, among others—28 of the 43 Cup cars in all—decorated the track and NASCAR’s social media, drawing universal acclaim.

Oh, but those were not the only colors not forgotten. All over Darlington, in numbers unseen at any other NASCAR track in decades, flew Confederate battle flags. This was the first Southern 500 in Darlington in more than a decade, and South Carolina’s Confederate faithful welcomed back the race with a showing of battle flags unprecedented in recent NASCAR history.

That's the thorny position in which NASCAR finds itself—wanting to embrace the past, but not all of the past; wanting to keep its old-school fans in the fold, but wanting those fans to stop acting like your surly uncle after a few too many beers on Thanksgiving. It’s like trying to walk a tightrope that’s rolling, and every step you take—or don’t take—enrages someone to their core.


Let’s take half a step back to see how we got here. NASCAR itself was born of rebellion, its roots in bootleggers who combined a daredevil spirit and mechanical alchemy to evade The Law. As you surely recall from high school history class, South Carolina saw the first shots of the Civil War, when Confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter near Charleston. South Carolina’s NASCAR fans are the most rebellious of an already rebellious bunch, and they’ve embraced that designation at the track that’s hosted some variant of the Southern 500 for most of the last 65 years. See, for instance, a sample program from 1976:

Southern 500 1976 program.

Darlington represents everything iconic about NASCAR—it’s a wicked, historic track that’s a bucket-list win for drivers—but it also serves as a cautionary tale. The track opened in 1950, but in 2004, NASCAR gave Darlington’s coveted, traditional Labor Day date to California, and later Atlanta. The Track Too Tough To Tame had to content itself with other, lesser dates until this year. NASCAR tried to be too much to too many people at the expense of tradition, and a vocal segment of the fanbase didn't much care for the change.

Sunday marked the return of the Southern 500 to its rightful spot on Labor Day weekend, and NASCAR made sure to throw an all-out throwback fiesta. Everything from the cars’ paint schemes to the announcers’ leisure suits to the primitive TV graphics sought to reconnect 2015 with 1975 and 1965. It’s like everybody was doubling down on this whole embracing-history thing.



For all the Confederate symbology, Civil War gunfire didn’t get within a hundred miles of Darlington—the closest battle was at Rivers Bridge, part of the late-war Carolinas Campaign in February 1865. Shortly afterward, the nearby city of Columbia, 70 miles west of Darlington, surrendered to General William Tecumseh Sherman, setting in motion one of the last great arguments of the war. Devastating fires that consumed much of the city in the wake of surrender became the source of much debate: were they set by retreating Confederate soldiers? Were they set by freed slaves, federal prisoners, or vindictive Union occupiers? Were they just a flat-out accident? As with so much else here, everyone chooses a different truth.

Despite the South’s persistent image, the Confederate battle flag isn’t a constant presence either on cars or, as of this summer, government buildings in South Carolina. The racially-motivated church shootings this summer in Charleston prompted the entire region to rethink its attachment to the flag, and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley—who was in attendance at Sunday’s race—and the state Legislature removed the flag from state grounds. Driving into Darlington, like driving through most of the South in 2015, you saw few, if any, Confederate flags.

Make the turn off Route 401 onto Race Track Road, though, and boom. The moment you saw campsites, you saw Confederate flags—dozens upon dozens of them. They flew on 20-foot-high poles, they flew nailed to 2x4s sticking out of the back beds of pickup trucks, they flew on plastic window clips. They were everywhere, in large part because everyone outside Darlington says they shouldn’t be.

Track officials at Darlington, like Daytona earlier this summer, offered a flag exchange for anyone wishing to trade in their Confederate flag on an American one. The exchange was slated to take place at one of the track’s entrance gates, but four different guards at Gate 39A had no idea that the promotion even existed. The fifth pointed me toward a still-full box of American flags tucked in the corner of a small guardhouse.

“Haven’t seen one given away yet,” the guard said. “I doubt if you do [at all].”

“I was wondering what those were for,” said another.


Darlington removed all official images of the battle flag from its premises. You couldn't buy shirts with images of the battle flag at the track. But you could buy them elsewhere, and a large number of shirts featuring the flag looked suspiciously new, like never-been-washed, just-bought-this-week, still-got-the-creases-in-them new. A cynical mind might say that these shirts had been opportunistically whipped up for exactly this weekend.

NASCAR fan at Darlington.Several shirts combined images of the flag, moonshine Mason jars, guns, and slogans (“Southern Strong,” “Southern Tradition”) into a full-service good-ol’-boy package that probably would’ve whistled “Dixie” if you squeezed them. Others paired the Confederate flag with certain iconic drivers' cars in a way that almost surely flaunted copyright law. And still others just reduced the flag to a cartoon, like the battle-flag suspenders, floppy hat, and red-and-blue dyed beard of a fella by the name of Dennis Dease, pictured at right.

Walk around the track, the infield and the campgrounds beyond, and you’ll find that the people tailgating beneath those Confederate flags aren’t a seething, gnashing inbred mob spitting racial invective. Most of them say they have a specific perspective on American history. 

Certainly, they have lines as well-honed as any politician—“heritage, not hate” is the current favored one, closely followed by “I’m not a racist.” But there’s nuance within. Some are fine with the flag’s removal from official grounds; others believe it’s a sign of creeping political correctness that’s infecting our entire society. (Not surprisingly, these are fans of Donald Trumps campaign for president.) They share one overarching goal: to be able to fly, in their own way and in their own space, a symbol they consider integral to their own history. They worry that NASCAR is trying to blot out that history.

“We want to go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of that flag," NASCAR chairman Brian France said in June shortly after the Charleston shootings. "I personally find it an offensive symbol, so there is no daylight how we feel about it and our sensitivity to others who feel the same way. We're working with the industry to see how far we can go to get that flag to be disassociated entirely from our events."

“If that happened, pffft,” one fan said, dragging his finger across his throat. “That’s it. I’m done. Never coming to another race.”

“I mean, it wouldn’t be cool to take it away, because of freedom of speech and all that,” said a young fan. “But would I stop coming to races? No, probably not. Only if it was part of a protest or something.”

The word “boycott” probably isn't advisable in this situation, and you're glad it didn't come up.


This is not to say that all flag supporters are a noble band of freedom fighters, standing strong against a monolithic, uncaring politically correct dictatorship. There’s also a special breed of white Southerner that combines willful ignorance with thin skin into a state best described as arrogant victimhood. You can still see their work tucked away in dusty corners of small-town gas stations, on license plates bearing the flag and slogans like LEE SURRENDERED, I DIDN’T and FORGET, HELL, or on T-shirts featuring the battle flag and IF THIS FLAG OFFENDS YOU, READ A HISTORY BOOK. The shirt might be trying to slide on a technicality (the so-called "battle flag" combines traditional Confederate flags into a style that, technically, wasn't ever used by the Confederacy) or it might just be endorsing a very narrow interpretation of history, one in which the Southern cause starts and stops with the nobility of Southerners fighting with honor and valor for sovereignty and traditional values.

At Darlington, there were minorities amid the sea of white fans, wearing Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. memorabilia, looking every bit as at ease here as anyone else. Sure, a NASCAR race is not as racially diverse as, say, an NFL game, but there’s a growing minority population … a population that might, just might, be seeing some signs of real, inclusive change.

“I’ve seen it my whole life,” said one African-American race fan, speaking of the flag. “I know what it represents to me.”

The fan declined to give her name, and she was not alone. This is worth noting: virtually everyone at the track—fans, workers, security, local media, track officials—has an opinion on the flag’s presence, and virtually none of them want to be quoted on the record. Sometimes it’s a matter of personal preference, of wanting to keep an apolitical public presence, and sometimes it veers a bit more in the paranoid direction.

“You see what they’re doing to police,” said one flag supporter who also wouldn't give his name. “I don’t want to have to kill nobody. I’m dead serious.”


The problem for flag supporters—really, the problem for everybody—is that a symbol doesn’t just mean what you want it to, and an alliterative t-shirt slogan doesn’t change that. One person’s heritage is, in fact, another’s hate.

That, then, is why the flag supporters are fighting a losing battle in the public eye. If you’re an Alabama fan, say, you can’t conceive of anyone willingly donning an Auburn jersey. But colleges, cities, bands, and other rallying points of group unity didn’t pursue and perpetuate decades of human subjugation. Defenders of the flag have chosen to counter that aspect of the debate by simply declining to acknowledge that it’s part of the equation.

Here’s the thing, though: one of the South’s patron saints already blazed a trail through this particular thicket. Dale Earnhardt Sr. his own self once cut the rebel flag off an AMERICAN BY BIRTH, SOUTHERN BY THE GRACE OF GOD bumper sticker after hearing it offended an African-American family friend. The heritage remained, the hate got ditched.

But that particular statement didn’t make the news at the time, because it happened away from the public eye. Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushed the flag issue forward earlier this year when he unloaded on the flag in the wake of the Charleston shootings. "I think it's offensive to an entire race," Earnhardt said before this year's Sonoma race. "It does nothing for anybody to be there flying, so I don't see any reason. It belongs in the history books and that's about it."


Nuance dies a quick death in the NASCAR infield, but rumors ran fast enough to win the Southern 500.

Early in the weekend, whispers spread through the infield that NASCAR and NBC were looking to take down Confederate flags. That was enough to spur some outrage and misguided free-speech complaints (being private property, Darlington could forbid anything from the Confederate flag to Kyle Busch banners if it so desired). The track and NASCAR decided to enforce the already-in-place rule that all flags must come down while cars are running; it's up to you to decide whether that enforcement was to protect spotters' sight lines or present a less inflammatory image to television viewers. By the time the race started, virtually all flags of any kind were down in the infield; only a few holdouts waved the flag during the Southern 500's opening laps.

Absent an outright ban—which would whip up opportunistic anti-P.C. fury among even Americans who don’t know Jimmie Johnson from Jimmy Johnson—the flag won’t ever come down completely. But its presence, already waning in most of the South, will continue to recede. Anti-flag demonstrators will move on to other causes, and flag supporters, without the opposition to push against, won’t keep bringing the flags to races to make the same point, year after year. The farther the flag recedes from public spaces, the more it becomes a historical abstraction.

Hell, even Dale Earnhardt flags are dwindling in number. If Earnhardt flags can fade from NASCAR infields … anything can.

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: September 7, 2015, 2:34 pm

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DARLINGTON, S.C.—Brad Keselowski was cruising late in the Bojangles Southern 500, and Carl Edwards had fought his way from two laps down into second place.

"Let's get him," Edwards said ... and then he did.

In the longest race of the season, four hours and 29 minutes, longer even than the Coca-Cola 600, Edwards used a late pit stop and mastery of a new low-downforce aero package to hold off Keselowski and Denny Hamlin and win the famous Southern 500.

"My pit crew ought to be sitting up here doing interviews," Edwards said afterward. "They won that race for us, to come in third and go out leading the race."

NASCAR billed this weekend, the first Darlington Labor Day race in more than a decade, as a "throwback," and 28 of the 43 teams on the track obliged by bringing retro paint schemes to the track. NBC used old-school graphics, on-camera crew wore hilariously outdated clothes, and legendary announcers Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett took a memorable turn calling the race. The one throwback aspect that this race didn't feature is the one that belongs in the history books: the uncompetitive, winner-by-five-laps races of yore.

This year's model was always competitive and frequently fascinating, with drivers trying to master the new aero package in real time. Some, like Edwards and Brad Keselowski, learned quickly; others ended up spinning time and again. The race ended up with 18 cautions, setting a new Darlington record and coming within sight of the all-time record of 22.

As the race wound down, the leaders included Edwards, Keselowski, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, five drivers who have each had memorable run-ins with the others over the years, plus Kyle and Kurt Busch, who are always one bent fender away from starting fights of their own. The race could end with a runaway victory or it could end in multiple fistfights, and no one would have been surprised either way.

Keselowski controlled the tempo of the race throughout, leading a race-high 196 laps. (Hamlin, the next-closest lap leader, notched only 57.) But the final caution proved to be his undoing; all the leaders took tires, and Edwards beat Keselowski to the line by a hairsbreadth.

The win marked the culmination of a night of exceptional resilience for Edwards. He suffered a flat tire on lap 90 and went two laps down, but fought his way back to put himself in position to challenge Keselowski's late dominance. Had the race stayed green throughout, it's doubtfui Edwards or anyone else would have caught Keselowski, but Jeb Burton's spin with 11 laps remaining opened the door for Edwards.

The new package meant drivers had to work much harder on the track, a challenging state that worked out just fine for some but not so well for others. "The cars, just five or six years ago when I entered Sprint Cup, were extremely difficult to drive, much like a stick shift when you're first learning how to drive," Keselowski said. "And then they've gotten really easy to drive over the last four or five years, to the point where we're all kind of looking around at each other as drivers going, wait a minute here, this isn't good, it shouldn't be this easy to drive these. So we asked NASCAR to, hey, make these cars harder to drive, give us our—metaphorically speaking—stick shift back, and they did, and I think somebody thought they'd be really funny and pick Darlington as the track to do that, which would be like if you picked the mountains of Virginia to give somebody a stick shift back."

The series now shifts to Richmond, the final race of NASCAR's regular season. While the Chase field is almost completely set, there's always the outside chance that a first-time winner could sneak in and bounce one of the low-points drivers like Clint Bowyer. Conventional wisdom has held that Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Harvick, and Logano have been the strongest drivers headed into the Chase, but Keselowski and Edwards have forced themselves into the conversation as well. No matter how the Chase ends for Edwards, he's knocked a NASCAR victory off his bucket list.

"I hope I never forget those last 25 laps," Edwards said. "That was fun."

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: September 7, 2015, 4:28 am

If you were looking for a Richmond race full of drama for the final spots of the Chase, you're probably going to be severely disappointed.

Without a bunch of surprises during Sunday night's Southern 500 for drivers on the Chase bubble, the likelihood of drama at Richmond for more than one Chase spot was low. And there were no surprises. So while there are multiple spots up for grabs mathematically, there's really only going to be one spot hanging in the balance at Richmond.

Anyone with a win in the Sprint Cup Series is in the Chase. That means Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Darlington winner Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch are in the Chase.

That leaves six spots for drivers who are currently winless. Those drivers are Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer. At the moment, none of those drivers are currently guaranteed a Chase berth. But barring a catastrophe at Richmond or an unexpected winner, they're all going to make it.

If a driver currently outside of the aforementioned 16 wins Saturday night, one of the five drivers in the preceding paragraph will be knocked out. And as it stands right now, that driver would be Bowyer because he has the lowest point total of the five. But given the way the 2016 season has gone, the odds of a driver who hasn't been named so far in this story winning are quite slim.

Slim also characterizes the Chase odds of Aric Almirola, the driver who is currently the first on the outside of the Chase. He's 29 points back of Bowyer while Kasey Kahne is two points back of Almirola. To get into the Chase without a win, Almirola has to essentially gain 29 spots on Bowyer (or 39 spots on Menard) at Richmond. It's 31 and 41 for Kahne. Yeah, it's a tall task.

So why aren't McMurray, Newman, Gordon and Menard locked in to the Chase? Because they aren't a full race ahead of Bowyer. To be mathematically clinched into the Chase, the four would need to be 48 points (the points a race winner who leads the most laps earns) ahead of Bowyer. McMurray is 44 ahead of Bowyer. Newman is 32, while Gordon is 28 and Menard is 10. Once McMurray starts at Richmond, he's guaranteed in the Chase.

We won't get into the minutae of the scenarios involving the latter three drivers, but trust us on this one. It's going to be a major upset if more than one Chase spot changes hands at Richmond. And heck, it could be an upset if the Chase even changes at all.

But that's alright. With the way that the summer has gone so far it's hard to pick favorites for the final 10 races. What Richmond lacks in drama could be made up easily by the Chase.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 7, 2015, 4:27 am

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If you're a long-time NASCAR fan and didn't have flashbacks when Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett started calling a portion of Sunday night's Southern 500 at Darlington, please get yourself examined. Immediately.

The Sprint Cup Series' first Labor Day Weekend trip back to the historic South Carolina track in 12 years was billed as a throwback weekend. As many NASCAR teams ran throwback paint schemes, NBC's regular announcers Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte wore 1970s-era clothes and a portion of the broadcast was called by Squier, Jarrett and Dale Jarrett, Ned's son.

For me, Squier and Ned Jarrett were the voices of my youth. I didn't have cable growing up, so the NASCAR races I saw in the 1990s were limited to network television. And since CBS has the Daytona 500, it's the network that formed the soundtrack of my NASCAR youth.

My first racing memory is the 1992 Indianapolis 500, when Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear. Unser Jr. became my favorite IndyCar driver. My first Daytona 500 memory is the following year, when Squier and Jarrett broadcast the final laps of the 500 as Dale Jarrett held off Dale Earnhardt for the win. Unsurprisingly, Dale Jarrett became my favorite NASCAR driver (until another driver entered NASCAR in 1999, but more on that when the situation warrants). 7-year-olds are pretty impressionable.

Listening to the three call the early stages of Sunday nights race felt like a time warp, even with HD televisions and massive front splitters on the Cup cars that didn't exist 20 years ago. The interplay between Squier and Ned Jarrett was exceptional. It felt like the two had called a race together a week ago, not some 15 years ago.

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It was also a reminder of how many of us fell in love with NASCAR. We always love the announcers of our youth and it's no secret that NASCAR fans love to harken back to the good old days. Well, the good old days were sort of back Sunday night. And if you didn't enjoy the nostalgic feel – albeit brought on because NASCAR finally came to the realization that moving the Southern 500 from its traditional date to tap in to different markets was a bad idea – we hope you get a prescription.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: September 7, 2015, 12:52 am

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