Here's another reminder of the dangers of being on a NASCAR pit crew.

Look at this fire that happened in Brendan Gaughan's pit during Friday night's Xfinity Series race at Richmond. It's sparked as Gaughan's car is still being fueled and as we all know, gasoline and fire don't mix.

The fire was extinguished pretty quickly, though as you can see, it was pretty damn big. Three crew members were taken to a local hospital. Eric McClure's pit was next to Gaughan's.

NASCAR says two crew members from Gaughan’s team and one from Eric McClure’s team were transported to a local hospital.

— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) April 25, 2015

Gaughan ended up finishing the race, won by Denny Hamlin, in 11th.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 25, 2015, 1:39 am

Defending Richmond winner Joey Logano will start first for Saturday night's race.

Logano outpaced former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin for the top starting spot, his third pole position of the season. He's previously started first at Atlanta and Martinsville.

Hamlin has won twice at Richmond, though his last win at the track came in 2009 when he led 299 laps.

Kurt Busch will start third while AJ Allmendinger starts fourth and Kevin Harvick will start fifth.

Logano won last year's race after an awesome four-car battle for the win. Because why not, here it is again. It doesn't get old.

Hendrick Motorsports cars didn't have a very good qualifying session. While Jeff Gordon made it to the final round and will start 11th, he was the only full-time HMS car to even make it to the second round.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 26th while Jimmie Johnson starts 36th and Kasey Kahne will start 40th. Kahne said he wondered if his car had a bad set of tires while Johnson's reaction to qualifying was summed up thusly:

I be like... pic.twitter.com/EJCykCzGLN

— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) April 24, 2015

Chase Elliott, making his second start for the team, will start 16th.

The two cars missing the race were Jeb Burton and Brendan Gaughan.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 24, 2015, 10:48 pm

Is David Ragan going to drive for another Toyota team in 2015?

According to the Charlotte Observer, Ragan is expected to take over the No. 55 car for Michael Waltrip Racing starting at Kansas Speedway on May 9. The Associated Press first reported MWR's interest in Ragan.

Ragan is currently subbing for Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing following Busch's injuries in the Feburary Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Ragan has driven for JGR since the second race of the season and would vacate the car after Talladega for Erik Jones. NBC Sports first reported the possibility of Jones taking over at Kansas.

Jones, 18, got his first Xfinity Series win at Texas Motor Speedway earlier in April and made a hasty Sprint Cup Series debut at Bristol, even if it doesn't officially count in the box score. Denny Hamlin had an issue with a neck muscle in the opening laps at Bristol and Jones flew in from Charlotte during a rain delay to take over for Hamlin.

According to the Observer, Ragan would be driving the No. 55 for the rest of the season, meaning Brian Vickers won't be returning to the Cup Series in 2015. Vickers, who missed the first two races of the season after heart surgery, is out because of a recurrence of blood clots.

Here's what Ragan said to USA Today about the report:

"I know I'm going to be in the 18 car for a little while," Ragan said. "This week and Talladega are obviously two very important weeks we're looking forward to. I'm focused on that and I just don't really have any comment."

If Ragan moves to the no. 55 for the rest of the year, Front Row Motorsports would need to find replacement drivers. When Vickers returned to the Cup Series briefly this year, his current replacement driver, Brett Moffitt, drove the No. 34. With Moffitt in the No. 55, Chris Buescher has served as the team's main driver, though he's not participating at Richmond.

Waltrip is scheduled to drive the No. 55 next week at Talladega. Busch is expected to return to Cup Series action at some point this season but no timeline has been established for his return.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 24, 2015, 5:51 pm

If Kyle Busch wins a race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup upon his return to the series, there may be a good chance he'd make the Chase.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France, speaking at an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting, made it clear that he wants to find a way to get Kyle Busch in the Chase.

From the AP:

"Depends on when he comes back of course, but it'll be more likely than not that we're going to try to figure out how to accommodate him, which is the beauty of our playoff system," France said Thursday during a meeting of The Associated Press Sports Editors at the NASCAR offices in Manhattan.

"What happened to him was on us," he said. "We'll balance a lot of things at that point when we have to make a decision, but we're inclined to want to figure that out for sure."

Busch said last week that he hoped NASCAR would find a way to make him Chase eligible if he won a race upon his return. Current NASCAR rules say a driver must be in the top 30 in the points standings to be eligible to make the Chase. Because he's still sidelined from a broken leg and broken foot sustained in a February crash where he hit a non-SAFER barrier protected wall, it's incredibly unlikely Busch will be in the top 30 in the points standings when the Chase begins.

Of course, for this conversation to become reality, Busch will have to win a race. And with likely 12 or fewer races to do so upon his return, he won't have many opportunities. However, there's absolutely no reason this should be even a serious conversation at this point.

No matter the intentions, admitting Busch into this year's Chase would further undermine the system that NASCAR has tried so hard to pass off as legitimate since the beginning of 2014.

NASCAR has already issued waivers to Chase drivers before, however, the waivers issued to Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch all applied to a previous (and unnecessary) provision stating that drivers must compete in every race. Stewart was inside the top 30 at the time of his waiver in 2014, Vickers had a significant chance of doing so before being sidelined with blood clots again (would he receive the same treatment as Kyle Busch if he comes back?), and Kurt Busch is already inside the top 30 in points despite competing in five of eight races in 2015.

Playoff systems in all American sports are not indicative of the regular season; look at the Kansas City Royals last season or the Pittsburgh Steelers' run to a Super Bowl win as a No. 6 seed in 2005. However, teams must achieve success throughout the season to get to the playoffs. While NASCAR wants to promote winning as everything when it comes to the Chase system, one race win shouldn't simply equal a successful season.

If it did, why was the top 30 rule installed in the first place? By putting in the rule, NASCAR clearly wanted to incentivize teams and drivers to run the entirety of the season before the Chase. And in writing it, NASCAR knew there could be a chance a major injury forces a driver to miss enough time to fall outside the top 30 in points.

After all, officials saw what happened to Denny Hamlin when he slammed into a non-SAFER barrier protected wall in 2013. To think there wouldn't be a scenario where a driver sustains serious injuries by slamming into a bare concrete wall again is ignorant at best.

But it seems that France hasn't learned from his mistake in 2013 when he added Jeff Gordon as a 13th driver to the Chase after a race manipulation incident at Richmond. It was an incident that clearly undermined his sport's credibility, yet he apparently desires to make a very similar mistake once again if given the opportunity. Would Busch be added in as a 17th driver? Would a deserving driver based on points be knocked out at his expense? Would this even be a topic if it was David Gilliland and not Busch?

NASCAR has worked feverishly since 2004 to promote the Chase as a grander and greater alternative than the season-long points format it had in place since the sport's inception. And that work increased in 2014 when the one-race "winner take all" format was introduced. NASCAR knew it was an incredibly stark departure from the days of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

France's sport has positives. It's producing good racing, has a monstrous television deal in its back pocket and has a bunch of nationally-recognizable stars. Yet by showing a preference to tweak the sport's parameters for settling a champion whenever he sees fit, France pushes away the mainstream credibility NASCAR has tried so hard to achieve.

If NASCAR wants the current Chase format to catch on, its rules need to be left alone. And if those rules mean a star misses out on the playoffs, so be it. While you can convincingly argue that NASCAR's blithe disregard for SAFER barriers contributed to Busch's unfortunate injury, there shouldn't be yet another scramble to make up for a mistake at the expense of the sport's championship.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 24, 2015, 2:51 pm

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

Welcome to this week's Happy Hour, where we're still getting used to the news that there will be a hydrogen-fueled pace car at Richmond. We hope they quintuple-check the lighting system on the car for electrical shorts before the race.

Our best email of the week was unfortunately not racing related. However, we'll share part of it with you anyway.

Ya just gotta hate small time bloggers like you who write those disgusting little blurbs ... (redacted for being inappropriate)

Why don't you do better research before you write and stop being just another lemming? - Philip

Why the hell is this email noteworthy? It was about former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. The subject line was "Jameson Winston." Yeah...

Speaking of people who can be polarizing, here's a sampling of what we got after Sunday night's race and Danica Patrick's record-breaking sixth-top 10 finish.

Typical of the media to glom onto Danica's ninth place finish and make it the big headline of the night. Is really more important the Kenseth breaking his win drought? One of the best drivers of his era and she gets the big headline and the pub. Sickening if you ask me. She is nothing as a racer but a woman racer makes her more special than those who are actually championship worthy - Kent

Kenseth breaking a 51-race winless streak was clearly the story of the evening. He's now basically guaranteed into the Chase and the second JGR driver likely in.

But Patrick is a big story too, and not simply because of breaking Janet Guthrie's record. She has two top-10 finishes in three races (at Martinsville and Bristol, nonetheless) and is 13th in the points. It's still way to early to talk about non-winning drivers in the Chase, but she's on the right track. That certainly stops the "championship worthy" point, even if you don't think she's a threat to win the title.

If Patrick is in the same position in the standings halfway through the season, these type of emails should slow down.

Worst article I ever read! - Ray

Or maybe they won't.

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How is the race purse divided?  How is it determined which driver will get what?  And the car owners?  The racetrack owner?- Gail

This question comes up every year because of the confusing nature of NASCAR's race winnings structure. The race winnings printed in the box score are a combination of prize money from the race purse and contingency programs. Not all drivers and teams are in all contingency programs. For example, teams can opt out of the Coors Light Pole Award.

Drivers don't receive all of that money listed in the box score. They receive a percentage of the race winnings based off their contract. Then the money is also divvied up based on other contracts the teams have. Tracks receive 65 percent of NASCAR's television contract.

@NickBromberg What did Outback do with all the Bloomin" Onions not used Mon.? Think 22 fixes car if track has tunnel and they could leave?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 23, 2015

These are both fun. How many people do you think went into Outback on Monday assuming that Kevin Harvick finished in the top 10? It may not be in the thousands, but there's gotta be more than a few, right?

The Logano question is interesting. Not fixing the car is the ultimate statement that points really don't matter in the Cup Series (if you have a win), but was fixing the car something based on circumstance rather than the inherent desire to get it done and see what could happen? It's probably much more of the latter, but it wouldn't be surprised if the track played a role.

We're heading out to do the Richard Petty Driving Experience for the first time. Here's your advice to us. We promise we'll take the last one into consideration and are prepared to potentially bribe our teacher to open up the limiter on our car to make it go as fast as possible.

@NickBromberg go fast right away, even when it scares the crap out of you

— Alan Cavanna (@CopaCavanna) April 23, 2015

@NickBromberg make sure you get the clean air early. Seems to be the thing to do at the 1.5ers!

— Darrell (@diriditi) April 23, 2015

@NickBromberg If you haven't driven a manual transmission recently, practice if at all possible. I stalled off pit road. I was proud.

— nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) April 23, 2015

@NickBromberg dont wreck

— Deuce Deucer (@dallasjhawk) April 23, 2015

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 23, 2015, 9:10 pm

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

This week's race is the 1985 Wrangler Sanfor-Set 400. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here.

Darrell Waltrip led the final six laps of the Wrangler Sanfor-Set 400 to beat Terry Labonte.

Labonte led 52 laps prior to being passed by Waltrip, who was able to cut into points leader Bill Elliott's advantage with the win. Elliott finished 12th and scored 127 points. After getting 180 for the win, Waltrip is now 153 points behind Elliott with seven races to go.

It's Waltrip's third win of 1985 and the 67th of his career.

Richard Petty finished third, Dale Earnhardt was fourth and Ricky Rudd was fifth. Harry Gant was the last car on the lead lap in sixth and polesitter Geoffrey Bodine was a lap down in seventh.

Greg Sacks, who started sixth, finished 20th, eight laps down. Why are we talking about Greg Sacks? Well, because he spun in front of most of the field early in the race and NASCAR didn't throw a caution flag. After starting 22nd, Waltrip narrowly avoided Sacks' car during the incident.

Epilogue: Waltrip ended up passing Elliott in the standings to win the 1985 championship. He'd win 17 more races in his career and retire with 84 career Sprint Cup Series wins. The $1.3 million he won that season stands as the high-water mark of his career, though he made over $1.2 million in 29 starts without a top-10 in 2000.

And can you imagine NASCAR not throwing a caution flag if a similar situation happened during Saturday night's Richmond race? No, neither can we.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 22, 2015, 3:00 pm

Kevin Harvick's pilgrimage to the White House happened Tuesday.

The 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion was honored by President Barack Obama for his title.

"It’s great to have Kevin’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, who is here," Obama said. "We’ve also got Greg Zipadelli –- almost messed it up there; it’s like Obama, too many vowels. And the team from Stewart-Haas Racing.  NASCAR’s leadership is here as well. Brian France is here and Mike Helton. Welcome back. 

"And even though the Budweiser Chevy got the White House parking pass this year, I am sure Tony Stewart doesn’t mind adding another Owner’s Championship to his collection. So congratulations to Tony."

President Obama also made sure to incorporate Steve Byrnes into his remarks about Harvick. The Fox announcer passed away earlier Tuesday.

"I also want to offer my condolences to everybody in the NASCAR community on the passing of a legendary reporter and broadcaster, Steve Byrnes," Obama said. "And I know a lot of fans’ thoughts and prayers today are with his wife, Karen, and his son, Bryson. We are here to celebrate, though, Kevin Harvick.  This was an exciting year for the “Four Car.”  As the season started, Kevin had a new team, a new crew chief to adjust to.  It usually takes a little time for a driver and a crew chief to find their groove, but Kevin and Rodney seemed to figure out each other in a hurry – sort of like when Joe Biden joined my team.

"So they had instant chemistry.  And as Kevin can tell you, when you have a trusted partner shouting world-class advice into your ear at every turn, you can’t lose."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 22, 2015, 1:14 am

Fox Sports announced that announcer Steve Byrnes passed away on Tuesday. He was 56.

Byrnes had been battling head and neck cancer after he was diagnosed in August of 2013. Sunday's race at Bristol was renamed to be the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and many in and around NASCAR paid tribute to him throughout Fox's coverage of the race.

He joined Fox in 2001 when the network picked up NASCAR rights. He was scheduled to be the network's lead announcer for Camping World Truck Series coverage in 2015.

NASCAR extends its condolences to the many friends, FOX Sports colleagues and family of Steve Byrnes," NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in a statement. "Whether you had the privilege of knowing him or if you watched him on television for the last three decades, Steve’s work ethic and authenticity made him a beloved individual inside and outside the garage.

“His level of professionalism was matched only by the warmth he showed everyone he met. He battled cancer with tenacity, and was a true inspiration to everyone in the NASCAR family. Simply stated, we’ll miss Steve dearly. Our thoughts are especially with his wife Karen and son Bryson during this difficult time.”

Before that, he had covered NASCAR for CBS, TBS and TNN. Byrnes played football for a season at James Madison before he transferred to the University of Maryland, where he graduated with a degree in Radio, Television and Film.

He's survived by his wife of 22 years, Karen, and his 12-year-old son Bryson. According to Fox, funeral services are pending.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 21, 2015, 5:57 pm

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

1. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 2): What a recovery for the No. 48 team. After hitting the wall and sustaining some pretty heavy damage, Johnson was also in an accident after he got into Jeb Burton and was run into by David Ragan. The damage on the rear of the No. 48 wasn't crippling, and after a two-tire pit stop late in the race, Johnson had enough track position to be in position to sneak in for the win had Matt Kenseth bobbled. However, Kenseth didn't bobble.

2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Harvick might have had the race's best car. He led the most laps, 184, and even that number is deceiving. Those 184 laps came in the first 312. He didn't lead again after he was in the accident that Johnson was in with Burton and Ragan. Harvick was behind the crash and when he went to lock the car down, he went into a heavy slide and slammed into Ragan. The damage was too significant to fix on pit road and Harvick ended up 38th, 32 laps down.

3. Matt Kenseth (LW: NR): From unranked to the top three? Well, who else is going to be in third? You'll see that there really aren't many other candidates, hence why we're going with Sunday's winner. Kenseth was emotional in victory lane, and we understand why the win serves as validation after a 51-race winless streak. However, it's important to remember that the No. 20 team hadn't suddenly become a non-factor. He tied for the second-most top-10 finishes in 2014.

4. Kurt Busch (LW: 10): Would Busch have won had he not pitted for tires? It's not guaranteed. Would he have won without the two late caution flags? It's not guaranteed either. But it's easy to wonder "what if?" on both. Busch pitted from the lead on lap 477 and restarted sixth. He then had two decent restarts but was collected in an accident after Carl Edwards crashed. He finished 15th and is still outside the top 20 in points though it's also easy to wonder just how soon he's going to win.

5. Joey Logano (LW: 3): Logano was our first instance of collateral damage on Sunday as he had nowhere to go when teammate Brad Keselowski lost control of his car from third place early in the race. Instead of packing up and going home, his team waited out the rain delay to log laps. The net result? Three positions, as Logano finished 40th. While the points payoff might not have been that great, you have to applaud the perserverance given how easy it would have been for the virtually-Chase-qualfied team to simply move on to the next race.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 4): Goodbye top-10 finish streak, you were good to Truex. A loose wheel and, later, contact with the wall, meant unscheduled pit stops for the No. 78 bunch and Truex finished 29th, seven laps down. He's still third in the points standings, and actually gained points on Kevin Harvick. It's also his worst finish since Martinsville last year, where he finished 38th.

7. Jeff Gordon (LW: 9): Everyone from the Hendrick team had an eventful day. And like his double-number teammate, Gordon was able to make a decent-tasting salad out of it all and finished third. While he ultimately didn't run out of gas, Gordon was not a fan of the long caution period NASCAR ran near the end of the race to try to keep the track dry in the hope of finishing the race under green. While it worked out for him, it didn't for Austin Dillon, who was forced to pit from the top five because the race went so long and ended up 10th, though it was still his highest finish of the year.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 6): Junior started the Hendrick chain of crazy events when he had an unscheduled pit stop early in the race for a flat right rear tire. At one point he was four laps down after another unscheduled stop. He got two of the laps back and finished 16th, the first car two laps down. Had Junior stayed on the lead lap, a top 10 would have been possible as his car was pretty damn fast. He just wasn't able to make up the track position.

9. Ryan Newman (LW: 11): Newman was another driver who had a nice recovery. He went a lap down early in the race and after getting the lap back, found himself in the top five. He had crew chief Luke Lambert atop the pit box too, as Richard Childress Racing is appealing the reduction of penalties to NASCAR's final appeals officer. A decision on the final appeal is likely this week. Will the penalties be reduced even further?

10. Brad Keselowski (LW: 5): Keselowski said after his accident that he wasn't sure how has car snapped around on him. Was a slick track to blame? Something else? It's possible it was the rain, but it's worth pointing out that no one else had issues. Well, except for Logano. And like his teammate, Keselowski's team fixed his car and he finished 22 laps down in 35th.

11. Kasey Kahne (LW: 7): Kahne stayed out of trouble and near the front of the field for most of the race on Sunday until he met Tony Stewart's front bumper. From there, he went spinning and into AJ Allmendinger. While he said his team was "nothing exceptional," before the crash, he was running in the top 15. Or, much better than 39th, which is where he ended up finishing.

12. Aric Almirola (LW: 12): Another close-to-a-top-10 keeps Almirola in the top 10 in the points standings. Come on Aric, we're cheering for you to continue to consistency your way towards the Chase. And if you do make the Chase without a top 10, does it mean there will be a massive Martinsville hot dog celebration? There should be. Maybe put some bacon on top of them.

Lucky Dog: Justin Allgaier snagged the first top-10 finish of his career.

The DNF: Man, Landon Cassill was simply in the way and got run over.

Dropped out: Denny Hamlin, though we completely understand why Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing did what they did. With a win, erring on the side of caution was smart.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 21, 2015, 5:18 pm

The track that gave us the Funnel Bacakonator is back with some more crazy concessions.

Charlotte Motor Speedway announced Friday that it will serve a 6.5-pound burrito and a six-pound burger during the All-Star Race weekend on May 15-16.

Yes, those measurements are in pounds and not ounces. If you're looking for something less hefty, you can always go with the candied bacon on a stick the track introduced with the burrito and the burger.

First, the details on the burrito.

The "Crank Shaft Burrito," which will cost $25, has four tortillas, 1.5 pounds of beans, 1.5 pounds of cole slaw and 3 pounds of pulled pork. It also has a half-pound of cheese sauce plus a quarter-pound of jalapenos and "more" baked beans, slaw and pork. If you're scoring at home, you'll notice that the ingredients add up to more than 6.5 pounds, so depending on the amount of "more," you could score a seven-pound burrito.

The burger is the "Speedway Picnic Burger" and has eight quarter-pound burgers and eight hot dogs. It also contains 1.5 pounds of pulled pork and a pound of bacon, though it only has eight slices of cheese. We were hoping for 10.

It also includes lettuce and tomato, but really, you're not buying that burger for the vegetables, are you?

In the press release announcing the food, the burrito was listed at 1,685 calories and the burger at 2,156. Shortly after the post was initially published we got an email from Kevin, a reader, questioning the calorie totals by a significant amount. It got our brain spinning – and it should have been immediately spinning – and we reached out to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Levy Restaurants for comment.

Tuesday, we received revised calorie totals from Levy, citing a "mix up." The burrito is now listed at 5,047 calories and the burger is now listed at 6,209 calories. Yes, those totals are approximately three times the initial estimates.

At $35, the burger nets you 177.4 calories per dollar while the burrito is approximately 202 calories per dollar at the speedway's values. Yes, when you're a former fat kid you sometimes do these type of calculations to see what gets you more caloric bang for your buck.

The burger is also wrapped in a tablecloth for the full picnic experience, though we're just thinking it's because the lines between napkin and tablecloth become blurred when you're wrapping food of that size.

The track promotes both items as shareable, however we've got a feeling that there will be many people attempting solo conquests. In this age of American gluttony we won't truly be amazed unless someone eats them both in a two-hour timeframe. We guarantee someone is going to try it, and if you're that somebody, let us know. Because at more than 11,000 calories combined, you're not going to be able to do it without getting sick.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 21, 2015, 4:31 pm

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Danica Patrick set a record with her ninth-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday night.

The race marked Patrick's sixth top-10 finish of her career in the Sprint Cup Series, breaking a tie she had with Janet Guthrie for the most top-10 finishes by a woman in NASCAR's top level.

Guthrie, who made her debut in what's now the Cup Series in 1976, had five top 10s in 33 career starts over a span of four seasons. Sunday night was Patrick's sixth top 10 in 90 Cup Series starts.

Guthrie's highest finish of her career – coincidentally enough – came at Bristol in 1977, where she finished sixth. Patrick's best finish is also sixth. She snagged that at Atlanta last fall.

Throughout much of Sunday's race, it was hard to envision how Patrick would get a top 10. She didn't run poorly by any stretch of the imagination; she was in the top 20 for most of the evening. She just found her car pointing the wrong direction in the aftermath of crashes ahead of her on more than one occasion.

 

However, she was able to scramble towards the front before the end of the race, which Matt Kenseth won.

“I didn’t think this day was ever going to end," Patrick said of the race that had multiple rain delays and finished 9.5 hours after it was originally scheduled to start. "I’m proud of everybody for keeping their heads up and staying positive and these are the things that happen when you work together as a team ... We had some luck on our side and I really feel like that positivity feeds into getting some luck and being at the right place at the right time. ... We came out of here with a top 10.

"I got to tell you I did not think – I was hoping for a top 20 after our weekend. We were like 30 something in practice. Lucked out in qualifying and got 26th which like I said lucked out. It was a struggle of a weekend, but by all means you take these weekends because they tell you what you have a great weekends and you are running well and something happens."

It's also Patrick's second top-10 finish in three races. She finished seventh at Martinsville in March and the two races are her first top-10 finishes at short tracks.

Throughout her Sprint Cup Series tenure, Stewart-Haas Racing has talked about her improvement as a driver and if the last three weeks are any indication, it's being reflected in the box scores. She's 13th in the points standings through the first eight races. If this trend continues, a berth in NASCAR's Chase won't seem as farfetched as you might think.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 20, 2015, 3:43 am

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Matt Kenseth is back. In victory lane, that is.

Kenseth won Sunday's Food City 500, a race delayed multiple times by rain and plagued with accidents that took out some of the race's top contenders. The win was Kenseth's first since he won at New Hampshire in September 2013, a span of 51 races.

To clinch the victory, Kenseth had to hold off Jimmie Johnson and others in a green-white-checkered restart that came only after NASCAR stopped the race for a third rain delay and extended it 11 laps past the scheduled 500 laps to make sure it got completed.

"It means a lot. I got a great race team. Last year was tough and not winning so far this year was tough, Kenseth said while motioning towards his crew. "We've been putting ourselves in position, I really need to thank [crew chief Jason Ratcliff] and these guys, our pit stops have ben great and I haven't been doing as good a job, the cars haven't been as good, but these guys have been really doing it."

Kenseth held the lead during the caution flag that ate up laps 496-509. The yellow was for a crash involving Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch after Edwards got loose in the corner and Busch's car slid into him. Not long after Edwards and Busch collided, raindrops started falling once again at Bristol and NASCAR officials extended the yellow flag as long as possible in the hopes the rain would stop.

It eventually did, but not before NASCAR red-flagged the race to dry the track for what would be the final two green flag laps.

Kenseth took the lead on lap 437 when leader Kyle Larson was forced to make a green fag pit stop for fuel because of his pit strategy. Kenseth lost the lead to Kurt Busch soon after he got it from Larson but got it back after the caution flag came out for a crash on lap 473 when Busch was the only car in the top six to pit.

The pit stop ended up ruining Busch's chances to get back to Kenseth and fight for the win. While he immediately made up a position after the restart, a caution flag for a crash involving Kasey Kahne and AJ Allmendinger slowed his efforts. And then, not long after the race went green again, Busch had nowhere to go as Edwards crashed ahead of him.

Earlier in the race, Busch's teammate Kevin Harvick was involved in a similar crash. After Johnson, Jeb Burton and David Ragan got together, Harvick's car went into a slide as he braked to avoid Ragan and he ended up crashing into the wounded No. 18.

Yes, Johnson finished second despite being in a crash. And it wasn't his only incident of the night, either. Earlier, he had sustained significant right-side rear fender damage after he made contact with Busch.

Kenseth's lack of trips to victory lane during his winless stretch wasn't an issue limited to his No. 20 either. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin each won just once in 2014. With the addition of Edwards to the team's stable, JGR swapped crew chiefs on three teams entering 2015. The only pairing that didn't change was Kenseth and Ratcliff.

Why? Well it wasn't like Kenseth had disappeared off the Sprint Cup Series map, though you may not know it from his comment above. In the timeframe since the win in 2013 he had amassed 30 top-10 finishes and was seventh in the points standings a year ago. Now, with the win, he's virtually guaranteed to make the Chase for the sixth straight season.

Sunday's race initially started late because of rain that plagued Bristol Motor Speedway for the early portion of the day. After NASCAR got approximately eight minutes of racing complete (22 laps), the skies opened up and the race was delayed for approximately four more hours before it resumed with just two brief interruptions Sunday evening.

While the two Team Penske cars crashed in the first 22 laps of the race, the opening segment also claimed another driver. Hamlin pulled himself from the car after having a muscle issue in his neck that occurred during the opening laps. JGR flew Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series driver Erik Jones to Bristol during the delay, where he got into a Sprint Cup Series car for the first time ever in relief of Hamlin, who won at Martinsville. Jones ended up 26th for Hamlin, who will receive all of the points for the race because he was in the car at the start.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 20, 2015, 3:14 am

After rain soaked Bristol Motor Speedway for most of Sunday morning, NASCAR took advantage of a brief respite from the wet conditions to start the Food City 500 as soon as it could.

And the hustle to start the race did not work out well for the two Team Penske cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

Keselowski was running third and attempting to lap a car when the back end of his car snapped around off a corner. He tried to save it, but as he did, Logano (running fourth) got into the gas and into Keselowski and the two hit the inside wall.

Not long after the crash, which happened on lap 19, it started to rain again and the race was red-flagged after 22 of a scheduled 500 laps (Bristol laps take approximately 15 seconds to complete, so you can do the math as to how long the stint lasted).

Both cars sustained heavy damage and Logano took his car directly behind the wall.

Outside of the context of the crashed Penske cars, it's fair to ask what the point of starting the race was. NASCAR officials knew very well that rain, part of a massive storm system forecasted to hit Bristol Motor Speedway for the entire week leading up to the race, was coming again. And arriving very, very soon. 

When NASCAR made the decision to start the race, some drivers were still scrambling to their cars. While the efforts of the Air Titan track drying system don't go unnoticed – the track was dry sooner than it could have been with older drying technology – it seemed like an incredibly futile attempt to get the race started. Heck, it almost felt like an exercise in showing off the ability to get the race started amidst the dreary forecast rather than a genuine attempt to get 500 laps of racing completed on Sunday. 

The race eventually started again later Sunday and Matt Kenseth won.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 19, 2015, 7:24 pm

Richard Childress Racing isn't satisfied with the decision it got from NASCAR's appeals panel Thursday.

The team has decided to appeal its tire penalty from California to NASCAR's final appeals officer. NASCAR's appeal panel upheld the violation for manipulating tires but reduced the penalty assessed to the team by 25 points to 50 (and crew chief Luke Lambert's fine by $50,000) on administrative grounds.

NASCAR teams are granted two attempts at a penalty appeal.

RCR has appealed #31 team P5 penalty to Final Appeals Officer (Bryan Moss). Administrator has granted deferral of suspensions, fines #NASCAR

— David Higdon (@HigNASCAR) April 17, 2015

The deferral of the suspensions means that Lambert, tire tech James Bender and engineer Philip Surgen can work at Bristol. The three were suspended for six races for the penalty and the suspensions were upheld on Thursday.

Early season discussion in the garage mentioned the rumor of teams poking holes in tires to help regulate air pressure throughout the duration of a tire run. Lower air pressures mean more grip, and therefore more speed.

RCR's penalty was initially 75 points because the violation was found after the race. However, since tires are leased and can be taken during the race, the panel ruled the post-race penalty wasn't applicable and dropped the penalty to 50 points.

Newman is currently 20th in the standings with the 50-point penalty.

NASCAR's final appeals officer is Bryan Moss. Moss has already heard an appeal this year after Kurt Busch was suspended before the Daytona 500 because of domestic abuse allegations. After Busch's initial appeal was denied, he appealed a second time the day before the race and Moss denied his appeal. Busch was reinstated three races into the season after he wasn't criminally charged.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 17, 2015, 10:23 pm

Matt Kenseth's streak of fast cars at Bristol is continuing.

Kenseth won his second career pole at the half-mile track on Friday, beating out Brad Keselowski for the top spot.

While Kenseth's last pole came in 2005, he's been very good at Bristol in recent years, even if his finishes don't completely show it. Kenseth has led laps in the last seven Bristol races and had one of the best cars in last yea's spring race despite sustaining damage early in the race after he was run into from behind.

Carl Edwards, winner of last year's race after an accidental pressing of the caution lights button and a fortuitously-timed rain shower, qualified third. Kevin Harvick was fourth while Denny Hamlin was fifth. David Ragan, teammate to Kenseth, Edwards and Hamlin, qualified 11th.

Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top eight, which means the first four rows for Sunday's race are filled with drivers who have previously won at Bristol.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 17, 2015, 9:57 pm

A second Kenseth will be in a car for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015.

Ross Kenseth, the son of 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth, will drive the team's No. 20 car in the Xfinity Series race at Chicago on Saturday, June 20.

"Ross has been working really hard to try to get a good opportunity," Matt Kenseth said Friday. "Certainly, I don't think the opportunity could be any better than this. I feel like the 20 is one of the best [Xfinity] cars out there this year with [crew chief Mike Wheeler] running that thing. It will be a great shot for him and really appreciate Joe (Gibbs) and everybody at JGR giving him that chance and everybody at Dollar General to jump on there and sponsor his first ever NASCAR start.

"It's exciting for me and it's an off-weekend so I'll be able to be there and be part of that. Looking forward to seeing how he does. It's a great shot and he's worked really hard for it. He's won a lot of big short track races and he's never going to be more ready for the opportunity than he is now."

Ross, 22 in May, has been driving late models and has made two career ARCA starts, one each in 2013 and 2014. He finished third in his start last season.

The opportunity, Matt said, came when Darrell Wallace Jr. left for Roush Fenway Racing. While Wallace's schedule for 2015 with JGR had never been defined, the team had said he would drive some Xfinity Series races.

JGR has also used multiple drivers in the No. 54 Xfinity car while Kyle Busch has been out with the broken leg and foot he suffered at Daytona. Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin have filled in so far and Boris Said will be in the car for seven races.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 17, 2015, 6:47 pm

Richard Childress Racing's appeal of penalties to Ryan Newman's No. 31 team at California netted the team a reduction in punishment.

NASCAR initially penalized the No. 31 team 75 points for manipulating tires during the March 22 race. Newman's team was found to have drilled holes in the car's tires. The slow loss of air via the holes allows the tires to better maintain a lower air pressure and, therefore, speed, throughout the duration of a tire run.

While the penalties were upheld, the points penalty is down to 50 points after the appeal. Crew chief Luke Lambert also saw his fine cut to $75,000 from $125,000 though his six-race suspension was upheld.

With the 50-point penalty, Newman has 162 points and is 20th in the standings.

According to a NASCAR release, NASCAR's appeals panel of John Capels, Hunter Nickell and Dale Pinilis
found that the violations matched what NASCAR defined them as. However, the penalties were lessened "because there is no written explanation of what constitutes a post-race inspection."

When announcing the penalties, NASCAR said the points penalty was 75 instead of 50 and the fine $125,000 instead of $75,000 because the violations were found after the race. Tires are leased from Goodyear and can be taken from teams during a race. It's unclear what set of tires from Newman's race at California were found to be manipulated.

RCR tire tech James Bender and engineer Philip Surgen are also suspended for six races with Lambert. The three worked in their same capacities Saturday night at Texas and will miss Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, Kansas and the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte unless RCR decides to appeal again. After the initial appeals panel, teams have the opportunity to make a final appeal. The team has not announced if it will do so.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 16, 2015, 8:42 pm

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

As we typed this, the appeal for Richard Childress Racing's tire penalty at California was still ongoing. What would you eat for lunch in an appeal like this? Would your mood be your food choice? Would you go for a hamburger if you were optimistic? Not eat at all if things weren't going your way? Would you be superstitious?

We think we'd go with something not too filling. We can't imagine trying to state your case and defend yourself weighed down with a huge lunch would be a good idea. And yes, we're weird for thinking of this.

Sunday sets up as a wonderful day if you're a race fan. Formula 1 at Bahrain is on live in the mid-morning, then Bristol and then the Long Beach Grand Prix starts right as Bristol should be wrapping up.

Well, should be wrapping up if there's not a rain de... WAIT WHAT IS GOING ON? WHY ARE THERE CAUTION LIGHTS NOW ON?

Whoops, looks like NASCAR accidentally turned the caution lights on again.

Anyway, where were we? Oh, the possibility of rain. It could rain. It may rain. But oh well. Bristol has lights and there's always Monday. It certainly stinks for the fans, but if you're in NASCAR and a rain delay is a big problem for you, you've got a damn good life.

@NickBromberg Wouldn't mind it if it ended up being delayed into a night race. Bristol always seems more exciting under the lights.

— Maureen Holt (@MaureenHolt) April 16, 2015

Is the key word seems here? We're not sure. We do agree there is a certain mystique about Bristol under the lights, and the racing after last year's rain delay was certainly fun as hell.

Alright, let's get to it.

If you have some stock in nascar get out now as it is almost dead 4 14 2015 , you must be able to see the writing on the wall , it is over for the gig time  so sorry bit reality - Clyde

We love publishing emails like this from time to time because they're wonderfully entertaining. There's usually an inverse correlation of sense to entertainment. What happened on Tuesday that delivered a big blow to NASCAR? Circle Sport winning its appeal? The return of Lake Speed to the NASCAR consciousness for a fleeting moment?

If so, oh man, we're in trouble.

@NickBromberg "Kyle, what hurts more, the leg or dealing with the media?"

— Ed D. (@EdDinIL) April 15, 2015

This was in response to our tweet yesterday about how enlightening Kyle Busch's media session was. And it's worth pointing out again. Busch, when he's in a good mood, provides good and thoughtful answers. It's just the times that he's not in a good mood overshadow the others and become the dominant perception of him.

Busch was poised, thoughtful and engaging on Tuesday and his answer to the question about Brad Keselowski's blog post made us wonder what his immediate reaction was. Keselowski wrote a post about the two drivers after Busch's wreck, and here's what Busch said about it.

"I guess I read it. I don't know what I read, but I guess I read it," Busch said. "I don't know how – there's a lot of things I can go here, but for him writing it, it was probably good. For when it came out, it was probably poor, but it was based off him missing me essentially and me not being out there on the race track with him making stories with him on the race track so he made a story about us off the race track. So that's why I say I think the timing was bad."

Past that, the occurrences that he reciprocates in that story, I don't recollect one bit – not one percent of that I don't recollect – why would I be sitting at the back of my hauler the first time somebody comes up to me and says hello and I just ignore them? That doesn't make any sense to me, especially me being a 16-year-old kid just getting into the sport. Whether that was before or after qualifying when I just wadded up my truck and had to start at the back in a backup truck at IRP, I don't know. Like I said, I don't recollect that. It might have just been after Jack Roush chewed my rear off, so again I don't I don't recollect that. The second one I do recollect because, yeah, it was weekly making an ass of himself of wrecking people and being an idiot, so I had no respect for him so I didn't want to talk to him. That's my take on his story. It is what it is and he I guess had a lot of guts to write it."

@NickBromberg IF CHEVY IS DOING AWAY WITH THE SS, WHAT WILL THE NEXT CUP CAR BE? BIG FAN. THANKS.

— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) April 16, 2015

You may wonder where this is coming from. Well, Chevy is unveiling a new Malibu for 2016 and wants to compete better in the midsize car market. The main competitors mentioned in this Reuters article? The Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion, the two cars Chevy competes with in the Cup Series (The plant the Chevy SS is made at is ceasing operations in 2017).

The Malibu name doesn't seem like a race car name -- and there's no word of any switch of car models in the Cup Series happening. But wasn't that the same reaction when Ford went from the Thunderbird to the Taurus?

@nickbromberg how many wins does cynical nick think the 4 will score this year? how about optimistic nick? is 48 the only real competition?

— Philip Jones (@philgoodstory) April 16, 2015

@nickbromberg the 41 has shown lots of speed lately. do you think kurt busch can be a real contender? and is that a good/bad thing?

— Philip Jones (@philgoodstory) April 16, 2015

Pre-Chase? We're gonna say pre-Chase. Optimistic, we'll go six. Pessimistic we'll go four. Not much variation, so we'll settle on the midpoint of five wins for Harvick.

As far as Kurt Busch goes, he's going to win. He's almost a bit like Harvick at times in 2014. Speed, but lacking continuity. We'd rather be inconsistently fast.

Yes, Johnson is a main threat for the title, but Logano would be leading the points in nearly any other season. He's been incredibly strong, just not as dominant at times as the No. 4 and 48 have been.

 

@NickBromberg Back to back short tracks, marketing genius by NASCAR, or a bunch of drunks with lit cigars in a fireworks warehouse?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 16, 2015

And three short tracks in four races when you go back to Martinsville. It's a fun stretch. 

Where the schedule could really use a short track is from May onwards. Serious question: other than Talladega, Sonoma and Watkins Glen, what races do you all really look forward to from Richmond to the Bristol night race? Sure, there's the 600, but it can drone at times and a lot of its appeal comes from the distance of the race and the day it's on. Interested to see y'all's answers to that.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 16, 2015, 8:26 pm

Kyle Busch said there wasn't much trial and error involved when figuring out he had broken a leg and a foot in his grisly crash at Daytona in February.

Here's part of his lengthy explanation of what happened during the Xfinity race. Busch spoke to reporters for an hour on Wednesday, the first time he's met with the media since the crash that's forced him to miss all of the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season so far with a broken right leg and a broken left foot.

The detail with which he describes the wreck is jarring. He said his head-on hit was 90 Gs.

"Obviously, it was a huge hit and as soon as it hit, I was awake the whole time, but there was a moment when everything compressed back and I pressed forward – I came through the seat into the seatbelts, into the restraints, all the air in my body escaped ... " Busch said. "It was just pushed out and there is a mark on my helmet – my helmet hit the steering wheel, my chest hit the steering wheel – and when everything from in front of me, the engine, all the chassis works, everything came back to me. As it came back to me, I went forward. The engine hit the one-by-two piece of tubing in the chassis, which then hit the gas pedal and then hit the throttle-stop, which then forced the throttle-stop back towards me three inches farther than what it would normally be at zero percent throttle.

"When it came back to me and I went to it, just the pure smack of my right leg, that's what broke my right leg. Obviously, being in a car accident with your left foot being on the brake pedal, that's what broke my mid foot, my foot being on the brake. As soon as the wreck happened, as soon as I hit, I knew instantly that my right leg broke, I could feel it. It was a sharp pain. It wasn't like – even after the car came to a stop and the crash was over and I was just sitting there – at first I was like, 'Okay, I'm just going to sit here for a minute and take a breath,' but a flash fire came through the air box and I was like, 'Nope, never mind, I have to get out.'"

After figuring his right leg was broken, he wanted to try to use his left leg to get out of the car. When he put pressure on his left foot he knew it was injured too. Upon being pulled from the car, Busch was immediately transported to a Daytona-area hospital before being flown home to North Carolina a few days later.

"I was like how is this going to work, me getting out of the car, so I pulled the steering wheel off, pulled my belts off and I knew my right leg was broke, so I pushed with my left foot to see if I could get out with my left foot," Busch said. "Nope, I couldn't push with my left foot because it was instant pain, sharp pain. So I said, 'Okay, push with the heel,' so I pushed with the heel, pushed with my left heel and my left heel was fine. I grabbed the roll bars that I normally grab when I get out and pushed with my left foot and I knew if I could just get to the door hopefully the wreckers would be there, the safety crews would be there in time in order to help me get out and pull me out ... The guy was going to help me back up, but I'm like nope, we're not doing that. I had to flip my visor up and talk to him. So I flip my visor open and I turn to him and tell him my right leg is broke and my left foot is broke. I don't know if he couldn't hear or if he was shocked, but I told him four times over again so he could hear me. A couple of the guys grabbed me and got me out and when they got me to the ground, obviously I felt somewhat safe at least and ready to go on my ambulance ride."

Busch spoke for an hour about all aspects of the crash and his recovery, and said he's still not sure when he'll be back in a Sprint Cup Series car. David Ragan has been filling in for him on loan from Front Row Motorsports.

"[Medical staff] say my recovery is going faster than they expected, but I've even asked – they won't release a timetable – I'm not lying to you," Busch said. "They're like, 'Now you're released to stand up in both boots. Now you're released to walk. Now you're released to walk without a boot on your right.' It's week-by-week and it's what I can show them and what I can do and what my physical therapist says I'm capable of. As far as a timetable, that's still not set yet for me to get back. As long as my strength continues to improve and I can continue to show the doctor and the NASCAR folks that I'm able to do the things necessary for me to get back in the race car, then that time will be determined as I get better."

The wall Busch hit wasn't covered with a SAFER barrier. Since his accident, many tracks have taken steps to fortify bare concrete walls with SAFER barrier or tires and other forms of protection. Bristol, the site of Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race, has added extra SAFER barrier.

"Obviously, with the reaction to everything – I'm not going to say I'm happy about what I hit not being protected," Busch said. "I can't – that's just not being honest. I was disappointed that the wall wasn't covered, but I am encouraged by the acts that the race tracks have taken and the steps they've taken in order to get things going and in the right direction for driver safety."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 15, 2015, 9:57 pm

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

This week's race is the 2004 Food City 500. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here. And yes, we realize this is the second straight week of a 2004 recap. Blame the number generator that popped up 87.

Kurt Busch sprinted away from Rusty Wallace on a green-white-checker restart to win the Food City 500.

The race was red flagged with seven laps to go after Dale Jarrett got into the wall. Jarrett had an apparent flat tire after contact with Ward Burton. Since NASCAR had said it'd red flag any caution in the late laps before lap 295 to ensure an attempt at a green-flag finish, the race was halted so the mess could be cleaned up.

If you watch the video above and fast-forward to just after 2.5 hours, the time between Jarrett's car hitting the wall and the throwing of the caution is interesting.

Wallace's best opportunity to make a pass came as soon as the green flag flew on the restart. He got to Busch's bumper entering turn one, but as soon as Busch powered off turn two and created some space between the two cars, Wallace's chances were toast.

Kevin Harvick finished third and Sterling Marlin was fourth. Points leader Matt Kenseth finished fifth and has a 21-point lead over Busch in the points standings.

It's Busch's ninth career win and his first of 2004. After staring 13th, he didn't take the lead until lap 382. However, once he did, he was unbeatable. Busch wasn't passed for the lead over the final 119 laps and maintained the lead through five restarts.

Ken Schrader finished sixth, his highest finish in a Sprint Cup Series race since he finished sixth at Talladega in 1999 while driving for Andy Petree.

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 15, 2015, 3:14 pm

Circle Sport Racing appealed its penalty from California to NASCAR's appeals panel on Tuesday and got its penalties reduced.

After the race, Circle Sport was assessed a P4 level penalty. The problem was with inappropriate mounting of the truck trailing arm on the No. 33 car. The team was originally fined $50,000, penalized 25 points and had crew chief Sluger Labbe suspended for three races.

After the appeal, the points penalty was reduced to 10 points and a $20,000 fine. The three-race suspension was upheld.

“The process was very fair,’ Circle Sport Racing Joe Falk said in a statement. “We agree the part should have been presented to the R&D Center. We’re satisfied with the outcome, and we won’t appeal further."

The issue was found before the car, driven by Brian Scott at California, had taken the track.

Richard Childress Racing's appeal of penalties assessed to Ryan Newman's No. 31 team for manipulated tires is on Thursday. Is the reduction of Circle Sport's consequences a good thing for RCR? Well, it's likely inconsequential.

The appeals panel is a large pool of candidates and the three who heard the Circle Sport penalty (including former NASCAR driver Lake Speed) won't be hearing the RCR penalty. And the accused violations are very different. While there can be interpretations of the rule book within the cars themselves, NASCAR generally takes a hard line on tires. Plus, Newman's tires were looked at after the race.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 15, 2015, 1:22 pm

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

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Why wasn't Harvick's wall-brush as he was chasing Jimmie Johnson a caution? Yes, we ask that with tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek, but with every sarcastic remark there's a grain of truth, right? Matt Kenseth was apparent cause of two cautions, one after he slid (and saved his car), producing tire smoke, and another caution came after he brushed the wall. If you wanted to use the Kenseth basis to advocate for a late yellow, well, crazier cases have been made for things in NASCAR. Anyway, Harvick finished second. Ho-hum.

2. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 10): For as good as Harvick has been on 1.5 mile tracks (and overall), it's nice that he's got a stout intermediate track competitor in the No. 48 team. And yes, we just said it was glad that the 48 had emerged as competition for another driver. Someone check our temperature. Johnson has now won three of the last five races at 1.5 mile tracks. Harvick has won the other two. There's clearly a Hendrick secret here that's being fully utilized by two cars. Can others in and outside of Hendrick equipment find it?

3. Joey Logano (LW: 2): Anyone else incredibly happy that a mountain wasn't made out of a molehill in the episdoe between Logano and Harvick? Logano knew he had to stay ahead of Harvick and Harvick moved Logano out of the way without being dirty about it. As Logano said after the race, it was simply racing, and it was nothing to have an overly dramatic pit road scene about. And Logano's move may also open up an interesting debate about blocking in the Cup Series. While it's not an accepted practice throughout the entirety of a race, given the difficulty of passing near the front of the field, at what point does it become acceptable, or at least tolerated, at the end of a race?

4. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 3): Another top 10 for Truex, who has finished there in every Sprint Cup race this season. It's a hell of an accomplishment, especially for a team that was so far off last season. But it's also put into 2015 perspective when you look at the standings. Truex is already 40 points out of the lead, meaning if the Texas results repeated themselves at Bristol, he'd be more than a full race out of the top spot. With eight top 10s in eight races. Crazy.

5. Brad Keselowski (LW: 5): Keselowski had a better recovery than his teammate. While Logano moved from eighth to fourth in the waning laps after he was moved out of the way by Harvick (and incredibly saved his car), Keselowski had a tire vibration, lost a lap and also committed coneslaughter. The sentencing for the coneslaughter put Keselowski at the tail end of the field for the next restart but he ended up finishing fifth, one spot behind his teammate.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 9): That secret we talked about in the Johnson paragraph? Maybe the No. 88 team found it. While they weren't too fast at all in qualifying, the team was exceptionally quick in race trim and Junior was near the front pretty quickly. He didn't lead any laps but spent most of the race in the top 10 and was within spitting distance of the lead as he battled with Kevin Harvick for the rights to finish second to Johnson.

7. Kasey Kahne (LW: 8): If we're going to give Keselowski and Logano props for their comebacks, we need to mention Kahne's as well. Kahne had an exceptionally fast car all weekend and an unscheduled stop put him a lap down for a potential loose wheel. He got a fortuitiously-timed caution after green flag pit stops to cycle back towards the lead lap and stayed near the front of the field the rest of the way. He finished 8th.

8. Denny Hamlin (LW: 7): Denny Hamlin finished 11th? Denny Hamlin finished 11th. The No. 11 was flat out to lunch early in the race but they kept working on the car and got back near the top 10. Good points racing for that bunch despite the fact they don't have to points race any longer because Hamlin won at Martinsville to essentially qualify for the Chase. What? You mean teams want to do as best as they can even on bad days? We'll be damned.

9. Jeff Gordon (LW: 12): Gordon finished sixth and after his horrible start to the season is 13th in the standings. That's what happens when you counter three bad races with four consecutive top 10s. And while the results have gotten better for Gordon, his fastest non-Martinsville car has been his Atlanta car. As you know, that race ended in a crash against a bare concrete wall. Gordon will win a race, and probably soon. We're going to go with a Kansas repeat.

10. Kurt Busch (LW: 4): Yes, this seems awfully harsh for Busch, it's just that we couldn't justify keeping him above the drivers who finished ahead of him. Busch was incredibly fast at the beginning of the race but the handling disappeared on his car as the race went on and he scrapped towards a 14th place finish. Through four of seven races in 2014, Busch is now just 17 points outside the top 20.

11. Ryan Newman (LW: 11): For the second week after his team was found to have been poking holes in tires, Newman finished outside the top 10. Though we'll clarify and say it wasn't nearly as bad as his Martinsville debacle, where he fell like an anchor through the field after starting second. Rather he finished 12th, which was pretty typical in his 2014 season. We're anxiously awaiting what emerges from the No. 31 team's appeal on Thursday.

12. Aric Almirola (LW: NR): All hail the wonders of the NASCAR points system. Almirola is 10th in the standings despite not having any top-10 finishes in 2015. He's done it by finishing 11th (twice) and not finishing any lower than 26th. Six of his seven finishes are between 11th and 19th. Is it a run that's going to get him in the Chase again? Probably not. But it's a lesser imitation of Ryan Newman's 2014 so far and we saw how well that worked out last year.

Lucky Dog: The dude who got hit by Francesco Dracone's car on pit road in the IndyCar race and didn't have major injuries.

Dropped Out: Matt Kenseth

The DNF: HScott Motorsports teammates Justin Allagaier and Michael Annett both had apparent tire issues that led to crashes.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 14, 2015, 4:15 pm

If Ricky Stenhouse Jr. popped the question to Danica Patrick, he's not going to get a "no" answer.

In a taped interview with Darrell Waltrip during Fox's prerace coverage of Saturday's Sprint Cup Series race at Texas, Waltrip asked about the answer to a possible proposal. Patrick said she would say "yes." And then when his brother, Michael, did his usual insipid tour of pit road before the race, he told Stenhouse what Danica's answer would be.

Yes, writing about Danica Patrick and a future wedding is a pretty popular story. We're fully aware of that. But we also want to take the opportunity to say that it's juuuuust a bit awkward to ask a question about a potential marriage proposal response in a nationally televised interview.

Of course Patrick is going to say yes. While she may be polarizing, she's very polished and she's not going to admit to Darrell Waltrip and the NASCAR viewing audience if she didn't see aa long-term future with her boyfriend of over two years. She's fully aware of the reaction she'd cause with an answer opposite of the one she gave.

We also guess Patrick told Stenhouse about the interview so he wasn't blindsided when told by Michael Waltrip before the race. Talk about an unneeded distraction.

We wish Patrick and Stenhouse well and they truly seem to be happy with each other. It takes a special couple to not break up over the growing of a mullet. We just also wish no one asks her about her answer to a wedding proposal until after the proposal has happened.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 12, 2015, 7:11 pm

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Jimmie Johnson capitalized on a four-tire pit stop and stormed to the lead to win Saturday night's Duck Commander 500 at Texas.

On the race's final restart with 20 laps to go, the top three cars – Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. – all had taken two tires. Johnson restarted seventh, the fourth car with four fresh tires.

Thanks to a bit of help from Harvick, Johnson quickly got towards the front of the field. With less than 20 laps to go, McMurray was clinging to the lead with Harvick and Johnson on his tail.

Johnson had been diving underneath Harvick in the corners and with McMurray using the high line, Johnson was able to use McMurray as a pick on Harvick and storm to the lead.

Harvick didn't go away and had two chances to get close enough to Johnson to make a pass. The first time he closed in he got loose off turn four and lost second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. After working his way past Junior, Harvick closed in on Johnson again but saw his chances at the win disappear after scrubbing the wall off turn two with a few laps to go.

The bit of help Johnson got from Harvick immediately after the restart was in the form of a bump to Joey Logano. The No. 22 had squeezed past Harvick to be the first car with four fresh tires and knew that he had to keep the No. 4 car behind if he wanted a chance to win.

He threw a block on Harvick entering turns one and two and Harvick gave Logano a tap, shooting the No. 22 towards the wall. Logano ultimately saved it – and drove back to fourth place at the end of the race – but the break in his, and Harvick's, momentum allowed Johnson to get closer to the front.

Johnson led the most laps in the race (128) but was off the lead towards the end thanks to a brief stretch where the handling on his car dropped off. But thanks to some adjustments from crew chief Chad Knaus (including some extra tape that made the Fox announcing crew believe for a significant period of time that the No. 48 had debris on the grille), Johnson had the best car over the race's final phase.

"I just couldn’t go anywhere," Johnson said. "I got so tight. We weren’t sure if it was a bad set of tires. We felt like we had a set that didn’t match up with us earlier in the race. So we made no adjustments. We went out the next restart and the car was a little better, but made an adjustment. Then that last pit stop we made the right adjustment. I caught [Harvick] racing with [McMurray]. I was able to get by both of those guys and check out."

It's his second-straight win at Texas and his fifth overall, the most of any driver at the track. After being eliminated from the Chase in 2014, Johnson won the fall race, though the win was overshadowed by the ridiculous melee involving Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 12, 2015, 3:50 am

Friday was a good day to be a Hendrick-powered Chevy.

Kurt Busch won the pole for Saturday's Sprint Cup Series race at Texas as three Hendrick Motorsports cars, three Stewart-Haas Racing cars and both Chip Ganassi Racing cars made the final round of 12 during qualifying.

It's Busch's second pole of the year. He won the pole earlier in the year at Auto Club Speedway.

His teammate Kevin Harvick starts second while Brad Keselowski broke up the Hendrick brigade in third. Hendrick-powered cars driven by Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.

Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray round out the top 10. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart rounded out the top 12.

We're going to go out on a sturdy limb and say one of the drivers in the top 10 will win the race. You have to go back to Denny Hamlin's win in the fall race in 2010 to find a driver who has won starting outside the top 10 at Texas.

The one SHR car to miss the final round was Danica Patrick. She starts 24th. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the only Hendrick Motorsports car not in the final round, starts 25th. Jeb Burton and Brendan Gaughan missed the race.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 10, 2015, 11:42 pm

Jeff Gordon has a novel idea for pit road: a consistent speed limit.

NASCAR pit roads have a posted speed limit, but the limit is enforced via timing lines. Pit road is divided into multiple timing segments and the time it would take you to travel the pit road speed in a designated segment is the speed limit.

So when a driver pits, he can drive faster than the posted speed limit in the segment his stall is located in. The time spent pitting will outweigh the time gained by speeding the rest of the segment.

It's how Brad Keselowski once gained a ton of spots on pit road at Bristol throughout a race (much to others' chagrin) and why you see drivers speeding up and slowing down during a cycle of pit stops.

Now that NASCAR has a new pit road officiating system that uses cameras and replays to more accurately officiate pit stops, Gordon, who sped on pit road two weeks ago at Martinsville while leading and had to fight back for a top 10, says it's time for a consistent speed limit.

“That was just us trying to take advantage of speed lines," Gordon said. "I think that’s the next step. We’ve got to get rid of these speed lines. It doesn’t make any sense. The speed limit is the speed limit. You should never be able to break the speed limit. You should carry the speed limit all the way down pit road. What we do is find pit stalls to try to get around that. So we’re ramping up and slowing down and that’s what got us in Martinsville. We were just too aggressive with it.”

For a series that once timed pit road speed by hand, electronic timing on pit road is quite the technological advancement. However, the pit road officiating system is clearly a much larger one, and proof that NASCAR is capable of developing a system that tracks cars' speed throughout the entirety of pit road, either through radar, GPS, a combination of both or a different technology altogether.

And our guess is that it'll happen sometime in the near future. Though not near enough for Gordon, who's set to end driving full-time in the Cup Series after the 2015 season.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 10, 2015, 10:53 pm

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kasey Kahne has little hesitation when asked what's sparked his team's improved pace in 2015.

"(Crew chief) Keith Rodden and just how he's kind of prepared the cars, got the cars back to where they need to be ... we're excited to go back to the race track," Kahne told Yahoo Sports on Thursday during a promotional appearance.

"I think Keith has so much to do with why our performance is better this year."

Rodden, a former lead engineer on the No. 5 car, returned to the team in 2015 to replace Kahne's longtime crew chief Kenny Francis atop the pit box. Rodden, who had also worked with Kahne before the two joined Hendrick, left the team before the 2014 season and became the crew chief for Jamie McMurray.

In 2013, Kahne won two races, finished 12th in the points standings and had an average starting position of 11.6. Last season, Kahne's first win came at Atlanta in August and snuck him into the Chase. However, he finished 15th in points and his average start dropped all the way to 17.2.

With Rodden back at Hendrick Motorsports, Kahne is the top-ranked Hendrick driver in the standings through six races and is fifth in points. His average start is back to just outside the top 10 and his average finish of 12.0, if it holds up through 30 more arduous races, would be the best of his career.

Kahne said he had a feeling his cars would be faster in 2015 in the offseason but wasn't sure until he got to Las Vegas.

"We had a great offseason as far as a team, all of us together. But until I got to Las Vegas, not real sure," Kahne said. "And then in Vegas we were easily the second-best car and from that point on I knew that we’ll have a really strong season."

It was quite a contrast from a year ago.

"I was scared in January of last year when we tested at Nashville and were four tenths off," Kahne said. "And then we went to the first track and were four tenths off and everything made sense. That was our speed and that was what we were bringing to the track and it was — I knew it right away and we never really got rid of that until later in the season. We got better, but we still didn’t get where we needed to be."

Though the Vegas race is not one of Kahne's two top-10 finishes in 2015. He ran up front for most of the race until he was involved in an incident with Carl Edwards on lap 194. Edwards ran out of real estate and shoved Kahne into the wall off turn four. Kahne then sent Edwards spinning the next lap.

Kahne battled back to finish 17th, his worst finish of the season.

The increased speed also brings renewed optimism. As the summer races ticked off last year, Kahne's chances of making the Chase started to teeter before that Atlanta win. Now, Kahne's confident a win isn't too far away.

"I know it’s right there," he said. "I know that we’re close and I’ve been looking forward to Texas for two weeks so maybe it will be this weekend. We’re definitely getting closer each week and we feel better about what we're bringing to the track."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 10, 2015, 3:53 pm

Kevin Harvick in golf mode.AUGUSTA, Ga. - At any race track, Kevin Harvick can't walk anywhere without running a gauntlet of fans looking for his autograph. But at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, Harvick was just a dude in a golf shirt, easily blending in with the thousands of other dudes in golf shirts. (No, he didn't wear his firesuit, but he was sporting a black "Kevin Harvick Foundation" cap.)

Harvick made the short stopover in Georgia en route to Texas to support his friend Scott Harvey, an amateur playing in his first Masters. "It's so cool for him to be here," Harvick said. "I of course wanted to support him."

Harvey isn't a professional golfer; instead, he owns a real estate business and plays as an amateur. Last year, he won the Mid-American Amateur Championship, and on Christmas Eve received the invitation to play in this year's Masters. As the date approached and the pressure mounted, Harvey decided to reach out to Harvick, who knows a thing or two about performing in front of crowds.

"I called him early last week to see how he deals with this every week," said Harvey, who met Harvick while the reigning Sprint Cup champ was learning to play the game. "I was getting calls, texts, tweets, and he helped me keep calm." Harvey finished the day four over par, two strokes out of the lead for the coveted Low Amateur award. (Winning the award will not qualify him for the Chase, however.)

"Calm," meanwhile, is a perfect description of the Augusta National course. Golf seems an unlikely refuge for a NASCAR driver -- if Harvick fired up his ride on one end of the course, you'd be able to hear it all the way on the other -- but quite a few drivers take to the links on their off days. Denny Hamlin came to Augusta three years ago, caddying for eventual Masters champ Bubba Watson in the Wednesday Par 3 contest. Michael Waltrip, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Jarrett all claim at least a touch of game.

Harvick has actually played Augusta; he shot a "91 or 92" a few years back. But this marked his first time as a spectator, and he was clearly enjoying his final few hours of relaxation before flying to Texas.

"It's just amazing here," Harvick said, looking out at Amen Corner and the famed Hogan Bridge. "There's nothing else like this place."

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

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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 9, 2015, 9:55 pm

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

Richard Childress Racing released a statement Thursday about its appeal of the penalties levied towards the No. 31 team for tire manipulation at Fontana.

"Our appeal is scheduled for Thursday, April 16. We feel confident we have a very compelling case to present to the appeals panel. We strongly believe in the intent of the rules and the integrity of our own teams while following those same rules. Out of respect for the appeal process, we will have no further comments until after the hearing."

intriguing, isn't it?

We also can't help but think back to RCR's last big penalty. It happened in 2010 when Clint Bowyer's No. 33 team was penalized 150 points after the car's left rear didn't meet template specifications following Bowyer's win at New Hampshire. The penalty essentially ruined Bowyer's Chase.

RCR felt it had a pretty rock-solid case back then, bringing in an accident reconstruction expert to testify how damage from the tow truck that pushed Bowyer to victory lane after he ran out of gas. However, NASCAR's appeals board upheld the penalty and upon final appeal, RCR lost.

We're not saying RCR is going to lose this one too. But we're not optimistic about their chances, especially not knowing the details of the case. Why? NASCAR penalties are upheld far more than they're overturned.

When the news of the All-Star Race's addition of laps came out earlier in the week, we posed a question on Twitter. Does the $1 million purse to the winning team serve as an All-Star Race selling point to you?

We've heard and completely understand the argument that watching multi-million dollar drivers and teams race for $1 million isn't a draw for a lot of us that aren't banking seven figures. But we wanted to know how pervasive the thought was. So here's a sampling of your comments.

@NickBromberg Racing is Racing...That's all I need to be sold.

— Tucker White (@Nascarking3) April 8, 2015

@nickbromberg at richmond, bristol or mville, yes. at an aero-dependent track, no. i used to go to the ASR every year. not worth it anymore.

— Philip Jones (@philgoodstory) April 8, 2015

@NickBromberg @Noble_Jim No way, if each of them were racing for a million for a fan or charity, that I would like, but not themselves

— Eric Nelson (@ericnelson429) April 8, 2015

@NickBromberg @Noble_Jim No, I simply enjoy the racing but I do understand the teams get pumped about it! #braggingrights

— Teresa Owen (@TeresaOwen1) April 8, 2015

@NickBromberg best selling point of that race is that I can convince my friends to go b/c the format is non-diehard friendly.

— kevin (@Kfilament) April 8, 2015

@NickBromberg Without question, winning for money isn't like it used to be. Drop in the bucket in the end for these guys.

— mike fuori (@weathersfuori) April 8, 2015

@NickBromberg @Noble_Jim It's a bonus race regardless of the format!!! Cars o. Track = Happy!!

— 88winsdega@gmail.com (@NComman) April 9, 2015

We like the charity idea. While fans have been drawn to All-Star Race teams before, why not do it like the Prelude to the Dream was set up? Each team or groups of teams could have a charity and the winning charity gets $1 million.

@NickBromberg @Noble_Jim The amount of money doesnt matter to me, the fact that they will go all out to win is... so whatever it takes..

— Richard Cronier (@R_Cronier) April 8, 2015

Here's another issue you can bring up about the marketing of the $1 million. It's a tacit admission that drivers and teams need further incentivization to win. Without the prize, they wouldn't take the race seriously enough to try to win it.

And that's seeped into the NASCAR regular season with the idea that "winning is everything" and drivers and teams would try harder to win races in the current Chase format than they would have otherwise.

It's all garbage. Racers race to win. And if you can't win, you want the best finish possible, especially as we've seen how the points format excruciatingly punishes bad finishes. While the prize money is a nice carrot for participating teams, it should be far from the only reason a team wants to win.

@NickBromberg What if the prize for the all-star race was a chase spot, but no points for anybody in the field?

— The Fuggs (@Marcmann2) April 8, 2015

This is an intriguing thought. What if the race was for a bigger winner's purse (like say $2 million) or a Chase spot? Teams and drivers who are in the Chase would have a nice cash reward and it's another way for someone else like Jamie McMurray to get into the Chase.

And if you're going to respond that this idea is gimmicky, save it. Look at the Chase format already.

@NickBromberg no. unnecessary race now. Move date to points race at Iowa or Road America. 3 races at @CLTMotorSpdwy is too much.

— EricHoward (@erixmotorsports) April 8, 2015

This was also a common theme. Not only do more short tracks need to be on the schedule, we agree the All-Star Race should be at one too. But which one? It's admittedly an idea much easier said than done.

@NickBromberg You're guest starter in May. Do it no helmet, bring your favorite Royal batting helmet, or just say no? pic.twitter.com/gH8oEKs6lH

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 9, 2015

Oh, we'd jump at the chance to be guest starter. And do we want to ruin our beautiful hair? We're going to have to debate that one. It's still funny every week to see the NASCAR official starter with a helmet and looking like a stormtrooper while the honorary starters have no head protection at all. Why there haven't been any steps to rectify the inconsistency over the first six weeks is quite odd.

We'd go with a Royals helmet, but may also have to support the alma mater too. A football helmet would be fun, especially if we're the guest starter at a race in SEC country. Would have to do some trollin'.

Before we go, we feel obligated to give an update to our Easter candy Power Rankings. We backed up our words and bought a lot of Cadbury Creme Eggs after Easter. So many, in fact, that we reached triple digits. As we type these words, 96, or one eaten per day, are left.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 9, 2015, 9:53 pm

Pace cars have a strong allure.

Someone stole an Indianapolis 500 pace car from an Indianapolis-area car dealership on Wednesday night (There are multiple cars designed like the pace car for the race).

The car has been found, but the suspect has not. The man who stole the car apparently drove it down a flight of stairs and then through a glass door. Yes, like in an action movie.

And there's this part too. Which is really like an action movie. Save for the "he may be hurt" part.

From Fox 59:

The suspect is described as a white male with glasses and no shirt. Police believe he is on foot, and say he may be hurt from driving the car through the glass door with the top down.

It's a hell of a story to tell your friends – "I once drove a pace car down a flight of stairs and through a window" – but it's a story that you're either going to tell your friends while in prison or after you've been released from prison. You can't exactly go around spreading that story right now without the fear of getting apprehended.

For more crazy pace car stories, we highly recommend Matt Crossman's story from Vice, which includes details of the guy who once stole a pace car at Talladega.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 9, 2015, 12:38 pm

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

This week's race is the 2004 Samsung Radio Shack 500. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here.

Johnny Sauter almost became Elliott Sadler's No. 1 enemy.

Sadler was busy holding off a furious charge from Kasey Kahne over the final laps of the Samsung Radio Shack 500 when Sauter's lapped car ended up right in front of him on the final lap.

With Kahne on Sadler's bumper and looking to the outside, the two closed quickly on Sauter. But instead of pulling over on the backstretch or way high in turns three and four, Sauter maintained race pace.

As Kahne pulled to the outside of Sadler's car off turn four, Sadler quickly closed the door. Though he couldn't keep his car in front for long as Kahne had more momentum. To prevent a possible spin-to-win situation, Sadler moved down a lane above Sauter and held off Kahne by half a car.

Had Sauter been the tiniest bit slower in turns three and four, he could have affected the outcome of the race. He didn't, as he stayed ahead of the two leaders – just barely – but if he had bobbled at any point as the leaders were barreling down on him, the race might have been Kahne's first win rather than Sadler's second.

Sadler led the final 27 laps of the race, taking the lead from Jeff Gordon following a restart for oil on the track. Kahne had the day's fastest car and led 148 laps. With another lap of the race he might have led 149.

Gordon finished third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth and Rusty Wallace was fifth. Kurt Busch finished sixth and leads the points standings by 19 over teammate Matt Kenseth.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 8, 2015, 9:57 pm

The Sprint All-Star Race will be 110 laps in 2015.

The format for the race was revealed Wednesday and, like 2014, will consist of five segments. The first four segments will be 25 laps (up from 20 in 2014) and the final segment will be 10 laps.

The average position of the field through the first four segments will determine the order cars head to pit road before the final segment. Teams are mandated to change four tires, before the 10-lap segment and the order off pit road will determine the restart order.

The winner of the race will once again get $1 million. While the purse is a selling point to drivers and teams, we understand how it can be hard for fans to get excited about millionaire drivers and multi-million dollar teams running for a seven-figure check.

The race will also be run with the 2015 rules package. NASCAR has said that it was looking to have the specifications for 2016 cars to the teams by about the time of the All-Star Race and the exhibition race would be a perfect opportunity to showcase the new rules. However, NASCAR's release about the event made it clear that the current configuration would be used.

After making downforce and horsepower changes following the 2014 season, NASCAR is widely expected to make more changes to cars for the 2016 season.

There's also an eligibility change for the race. Previously, all Sprint Cup Series champions and All-Star Race winners from the past 10 years were eligible. Now, all Cup champs and All-Star Race winners are eligible, meaning 2003 title-winner and 2004 All-Star Race-winner Matt Kenseth and 2002 All-Star Race-winner Ryan Newman are eligible.

The following drivers will participate in the race. There are three more opportunities for drivers to win a race and get in before the May 16 exhibition. Three drivers will also advance from the qualifying race before the All-Star Race.

• AJ Allmendinger
Aric Almirola
Kurt Busch,
Kyle Busch,
Dale Earnhardt Jr.,
Carl Edwards,
Jeff Gordon,
Denny Hamlin,
Kevin Harvick,
Jimmie Johnson,
Kasey Kahne,
Kenseth
Brad Keselowski,
Joey Logano,
Jamie McMurray
Newman
Tony Stewart

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 8, 2015, 2:55 pm

1. Daytona: Much like 2014, the racing in the Daytona 500 was a great start to the season. Unlike last year, the sun was out for the race, which created a different set of circumstances for drivers to face throughout the race. But we loved how the 500 turned into a strategy race before late cautions bunched up the field and created the restrictor plate chaos that we've become accustomed to seeing. And no, we're not discounting the race because it ended under caution. If you're a regular reader of the site, you know we don't judge races simply based on their highlight appeal.

2. Martinsville: Yeah, the race lasted about four hours, but there weren't any lulls in the action, the finish was great (and clean!) and drivers had the opportunity to drive through the field. Look at Martin Truex Jr., who started up front, fell back because of a power steering problem and ended up back in the top 10. Yeah, we may be biased because we watched this race from the stands (and it went faster because we were there), but the only other worthy contender for the second spot is next, and we'll explain why it's third.

3. Fontana: For us, the madness at the end of the race actually discounts it. It was a fun race heading for the all-too-rare fuel mileage finish when it was derailed by debris cautions. We've clamored about our hate for conspiracy theories before, and inconsistency doesn't equal conspiracy. However, we'll admit to feeling a bit empty (like a fuel tank after a fuel-mileage race) following Brad Keselowski's win. The win is in no way illegitimate. Rather, it's the easiest "what-if?" race of the first six.

4. Atlanta: Kevin Harvick had the fastest car for most of the race, but Jimmie Johnson was the fastest over the last 14 laps and got the win. Watching Harvick and Jeff Gordon come through the field at the beginning of the race was fun and made you want to be in the production truck or at the race and able to solely watch the two drivers.

5. Phoenix: While it was fun to wonder if Jamie McMurray clears Kevin Harvick off turn two following the final restart, is there any belief that McMurray would have been able to hold off Harvick for the rest of the race? OK, we see you believers, and you're wearing No. 1 hats. You don't count. We're also staunch advocates of an an accelerated aging process for the track's surface. Not that we're against Harvick's domination by any means, we just want to see multi-groove racing and tire wear.

6. Las Vegas: What was the defining moment from the race? Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne? Kevin Harvick led 142 laps and Dale Earnhardt Jr. tried a strategy play to beat him with two tires. It didn't work, and as pit stops cycled through the final time, Harvick cruised to a 1.6 second victory.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 7, 2015, 3:06 pm

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

We'll start the mailbag with some news that we didn't post earlier in the day. RCR is appealing the penalty given to it for tire manipulation at California. It's asked for a deferral of suspensions pending the appeal, but that would only matter if the appeal isn't heard next week. With the off-weekend, there's more time for NASCAR to hold the appeal for the team. While there's a chance it won't be held until after the Texas race, our guess is it happens sometime next week.

It's appropriate to start with our tire questions then, right?

@NickBromberg Do you think Ryan Newman and Luke Lambert possibly altered tires at Homestead last year?

— Drew Crook (@TheDrewCrook) April 2, 2015

This is the unavoidable question, isn't it? As we pointed out when the penalties were announced (75 points for Newman, a six-race suspension for three crew members including crew chief Luke Lambert), Newman had 10 top-10 finishes in the first 26 races of the season. In the Chase, he had six, including a run of five straight starting at Dover.

And the speed he showed at the end of the year has carried over to 2015 with four top-10 finishes in the first six races.

Given the information at hand, there's no way to say that RCR did manipulate the tires on the No. 31 last year. But there's also no way to completely prove that they didn't, barring an investigation of the tires that it used at Homestead. And that may not even be possible at this point.

If Drew's question is the unavoidable question, there are a host of others too. When did teams catch on? When did NASCAR hear enough to start investigating, subsequently leading to the "tire audits?" Given that NASCAR took tires before the race at Auto Club Speedway, it's reasonable to assume that this was not a one-race infraction. We just may never know for sure how long this went on.

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How does letting air out of the tires helps the handling of the car? - Mandy

We've gotten a lot of questions about this after writing what we did on Friday.

In very basic terms, hot air occupies more space than cold air does. Tires get hotter the longer they're on the car, which is why teams start tire runs with low air pressures in the tires. And tires with low air pressures have more grip.

By poking tiny holes into tires (small enough that the tire won't go flat), the air pressure that builds up over the course of a run slowly escapes. Tire pressure stays lower, grip stays better, and, theoretically, speed increases.

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Nick how many tires that get shredded after the race,victory burnout are involved, Harvick shedded tires, or does the heated rubber seal the holes? - Bruce

Yes, a driver shredding his back tires after a burnout isn't abnormal. It happens pretty regularly.

But if that was a defense to prevent inspection of manipulated tires, it's not a very broad one. To avoid your tires being checked, you'd have to win the race. If you finished second or lower, you're not going to have any excuses to burn down your tires.

Plus, you'd have to only be doing it on your final set of tires. Because nothing would stop any other set of tires from being taken and looked it. And you don't know if your final set of tires will be on the car for five laps, 10 laps or 50 laps.

@NickBromberg down 34% in ratings from 2014's Martinsville race isn't exactly a great start for NASCAR on FS1/NBCSN

— Darrell (@diriditi) March 31, 2015

Last year's Martinsville race had a 3.8 rating. This year's, on Fox Sports 1 instead of Fox, had a 2.5 rating. It was the lowest rating for a NASCAR race since 2002.

However, it's not much of a surprise. Ratings are widely expected to be considerably lower on FS1 and NBC Sports Network because they don't have the recognition or distribution as broadcast networks do.

But, and here's a key but, it was still the highest-rated non-NCAA Tournament sporting event of the weekend. That's a win for NASCAR, and a 2.5 rating is pretty damn good for FS1, which is still struggling for a foothold outside of NASCAR programming.

And remember, the move to FS1 and NBCSN for races has a double-objective. While NASCAR is getting a ton of money over the next 10 years, both networks have anchor programming for their fledgling networks. They can also use that programming to demand to be on all of the basic cable tiers of major television providers.

@NickBromberg do you foresee any future for Tony Stewart and Chad Johnston beyond this year without multiple wins or a Newman esque run?

— Keith D (@kdesorm2) April 2, 2015

A sixth of the way through the season is too early to make a rash judgment, but if the season doesn't improve, yes, it's entirely possible a change could be made. And hell, maybe there could be a repeat of 2011 with Stewart's title run and Darian Grubb's departure.

But that's a long way off and switching crew chiefs isn't always an applicable solution to speed issues. And if a change was made post-2015, Stewart would be on his third crew chief since Grubb and fourth in six seasons. That's downright English Premier League-like.

@NickBromberg Why doesn’t NASCAR have a plan B to make Sat quali possible if they lose Fri.to weather,seems the thing to do. Reese’s PB eggs

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 2, 2015

It'd have to be something that's uniform across the board, and while there's time for qualifying on Saturday on some track schedules, there isn't on others.

And you can make the effective argument that practice is more important than qualifying if it's a question of bumping practice for qualifying to make sure it happened. Teams get a chance to work on their cars in race setups and there also aren't 50 cars showing up to the track every week. Right now, less than a handful of cars are going home. And they're generally very small low-budget teams.

Brian's Reese's comment also leads us to the non-racing part of Happy Hour. In our tweet soliciting questions, we promised to talk about Easter candy.

@NickBromberg I SWEAR, IF ANYONE SAYS SPICE JELLY BEANS, I'M GONNA BLOW MY TOP.

— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) April 2, 2015

Here's our Easter Candy Power Rankings. We can all agree that Peeps are the worst, right?

1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
2. Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs
3. Cadbury Mini Eggs
4. Caramel/Peanut Butter filled bunnies
5. Snickers Eggs
6. Solid chocolate bunnies
7. Easter M&Ms (just because there's no taste difference)
8. Anything else not Peeps
1,000,000. Peeps

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 2, 2015, 9:56 pm

Rusty Wallace is returning to competitive driving, but it's not in NASCAR.

The 58-year-old NASCAR Hall-of-Famer is going to compete in the X Games in June in an off-road truck.

From the AP:

"I honestly miss driving a car a little bit," Wallace told The Associated Press. "ESPN brought up this possibility and I thought, 'Why not? Let's go knock the cobwebs off and try this.' I know that I stopped driving too early. I think I could have gone another three years.

"But at that point, I was really getting burned out on all the travel. I was irritable. I got the opportunity to work for ESPN and I said to myself, 'If I don't do this, someone else will.' So that's the path I took. I still struggle with not racing, not a whole lot, but a little, and this was a good opportunity to go have some fun."

Wallace retired from NASCAR after the 2005 season and was replaced in the No. 2 car by Kurt Busch. He was an analyst for ESPN's NASCAR coverage until the network didn't renew its broadcast contract after the 2014 season.

He has 55 career NASCAR wins and has turned to another former NACSAR winner for off-road racing advice recently: Robby Gordon.

Gordon told the AP that Wallace has already driven a truck. The trucks in the event are Gordon's.

And while Wallace's return to racing is interesting, there's another fun note in the AP story. Wallace, who is now doing radio work for MRN's Sprint Cup Series broadcasts, spends half his year in Mexico. We imagine beach time with Rusty Wallace could be a riot.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 2, 2015, 4:53 pm

Kyle Larson's absence from the Sprint Cup Series looks to be for just one race.

Chip Ganassi Racing announced Thursday in a brief statement that Larson is cleared to drive in the race at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 11.

Following a thorough review of all the test results by his attending physicians and in conjunction with the medical staff from NASCAR, Kyle Larson has been medically cleared to return to all NASCAR related activities beginning at Texas Motor Speedway next weekend, April 10-11.

Larson fainted after an autograph session on Saturday and was taken for testing. Though preliminary tests were negative, according to the team, doctors wanted Larson held for more testing. Therefore, he missed Sunday's race at Martinsville. Super-sub Regan Smith drove in his place and finished 16th.

He said Thursday that he was dehydrated.

"One of the first things they thought it was was dehydration, so they just ran a bunch of tests, like tons of tests on me just to make sure nothing else was wrong with my body," Larson said. "It all kind of circled back to just being dehydrated."

Larson was released from the hospital on Monday evening. The 2014 Rookie of the Year is currently 24th in the points standings.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 2, 2015, 4:11 pm

There was an interesting-looking car involved in Michigan State's police escort in Indianapolis on Wednesday night.

The Spartans arrived for the weekend's Final Four and part of the escort entourage included a two-seater IndyCar.

Michigan State's police escort into downtown Indianapolis on Wednesday night included an Indy race car... pic.twitter.com/KO8h0j11Us

— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) April 2, 2015

...And MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis was in the second seat of the Indy race car...welcome to the Final Four! pic.twitter.com/qUpsVYyWhz

— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) April 2, 2015

We're incredibly jealous of Hollis, though we would be itching to go faster than police escort speed. He should have hijacked that baby and driven over to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a few hot laps. It's not like the speedway is currently being used for anything.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: April 2, 2015, 1:15 pm

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

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Goodbye, top-two finish streak. You served Harvick well. He had to settle for a paltry eighth-place finish despite leading 154 laps. Because he led the most laps, he actually got more points (38) for finishing eighth than Danica Patrick did for finishing seventh (37). If you're looking for fun coincidences, we've got one for you. Where was the last track Harvick didn't finish in the top two at before Sunday? Yep, you've got it. Martinsville.

2. Joey Logano (LW: 2): Striking observation from the Martinsville grandstands on Sunday. When Logano got spun by Michael Annett in turns one and two, you would have thought Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead based off the roar of the crowd. Seriously, there were a bunch of cheers. Where the heck did that come from? How did Logano become a villain? If he continues to get boos when he's successful and cheers when he's not, it's going to be one of the more fascinating heel turns in NASCAR history. It's not like Logano has done anything to tick a bunch of people off lately. Oh, he finished third after that spin. It was a hell of a comeback.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 4): Here's another guy just racking up the top 10s. And this time, Truex had to overcome a lot of obstacles to do so. Smoke was emanating from his car early in the race and he was forced to pit multiple times under caution. The issue was a power steering leak and after the team fixed the problem, Truex worked his way back up through the field to finish six. And hey, he actually gained points on Harvick this week.

4. Kurt Busch (LW: 3): Let's stay on the power steering problems agenda, shall we? Busch had them too, though his came later in the race. He also got a penalty for changing lanes before the restart that was later rescinded. Without power steering, Busch wrestled the car to a 14th-place finish. He's now 24th in the points standings despite missing those first three races of the season.

5. Brad Keselowski (LW: 5): If Keselowski doesn't have the Auto Club Speedway win in his pocket, does he race Denny Hamlin any differently? It's a fair question, given that Keselowski's refusal to bump Kyle Busch at Watkins Glen in 2013 meant he didn't have a win to get the Wild Card for the Chase. Of course, Keselowski could have opted for the same tactic against Hamlin if he was winless, but since he had the win, there was no need to act crazily in search of three bonus points in the Chase. There are 20 more opportunities for wins.

6. Denny Hamlin (LW: 12): The win at Martinsville was Hamlin's fifth. He now has the third-most wins of any active driver at the track. The fact may make you scratch your head a little bit because of the recency bias. It's Hamlin's first win at Martinsville since 2010. But he won three-straight races in 2009 and 2010 and had a streak of four wins in six races. He also has 15 top-10 finishes in 19 career starts. It's not too far off Jimmie Johnson's 22 in 27.

7. Matt Kenseth (LW: 9): Flatline is becoming a Martinsville master. Or at least a driver who is pretty good at the track. He's got 12 top-10 finishes and in 31 starts at the half-mile track. In five races with Joe Gibbs Racing, he has four of those. The other race was a 14th-place finish. Kenseth has found a secret and he apparently shared it with Hamlin and David Ragan on Sunday. Ragan finished fifth.

8. Kasey Kahne (LW: 11): Quick, name the top Hendrick Motorsports driver in the points standings! OK, OK, we just gave you a giant hint so it's really not much of a pop quiz. Yes, it's Kahne, who has 21 points over Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 25 points over Jimmie Johnson. Could this be the year where all four Hendrick cars are running really strongly at the same time?

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 7): Junior had a fast car even after he was caught up in the accident on lap 229 that left him with a bunch of damage on the front of his car. After his team fixed it all up, Junior was still pretty damn fast. He just had a car that looked like a modified car. And he was lots of laps down. No word on if Junior had any Martinsville hot dogs while his team was fixing the car.

10. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 8): Yeah, Johnson had a pit road penalty and sustained damage during the race, but his car was just not fast at all throughout the race. And when was the last time we said that about the No. 48 at Martinsville? Given the team's history, it's likely an outlier and he'll be fast in October. When it really counts. Or counts more, anyway given that Johnson is likely in the Chase.

11. Ryan Newman (LW: 6): So, how long has Newman's team been drilling holes in tires? Were the tires manipulated at all at Martinsville? Newman flat didn't have any speed at all in the race after qualifying second. He ran up front for the first stint and then was on a train to the back of the pack. We'd have Newman here before the penalty was announced and we're now intrigued to see how fast the No. 31 is over the next few races.

12. Jeff Gordon (LW: NR): Sunday was Gordon's race to lose. It was a fantastically called and driven race by the No. 24 bunch as Gordon was simply not that good in the first 200 laps. However, the team made the right adjustments and Gordon was patient until he got sight of the lead. Then, with a good car, he went after it and easily had the best car of the final 100 laps. But then there was that stinking speeding penalty.

Lucky Dog: Danica Patrick, who was the highest-finishing Stewart-Haas driver.

The DNF: Austin Dillon. It was his first DNF since he started running full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.

Dropped Out: Paul Menard

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 31, 2015, 10:40 pm

Tire manipulation is a confirmed reality in the Sprint Cup Series.

Just days after drivers and crew chiefs commented on the talk surrounding tire tampering in the Sprint Cup Series garage, NASCAR leveled a big 75-point penalty against Ryan Newman and the No. 31 team for issues found with the team's tires at Auto Club Speedway.

NASCAR had been taking tires from some teams after races for audits as suspicions of teams drilling holes in the tires to regulate air pressure became public (Newman's team was one of the teams who had tires taken after the race on March 22). Tuesday, NASCAR docked Newman the points and suspended crew chief Luke Lambert, tire technician James Bender and team engineer Philip Surgen for the next six races. Lambert was also fined $125,000.

The penalty is a P5 penalty under NASCAR's tiered penalty system. According to NASCAR it violates rule 20.16.2 which says tires can't be modified and 12.5.3.5.1 which defines a P5 penalty as "effecting, modifying and/or altering the standard tires in any way, other than through authorized means such as tire pressure adjustments within the recommended range, permitted tire cooling when mounted on the race vehicle; or heat-cycling on the race vehicle on the race track earlier in the event."

The standard P5 penalties are 50 points and a $75,000 fine for Lambert. However, the points penalty was increased 25 points and the fine increased $50,000 because the infractions were found after the race. Newman finished fifth at ACS. He was asked about manipulation rumors on Friday after qualifying at Martinsville and concluded his answer with "I'm not worried about anything."

It's fair to wonder how long the No. 31 team (and others?) have been modifying tires. Newman had 16 top-10 finishes in 2014, but qualified for the Chase with 10 in the first 26 races. He had six top-10 finishes in the final 10 races, including finishing second to Kevin Harvick in both the final race at Homestead and in the points standings.

The speed Newman had in the final races of 2014 carried over to 2015. He has three top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes in the first six races of the season. However he's now 27th in the standings with the points penalty.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 31, 2015, 8:55 pm

Kyle Larson was released from a Charlotte-area hospital Monday evening. However, the driver of the No. 42 car is still not cleared to drive in the Cup Series.

“After extensive testing and observation over the last few days, Kyle Larson was released from the hospital last night and has finished up final tests today," a Chip Ganassi Racing statement said. "He is currently waiting for final doctor recommendations in order to clear him to return to all NASCAR related activities.”

The Sprint Cup Series is off Sunday because of the Easter holiday. The next race is Saturday, April 11 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Larson missed Sunday's race when he fainted after an autograph session on Saturday. He was taken for tests -- tests that the team said found no issues -- but was told by doctors that he needed to miss Sunday's race for further tests.

Regan Smith drove the No. 42 in his absence and finished 16th. Larson is now 24th in the points standings.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 31, 2015, 8:26 pm

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The back road to Martinsville dips and turns through the woods. There are a few houses on each side. Then, suddenly, there are cars parked along the side of the road. We’re close to the track?

After parking, the walk continues down the road. A sign with “17” stands in the middle of a field that’s used as a makeshift parking lot. We take a right into the field.

Up a short hill, the grandstands appear.

If you’ve never been to Martinsville and wonder if the descriptions of its rural location are hyperbole, they’re not. The track basically sits in a bowl, with hills and trees all around. Houses too. And the train tracks, which run along the backstretch and separate the track from the helipad, which is essentially a flat spot of land where helicopters shuttling drivers and VIPs take off and land.

Sunday was my first time at Martinsville, and I also have a confession to make. It was my first Sprint Cup Series race as a fan. I started covering Sprint Cup races as an 18-year-old but never had been to one as a fan. Previously, if I’d been at a Cup race, I’d been there to work. This time was different.

And man, was it fun. Martinsville Speedway won’t ever be mistaken for a state-of-the-art facility, nor should it be. The houses behind the frontstretch wouldn’t tolerate any newfangled and modern construction.

Before finding our seats in turn one, we explored the infield and it’s evident that the track and NASCAR have years of practice in organizing all of the haulers in the middle. Not an inch of space goes unused and when we walked up the steps from the pedestrian tunnel in turn four, we were greeted by the mammoth front grill of BK Racing’s No. 83 hauler. If the parking brake was turned off and the cab started a slow crawl, well, it wasn’t going anywhere.

We also found this thing just hanging out behind a tent next door to the media center.

There are two things television doesn’t capture accurately about the track. First is the size of the pit boxes. When you’re standing in them, you wonder if you could lay down with your entire body inside the stall. How does a car fit?

Second, the turns aren’t nearly as flat as they look. The pit crews in the turns are stationed considerably lower than the outside walls. The track is still flat, especially in NASCAR terms. But if you had a giant parking lot at your disposal, you’re not simply creating a paperclip-shaped track with orange cones and calling it a Martinsville replica.

We made sure to order hot dogs — one, in my case — from the infield concession stand. Leonard Wood was two lines over, which made the experience about as perfectly Martinsville as possible. It is a bit unnerving, however, to see this sign. The thought of engine additives to give the Martinsville dogs their bright red color is enough to make someone squeamish head to the bathroom.

Our seats were stationed six rows from the top in turn one. We could see the entire track and watching the field stomp on the brakes as they headed towards us for 500 laps was riveting. The incident that ruined Chase Elliott’s day was right in front of us and there was absolutely nothing he could have done outside of installing illegal brakes on his car. He was about the seventh car behind someone who had almost come to a complete stop in the middle of the corner.

Though Martinsville is the slowest track on the circuit, the sense of speed still prevails, possibly because of the 20-second laps. Especially as the field gets strung out, there’s non-stop action in front of you.

And watching Brad Keselowski attack Denny Hamlin over the last 10 laps was great in person too. Keselowski had plenty of chances to use his front bumper as a weapon and didn’t. With a little more gas in the middle of one of the final corners, Hamlin’s car could have been crumpled up against the wall.

Sunday was a perfect example of why more short tracks should be on the schedule. Not only was the racing great, but the experience was too, from the intimacy of the infield to the cramped concourses, retro bathrooms and, of course, the trains passing by the backstretch during the race.

Is it a glamorous experience? Hell no. But that’s not the appeal of Martinsville. If you think NASCAR isn’t as authentic as it was 25 years ago and you haven’t been to the paperclip, start making your travel arrangements now. Your thoughts will be a lot different when you’re walking back to your car.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 31, 2015, 4:42 pm

NASCAR said Tuesday it was disappointed in the recent measure to enact a religious-freedom law in Indiana.

The measure has come under intense scrutiny since it passed because many believe it opens the door to discrimination against certain groups on religious grounds.

"NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana," chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said in a statement. "We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race."

Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence said he stood by the law, which goes into effect on July 1, but that he could have handled it better. He also said it doesn't encourage or allow discrimination.

As you can see, the statement doesn't hint at or rule out any action by NASCAR if the law isn't changed or repealed, though it's unclear what NASCAR could do if it decided to protest. Pulling the Brickyard 400 seems like quite the extreme step.

NASCAR also used similar language in its statement about Travis Kvapil when he was arrested for domestic abuse in 2013. In the statement following the arrest, NASCAR said it was "disappointed to learn of this incident." No action was taken by the sanctioning body against Kvapil after he was given two years probation.

The NCAA issued a statement last week about the Indiana law, threatening the presence of future events in the state. The NCAA is based in Indianapolis.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 31, 2015, 3:43 pm

NASCAR has made changes to group qualifying at Daytona and Talladega a reality.

Group qualifying was instituted at the beginning of the 2014 season, though 2014 Daytona 500 pole qualifying was unchanged a year ago from traditional single-car runs.

Now, qualifying will consist of single car runs, though there will likely be multiple cars on the track at once. NASCAR said Monday that for the races at Talladega in May and Daytona in July, cars will be released one-by-one at a prescribed interval from pit road. Each car will get one timed lap to post a speed. The top 12 cars from the first round of qualifying will advance to a second round and race for the pole.

After the disaster that was pole qualifying at Daytona in February for the 500, NASCAR said it was open to changes and listening to feedback from drivers, many of whom voiced their strong displeasure for the format that required cars to draft with each other (like in race conditions) to get the fastest lap possible. While NASCAR has made multiple tweaks to group qualifying at restrictor plates in the format's short existence, this is the biggest change.

In the new format, cars will be divided into two groups for the first round of qualifying. Cars will be impounded after qualifying – teams can't make changes to their cars without risk of losing their qualified spot – and a random draw will determine the order of cars in the first round.

The new system is similar to the format used previously for the Camping World Truck Series at Pocono and Talladega, where multiple trucks would qualify at the same time. However, the trucks were spaced out far enough from each other to prevent drafting.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 30, 2015, 4:23 pm

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There are literally billions of dollars at play in today's NASCAR environment, but for a few laps on Sunday, you could have been watching a good old small-track race in the middle of nowhere.

Well, technically, you were; Martinsville is one of the most remote tracks on the circuit. But you get the idea: for all the money and fame these drivers and race teams accrue, sometimes it comes down to two drivers, two cars, one prize. And on Sunday, it was Denny Hamlin who outlasted Brad Keselowski in the closing laps of the STP 500 to notch his first win of the season and fifth at Martinsville overall.

Hamlin had driven one of the best cars all day, but one by one his top challengers dropped back in the pack, either victimized by bad luck (Joey Logano got collected on a spin by Michael Annett) or their own mistakes (Jeff Gordon suffered a critical pit road speeding penalty with less than 40 laps remaining). As with last week, it then fell to Keselowski to sneak in and challenge Hamlin for the victory. Turn after turn in the closing laps, Keselowski got close enough to touch Hamlin's bumper, but couldn't get inside for a pass.

On the final turn of the final lap, Keselowski took one last shot at Hamlin, hitting him hard directly in the bumper, but Hamlin could hold on for the final stretch to the checkered flag.

"I did everything I could other than wreck him," Keselowski said afterward. "I hit him pretty good a couple times, so he did a good job, and he chose not to wreck, which I'll give him credit for. But it was fun."

Hamlin, for his part, credited team owner Joe Gibbs for getting fiery at a competition meeting earlier this week. "Joe raised his voice, which doesn't happen very often, told us to get off our tails and go to work, and we all did it, and great result for this race team," Hamlin said. "Sometimes you need a leader like that to kind of put things in perspective. Not that people weren't working hard, but it just takes that extra 10 percent out of everyone to get to that next level."

"Everybody is frustrated and kind of expressed their feelings," Gibbs said. "But I will say this:  We've kind of charted a course for us to work on."

Early on, it didn't appear Hamlin had much of a chance at victory, not after a loose-tire penalty that buried the 11 car deep in the field. But Hamlin's expertise took him back to the front, and breaks at the right time kept him there,

"I'm just happy that it looks like our short track stuff is starting to turn the corner and kind of hopefully will get back to where its heyday was in 2009 and 2010," Hamlin said.

Kevin Harvick saw his streak of first- and second-place finishes end at 8; he finished eighth. Danica Patrick finished a spot ahead of him, tying her career-best finish. Gordon ended up in ninth. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who never really got going before wrecks consumed them, ended up 35th and 36th, respectively. Chase Elliott, making his first career Sprint Cup start, ended up 38th.

The series now takes a week off for Easter before reconvening at Texas for the Duck Commander 500.

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

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: March 29, 2015, 10:39 pm

Mar 29, 2015; Martinsville, VA, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (25) waits as his car is repaired during the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. (Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)NASCAR's future arrived at Martinsville on Sunday, and promptly got knocked back into the garage.

Chase Elliott, defending Xfinity Series champion and son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, made his Sprint Cup debut on Sunday in the No. 25 NAPA Chevrolet, and, well, Martinsville and the STP 500 didn't exactly welcome him with a gentle, loving embrace.

Martinsville often resembles a shopping mall parking lot at Christmastime, with cars circling, fenders bending, and tempers rising. Elliott, starting 27th, traded paint with his fellow mid-packers, and on an early restart, Brett Moffitt piled into him. Shortly afterward, on lap 75, Elliott went behind the wall with power steering and radiator problems. It took his team, comprised of Hendrick Motorsports veterans, 69 laps to get Elliott's car back in serviceable condition.

Points aren't the goal for Elliott; experience is. He'll run a handful of events this season in preparation for a full-time Sprint Cup ride next season taking over for Jeff Gordon. It's all part of the most celebrated Cup-level debut in recent memory.

Elliott, son of a 16-time Most Popular Driver and Cup champion, has been a fixture at tracks since he was the size of a Martinsville hot dog. The entire NASCAR community has watched him grow up, and so far, he's exceeded even the loftiest expectations. But the Cup level has a way of reminding even the best young drivers that love and fans don't translate to speed.

It had been a tense weekend for Elliott, starting with qualifying on Friday. Elliott needed to qualify for the race on speed, but rain delayed qualifying. If Mother Nature had washed out qualifying, Elliott would have missed the race. But he ended up starting in the 27th position, and seemed cooler than the subfreezing air temperature on race morning.

Of course, it's not like a terrible first Cup race heralds a terrible career. In their Cup debuts, Dale Earnhardt Sr. finished 22nd, Jeff Gordon finished 31st, Jimmie Johnson finished 39th, and Elliott's father finished 33rd. So, yes, it's a good bet he'll improve.

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

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: March 29, 2015, 7:03 pm

Kyle Larson fainted at an autograph session Saturday and will not drive in Sunday's race at Martinsville. He's being replaced by Regan Smith.

Larson was awake and alert after the fainting spell and was evaluated at both a Martinsville-area medical center and a Charlotte hospital, where he was taken for evaluation by a neurologist. All tests so far have come back negative, however, according to the team, he's being held out as a precaution for more testing.

"After fainting yesterday at an autograph session in Martinsville, VA, Kyle Larson was first evaluated at a local hospital in Martinsville and ultimately evaluated at a Charlotte hospital," Chip Ganassi Racing said in a statement. "Although all tests came back negative and Larson feels completely fine, the doctors felt he should be held for more testing today. Subsequently, Larson will be unable to race today in the STP 500 in Martinsville."

Smith substituted for Kurt Busch earlier this season when Busch was suspended indefintely by NASCAR after allegations of domestic abuse. Smith drove three races in Busch's No. 41 car. He subbed for Tony Stewart in 2014 and has also substituted for Dale Earnhardt Jr. when Jr. missed time in 2012 because of a concussion.

Larson, 22, is in his second year in the Sprint Cup Series. In 45 career starts he has eight top-five finishes and 19 top-10 finishes. He's considered one of NASCAR's brightest up-and-coming talents and is a favorite to make the Chase in 2015. Since he's already attempted to qualify for Sunday's race, he is currently still Chase eligible.

If his absence extends through (or beyond) the Texas race on April 11, he would need a waiver from NASCAR to make the Chase. Given previous circumstances, the waiver is likely to be granted.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 29, 2015, 12:04 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 28, 2015, 9:19 pm

Joey Logano got his second pole of 2015 at Martinsville.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 27, 2015, 11:15 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon said he thinks teams were manipulating tires.

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

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

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

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 27, 2015, 4:46 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) March 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Darrell (@diriditi) March 26, 2015

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

— Darrell (@diriditi) March 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Philip Jones (@philgoodstory) March 26, 2015

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 26, 2015, 9:53 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 25, 2015, 4:37 pm

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

This week's race is the 1962 Virginia 500. Need to know how Random Recap works? Click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dropped out: Jamie McMurray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) March 22, 2015

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

— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) March 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Mike Joy (@mikejoy500) March 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 23, 2015, 12:21 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 21, 2015, 1:16 am

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

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

From the Detroit Free Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 20, 2015, 10:04 pm

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

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

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

Here are Harvick's comments in full:

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

He continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 20, 2015, 8:38 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: March 20, 2015, 5:15 pm

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