As we count down to Sunday's 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, we're taking a look back at some of the biggest memories from the historic race.

We continue our series by looking at the five closest finishes in Indianapolis 500 history. Thursday's edition featured five drivers who dominated the Indianapolis 500 and won. It was a happy change from our five disappointments on Wednesday.

Gordon Johncock beats Rick Mears by 0.16 seconds, 1982: Johncock and Mears were the only two cars on the lead lap and they couldn't separate themselves from each other.

Mears led 77 laps while Johncock led 57. Mears was able to close over the final lap and get a good draft off turn 4 but wasn't able to get close enough to make a run at the finish line.

Had Mears won the race, he would be the only five-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and Roger Penske would have a paltry 17 Indy 500 victories.

Juan Pablo Montoya beats Will Power by 0.1045 seconds, 2015: Yes, the fourth-closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history happened last year. Montoya passed his teammate with three laps to go and Power was unable to make a move back.

Much like Mears in 1982, Power had a draft down the frontstretch on the final lap but he wasn't close enough to do anything.

Sam Hornish Jr. beats Marco Andretti by 0.0635 seconds, 2006: Here's a close finish that involved a successful pass.

Andretti looked poised to do something his father hadn't done in visiting victory lane in the Indianapolis 500. But Hornish, perhaps with knowledge of how late moves had previously failed in this race, made his move as the two cars exited turn 4.

Perhaps more amazing than Hornish's pass on the final lap is the block Andretti threw on him in turn 3 with two laps to go. Hornish thought he had the inside line but Andretti chopped him off. Had Hornish not quickly burped the throttle, both drivers would have crashed.

Ryan Hunter-Reay beats Helio Castroneves by 0.06 seconds, 2014: Castroneves could not get a fourth Indy 500 in 2014.

Hunter-Reay, the first American to win the Indianapolis 500 since Hornish, passed Castroneves for good with four laps to go. The battle between the two IndyCar champions was one of the most spirited late-race fights in race history as they had five lead changes between them in the final 19 laps of the race.

Al Unser Jr. beats Scott Goodyear by .043 seconds, 1992: This is the race that made the author of this post a race fan as a little kid. I distinctly remember Michael Andretti's fuel pump failure and standing right in front of the TV as Unser Jr. held off Goodyear in what was then a record-finish.

Believe it or not, Goodyear never led a lap in the race despite hounding Unser over the race's final laps. The 1992 race was also chosen by Indy 500 drivers this week as the best race among the previous 99.

And can you believe the camera shot on the final lap? That flagstand camera didn't show a thing and it missed the finish. We trust ABC won't do that on Sunday if the finish is a thriller.

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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: May 27, 2016, 10:13 pm

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is standing by his half-brother Kerry Earnhardt regarding their stepmother's appeal of Kerry's usage of the Earnhardt name.

Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt's widow, has filed to prevent Kerry from using "Earnhardt" in his "Earnhardt Collection" of homes. Teresa originally filed a motion in a U.S. patent court. After her original motion was denied, she filed an appeal earlier in the month.

Teresa is the owner of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., the company Dale started before his death in 2001.

“This is a business venture that he’s put a lot of effort and heart and soul in that I think he deserves,” Junior told the Charlotte Observer. “So in this particular case, I side with my brother and his belief to be able to use the name as is – without any alterations or changes.”

Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Junior's sister who serves as the vice president of their JR Motorsports team, has previously expressed her distaste for the appeal. After news of the appeal became public, Teresa's attorneys issued a statement about the reasoning for the appeal. From ESPN:

"The naming of any project called 'Earnhardt Collection' causes confusion as being associated with Dale Earnhardt, as the Dale Earnhardt brands and marks are so diverse across multiple industries and philanthropic causes. ... [And it] could be used to exclude Dale Earnhardt Inc., the designated steward of Dale's legacy, from the same use," law firm Alston & Bird said in its statement.

It went on to say it has not requested any payment from Kerry Earnhardt.

"By not coordinating these [trademark] activities rightfully, these individuals and entities fail to recognize the true legacy of Dale Earnhardt," the statement said about anyone who attempts to use the Dale Earnhardt and Earnhardt marks.

Teresa was Dale's third wife. Kerry Earnhardt is Dale's oldest child and Kelley and Junior were born to Dale's second wife, Brenda Gee.

Earnhardt Jr. qualified 25th for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600.

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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: May 27, 2016, 9:36 pm

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The pre-Indianapolis 500 Indy Lights race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has become known for its ridiculously close finishes. Friday's finish between Dean Stoneman and Ed Jones was the closest in speedway history.

Stoneman held off Jones' late pass for the win by about a foot. Or maybe less. Watch the video. Officially, the margin of victory was 0.0024 seconds. Yes, there are two zeros after the decimal point.

It breaks the record of a finish that might have been even more exciting. In 2013, a four-wide finish won by Peter Dempsey had a margin of victory of 0.0026 seconds.

Gabby Chaves, who finished second in 2013, won in 2014 with a margin of victory of 0.005 seconds. Chaves is competing in Sunday's 100th Indianapolis 500.

If you're not familiar with the Indy Lights Series, it's the feeder series for the Verizon IndyCar Series, similar to the Xfinity Series' relationship with the Sprint Cup Series.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 27, 2016, 8:38 pm

Entering 2016, Martin Truex Jr. hadn't won a pole since 2012. He now has two this season. Truex posted the fastest lap in the third round of qualifying at Charlotte on Thursday and will start first in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600.

Truex's first pole of the season came at Kansas, a race he dominated. However his chances at victory were derailed when the team had an issue attaching the right front wheel to the hub on the final pit stop. He ended up finishing 14th.

Fast cars and crazy things slowing them down has been the story of Truex's 2016. He was fast a Dover in the last Sprint Cup points race and got caught in a bizarre chain reaction crash that was cued when Jimmie Johnson had a gearbox issue.

He was in position to win at Texas earlier this year as well before a couple late cautions ruined the team's strategy and he was passed by Kyle Busch on newer tires.

Oh yeah, he was a very-close second to Denny Hamlin in the Daytona 500.

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 27, 2016, 12:22 am

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

The All-Star Race was fun. If you like chaos, of course. We'll get to some All-Star Race discussion in a bit. First, let's look at what Carl Edwards had to say when reacting to the news that NASCAR was cutting even more downforce at two races this summer.

"I’m so excited about the things that are coming at Kentucky and Michigan," Edwards said. "NASCAR is doing what it takes, the teams are doing what it takes to go out and figure out how to make this the best racing it can be. This is going to be a blast. These cars, I’m telling you, when you drive them sideways at 200 mph and you’re closing on people and you’re able to pressure them and race like that, that’s as good as it gets. I’m very excited about Michigan and Kentucky, it’s like Christmas for me.”

Edwards has been a vocal, vocal proponent of getting rid of as much aerodynamic grip as possible, so it's not surprising he's so excited. But we're not sure you're going to find a driver who doesn't like the changes that NASCAR is making to take away downforce again.

Don't expect the changes for the two races – if they get rave reviews  to be implemented permanently before 2017.

And while NASCAR deserves credit for being willing to make changes to the racing product to make it better, it's also mandatory to point out that NASCAR is responsible for putting itself in a position where changes have to be made.

@NickBromberg Why is NASCAR okay with their TV partners putting races on cable, with abysmally low ratings? Need more eyes, not less.

— Ryan Comerford (@Ryan_Comerford) May 26, 2016

Money.

And the money argument works both ways. While viewer numbers for races on Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network may be lower than races on Fox and NBC, the broadcasts give the networks programming that they know will do well among all cable entities. And will do really well vs. any other program that would be broadcast on the cable networks otherwise.

So NBC and Fox both ponied up a lot of money as an investment of sorts. Over the course of the 10-year contract, they hope that having programming like NASCAR will mean more people will tune in to their networks on a regular basis.

And anyway, we're at the point where if you want to watch a race on cable badly enough, you can do so if you don't have the channel available on your TV. And no, we're not making a backhanded illegal-streaming comment. Bars exist (you can buy one beer or another drink) and there are now streaming services like Sling that let you pay per month to stream Fox Sports 1, among other channels.

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Since this year All Star format didn't go as planned as we all hope, I suggest next year format should be two 50 laps segments with mandatory pit stop. At the end of the each segment, 2-3-4 drivers should be eliminated in a random draw. The last segment segment should be 15 laps shootout with a mandatory green flag drive through down the pit. Now that is an easy and All Star the fans will enjoy. -Carlos

@NickBromberg Chance the basic format of All-Star '16 is All-Star '17? 3 favorites for the Sunday 3? Amen the Cadbury eggs stayed dry!

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) May 26, 2016

Give this format another shot with a tweak -- you just have to make a mandatory pit stop by lap 85. No mandatory pit stop in the first segment. NASCAR can work in provisions if a caution comes out near that lap 85 mark, and it's early enough in the second segment that if a caution does come out, a driver can pit immediately after the green flag flies with plenty of time left in the segment.

If we're going to pick winners for the 1,268 miles of awesomeness that's ahead on Sunday, it's hard to go against Simon Pagenaud for the Indianapolis 500. Daniel Ricciardo posted a really fast lap during practice Thursday for the Monaco Grand Prix, so we'll go with a second-straight Red Bull win. And for Sunday night's race, why not a Joey Logano win again?

And before we sign off, make sure you enjoy Memorial Day and remember the reason for it. But we strongly encourage you to not be that person who gives unsolicited reminders to everyone else via social media about what the true meaning of Memorial Day really is. That's not cool.

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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: May 26, 2016, 11:49 pm

As we count down to Sunday's 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, we're taking a look back at some of the biggest memories from the historic race.

We continue our series by looking at drivers who dominated the Indianapolis 500 and won. It's a happy change from our five disappointments on Wednesday.

Billy Arnold, 1930: Arnold's record still stands to this day.

He won the 1930 Indianapolis 500 by leading 198 of the race's 200 laps, the most anyone has ever won in a win at Indianapolis. And he didn't lap the field either. 10 cars finished on the same lap that Arnold did.

The only other driver to lead laps was Louis Meyer, who started on the pole. Meyer led the first two laps and when Arnold passed him from the fourth starting position, it was game over.

Arnold led the most laps in the 1931 Indianapolis 500 (155 laps) as well, but didn't win the race. He finished 19th after crashing out from the lead on lap 162.

• Bill Vukovich, 1953: Vukovich led the most laps in the 1952 Indy 500 and ended up finishing 17th in the race thanks to a steering wheel issue. He closed the deal the next year.

Vukovich led 195 laps, beating Art Cross to the finish line by 210.87 seconds. The only time he conceded the lead was from lap 49-53, when Fred Agabashian, Jim Rathmann and Sam Hanks took turns leading. Vukovich got the lead on lap 147 and wasn't passed again.

Vukovich repeated in 1954 when he led 90 of the race's laps for his second win.

• Al Unser, 1970: Unser's first of four Indianapolis 500 wins came in extraordinary fashion.

Unser, driving the No. 2 Johnny Lightning 500 Ford, led 190 laps to beat Team Penske's Mark Donohue by 32 seconds.

Just five cars finished on the lead lap and Unser, who started on the pole, led the first 48 laps. He led again from laps 54-100 and took over the lead from Donohue on lap 106 and set sail as the race had just one caution flag over the final 100 laps.

Unser was one of the most dominating drivers at Indianapolis. He's won four Indy 500s and has led 11 different races. Only A.J. Foyt (13) has led more races and only Foyt and Rick Mears are the other drivers with four wins. If Helio Castroneves wins on Sunday, he'll be the fourth with four wins.

• Juan Pablo Montoya, 2000: The 2015 Indianapolis 500 winner did alright in his first start at Indianapolis.

Driving for Chip Ganassi, Montoya started second and took the lead from polesitter Greg Ray on lap 27. After the lead cycled to teammate Jimmy Vasser and Robby McGehee, Montoya led the next 143 laps.

Vasser led again for four as pit stops cycled through and Montoya took over on lap 180 and led the final 21 laps to lead 167 of the race's 200 laps.

Montoya beat 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier to the line by over 7 seconds and didn't participate in the Indy 500 again until 2014, when he finished fifth.

• Dario Franchitti, 2010: Franchitti got his second of three Indianapolis 500 wins by leading at both the beginning and the end.

After starting third, Franchitti led the first 30 laps. He took over the lead again for a lap on lap 36 and then led 70-straight laps from lap 39-108 and ultimately led a total of 155 laps.

Franchitti pitted during a caution for a crash on lap 161 while other drivers stayed out. However, the four drivers that stayed out didn't have enough fuel to make it to the end without a rash of yellow flags. There wasn't another caution until the penultimate lap.

Castroneves, who had taken over the lead, was forced to pit with nine laps to go and Franchitti took over the lead again.

The caution on lap 199 was for a vicious crash involving Mike Conway, who suffered a broken leg when his car flew into the catchfence.

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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: May 26, 2016, 6:50 pm

Two Sprint Cup Series races this summer will feature even more tweaks designed to take away downforce from the cars.

NASCAR said Thursday that the races at Michigan on June 12 and Kentucky on July 9 would feature changes to the splitters and spoilers on the cars. The spoilers will be an inch shorter (2.5 inches) and the splitters will be two inches smaller.

"I think we look at it as a never-ending journey; if we can improve we're going to do that," NASCAR vice president Steve O'Donnell said via NASCAR.com. "We wanted to go the direction of low downforce, see how that worked, not kind of go all the way in and hope that we are directionally right. And we are seeing that play out. We've seen some great racing at the beginning of the year.

"But we also knew that we had some more levers that we could pull if the direction kind of proved out, so we've tried some of those things. We've tested it and what we've also wanted to do is lower some of the corner speeds to allow for even more passing. That was one of the areas where we've seen minimal change, but there are some levers we can pull to really drive that down."

NASCAR has said that teams have been able to engineer back some of the downforce that was taken away as part of the rule changes for the 2016 season. And while slowly reducing downforce (to help decrease the reliability on aerodynamic grip) can also be characterized as a never-ending journey, NASCAR is responsible for putting itself in the position to have to make the tweaks. Had the sanctioning body been a bit more proactive in recent years, these changes may not be happening at the moment.

However, they are. And it's a damn good thing too. Last year's August Michigan race featured the higher-drag rules tweaks and it flat stunk. Michigan deserves to be the track to test out the reduced downforce changes in a few weeks. The Michigan and Kentucky races will also feature rules regarding the rear toe of the cars as well. NASCAR instituted changes to the rear toe at the All-Star Race as a test of sorts. The changes were designed to reduce corner speed.

Many drivers have continued calls for NASCAR to keep taking downforce away. With less downforce in the cars, drivers are forced to use the brakes more and the throttle less in the corners. The reduced corner speed can help facilitate more passing and can also reduce the effects of turbulent air off the cars ahead.

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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: May 26, 2016, 1:39 pm

Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress are members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The two team owners joined Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons as the five members who make up the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. Former Martinsville Speedway president H. Clay Earles was given the Landmark Award.

Parsons was the leading vote-getter among the five inductees. He appeared on 85 percent of ballots while Hendrick was a distant second at 62 percent. Martin was on 57 percent of ballots, Parks was on 53 percent of ballots and Childress was on 43 percent.

According to NBC, Robert Yates, Red Byron and Alan Kulwicki were the next three highest vote getters. It's good to see that Byron's votes still counted after his name was misspelled on the official ballot.

Here's a quick look at the five inductees, who were chosen from a list of 20 nominees. They'll be officially inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.

Childress: After a short career as a driver, Childress became synonymous with seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt as Earnhardt's car owner. The two won six championships together and combined for 67 wins. Childress has 105 wins as a car owner and currently fields Chevrolets for Austin Dillon, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman. Childress' last win as an owner came when Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix in 2013.

Hendrick: Hendrick's drivers have won 11 championships and 242 races over 33 years. His first title came with Jeff Gordon in 1995 and Terry Labonte won again in 1996. Since then, Gordon won three more titles while Jimmie Johnson has captured six. Hendrick's first win as a car owner came in 1984 at Martinsville with Geoffrey Bodine. That win paid $29,880. The team's win at Texas this fall with Jimmie Johnson paid just over $462,000.

Martin: Martin may not have a championship, but there's little doubting his career credentials. Widely considered the best driver to never win a title, Martin won 40 races over parts of 31 seasons in the Cup Series and finished in the top five of the points standings 13 times (including five second-place finishes). Martin also won 49 races in what's now the Xfinity Series and seven Truck Series races.

Parks: One of the founding members of the sport, Parks was first a moonshine runner and owned racing teams before NASCAR was founded. In NASCAR, Parks' teams won the first two NASCAR championships. Byron won driving for Parks at Daytona Beach and Martinsville in 1949. Parks died in 2010.

Parsons: The 1973 champion (not 1972 as NASCAR CEO Brian France said when announcing Parsons as a Hall of Fame member), Parsons won 21 races and had 283 top-10 finishes in 526 career races. He won just once in his title-winning season but finished in the top-five 15 times. Although he finished third in the 1977 standings, Parsons won a career-high four races and had 20 top fives and 22 top-10 finishes. He was a broadcaster for NBC in the early 2000s and died in 2007.

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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: May 25, 2016, 9:43 pm

As we count down to Sunday's 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, we're taking a look back at some of the biggest memories from the historic race.

We start our series with five of the biggest disappointments of the 500 and reflect on some of the most teasing moments that drivers have endured during the previous 99 races.

Ralph DePalma, 1912: The second Indianapolis 500 (then known as the International 500) is remembered for the most dominating performance that didn't result in a win.

DePalma started fourth in his Mercedes and took the lead on lap 3 from Teddy Tetzlaff, who led the first two laps after starting third.

No one could challenge DePalma for the lead. He wasn't passed at all over the next 196 laps and as the race wound down, it looked certain that DePalma was going to win.

He didn't. Joe Dawson passed him on lap 198 after DePalma suffered a piston issue. Not only did DePalma fail to win the race, he failed to finish.

• Parnelli Jones, 1967: Jones was great on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 1967 race started on Tuesday, May 30, but had to resume after 18 laps on Wednesday because of rain. Jones took the lead on the first lap Tuesday and held the lead through lap 51.

Jones was driving for Andy Granatelli and his four-wheel drive STP-Paxton Turbocar was making its debut in the 500. The car also had a spoler that moved to serve as an air brake.

Granatelli paid Jones $100,000 to drive in the race and said he'd split the winnings if Jones won the race.

He didn't.

While leading on lap 196, a rear bearing – a $6 part – broke on the car. A.J. Foyt passed him and led the final four laps for the race win.

• Michael Andretti, 1992: The 1992 race is remembered for its great finish between Scott Goodyear and Al Unser Jr. Michael Andretti's mechanical failure set it up.

Andretti took over the lead from Al Unser Sr. on lap 178 and was far ahead of Goodyear and Unser Jr. when he suddenly lost fuel pressure.

His car came to a halt on the track on lap 189 and was ultimately out of the race when the broken fuel pump  was deemed terminal. Andretti had led 160 of the race's 200 laps.

Andretti, now the owner of Andretti Autosport, never won the Indy 500 and 1992 was likely his best opportunity.

• Emerson Fittipaldi, 1994: This year belonged to Team Penske.

With a new Mercedes engine, the Penske cars of Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi were the class of the field. Both drivers qualified on the front row and Fittipaldi sprinted away from everyone else throughout the course of the race.

Thanks to green flag stretches of 51, 36 and 45 laps, Fittipaldi, who led 145 laps, lapped the entire field. As he was leading the race on lap 184, he had just lapped Unser Jr., who was running second.



Then trouble happened. Fittipaldi's car slid up into the wall in turn 4, leaving Unser Jr. as the only Penske car remaining (Paul Tracy had suffered a gearbox problem earlier in the race).

Unser Jr. went on to win the race as Jacques Villeneuve — the only other driver to lead laps and finish on the lead lap — was second.

• J.R. Hildebrand, 2011: This is still painful to watch.

J.R. Hildebrand was one of three drivers attempting to make it to the end of the race without having to make a late-race pit stop for fuel. Bertrand Baguette pitted with three laps to go, leaving Dario Franchitti and Hildebrand as the only two drivers with a chance for the win on the same strategy.

Hildebrand passed Franchitti (who ran out of gas) and looked like he was going to swipe the win. But as he went to pass the lapped car of Charlie Kimball on the race's final corner, Hildebrand's car slid high and into the wall.

As Hildebrand's wounded car limped to the finish line, Dan Wheldon (who had pitted and could go all-out) passed Hildebrand on the frontstretch. Hildebrand, who hasn't won an IndyCar Series race and will be racing in Sunday's race, finished second.

The win turned out to be the final one of Wheldon's career as he was participating in the 500 in a one-race deal for Bryan Herta's team. He participated in two more races that season and was killed in a fiery crash at Las Vegas.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 25, 2016, 7:04 pm

The Indy 500 draws ever closer, and while it's always a cause for week-long celebration in Indiana, does the rest of the country care? Is it a major stop on the sports calendar, or is it one of many sporting events doomed to a slow slide into irrelevancy?

On the latest episode of Grandstanding, Kevin Kaduk and Jay Busbee break down the pros and cons of Indy-as-big-time-event. Agree? Disagree? Have your say on Twitter using the hashtag #grandstanding.

This debate is part of Yahoo Sports' new ongoing Grandstanding series, in which Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk kick around every topic in sports. Check out the Grandstanding podcast, where we dive deeper into the day's big stories, and find us on Twitter (@kevinkaduk and @jaybusbee) Facebook (Kaduk here, Busbee here) or via the hashtag #grandstanding. Thanks for checking it out!

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 25, 2016, 6:55 pm

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Residents in the Indianapolis television market will be able to watch Sunday's 100th Indianapolis 500 live.

The local blackout on the race was lifted Wednesday morning as Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials said the event had been sold out. Much like previous NFL blackout rules, the Indianapolis 500 hasn't been shown live if there were seats available for purchase. Since there aren't any seats left, a 56-year streak has been broken.

It's the first time since 1950 that the blackout hasn't happened. The race is traditionally shown on tape delay in Indianapolis later Sunday afternoon. From the Indianapolis Star:

It’s believed IMS targeted the sale of 75,000 general admission tickets to bring Sunday’s total attendance to about 350,000, a significant increase over recent years in part due to temporary suites being installed in the Turn 1 infield and on the backstretch. Grandstand seats previously removed have been reinstalled to meet demand.

Until Sunday, 1949 and 1950 had been the only two years without a local blackout.

The 500 is traditionally the most-attended single-day sporting event in the United States. 350,000 people showing up only increases the gap that the race has on every other event.

The speedway announced earlier in May that all reserved seats had been sold. The track said it was bringing staffing in from out of state to help accommodate all the fans.

The tape-delayed broadcast will also be shown after the race to give fans who attend the race a chance to catch it on television like they have in previous years.

James Hinchcliffe, who was seriously injured in a practice crash before the 2015 Indianapolis 500, is the polesitter for Sunday's 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: May 25, 2016, 1:23 pm

Richmond was the best race of the season (Getty Images).Welcome to the 1/3rd mark of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season. Since there was so much apparent confusion after Saturday night's All-Star Race, we didn't want to add to the chaos by letting our Power Rankings be affected by a non-points race. So since we're 12 races in to the season, we figured that this would be a good time to look back at them all.

We rated the finishes to Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series races earlier in the season but this set of rankings is taking the entirety of the races into account. That's why it may look a bit different from what you saw earlier this year. Let's get to it.

1. Richmond: Fully admitting that we may be biased because we saw this one in person, Richmond has the top spot in our rankings. Not only was the finish one of the best of the season, the racing from lap 1 to 400 was fantastic. The decision to move the race to the daytime paid off as drivers looked for every edge of pavement throughout Richmond's corners to find some speed. Two and three-wide racing throughought the field was commonplace. Winner: Carl Edwards.

2. California: The turnaround of Auto Club Speedway from pariah to on a pedestal continues to be impressive. Thanks to lower downforce and tire wear, the race was once again extremely entertaining even as Kevin Harvick led 142 laps. Winner: Jimmie Johnson

3. Atlanta: Atlanta may not have been the most thrilling of races for people at home. However it still gets the No. 3 spot. It was our first chance to see the lower downforce tweaks and drivers emerged from their cars with rave reviews for the rule changes. Of course, after the disaster that was last year, they could have probably ridden bikes at Atlanta and said the same thing. But the second race of the season started the good racing vibes. Winner: Jimmie Johnson.

4. Talladega: Yes, the discussion after the Talladega race centered around flying cars. And with good reason. But when you look past that (scary) aspect, it was the best overall restrictor plate race of the year. Yes, even better than the Daytona 500 despite its fantastic finish. Winner: Brad Keselowski.

5. Dover: Should Dover be higher on this list? That question may be from the recency bias though. Last week's race was potentially the best at the track in eight years. Not only could drivers race each other for the lead intensely at the end of the race, they were able to race each other all over the track throughout the entire race. Winner: Matt Kenseth.

6. Daytona: As we said when ranking the finishes of the races, Daytona would have been a letdown if it wasn't for the crazy final mile of the race. The race was controlled by the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas and if there wasn't a last-lap pass for the win, the biggest memory of the race would have been Chase Elliott or Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashing. That doesn't speak too well to the awesomeness of the race. Winner: Denny Hamlin.

7. Phoenix: This year's race was one of the better Phoenix races in recent memory. But like Dover, Phoenix hasn't exactly been a thrilling track. Yeah, the finish was great, but the biggest takeaway from the overall race was that tire wear finally had an influence on the repaved surface. That's good news for the future. Winner: Kevin Harvick.

8. Bristol: This Bristol is just fine, thank you. Yeah, the "old Bristol" had the bump-and-run as a part of the passing repertoire, but it was a one-groove track. That one groove was just on the bottom rather than the top. And as Brad Keselowski showed us at one point throughout the race, it's possible to bump a driver out of the way in the high groove without crashing him. Winner: Carl Edwards.

9. Martinsville: Kyle Busch ruined Martinsville. OK, we're kidding. Is it possible to ruin Martinsville? Busch led 352 laps while no one else led more than 72. Three drivers who started outside the top 20 finished in the top 10, however. That's never a bad thing. Winner: Kyle Busch.

10. Las Vegas: If this was last year, Vegas would probably be higher on the list. But alas, it barely cracks the top 10 here. Outside of Brad Keselowski chasing down Kyle Busch for the lead on older tires, no one is going to remember Vegas as being epically thrilling. But no one is going to remember it for being a bad race either. Winner: Brad Keselowski.

11. Kansas: This race brought back the dreaded "track position" phrase. In a season of tire wear and easier passing, you automatically get docked a bunch of spots if the winner's crew chief emphasizes track position in a post-race press conference. Winner: Kyle Busch.

12. Texas: Texas races need to be shortened to 400 miles. We think Martin Truex Jr. will agree with this sentiment as he'd be the winner if this year's race was 100 miles shorter (Yes, Trevor Bayne was leading at the 400-mile mark but that was a strategy play. It was Truex's race to lose). Winner: Kyle Busch.

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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: May 24, 2016, 3:06 pm

Matt Kenseth and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team will need a new primary sponsor or two in 2017. Dollar General announced Monday that it would be ending its sponsorship deal with the team following the conclusion of the 2016 season.

"Dollar General has had tremendous success with NASCAR and our sponsorship of Joe Gibbs Racing," the company's statement read. "We have enjoyed a great partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing and we are excited to see what the No. 20 Dollar General car driven by Matt Kenseth will accomplish during the remainder of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Our strategy to reallocate our future marketing assets into new programs is strictly a business decision to align our priorities to better serve our customer in this rapidly changing retail environment"

The company named Todd Vasos as its new CEO in May of 2015. Vasos succeeded Rick Dreiling, the CEO of the company when it became a primary sponsor with JGR before the 2013 season when Kenseth joine the team.

As companies have started to favor partial season sponsorships, Dollar General became one of the biggest sponsors on a per race basis in the Cup Series. Dollar General is sponsoring Kenseth in 30 races in 2016. 

The trend of partial season sponsorships is why it's possible that Joe Gibbs Racing could find more than one company to take Dollar General's place. According to Sports Business Journal, which first reported Dollar General's move, the team could make announcements on new sponsors in the next month. Dollar General has no plans to move to another team.

Kenseth has had a wacky 2016 season so far and his team's strategy was a big reason for the mass confusion during Saturday night's non-points All-Star Race. Kenseth won the last points race (at Dover) and is a virtual lock to be a part of the Chase when it starts in September.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 23, 2016, 6:18 pm

Not only is Jimmie Johnson a better stock car driver than any of us mere mortals will ever hope to be, he could probably kick most of our butts in a bike race too.

Need proof? The day after last Sunday's race at Dover, Johnson (along with fellow Sprint Cup Series drivers Landon Cassill and Josh Wise) took part in the Assault on Mount Mitchell bike ride. The 103-mile jaunt with a 10,000 foot climb starts in Spartanburg, South Carolina and ends at the summit at Mt. Mitchell State Park.

While Johnson said last week that he'd be in "survival mode" for the ride, he finished it in just over 6:11 and rode with former pro cyclist and Tour de France stage winner George Hincapie.

It's time.@the_assaults @ghincapie pic.twitter.com/yWDqvNB2S4

— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) May 16, 2016

What Johnson calls survival mode on a bike would make a lot of us humans extinct.

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Johnson swam as a child and caught the fitness bug as an adult while he was in the midst of his run of five-straight Sprint Cup Series championships.

It was a hot summer day in Charlotte like it typically is and I wanted to get back in the water," Johnson told Yahoo Sports earlier this month. "So I got in the pool and swam and … after I was there a couple weeks someone asked me what triathlon I was getting ready for. It wasn’t even on my radar. A triathlon?"

"So I went home, thought about it, mentioned something to my wife and she said do it. Why don’t you pick one and do it. So the next thing you know I found one, I’m at the bike shop buying a bike and getting back into running and kind of started then."

He competed in his first sprint triathlon – a triathlon typically consisting of a swim under 1,000 meters, a 12-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run – in July 2008. Now, Johnson can probably do one of those without needing to take a drink.

Before he jumped into endurance sports, Johnson said he had been lifting weights to improve his conditioning both in and outside the car. The strength training helped rekindle his love of swimming, which then carried over to biking and running.

Now, Johnson commonly rides his bike throughout Sprint Cup Series weekends.

"I think it really keeps your senses sharp, like [a Friday] between the practice sessions and qualifying I’ll hop on the bike and go for a 20-30 mile ride just to stay loose and keep my senses alive and going," Johnson said. "Before I’d come back and just sit on the couch and veg out and brain shut down and not be as sharp."

"On Fridays that’s definitely part of it. I’d say the rest of the week there’s as much for me mentally to get out and have a release, to be out in the woods on my mountain bike to forget about the pressure and stress so there are a couple huge benefits out of the car more mentally than anything."

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As Johnson was tracking his exercise outside the car, he started tracking how his body performed inside the car too by wearing a heart rate monitor at occasional races.

"I wore it at the races where I felt the intensity was the highest to get a good understanding of what my average heart rate was and what the spikes were," Johnson said. "Bristol is definitely the one that spikes it."

Cup cars average approximately 15-second laps around Bristol's high-banked concrete. How high was Johnson's heart rate?

"Upper 150s sustained once we get into a green flag run which is mindblowing to me because that’s kind of a 10K race effort for me on my aerobic scale," Johnson said. "That’s right of the border to transitioning to anaerobic for me"

Yes, that's 150 beats per minute. The average heart rate for an untrained individual is between 60-100 beats per minute according to the American Heart Association while someone like Johnson has a resting heart rate of between 40-60 beats per minute.

If you're unfamiliar with the difference between anaerobic and aerobic training, simply think of the contrast between an all-out sprint and jogging slow enough to carry on a detailed conversation with a friend. The former is anaerobic.

"I didn’t think it was that high," Johnson said about the readings. "I thought it’d be mid-aerobic level, not high."

The high marks help make fitness even more important. While anaerobic thresholds vary from person to person, it's higher in fit individuals.

Throughout his use of the monitor in car, Johnson said he also noticed a pattern on the graphs it produced. When his heart rate spiked, especially over the course of a long run, his car was loose. As the car was tighter, his heart rate wasn't as high.

"It was interesting to see," Johnson said. "And it makes sense because when you’re loose and sideways you’re puckered up and really tense

"You’re still not comfortable when the car’s tight but I guess your hands and feet aren’t as busy driving it so it drives your heart rate down. When you’re tight you just turn the wheel and you’re like ‘come on, come on, turn, turn.' And of course you see the wall and you’re nervous about not hitting your marks. But it brings the heart rate down."

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Johnson's fallen in love with fitness and endurance sports so much that he's started spreading the word to others. He has an iOS app titled "Jimmie Johnson's Workout Challenge" and serves as a cheerleader and mentor of sorts in a group in another fitness app that includes many in and around NASCAR.

He even encouraged media members before the Daytona 500 to be more active and said he was available as a resource if they needed any help.

"If you want to get fit, you want to focus on wellness. I'm a resource. I'm here," Johnson said in February.

Sunday also marked the 10th anniversary of the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 5K race.

Many people who spent the late night working the All-Star Race made it up early to run or walk. Or in Johnson's case, run really fast despite not setting a record.

Not a PR today but so much fun. Thanks to all that support @TeamJJF. pic.twitter.com/2YfMz7O7gz

— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) May 22, 2016

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 23, 2016, 12:55 pm

A year after he almost died while practicing for the Indianapolis 500, James Hinchcliffe will lead the field to green in the 100th running of the famed race.

Hinchcliffe swiped the pole from Josef Newgarden in the final qualifying run of the day on Sunday with a four-lap average speed of 230.760 MPH. Hinchcliffe had earned the opportunity to run after everyone else by posting the fastest speed in Saturday's preliminary qualifying session.

And not only is it Hinchcliffe's first career pole for the Indianapolis 500, it's the first time he's ever qualified first in the IndyCar Series.

"I came into this month hoping we'd have a new story to talk about after what happened last year and I think we did it," Hinchcliffe said after climbing from his car. "I can't believe it. I'm honestly at a loss for words. Which is rare for me.

The popular driver was impaled by a suspension piece last May when his car careened into the wall during practice. The suspension piece from the front of the car had severed an artery in his leg. He thanked the IndyCar Series safety team in an interview last summer for their quick response to his crash and said had the workers not made the decision to take him straight to the hospital following the crash that "it would have been a very different outcome."

"The suspension struck an artery and even before getting me out of the car, I had lost a tremendous amount of blood," Hinchcliffe told SportsNet Canada last year. "And the blood started in the ambulance, I’m told. From what I hear they skipped the infield medical center. They got me straight in the ambulance and straight to Methodist [Hospital] because they knew it was bigger than that. And I think I had 14 pints of blood en route to the hospital and the human body holds 12, something like that?

"And then a bunch more in surgery until they were able to get in and get the artery fixed."

Hinchcliffe missed the rest of the 2015 season after the injury and returned for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg in March. He drives for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, a team co-owned by former IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt.

Schmidt was paralyzed in a testing crash in 2000 and spent months in the hospital on a respirator. He founded his team in 2004 and the team won the pole for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 (won by Dan Wheldon) with Alex Tagliani.

Hours before Hinchcliffe's run, Schmidt drove a his custom Corvette – one he steers with his head – at over 100 MPH around the track.

Sam with all of his former @SPMIndyCar drivers after reaching 152 MPH at Indy. We're so proud, Sam! #ArrowDriven pic.twitter.com/j09y73jpQp

— Arrow Electronics (@ArrowGlobal) May 22, 2016

All 33 cars who attempted to qualify for the May 29 race made the field. The fastest nine drivers from Saturday's session were eligible to run for the pole position on Sunday while those who qualified 10th-33rd on Saturday could do no better than 10th on Sunday afternoon. Here's how the whole field will look coming to the green flag:

1. James Hinchcliffe
2. Josef Newgarden
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay
4. Townsend Bell
5. Carlos Munoz
6. Will Power
7. Mikhail Aleshin
8. Simon Pagenaud
9. Helio Castroneves
10. Oriol Servia
11. Alexander Rossi
12. Takuma Sato
13. Scott Dixon
14. Marco Andretti
15. J.R. Hildebrand
16. Charlie Kimball
17. Juan Pablo Montoya
18. Tony Kanaan
19. Sebastian Bourdais
20. Ed Carpenter
21. Gabby Chaves
22. Max Chilton
23. Sage Karam
24. Conor Daly
25. Pippa Mann
26. Graham Rahal
27. Matt Brabham
28. Bryan Clauson
29. Spencer Pigot
30. Stefan Wilson
31. Jack Hawksworth
32. Buddy Lazier
33. Alex Tagliani

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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: May 22, 2016, 10:04 pm

By now, you likely know that confusion reigned supreme during Saturday night's All-Star Race won by Joey Logano.

The race featured yet another new format – inspired by Brad Keselowski – and was designed to feature a thrilling finish after a lack of drama in recent All-Star Races. Like many previous formats, the race featured a mandatory green flag pit stops during the first two segments.

That's where the race got confusing. Matt Kenseth's team had their driver stay out on track until the last possible moment before pitting in the first segment. The plan backfired when a caution came out with four laps to go, preventing Kenseth from pitting under green. If you're unfamiliar with the chaos that ignited from there, read our post-race post.

NASCAR admitted after the race that it didn't have a way of fixing the problem's that Kenseth's failed strategy created. Given the way Kenseth's strategy (and NASCAR's reaction) played out, it's easy to see a race without much post-race confusion if the team had pitted on lap 25.

With that in mind, we wanted to go back and find quotes from drivers before the All-Star Race. How many people were looking forward to the potential excitement of the new format? Was anyone already against it? And for fun, we'll contrast some of the pre-race comments with ones from after the race. Enjoy.

Denny Hamlin

Before: “Obviously, I think last year’s format was perfect for us," Hamlin, the defending winner of the race, said in his team's pre-race advance. "But at the same time, this will be exciting for fans and as drivers and teams, it will really force you to think through strategy and test how risky you want to be. It’s an exhibition event where we lay everything on the line for a million bucks, so any format will make the drivers get up on the wheel and throw caution to the wind.”

After:

No sir it didn't. It came from 1. Nobody liked it https://t.co/DbpWudod1X

— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) May 22, 2016

Agree. My suggestion is make it so ppl who are watching at a bar can understand whats going on without tv sound https://t.co/sc0sxgu691

— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) May 22, 2016

Tony Stewart

Before: “I normally sit in the driver’s meeting and I don’t totally understand it,” Stewart said in his team's pre-race advance. “When we get out of the driver’s meeting, I ask the crew chief to re-explain it because there are a lot of moving parts. That’s what’s cool about the All-Star Race. It’s not the same as we run every week or anywhere else. It’s a unique race and a unique format and it’s a really cool deal for the fans to see.”

After: “I’m as baffled as everybody," Stewart said. "I don’t know how in the hell we were scored a lap down after they stopped [Kenseth] and the pit everybody together a lap down then lead lap and then lap down. It’s the most screwed up All-Star race I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad it’s my last one. I’m all right. I’m just madder than hell because I don’t understand how the hell they’ve officiated this from start to finish.”

NASCAR

Before: “The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race has long been a fan favorite,” NASCAR Vice President Jim Cassidy said in a release. “We think this year’s format will ensure one of the best all-star races to date and we can’t wait to see it play out.” 

After: "It's something that we certainly, if we continue on with this format, we have to look at," NASCAR Vice President Scott Miller said via ESPN. "But you have to expect that certain circumstances are going to happen in this type of race, and we had one crop up tonight that maybe we could have been a little bit more ready for and weren't.

"It was a very unique situation, and we did not in our race procedures have a mechanism to correct that."

Ryan Newman

Before: “The format is what it is," Newman said in his team's pre-race advance. "I won it with an entirely different format and obviously I have lost racing with other formats in place. It’s all about who can play the game better. I do like it when they kind of keep it simple but we’ll just have to see. Maybe it will play to our favor.”

During:

From @RyanJNewman: "EIRI, right? We're the only people I know that droop their pants around their own ankles and then try to run." #nascar

— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 22, 2016

Matt Kenseth

Before: “I don’t know how it’s going to go and believe it or not I’ve listened to people talk a lot about strategy, but [crew chief Jason Ratcliff] and I have touched on it a little, but not a lot," Kenseth said Friday. "I could be totally wrong, I’ll have to sit and watch it, but I think everybody is going to race for 12th in the second segment and I think that’s going to be very interesting. I might be 100 percent wrong on that, that’s what it feels like today and especially after watching the last few races. It’s still really important to be out front and I don’t know that 15 laps after a 10 minute break to cool down on your tires is enough to be a huge deficit to four new ones. It might be, I hope it is because it will mix the field up a lot more. I don’t think anyone will be sure until we see it.”

After: “I can’t say I don’t like it, I don’t know what’s going on," Kenseth said. "From the driver’s seat, I don’t know what’s going on, but maybe if I was on the pit box or watching on TV I would understand. I just don’t know what happened there. I knew that we had to pit before a certain lap and that was the wrong lap and the caution happened to come out, but I don’t really know what happened from there to be totally honest with you. I just don’t know.”

Carl Edwards

Before: “I just don’t know how this thing is going to play out," Edwards said Friday. "The advantage that I have is we have a really fast pit crew so I feel like even if we’re not leading and we feel like the tires are the deal and we’re running fifth or something we could still come off of pit road first. I think for us and for my team fortunately because of my pit crew I have more options I believe. But then somebody brought up the fact that the complete chaos that’s going to ensue when they drop the green flag, you might be better off being in the back with fresher tires because I believe some people are going to be wrecking. I think the factor that’s going to determine what you do is how much the tires fall off how much advantage do you have. I don’t know, it’s going to be – before that caution comes out there’s going to be a lot of people trying a lot of different things.”

After: "It’s crazy and just a crazy night," Edwards said. "I wouldn’t call it confusing because I kind of understood what was going on, but it took most of my brain power to keep up.”

Kurt Busch

Before: "The format itself is unique," Busch said in his team's pre-race advance. "It’s a fun environment for a novice fan to enjoy his or her first taste of NASCAR. It’s an even better environment for a longtime fan to see his or her favorite driver laying it all on the line for $1 million while there are no points at stake.”

After:

Watched the race this morning...still a bit confused. I understand why some of you at home were frustrated. All eyes on the #600 though.

— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) May 22, 2016

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 22, 2016, 7:00 pm

Joey Logano is an All-Star Race winner, but his victory may not be the thing NASCAR fans remember most about Saturday night's exhibition race.

Instead, the memories could be of the various comments from drivers about the way NASCAR officiated the race, which had a new format designed to produce a great finish.

And the format came through, although it didn't go as planned. Logano ran down Kyle Larson over the race's final 10 laps and made the pass with two laps to go as the two drivers went into turns 1 and 2. Logano was on the low side of Larson and as the driver of the No. 42 kept Logano pinched down on the bottom, his car slid up the track and slammed the wall.

The impact paved the way for Logano to take the checkered flag ahead of teammate Brad Keselowski, the driver who helped inspire the format for the race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, and perhaps had the best summation of the night's craziness after he climbed out of his car.

"Lap down cars were pitting with lead lap cars," Junior said. "Wave-around cars were up front and in the middle, but NASCAR did a good job of sorting the lineups out. Everybody was where they were supposed to be when we went back green so I can't complain. They were just doing it unlike any other way I'd seen them do it before.

"I'm sure they ran into some scenarios tonight that they weren't anticipating. That was probably part of it."

Or, you may prefer Tony Stewart's characterization of the race.

"It’s the most screwed-up All-Star Race I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad this is the last one," Stewart said after he crashed out of the second segment.

Mind you, Stewart – who missed the first part of the season because of a back injury – was the race's grand marshal and gave the command for drivers to start their engines.

"I’m alright, except I’m just madder than hell because I don’t understand how in the hell they’ve officiated this whole thing from start to finish."

Those scenarios Junior mentioned happened in the first segment of the race. Teams were forced to make at least a two-tire pit stop under green during the race's first 50 laps. Many cars elected to pit at around the halfway point of the segment while others waited until the end.

Matt Kenseth waited too long. He was the last driver to be called to pit road and didn't make it in time as Jamie McMurray spun with four laps to go in the segment while the rest of the drivers who hadn't pitted were already on pit road.

The caution flag meant the segment ended under yellow and since Kenseth didn't pit under green, he was penalized a lap by the rules of the race.

To make matters even more complicated, the combination of Kenseth staying out on the track too long and the drivers on pit road as the caution flew meant a scoring fiasco for NASCAR as it sorted out which cars were on the lead lap and which cars were a lap down to Kenseth and possibly the other cars who were on pit road at the time of the caution.

The scoring confusion is the only explanation for the craziness that ensued. NASCAR let everyone pit at the same time during the mandatory pit stop between segments one and two (usually the cars a lap down pit after the cars on the lead lap) and the scoring situation wasn't officially figured out until the green flag flew for segment two – and after the cars were all checked to see if the lug nuts were tight.

NASCAR Vice President Scott Miller called Kenseth's scenario "unique" and admitted that NASCAR didn't have an immediate way to balance out the the rest of the field's positions relative to each other based off his running position before the penalty.

"Hindsight is really easy ... we didn't really have a mechanism to do that in our race procedures," Miller said (via Jeff Gluck's Periscope).

Here's how that confusion looked on Twitter.

From @RyanJNewman: "EIRI, right? We're the only people I know that droop their pants around their own ankles and then try to run." #nascar

— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 22, 2016

Dale Jr speaks for the people: "This race reminds me of the first time I tried to fly a remote control helicopter - no idea what's going on"

— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) May 22, 2016

Tony Stewart: "This makes no f***ing sense to me where we're supposed to be right now."

— Jordan Bianchi (@Jordan_Bianchi) May 22, 2016

Kenseth "It's unbelievable they're bringing us down to check lug nuts, that's like the NFL calling TO's checking shoelaces" #NASCAR #AskMRN

— Tyler Burnett (@_TylerBurnett) May 22, 2016

The race was reformatted with the goal of building to a thrilling finish. The first two segments each had mandatory green flag pit stops and the final 13-lap segment of the race was preceded by a mandatory pit stop for some of the race leaders.

However, the number of leaders forced to pit wasn't known until after the conclusion of the second pit stop when Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen chose an envelope with "11" in it, meaning that the top 11 cars were forced to make a pit stop. Before making the choice of envelopes, Olsen himself admitted that he didn't know what was going on either. So the confusion clearly wasn't limited to those in the cockpits of the cars.

The idea behind the draw was to prevent drivers from racing for a specific position in the middle of the field to not have to pit and to create a thrilling finish by forcing the best cars with the freshest tires to pass a lot of cars in a limited number of laps.

While a great idea in theory, it didn't work out that way because the previous chaos left just 14 cars on the lead lap. And to cap it all off, the driver who restarted first (Jimmie Johnson) likely played a strategy to finish the second segment in 12th and the driver who restarted second (Kyle Busch) was caught for speeding on pit road during the second segment.

Neither driver played a role in the final outcome though. Larson, who restarted third, had the lead off turn 2 on the first lap of the final segment.

Despite the nuttiness – which snowballed when Kenseth's penalty got combined with abnormal officiating – the format itself wasn't a disaster. Had McMurray not spun, there's probably minimal complaints. Anyway, the absurdity was certainly entertaining and the last segment featured a pass for the lead in the waning laps.

That pass just didn't happened the way we all envisioned it would. And that's OK. There's no need to lambast Keselowski's idea. This is NASCAR, after all. The sport where the wackiest and most bizarre scenarios almost always seem to come true.

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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: May 22, 2016, 4:49 am

Kyle Larson is racing in Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race thanks to a close win over Chase Elliott.

Larson held off Elliott in a thrilling last three laps of the rain-delayed Sprint Showdown qualifying race for the All-Star Race. Elliott got a run on the final lap and went to make the pass but Larson pinched the driver of the No. 24 into the wall.

The two kept banging fenders as they drove to the checkered flag and Larson won by a few feet.

Two laps before, Larson pinched Elliott to the bottom of the tack and got Elliott loose. Had Elliott been able to complete that earlier pass, Larson probably had no shot at the win.

Despite finishing second, Elliott is in the race. He got in via the fan vote for the race along with Danica Patrick. Joining Larson, Elliott and Patrick in transferring to the All-Star Race via the Showdown are Trevor Bayne and Greg Biffle.

Bayne won the first 20-lap segment of the race with a three-wide pass over Ryan Blaney and Elliott on the segment's final lap. The pass happened thanks to a restart before the final lap; a restart that NASCAR judged Blaney (who was second on the restart) jumped over Elliott (who was first).

And then after he made the pass, Bayne had to hold off Elliott at the finish line in an incredibly close finish.

Blaney contended that Elliott had spun his tires in accelerating to the green flag. NASCAR didn't think so and sent Blaney to the back of the field for segment 2.

But it's also important to note that Blaney's penalty paved the way for Bayne's win. Bayne was able to make the pass because Blaney got a jump on the restart and pinned Elliott down in turns 1 and 2. Had Blaney not been ahead of Elliott in the corners, Bayne very likely doesn't have the opportunity to make the pass.

Bayne deserved the win – he didn't violate any rules and it was a heck of a move. But perhaps it's possible to have a rule declaring if there is a restart penalty with less than 20 laps to go, the driver black-flagged is moved to the back of the field and the restart is redone.

Biffle got the win in the second segment with some good pit strategy. The restart late in the first segment was set up thanks to a spin with four laps to go. Biffle was one of the few drivers who hit pit road for four fresh tires during the caution flag.

Everyone was mandated to change two tires between segments and many of the top-running drivers chose to take two tires. The four-tire change meant Biffle had two fresher tires and he passed Austin Dillon and drove away for the win easily.

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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: May 21, 2016, 4:50 pm

Two drivers were sent to the hospital after a terrifying crash in Saturday's Formula 3 race in Austria.

Zhi Chong Le ran into the back of Ryan Tveter's stalled car at Spielberg. Le's car then catapulted in the air as another driver, Pedro Piquet, hit Tveter's car.

Le was taken to the hospital and reportedly suffered broken heels and four fractured vertebrae in the crash per Motorsport.

Formula 3's post-crash statement also said that Le was transported to the hospital for a possible head injury. It said one of Le and Tveter was "initially unconscious" immediately after the crash but both were conscious when they arrived at the track medical center. Tveter was hospitialized for more evaluation and discharged with a bruised knee.

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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: May 21, 2016, 4:11 pm

It sure seems like any discussion regarding the possibility of Kevin Harvick going to Hendrick Motorsports was much ado about nothing.

Stewart-Haas Racing officially announced Thursday that Harvick had signed a contract extension with the team. Harvick said Friday no one from HMS had contacted him about leaving SHR following the 2016 season.

He event went so far as to tell Kasey Kahne, the driver of the No. 5 car at HMS, that the team hadn't reached out to him. 

“But I think as you look back and it got so out of control that I actually went to Kasey Kahne and I said look man, here’s what’s going on," Harvick said about speculation surrounding his future. "And I told him there’s not been one person that’s called me from your organization and I want you to have the trust in your team. I want you to believe in your team. I want you to keep working on the things that you’re working on, but here’s where it’s at. Here’s what I’m doing. Here’s what I see. Here’s how it’s going to go. And here we are up until last week still running around."

Kahne confirmed the conversation took place.

Yea Kevin and I talked back in Phoenix. Pretty cool of him https://t.co/GkfTsTlYNG

— Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) May 20, 2016

Thoughts of a Harvick move from SHR to HMS spurred from a combination of sentimentality and a lack of options – despite numerous public statements to the contrary for the driver himself. The sentimentality comes in for some when thinking that Harvick would have such an aversion to switching to Ford with Stewart-Haas in 2017 that he would leave the team to stay with Chevrolet, the car make he's driven his entire Cup career.

Hendrick has been the engine and chassis supplier for SHR since the team's inception in 2009 and Harvick has had the best two years of his career with the team. And if Harvick wanted to stay with Chevy, well, he had to stay with Hendrick.

Harvick drove the first 13 years of his Cup career for Richard Childress Racing. A reunion with Childress is very unlikely on the surface, especially given that the team is looking for a spot for Ty Dillon for the future. If you consider Childress as the No. 3 team in the Chevy hierarchy behind HMS and SHR, well, the Chevy options for Harvick become even more unrealistic. And that leaves Hendrick as the only "realistic" option for a "credible" rumor.

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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: May 20, 2016, 7:51 pm

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

Feel the excitement ahead of Saturday night's All-Star Race. It's palpable. Or something.

Consider this your reminder for how the All-Star Race is going to work. And make sure you pour one out for Sprint, as it's the final time the company will be sponsoring the race.

15 drivers are already qualified for the race. The Sprint Showdown qualifying race on Friday is three segments and the winner of each segment makes the All-Star Race (the driver who wins Segment 1 can't race in the other two segments). And then there are two fan vote slots. Our guesses for the fan vote are Danica Patrick and Matt DiBenedetto. The latter has support from Reddit, and while the rules are different for voting than the year Josh Wise got in to the All-Star Race, we think the support is going to be strong enough.

Our picks for the segment winners are Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. We're the least confident in the Stenhouse pick and if he doesn't make it, we like Ryan Blaney for that spot.

There are three segments for the main race Saturday night. The first two segments are 50 laps each while the final segment is 13 laps.

Everyone will have to make at least a two-tire pit stop before lap 35 of the second segment.

Before the final segment, either the first nine, 10 or 11 cars will be forced to come down pit road and change tires. Those cars that are forced to pit have to start the final segment behind the cars that don't pit.

The idea behind the 13-lap final segment is tire fall-off. The hope is that those with the fresher tires will be able to slice through the field of slower cars (both because of older tires and because they were outside the top 10 before the final segment) and create thrilling racing.

In recent All-Star races, the driver who first gets to clean air has usually finished first. With tires at a premium – ideally – the effect of clean air is lessened.

We're also interested to see if the small changes NASCAR made to reduce skew in the cars will have a dramatic effect. The sanctioning body quietly made the changes publicly and the guess is that corner speeds will be slower as a result. If slower = better racing, the tweaks are good news.

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Big fan plz respond, is Kasey Kahne running the all star race in a Jr. Motorsports car?- Jim

It would be quite the All-Star Race story if Kahne could be competitive in an Xfinity Series car.

If you're wondering what Jim is referring to, it's got to do with Kevin Harvick's contract extension at Stewart-Haas Racing and the official extenguishing of thoughts regarding Harvick's future in the Cup Series.

Kahne could be a sleeper for the All-Star Race. His cars have been faster recently and had a good run at Kansas until his hood got dented. He really does have some of the weirdest luck.

@NickBromberg That rule related to #2014CRPTJWW400ATBPBBMR? Should Dover be asphalt? Best memory of the Nextel/Sprint All-Star race era?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) May 19, 2016

The joke we made references NASCAR's penalty reports, which only specify the categorization of the penalty and not the penalty itself. Once NASCAR releases a penalty report, media members must then go to the rule book and find the listed sections to figure out what the penalty is referencing.

We're not complaining about the extra work – the NASCAR rule book app is pretty damn good. But imagine if Major League Baseball said Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor had violated Sections 1.4.8.A.4.7.9 of the on-field conduct policy when announcing his suspension rather than simply saying he was suspended for punching Toronto's Jose Bautista?

It's all silly.

But back to the All-Star Race. There are three moments that stick out.

1. When Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch crashed.

2. Tony Stewart passing Matt Kenseth to win the race in 2009. It was Stewart's first win with Stewart-Haas Racing and the moment when it hit us that this SHR thing would work out just fine.

3. Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson outsmarting everyone with the rules in 2012 causing the rules to be changed for the 2013 race and making everyone do math.

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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: May 19, 2016, 9:43 pm

Kevin Harvick is officially a member of Stewart-Haas Racing for the foreseeable future.

The team announced Thursday that Harvick has signed a long-term extension with the team. Harvick arrived to SHR on a three-year deal that started in 2014, meaning that the 2016 season was the final year of his original deal.

“It was a big decision to join Stewart-Haas Racing and it has turned out to be my best decision,” Harvick said. “I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to win championships. We have one, but that only made us hungry for more. I’m very happy to have my future secure with a team so dedicated to winning.”

Harvick won the 2014 Sprint Cup title in his first season with SHR. He finished second in 2015 to Kyle Busch, both in the championship standings and in the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The announcement of the extension doesn't come as a surprise. Consider what Harvick tweeted in April 7 after he had previously said that he didn't see any reason to leave the team when it switches from Chevrolet to Ford for next season.

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

— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) April 7, 2016

But despite all of Harvick's public proclamations that he would be staying with the team that's elevated him from a threat to finish in the top five every season to a driver on the very short list of annual title favorites, printed discussion of a possible move to Hendrick Motorsports to stay with Chevrolet lingered. Perplexingly.

The latest "report" regarding Harvick and Hendrick, which we won't link to here, came out following Sunday's race at Dover. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that the team made an official announcement of the extension this week after Harvick said the mentions of Hendrick come from people who "make s**t up."

Harvick, who won at Phoenix earlier this season, is atop the points standings, 21 points ahead of second-place Kyle Busch.

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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: May 19, 2016, 5:07 pm

Kasey Kahne's point total is 15 points lower than it was immediately after Sunday's race.

NASCAR announced that Kahne lost points and crew chief Keith Rodden was fined $25,000 for violating Sections 20.17.3.1.2; 12.5.3.4.2 a,b,c,d; 12.5.3.4.1 n,o of the NASCAR rule book. Kahne's car had failed post-race inspection.

Since it's our duty to explain the rule book to you, 12.5.3.4.1 N is "Incorrect ground clearance and/or body heights measurements, camber measurements, rear axle housing locatio and/or “skew” and right parallel measurements post-race" while O notes the penalty isn't one that should be higher than P3 status on NASCAR's P1-P5 penalty scale. 

Before the penalty, Kahne was 16th (286 points) in the standings. If the team doesn't appeal or the penalty is upheld via appeal, Kahne would fall to 21st in the standings.

The No. 51 truck of Kyle Busch Motorsports was also penalized following Friday's Dover race. The team lost 10 points and crew chief Kevin Manion was fined $6,000.

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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: May 18, 2016, 8:59 pm

Welcome to Power Rankings. As always, Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it's the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com and we'll try to have some fun.

1. Matt Kenseth (LW: 11): Yes, Matt Kenseth gets to move up 10 spots this week. If you ever – inexplicably –- questioned Kenseth's championship credentials, just watch the final 35 laps of Sunday's race. It was about as perfect of a run as you can have. But we'll also admit that Kenseth is also No. 1 partially because there's no one else to have here. Eight of the top 10 drivers in last week's rankings crashed.

2. Kurt Busch (LW: 4): Busch looked like he was going to be a contender for the win late in the race. But he smacked the wall on the backstretch while running in third. As has become typical for Busch's 2016, he kept it near the front of the field and finished fifth. Thanks to the struggles of his brother and his teammate Harvick, Busch is the first driver in the Cup Series to have 10 top-10 finishes.

3 (tie). Kyle Busch (LW: 1): Busch wasn't having the best of days on Sunday. He was battling some handling issues and a possible broken part and was mired in the back half of the top 20 when the giant restart crash happened. But, as Busch noted following the accident, had he been up front when the crash happened, he still probably would have been involved in it.

3 (tie). Chase Elliott (LW: 5): Here's one of the two drivers from last week's top 10 who didn't have an accident. And yes, we did have a fleeting moment of thought where we wondered if Elliott should be the rightful owner of the top spot in Power Rankings this week. Instead, a tie for second seems about right. If he gets a win soon, we'll have no problem putting him at No. 1.

3 (tie). Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick had the fastest car throughout the first half of the race. Had the competition caution not happened, who knows how many cars Harvick would have lapped before the first caution of the race. Instead, Harvick's lead got wiped out and he never established that type of dominance again the rest of the race. He finished 15th after he got caught in the 18-car pileup.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 3): Oh man, what can go wrong will go wrong for Truex. Just before the restart that ended in an 18-car pileup, Truex slowed on pit road to guarantee a spot restarting on the outside. Of course, that meant Truex started behind Jimmie Johnson and as Truex pushed Johnson's car, Johnson was stuck in gear. You know what happened next.

7. Brad Keselowski (LW: 6): Keselowski's race was saved by that big crash. While running second, he ran into the damaged car of Austin Dillon on the backstretch and punched a huge hole in the right-front fender of his car. The team fixed up the damage on the ensuing caution – which mysteriously came multiple laps later for the debris from Keselowski's car – and ended up finishing sixth.

8. Carl Edwards (LW: 7): We think Edwards would have won the race had he not crashed. Alas, he crashed. So our thoughts were irrelevant. Edwards got loose, spun off Kyle Larson's bumper and hit head-on into the SAFER barrier on the inside of the backstretch. Congratulations to Dover for having SAFER barrier in that spot, but we also realize how empty those kudos feel.

9. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 8): Here's what Johnson said happened on that restart.

“I got a great start in second gear," Johnson said. "As I went to put it in third (gear) and came across the shifting gate it never went into third. It actually got locked in the neutral area of the transmission."

Yikes. Crazily enough, Johnson's car didn't have a ton of damage because the melee started as everyone piled into each other trying to avoid him. But with a messed up transmission, Johnson didn't exactly have a car that could race again.

The transmission issue also overshadows what could have been a spin-and-win comeback for the No. 48 team after Johnson spun in fluid dropped by Reed Sorenson's car earlier in the race.

10. Kyle Larson (LW: NR): Can you imagine the debate this week if Larson would have put a bumper to Matt Kenseth and moved Kenseth out of the way for the win? The debate would be merciless on its own, but within the context of Kenseth's feud with Joey Logano in 2015, it would be almost unbearable.

Thankfully for the sanity of most of those who follow NASCAR, Larson kept it clean. Yeah, he didn't get the win, but if Chip Ganassi Racing has consistent speed, Dover won't be an anomoly.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 10): Junior was oh-so-close to avoiding the pileup but got slammed by Casey Mears' sliding car after he avoided the initial crash. Junior finished 32nd as a result and is now 11th in the points standings. Oh no, Junior is going to fall out of the top 16 and it's time for everyone to panic.

That previous sentence was heavy sarcasm. Everything's going to be just fine, Junior Nation.

12. Ryan Blaney (LW: 12): Blaney finished eighth on Sunday. He also avoided Edwards' wrecked car by keeping his car pointed straight down the backstretch. Blaney said after the race he felt he could have finished better but the car was slower on the final run.

Lucky Dog: Kasey Kahne is now 16th in the points standings after finishing fourth. Though his car failed post-race laser inspection after the race. We'll find out what the penalties are this week.

The DNF: Matt DiBenedetto was 40th.

Dropped Out: Austin Dillon

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 17, 2016, 3:44 pm

Throughout 2016 we may have way too many quick thoughts for our post-race posts. So consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below

• We're inclined to think that was the best race at Dover since 2008. If you're unfamiliar with that reference point, here's a look at the finish of the race, which, coincidentally, also involved Sunday's winner Matt Kenseth.

• We have an idea for the Sprint Cup Series: Have a crash that takes out multiple leaders with 50 laps to go at each race.

OK, we're completely kidding, but it's hard not to recognize the impact that the 18-car pileup (and subsequent crash of Carl Edwards) had on the finish of Sunday's race. The incidents involved cars that led 193 of the race's 400 laps and set up a thrilling finish involving three drivers who hadn't won a race in 2016.

One of those drivers, Kyle Larson, was upbeat following the race. Larson finished second to Kenseth and would have been all but assured of a spot in the Chase for the first time had he gotten his first career win.

Larson did about everything he could to get past Kenseth and it didn't work. The duel with Kenseth – and also with Chase Elliott – was yet another example of why so many people are incredibly optimistic about Larson's future in the Cup Series.

“I was trying to do all I could do to get by [Kenseth] without getting into him," Larson said. "I probably could have bumped him a little bit there in the middle of 1 and 2, but it was a lot of fun racing with Matt there. I was just trying to be patient. I knew I was better than he was ... But it was a lot of fun. I got to lead some laps and be right up front and race people hard. All in all, it’s a good day. We would like to be in Victory Lane, but my day is coming.”

• Clean air played a role in Sunday's race, especially when a great car got out front. It's another reason why the race's fantastic finish got a boost from a host of good cars getting taken out.

Plus, the crash gave us the opportunity to have a battle for the lead among characters we hadn't seen in the mix all season. Which leads us to ...

• Leading up to Sunday's race, there was a lot of discussion – including here at From The Marbles – about driver motivation before the Chase. The discussion was sparked by comments from Brad Keselowski, who had mentioned drivers had floated ideas to NASCAR about possibly making a couple tweaks to the win-and-in-the-Chase format of the Sprint Cup Series.

Following Sunday's great finish, NASCAR Vice President Steve O'Donnell fired off this tweet, the first tweet he'd sent since the race began.

I believe I read a number of media critics saying wins don't matter-Look forward to this race recap. #heckofarace

— Steve O'Donnell (@odsteve) May 15, 2016

O'Donnell's comment completely miscategorizes the context of the week's discussion, which centered around drivers who win early in the season. As we noted earlier, Kenseth, Larson and Chase Elliott were all looking for their first win of the season. What was brought up earlier in the week by a former Sprint Cup Series champion had nothing to do with winless drivers looking to secure a postseason berth.

Secondly, it makes NASCAR and its executives look petty and thin-skinned. The series has boasted about its great finishes throughout the first 12 races of 2016 and got a fantastic 35-lap fight to end Sunday's race at a track that hasn't been the most entertaining in recent memory.

And yet instead of boasting about the quality of racing, O'Donnell quickly not-so-passive-aggressively went after a media strawman while burying a compliment to the racing in a hashtag. Perplexing.

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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: May 15, 2016, 10:15 pm

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Matt Kenseth withstood a fury of charges from Kyle Larson over the last 35 laps of Sunday's race at Dover to grab his first win of the season and deny Larson the first win of his career.

Kenseth was the leader on the race's final restart and kept the lead over Larson, who had one of the fastest cars over the second half of the race. Larson made multiple attempts to dive underneath Kenseth – especially in turns 3 and 4 – but Kenseth was able to keep Larson pinched down enough to halt Larson's momentum and prevent him from jumping ahead.

Complicating matters for Larson was also the presence of Chase Elliott. As Kenseth and Larson battled shortly after the restart, Elliott closed in on Larson and briefly passed him for second.

Larson got back by him but it's fair to wonder how much he used up while keeping Elliott at bay. Larson was able to make one last attempt at Kenseth over the final three laps but was unable to gain enough of an advantage to complete a pass.

"We were quite tight most of the day," Kenseth said. I watched [teammate Carl Edwards] earlier in the race use some grip off of turn 4 in the middle of the track and a few other guys I kind of saw that as they were going by me."

"Kyle Larson is extremely talented and I knew if I was on the bottom, he was going to be on the top. We got so free, I started working that middle groove and I was able to get just far enough ahead. If he would have snuck outside of me, it would have been over. I had just enough momentum to stay in front of him.”

Kenseth grabbed the lead off pit road before a restart with 47 laps to go and kept the lead following the restart when second-place Jimmie Johnson had a transmission issue that led to an 18-car pileup. In addition to Johnson, the accident took out Kevin Harvick, the race's early dominator, and Martin Truex Jr., the driver who had arguably had the fastest car of the previous 50 laps.

And if it's fair to wonder how much Larson's pursuit of Kenseth was affected by Elliott, it's also fair to assume that the sprint to the finish was greatly affected by what immediately happened after the 18-car pileup.

Edwards, another driver who was fast throughout the entirety of Sunday's race, got loose shortly after the restart following the melee and slammed into the inside wall after contact from Larson. Edwards might have had a car capable of passing Kenseth for the lead and keep everyone else at bay.

So perhaps the events of the final 50 laps were a balancing of the karmic universe in Kenseth's favor. While the final 35 were nothing short of a master class in car control and not overdriving, he got there because events went his way.

And nothing much had gone Kenseth's way throughout the first 11 races of the season. There was the final two corners at Daytona, his penalty and the miscommunication that followed at Atlanta, a crash at Las Vegas, a crash at Bristol and his flip at Talladega, just to name a few.

But throughout the madness Kenseth has shown the same speed his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have had en route to six wins. He just simply needed some good fortune. He finally got it 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: May 15, 2016, 9:34 pm

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Jimmie Johnson's car didn't get going on a restart at Dover with 47 laps to go and it led to an 18-car pileup.

“As soon as I went from second [gear] and tried to go to third, I kind of got up into the neutral gate of the transmission and didn’t even go to third," Johnson said. "It stopped before it ever went to third. And then I tried fourth and third and fourth and eventually I got hit from behind."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked like he was able to get past the wreck but he was clobbered by the spinning car of Casey Mears in turn 1.

“They started wrecking way up in front of us," Junior said. "I couldn’t really tell what was going on. I got to the outside and thought we had it missed, but [Mears] came up the track, he got collected in it.”

Truex Jr. had slowed leaving pit road before the restart, apparently in an attempt to restart on the preferred outside line. He got that starting position but ended up with a giant hole in the front of his car from ramming into Johnson's back bumper. Truex had appeared to have the fastest car throughout the final stages of Sunday's race and was attempting to get a win a week after a victory slipped away.

Truex had to make a second pit stop under green while leading late at Kansas. The stop meant Truex lost his chance at winning after he had dominated most of the race.

Matt Kenseth, the driver who was leading at the time of the restart, escaped without any damage. He went on to hold off Kyle Larson win for the first time in 2016.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 15, 2016, 8:46 pm

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Max Verstappen's first race with Red Bull Racing was a win.

Just a week after he was promoted from Red Bull Toro Rosso to team with Daniel Ricciardo at the energy drink's No. 1 Formula 1 team, Verstappen held off Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen at Barcelona on Sunday. The win makes Verstappen the youngest Formula 1 winner ever at the age of 18 years and 227 days.

Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula 1 champion, made his F1 debut when Verstappen was 3 years old.

The previous youngest winner in the series was Sebastian Vettel, who also accomplished it at Red Bull. But Vettel was 21 when he won his first race, the Italian Grand Prix. Vettel finished third on Sunday for Ferrari ahead of Ricciardo, who had to pit just before the final lap because of a punctured rear tire.

The swap of Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat was the dominant F1 topic heading into Sunday's race. At the Russian Grand Prix two weeks ago, Kvyat ran into Vettel twice on the first lap. Vettel crashed out of the race and rumblings about Kvyat's future with the top Red Bull team immediately surfaced.

Kvyat was promoted from Toro Rosso for the 2015 season when Vettel went to Ferrari. But his promotion to the senior team lasted just a season and four races. Red Bull said it wanted Kvyat (who had two top 10s in 2016) to get his confidence back, and there have been reports that relations between Verstappen and Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. weren't exactly going well.

So the switch – one that many people immediately questioned – was made. And while Red Bull might have looked crazy to make it, they're now looking crazy like foxes.

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Of course, we're obligated to mention how Verstappen was in the position to get his first win. And that's because of the way Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton took each other out on the first lap.

Rosberg won the first four races of the season and qualified second to teammate Hamilton on Sunday. Rosberg got the lead off the start but was slower through the first three corners and Hamilton tried to take the lead back.

Rosberg blocked and as Hamilton pulled alongside Rosberg forced him into the grass. Hamilton lost control and slid into Rosberg, taking both cars out of the race as they headed towards turn 4.

Mercedes has been the dominant team over the past two-plus seasons in F1. And Rosberg and Hamilton haven't always gotten along, either. So while Red Bull is now smiling about its driver swap that got Verstappen a victory on Sunday, that wink accompanying the smile is because it knows that Mercedes' team dynamics are the ones that will now be thoroughly dissected.

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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: May 15, 2016, 2:07 pm

A rained-out qualifying session means Kevin Harvick will start first at Dover.

Harvick, who won the 2015 fall Dover race, posted the fastest speed during Friday's practice. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start second and Kyle Busch starts third. Coincidentally, Harvick won the pole for the race at Richmond, the most recent race where qualifying was rained out.

Harvick said Friday that his team knew there was a good chance of qualifying being rained out so they decided to approach practice with the point of putting up a fast lap.

"That was what the forecast looked like all week and we just decided to come in qualifying trim," Harvick said. "[Crew chief Rodney Childers] and those guys made that decision pretty early, I would say about mid-week to practice that way.”

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 13, 2016, 9:31 pm

FS1 screenshot via @GeoffreyMillerWe're sick of talking about the lack of SAFER barriers at NASCAR tracks. You're probably sick of reading about the topic.

But it's increasingly clear that track executives and NASCAR itself aren't sick of being criticized for their half-baked approach to wall safety. That's a damn shame. Because accidents like what happened at Dover on Friday keep happening. And will keep happening until those in charge figure out that it's OK to invest some money to look like they have a slice of compassion for the drivers that help make the tracks and the sport millions upon millions of dollars.

During practice for Sunday's race at Dover. Danica Patrick's car started smoking off turn 4. As she slid off the corner, her car started dropping fluid on the track before she spun; flames emanating from the rear of the car.

Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray, the two drivers trailing Patrick, had plenty of room to avoid crashing. But the fluid on the track made that impossible. Both had no grip coming off the corner and they each slammed into the frontstretch wall off the exit of the corner.

Replay of how Stewart and McMurray hit non-SAFER wall pic.twitter.com/4F64BZ7r3W

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) May 13, 2016

A frontstretch wall that is simply bare concrete.

Both Stewart and McMurray walked away from their cars and were released from the infield care center. But McMurray was seen holding his left elbow after the impact and Stewart is only months removed from suffering a burst fracture to a lower back vertebra. The three-time champion walked gingerly to the ambulance and Patrick, his teammate, said she didn't know if Stewart was feeling "perfect" after the impacts.

As a kickoff to its race weekend, Dover announced that had "completed" safety improvements to the track. Those safety improvements included the addition of 479 feet of SAFER barrier along the backstretch of the track and into turn 3. But that was it. There was no mention of the frontstretch anywhere in the press release.

It's worth noting that Dover has installed SAFER barrier – an extra layer of wall that has energy absorbing foam in the middle that can help reduce the possibility of driver injury – on the inside frontstretch wall. Yet the outside is conspicuously bare, especially where Stewart and McMurray hit.

That crash was exceptionally fluky – the two drivers don't crash if it's not for the slick track left in Patrick's wake. Though it doesn't take much imagination to see a driver's car push too much off turn 4 thanks to a tire failure or other common problem and smash the wall in that same spot.

But racing safety is largely reactive instead of proactive (you've seen us mention that before too). Tracks didn't scramble to install more and more SAFER barriers until Kyle Busch's leg and foot bones shattered in his Daytona crash.

Dover isn't solely to blame for that bare concrete wall, of course. Installing SAFER costs a lot of money, and as we've said before, there's no massive business incentive for a track to spend money to put SAFER everywhere possible without a NASCAR mandate. It's important to also remember that tracks are run like businesses and the two biggest conglomerates, International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc. are public companies that distribute earnings reports to shareholders.

But businesses also owe it to the product they promote and nourish to provide the best environment possible. Knowingly accomplishing superficial wall safety improvements isn't fulfilling that obligation.

"It shouldn’t even be a question whether or not tracks have SAFER barrier all the way around," Patrick said. "It should be mandatory. It shouldn’t be a financial decision.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 13, 2016, 4:07 pm

Joey Logano was simply an innocent bystander that got caught up in someone else's crash at Kansas.

Logano was in fifth place shortly after a late-race restart Saturday night. Ahead of him, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin were all vying for second. Hamlin, the driver in fourth entering turn 3, dove between Keselowski and Larson, hoping to pass them both at the same time.

It didn't work. Hamlin started to spin and so did Keselowski. Hamlin clipped Larson and then collected Logano, who had nowhere to go as the crash happened in front of him.

Does Logano, who is winless through the first 11 races of the season, have any hard feelings towards Hamlin for the move? No. Not at all. Heck, he even said he would do the same thing if he was in Hamlin's position.

“I feel like I am one of the hardest racers out there and I would be quite the hypocrite if I asked why he was racing so hard," Logano said Friday at Dover. "If you ask me, that is what fans show up to the race track to see ... They don’t expect us to just say, ‘oh, go ahead’. They expect us to race and that is what they pay money to see. I am going to race hard. I know that. I have done that in the past and I will continue to do that. When Denny made that move I didn’t blame him. He made a run on the backstretch and had to do something with it. He got in a bad aero spot and both of them got loose."

Logano had 28 top-10 finishes in 36 races in 2015. This season he has six top 10s. But while the top-10 rate has declined so far in 2016, Logano is content with his team's performance. The crashes he was caught up in at Talladega and Kansas resulted in his first finishes outside the top 20.

"We want to break through and get that win but if you look at the consistency in our team it is still there," Logano said. "With the last two finishes you may not agree with that but the consistency of where we were running is there. It is not like we have had races where we have been way off and if we have started way off in a race we have been able to recover and get a top-10 out of it ... We just haven’t really gotten the finishes the last few weeks to really show for 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: May 13, 2016, 3:24 pm

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

Welcome to peak racing season. For the first time in 2016, all three NASCAR series, the IndyCar Series, Formula 1 and the NHRA are racing on the same weekend. If the weather is bad in your neck of the woods this weekend, you have plenty of things to watch. If the weather is great, get outside and utilize your DVR or mobile streaming. Spring weekends are meant to be enjoyed as much as possible.

And while we're fresh off a paragraph mentioning IndyCar, there's a claim from Graham Rahal in this Yahoo-hosted video clip from the Fox Business Channel that needs some serious verification.

As he's talking to the two hosts, Rahal said he's done 256 MPH at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Yes, 256. He thinks. We're thinking he's exaggerating without any further extrapolation/explanation of the the comment.

The pole speed for the 2015 Indianapolis 500 was just over 230 MPH, and drivers are typically flat-out (or quite close to it) during qualifying. That's an average speed, yes, but Indianapolis' four corners aren't shaving that much pace off the straightaway speeds to take the average speed down to the 230 MPH range.

Is it possible this claim came from a crazy test of sorts? Yes, but even then we're skeptical of how it happened. Did an IndyCar suddenly have a bunch of acceleration ability down a straightaway? Did he have to slam the brakes heading into the corner? We're not buying this.

Let's get to your comments. And yes, we're starting with lug nuts.

No wonder that [Kyle Busch] always winning races, I'm so sick of him, every week his always in front I did stop watching nascar because of this reason I would like to see other drivers giving the opportunity to compete. What nascar should do just automatically declare that idiot Kyle Busch the winner. - Dennis

NASCAR officially stopped monitoring lug nut tightening for a grand total of 45 points races. The practice wasn't watched throughout 2015 + nine races of 2016. In those 45 races, Kyle Busch has seven wins, the most of any driver in that span. But he also has 30 more race wins, including his win Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.

So to say that quick pit stops via tightening less than five lug nuts is the reason for Kyle Busch's success is a bit foolish. He was good before his team got really good at adapting to NASCAR's new (and now old) lug nut rules and has continued to be really good with really good pit stops thrown in.

And guess what? Busch didn't win Saturday because of a pit stop.

Busch last pitted 56 laps from the end of the race. Based off the pit cycles throughout the race, Busch would have restarted no lower than second on the final two restarts had he kept the same strategy and had a slower pit stop by a second or two. On the next-to-last restart, Busch and Matt Kenseth were the only two drivers who stayed out on the track.

NASCAR has just plain lost it. - Buddy

The crazy thing about NASCAR's new lug nut rule is that people in the industry saw a scenario just like this happening, and happening soon. And by the way, we want to give Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 18 team credit for having all five lug nuts on each wheel – yet not secured. Common sense reasons that a loose lug nut or two would fly off the car, but the team clearly figured out a way to not tighten all of the lug nuts yet still make sure they were on the wheel hubs.

But back to NASCAR's rule. Not only did people assume that a crew chief would be suspended for a lug nut violation fairly soon, but the rule as it stands right now does nothing to dissuade teams from tightening less than five lug nuts before the final pit stop of the race (NASCAR checks each car on pit road to make sure that it has 20 lug nuts attached).

Is NASCAR's rule the best solution that it has at the moment? Probably. But it's also a solution to a self-inflicted problem. There wouldn't be this discussion if NASCAR hadn't stopped monitoring teams tightening all lug nuts in the first place.

It seems like there are multiple instances of the sanctioning body creating rules and regulations without thinking about all sides and comebacks to those efforts. Then when the downside of those changes are proven out in real time, the sanctioning body is sent scrambling.

The Chase for the NASCAR Championship is /or should be enough of a prize for winning in NASCAR series, lets not ruin a good thing! - Robert

Hey, here's another one of those instances.

Brad Keselowski said earlier this week that drivers have floated ideas to address a possible lack of motivation in the first 26 races. With the win-and-in Chase format, drivers with a win early in the season don't have to fight for their spot in the Chase every week. There won't be 16 different winners, so they know that they'll be in the Chase come September. 

We don't know what the ideas floated are, but once the newness of the season wears off for fans (as pointed out by USA Today's Jeff Gluck), the season simply becomes a countdown to the Chase.

And we're not going to lie. There's no need to be counting down to September when you've got the entire summer ahead of you.

NASCAR had a pretty good thing going with its old Chase format. Drivers were forced to points race throughout the season and every race mattered. Perhaps the best compromise for a new Chase format would have been increased points bonuses for winning (both in the regular season standings and at the start of the Chase) rather than a win-and-in format that leaves plenty of room for non-winners to get in the field.

@NickBromberg TV deal,charters,5 year track deals, done. Title sponsor soon done(maybe). Time for Gen7 to begin design to improve the show?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) May 12, 2016

Don't be talking about a new car, Brian. This current car, which debuted in 2013, has made the racing so much better than it was with the car before it. Passing throughout the field didn't exist before 2013 and every NASCAR race was a parade. The racing in 2015 was already exceptional, so NASCAR was feeling exceptionally generous by tweaking the rules for 2016.

Sarcasm aside, we're guessing the lifespan of this car has four or five more years on it. And it still needs to have much more downforce taken away from it.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 13, 2016, 12:13 am

UPDATE (6 p.m. ET): Joe Gibbs Racing will not appeal the suspension. Stevens and front tire changer Josh Leslie will serve their suspensions this weekend at Dover.

"The 18 team utilized unaltered stock lug nuts during Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway and each wheel had all five lug nuts attached to the wheel at the conclusion of the race," the team's statement said. "The team does acknowledge that not all lug nuts were tightened to the wheel."

-------

Adam Stevens, the crew chief for Kyle Busch, has been suspended for the No. 18 team's violation of the new NASCAR lug nut rule after Saturday night's race at Kansas.

After the sanctioning body was called out by Tony Stewart (and then subsequently fined Stewart for his comments), NASCAR mandated teams in the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series have all five lug nuts fastened to each wheel and hub at the end of the race. NASCAR no longer monitors lug nut fastening during pit stops – leading teams to put fewer than five lug nuts on for faster pit stops –It's  and now enforces the rule with a check on pit road immediately following the conclusion of each race.

Front tire changer Josh Leslie has also been suspended for a race.

According to NASCAR's penalty report, the team violated Sections 12:1; 10.11.3.4; 12.5.3.4.1 g, o of the rule book. If you're not familiar with the intricacies of the NASCAR rule book – and quite honestly, you shouldn't be unless you work in NASCAR – 12.5.3.4.1.o is defined as "Parts or system configurations of importance not meeting the NASCAR rules but of a nature rising to a higher level penalty."

It's worth noting that "p" just below is defined as "Any identification of missing lug nuts on a wheel post race" so, yes, Busch had all five lug nuts on either of his front wheels. We know it's the either the left or right front wheel given Leslie's suspension.

10.11.3.4.a notes that "all tires, wheels and all five lug nuts must be installed in a safe and secure manner at all times during the event." So while the 18 team had 20 lugnuts fastened to the car, they clearly didn't meet NASCAR's specifications for tightening.

Stevens was also fined $20,000 and placed on NASCAR probation through the end of the season. We were able to find video of Busch's final pit stop of the race from Saturday night. While the camera feed from the right side of the car doesn't give a clear view, here's what it looked like as the left-front wheel was fastened to the car.

Leslie and Stevens are both be eligible to return for the Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600, the next two races in May.

When NASCAR announced the lug nut rule after the race at Richmond, there was some public consternation among teams that the rule could be inadvertently violated because lug nuts have been known to come off the studs during the course of a fuel run. While Busch's team had all five lug nuts on each of the front wheels after the race, it didn't take long for that wonder to become reality.

Busch still keeps the win and the bonus points associated with it for the Chase. The win at Kansas was Busch's third of the season and he's the only driver with more than two wins through the first 11 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: May 11, 2016, 10:00 pm

As a NASCAR fan, you've probably made a joke or 30 about NASCAR changing the Chase format.

After all, those jokes are based in some truth. Since the Chase was formed in 2004, it's been tweaked multiple times. Hell, it's been changed, on average, about every three years. And with 2016 being the third year of the elimination-style format of the current Chase, the jokes can be especially appropriate.

The most logical way the Chase could change in the near future is with the way regular-season excellence is rewarded. When speaking with reporters, Keselowski - already a two-time winner in 2016 - referenced a lack of motivation that can come from teams that have won in the regular season (if you win a race in the first 26 races of the season, you're practically guaranteed a Chase berth).

Via NBC Sports:

“I think clearly the sport is lacking some motivation once you’ve won a race,’’ Keselowski told reporters Monday at Team Penske’s shop. “I don’t think there’s any question that most of the competitors in the sport feel like that is not advantageous for a product we’re trying to put on and have floated some ideas to level that back out that maybe some people will like and maybe some won’t. We’ll have to see.

“At the end of the day, it’s never a good thing to remove motivation from the field.’’

Keselowski is incredibly correct. NASCAR billed the win-and-in Chase format as a way for drivers to always give 100 percent in the pursuit of victory. And while internal drive and other motivations keep a team from slacking off, it's easy to see how urgency can disappear for a driver and team that have multiple victories before the summer begins.

We're not sure what the "some ideas" entail, so we're going to float some of our own. Here's what we think they could be:

• Give the driver at the top of the points standings some sort of a bonus in the Chase. That bonus can be automatic exemption into the second round of the Chase or even 15 bonus points or so to make missing the first-round cutoff much harder. Keselowski said a bye made sense, especially given seeding formats in other sports.

• Reward drivers with multiple wins with bonus points. Right now, a driver with two wins in the regular season starts the Chase with three more points than a driver with one win.

• Bonus points for wins should carry throughout the Chase until the final round. At the beginning of the second and third rounds, the remaining drivers start with the same number of points. If a driver has four wins – even if one came in the first round of the Chase – he should have 12 extra points added to his tally for the start of the second round.

• Something else sensical that we haven't thought of.

With the Drivers Council having more influence when it comes to NASCAR governance, it's not much of a stretch to see changes to the Chase happen – and therefore your jokes to have some more relevance. But NASCAR CEO Brian France, as he is apt to do, poured a bit of cold water on any speculation that the Chase could be reformatted to help a regular season driver.

“You know what’s on NASCAR’s radar? Anything that will make the racing tighter, more compelling, closer finishes and more opportunities for different drivers," France said on SiriusXM's NASCAR channel. "So whatever it is that doesn’t break the bank for our team owners in particular, then we’re going to be open to it. We’ve been clear about that."

“The other side of that is they have a lot of incentive. Once you get a win in the regular season to hang it out, let loose for wins and everything else. Suddenly, if you had to have a points race within a points race, we’d have to think about what that does to that mentality that has been created that we like.”

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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: May 10, 2016, 8:44 pm

Welcome to Power Rankings. As always, Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it's the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com and we'll try to have some fun.

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): It's fair to say Busch had the second or third-fastest car throughout the duration of Saturday night's race. He wasn't in the same zip code as the guy who is a couple spots below, but was in position to capitalize when trouble happened. And it happened. We mentioned that Kansas has tormented Busch on Saturday night while writing about his win. Well, that win was his third-straight top-five finish at the track.

2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 4): If it wasn't for a small piece of debris that cracked the front of Harvick's splitter, does he catch Kyle Busch? He certainly thought so after the race. And if you're wondering just what Harvick was referencing, here's what his crew chief Rodney Childers tweeted after the race.

Well poop.. Hit a piece of debris with about 14 to go and just killed it.. Great job by @KevinHarvick and the guys pic.twitter.com/i1kSr8WJ3L

— Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) May 8, 2016

Yes, that small damage might have prevented a win. Can we get these cars a whole hell of a lot less sensitive?

3. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 8): Here's that guy with the fastest car throughout the race. Truex led a race-high 172 laps and was looking like the surefire winner. Well, as surefire as you can think about a driver named Martin Truex Jr. or Matt Kenseth dominating a race in 2016. Truex ended up 14th after recovering from that fluky pit road incident with the lug nut and he's going to win a race soon. It's simply a matter of how soon.

4. Kurt Busch (LW: 5): Busch is a machine so far this season. He's been incredibly consistent and his third-place finish was his ninth top 10 in 11 races. If you're making a list of title favorites through the first near-third of the season, Busch doesn't top the list because he doesn't have a win. But given that he's one of three drivers with nine top 10s, he shouldn't be any lower than third or fourth.

5. Chase Elliott (LW: 3): Elliott is fifth on that top 10 list after his Kansas finish (ninth) was his seventh top 10 of the season. He's now 10th in the points standings and barring a summer swoon is looking like a lock to make the Chase (oh, the puns) on points. Of course, he could go out and win a race too.

6. Brad Keselowski (LW: 2): Keselowski's car getting loose under Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson was certainly one of the highlights of the night. As Keselowski spun, so did Hamlin, who had driven in between Keselowski and Larson in an attempt to make up the track position he'd lost by speeding twice on pit road. Keselowski somehow escaped damage in the crash (Hamlin, Larson and Joey Logano all had severely crippled cars) and came back to finish 10th.

7. Carl Edwards (LW: 6): Does Edwards overdrive at Kansas? We're not sure that the answer is yes, but it seems like a fair question to ask given how much he wants to win at the track just two hours from his hometown of Columbia, Missouri. Edwards scraped the wall early and had to pit under greeen for a vibration but was able to get the laps back and finished 11th.

8. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 7): Yeah, Jimmie Johnson finished 17th on Saturday. Kind of surprising, no? Johnson qualified 15th and never really made a challenge for the lead, though the finish is a bit misleading. Johnson sped on pit road during his final pit stop of the day. Had he not committed the violation, he probably would have finished somewhere in the neighborhood of Elliott.

9. Austin Dillon (LW: 11): Dillon was the fastest of the Richard Childress Racing trio and finished sixth, one spot ahead of teammate Ryan Newman. Meanwhile, teammate Paul Menard finished 40th after retiring less than halfway through the race because of an engine failure. Dillon is now eighth in the points standings, two points ahead of...

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 10): ... this guy, who finished 15th at Kansas. It felt like the four Hendrick cars were always between 6th and 18th or so throughout the entire race and that's where Junior ended up. While Johnson was 17th, Kasey Kahne was in between Junior and Johnson thanks to a dented hood that blunted his drive towards the front.

11. Matt Kenseth (LW: NR): Hey, nothing terrible happened to Kenseth. The 2003 champion finished fourth and is somehow 14th in the standings despite having the wackiest year of anyone in the series so far. Perhaps we should start a pool of who gets a win first: Truex or Kenseth?

12. Ryan Blaney (LW: NR): Blaney is 48 points behind Elliott in the points standings but is 22 points behind him in the Rookie of the Year standings. Yes, the ROY scoring is different than the points system, and yes we think it seems nonsensical too. Blaney was the highest finishing Penske (oops, Wood Brothers) car at Kansas as he was fifth.

Lucky Dog: After finishing 12th, Tony Stewart is 12 points back of Michael Annett, a driver who has started all 11 races this season. Stewart has three starts.

The DNF: Poor Menard.

Dropped Out: Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano

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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: May 10, 2016, 7:05 pm

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Throughout 2016 we may have way too many quick thoughts for our post-race posts. So consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.

• Track position, track position, track position.

Kyle Busch got the win at Kansas Saturday night after staying out for the final 56 laps. Busch's final pit stop came under green and he didn't head to pit road while others did under yellow.

Why? Crew chief Adam Stevens mentioned the following:

- The lack of tire fall-off throughout a fuel run.

- How hard it was to pass.

- And yes, "track position."

We're not trying to pour cold water on the lack of downforce on the Sprint Cup cars compared to last year. But Saturday night's race was not the best display of the rules tweaks instituted before the season.

"It's so hard to explain to our fans what's going on that you can't see, but the air is controlling the whole race," Brad Keselowski said. "You can be three-quarters of a second faster than someone, but you get stuck behind them in that air wake and you slow right down. At the end there we spun out and none of us hit each other. All air spun all of our cars out and that just shows how aero-sensitive the cars still are. It's better than we've been but obviously could still be better."

• The race might have been better if it was during the day. Saturday's high was in the mid-80s, meaning the track would have likely been pretty slick. Alas, a lot of the track was in the shade by the time the race started. We're not advocating for a day race, we're just noting the temperature.

• Tony Stewart finished 12th. He has 87 points through three races, one point more than Brian Vickers had in five races as Stewart's substitute. Stewart also has one point less than Cole Whitt does (Whitt has nine starts this year) and is just 12 back of Michael Annett, who has raced in all 11 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: May 8, 2016, 4:03 am

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Kansas Speedway has tormented Kyle Busch throughout his NASCAR career. Saturday night, he conquered it.

Busch capitalized on the misfortune of Martin Truex Jr. to seize the lead on the next-to-last restart and grab his first win at Kansas and his third win of the season. The defending Sprint Cup Series champion is now the first three-time winner in the Cup Series this season.

Truex led a race-high 172 laps but was forced to head back to pit road during the race's final round of green flag stops because the team believed a lug nut got hung between the right-front wheel and the hub. Truex went from leading to down a lap and ended up finishing 14th.

"I don't know what the racing Gods have against me, but man this sucks." -@martintruex_jr #FurnitureRow #GB400

— Furniture Row Racing (@FR78Racing) May 8, 2016

Busch took over the lead after Truex pitted again and kept it on that penultimate restart as chaos happened behind him. As Busch had sprinted out ahead of the field, Denny Hamlin went three-wide between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson. Keselowski (on the inside) and Hamlin spun almost simultaneously and Hamlin took out Larson as he washed up to the wall. Joey Logano, who was fifth, had nowhere to go and slammed into Hamlin.

“It just looked like [Keselowski] got loose and then [Hamlin] got loose.I was hoping [Hamlin] would come down the hill and when you’re in the smoke you can’t see anything.I hit the wall, so I knew where that was and I just kept riding and riding and hoping [Hamlin] would come down the hill because I couldn’t see and he stayed up there and I got him right in the door.”

Busch then bolted ahead of Matt Kenseth and held off Kevin Harvick over the race's final run.

"Hit a big piece of debris and knocked a big hunk out of the nose and knocked the splitter down," Harvick said. "From that point on it was tight, otherwise I would have drove around him."

Busch had last pitted 20+ laps before Harvick did.

"I knew our car was really good," Busch said. "I knew our car was best out front. I had trouble in traffic all night long. I wasn’t the best at being able to pick my way through that stuff, but when we had green flag pit stops I really got some good holes and was able to make some good time, but the call to stay out was a no brainer and it certainly worked out for us."

The win at Kansas means Pocono and Charlotte stand as the only two Sprint Cup Series tracks where Busch hasn't notched a victory. In 16 previous starts at the 1.5-mile track, Busch had just four top-10 finishes. And all of this stuff has happened:

• In the fall of 2010, Busch had a run-in with David Reutimann. Busch made contact with Reutimann, causing Reutimann to spin and then Reutimann delivered payback to Busch, who ended up finishing 21st. Busch dropped from third to seventh in the Chase standings because of the bad result.

• In the fall of 2012, he crashed out and finished 31st. It was the first of three-straight 30th or worse finishes at Kansas for Busch, who wasn't in the Chase.

• Yes, that means he had something go bad in the Chase at Kansas in 2013 too. Busch crashed and finished 34th. He entered Kansas just 12 points off the lead for the Chase and left 35 points in arrears.

• And while it's not a Sprint Cup happening, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention it among the craziness Busch has endured at Kansas. In 2011, after racing with Joey Coulter in the Truck Series race at Kansas, Busch was allegedly punched by Richard Childress, Coulter's team owner.

Saturday night's win means Busch has 37 career Sprint Cup Series wins and 162 wins in NASCAR's top three series. If you're scoring at home – or easily trolled – that's 38 wins away from Richard Petty's 200 career wins.

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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: May 8, 2016, 3:05 am

Former Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series owner Steve Turner died Thursday.

James Buescher won the 2012 Truck Series title driving for Turner. Buescher had four wins, 10 top-five finishes and 14 top-10 finishes and beat Timothy Peters for the title by six points. Buescher is Turner's son-in-law.

Turner formed his own NASCAR team to break in to the sport and purchased Braun Racing, a longtime Xfinity Series team, in 2010. He then joined forces with Harry Scott to form Turner Scott Motorsports in 2013.

The two parted ways at the end of the 2014 season and Scott is currently the owner of HScott Motorsports. HScott fields cars in the Sprint Cup Series for Clint Bowyer and Michael Annett.

Turner's teams won 19 races from 2009-2014 in the Xfinity and Truck Series. Mark Martin got the team's first Xfinity Series win in 2011 (at Las Vegas) and Buescher's first Truck win in 2012 was the team's first win in that series.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 7, 2016, 7:32 pm

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Martin Truex Jr. is starting first for the first time since 2012.

Truex was the fastest qualifier during Friday's qualifying session at Kansas, beating out his technically-aligned teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin for the top spot. Truex's team, Furniture Row Racing, has a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Truex last qualified first at Texas in April of 2012 and it's the seventh pole of his career.

Despite never winning at Kansas, Truex has said he loves the track. He finished second in both races at Kansas in 2012 and was ninth in this race a year ago.

The highest-qualifying non-Toyota was Kurt Busch in fourth. Brad Keselowski qualified fifth. 40 cars attempted the race so no one failed to qualify.

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

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 6, 2016, 11:44 pm

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Like the changes NASCAR announced for the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway? You can thank Brad Keselowski for them.

Keselowski was an impetus behind the changes unveiled Friday for the race on May 21. You can click the link above for the full list of changes but the biggest change is a 13-lap final segment that will be preceded by approximately the first half of the field being forced to head to pit road.

He said Friday that he and other drivers were approached by the track for input towards the race, which hasn't featured the most thrilling of finishes recently. He was revealed as a driving force for the changes by Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Twitter Friday morning.

"I don’t know, I don’t think that I was all the ideas, but maybe the one that seems to catch everyone’s attention," Keselowski said. "I just wanted to see the race something that I would want to watch if I was a fan, and something that I would want to be proud of if I was the driver that won it.Quite honestly, I didn’t feel like the formats of the past few years were that way."

A big reason for the change? The minimization of aerodynamics. Charlotte's new pavement, and subsequently harder tire compounds provided by Goodyear, has produced races dependent on clean air and the most aerodynamically-efficient cars.

"I think what you’re gonna see in the All-Star Race is gonna be the modern day format of excellence for that type of race because a lot of things have changed.It’s not 1990 anymore.It’s not 1992 anymore.I think we’ve seen aerodynamics come in the sport and really make it so much more difficult to pass than ever before, and the format is meant to combat that challenge.There is probably an argument to be made that it’s a little bit gimmicky, and that’s fair, but it’s the All-Star Race and I feel like the All-Star Race gets a free pass on gimmicks to some extent, and it should be a short, fun, amazing race.”

Tire compounds have become softer along with the reduced downforce on Sprint Cup cars this season and Keselowski said he felt there would be enough tire fall off to potentially see a driver with fresh tires slice through those with older tires on the last segment with enough time to challenge for the lead before the end of the race.

We also asked Keselowski what he thought about adding an-almost automatic Chase berth for the winner of the All-Star Race as extra incentive. Had the All-Star Race been counted towards the Chase in 2014, Jamie McMurray would have qualified for the postseason. He ended up missing out on the Chase because he didn't have a regular season win and wasn't high enough in the standings to make it on points.

“I don’t think it’s out of line.  I can’t think of really very many scenarios when someone has, I guess Jamie McMurray was one of them.  He won the All-Star Race.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but it seems fair to me.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 6, 2016, 9:52 pm

NASCAR announced the rules for the Sprint All-Star Race on Friday. And there are a fair amount of rule changes.

Let's start with the basics. There will be three segments. The first two are 50 laps each and the final segment is 13 laps. 20 cars will start the race. Drivers eligible are those who have won in 2015 and/or 2016, the three drivers that win segments in the Sprint Showdown and a driver(s) eligible via the fan vote after the Showdown.

Now let's get to the craziness:

• Drivers are obligated to pit for either two or four tires between the first two segments.

• Drivers are obligated to pit again, at least for two tires, before lap 85 (lap 35 of the second segment).

• A random draw is held after the second segment to decide if the top nine, 10 or 11 cars will be forced to make a mandatory pit stop before the final segment.

The idea with the random draw is to create some wild racing over the final 13 laps by having the cars with fresh tires at the back (cars not in the random draw cannot pit). However, the quality of that racing is going to be entirely dependent on the tire wear at Charlotte Motor Speedway. And with the race at night and Charlotte's relatively fresh pavement, tire wear hasn't been too severe in previous years.

“It’s going to be determined by whether or not we can race side-by-side and get close and whether or not the tires fall off, lap times fall off," Carl Edwards said. "Charlotte is so fast and the surface is so nice and Goodyear has done such a good job with the tire that it’s historically been a tough place to pass, so I guess for me I look forward to that race being one where we can really mix it up and race close and I hope that’s the way it is. If that’s the way it is, all the format changes in the world are just – that’s just going to make it more fun of a game, but really it will come down to the racing on the race track.

"Now at the end do you have to pit if you’re in the top-nine or 11 or whatever? You have to? So really the question is will tires be beneficially or not and if they’re beneficially, hey great, but if they’re not it’s going to be – you really think about it logically, I guess it might be a genius idea because if tires aren’t beneficially then they’re making go behind – the faster cars go behind the guys that aren’t fast, but I don’t know. You just hope it doesn’t evolve into something where everybody’s racing really hard for 10th or 11th because they know they don’t want to pit and with this lower downforce package and with the way the tires have been. I think that we’ll most likely have a tire that – I hope we do – where pitting is good, but truly that’s the first I’ve thought about it. I might be completely wrong on all that stuff.”

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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: May 6, 2016, 6:07 pm

Kerry Earnhardt (R) with his father and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (L)Teresa Earnhardt is appealing a court decision that denied her challenge of Kerry Earnhardt's usage of the name "Earnhardt" in his "Earnhardt Collection" of homes.

Kerry Earnhardt is the older son of Dale Earnhardt and the half-brother of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kerry was born to Dale and his first wife Latane, who changed her name when she remarried. Kerry Earnhardt, who drove in seven career Sprint Cup Series races, now has a "lifestyle brand" with his wife Rene.

From ESPN:

"Rene and I have worked extremely hard to develop the Earnhardt Collection brand and make it uniquely ours," Kerry Earnhardt said in a statement to ESPN.com "I chose to leave a successful career in racing and could not be happier with what we've been able to achieve in the five years we've been building our home lifestyle brand inspired by our love of the outdoors."

Teresa Earnhardt, Dale's third wife, married the seven-time Sprint Cup Series champion in 1982. She filed the appeal last week in a U.S. patent court after her initial motion against the trademark was rejected.

Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, Junior's sister and the manager of JR Motorsports, had this to say about Teresa's challenge of Kerry's usage of the name. After spending much of his childhood with his mother, Kerry and Senior got back in touch when Kerry was a teenager.

Hate that my brother & family have to deal w/ this nonsense for over 4 yrs. It's our name too! We were born w/ it! https://t.co/QtRQ7dZKfw

— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) May 6, 2016

Kelley also said that she never sees Teresa, who was formerly the head of Dale Earnhardt Inc. after Earnahrdt died in the 2001 Daytona 500. After DEI merged with Chip Ganassi to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, the team became Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014 and Ganassi said he had bought Teresa's share of the team.

I don't see it in the marketplace and we never see her. Haven't since wrangler car in 2010. https://t.co/0mz82t8cfv

— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) May 6, 2016

Thank you Dave. We loved our dad. He taught us well. We take pride in continuing the family legacy he left behind. https://t.co/cjcRtKxguv

— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) May 6, 2016

Teresa and Dale had a daughter, Taylor, who was born in 1988.

Per ESPN, Kelley testified that no one has confused the line of homes with Junior and Kerry has also said he has nothing to do with Teresa.

Kerry said he has no relationship with Teresa. He was fired from Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2011 at around the time he began working with Schumacher Homes, he said in testimony.

"Just me and my wife trying to build a brand for our family and everything, and then for her to come and oppose it -- I don't think if you had a relationship that any family member would do that," Kerry said in his testimony.

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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: May 6, 2016, 4:33 pm

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – After a self-described "miserable" start to the season, Clint Bowyer is thinking everything is starting to get on track.

Bowyer, who is spending the 2016 season with HScott Motorsports before joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 to take over for Tony Stewart, has two top-10 finishes in the last three Sprint Cup Series races.

His best finish in the first seven races of the season was 18th and he had four finishes of 30th or worse. The fifth 30+ finish came between the top 10s at Bristol and Talladega when Bowyer was 33rd and two laps down two weeks ago.

"I was struggling to get that kind of consistency where I was last year," Bowyer said Thursday. "It is beginning to start rolling ... We’ve got some good things coming that I’m excited about.  That is the thing – when you are down, most of the time there is a reason, especially, when you are down as far as we are down." 

"We had work to do we are starting to get some new wave of cars built and get some things to where we all are satisfied with them and excited about bringing them to the race track and seeing what our hard work has done."

Last year, of course, came with Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer made the Chase despite going winless and the team was in the midst of a dissolution as majority owner Rob Kauffman joined forces with Chip Ganassi Racing.

The downfall of MWR left Bowyer scrambling to find a ride for 2016 and beyond. With Tony Stewart vacating the No. 14 at the end of this season, mimicking the scenario Kasey Kahne experienced in 2011 with a bridge season at Red Bull Racing before joining Hendrick Motorsports made sense.

And while a title is very likely not happening in 2016 for Bowyer and he hasn't won a race since 2012, he doesn't think he's done being competitive.

“No, we were with one of the best teams there was for seven years, was with a really good team for a few years and he decided to quit on me," Bowyer said. "We are building back up. I know I’m going to a championship caliber team for three years after this one. You will see me back. By no means do I consider myself… I feel like you get the race cars underneath of you and you compete exactly where you have always competed. The history is there.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 6, 2016, 3:45 pm

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

It's crazy to think that it's the beginning of May and we're talking about the 2017. Kudos to NASCAR for getting the schedule out incredibly early this year rather than waiting until the fall to release the schedule for the upcoming season.

It's also one hell of an idea to get Talladega away from the final race of the second round of the Chase. If Talladega is going to stay as part of the Chase (We'd be cool swapping Talladega out for a road course in the Chase provided Talladega gets to keep two dates on the schedule) it needs to be away from an elimination race.

Yeah, a big crash in the second race of the second round could ruin a driver's chances to make the third round, but it's much better for the field to have one more chance at advancement rather than drivers potentially ruing their title hopes as their cars are being towed back to the garage after a 15-car pileup because of a bump draft gone bad.

If we could wave a magic wand and leave politics and preferences out of it, here's how we'd like the Chase to look.

1. Chicago
2. Talladega (or road course if we're getting crazy)
3. New Hampshire
4. Dover
5. Kansas
6. Martinsville (a week earlier would help with any daylight issues)
7. Charlotte (on Sunday afternoon)
8. Texas
9. Phoenix
10. Homestead

It's not a total remodel of the Chase, but it makes minimizes the impact of Talladega's craziness as much as possible. Dover and New Hampshire are only pushed back a week and Martinsville is ahead of Charlotte because of increased sunlight and because it's further north.

Nice to not have the elimination race be a total crapshoot. Bloodthirsty fans may not agree. - Jim

@NickBromberg don't like

— Terry Hite (@ezbugn1320) May 5, 2016

As someone who lives minutes rather than hours from Kansas Speedway, the argument surrounding weather in late October is a strong one. It can be really random around here. The worst case is that it's 45 and cloudy during the race and the conditions negatively impact the racing.

But the Chase concerns outweigh the weather concerns. It's a smart move, and one that wasn't spur of the moment by NASCAR.

@NickBromberg I HAVE A QUESTION -- WHY ARE SOME NASCAR FANS SO MEAN TO THE MEDIA?

— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) May 5, 2016

Why are some people mean to everyone on Twitter? There seems to be a fair amount of people who feel having an egg avatar means you can say anything you want without any consequences.

Perhaps it's because there are many people who feel they could do the media's job just as well, if not better. Maybe it's an extension of fandom. Many fans second-guess managers and executives and delusionally think they can do a better job than those in charge. So it's only natural to think that fans could believe they'd ask better questions than the people who are asking them in the first place.

You'll never see any griping about being a media member in this space (though griping about other things comes with the territory). Yeah, there's a lot of riff-raff to deal with, but every job has that. And there are a lot of people who wish they would get to watch sports for a living. Keeping this in perspective goes a long, long way.

@NickBromberg 6 winners so far, how many chase drivers will have a W? Who is taking over the page after the bowling pin attacks you Sat.?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) May 5, 2016

An over/under of 12 seems about right. You can make a strong argument for both sides. Under if you think the Joe Gibbs Racing dominance is going to extend all summer and over if you think all four Hendrick cars could get a win along with someone like Tony Stewart.

It's easy to get to 10 by assuming Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Joey Logano each get a win. Then there's still Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and others.

Saturday's race is the GoBowling.com 400 and we're hoping to see this creepy guy in victory lane again. And perhaps take a picture. Assuming we will not be eaten.

I am so excited to see how creepy this bowling pin looks in person. pic.twitter.com/rnELRQUyQD

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) January 13, 2016

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 5, 2016, 10:07 pm

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – NASCAR has had conversations about swapping the race dates at Talladega and Kansas in the fall for over a year.

The switch for 2017, made public Thursday, moves Talladega from the sixth race to the Chase to the fifth. It makes Kansas the sixth race and therefore the final race of the second round of the Chase. Talladega has been the final race of the second round in the first three years of the four-round Chase format.

"And so when we looked at it we looked at a lot of different things – had a lot of different input across the board and it's not a new conversation," NASCAR Senior Vice President Jim Cassidy said Thursday. "It's more than a year ongoing and the way we looked at it is we've got an incredible racing product at Talladega and in order to looking at maximizing the schedule, we know that Talladega no matter where we place it in the Chase is going to provide a very high level of racing action and it just really stands on its own."

"So we saw the opportunity to make a switch and then to put Kansas in the cutoff spot and we're excited about that because as you know we've worked on our rules package over the last couple years and so bringing what we know to be a very successful rules package and low downforce to Kansas is going to be great at that cutoff."

Last fall's Talladega race was chaotic, to say the least. It was marred by two crashes on restarts at the end of the race. The final crash, started when Kevin Harvick's suffering car made contact with Trevor Bayne, kept Harvick in the Chase and ultimately prevented Dale Earnhardt Jr. from advancing to the next round. Junior passed race-winner Joey Logano after the caution had been issued. The field is frozen at the moment of caution.

The move means Kansas Speedway's race date is October 22. The average high temperature for that day is 63 degrees, but as anyone who lives in the middle part of the country can attest, it could be 70 or 40 and neither temperature would be surprising.

But while weather could be a concern in the midwest, concerns about having a restrictor plate race determine the field of eight drivers to make the third round of the Chase likely won out. Yes, Talladega counts just as much as the second race in the second round as it does in the third.

But having it in a position where teams have one more opportunity to make the Chase may soften the track's tendency for randomness or areas where drivers can manipulate races. More than one driver felt after last fall's Talladega race that Harvick made contact with Bayne intentionally (and no, we're not ignoring the bumper Joey Logano put to Matt Kenseth last year at Kansas).

“[Harvick] pulled out of the way the first time because he knew he was blowing up and this time he said he was going to hold his lane, so we went up to go around him and then he clipped [Bayne]," Kenseth said after the race. "He knew if he put him in a slow spin the race was over and he’d make it, so, like I said, it feels we lost control here the last two weeks. I don’t think that’s what racing is about. The spot they put us in, it’s hard to blame people, but that’s not what racing’s all about.”

When asked about a road course race in the Chase, Cassidy said he wouldn't rule it out. NASCAR recently signed a five-year sanctioning agreement with its tracks meaning that the schedule (save for its order) is basically set for the near future. That means Watkins Glen and Sonoma are the only two near-term candidates to move to the Chase.

"I wouldn't rule anything out at this point if it means optimizing what we've got within our portfolio, then it's not something we'd ignore," Cassidy said.

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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: May 5, 2016, 6:53 pm

Talladega will no longer be the final race of the second round of the Chase starting in 2017.

NASCAR has swapped the dates of Talladega and Kansas, meaning Kansas Speedway will be where the Chase field is cut from 12 drivers to eight.

You'll remember that there was a lot of chaos at Talladega last year. Had Dale Earnhardt Jr. beat Joey Logano he would have moved on in the Chase. Junior finished second. And there was that whole thing with the multiple wrecks on restarts (well, OK, one restart didn't count) that marred the finish of the race.

The Talladega/Kansas swap is the biggest note from the 2017 schedule. NASCAR has signed a sanctioning agreement with all its tracks for the next five years, so there weren't going to be any significant new additions to the schedule.

The spring Texas race is not a Saturday night race in 2017. It's on Sunday afternoon. And the Dover race that's May 15 (because of the five Sundays in May) in 2016 is back in June.

Here's how the schedule lays out. We'll get more information from NASCAR regarding the Talladega move this afternoon at a media availability.

Feb. 18: Daytona exhibition race
Feb. 26: Daytona 500
March 3: Atlanta
March 12: Las Vegas
March 19: Phoenix
March 26: Auto Club
April 2: Martinsville
April 9: Texas
April 23: Bristol
April 30: Richmond
May 7: Talladega
May 13: Kansas
May 20: All-Star Race
May 28: Charlotte
June 4: Dover
June 11: Pocono
June 18: Michigan
June 25: Sonoma
July 1: Daytona
July 8: Kentucky
July 16: New Hampshire
July 23: Indianapolis
July 30: Pocono
Aug. 6: Watkins Glen
Aug. 13: Michigan
Aug. 19: Bristol
Sep. 3: Darlington
Sep. 9: Richmond
Sep. 17: Chicago
Sep. 24: New Hampshire
Oct. 1: Dover
Oct. 7: Charlotte
Oct. 15: Talladega
Oct. 22: Kansas
Oct. 29: Martinsville
Nov. 5: Texas
Nov. 12: Phoenix
Nov. 19: Homestead

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

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 5, 2016, 1:50 pm

SHAWNEE, Kansas – Two years ago it was hard to imagine Martin Truex Jr. as a legitimate championship contender.

After he lost his ride at now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex found a home at Furniture Row Racing, which needed a driver after Kurt Busch went to Stewart-Haas Racing. It was more a marriage of necessity than choice. Truex needed a ride. FRR was the best one available.

The partnership got off to a brutal start. Truex was 26th in the points standings through the first 10 races of the season. His best finish was 10th. He and the team couldn't figure out why the car was so slow.

"I kept telling them what the car was doing and it wasn’t making sense," Truex told Yahoo Sports and RacinToday.com during a driver appearance last week. "It wasn’t doing normal things. The hardest part for us was it was so inconsistent, you were just chasing your tail in circles. It was like a dog chasing his tail in circles. You’re never getting anywhere, just working your butt off."

His confidence waned. Truex had (temporarily, anyway) made the Chase a year before. So did Busch. What the heck was going on?

The team scraped together two top-10 finishes over the summer but was still 26th in the standings in August when Truex's girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, announced she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. A miserable season quickly got put in perspective.

"I’ve been through a year and a half of everything going wrong and at some point you’re like 'Why me, why is this happening to me? This sucks. This isn’t fair, I worked too hard for this'," Truex said. "And then you see what happened to Sherry and it was like ‘This was nothing. Be a man.’"

The diagnosis was a mental reset button for Truex. Team owner Barney Visser called him and told Truex that the car would be waiting for him if he decided to take a break. Truex's response? "Hell no."

"I feel 100 percent confident it made me a better driver and helped us get the car on track quicker because my head was right," Truex said. I went about it the right way. I wasn’t bitching and moaning and saying the car was terrible and you guys gotta go fix it, it was like 'We got issues, how are we going to fix it together?'"

About the same time Pollex was diagnosed with cancer the team figured out there was a flaw in its setups causing those nonsensical issues. The progress made on the problem was evident through the final 10 races of the season as Truex finished in the top 15 six times. He had eight top-15 finishes in the first 26 races.

-------

Fast-forward to 2016. A year after he made the final round of the Chase, Truex is currently ninth in the points standings. While he has just four top-10s through the first 10 races, he's led 198 laps, sixth most in the series. Oh, and (most importantly) Pollex completed her cancer treatments in January.

Three of the drivers ahead of him in the laps led category are Toyota drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing, the team Furniture Row is now technically-aligned with. The team's title run in 2015 came in Chevrolets from Richard Childress Racing.

"Honestly we could be sitting here with two wins right now very easily," Truex said referencing the Daytona 500 photo finish and the race at Texas where he led 141 laps. "When we first said we were switching manufacturers, I don’t think anyone said "In the first eight or nine races do you think you could win two races?’"

"We’d probably say 'Well, yeah, probably not.' So I think we’re — I know from my owner Barney Visser’s standpoint we’re ahead of where he thought we’d be — he thought it would take us 10-15 races to get rolling. To come out of the box like we did he’s been pretty surprised."

But neither the Daytona 500 or the Texas race ended up as a victory. Truex lost to Denny Hamlin (the only quasi-teammate who's led fewer laps) by inches in the opening race of the season and his old tires on the Texas race's final restart weren't good enough to hold off drivers who had pitted more recently. There's also Bristol, where Truex had moved up to second before having to pit because of a loose wheel.

So yeah, there have been frustrations. But Truex has had faster cars than he did a year ago. And certainly faster than what he had two seasons ago.

"The difference is in 2014 when you’re running that bad, you’re not excited to go to the racetrack the next week," Truex said. "You’re working hard, you’re trying to figure it out but you’re like — you’re just not excited to go to the racetrack because you know the chances are it’s going to be the same crap again."

"Where now it’s like hell yeah I want to go back, give me another chance. We got the speed, we can go dominate the next race, let’s go do it right now. You’re ready to get after it."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 4, 2016, 9:19 pm

Two men were discovered dead on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

According to the Talladega County coroner, the men were Joshua Doiun, 19, and James Cook, 48. Doiun was from Crawfordville Florida while Cook was from Tallahassee.

A cause of death is not currently known, though the coroner does not suspect foul play. The men were discovered after Sunday's race according to TMZ and the site said the men appeared to be dead for "6-7" hours when they were found by a friend in the campground area at the track.

In 2013, a man killed himself in the infield at Texas Motor Speedway during the NRA 500. According to reports following the man's death at Texas, the incident happened in the vicinity of a pickup truck in the infield after an argument with others at the race.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 3, 2016, 8:22 pm

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 2): What does the guy who finishes second say after the race about the style of racing? "I hate it. I'd much rather sit at home. I got a win. I don't need to be here."

Oh.

Though can you blame Busch? This is the type of racing that broke his leg and foot in 2015. Yeah, he's damn good at it. But he's got plenty of reasons not to like it. Did he crash: Yes.

2. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): This guy, however, has plenty of reasons to like plate racing. Especially at Talladega. Keselowski has four wins at the 2.66-mile track after his victory on Sunday. He has no more than two wins at any other Cup track. Through 15 Talladega races, Keselowski has nine top-10 finishes and has been running at the finish of all but one. Does he have the Talladega secret recipe? Did he crash: No.

3. Chase Elliott (LW: 9): Elliott is on a roll. He finished fifth on Sunday after he won the pole. He's finished in the top 12 in each of his last four Cup races and in the top 12 in six of the last seven. While we didn't expect Elliott to be overwhelmed in his first Cup season, the speed he's showing consistently right now is more than we imagined. Did he crash: No.

4. Kevin Harvick (LW: 6): Despite that vicious crash at the end of the race that flipped his car over 90 degrees, Harvick ended up 15th. It's just his second finish outside the top 10 this season and it was a sad end for that wonderful Busch car with a fish on it. Does any paint scheme say "Talladega" more than a fish painted on a car sponsored by cheap beer? Did he crash: Yes.

5. Kurt Busch (LW: 7): Hey, from the Busch car to a Busch brother. Kurt finished eighth and didn't make Jimmie Johnson incredibly happy after a push from Busch sent Johnson into Paul Menard and sparked a monster crash. Did he crash: Yes.

6. Carl Edwards (LW: 1): Edwards was 35th after his day went south the same time as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s. OK, Junior's had already gone south. Anyway, Edwards had damage from an earlier accident and lost a tire in turns 1 and 2. His car shot up the wall and smashed into Junior's ending the day for both of them. Did he crash: Yes.

7. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 3): Johnson had two incidents. The first time he went spinning down the backstretch in the crash that caused Chris Buescher to flip. The second time he got pushed by Busch (as we mentioned above) and kablooie. Somehow Johnson only finished six laps down and was 22nd. Did he crash: Yes.

8. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 10): Truex narrowly missed a top-10 finish despite his car sliding across the finish line. The final lap crash was the second accident the No. 78 had been involved in. He was in the lap 162 melee and somehow his car was able to still be fairly competitive despite looking like a mummy. Did he crash: Yes.

9. Joey Logano (LW: 5): Oh no, it's Logano vs. Matt Kenseth again. While we understand why Kenseth is upset with Logano, he needs to be the bigger man (after all, he is older) and act differently. Logano could have kept going after Kenseth slid below the yellow line. He didn't and let Kenseth back it. It's a plate race. Bleep happens. This shouldn't become another soap opera. Did he crash: Yes.

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 4): It was not Junior's day on Sunday. He said Monday on Twitter that the steering wheel issue was his own fault and video from his in-car camera shows that the wheel was not fastened tightly to the coupler when Junior left the garage. That's why it popped off. You can bet that the No. 88 team will be doing some additional safety checks this weekend. Did he crash: Yes.

11. Austin Dillon (LW: NR): Here's another guy driving a car that was practically mummified. Dillon's ceiling on the final lap was pretty much second because his car could not have come close to keeping pace with its taped-up nose in the lead. But behind other cars in the draft it was working just fine and he ended up third. Did he crash: Yes.

12. Trevor Bayne (LW: NR): After leading 22 laps and finishing 10th on Sunday, Bayne now has two top-10 finishes this season and seven for his career. He's also in the top 16 in points and would make the Chase if the regular season ended today. Of course, we know it won't and the real test is if Bayne can keep this up throughout the summer months. We're not sure, but we're open to surprises. Did he crash: No.

Lucky Dog: How about Jamie McMurray, who finished fourth with a beat up car.

The DNF: Any one of the 12 cars that didn't make it to the end because of engine problems or accidents.

Dropped Out: Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: May 3, 2016, 3:12 pm

Welcome to a Monday afternoon version of our post-race thoughts post. While we were busy for most of Sunday we had a chance to watch most of the race and spin the past hours trying to process the craziness that took place at Talladega.

• It's not correct to say that everyone wants the racing at Talladega to change. But there's a fair majority that does, right?

We'll admit, restrictor plate racing is the perfect hook for NASCAR. Cars are door-to-door for the majority of the race and the close proximity is thrilling television for newbies or those who aren't die-hard fans of the sport. If you were getting a friend to watch NASCAR for the first time, odds are both Daytona and Talladega are in your top five options.

But for as wild and unpredictable the racing may be – let's be honest, the Cup Series needs unpredictability – Sunday's race left us wondering for solutions after watching two too many cars tumble through the air on the backstretch.

It's possible for something infinitely exciting, unpredictable and crazy to also be incredibly dangerous and in need of change. Is the Cup Series nearing that point of change?

• We're not engineers, so we're not sure how, exactly, to prevent cars from flipping over as much as possible. But it's hard not to think that removing the restrictor plates off the engines could be a viable solution.

The removal of the plates, which choke horsepower and acceleration and lead to the giant packs that are on display at both Daytona and Talladega, would have to come with other changes. But what if NASCAR was able to rig the rules to where the engines were unrestricted but the cars were stripped of a lot of front and rear downforce?

That lack of downforce could not only cut speed but potentially force drivers to lift off the gas in the corners. Cars would be going faster than they do now in packs, but the packs would be far thinner with handling and horsepower at a premium.

Are we off base? Again, we don't know for sure. But it needs to be examined.

• The counter-point to removing the restrictor plates is the reason the plates were implemented in the first place. During a 1988 race at Talladega, Bobby Allison's car went airborne by itself and flew into the catchfence. The vicious wreck helped lead to the type of racing that we see now.

Eliminating restrictor plates doesn't eliminate the risk of cars flying through the air. There may be nothing that does. But by breaking up packs, the chances for cars flying through the air would seemingly go down. Why? Well, with less cars clustered together, there are fewer chances for the impacts (in the quarterpanels) that have forced cars to take flight over the past few years.

And besides, should we really be using a nearly-30-year-old example as a reason for why restrictor plates are still needed? NASCAR safety has advanced incredibly since then and especially in the last 15 years. Things are not how they used to be, and how they used to be should not be seen as a direct comparison of what things could be.

• Thank goodness Danica Patrick hit a SAFER-protected barrier (Kevin Harvick too).

• We wondered for a brief second if Matt Kenseth's car was going to hit the infield catchfence on the backstretch. Thankfully he didn't, and he narrowly avoided his car's windshield hitting the top edge of the inside wall.

And damn, Kenseth is going to string together some good finishes soon.

• Imagine if someone had passed race-winner Brad Keselowski between the time of the race's final crash and the finish line.

A day earlier the sanctioning body threw the caution flag before the finish line as a wreck enveloped the field in the tri-oval. Joey Logano spun as he was blocking Elliott Sadler and caused a giant crash and Sadler, who sustained damage in the incident, was named the winner despite not crossing the finish line first (Brennan Poole did).

NASCAR said the field was frozen at the moment of caution because of the crash. And that's the correct application of the caution rule, though there are multiple instances (like the 2007 Daytona 500) when lead drivers were allowed to race to the finish line as a crash happened behind.

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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: May 2, 2016, 9:20 pm

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TALLADEGA, Ala.—What the hell was that?

Seriously. What do you call a race when 35 of the 40 cars are involved in some form of wreck, when several drivers stagger from their cars gasping for breath, when cars are hurtling toward walls fast enough for you to start thinking dark thoughts?

Look, strange things happen at Talladega. They always do. This desolate stretch of Alabama might be cursed, or might just be an epicenter of peculiarity. At the very least, it's racing's most unpredictable track, a place where any team can achieve victory and every team can expect to bring chassis and shredded sheet metal back to the shop.

It's a case of giving us what we want ... and being careful what we wish for.

Chris Buescher (34) wrecks during the NASCAR Talladega auto race at Talladega Superspeedway, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Greg McWillimas)Brad Keselowski won Sunday's GEICO 500, in large measure because he was in the safest place on the entire track: the front. He was one of the few that didn't end the day with damage ranging from the cosmetic to the catastrophic.

Consider: Chris Buescher flipped three times. Danica Patrick upended Matt Kenseth. Kevin Harvick ended the day sliding across the fence on his roof. All in all, millions of dollars' worth of cars ended up totaled, with the only winners—besides Keselowski, of course—being the scavengers who prowled the garage throughout and after the race, carrying off a fender or a bumper or a chunk of brightly-painted sheet metal.

The drivers were wrestling with more immediate concerns. Both Kenseth and Patrick allowed that they were a little nervous in the long instants before their cars collided with the wall. Kenseth said he prayed, while Patrick just closed her eyes ... until the fire started in the car, that is.

"I would say that's probably the most scared, trying to hop out of a car with the fire on the inside," Patrick said. "I haven't had fire on the inside before. I have a pretty decent bruise on my arm and my foot, and my head feels like I hit a wall at 200. My chest hurts when I breathe." Patrick noted that X-rays taken after the crash were negative.

After another wreck, cameras captured A.J. Allmendinger staggering out of his car, slumping against the door:

@AJDinger down! Scary moment but glad he is ok! #onetoughdriver #NASCAR @TalladegaSuperS pic.twitter.com/NJgVUTHIvI

— Mike Harper (@spinoutzone) May 1, 2016

And here's video from the stands of Harvick's car sailing past almost too fast for the eye to track:

Drivers seem to have reached a point of resignation here. "I don't have a solution [to the safety issues]," said Kyle Busch, who finished second. "It's been this way for 30 years, so, stop complaining about it, I guess."

"It's exciting," Patrick said. "I enjoy watching it too. But I do wish there wasn't so much distance between the track and the inside wall. There's a lot of time to build up momentum there."

"I went flying last year at Daytona, and that's not fun," Austin Dillon said. "I know NASCAR will put their efforts towards fixing it. I know they will. They've made the car safer. That's the reason why we're walking away from these crashes. I think as a group, all of us want it to be where we're not leaving the ground."

Keselowski could afford to be in a bit more charitable mood after the race, having his second win of the season and fourth at Talladega locked up. "That's how Talladega goes," he said. "Sometimes we run here and everybody kind of lines up against the wall, and sometimes we come here and it's crazy side‑by‑side, wreck 'em up, flip 'em.  I think that's kind of the allure to coming here, because you don't know what you're going to get."

That allure has always been the troubling heart of racing. We watch to see these drivers throw themselves out to the bleeding edge of mechanical and human tolerance, to take risks that we couldn't imagine. The trouble with risk is that sometimes the threat you're risking becomes a reality. Speed creates wrecks, cars go airborne, and we all hold our breath, knowing that this is what can happen but hoping everyone walks away.

"We don't like to be a part of crashes.  It's not what our job is, is to crash," Dillon said. "Our job is to compete and have fun out there and put on a show. Putting on a show, crashes happen ... I think people, if they're cheering for crashes, man, it's not a good thing."

But this is the eternal conundrum of NASCAR. Without risk, there's no challenge. With no challenge, there's no drama. And with no drama, there's no reason to watch. When you get down to it, the danger, or the possibility of it, generates the true fuel that powers racing: cash.

"I'm a capitalist. I love capitalism," Keselowski said. "There's still people paying to sit in the stands, sponsors still on the cars, drivers still willing to get in them. There's self‑policing and enough interest to keep going, so we'll keep going."

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

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 1, 2016, 9:33 pm

TALLADEGA, Ala.—Ty Dillon stood alone, leaning against a pile of tires in the No. 14 pit box. Like thousands of others all around him, he was watching the GEICO 500 unfolding around him, listening to the race on his headset. Unlike the rest of the fans, though, he was going to be driving in this race before too much longer.

Dillon could only bide his time, waiting until a caution flag flew and Tony Stewart would wheel the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevy into the pit box. At that point, Dillon and Stewart would begin that most delicate of sporting maneuvers: switching drivers in the middle of a race.

Stewart injured his back in an off-road riding accident in January, and only returned to the track last week at Richmond. While doctors had pronounced Stewart's back sound enough for racing, the consensus opinion was that no good could come from a potentially catastrophic wreck. Such wrecks are always a possibility at Talladega, and indeed Sunday afternoon's race saw several that didn't involve Stewart.

Dillon and Stewart had established a switchover plan for the race, from using a seat tuned to Dillon's specifications to allowing Dillon to qualify the car. Dillon hadn't raced at Talladega at the Cup level, which is not unlike asking a rookie to guard LeBron James. You can prepare and game-plan all you want, but there's no substitute for full-speed action.

Stewart spent most of the race in the deep back of the pack, running no higher than 38th place. Just after he was lapped by leader Kyle Busch on Lap 48, Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun and brought out the first caution. From there, the 14 team clicked into action, Dillon standing calmly behind the blue concrete pit road divider 

"It sucks, to be honest," Stewart told Fox Sports after relinquishing the seat. "I know why we got to do it, but it sucks. It still sucks that you have to do it, but if I hadn't broke my back at the end of January, we wouldn't be in this situation."

Stewart expressed his gratitude to Dillon for an admittedly difficult assignment. "He's been a rock star through this whole thing and especially this weekend," Stewart said. "He's done all the heavy lifting and I just got in to ride around for 50 laps and turn it over to him."

Stewart left the pit box after a quick interview, taking a golf cart deep into the infield. Meanwhile, Dillon managed to bring the car home to an impressive sixth-place finish, largely becase his was one of the few cars to avoid wrecks. It was a notable end to a unique day.

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

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 1, 2016, 7:37 pm

TALLADEGA, Ala.—Well, this is about as scary a moment as you can imagine behind a wheel in a NASCAR race: during Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega, the steering wheel came off in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s hands:

Sweet heaven. That's insane. Junior managed to steer the car by grabbing the steering column until he could reattach the wheel. It was reminiscent of a similar incident earlier this year at Phoenix, when Earnhardt's teammate Jimmie Johnson wrecked during qualifying when his own steering wheel popped loose.

The loose steering wheel marked the low point in an ugly day for Earnhardt, a day in which he suffered two major wrecks and ended his day early. Earnhardt spun on Lap 50 and wrecked hard enough to go to the garage, then returned to the track only to get taken out when Carl Edwards' tire blew on Lap 110.  It was a frustrating afternoon for a driver projected as the race's odds-on favorite.

"Hell, I'm done," Earnhardt said after the second wreck. "I'm going home." And no one could blame him.

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

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 1, 2016, 7:24 pm
Augusta pimento cheese vs. Talladega Dogwich

TALLADEGA, Ala.—Pimento cheese is a true Southern staple, a delightful concoction of cheese, pimento peppers, and other mysterious ingredients. Two Southern institutions, Augusta National Golf Club and Talladega Superspeedway, have rolled out their own spin on pimento cheese--one traditional, the other a new upstart.

Three weeks ago, I was walking the immaculate grounds of Augusta National for the Masters, and on the first day of May I was in the infield at Talladega. This, combined with my own personal disregard for my gastrointestinal stability, put me in a unique position: compare these two pimento-based creations and offer you, the reader, a choice: go traditional, or go big?

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you: The Masters Pimento Cheese Sandwich vs. The Talla-Mento Dogwich. Hold on to your guts!

The Masters Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Price: $1.50

Description: This Augusta National standard has remained unchanged for decades. Two slices of white, very very white (ho ho ho) bread, a generous helping of delicately seasoned pimento cheese within, all encased in a green wrapper that won't show up on television should you fail to dispose of it properly.

Taste: The bread is softer and lighter than you can possibly imagine. The cheese is thick and gooey, with a hint of spice.

Verdict: Both the price point and the composition of the sandwich make this one ideal for downing by the armload, particularly if you're washing it down with a Cola or Light Beer (no proper names allowed at Augusta National). This one will sneak up on you; scarf down three or four of these and you'll suddenly start feeling like you're carrying a Pimento Baby somewhere around Amen Corner. Consume freely, but over the course of many hours.

The Talla-mento Dogwich

Price: $5.00

Description: Hoo boy. Hold on tight. Start with heavily buttered Texas Toast, grilled but butter-soaked to the chewy consistency of French toast. Top that with a couple slices of cheese (Cheddar and American, if I remember my lunchroom fare correctly). Add a grilled hot dog, split lengthwise and laid out in an X formation. Then top the entire creation with enough pimento cheese to spackle an entire bathroom.

Taste: Your first challenge here is getting this freak of nature into your mouth; the combination of soft toast and concrete-dense cheese is tricky to maneuver, and the hot dog provides very little structural integrity. Once you can bite, though, it's not bad! I have to confess that I only had a few bites—I did still have an entire day's work ahead of me, and my fellow journalists would not have looked kindly on me convalescing on the floor of the media center—but that was enough to give me a sense of the power behind this monstrosity.

Verdict: Look, you know what you're getting into with this one: a sandwich that treats your innards the way that a four-wide, ten-deep field of cars at Talladega treats your eardrums. If you can power your way through this beast, you've earned a day off from work.

Overall: You've got two choices for two very different purposes here, the same way that the Masters and Talladega offer you two very different sporting experiences. You can opt for the delicate, easy-going-down flavor of the Masters pimento cheese sandwich, or you can go for the esophagus augur that is the Talla-mento Dogwich. My recommendation would be the sandwich early in the day and the Dog-wich to cap it off, because you're not going to want to move after that one.

Either way, friend: my prayers and good wishes go with you. 

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

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: May 1, 2016, 3:30 pm

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

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

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

— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) April 30, 2016

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to your questions and comments.

-------

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

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

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

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

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) April 27, 2016

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

That's a joke, people.

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

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

— joostinrextin (@jshanerector) April 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dropped Out: Trevor Bayne, Matt DiBenedetto

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

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