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

Welcome to an off week edition of Happy Hour. Got anything planned for the weekend? We'll likely watch both the Xfinity and Truck Series races this weekend. Road courses can be appointment viewing. Remember when Max Papis got slapped two years ago?

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Best part of that whole episode was that the race was Mike Skeen's only Truck Series start. Come back, Mike! We need more drama.

Let's get to the questions this week.

@NickBromberg nascar usually isn't into transparency, but couldn't they provide data in instance like ky busch's pit road speeding penalty?

— Nick Knezevich (@itsKnez) August 27, 2015

NASCAR and its officials usually do a good job of posting the monitors tracking pit road to Twitter during races.

If you're unfamiliar with what Nick is referencing, Kyle Busch got a speeding penalty Saturday night. NASCAR had told him the speeding penalty was in the section that he was pitting in. Busch was, appropriately, miffed because it's impossible to speed in the section of pit road you're speeding in (NASCAR calculates the speed via average time in the section. Pit stops take so long that it's impossible to break the threshold in the section you're pitting in).

NASCAR then corrected the penalty to say it was in the section after Busch's pit stall. We didn't see a tweet with the monitor confirming which section Busch sped in, but we've got no reason to believe it was anything but an honest mistake.

That said, we're all for mandatory tweeting and/or posting of the speeding data for public consumption. It seems like something that would be easily integrated into the NASCAR Stats Twitter account. After round of pit stops (or penalty) the account could post a picture of the speeds and fans can see which drivers did what on pit road. It would not only help the sanctioning body's credibility with its teams and fans, but it would also enhance the fan experience immensely.

@NickBromberg why did NASCAR choose the narrowest track to showcase the best aero/tire package it's had all year for passing?

— Rich Tucker (@iamrich83) August 27, 2015

This is a great question.

Darlington is an entertaining track and it's a good fit for the low downforce package with appropriate tires (the tires will be softer than they were at Kentucky). However, it's not a place where you're going to see side-by-side racing on a consistent basis. You have to pass a driver entering or exiting a corner at Darlington to be effective. Driving two-wide in the corners is a recipe for disaster.

However, its utilization at Darlington shows us (we think) that the sanctioning body wasn't ready to change things up in the middle of the year like it has.

If it was, wouldn't it have worked with Goodyear to ensure the appropriate tires would be available at Kentucky? But with the complaints about the lack of passing at the beginning of the season, the sanctioning body felt like it had to do something, and Goodyear apparently didn't have enough time to react too.

And given that NASCAR wanted to try the high-drag tweaks at Indy and Michigan, Darlington was about the only place to do it. They're not going to be as fruitful as possible at a short track or road course and you're not going to start the Chase with a completely different set of rules. By process of elimination, Darlington was the choice. Hopefully fans realize that and the track's characteristics when rendering a judgment after next Sunday night.

@NickBromberg Throwbacks. Which Race Sponsor you want back? Point system? Anthem singer? Command giver? Maybe a throwback Chrome Horn?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) August 27, 2015

The throwback schemes for Darlington are great, though we admit that we giggle a bit when we see a "throwback" scheme from a sponsor relatively new to the sport. And we also wonder why we're not treated to these awesome paint schemes on a regular basis.

The Darlington schemes are a sign that NASCAR teams still know how to design awesome-looking cars. Hopefully these ideas bleed over into 2016 paint schemes, because we'd greatly appreciate some change from the current batch of cars.

As far as race sponsors, few things beat the Goulds Pumps ITT Industries Salute to the Troops 250 Presented by Dodge. Points system? Hmmm... the old system really wasn't bad. And it wasn't as complicated as people thought it was. Oh, and it didn't punish bad finishes as much as this one does.

Anthem singer? Anyone who doesn't take a long time is fine with us (we've never really understood the NASCAR fascination with the renditions of the National Anthem). For the command and pre-race prayer every week, we've gotta go this guy.

We'll also check with Geoffrey Miller on a Chrome Horn. Maybe a Chase preview?

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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: August 27, 2015, 2:58 pm

Kyle Busch Motorsports was expecting just over $3 million in 2015 and 2016 as part of a sponsorship agreement with Justin Boston and his father's company.

Boston and KBM parted ways earlier this season and the sponsorship numbers have been revealed as part of a suit that Busch's team is filing against Zloop, the company owned by Boston's dad Bob, and Boston for lack of payment.

KBM says in the suit that the company missed $650,000 in payments.

From ESPN:

Boston and Zloop made their first five payments on time for a total of $1.55 million but are alleged to have missed payments due in May and June, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in North Carolina Superior Court in Iredell County. KBM claims it is owed $4.025 million for the alleged default on the contract, a two-year deal originally worth $6.4 million. The contract was based on a 23-race schedule, so the 46 races work out to Boston paying KBM $139,130 per race.

The KBM lawsuit includes the contract between the team and Boston, who had three top-10 finishes in his nine starts.

While he was bringing the sponsorship, Justin Boston was getting paid $3,000 per race plus 40 percent of the purse (not including the television portion of the purse, which all went to KBM).  He would also get $50,000 if he won the truck title, $7,500 for a race win, $1,000 for a pole and $15,000 if he finished second through fifth in the points for the season.

Not only does the suit reveal what it takes for the sponsorship of a competitive truck team, it also shows what a young driver can make in the truck series. At a base rate of $3,000 per race, Boston was set to make $69,000 for competing in the full 2015 schedule.

Boston earned over $142,000 in purse money in his nine starts and 40 percent of that number is roughly $57,000. But remember, his portion of the purse didn't include the money in the purse from NASCAR's television contract.

Boston was driving the No. 54 truck for KBM and had four top-10 finishes in those nine races. The No. 54 won with Christopher Bell driving at Eldora after the team parted ways with Boston.

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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: August 26, 2015, 9:21 pm

Our Power Rankings are far from a scientific formula. In fact, it's the perfect blend of analytics and bias against your favorite driver. And you think we dislike your favorite driver, so it makes sense, right? Direct all your complaints to us at happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com and we'll try to have some fun while keeping in mind the somber news of Monday night.

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): After finishing second at Bristol Saturday night, Harvick has 17 top-five finishes and 21 top-10 finishes in 24 races. In 2014, when he won the title, of course, he had 14 top-five finishes and 20 top 10s. Yeah, he's on pace for fewer wins this year, but does it really matter at this point? At the pace Harvick is establishing, he's going to make it to the final round of the Chase barring something crazy. And we're not willing to bet against him right now.

2. Joey Logano (LW: 4): Here's another guy we think has a great shot of making the final round. He's been an example of consistency too. Not only does he have two wins in the last three races, but he's on pace to break the career highs in top fives and top 10s that he set in 2014. Again, if we're betting on who we think is going to make the Chase's final round, we're liking the odds of this guy to make it to Homestead with a shot.

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 3): What a porous day for Busch, who came home eighth after he led 192 laps. Yes, we just used the word porous to describe an eighth-place finish. The usage is littered with sarcasm but given Busch's recent run and his history at Bristol, maybe there's a bit of relative truth to it. In three races over the weekend at Bristol, Busch finished second, first and eighth. It's a short list of drivers who would consider that a disappointing weekend. Heck, maybe Busch is the only name on it.

4. Matt Kenseth (LW: 2): The spring race winner didn't have much time to see if he could go back-to-back. A busted engine ruined his night and left him in the garage long before the race was over. But given Kenseth is simply in the win-or-else portion of his season because of his Chase situation, a 42nd-place finish could be a 10th-place one and nothing changes. So it seems a bit hard to punish him too much.

5. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 7): Johnson finished fourth and gets a two-spot jump. And it was kind of a non-descript fourth-place finish too. Johnson was in and around the top 10 all night, but never really challenged for the lead either. Saturday night was his third-straight top-four finish at Bristol after three finishes of 19th or worse. Fun fact: Six-Time only has one career Bristol win.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 6): Here's a guy who had a much more eventful night than Johnson did. He fell a lap down early because he had to pit twice under caution and then lost a lap again later in the race. After getting the Lucky Dog, Junior was able to salvage a top-10 finish, but he might have had a faster car than the ninth he scored. He just didn't have the track position.

7. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 5): Truex had a fast car but his race went south with a tire issue late. Pitting under green meant he finished 28th and five laps off the pace. You can't blame Truex for being frustrated with another issue ruining a fast car. And it's something that can be crippling in the Chase. But as we've said before, this team is fast. And that can go a long way for Chase survival.

8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): Keselowski finished sixth, which was where he started. Yeah, that doesn't tell the story. His car was struggling in traffic, so he and crew chief Paul Wolfe elected to stay out on the last caution of the night. The strategy didn't pay off for the win as Keselowski quickly fell back, but you can't fault it when it gets a finish just outside the top five, can you?

9. Denny Hamlin (LW: 9): Hamlin finished third and made it the full race. Given that he had to step out of the car in the spring because of a neck spasm, that's an accomplishment. He also led for 54 laps, but all of those came within the first 154 laps. He had a solid top-10 car for the duration, however. The Joe Gibbs Racing cars certainly had the race speed that they showed in qualifying.

10. Carl Edwards (LW: 10): Edwards can attest to that. He led 74 laps and finished seventh. In two Bristol races this year he's led 160 laps. He's led 161 laps in the 22 other Sprint Cup Series races. It's safe to say that he's become one of the best at Bristol and Bristol has become one of his favorite tracks. We'd like his Chase chances a lot more if the half-mile was in the final 10 races.

11. Kurt Busch (LW: 11): Busch finished 14th Saturday night. He's got five wins at the track but his last came in 2006 and in his 11th start. Since then, he hasn't been as successful. While he has seven top-10 finishes since that last win he also has finished outside the top 25 five times. What does this all mean? We have no idea, other than Busch is probably a bigger fan of the old version of Bristol.

12. Ryan Newman (LW: 12): Mr. Consistency finished 10th. He's getting ready to strike in the Chase, drawing up plans in his lair on how he can top-10 the Chase field to the breaking point again and get to Homestead. Wonder if the 2015 version of the plans includes knocking another driver out of the way to make the final round? Or since Newman did it last year, would another driver do it this year if it meant advancing to the next round?

Lucky Dog: Clint Bowyer went from a spin to a top-five. Not bad.

The DNF: Michael Annett didn't even complete a lap. That's bordering on DNS.

Dropped Out: No one.

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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: August 25, 2015, 9:37 pm

If you do a double-take on September 6 when you look at the ticker while watching the Southern 500 and wonder if BK Racing's Jeb Burton and J.J. Yeley are in different cars, you're going to be on to something.

The team announced Tuesday that Burton would be in the No. 23 for the rest of the season while Yeley will be in the No. 26.

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"We are trying something different to improve performance for BK Racing," team owner Ron Devine said on BK's Facebook page. "We are confident and proud of our drivers and employees, but we are looking to try some different combinations to improve our results."

Burton, the son of Ward Burton, is in his first year in the Sprint Cup Series. He's going to run a paint scheme at Darlington that looks very similar to his father's ride with Bill Davis Racing. Ward Burton won the 2002 Daytona 500.

He's qualified for 18 of 24 races in 204 and has an average finish of 36.4. His best finish came at Martinsville in April where he finished 29th. Yeley has run in all but one of the Sprint Cup Series' events this season and has a best finish of 14th at Talladega in May.

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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: August 25, 2015, 7:22 pm

According to his brother, the organs from IndyCar Series Justin Wilson were donated to six different people.

Stefan Wilson revealed the news on Twitter on Tuesday, a day after his brother died from a head injury he sustained at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.

With #giftoflife @justin_wilson saved 6 lives today. He just keeps setting the bar higher. Keep Julia & the girls in your prayers #myherojw

— Stefan Wilson (@stef_wilson) August 25, 2015

Wilson, 37, was hit in the helmet by debris from Sage Karam's car. Karam had crashed while leading and pieces of his car were strewn across the track. A bouncing piece of debris was in the path of Wilson's car and after impact, his car swerved to the left and hit the inside wall.

NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series teams will run decals this weekend honoring Wilson (The Sprint Cup Series is off). Wilson's death was the first in the IndyCar Series since Dan Wheldon died in the final race of the 2011 season. Sunday's race at Sonoma is the final race of the 2015 season. With the offseason just a week away, there's plenty of time for conversations about what the series can do to increase protection for drivers' heads. Wilson was killed because his head was exposed with the IndyCar Series' open-cockpit design.

If you would like to be an organ donor, registration is simple. And you can help save muliple lives just like Wilson did. If you haven't signed up when renewing your driver's license, click your state on this map to begin the process.

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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: August 25, 2015, 6:59 pm

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The open cockpit design is one of the signatures of open-wheel racing. When you think of an open-wheel car, you likely think of a driver with his head sticking out of the car navigating the tricky turns of Monaco or the high-speed, 90-degree corners of Indianapolis.

Tradition is admittedly a tough thing to let go of. But after IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson's death from a head injury sustained at Pocono on Sunday afternoon, it's time to have a serious conversation about the open-cockpit tradition and consider if canopies – or at the very least, enhanced protection – are necessary to keep drivers as safe as possible.

Wilson died Monday because his head was exposed. When Sage Karam crashed, his car shattered into a bunch of pieces. One of those pieces appeared to be his car's nose cone. That piece of debris found Wilson and hit his helmet. It shot high into the air. Wilson's car veered to the right and slammed into the inside wall on Pocono's Long Pond Straightaway.

The meeting between the piece of debris from Karam's car and Wilson's helmet was a one-in-a-hundred chance. Possibly one-in-a-thousand. But what were the odds that Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi would slide into a tractor at Suzuka last fall? And what were the odds that Dan Wheldon's car would flip into the Las Vegas catchfence in a fiery crash in 2011?

They were slim. But in each, the ultimate worst-case scenario happened.

The IndyCar Series had been playing Russian Roulette with debris from its cars all season. The series installed the long-awaited aero-kits on its cars at the beginning of 2015. The trim pieces were designed to enhance the manufacturer identity of the Honda and Chevy cars, giving each a unique look. And while the kits have done just that, they've also made the cars seem like they were made of LEGO bricks.

This isn't cool. Cars shouldn't explode like grenades when they hit the wall. https://t.co/30V8q9YfU9

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) May 30, 2015

The ease with which an aero-kitted IndyCar exploded was on display from the first race of the season. And at Indianapolis, the first lap was a reminder of how dangerous flying debris could be. Look at how close this piece of car was to Takuma Sato's head.

This is why we need canopies, y'all. pic.twitter.com/Jvy7mJjarS

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) May 24, 2015

It's no secret that pieces breaking apart helps with energy dissipation in a crash. The more energy dissipated by the car means the less energy a driver has to absorb, and, ultimately, keeping him or her safer. But with drivers racing at high speed around accidents, the increase of pieces flying off cars increased the opportunities for drivers to be hit.

And heck, flying parts were a danger before the aero kits too. James Hinchcliffe, the man impaled by a suspension part during a practice crash for the Indianapolis 500 in May, was concussed when he was hit in the head – coincidentally – by a piece of Wilson's car at the 2014 Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Canopies in open-wheel cars aren't a brand new idea. NHRA Top Fuel cars have had canopies for the last few seasons and most all of the well-funded Top Fuel teams run chassis equipped with them. It's an idea that the IndyCar Series could implement before the 2016 season with minimal issues.

Of course, the idea doesn't come without drawbacks. Mechanisms would need to be installed to make sure that the canopy could be opened in the event of any type of crash. Without doors, escaping through the canopy is the only way out for drivers.

Or maybe a canopy isn't the answer. Pocono winner and former IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay said he's seen ideas for increased head protection for drivers. Is it possible to make a roof of sorts over and around a driver's head while still keeping the open-air feel of an IndyCar? Modern engineering is a wonderful thing. We think it could be done.

But either way, there's no excuse for IndyCar to maintain the status quo with its chassis design as it heads into the 2016 season. Even if the aero kits are tweaked and car parts are given more tethers to remain attached to the vehicle, it's clear that something needs to be done to protect drivers' heads. And if the answer means disregarding tradition, then so be it.

Safety has come a long way in auto racing. But complacency after the loss of a human life is inexcusable even if death is a sad staple of motorsports. While Wilson's death might have been simply the confluence of random events, the possibility of a similar situation happening again should be minimized as much as possible.

The future of the IndyCar Series might just depend on 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: August 25, 2015, 2:37 am

IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson, 37, died Monday after suffering a severe head injury at Pocono Raceway. The sports world took to Twitter to react to the tragic news.

Sending my prayers to Justin's family, Julia,Jessica,Jane, may God give the strength to find peace. #RIP my friend pic.twitter.com/SJO08gvuzG

— Helio Castroneves (@h3lio) August 25, 2015

So sad to hear that we lost Justin Wilson today. Thoughts & prayers to his family and friends.

— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) August 25, 2015

Thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, and to the @IndyCar family. #RIPJustinWilson

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 25, 2015

Wow, what a sad day. @justin_wilson was a good man. A great man. I had the pleasure of knowing him and pray for his family. 🙏🏼

— Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) August 25, 2015

Terrible and tragic news. Prayers to his family and friends. We are all family. #RIPJustin

— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) August 25, 2015

Why do we do this? Because we love it, don't want to be anywhere else but a race car. We will keep your legacy my friend. Racers race.

— Tony Kanaan (@TonyKanaan) August 25, 2015

Oh man, my heart is aching another friend gone.Godspeed to one of racing's truest gentlemen. #justinwilson

— Tony Kanaan (@TonyKanaan) August 25, 2015

Godspeed, JW. https://t.co/2Xp0MMPDBQ pic.twitter.com/UH4EcHvRwn

— Andretti Autosport (@FollowAndretti) August 25, 2015

My friend, brother, teammate and especially to one of the most amazing people I have had the pleasure to be around. I love u @justin_wilson

— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015

Life isn't fair sometimes. We lost one of the great ones today. One of the best ever. I know ur up there being a Wheelman JW. Ur amazing!!!

— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015

Thanks for showing all of us how to be a great race car driver but more importantly showing us all how to be so humble.#RIPJW. I will miss u

— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015

Most importantly his family. His beautiful wife and kids. His parents. His brother Stef. All of thoughts and prayers need to be with them.

— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015

Ur my boy forever. Love you @justin_wilson. One of the best ever. On and off the track. pic.twitter.com/kDZxxfj0jN

— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015

Our thoughts are with Justin Wilson's family and all of @IndyCar.

— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 25, 2015

Sad stuff about Justin Wilson man #RIP

— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) August 25, 2015

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of @justin_wilson. It's a sad day in the Motorsports industry.

— JJ Yeley (@jjyeley1) August 25, 2015
Author: Yahoo Sports Staff
Posted: August 25, 2015, 2:02 am

Justin Wilson was 37 years old. (AP)IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson died Monday after suffering a severe head injury at Pocono Raceway. He was 37.

Wilson was hit in the head by a piece of debris from Sage Karam's car. Karam, leading the race at the time, crashed by himself, spreading debris from his car across the track. What appeared to be the nose cone of Karam's car bounced on the track and struck a trailing Wilson in the helmet. Wilson was apparently knocked unconscious. His car then veered suddenly to the left and he struck the inside wall.

Wilson was airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pa., where he was in a coma.

IndyCar made the announcement of Wilson's passing at approximately 9 p.m. ET Monday. The sanctioning body did not take any questions about his death and said he died while surrounded by his family. Wilson is survived by his wife Julia and their two children.

"This is a monumentally sad day for IndyCar and the motorsports community as a whole," IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said in a statement. "Justin's elite ability to drive a race car was matched by his unwavering kindness, character and humility – which is what made him one of the most respected members of the paddock. As we know, the racing industry is one big family, and our efforts moving forward will be focused on rallying around Justin's family to ensure they get the support they need during this unbelievably difficult time."

The sanctioning body said it would answer questions surrounding Wilson's death in the coming days. Much of the conversation will include asking if the series' cars can be prevented from breaking apart so easily and if canopies are a realistic alternative. The open-cockpit design of an IndyCar is a longstanding open-wheel tradition. Wilson was hit in the helmet because his head was exposed.

Wilson is the first IndyCar Series driver to die since Dan Wheldon in 2011. Wheldon was killed after suffering a massive head injury in a large crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That was the final race of the season and was canceled after news of Wheldon's death. The final IndyCar Series race of the 2015 season is scheduled for Sunday at Sonoma.

Wilson, a native of Sheffield, England, had seven major U.S. open-wheel wins including three in the IndyCar Series. His last win came at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012. Earlier that year, he was a part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

This season, Wilson had been racing a part-time schedule for Andretti Autosport.

The racing world immediately responded to the news:

So sad to hear that we lost Justin Wilson today. Thoughts & prayers to his family and friends.

— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) August 25, 2015

My friend, brother, teammate and especially to one of the most amazing people I have had the pleasure to be around. I love u @justin_wilson

— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015

Oh man, my heart is aching another friend gone.Godspeed to one of racing's truest gentlemen. #justinwilson

— Tony Kanaan (@TonyKanaan) August 25, 2015

My heart goes out to the Wilson family of the loss of Justin. He was a great friend and even greater person. He will be sorely missed.#RIPJW

— Michael Andretti (@michaelandretti) August 25, 2015

I can't find the proper words to describe the pain and sympathy I feel for Justin and his family. #RIPJustin

— Sage Karam (@SageKaram) August 25, 2015

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: August 25, 2015, 1:10 am

Justin Wilson is still in a coma and in critical condition at an Allentown, Pennsylvania hospital as of Monday afternoon after suffering a severe head injury during Sunday's IndyCar race at Pocono.

Update on Justin Wilson. IndyCar continues to send it's thoughts & prayers to the family. #INDYCAR #PrayersForJustin pic.twitter.com/EcxZrCwT7f

— IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) August 24, 2015

Wilson was hit in the head by a piece of Sage Karam's car following Karam's crash. Karam was leading the race and debris from his crash scattered all over the track. What appeared to be the nose cone of his car was bouncing on the track and struck Wilson in the head. Wilson appeared to be knocked unconscious by the impact as his car then veered suddenly to the left and struck the inside wall after the impact.

Tony Stewart, the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion and former IndyCar driver, lent his plane for Wilson's family so they could get to the hospital to see him.

Karam was also taken to the hospital with a right foot injury.

Wilson, 36, was driving a part-time schedule in the IndyCar Series in 2015 for Andretti Autosport. He has three career IndyCar Series 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: August 24, 2015, 5:52 pm

IndyCar driver Justin Wilson suffered a severe head injury Sunday afternoon at Pocono Raceway when he was hit in the head by debris from Sage Karam's car after Karam crashed. As of 9 p.m. ET, the IndyCar Series said he's in a coma and in critical condition at an Allentown, Pennsylvania, hospital.

Wilson was airlifted from Pocono following the accident. Karam was leading when he crashed in front of the field. Wilson was hit in the head by the debris, apparently knocked unconscious, and his car then hit the inside wall.

The crash happened with 21 laps to go in the 500-mile race. Karam was taken to a local hospital for a right foot injury.

It looks like Wilson was hit in the helmet by the nose cone of Karam's car, which is a much heavier piece of bodywork than others. You can see in this slow-motion replay how high the debris shoots into the air after it hits Wilson and how his car suddenly veers to the left after the hit.

Please be aware that this is a video of someone suffering a possible serious head injury.

#IndyCar Este fue el momento en el que un pedazo desprendido del carro de Karam le pegó a @justin_wilson en la cabeza pic.twitter.com/kwHuZ6kbQE

— Gaby Manzo (@GabyManzoJ) August 23, 2015

Wilson, 36, has driven in major American open-wheel racing since the 2004 season. He was driving a partial schedule in 2015 for Andretti Autosport. He has seven wins in CART and IndyCar. His most recent win was at Texas in 2012.

It's not the first time that a driver has been hit in the head with debris recently. James Hinchcliffe suffered a concussion when he was hit from flying parts at the 2014 Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Like Formula 1 cars, IndyCars do not have canopies above the drivers' heads. However, canopies in open-cockpit cars aren't unprecedented. The NHRA approved canopies for its Top Fuel dragsters in 2012.

Wilson's teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, won 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: August 23, 2015, 10:48 pm

The 2015 Chase may have 15 drivers locked in when the green flag drops at Richmond on September 12.

Thanks to a relatively drama-free event at Bristol on Saturday night, all but one Chase spot could be decided when the series races for the final time in the regular season. While some drivers currently in the Chase had a much better night than others, if every driver maintains his position and points gap at Darlington on September 6 and a driver who has won before in 2015 wins again, Clint Bowyer will be the only nervous driver (currently in the Chase) in Richmond.

How so? 11 drivers within the top 30 in the points standings have won races. They're locked in the Chase as long as they stay in the top 30. That leaves five spots – as of now – for drivers who haven't won races. Let's take a look at the standings.

12. Jamie McMurray (76 points ahead of Aric Almirola): All McMurray has to do is start the race at Darlington. OK, it's a bit more complicated than that, but after finishing 11th at Bristol, he just needs to avoid catastophe while Almirola doesn't win to clinch a spot in the Chase. That seems feasible, right?

13. Ryan Newman (+63 on Almirola): Newman finished 10th. His recipe for 2014 that got him to the final round of the Chase seems to be working again in 2015. Just keep on cooking, Newman.

14. Paul Menard: (+54 on Almirola): Paul Menard in the Chase! Yes, this is a legit possibility. Without laps led, he just has to finish less than six spots behind Almirola at Darlington (with a repeat winner or a winner from the drivers currently inside the Chase) to clinch a spot in the Chase when Richmond comes around. And a Chase berth means Menard will have to do interviews for the first time in what seems like forever.

15. Jeff Gordon: (+52 on Almirola): Gordon had a horrible night with his gorgeous rainbow car and made two late green flag pit stops. Well, relatively speaking given that the first green flag stop happened when he was in the top five. He finished 20th and just has to finish ahead of Almirola with close to the same parenthetical circumstances as Menard to lock in at Richmond.

16. Clint Bowyer (+35 on Almirola): If Bowyer doesn't move to 15th without a new winner at Atlanta, he's going to be the driver on the bubble. He can lessen the drama if he can finish 14 spots ahead of Almirola at Darlington even if he doesn't pass Gordon in the standings. Why? Well, if that happens, the only way Bowyer gets knocked out of the Chase is if a driver outside the tentative Chase standings at Richmond wins. And given the way this season has gone, it seems highly unlikely.

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Currently out of the Chase:

17. Almirola: He finished 17th, which isn't terrible. But it's not optimal given that Bowyer finished fifth and expanded his lead by 12 points.

18. Kasey Kahne (-37 to Bowyer): Kahne finished 16th. He won last year on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. He may need to do it again at Darlington to get in.

19. Greg Biffle (-83 to Bowyer): Just win, baby.

20. Austin Dillon (-91 to Bowyer): Read the Biffle line.

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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: August 23, 2015, 3:42 am

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With two races to go before the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Joe Gibbs Racing has installed itself as the favorite with seven wins over the past 10 races. If you're naming challengers to JGR for the title of best team at the moment, Team Penske is at the top of the list. And its because of a former Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Joey Logano got his third win of the season Saturday night at Bristol, holding off Kevin Harvick for his second-straight win at Bristol in August. Logano now has the third-most wins in the Cup Series, behind Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch with four, and tied with Matt Kenseth.

Logano had to battle through lapped traffic at the end of the race but was quicker than Harvick off the corners through the final laps. While Harvick could power his car into the corners faster than Logano, he lost the time he made up on entry off the corner, and Logano was able to pull away on Bristol's short straightaways.

The win was also Logano's second win in the past three races. He won two weeks ago at Watkins Glen, his first win since he won the season-opening Daytona 500.

Busch has been the story of the Sprint Cup Series since he returned from broken bones in his legs and feet at Daytona and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have also been fast too as Kenseth has won two of the last four races. But while Gibbs has been the fastest team, Logano has been fast too. He has eight top-10 finishes in the past 10 races.

Harvick's been pretty damn good too. Saturday night was his second-straight second-place finish and his third week in the top three. It was also his seventh-straight top-five finish, a recipe that's sure to be successful in the Chase, where avoiding bad finishes is imperative.

Though winning not only gets you bonus points when the Chase begin, it also automatically advances you to the next round during it. And the wins are why Logano and JGR have to be feeling good about their chances as well.

Both Harvick and Logano were in the final round of the 2014 Chase along with Denny Hamlin, another JGR driver and Saturday night's third-place finisher. Could history repeat itself? A lot can change as the Chase goes on as the three-race per round format lends itself to randomness. One bad finish could eliminate a favorite.

But if you're going to guess who is in the final round of the Chase in 2015, you could do far worse than Logano, Harvick and a Gibbs driver or two.

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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: August 23, 2015, 3:15 am

Denny Hamlin won two pole awards on Friday at Bristol. His teammate Kyle Busch qualfied second twice as well.

Hamlin set a track record at Bristol on Friday with a lap of 130.407 MPH to edge out Busch and will start first for Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race. Just about 90 minutes before Hamlin won the pole for the Cup race, he qualified first for Friday night's Xfinity Series race. Yep, Busch starts second there too.

Their Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards will start third, giving the team another impressive effort in a summer that they've owned. The team's cars have been the fastest in the Cup Series over the last few weeks and Friday was the second-straight time the team has had the top three qualifiers. The only question is if the speed will carry over when the Chase begins in September at Chicago.

Toyota also had the top four starting spots. David Ragan, driving for Michael Waltrip Racing and a driver who helped subbed for Busch while he was recovering from injuries he suffered in February, qualified fourth. Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing's other driver and Sunday's race winner at Michigan, qualified 13th, just missing out on the final round of qualifying.

Busch has been one of the best drivers at Bristol in recent memory. If he gets a win on Saturday night he'll have a series-leading five wins. The only driver to win all three (Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity, Sprint Cup) races in a Bristol weekend, Busch finished second in the Truck Series race on Wednesday night.

The pole also means it's a happy return to Bristol for Hamlin. He was forced to get out of the car in March during a rain delay after he had a spasm in his neck. He was replaced by JGR development driver Erik Jones, who turned his first NASCAR green flag laps at Bristol in his first time in a Cup car.

Hamlin also gets this, uh, unique trophy.

Which #NASCAR Cup driver will take home this piece of hardware? #BassProQual #ItsBristolBahttp://t.co/OrJ0SAEbxk pic.twitter.com/3bhfFmjsx0

— BristolMotorSpeedway (@BMSupdates) August 21, 2015

Jeb Burton, Travis Kvapil and Reed Sorenson missed the race.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: August 21, 2015, 10:47 pm

Jeff Gordon's car for Saturday night's race at Bristol looks different. But it's incredibly familiar.

Gordon is driving a rainbow paint scheme very similar to the iconic one he drove in the 1990s. The only noticeable difference is that the car bears the name of Axalta instead of DuPont. The company became Axalta as part of an acquisition in early 2013. Gordon is retiring at the end of 2015 and Saturday's race is his final start at Bristol.

"I thought driving the rainbow paint scheme was in my rearview mirror, but the fans overwhelmingly fought for it and wanted to see it one more time," Gordon said Friday. "Thanks to Axalta for making that happen.  What I love is if you get close up to it, it shows some of their modern technology and coatings. It’s a little fancier than it used to be. It’s very cool. I was very proud this morning to not only see all the cool gear from what all the fans were sporting out there, but to hop in that car. You forget how this car made an impact back in the day. As I got in the car I don’t get to see it on the track, I’m driving it."

"You can’t miss this car on the track. It just stands out. Luckily when we ran this car in the early to mid-90s it stood out. It turned a lot of people into fans that are still life-long fans. Those people are the ones that are so grateful to have this car back on the track, but I am too. I was really proud to get behind the wheel.”

Gordon's right. It does look really good.

Bristol also announced Friday that one of its sections of grandstands would be named for Gordon next year. The Jeff Gordon Terrace will join other sections of grandstand named for drivers like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and others.

Gordon is currently on track to make the Chase, though he would get in on points. He's winless this season and said that he feels that Hendrick Motorsports is behind a little bit. Joe Gibbs Racing has been the strongest team of the summer. Kyle Busch has won four races since his return from his Daytona injuries and Matt Kenseth has two wins as well.

"I think that we know that we are behind," Gordon said. "I think we are behind as an organization. I think we are behind as the No. 24 team. I think that if we can run to our potential or even what I think we are capable of right now I think that we make the Chase. What happens when we get in the Chase who knows? When you get a reset there are some tracks that are very good tracks for us in the Chase. Does that put us in the championship contender mode? I don’t know we’ve got a lot of work to do to do that. We are missing some speed and we are working hard to try to find 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: August 21, 2015, 9:25 pm

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You can scratch off Chip Ganassi Racing as a possible destination for Clint Bowyer in 2016.

Bowyer said Friday that he and Michael Waltrip co-owner Rob Kauffman were going their separate ways. Kauffman agreed to purchase a stake in Chip Ganassi Racing earlier in the month and Michael Waltrip Racing announced this week that Bowyer was free to find another ride and the team would not field a full-time entry in 2016.

Ganassi had been mentioned as a possible candidate for Bowyer because the team fields two cars and has the ability to expand. However, the team said it would stay at two cars for 2016. Ganassi currently has Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.

"We’re eight months into a three-year commitment," Bowyer said of his contract with MWR. He re-upped with the team in 2014. "Again, Rob has invested a tremendous amount into MWR and into this sport. That being said, he made a business decision to move forward and that direction as we all know from his previous statements is the Ganassi organization. For my career and me and my future, it’s just unfortunate and Rob and I, our futures didn’t align anymore. It’s as simple as that. It was a mutually agreed upon thing and it was something that was not ugly and it was something that we did professionally and we made our decisions and that’s why we’re where we’re at."

Kauffman said Michael Waltrip Racing was no longer commercially viable. Your browser does not support iframes. From NASCAR Talk:

“Michael Waltrip Racing really wouldn’t have existed through today without substantial and continued financial support from me,’’ Kauffman said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I think just from a business standpoint that didn’t make sense any longer. You can’t have a top-10 budget and top-10 resources and not be in the top 10 for a sustained period of time.

“It’s a performance-related business. It’s a great sport, but a very difficult business model. From a business decision it just made sense to not go forward with that organization because it isn’t really commercially viable.’

Bowyer is fighting to make the Chase on points as he's winless in 2015. He hasn't won since 2012, when he finished second in the points standings. Kauffman had said he made the announcement about the dissolution of the team during the season to help prevent a postseason surprise for all of the people who have jobs with MWR. The early notice can help them find positions for 2016 with other teams as well.

While Bowyer is the big focus of the drama at MWR because of his stature within NASCAR, there are many people without seven-figure annual incomes looking for work for next season.

“These employees are real people with real lives with real families and a lot at stake," Bowyer said. "They’re racers just like I am. The racer in you doesn’t change the reality side of life and reality is that you need to provide for your family. I thought it was extremely important to me to get in front of that and I owed it to these employees to get this done as soon as possible even knowing where we’re at on the bubble and everything in the Chase. I think being honest and being straightforward and doing that for these people in the long run will set them up to make the most out of a difficult situation for us all and that’s me included. I need to start actively pursuing my career and that’s what I’m doing. The first piece of the puzzle is set on the table and now we have to go to work on all of our behalves. As far as our performance just like you said, I thought it was more dangerous in more mind of making an announcement like we did in Pocono and not saying anything for another month and a half, we owe it to those people to be honest with them and it was not a day later than what we made our agreement that they were told.”

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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: August 21, 2015, 5:47 pm

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

Welcome back to Happy Hour after a week off. We made sure to attempt to recharge in anticipation of not only the final 13 races of the Sprint Cup Series season, but the upcoming college football season, which kicks off in two short weeks. And there's the prospect of playoff baseball coverage on the horizon too, so we had to enjoy the summer while we still could. Hopefully you've had a chance to get away from everything for a bit this summer as well.

The news of the week is certainly Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing. So we'll start with them.

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@NickBromberg TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS ON IF/WHERE CLINT BOWYER AND DAVID RAGAN END UP. THAT'S NOT REALLY A QUESTION, BUT YOU GET MY POINT.

— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) August 20, 2015

This is a complicated question. Let's look at open seats in the Sprint Cup Series via existing multi-car teams. We're going to assume that Furniture Row has one open spot given the team's expressed desire to add a second car depending on sponsorship.

Penske Racing: 2
Chip Ganassi Racing: 2
HScott Motorsports: 2
Furniture Row Racing:
Richard Petty Motorsports: 2
Roush Fenway Racing: 1
Front Row Racing:
Richard Childress Racing: 1
BK Racing: 1

Penske has not been mentioned in any expansion rumors and could be considered a three-car team if you count the Wood Brothers and Ryan Blaney. They're not in this. CGR could be a destination for Bowyer, as previously reported, but his statement with Michael Waltrip Racing earlier in the week made it seem like he was not going to be racing on a team owned by Rob Kauffman next year.

RCR is likely out too, not because of Bowyer's previous relationship with them, but that if RCR goes to four teams, it makes more sense to do so with Ty Dillon, unless the team puts Dillon in a Circle Sport Racing car or another team for a year or so. But that's not a likely long-term scenario; having Ty on one team and Austin on another doesn't seem feasible.

Outside of newly super-competitive Furniture Row, everyone else on this list is not an upgrade, right? We may be biased because Bowyer is from near where we grew up, but we think he can be a championship-caliber driver. And he's not only showed that at Michael Waltrip Racing. When he was at RCR, he would have been a legit title threat in 2010 if not for the New Hampshire penalty.

The wild card in all of this is HScott Motorsports. According to a report by Motorsport, HScott could be a destination for Bowyer, possibly in the way that Red Bull was for Kasey Kahne in 2011. Why? It says Bowyer has been mentioned – an idea that has also been brought up by USA Today – for the No. 14 currently driven by Tony Stewart.

That idea at least makes sense when you play the what-if game. HScott has an equipment affiliation with Stewart-Haas (an affiliate of an affiliate!), and you could imagine SHR putting a lot of resources into a Bowyer effort with the idea he'd be eventually an official member of the team. And besides, the No. 15 as a teammate to the No. 51 works perfectly, right?

And Bowyer has what Ragan doesn't: A sponsor. 5-Hour Energy will likely go with him wherever he ends up. Ragan doesn't have a sponsor to bring to the table, unless he can somehow take Aaron's with him from the remains of Michael Waltrip Racing. Could he return to Front Row Motorsports? His path looks even murkier than Bowyer's.

@NickBromberg sponsorship aside do you think there would have been a markedly better FA option than Danica for SHR beyond Bowyer?

— Keith D (@kdesorm2) August 20, 2015

Not really.

And when you add in the sponsorship and exposure aspect for Danica Patrick, re-signing her is an absolute no-brainer. Yes, a lot of you will post hateful comments and send us angry emails about her and her success in the Cup Series, but those comments are proof of her relevancy. If she wasn't relevant, you wouldn't care enough to type out your thoughts. That exposure is massive. You can be popular and not entirely well-liked. It's not a new or foreign concept.

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It's too bad, but I have not been able to watch a race since NBC started broadcasting the Sprint Cup races. - Tom

Why do these emails continue to exist? Does everyone who doesn't get NBC Sports Network say it out loud? While we understand cable is expensive, it's not prohibitively expensive to upgrade to the tier that NBC Sports Network is on, is it? It's increasingly on the same tier as ESPN, which had NASCAR rights last year. The same goes for Fox Sports 1 too, its distribution is not massive when compared to NBCSN's.

And besides, if you didn't have access to ESPN, you couldn't see any of the Chase races in 2014. You can't say that about NBC's coverage. There will be races on network television.

Paying to watch sports on television is something that will not go away. And if you don't want to get cable -- for reasons that we would understand -- go find a bar that has cheap drinks on Sunday afternoons and make friends with the bartender. There are numerous ways to watch races that may not be on your television through your provider.

@NickBromberg Pave all the grass and have Phoenix moves every race, or bring the softwalls to the inside edges of grass? Or do nothing?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) August 20, 2015

We have another idea. Cut the damn splitters off the front of the cars.

While we understand the reasoning for paving lots of areas at tracks where grass is currently, having SAFER barrier around every inch of feasible wall-space at a track seems more important. And how much would the complaints about the infield grass go down if the cars weren't situated so low to the ground.

The pass in the grass simply couldn't happen with the cars of 2015. If it did, the car in the grass would be incredibly torn up, or, at best, start overheating with sod all over the intake. If the front end of the cars are raised up a few inches, not only is downforce taken away – and it's increasingly obvious that these cars need less downforce – but they don't become bulldozers when they hit the grass.

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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: August 20, 2015, 9:19 pm

Welcome to Random Recaps, a weekly feature at From The Marbles. In this space, we'll recap a random race from the past at the track the where Sprint Cup Series is racing next.This week's race is the 1985 Busch 500. And as always, Random Recap is truly random thanks to Random.org.

Dale Earnhardt dominated the Busch 500 Saturday night, leading 343 of the race's 500 laps en route to his third win of the season.

Earnhardt started on the pole and led the first 75 laps. He surrendered the lead for the final time to Tim Richmond on lap 447, but passed Richmond with 18 laps to go for the win. Richmond finished second while Neil Bonnett was third and Darrell Waltrip was fourth.

Waltrip led 87 laps. The four drivers were the only four to finish on the lead lap. Bill Elliott, who finished fifth, was the only car one lap down.

The race was slowed by 11 cautions for 82 laps and Earnhardt beat Richmond to the finish line by three car lengths.

Elliott's points lead over Waltrip is now at 138 points with nine races to go in the season. Bonnett is third, 276 points back while Harry Gant is fourth, 341 points behind.

Epilogue: This race's box score is the perfect example of how NASCAR wasn't so close in the good old days, or perhaps not as good as people want to remember it. Imagine the outrage if four drivers finished on the lead lap on Saturday night. And Lake Speed, who finished 10th, was 10 laps down. That would make fans apoplectic.

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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: August 19, 2015, 9:08 pm

NASCAR tracks apparently double as wildlife preserves.

Animals have become a common sight during events recently (remember the cat at Atlanta?) and a rabbit delayed the Camping World Truck Series practice on Wednesday at Bristol.

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After NASCAR officials threw a caution flag because the rabbit was against one of the outside walls, track officials and safety workers attempted to try to catch it. It did not go well.

This is what you are missing in truck practice right now https://t.co/NsDxVWLUGq

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) August 19, 2015

Upon realizing that circling the rabbit with numerous workers wasn't going to work, metal buckets became part of the trapping equation. It too did not solve the rabbit problem. But at least provided us some entertainment.

When you try to catch a rabbit with a metal bucket https://t.co/slI7NIrD9m

— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) August 19, 2015

The rabbi eventually made its way to the infield and practice was able to resume. The Truck Series races Wednesday night.

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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: August 19, 2015, 4:08 pm

Michael Waltrip Racing and Clint Bowyer are parting ways at the end of the 2015 season. The team will also not field a full-time car in 2016.

MWR made the announcement Wednesday morning. The team is in a state of flux after news emerged earlier this summer that co-owner Rob Kauffman had agreed to purchase a stake of Chip Ganassi Racing.

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“I want to thank Michael, Rob and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that made these past four years special," Bowyer said. "After extensive discussions with Rob and MWR, we came to the point that we mutually agreed our paths in the future just didn’t align but I think we all agreed on the next steps in a very professional manner. I am looking forward to what future opportunities may come but for now we have a championship to pursue in 2015 and we owe it to every one of our sponsors, partners, employees and fans to deliver on and off the track.”

Bowyer has been mentioned as a possibility to join Kauffman at Ganassi Racing if the team decides to expand to a third team to join with Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. According to a Sports Business Journal report of Kauffman's move to buy part of Ganassi, Bowyer and sponsor 5-Hour Energy would be a package deal. However, when reading Kauffman's statement (included below) it can seem like he and Bowyer will not be working together next season.

The news that MWR wouldn't field a full-time team in 2016 means the No. 55 will also be drastically different if it exists at all. The car, sponsored by Aaron's, is currently driven by David Ragan after Brian Vickers was sidelined with blood clots earlier this season.

Aaron's had said it was evaluating its options when it came to continuing its relationship with MWR, which is up for renewal at the end of the year. If Aaron's decides to stay in NASCAR (and not with MWR in a part-time capacity), its sponsorship will be coveted throughout the garage.

“MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season," Kauffman said. "This decision was made after weighing several different options and scenarios. 

“I felt it was important to make an announcement as soon as we had clarity, so that is what we are doing today. I want to thank all of our staff, partners, sponsors and fans for all their effort and support over the years.

“Clint Bowyer has done a lot for MWR since joining us in 2012 and we appreciate the energy and effort he has given the organization. After many discussions, Clint and I agreed we would go our separate ways at the end of the season and I wish him well in whatever direction he pursues.”

Bowyer finished second in the 2012 Sprint Cup Series standings to Brad Keselowski. But the downfall of MWR started in 2013, when Bowyer intentionally spun at Richmond to keep then-teammate Martin Truex Jr. in the Chase while Vickers lagged at the back of the pack. While most collapses are the combination of multiple events, in MWR's case, it's increasingly clear that the spin at Richmond blew up the foundation of the team, leaving a top-heavy building with no base.

Truex and Bowyer were both briefly in the Chase after the spin. But NASCAR penalized Truex's team, effectively kicking the No. 55 out of the Chase. NAPA, which sponsored Truex at the time, elected to leave the team after the manipulation scandal. Without the funding, MWR was forced to scale back to two full-time teams.

Since then, the team's performance hasn't been the same. Instead of competing for race wins, the team has been resigned to competing just to sneak in to the Chase. Bowyer currently occupies the last spot in the Chase standings.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: August 19, 2015, 1:39 pm

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

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 3): Matt Kenseth is the trendy pick here, but Harvick, the master of second place and the master of not saying anything after the race that would be considered criticism of NASCAR, gets the top spot because he was a spot ahead of Kenseth last week. Do you think we'll be able to talk about Sunday's snoozer of a race for the entirety of this Power Rankings column? Let's find out.

2. Matt Kenseth (LW: 4): Despite being off for the weekend, we watched the final 120 laps from the comfort of the waiting area at an airport gate (thanks, free WiFi!). Boy, was Kenseth good. That car was incredibly fast and no one was going to get a chance to challenge him. While the No. 20 team has to be proud of the super-bad-fast car it built, they're probably wishing it wasn't a one-off race when it came to the rules. 

3. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): Busch finished 11th after starting from the back with a backup car. He sliced his way through the field on a day where people couldn't pass. While 11th seems like a bad day given Busch's recent run of form, every week he avoids a bad finish is a win. And he should be good at Bristol. How crazy would it be if he takes sole possession of the Sprint Cup Series wins lead on Saturday night?

4. Joey Logano (LW: 2): Logano finished seventh. On Monday morning on SiriusXM, NASCAR Vice President Steve O'Donnell admitted that the aero tweaks made at Michigan – we are absolutely sick of typing "package" and are looking for any and all synonyms to replace it – and would make adjustments. O'Donnell did call Kentucky a success, which was good to hear. Hopefully Darlington gets some more rave reviews, because if NASCAR is going to make changes for 2016, it's pretty obvious that the Michigan and Indy changes aren't the way to go.

5. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 9): NASCAR announced last week that there would be no more rules tweaks for the Chase and the rules that were in place at the beginning of the season when it comes to tech specs would be the rules for the Chase. In no other sport is "Rules don't change for playoffs" a headline, but we all know that NASCAR is not like any of the other sports. A driver who is happy about that is Truex, because his team has figured out the 2015 rules as well as anyone. He finished third at Michigan.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 5): Junior fought back at the end to finish 10th at Michigan. When we tuned in, he was in 19th, mired with other drivers in Hendrick-powered cars. While his teammate we'll mention below fell and Tony Stewart spun, Junior went towards the front. He got five positions on the final green flag run. And yeah, here's where we run out of things to say about that parade.

7. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 6): Not a good day for the No. 48 team. Going to really hurt them in the points standings. Oh, what's that? The points don't matter? Well, they do matter, but thanks to four wins, they don't matter for the No. 48. You know that Johnson and Knaus want to be the wins leaders at the end of the year, and you have to think they need to get that fifth win at Bristol or Atlanta. Richmond hasn't been the kindest of tracks.

8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 7): NASCAR made the teams of Keselowski and Logano change their splitters before the race. While they didn't necessarily fail inspection, they didn't pass either. Both cars ended up finishing in the top 10. When asked about his thoughts on NASCAR's rules, Keselowski provided us with this: “It doesn’t matter what my thoughts and observations are, it is what NASCAR wants. Whatever they want to do.”

9. Denny Hamlin (LW: NR): Hamlin finished fifth. He said "It was tough, definitely tough to pass." And then he said "We had a great car on the long runs, but restarts are where we really, really struggled and just couldn’t overcome the dirty air once we got singled out or single file out there.” The second of the comments really summarizes the race well. Drivers had essentially two minutes to make a pass and then the race got really strung out and ... yeah.

10. Carl Edwards (LW: 11): Here's what Carl Edwards had to say. Knowing Edwards' prefrence for minimal downforce, the comments aren't surprising. “I think it’s pretty clear that the more aerodynamic devices that you put on these cars, the bigger hole they put in the air and the worse it is to drive them and be able to pass," Edwards said. "As long as NASCAR just keeps going the other way, just as long as they go to real low downforce. Not just a lower downforce, but if this is worse and Kentucky is better then let’s just keep going that direction. I really hope we do. NASCAR says they’re working on it and they want the best product for the fans and this was something that they tried. It could have worked, but I think it was obvious today that it was pretty tough to pass.”

11. Kurt Busch (LW: 10): Busch ended up in 20th after he had a flat tire and had to make a green flag pit stop. Before that, he had one of the best saves of the race. In turns one and two a lesser driver would have crashed the car given how loose it was. But Busch saved it and kept on going. He's "fallen" all the way to eighth in the standings because of these recent struggles, though they haven't been because of a lack of speed.

12. Ryan Newman (LW: NR): Newman ended up eighth, which is even more impressive when you consider the damage he got when Clint Bowyer went crashing on the backstretch. Newman's day – and his Chase hopes – could have taken a big hit, but he's instead in 12th. Without the 50-point penalty his team received for tire manipulation earlier in the year, Newman would be the top winless driver in the points standings.

Lucky Dog: Austin Dillon, who finished fourth and might have had the fastest car he's had all season.

The DNF: Clint Bowyer, who went for a spin and now has only 23 points on Aric Almirola for the final spot in the Chase (as of now).

Dropped Out: Bowyer, No one

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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: August 18, 2015, 5:24 pm

Danica Patrick is staying at Stewart-Haas Racing. And she's got a replacement for her current sponsor, GoDaddy.

Nature's Bakery will be Patrick's primary sponsor in 2016. The company will sponsor 28 races after GoDaddy announced earlier this year that it was leaving Patrick's No. 10 car at the conclusion of the 2015 season. Nature's Bakery is a "snacks and food brand that supports health conscious living and active lifestyles with our 4 pinnacles of achieving balance - nature, activity, nutrition and community."

According to team co-owner Tony Stewart, Patrick's contract extension is a "multi-year" agreement. Teams generally line up driver and contract sponsorships so they can be reworked at the same time.

Patrick, 33, has been with Stewart-Haas Racing ever since she moved to the Sprint Cup Series in 2012. In 105 career Cup Series starts she has six top-10 finishes. She's currently 21st in the 2015 standings and has two top-10 finishes in 23 races. While Patrick has received criticism for her lack of race wins and time spent at the front of the field, she remains as one of NASCAR's more marketable drivers. Stewart-Haas had said it wanted to keep Patrick as a member of its four-car team as a teammate to Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Stewart.

“It’s an honor to represent Nature’s Bakery and also a great deal of responsibility,” Patrick said in a team release. “They have ambitious goals and they’re going to rely on me and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing to deliver. I have ambitious goals too. It’s why I came to NASCAR and, specifically, to Stewart-Haas Racing. There’s still a lot I want to achieve in this sport and I’m looking to continue my professional journey with a brand as determined as I am.”

Patrick was the face of GoDaddy's marketing efforts when she was sponsored by the company in both the IndyCar Series and in NASCAR. The company cited a desire to move to more international marketing when it said it was leaving NASCAR in April and said it would like to sign Patrick to a personal services contract.

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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: August 18, 2015, 3:15 pm

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If you're a fan of the good ol' days of NASCAR, boy, did you love Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Let's be clear: when we say "good ol' days," we're not talking about the beer-drinking, hell-raising, fists-flying days of men like Earnhardt, Petty, Waltrip and the like. No, we're talking about the days where one car was dominant, only a couple others even had a prayer of sniffing the lead, cars spread out like a high-speed parade, and passing for the lead was an urban legend.

Matt Kenseth won the race, and he deserves all the credit for that. Kenseth held the pole and led 146 of the race's 200 laps, and every element of the afternoon clicked in his favor. But it'll be far more important for the remainder of the regular season to consider the day's losers.

Start with the new rules package that NASCAR brought back for this particular race. Just as with Indianapolis several weeks ago, spoiler height was increased from six to nine inches, with other tweaks around the car. The intent was to improve downforce; the result wasn't quite so pretty. 

Brad Keselowski called it almost precisely on Twitter before the race:

Expecting inside temps and passing to be the hardest any driver has faced before. Yellow flags, strategy & restarts will produce the winner.

— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) August 16, 2015

He was dead-on. Temperatures inside the car topped 150 degrees; for comparison purposes, 149 degrees is the temperature necessary to fry an egg. Dale Earnhardt Jr. offered a bit more perspective:

Often wondered what it was like to drive stockcars in the 70s. Careful what you wish for. Hot as hell n mine. Cale woulda been right @ home.

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 16, 2015

Restarts were paramount; the only opportunity anyone had to catch the leader, whoever that was, came during one of the relatively infrequent cautions. In this, Kenseth excelled. Austin Dillon, Carl Edwards, and Kevin Harvick were the only true competitors for Kenseth, but no one could hang with the Dollar General #20 for very long.

Drivers toed the party line when talking about the new package, but it's not hard to read between the lines on these quotes:

pic.twitter.com/HnBGUtOBsL

— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 16, 2015

Keselowski on high drag package: “It’s not my right to say. It’s not my sport, so whatever they want to do, we’ll race it. That's my job."

— Geoffrey Miller (@GeoffreyMiller) August 16, 2015

This sport survived over 50 years of trail & error. It'll survive long after 2day. Happy @nascar makes such efforts 2 try & improve racing.

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 16, 2015

A few other drivers on the afternoon warrant mentioning. Kyle Busch continued his assault on the sport with a relentless charge from last place (thanks to a car change) to the front. Busch pulled off the first sneaky-smart move of the race, dropping four seconds back as the green flag flew. He knew the new rules package could cause problems in pack racing, and sure enough, David Ragan spun in the second turn of the race. Busch can't afford to be caught up in any early wrecks; his Chase hopes remain fragile even with four wins because of the need to remain in the top 30.

Two other drivers spun without assistance from others: Tony Stewart on lap 136 and Jimmie Johnson on lap 183. The spin further hampered Stewart's flickering Chase hopes, while Johnson's 48 team continues to look tentative, uncertain, and not at all championship-caliber.

Worst luck of the day belonged to Clint Bowyer, who bounced off both the outside and inside walls on lap 126, damaging both his suspension and his chances of making the Chase. Bowyer finished the race in 41st, leaving him in 16th place and just 23 points ahead of Aric Almirola. Bowyer is now vulnerable to any victory by a driver who hasn't yet won a race, and will spend the last three races of the regular season with a tense grip on the wheel.

Next up: Bristol, which is often good for curing what ails NASCAR, then Darlington and Richmond to close out the regular season. Going to be a dramatic few weeks, but the drivers have to be hoping they get more opportunities to run up front than they did on Sunday.

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

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: August 16, 2015, 10:25 pm

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

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): It's hard to dislodge a driver from the top spot because of a second-place finish. And we're also not going to blame Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens for the fuel strategy they employed at Watkins Glen. Stevens wanted Busch to save gas because he figured there would be a caution for cars who pitted before the No. 18 running out of fuel. There wasn't, and Busch ended up backing off the pace of the leaders. But by playing it conservatively, Busch still got a top-two finish and he's now inside the top 30. Barring a catastrophe, he'll be in the Chase.

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2. Joey Logano (LW: 3): Quite a nice weekend for Logano. Not only did he win a fuel-mileage race the week after losing a race because he was short on fuel, he recorded a weekend sweep of the two races at the Glen after he won the Xfinity Series race on Saturday. We're just surprised that Logano didn't force the drivers ahead of him to run out of fuel. While he was pushing as hard as he could, others who had pitted earlier were trying to save all they could. And they still made it, even ...

3. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick, and yes, we're counting Harvick as making it to the end. He was still moving when he crossed the finish line, right? It feels cruel to bump Harvick down a spot after the incredible job he did saving gas. He should have been a lot shorter on fuel than he was, but not only did he save nearly enough gas, he ran fast enough laps to keep all of his challengers at bay. Until his car sputtered, anyway. He might have had the drive of the day.

4. Matt Kenseth (LW: 5): Kenseth finished fourth, so he gets moved up a spot. He was a gas-saver too and it worked out. Did you know it was Kenseth's first top-five finish at Watkins Glen too? It was his sixth top-10 at the road course but he had never finished higher than eighth in upstate New York. Not only did Kenseth do a good job of saving gas, he had a fast enough car to get him a damn good finish.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 7): Here's another guy who hasn't had the best track record at Watkins Glen. Junior just missed out on his fourth top 10 with an 11th-place finish. And the finish doesn't show the speed the No. 88 had all day. He was a consistent fixture in the top 10 and had speed to stay in sight of the leaders. He too was forced to save gas and got pushed out of the top 10 by guys who had pitted later and could run hard.

6. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 4): The six-time champ finished 10th and had quite the eventful day too. He missed the bus stop early in the race as Junior went to pass him; a move that dropped him more than 10 spots. It was the smart manuever though; had Johnson tried to dive into the corner, he could have taken out both cars. He then was in a little kerfuffle with Justin Allgaier and found himself spun in the carousel while Tony Stewart broke. After all that, a top 10 sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

7. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): Keselowski finished second on Saturday and seventh on Sunday. He led for a bit after fortuitously pitting before an early-race caution flag flew and inheriting the lead. But then pit strategy didn't work out in his favor late in the race and he restarted outside of the top 20 on the race's final restart. Fresh tires and a full load of fuel helped him make up 15 spots over that run.

8. Kurt Busch (LW: 9): Busch got a pit road penalty early in the race that put him at the back of the field. He pitted right before the first caution of the day but his team had too many crew members over the wall. After he spent a decent portion of the race back in traffic, he too pitted on the final caution and ended up with his second-straight top-five finish at Watkins Glen.

9. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 6): Truex had one of the day's strongest cars but contact led to a tire rub which led to a late pit stop which led to a 25th-place finish. But hey, let's look on the bright side. Truex is locked into the Chase. Well, we knew he was going to make it anyway, but he can now sit out the rest of the races before the Chase and still make it in. Given that missing races has worked for Kyle Busch, should other teams try this strategy? Please, don't think that's a serious question.

10. Clint Bowyer (LW: 12): Correlation is not causation, so we're not going to say the rumors of a merger/partnership/split/whatever it ends up being between Michael Waltrip Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing have lit a fire under Bowyer and the No. 15 team. But as the news has swirled, Bowyer has shone. He finished sixth at Watkins Glen for his third-straight top-10 finish and sixth in the last eight races.

11. Carl Edwards (LW: 11): Is Edwards an underrated road racer? He finished eighth on Sunday and has finished in the top 10 in five of the last six road course races. The only finish outside the top 40 was the crash he had with David Ragan at Sonoma. And he was running in the top 10 when that happened. Edwards will likely never be considered a big favorite at a road course, but he's in the top tier.

12. There's no one else: Got any suggestions? Jeff Gordon, who was 10th last week, had brake issues. Kasey Kahne's race ended badly. Ryan Newman for finishing 15th? Kyle larson for finishing 12th? Aric Almirola? Greg Biffle? You can see how there's really not a standout option here.

Lucky Dog: Sam Hornish Jr. got a top 10 after finishing ninth. He was a fuel-stretcher.

The DNF: Ouch, Kahne. Sunday marked the first time Kahne has had back-to-back finishes of 40th or worse since 2008.

Dropped Out: Jeff Gordon

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: August 12, 2015, 12:43 am

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Former NASCAR racer and broadcaster Buddy Baker died Monday morning. He was 74.

Baker, who last hosted a show on NASCAR's SiriusXM channel, stepped away from his hosting duties earlier this year after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The cancer had been found after Baker had been complaining of incessant shoulder pain.

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The "Gentle Giant" had 19 wins in his Sprint Cup Series career, including the 1980 Daytona 500. He had four wins at Talladega, including one there nine races after his Daytona 500 win. In both of those races he drove the "Gray Ghost" a gray car that opponents said blended into the track. NASCAR made him add red trim paint to his Oldsmobile so competitors could better see him.

He led 143 laps in his Daytona 500 win.

Baker also did television work for NASCAR broadcasts in the 1990s on TNN. While he was on Sirius for the final time in early July, Baker said he wanted to be remembered thusly:

"Do not shed a tear. Give a smile when you say my name," he said. "I'm not saying goodbye. Just talk to you later."

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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: August 10, 2015, 1:24 pm

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Kasey Kahne made the 2014 Chase after he won at Atlanta, the penultimate race before the Chase.

He may need to execute similar heroics to make the 2015 Chase.

A week after crashing early at Pocono and finishing 43rd, Kahne got stacked up on a restart and finished 42nd at Watkins Glen. Sam Hornish Jr. missed a shift and you can see what happened from there.

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Kahne entered Pocono 13th in the points standings. He's now 17th, 50 points back of Clint Bowyer, who iis the final driver in the Chase currently on points after Kyle Busch cracked the top 30 at Watkins Glen.

With Busch's entrance into the top 30, 11 drivers within the top 30 have wins. There are four races to go before the Chase, so those winners are guaranteed Chase berths.

As of now, the five highest drivers in the points standings who don't have wins are as follows. They'd be in the Chase if there are no more new winners:

Jamie McMurray: 635 points
Paul Menard: 631
Jeff Gordon: 620
Ryan Newman: 613
Clint Bowyer: 612

These drivers are on the outside looking in currently

Aric Almirola: 562
Kasey Kahne: 561
Greg Biffle: 532
Kyle Larson: 517

At almost 100 points back of Bowyer, Larson pretty much needs a win to get into the Chase. Making up that many points and passing three drivers seems almost impossible in four races.

And speaking of drivers who needed wins to get into the Chase, AJ Allmendinger and Tony Stewart very likely saw their Chase chances go kaput on Sunday. Allmendinger, who started on the pole, got frustrated with the handling of his car early. Then, midway through the race under caution, it shut off. He got back onto the lead lap but had to pit for fuel before the finish.

Stewart was running in the top 10 for the entire race until a rear gear broke on his car. He ended up finishing last.

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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: August 9, 2015, 10:01 pm

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Joey Logano ran out of fuel while leading with less than three laps to go last week at Pocono. On Sunday at Watkins Glen, he went to victory lane because of another driver's fuel misfortune.

Logano passed Kevin Harvick entering the final corner of the race to win his first road course race in the Sprint Cup Series. Harvick had run out of gas entering turns 6 and 7 at Watkins Glen and didn't have a big enough gap to hold off Logano, who had pitted seven laps later than Harvick did.

Logano last pitted on lap 58 during a caution flag that flew when Tony Stewart's car broke and Jimmie Johnson went spinning. While Logano didn't restart the race in first or even in the top five, he was the first car off pit road and the first driver confident enough to make the it to the end of the race without running out of gas.

"I felt like we got ourselves to be the first car on fuel to make it," Logano's crew chief Todd Gordon said. "And had to push those guys hard enough to make them use up their fuel and not save fuel. Put ourselves in the right spot and executed.

Harvick, who took the lead shortly after the race's final restart, had pitted seven laps sooner. The drivers between he and Logano had also pitted around the time Harvick did. Those that stayed out when Logano pitted were hoping that a caution flag would fly in the race's final laps. Over the last seven races at Watkins Glen, a yellow had been displayed within the final 20 laps.

It didn't happen on Sunday as the race went green to the end, similar to Pocono. Drivers like Logano last week had tried to stretch their fuel past a normal green flag fuel window because they expected a caution to come. But while seven cautions happened in the race's first 72 laps, the final 63 laps went green.

Logano said he pushed from the beginning of the last green flag run, hoping to force others ahead of him to run out of gas. He overdrove turn 1 on the final lap and lost a ton of time to Harvick. But when Harvick ran out of fuel, it ultimately didn't matter.

"I was just trying to pick them off one at a time," Logano said. "I was really, really good through the bus stop so I was trying to use that to my advantage to pass cars and were able to kind of pick our way through it and then Harvick, once I got to him he picked it up. You could tell he was saving fuel and once I got close to him he started going faster. I lost a little bit but that was just the coolest win. To win at this place is ... this is a dream come true win here.

Harvick tried to bump Logano as the cars went through the final corner, but the effort came up short. And may not have been truly effective anyway. Harvick didn't have a lot of momentum off the corner and ended up finishing third as Kyle Busch got him at the finish line. Busch, who also pitted when Logano did, played the end of the race conservatively, figuring that a caution would come out for a driver running out of fuel.

The win is Logano's second win of the year – he won the season-opening Daytona 500 – and he's guaranteed a berth in the Chase. He made the final four last year but miscue on a pit stop at Homestead ruined his title chances.

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: August 9, 2015, 9:26 pm

AJ Allmendinger completed a sweep of the road course poles in the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday.

After winning the pole at Sonoma in June, Allmendinger was the fastest qualifier in both rounds of qualifying at Watkins Glen and will start first on Sunday. He won last year's race at Watkins Glen in a thrilling finish with Marcos Ambrose. The win was Allmendinger's first-career Sprint Cup Series win and got him a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

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Martin Truex Jr., the 2013 winner at Sonoma, will start second. Tony Stewart, a five-time winner at Watkins Glen, starts third and Kevin Harvick, who won at Watkins Glen in 2006, starts fourth.

Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon round out the top 10.

Allmendinger had issues with his engine at Sonoma and ended up finishing 37th. Watkins Glen represents his best chance for a win to get back into the Chase. He's 23rd in points and his seventh-place finish at Pocono last week in the fuel-mileage frenzy finish was his first top-10 since the third race of the season.

“Last week we finally had some good luck on our side and made some good decisions," Allmendinger said Friday. "[Crew chief Brian Burns] did a great job with the call to stay out later to make sure we had more fuel at the end to get a top 10. But I think our equipment is better, our communication and progression as a race team is better. We have had a lot more bad luck just in general (in 2015)."

Last year we just weren’t running well. But it really comes down to last year at this time I had never won a Sprint Cup race. To say when it comes down to time and if the opportunity is there what does it feel like?  ‘Well I don’t know, I’ve never done it before.’ I know what it feels like now and I know what I have to do to put myself in that position. For that reason I think it’s a lot different from last year.”

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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: August 8, 2015, 6:10 pm

The family of Kevin Ward Jr. filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tony Stewart on Friday, almost a year after Ward was killed when he was struck by Stewart at an upstate New York dirt track.

The Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen on Sunday. A year ago this weekend, Stewart went racing at Canandaigua Motorsports Park the night before the Watkins Glen race. He was racing with Ward and Ward's car hit the wall. Ward got out of his car to confront Stewart and was hit. He died from his injuries.

Stewart was not prosecuted criminally and has maintained the incident was an accident. He missed three Sprint Cup Series races before returning to the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2014.

The filing of the lawsuit is not a surprise. After Stewart wasn't criminally charged the family said the matter was "not at rest."

"Stewart could have easily acted reasonably and with prudence to avoid striking Ward, just as all other drivers had done as they passed Ward during the yellow caution flag," the lawsuit says (via ESPN). "Stewart acted with disregard for Ward's life and safety by driving his vehicle in a manner that would terrorize Ward and thereafter strike, severely injure and kill Ward."

Damages weren't specified.

A statement from the Ward family said "Our son was truly the light of our lives and we miss him terribly every day. Our hope is that this lawsuit will hold Tony Stewart responsible for killing our son and show him there are real consequences when someone recklessly takes another person's life."

When announcing the Ontario County grand jury's decision to not charge Stewart, Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said the two videos of the incident didn't show any aberrational driving by Stewart. He also said toxicology reports showed Ward had marijuana in his system.

Stewart had said earlier in the week that he was attempting to block out the events of a year ago. Sunday is set to be his first race at Watkins Glen since 2012. The five-time winner at the track missed the race in 2013 after suffering a broken leg in a sprint car crash in Iowa. He's struggled this season and has just two top-10 finishes.

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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: August 7, 2015, 8:10 pm

Jenson Button and his wife Jessica were allegedly burgled while on holiday in a rented villa in St Tropez.Burglars possibly used some form of sleeping gas to put Jenson Button and his wife asleep in a jewelry robbery this week, according to the F1 driver's spokesperson.

The spokesperson said Button, the 2009 F1 world champion, and his wife were robbed at a villa in Saint-Tropez, France. The burglars allegedly made off with jewelry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Two men broke into the property whilst they all slept and stole a number of items of jewellery including, most upsettingly, Jessica's engagement ring," a spokesperson said via Eurosport.

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The engagement ring is reportedly worth $387,000.

"The police have indicated that this has become a growing problem in the region with perpetrators going so far as to gas their proposed victims through the air conditioning units before breaking in."

Jenson Button reportedly paid around $387,000 for this 5-carat engagement ring. (REUTERS)According to the BBC, police have not commented directly about the idea that the couple could have been gassed. An operations director for a British security firm said he wasn't surprised about the allegations that gas was used to make the Buttons stay asleep.

"The term they used to use is chloroform attacks, but it's not actually chloroform, it's another anaesthetic-based gas," the security director said.

The easiest way of introducing the gas into a house would be through its air conditioning intake vents outside the property, he said.

"These properties are big: they normally have a huge system with a bank of intake fans situated away from the property, behind some bushes somewhere, which makes them ideal for burglars.

"We have to try and prevent access to those fans."

Formula 1 is currently in the midst of its summer break. Points leader Lewis Hamilton has been photographed partying in Barbados.

Button has struggled on track this year as his McLaren team switched to Honda, which returned to the sport in 2015. The team has been plagued with reliability and speed issues.

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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: August 7, 2015, 5:19 pm

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

If you haven't had a chance to read Brad Keselowski's latest blog, it's a must. We can't imagine how frightening the experience was for his girlfriend Paige and him and we're glad that Scarlett is doing well.

We found this tweet Wednesday night by NASCAR to be, uh, something.

To heck with the rule book? We break down @KyleBusch's Chase eligibility: http://t.co/BGC8TGu6QR pic.twitter.com/cbSiTk00KG

— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 6, 2015

You're not going to find many sports asking the (rhetorical) question of "to heck" with their own rule books. But it's especially dangerous in the case of a sport that has added an extra driver to the Chase because it was the right thing to do just two years ago. And in a sport that has taken the liberties of changing the rules in the middle of the season in an attempt to improve the racing.

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We're not saying that Kyle Busch would be added to the Chase by NASCAR CEO Brian France if he didn't make the top 30. But given what happened with Jeff Gordon in 2013, it's not something you can rule out entirely until the Chase begins, either.

Apparently y'all ran out of gas with everyone else at Pocono this week. We've got an abbreviated mailbag. We blame it on the midsummer slog.

@NickBromberg What's up with RFR? For all the sunshine and rainbows we were sold during the offseason, nothing seems to have changed.

— Ryan Comerford (@Ryan_Comerford) August 6, 2015

Trevor Bayne said the team is behind when it comes to computer simulations. But if you look at the team's 2014 performance, the gulf that existed between Roush Fenway Racing and NASCAR's top teams wasn't going to evaporate in a year. However, it may not have evaporated at all.

Greg Biffle is fighting to stay relevant in the Chase picture while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bayne are, well, simply fighting to stay relevant. When Stenhouse crashed at Pocono with Sam Hornish Jr., he and Bayne were running with the Front Row Motorsports cars. Nothing against Front Row, but Roush should be better than that.

Penske is clearly the top dog in the Ford camp and the manufacturer needs a clear No. 2 to keep up with Chevy and Toyota. Roush isn't that right now.

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I’ve been to every Brickyard 400 except one so I’m batting .954. What is all the fuss about? The Brickyard 400 has been a track position contest since the beginning. Year #1, Jeff Gordon won on attrition. Ernie Irvan got a flat tire and Geoff Bodine wrecked. Year #2 there was passing under green, BUT HOW did that race end? Dale Earnhardt got around Rusty Wallace thanks to a car slowing Wallace in the pit lane. Wallace couldn’t pass Earnhardt on the track and vice versa. Third place Dale Jarrett might have been the fastest car out there, but he was pushing in dirty air. In the fourth Brickyard in ’97, Ricky Rudd skipped a late stop hoping for a caution, which he got! Is passing tough at Indy? Yup! The best guys still get it done. - Don

Indianapolis is never going to be a track with a ton of action. Maybe NASCAR should put restrictor plates on the cars there?

We just made ourselves shudder. Ugh. Hopefully that never happens.

@NickBromberg SHOULD THERE BE A ROAD COURSE IN THE CHASE? IF SO, WHICH ONE?

— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) August 6, 2015

YOU ASKED THIS QUESTION IN JUNE.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: August 6, 2015, 6:12 pm

If you're looking for a track that encapsulates Tony Stewart's Sprint Cup Series career, Watkins Glen is a pretty good start.

Stewart has won five times at the Glen, the most of any Sprint Cup Series driver. But he's also missed the last two races at the track. In 2013, he was absent because he broke his leg in a sprint car crash in Iowa. In 2014, he struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car race the night before the Glen race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

"I don’t think I’ll ever be the same from what happened the last two years" Stewart said Wednesday night at Texas Motor Speedway. "I don’t know how you could be, I don’t know how anyone could be back to exactly the way they were. Not being back to exactly the same I was doesn’t mean I won’t become better in some ways. I think there’s always positives that come out of every scenario."

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The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion also said that he's trying not to think about the upcoming anniversary of Ward's death. Stewart, who said the incident was an accident, was not criminally charged. He struck Ward when Ward had gotten out of his car to confront Stewart's on track after hitting the wall.

"I’m trying to not think about it, you guys are the first ones to bring it up this week," he said. "So unfortunately I have a feeling it’s going to get brought up a lot this week but doesn’t help you continue to move forward with it."

Even before the past two seasons, Stewart's Watkins Glen weekends have included turmoil. In 2002 (and as seen in Random Recap), he won his first race at the road course a week after he punched a photographer at Indianapolis and was punished by Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR. In 2004, he was incredibly sick. And got his second win.

Stewart's career has been defined by his responses to adversity; he's had an incredible ability to block out distractions and excel as a driver. It's a trait that's fueled the belief of many that he'll get back to victory lane despite his struggles over the past two-plus years. And it's a trait he'll have to count on again this weekend as the cloud of what happened last year looms.

Sunday's also a great opportunity to get his first back-to-back top 10s of the season after he finished ninth at Pocono on Sunday. Though he hasn't won at Watkins Glen since 2009, Stewart ran well at Sonoma. Consecutive good finishes could be his team's necessary boost of confidence.

"It’s a race that we always look forward to," Stewart said. "We’ve had a lot of success there and it’s just fun ... And when you’ve won five races, it gives you that confidence that you know how to win, and know what you have to do to get to victory lane. I know what feel I need when we get here. It’s just a matter of going out and practicing and putting yourself in that position.”

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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: August 6, 2015, 4:57 pm

If NBC Sports wanted to bring back Metallica's "Fuel" as its theme song for Sunday's race at Watkins Glen, we would understand. We'd appreciate the nostalgia too. And given what happened on Sunday at Pocono and what's likely to be the dominant storyline at Watkins Glen, it'd be incredibly appropriate.

The finish of the Windows 10 400 was unexpected. Teams stretched their fuel, thinking there would be a caution in the final quarter of the race. There wasn't, and Matt Kenseth, who was fourth with three laps to go, won the race as Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. all ran out of fuel.

NASCAR has had a recent tendency to throw late race cautions. Sometimes those cautions are blatantly obvious. When cars crash, a yellow is mandatory. Other times, well, that's when it gets tricky. Debris cautions can always be a source of conspiracy unless there's a giant piece of sheetmetal visible in the middle of the track for all to see.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was "absolutely" surprised to see the race go caution-free for the final 63 laps.

“Yeah, in the booth up there, they turned the clock back to 1973 and let that thing play out a little bit and let everybody run out of gas," Junior said after the race. "That was pretty cool. It’s kind of like some of the older races where you just can’t count on them to throw them cautions there at the end. And they didn’t today.”

There were seven cautions in the first 72 laps at Pocono. It made sense to reason there would be another one before the race ended, which is why teams followed the lead of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, who started the cycle of pit stops on lap 123. The team ended up having to pit again, but finished sixth because of all the gas craziness.

38 laps of green flag racing at a 2.5 mile track is too much to ask for a full fuel tank, but with some caution laps it's doable. Crew chiefs who brought their cars to pit road early were playing the probabilities. But as we know, history isn't always indicative of future results.

"The statistics have said we’re going to have cautions for so many of these races that we’ve really kind of hedged our bet — kind of like the mortgage boom," former crew chief and NBC Sports analyst Steve Letarte told Yahoo Sports. "We forgot what it was really all about and the economy collapsed. That’s how racing was.

"We all just assumed we were going to have four, five, six, eight, 10 yellows and then last week really made a big difference. Last week kind of put the exclamation point on we’re not always going to have these cautions and when the leaders started running out of gas I think that makes for an even more exciting Watkins Glen."

Yes, that brings us to the upcoming race, where you'll see a lot of the same types of strategy plays. Track position is vital at Watkins Glen and you can also pit there under green without losing a lap. Teams will be looking to save fuel from the start of the race to make their final pit stop as early as possible.

They'll be banking on caution flags once again too. The last five races at Watkins Glen have all featured at least one caution flag in the last 20 laps and the 2014 and 2013 races have had three cautions in the final 20 laps. Letarte said that crew chiefs have to have short memories; despite the recency bias that is Pocono, expect some teams to make their final pit stop with the idea that they'll need a caution or two to make it to the end of the race.

And if the race plays out like Pocono did and abnormally stays green, chaos could once again reign.

"If you only budget for green flag laps and a caution comes out you’ve been beat," Letarte said. "Because there are a whole bunch of crew chiefs who are way more aggressive than that. So depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, there were times when I would — Las Vegas (in 2014) is the perfect example," Letarte said of his calculated fuel gamble with Earnhardt Jr. that came up short as Junior was racing Brad Keselowski for the win. "We ran out of gas off turn two (on the last lap). We knew we were going to run out of gas on turn two. We had four yellows (in the entire race) ... There was a caution about six laps after we pitted. If we had two more caution laps in the same caution. We win the race."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: August 6, 2015, 3:27 pm

Welcome to Random Recaps, a weekly feature at From The Marbles. In this space, we'll recap a random race from the past at the track the where Sprint Cup Series is racing next.This week's race is the 2002 Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen. And as always, Random Recap is truly random thanks to Random.org.

Tony Stewart's tumultuous week ended in victory lane.

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A week after punching a photographer following the Brickyard 400, Stewart won the Sirius at the Glen handily, pulling away from Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon on a one-lap sprint to the finish.

The race had been red-flagged for Kenny Wallace's crash in turn one.

Stewart was put on probation by his Joe Gibbs Racing team before the race and fined $50,000 for his actions by NASCAR. He had finished 12th (after running as high as third) and pulled his car into an empty garage area after the race. He was being photographed as he walked away from his car and punched a freelance photographer for the Indianapolis Star.

He's also agreed to undergo anger management counseling.

Stewart knew that the restart was imperative with only one green flag lap left in the race so he went very slowly behind the pace car. After the pace car pulled off the track, Stewart suddenly stomped on the gas – perhaps a bit early – and created a huge gap on Newman and the rest of the field. He ended up winning by 1.6 seconds.

Stewart started third and led a race-high 34 laps. He passed Newman for the lead with 19 laps to go.

Points leader Sterling Marlin finished 30th while Mark Martin finished 10th. Martin, who is in second in the standings, is now 53 points behind Marlin. Jimmie Johnson, who finished 16th, is third, 56 points back. Stewart is fourth, 104 points behind Marlin.

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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: August 5, 2015, 9:32 pm

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

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 1): Two miles of fuel would have gotten Busch his fifth win of 2015 and his fourth straight. The two miles of fuel may not have been enough to make it to the end, but Busch had a 16-second lead on teammate Matt Kenseth. He would have been able to coast around to the end and beat Kenseth, even if it would have been fairly close. Instead, Busch ran out of gas and he did it in a terrible spot; on the frontstretch past pit road. He ended up 21st. But after qualifying first and putting himself in position for a potential win, we're not going to punish him.

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2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): Harvick represents the conundrum of this week's Power Rankings. Our top three all had poor finishes while eight of the nine drivers in Nos. 4-12 finished in the top 10. It's impossible to put Jimmie Johnson in first after finishing sixth, and it's impossible to make a convincing case for anyone else below to leap above Busch, Logano and Harvick. So here we are, with a guy who finished 42nd in second. That's what happens when you blow up while running at the front of the field.

3. Joey Logano (LW: 3): The fuel gamble was a worthy one for Logano, who was looking for his second win of the year and is in the Chase. Though when you look in the context of how short of fuel he was (running out with three laps to go), you have to wonder how his team thought he was going to be able to make it. Despite his 20th-place finish, his run at Pocono can be looked at by NASCAR's marketing department as a perfect encapsulation of the Chase. If he was worried about minimizing a bad finish, he likely would have pitted. A win trumped that because of the Chase implications, so the No. 22 team went for it.

4. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 4): Here's the power of Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. When they pitted for fuel with 38 laps to go they inspired everyone else to head for pit road too. If Johnson waits a couple laps to pit, we may not have the fuel mileage race that we do. But in the copycat world of NASCAR, once Johnson made his stop, other teams felt they needed to get to pit road as soon as they could, hoping for a caution period in the final laps. It didn't happen and Johnson finished sixth after making a splash-and-go stop near the end.

5. Matt Kenseth (LW: 10): Here's our biggest leap of the week because of the fuel misfortune of the three drivers running ahead of him in the final laps of Sunday's race. It was a perfect Kenseth win. Oh there he was, driving a very good but somewhat boring race and in position to steal the spotlight from other drivers who had gotten most of the attention. And even his crew chief Jason Ratcliff thought there would be a caution at the end of the race. "123 was about a lap – we knew it was a lap early, maybe a lap and a half, but if you look back over the last five or six races, you always get a caution," Ratcliff said. " ... So it was worth a gamble and everybody was taking that gamble ... I'm shocked there wasn't a caution, but I'm really glad there wasn't one, obviously."

6. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 6): Hey, here's another driver who needed a caution. Truex ran out gas between Logano and Busch. He was second at the time after moving up a spot because of Logano's lack of gas. And because of it, he missed out on being the eighth driver to sweep both Pocono races and the first driver to do it since Dale Earnhardt Jr. all the way back in 2014. Those races were so, so, so long ago. Truex could have made history.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 7): Don't lie, you made a "Windows 10 crashed" joke when Junior's Windows-sponsored car went spinning on lap 73. If you didn't, you either have a lot of self-restraint or no sense of humor at all. We applaud the former and mourn the latter. After he spun, Junior worked his way through the field and capitalized on the mess at the end to finish fourth. Is this where we joke that Windows is the fourth-best operating system?

8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): The lasting image of Keselowski's Pocono race won't be that he finished second but of his crew members flying through the air as he slid through his pit box. After the race, Keselowski said he thought it had been two years since there was a round of green flag pit stops and a full fuel run to the end of a race without a caution flag. So we went back and looked at recent races to see the last time a race ended with a very long green flag run that included pit stops. While it wasn't a fuel-mileage race, the September Dover race went green for the final 140 laps and winner Jeff Gordon pitted for tires and gas for the final time with more than 70 laps to go.

9. Kurt Busch (LW: 5): Busch told Motorsport.com that he has a handshake deal to return to the seat of the No. 41 in 2016. It shouldn't be that surprising given the success that Busch has had in his second year with Stewart-Haas Racing. And it also shouldn't be surprising because there's nowhere else for Busch to go. Hendrick is full. Joe Gibbs Racing is full. He's already driven for Penske. A move anywhere else wouldn't be a lateral one and he would need to find sponsorship. He's in a great spot.

10. Jeff Gordon (LW: 12): Gordon finshed fifth and is now back in the top 10 in the points standings after his disastrous final Brickyard 400. He could move as high as eighth at Watkins Glen depending on how Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray do. Gordon is more than likely in the Chase, he just needs to get a win. And a win at Watkins Glen for old times' sake would be a fitting end to his Cup road course career. Though he'd probably just take a top 10 at this point. After winning four races in five years from 1997-2001 at the Glen, Gordon is winless and has finished in the top 10 just twice.

11. Carl Edwards (LW: 11): Edwards finished 10th at Pocono after starting eigth. Edwards had a top 10 car for most of the day but wasn't fast enough to challenge for the lead. Edwards was short on fuel and ended up playing it safe at the end by pitting. The move probably got him the top 10 because if he was getting the mileage that Kyle Busch was he would have ended up somewhere in the mid-20s.

12. Clint Bowyer (LW: NR): It's now two-straight top-10 finishes for the man who has been the story of the garage for the past week. Will Bowyer end up at Ganassi in 2016? Who knows, but we're going to guess that whatever team he's driving for in 2016, be it Ganassi, Michael Waltrip Racing or a hybrid of the two teams, he won't be in a Toyota. Given MWR's lack of an agreement with the manufacturer in 2016 and Ganassi's Chevy relationship, we're betting heavily Bowyer's back in a car with a bowtie on it.

Dropped Out: Denny Hamlin

Lucky Dog: Greg Biffle. While his Roush teammates either crashed (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) or had a piece of metal go through the radiator (Trevor Bayne), Biffle finished fifth.

The DNF: Kasey Kahne, who fell out of the "in the Chase right now" standings with his pit road crash.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: August 4, 2015, 8:05 pm

Brad Keselowski's day nearly went sideways during a green-flag pit stop in the first half of Sunday's race at Pocono. And he nearly had some injured crew members too.

Keselowski's front tires locked under braking as he pulled into his pit stall and his car slid through the pit box. As his car didn't slow appropriately and his crew was waiting for him in the box, Keselowski hit multiple members of his crew and one of the tires that was supposed to get on his car went rolling down pit road.

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It was a scary moment for all involved, especially the crew member carrying the jack. It nearly fell on top of him as he tumbled through the air.

Keselowski was told that his crew members were OK. And in addition to the long pit stop because of the near-calamity, he had to serve a pass-through penalty for an uncontrolled tire.

The sequence could have put a damper on Keselowski's day. Instead, his car was fast enough to get him back into the top 10 and he was able to catch a break as the top three drivers with three laps to go all ran out of fuel. Keselowski did too. But later than they did.

"We ran out there at the end," Keselowski said. "[Race-winner Matt Kenseth] and his team did a great job. We just had a really fast car, made a mistake on pit road earlier in the race and got us behind and we had enough speed in the car to drive up to about fifth or sixth on our own merits. And then of course some guys ran out of fuel in front of us and we were able to get up to a second-place finish. But I think we had at least that good of a car anyway, so I was really proud of the team and effort."

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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: August 2, 2015, 9:54 pm

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Joey Logano was cruising to victory in Sunday's race at Pocono. And then Kyle Busch looked poised to win his fourth race in a row.

But neither of them won. Instead, it was Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who made his fuel tank last to the end while Logano and Busch ran out of gas.

Teams usually work the races at Pocono backwards, meaning they calculate their fuel mileage from the end of the race and try make their final pit stop as soon as possible. At most NASCAR races, teams pit whenever they can under caution periods for fresh tires as tires are more important than track position.

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At Pocono, laps at the 2.5-mile track can take so long that drivers can pit under green flag conditions without losing a lap. And with track position at a premium, pitting under green is more beneficial than pitting under a caution flag and potentially losing spots to other teams.

The second half of Sunday's race had lots of green flag laps and Jimmie Johnson set off the final round of green flag stops with 38 laps to go. As teams copycatted Johnson's strategy it meant they were pitting right on the edge of their fuel window.

With one caution period, gas wouldn't be an issue. But the race went green until the end and drivers were forced to try tactics like letting off early and refusing to shift gears in the corners to save fuel and attempt to make it to the end.

In contrast to the last 50 percent of the 160-lap race, the first 72 laps featured seven caution flags including one for Kasey Kahne's scary encounter with the inside pit wall.

Logano ran out on the backstretch with three laps to go. Busch was approximately a second behind Logano and took the lead from him. Then, with two laps to go, Martin Truex Jr., who was about five seconds behind Busch, ran out of gas in turn three. Busch had a large cushion to Kenseth, who inherited second.

But Busch then ran out of gas on the frontstretch as he took the white flag. Kenseth, who likely had been able to save more gas than anyone else because he had no close competition for his spot, passed him in turn two and ended up taking the win.

"I wanted to pass [Jimmie] because you just never know about those guys," Kenseth said. "And I knew that ... and so I wanted to get in front of him and just control the gap and once he started dropping behind me [crew chief Jason Ratcliff] told me to start saving – we talked about it a little before the race – and just saved as much as we could."

It's Kenseth's second win of the year.

Logano, who won the season-opening Daytona 500, was gunning for his second win of the year too. He instead finished 20th after he coasted back to pit road. Busch wasn't so lucky because he ran out of gas on the frontstretch and on the last lap. He ended up 21st.

After winning four of the previous five races, Busch's main goal was to get into the top 30 in points because he missed the first 11 races of the year. With a fourth-straight win or even a second-place finish, he would have accomplished that goal with five races to go before the Chase.

Now he's still on the outside of the top 30, though he gained points on 30th place. He entered the race 23 points behind 30th and is now 13 points back in 32nd with five races to go. He's still on track to make the Chase by the time it begins at Richmond, but if he misses it, Sunday's race will be seen as a big reason why.

"We got greedy," Busch said. "I don't know how greedy but that's the position we're in. If it came down to other things and we haven't had the success that we've had lately, we would have had to have pitted and just made the best opportunity of it and got the best finish we could. We went for broke today and came up a little bit short. Can't fault the team."

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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: August 2, 2015, 9:35 pm

A Sprint Cup Series car hit the pit road wall at Pocono for the second time in two days on Sunday.

In the opening laps of Sunday's race, Kasey Kahne's car snapped loose off turn three. He slid into pit road and smashed into the wall that separates pit lane from where the crews and fans stand.

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The impact from Kahne's hit was so hard that a piece of his car was wedged into the wall, which appeared to bend at a joint. The wall did its job and held up, but NASCAR red-flagged the race so welders could repair a gap that was created in it.

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Pit crews put their helmets on the wall when they're not using them. Those helmets became veritable cannonballs as they were launched towards the pit boxes when Kahne's car made impact with the wall. NASCAR said no one was hurt behind pit wall. Kahne was OK.

"I just got loose, it was late exit, a lot later than I would have expected," Kahne said. "That's how I ended up so far down pit road which was crazy. I've never ended up over there. I just got loose and basically spun and ... that was it. I tried saving it, kind of avoided running into the [outside] pit wall and hit the one on the left not the one on the right."

"... Not sure why that happened, what happened so quickly there. But it was gone."

Kahne said he couldn't believe his car was heading down pit road.

"At first I couldn't believe I was clear over here this late in the corner and then all the way to the left heading towards pit wall and then I saw the people – I was like 'Man you better take off running, you know, get out of the way.' I haven't done anything like that before, so that was kind of crazy the way it all it happened."

During Saturday's practice session, Jeb Burton spun and crashed into nearly the same spot that Kahne did. If you look at Kahne's crash, you can see the tire tracks that Burton created on Saturday. It's crazy. Thankfully when Burton crashed there weren't any pit boxes or many people behind the wall.

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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: August 2, 2015, 6:17 pm

Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman spoke publicly Saturday for the first time since his purchase of part of Chip Ganassi Racing was announced earlier in the week. After saying that he and Waltrip were close friends and business partners, Kauffman said his purchase was an "integration" rather than a step away from MWR.

"... So any idea that like I'm leaving or taking anything is misplaced," Kauffman said. "What we're actually doing is integrating the businesses, trying to get the most competitive product on track, the best for all of our partners and that's really our focus."

"It's a competitive business, as everybody knows. It's competitive on track as well as off track. The focus we're really trying to get to get this news out was to get it out of the way because rumors were bubbling and try and be as clear as we can and refocus everybody on 2015 and hopefully getting one or two cars in the Chase and doing a great job with our partners."

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If MWR and Ganassi Racing were to merge, a manufacturer switch for one of the teams would have to happen. MWR currently fields Toyotas and Ganassi fields Chevys. MWR is the logical candidate to switch because its contract with Toyota is up at the end of the year.

When word of Kauffman's purchase of a stake in Ganassi broke. Clint Bowyer was mentioned as a likely third driver for Ganassi Racing. Felix Sabates, minority owner in Ganassi, also mentioned that the plan was for a three-car team in the future. Ganassi currently fields two cars with Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. MWR also has two cars; Bowyer and the No. 55 of David Ragan.

The No. 55 was originally scheduled to be driven by Brian Vickers in 2015 but he had to step aside because of a reoccurrence of blood clots. Ragan and the car's sponsor, Aaron's aren't signed after the season. Aaron's said earlier in the week that it was evaluating its options.

"In terms of our plans, whether we have three cars, four cars, two roofs, one roof, that's yet to be determined," Kauffman said. "And how we do in the 2015 season will help determine whether that happens. If we do a great job, that'll be one outcome. If we do a less great job, probably another and I think it should be pretty obvious to people."

Jamie McMurray and Bowyer are both currently in line to make the Chase, though neither has a win. Bowyer is also in 16th and if he doesn't move up, would be knocked out of the Chase if and when Kyle Busch cracks the top 30 in points.

Kauffman, the public face of the Race Team Alliance, also mentioned the fickle business model of Sprint Cup ownership in his comments, predicting more consolidation within the garage. He made sure to point out that the days of the "lone wolf" team were "are long past."

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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: August 1, 2015, 6:26 pm

Kyle Busch is now winning things he isn't sure he's going to win.

Busch, who has won four of the last five Sprint Cup Series races, posted the fastest lap (178.416 MPH) in the third round of Friday's qualifying session at Pocono and will start first for Sunday's race.

"I told you that I had a fast car, I just wasn't sure we could get the balance of it right," Busch said. "There right at the end, that last run, was the best it's been all day."

Busch unseated Joey Logano for the top spot in qualifying and survived a fast lap by Kevin Harvick, the only other driver to post a lap over 178 MPH. Logano starts third while Austin Dillon starts fourth and Tony Stewart starts fifth.

Harvick posted the fastest lap of the second round while Stewart was fastest in the first round.

Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon round out the top 10.

If Kyle Busch wins at Pocono and gets his fifth win in six races, it'd be his first win at the 2.5-mile triangle. Busch has eight top-10 finishes in 21 starts at the track. He won the pole there in 2010 and finished second to teammate Denny Hamlin.

43 drivers attempted to qualify Friday so no driver missed the race.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 31, 2015, 9:53 pm

As the future of Michael Waltrip Racing is unknown, Clint Bowyer made a statement after Friday's practice at Pocono.

Bowyer has been mentioned as possibly switching teams before the 2016 season as MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman has purchased part of Chip Ganassi Racing. Without Kauffman's funding – he owned 50 percent of MWR – the future of MWR looks tenuous. The team does not have a manufacturer deal signed for 2016. It also doesn't have a driver for the No. 55 car or a sponsor as the contract of Aaron's is up at the end of the year.

Bowyer, who recently signed an extension with MWR along with sponsor 5-Hour Energy, could go to Ganassi and be a teammate to Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray.

From Fox Sports:

"This isn't what any of you guys want," Bowyer told the media at Pocono. "You need to bear with us. There's obviously some change on the horizon. I got the same release you guys did. We've got a new sponsor on the car this weekend. It's a big deal for us. We've been working on this a long time. Got a lot of momentum going into this -- we're 20 points out of the Chase and we've got to finish this year strong. Like I said, there's a lot of work to be done in the future and we're all working on it and when I have something to tell you guys you all know me and I'll tell you."

Bowyer's car is sponsored by Maxwell House for Sunday's race.

After finishing second in the 2012 points standings, Bowyer hasn't won a race in the past two-plus seasons. He's currently on the periphery of the Chase but without a win, could find himself on the outside looking in, especially if other drivers who haven't won a race do so.

MWR currently fields Toyotas. Ed Laukes, a vice president of marketing for the car company, issued a brief statement about the situation.

“We’ve spoken with Rob Kauffman and understand he has agreed to buy an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Rob has not disclosed the plans for Michael Waltrip Racing past the 2015 racing season. Toyota and TRD remain focused on winning races and championships with our team partners this year.”

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 31, 2015, 6:04 pm

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

Welcome to Happy Hour. Have you woken up from Indianapolis yet?

We kid. We kid. The race featured one more lead change than it did last year!

NASCAR said that it's going to try the Indianapolis rules changes at Michigan as scheduled despite the lack of action and poor reviews at Indy. And that's the smart move. NASCAR is trying to portray itself as being very pragmatic when it comes to changing the rules, even if their actions aren't totally backing the public statements up (more on that in a minute).

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Michigan, as you know, is a totally different track than Indianapolis. So NASCAR might as well give it a go and see what happens. Our big question for the race is if the slower speeds on the straightaways created by the larger spoiler will mean that teams are going flat out in the corners. If that happens, or comes close to happening, Michigan could be like a smaller version of Talladega or Daytona. It'd be the pack racing that NASCAR CEO Brian France has said he wants to have.

@NickBromberg I READ THAT NASCAR GOT IT WRONG W/ THE HIGH DRAG PACKAGE AT INDY. AS A RESPECTED JOURNALIST, WHAT CAN THEY DO TO GET IT RIGHT?

— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) July 30, 2015

We're respected?!?!?!

Oh, they totally got it wrong. But when you make changes, you're not guaranteed to get them right. Consider it the minus to Kentucky's plus and we're now back to square one.

The answer to getting the Indianapolis rules right seems pretty simple. Testing. NASCAR tested at Indianapolis in April and speeds were very, very high. So NASCAR made the changes to the rules after seeing what happened in the test. And while they were run through many simulations, they weren't tested on the track. And that's ultimately what got NASCAR in the predicament it was in on Sunday.

We're not saying that simply testing makes the race a super-entertaining one to watch, but NASCAR and the teams then know what to do to prepare for the race weekend and the sanctioning body can make further changes. It didn't have the opportunity by taking action without on-track testing to evaluate it.

@NickBromberg If MWR switches to Chevy is it too expensive for Toyota with one major team? Toyota = Dodge? Or is Gibbs good enough to stay?

— Lorne Cammack (@AGGIEcam) July 30, 2015

Based on what's been reported, MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman could take the No. 15 and Clint Bowyer with him to Ganassi as part of his purchase of part of Ganassi Racing. A move like that would mean MWR would be left with one car, as Ganassi co-owner Felix Sabates has said the team wants to have three cars, one more than its current two-car stable.

It's important to repeat that Kauffman has been the financial power behind MWR. If Waltrip wants to stay relevant in the Cup Series as an owner he's going to have to get an infusion of capital and/or align with an existing team.

He also would have to keep Aaron's for 2016 and beyond or find another sponsor for the No. 55. And figure out the driver situation. Furniture Row has been considered a candidate to move to Toyota and so it stands to reason that "hey, MWR could align with Furniture Row!" Aaron's being a competitor to Furniture Row quiets those thoughts pretty quickly.

The company said Thursday it is evaiuating its options.

#NASCAR ...MWR sponsor Aaron's: "We've been in talks with MWR about the 2016 season & we will be evaluating our options." @NBCSports

— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) July 30, 2015

There are still a lot of unknowns with this situation that's only recently gone from smoke to fire. One of the knowns, however, is that Toyota isn't going anywhere.

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I just finished reading the comments to your recent Power Rankings. In spite of that I still have some faith in humanity. My vacation must have really relaxed me. So do you think that someone will eventually inform us that the Trilateral Commission and the Free Masons are in charge of NASCAR (like everything else, no doubt). - Paul

Despite the common absence of common sense, the comments section has it all figured out, doesn't it? If you need a NASCAR conspiracy theorized, just scroll down to the bottom of a post, especially after a win by a driver not named Dale Earnhardt Jr. Or heck, even after Junior wins. You're bound to see some posts about how the race was rigged for him.

Hey, we love the creativity. Maybe one day the black helicopters will actually take flight.

@NickBromberg What is a bigger actual problem for NASCAR right now: the ratings (relatively speaking) or the empty grandstands?

— Travis Pineapple (@Rob_In_WI) July 30, 2015

TV runs the show, so when it comes to TV vs. in-person attendance, the needs of exponentially more watching at home is always going to come first. And that's why Sunday's race started so late. It was a chance for NBC to get some eyeballs tuned to NBCSN on a late Sunday afternoon. And the television rating reflected that.

While the rating was good for NBCSN, it was low compared to previous races. The channel is not as widely available as ESPN (part of the reason why the race is on it) and you're undoubtedly aware of the loud minority who is willing to tell anyone and everyone that they can't watch the race.

But you also have to keep in mind the changing habits of viewers. More and more people are going to keep cutting out cable and satellite packages. Online streaming is already up and running (NBC's app is pretty good) and you can get that to your TV with simply a cable. Sooner, rather than later, we're going to have an idea of how many people watched a race on TV and also streamed it.

@NickBromberg The trade deadline is here and Rob Kauffman may be a buyer, what NASCAR teams should be buyers or sellers GM Bromberg?

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) July 30, 2015

Love this question.

Hendrick may be a buyer as its cars have been a tick slower than the Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing cars. Stewart-Haas Racing is clearly a buyer for two of its cars. Can they find the magic potion to get either Danica Patrick or Tony Stewart a win?

As far as sellers go, well, MWR may be in the unfortunate situation of actually selling or something similar. And Roush Fenway could be in the selling mode too. Not that the team should be for sale by any means, but that with Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne buried in the standings, it may deem some changes are necessary to experiment before 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: July 30, 2015, 8:05 pm

Michael Waltrip Racing announced Thursday that co-owner Rob Kauffman had purchased part of Chip Ganassi Racing. The announcement comes a day after a Sports Business Journal report that said Kauffman was close to making the deal complete.

Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, has agreed to buy an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The companies will continue to operate separately and compete against each other for the remainder of the 2015 season. They are also currently evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible to provide an excellent platform for their partners and employees for the 2016 season and beyond. More details will follow in due course.

Kauffman purchased part of Michael Waltrip Racing in October 2007 as the team was struggling in its debut season in the Sprint Cup Series. The team has had success since Kauffman's arrival but has struggled since the race manipulation tactics it used at Richmond. NAPA, a long-time sponsor of the team, left after the shenanigans and went to sponsor Chase Elliott. The loss of the company forced MWR to move to two cars.

Ganassi confirmed the move.

The SBJ report said Kauffman was purchasing Felix Sabates' stake in Ganassi. Sabates told SiriusXM NASCAR that he wasn't leaving the sport.

"I'm not going anywhere.  This is about making our team stronger, a three car team is stronger than a two car.  But the rumors that Rob is buying me out are not true, my last race will be five years from September 9th. I will be 75 years old then and will be done."

Sabates' desire for the team to be at three cars also dovetails with the SBJ report. It said Kauffman was wanting to bring the No. 15 of Clint Bowyer to Chip Ganassi Racing. The move would leave Michael Waltrip Racing with one car. Both driver David Ragan and sponsor Aaron's are not currently signed for 2016.

If MWR loses a car, it could face a very shaky future. Its best bet for survival may be to find a team to align with if another investor can't be found.

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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: July 30, 2015, 6:13 pm

As speculation about Michael Waltrip Racing's 2016 manufacturer mounts, it may have more things different about it next season that simply the make of the car.

According to the Sports Business Journal, MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman is "close" to purcahsing Felix Sabates' stake in Chip Ganassi Racing. In doing so he would take the No. 15 and Clint Bowyer with him to Ganassi and the team would be a three-car team in 2016 with Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.

MWR has been mentioned as possibly moving to Chevrolet in 2016 but this is a wrinkle about the team's future that hasn't been publicly mentioned until today.

From SBJ:

Michael Waltrip Racing principal Owner Rob Kauffman is close to purchasing Felix Sabates’ stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, according to multiple industry sources, which would cause Kauffman to drop his affiliation with MWR if the sale is completed. Kauffman, who has been with MWR for eight years, would take on Sabates’ minority stake in the team, while CGR principal Owner Chip Ganassi would continue to retain majority control, according to sources. It is unclear if Sabates will hold onto a small stake to retain his affiliation with the team or if he will be dropping the affiliation entirely.

Kauffman bought into Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007 as the team was struggling in its debut Sprint Cup Series season. Waltrip, the former driver and now-Fox analyst, has mentioned before how important Kauffman's financial backing was to the survival of his race team.

“I wouldn’t be standing here in an interview, if I hadn’t met Rob,’’ Waltrip said in an interview with NASCAR.com in 2013. “Us hitting it off and sharing the same goals and dreams for the team, now seven years later, we’re best friends.

“I like who he is as a person. He doesn’t like when I say this, but I’m forever indebted to him. Not financially, but this whole endeavor is a big part of who I am and he helped me continue the dream.’’

The SBJ report said Ganassi officials declined comment and MWR didn't respond to inquiries. Kauffman is a respected figure in the garage area. He's been the voice of the Race Team Alliance, a grouping of all the Sprint Cup Series teams to help collaborate on NASCAR-related issues.

Michael Waltrip Racing has struggled since it was forced to downsize with the departure of longtime sponsor NAPA in 2013. The auto parts company left after the Richmond scandal involving a purposeful spin by Bowyer to get Martin Truex Jr. in the Chase.

Since then, MWR hasn't won a race. Truex won at Pocono with Furniture Row Racing in June and NAPA teamed up with Chase Elliott in the Xfinity Series. The company will also sponsor Elliott in the Cup Series in 2016 as he moves up to replace Jeff Gordon in the No. 24.

Ganassi's performance has risen in that timeframe as Jamie McMurray is in line for a Chase berth in 2015 and Kyle Larson ran well in 2014, though he's fallen short of expectations so far this season. Adding Bowyer to the team would be a boost for the two drivers and for Bowyer himself.

Bowyer finished second in the points standings in 2012 but has finished seventh and 19th in the standings in the past two seasons. He's in currently line for the Chase on points but could get knocked out if another winless driver wins a race. MWR shuffled the crew chiefs of Bowyer and teammate David Ragan earlier in the season to give them a boost.

And if the above scenario happens, the future for MWR is unknown. The team is currently hoping to re-sign Aaron's, who has been a long-time affiilate of Waltrip's. It would also need to make a decision on a driver of the No. 55, which will be piloted by Ragan for the rest of the year after Brian Vickers was sidelined with health issues.

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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: July 29, 2015, 10:00 pm

Unsecured ballast during practice at Indianapolis meant a pretty hefty fine and a suspension for Premium Motorsports.

Timmy Hill's car lost a piece of tungsten during one of Friday's practice sessions. As a result, crew chief Scott Eggleston was suspended for a race and fined $25,000. By NASCAR's penalty grading system it's a P3 penalty.

Car chief Kevin Eagle was also suspended. Both were put on probation until the end of the season and the team was penalized 15 points.

The tungsten adds weight to the car to help it reach the minimum 3,250 pound weight while empty. Unsecured tungsten can be dangerous if it falls out on the track while cars are at speed. Just look at what happened at Iowa.

The tungsten fell out of Hill's car at the exit of pit road.

It was a trying weekend for the No. 98 team, a backmarker team that doesn't have the resources of the Sprint Cup's behemoths. Hill crashed the car in Friday's last practice and the team rushed hurriedly to get the backup car, which was basically a shell car, ready to go on track. After putting in a qualifying lap on Saturday to just simply get a speed on the board, Hill finished 41st on Sunday.

Josh Wise had driven for the team until they parted ways after Kentucky.

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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: July 29, 2015, 6:47 pm

Welcome to Random Recaps, a weekly feature at From The Marbles. In this space, we'll recap a random race from the past at the track the where Sprint Cup Series is racing next.This week's race is the 1991 Miller Genuine Draft 500. And as always, Random Recap is truly random thanks to Random.org.

Rusty Wallace had the lead when the rain hit at Pocono Raceway on Sunday and got the win in his sponsor's race.

Wallace, who led 29 of the race's 179 laps, took the lead from Ernie Irvan on lap 168. He held onto the lead and was in first when the caution came out on lap 174 for rain. The race was called six laps later, 21 laps short of the scheduled 500-mile distance.

Irvan gave up the lead to Wallace because he had to pit for fuel sooner than Wallace did. His crew chief Tony Glover said he felt Irvan had a faster car than Wallace did, but the team went ahead and pitted from the lead, hoping the race would go further than it did and pit stops would cycle through. They didn't. Irvan, who led a race-high 65 laps, finished seventh.

Mark Martin finished second to Wallace. Geoffrey Bodine was third, Hut Stricklin was fourth and Sterling Marlin was fifth. Eight cars finished the race on the lead lap.

Points leader Dale Earnhardt finished 22nd, four laps off the pace. Second-place Ricky Rudd was 20th, and didn't gain much ground on Earnhardt, who now has a 140-point advantage over Rudd with 13 races to go. Both cars were involved in a big crash on the frontstretch on lap 72.

There was a rash of yellow flags during the first half of the race. 10 cautions happened in the first 103 laps, though the race went green from the caution on lap 103 until the rain hit.

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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: July 29, 2015, 2:13 pm

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

1. Kyle Busch (LW: 2): Busch's run is remarkable. It'd be remarkable if he didn't miss the first 11 races of the year and it's even more noteworthy because he did. And in a system that appropriately rewards winning – we're not advocating for the F1 style, but, at the minimum, more bonus points for drivers who go to victory lane – he's in the Chase. Except he's not. But we're trying to put the whole Chase thing aside and just enjoy what's going on right now. You should too, even though we're going to ultimately view this streak in the context of the final 10 races of the season. Let's live for the present.

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2. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Sunday's race was summed up in the eight-to-go restart between Harvick and Busch. Because Harvick didn't have Martin Truex Jr. glued to his bumper – Truex mistimed the start – Harvick lost the top spot to Busch, who got a huge push from Joey Logano. And once Busch got out in front of Harvick, the No. 4 had no shot. Tough break for what was likely the fastest car of Sunday's race.

3. Joey Logano (LW: 4): If you get a chance to watch the final restart of Sunday's race again, pay close attention to the gap Logano and Busch get on the rest of the field. Logano was able to clear everyone else and get behind Busch while everyone from Harvick on back was two-by-two. The holes the cars cut in the air was apparent as the top two sprinted away from the field like they had gotten the invincibility star from Mario Kart. Hey, maybe invincibility stars are what NASCAR needs to add at Indianapolis to create more passing?

4. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 3): Johnson was a non-factor throughout Sunday's race. Pretty surprising, don't you think? The team was clearly concerned about something after his qualifying run in the second round. He posted the slowest time of the 12 qualifiers and the team pored over the car post-qualifying. Whatever tweaks they made didn't work out too well as Johnson finished 15th. Or he could have had a fast car and we just didn't realize it because of the lack of track position.

5. Kurt Busch (LW: 5): Busch finished eighth after starting 14th. That sounds boring, but Busch had a pretty eventful day. He had to pit a bit earlier than he wanted to on the first round of stops because of a flat tire. Strategy got him back to the front of the field and he ended up eighth. After the race, Busch said he didn't have a winning car, but eighth was worse than where he figured he'd finish. Yeah, the No. 41 team is fast.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 7): The top-10 train is back on the tracks. After four weeks off the rails for repairs, Truex got his 16th top-10 finish in 20 races after finishing fourth on Sunday. He said he mistimed his push of Harvick on the third-to-last restart because he forgot to ask his spotter for help on timing out the caution. Yes "accelerating when the driver ahead of you goes" sounds easy to do, but an assist from the eyes in the sky can be invaluable.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 6): Your last memory of Earnhardt Jr.'s Brickyard likely is of him sliding around in turn one after clipping the grass of Kasey Kahne's bumper. Junior took a higher line into the corner than Kahne did and when he got down to the bottom to blunt Kahne's run, his teammate was there and calamity ensued. But did you know that Junior ended up making up six spots after that incident and finished 22nd, ahead of Kahne and others?

8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 8): Keselowski had a fast car on Friday but didn't get that same speed on Saturday. He qualified 31st, which meant getting to the front was an exceptionally tall task. And he did get the lead of the race late, though he had to pit for fuel so it was a bit of a false lead. He did end up finishing 10th, which is still a 21-spot increase. The only driver who made up more spots was Ryan Newman. He finished a spot behind Keselowski after starting last because his qualifying time was disallowed.

9. Denny Hamlin (LW: 10): After a bashed up hood during Friday, Hamlin was likely OK with a fifth-place finish. He called passing on Sunday "excruciatingly difficult," which seems about as apt a summation as any. He also – accurately – said that anyone outside of the first two rows on the late restarts had no shot at the lead. "I felt like we had a shot at it, but you just have to restart in the first couple rows to contend for a win and really whoever comes off turn two with the lead has pretty much got it," Hamlin said. "You’re really racing towards turn two and that’s about it.”

10. Matt Kenseth (LW: 11): While Keselowski and Newman made significant gains from their starting positions, Kenseth did too. He started 23rd and finished seventh on a day where he called the aero tweaks NASCAR made "terrible." We'll see what these same rules do at Michigan. Our guess is it'll look a bit like a restrictor plate race at times, especially on restarts. 

11. Carl Edwards (LW: 12): After starting first, Edwards fell to 13th. He seemed to have one of the better cars of the day while he was up front, but much like many others in the field, he wasn't as strong in traffic. While Edwards has been stronger as of late, his likely Chase berth is overshadowing a disappointing season for him. Unless he does what Tony Stewart did in 2011 and goes on a tear to win the title.

12. Jeff Gordon (LW: 9): Gordon's final Brickyard 400 was reduced to limping around the track with a car made out of sheetmetal, tape and a lot of sweat to beat Alex Bowman and not be in last place. What a sour 22nd chapter to Gordon's Indianapolis career. Good thing he was sponsored by 3M during Sunday's race. having a taped-up 3M car is still a pretty good advertisment for the company.

Lucky Dog: Clint Bowyer. Bowyer finished sixth and sent out this tweet after the race that we can't embed for obvious reasons. But it did make us laugh.

The DNF: He finished the race, but Tony Stewart ended up 28th, the last car on the lead lap. He started fourth. Yes, his qualifying performance on Saturday was nice and made a lot of people optimistic, but Stewart has put in good qualifying performances before. It's putting in a fast race that's a struggle. The team seemed to have a decent car. It was just that its strategy ended up not being decent.

Dropped Out: None

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 28, 2015, 8:04 pm

There would be no concerns for Kyle Busch's Chase eligibility if NASCAR used Formula 1's points system.

After winning his fourth race of the last five races in Sunday's Brickyard 400, Busch is tied for the Sprint Cup lead in wins with Jimmie Johnson. But he's in 32nd place in the points standings because of his absence in the first 11 races of the year after he broke his leg and foot at Daytona in February.

In the F1 format, Busch would rank ninth and ahead of such drivers as Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray.

A driver must be in the top 30 in points to be eligible for the Chase. Busch is on the fast track to the top 30 with the way he's blistering the field. But he's also potentially out of the Chase if he has a bad finish or two over the next five races and can't recover.

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NASCAR's points system awards one point to the driver that finishes last and increases by a point for each position. Drivers who lead a lap are granted a point, the driver who leads the most laps is given a point and winners are given three points extra, meaning race winners have, at most, a six point gap on the second-place finisher. Here's how F1's works.

1st: 25 points
2nd: 18 points
3rd: 15 points
4th: 12 points
5th: 10 points
6th: 8 points
7th: 6 points
8th: 4 points
9th: 2 points
10th: 1 point

Formula 1's points system is everything NASCAR brags about when it comes to its Chase format. The system appropriately rewards winning vs. other finishes and doesn't award points to drivers finishing 11th or worse. Points racing, something that NASCAR CEO Brian France has expressed his disdain for in the past, is severely lessened.

And unsurprisingly, Kevin Harvick is still dominating NASCAR with the F1 format. Here's how the standings would stack up via F1's system.

1. Kevin Harvick: 262 (1st in NASCAR's standings)
2. Jimmie Johnson: 206 (4th)
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 179 (3rd)
4. Joey Logano: 175 (2nd)
5. Martin Truex Jr.: 133 (5th)
6. Kurt Busch 124 (8th)
7. Matt Kenseth: 119 (7th)
8. Brad Keselowski: 116 (6th)
9. Kyle Busch 102 (32nd)
10. Denny Hamlin: 94 (10th)
11. Ryan Newman: 72 (12th)
12. Jeff Gordon: 59 (11th)
13. Jamie McMurray: 57 (9th)
14. Carl Edwards: 44 (16th)
15. Kasey Kahne: 42 (14th)
16. Paul Menard: 35 (13th)
17. Clint Bowyer: 35 (15th)
18. Kyle Larson: 32 (20th)
19. Greg Biffle: 19 (18th)
20. AJ Allmendinger: 14 (23rd)
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 12 (27th)
22. Austin Dillon: 11 (19th)
23. Aric Almirola: 10 (17th)
24. David Ragan: 10 (24th)
25. Sam Hornish Jr.: 9 (25th)
26. Casey Mears: 8 (21st)
27. Danica Patrick: 8 (22nd)
28. Tony Stewart: 8 (26th)
29. Trevor Bayne: 4 (28th)
30. Justin Allgaier: 4 (30th)
31. Brett Moffitt: 4 (33rd)
32. Josh Wise: 1 (37th)

As you can see, Kyle Busch clearly has the biggest difference between systems. Everyone else is pretty much in the same spot. Aric Almirola has the second-biggest discrepancy and his is only six points positions.

Would NASCAR consider going to a format like this? We're guessing the chances are very slim and this post is simply designed as a fun exercise. The series keeps emphasizing the need for close competition – hence the Chase's elimination format – and its one-point-per position format keeps the field relatively closer together in the standings. In F1's, Hamlin has approximately 35 percent of the points that Harvick does. In NASCAR's system, he has 76 percent of Harvick's points.

But it's clear that Formula 1's format rewards successful drivers and doesn't change NASCAR's hierarchy too much. Plus, it really, really, emphasizes what the sanctioning body says it wants to spotlight: winning.

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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: July 28, 2015, 2:23 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – The lower downforce tweaks NASCAR made at Kentucky were immediately lauded by many of the drivers. The higher drag changes made for Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis did not receive the same enthusiasm.

The higher spoilers and other changes NASCAR made for the race didn't seem to have a big impact on the race. The Brickyard has always been a race where track position is pivotal. The fact didn't change with a nine-inch spoiler.

Joey Logano, who finished second to Kyle Busch, said he felt drivers had a three-lap window after restarts to make a pass. Drivers were able to make aggressive moves down the backstretch immediately after restarts before the field would start to string out.

"The draft on the straightaways, obviously, was larger for sure, but doesn't make up for what we lose in the corners so it's hard to make it happen somehow. I think we can fine-tune the package and maybe see something different, but for the most part it seemed like Indy out there to me."

Matt Kenseth was quite succinct. He finished seventh.

“It’s terrible, that’s what I think," Kenseth said. "You just can’t pass. Yeah, you can run up on the straightaway a little bit, but you can’t run through the corner with anything.”

Spoilers were increased by three inches and other changes were made to the cars to increase the draft on Indianapolis' long straightaways. The idea was that cars could catch each other and make passes before the track's narrow corners that prevent cars from going side-by-side at maximum speed.

However, the turbulence created by the draft on the straightaways was negated in the corners. The air slows down the trailing cars. And, as a side effect, the higher spoilers and bigger rear bumper covers meant the cars were hotter than normal.

"Well, it was really hot and that is part of being a driver. I can't complain because that is what I signed up for, Brad Keselowski said. "Besides that, I think we were all expecting there to be more drafting than there was. I dont think the draft was much different than last year and the penalty for being behind someone in the corner was more significant."

The lack of passing ease was evident on the race's restart with eight laps to go when Busch took the lead for the final time. He got a run past then-leader Kevin Harvick because he got a push from Joey Logano as the green flag waved. Martin Truex Jr. mistimed his push of Harvick and the No. 4 didn't have as much momentum as Busch did. Once Busch got around him, Harvick couldn't pass him back.

"We didn't see what we wanted," Truex Jr., who finished fourth, said. "They say they want a lot of drafting, a lot of pack racing. We didn't have any of that today. It was near-impossible to pass."

Busch did say there were benefits to the aerodynamic changes. But he was also speaking after visiting victory lane.

"Drafting is exciting, I would agree there is nothing more beneficial than to see a guy behind another guy gaining on him on the straightaways," Busch said. "Instead of it being a horsepower race you can make it a drag race. That's fun. But the thing that bothers us drivers is when you get to the corners you absolutely ... today for instance, when I was by myself I felt like I was a really good race car and I felt like I was the car to beat"

"But when you got back in traffic, whether you were behind a guy or behind a group of cars, you were horrible. It was just absolutely so hard to handle in traffic and it's not sometimes such a bad thing but you don't want to feel like you're going off into the corner and going to crash every time. That's the thing, you want to have some sort of security. So I think there's something to be learned from today. I'm not sure it's the right combination exactly, but I think there's some benefits to 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: July 27, 2015, 12:44 am

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INDIANAPOLIS – Even if he doesn't make the Chase, Kyle Busch's streak is one of the most impressive accomplishments in recent NASCAR memory.

The driver of the No. 18 scored his fourth win in five races in Sunday's Brickyard 400, holding off Joey Logano on a green-white-checker restart.

The four wins put Busch in a tie with Jimmie Johnson for the series lead in wins. However, Busch has run 11 fewer races than Johnson. He missed those races after breaking a leg and foot in an accident in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona.

The injury is why he's still not a lock for the Chase, though he's on pace to make it into NASCAR's postseason. Drivers must be in the top 30 of points to make the Chase and Busch is now 23 points out with six races to go before the Chase. He made up 35 points on 30th place on Sunday.

"Oh my gosh. I just can't believe this run right now," Busch said. "I can't believe what's going on ... It's really a treat to win at Indy."

Busch took the lead for the final time with eight laps to go. He was second to race leader Kevin Harvick on a restart and capitalized by hanging with Harvick into turn 1 and clearing him off turn two. Logano then passed Harvick on the next-to-last restart to set up the final challenge against Busch.

His win Sunday was also Toyota's first win at Indianapolis and the first time a non-Chevrolet driver has won at the track since Bill Elliott won in a Dodge in 2002.

Before winning at Indy, Busch won at Sonoma, Kentucky and New Hampshire. The only non-win in the stretch came at Daytona, where he recovered from hitting the wall to finish 17th.

It's natural to wonder where the last five races rank among similar streaks in NASCAR. If we're forced to rank the last five races right now, it's a five-race span that's behind Jimmie Johnson's four straight wins to seal the Chase title in 2007.

It doesn't rank with stretches like Jeff Gordon's seven wins in nine races in 1998 or Tony Stewart's five Chase wins in 2011. But let's be clear; any historical context of the ongoing run isn't official until it's over and we know if Busch makes the Chase. Currently slotting this run of Busch's behind any of those periods isn't a diss at all.

And to validate it, Busch needs to make the Chase. It's the harsh reality of NASCAR's current playoff format. If he misses the Chase, this summer swing will become overshadowed by the title drama NASCAR creates with the Chase's elimination format. And would also prove the routine boasts that "winning is everything" in NASCAR officially incorrect.

If he does make it, well, the focus will shift to Busch's performance in the Chase; an area where he's struggled. But the specter of what got him to the playoffs – considered an improbable achievement in May – will loom. And loom exceptionally large if he wins his first Sprint Cup title.

Though with five races to go before the Chase begins, Busch could have six or seven wins before the first race at Chicago. Would you be surprised if that happens? We sure wouldn't.

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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: July 26, 2015, 11:05 pm

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INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Gordon's hopes of a sixth Brickyard 400 win in his 22nd and final start in the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway disappeared after a crash on a lap 50 restart.

Clint Bowyer spun in turn three and Gordon was collected in the aftermath. His car spun around too and nosed the outside wall before coming to a complete stop. While it wasn't a hard hit, the damage was still fairly substantial. And with the demands placed on having an aerodynamically efficient car, a win was immediately out of the question.

"I was underneath Kasey Kahne and we were just racing for position," Gordon said in the garage while his car was being repaired. "I saw Bowyer get sideways. I don’t know what caused it. Me and Kasey were trying to check up to avoid it. I don’t know if he got loose or we just both got loose together. Then I just lost control and got in the wall.”

After his team attempted to repair the damage on pit road, Gordon was forced to go to the garage so his crew could make more substantial repairs. He returned again to the track but finished 42nd, 54 laps down.

The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is retiring at the end of the 2015 season and moving to the broadcast booth for 2016. He became the first driver to win five Brickyard 400s with his win in 2014. He also won the first Brickyard 400 in 1994.

Though he's a California native, Gordon is a beloved figure in Indiana. His family moved to Pittsboro, Indiana, when he was a teenager to help his racing career. Pittsboro even held a parade and honored him on Thursday.

And while crashing in his final start is a cruel way to end his Indianapolis career, it's especially cruel when you consider the circumstances of the caution flag that necessitated the restart. The first yellow flag of the day was called on lap 44 when there were balloons on the backstretch.

Yes, really. The track released balloons before the green flag and apparently some of the batch meandered down to the backstretch over the first quarter of the race. And once they made it to the track, NASCAR felt the need to call a caution.

"My memories are always going to be spectacular," Gordon said after the race of Indy. "I am very upbeat about Indianapolis. Some of the greatest memories of my life are here at Indianapolis starting with the inaugural Brickyard 400. There were too many good ones that won't get overshadowed by a race like today. The whole week and weekend has been incredible.

"The parade the Speedway put on and Pittsboro, Indiana put on – that's a highlight for me that I will never forget and to follow that up with the incredible support I got when I got here to the track and today. It was amazing and I know that makes it even that much more difficult to handle when you have a poor finish like that but I can't thank the fans enough for the last 22 years."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 26, 2015, 8:46 pm

A family coming to the Indianapolis 500 is leaving with a Petty blue Ford Fusion and a year's worth of groceries.

Aric Almirola and Eckrich, his sponsor for Sunday's Brickyard 400, gave Luther and Stephani Martin a special edition 2016 Fusion painted to look like Almirola's car he'll drive on Sunday. And there was also a gift card for the groceries in the back seat.

Luther Martin is a retired staff sargeant and spent 17 years in the military before he medically retired with multiple injuries. Stephani Martin is his full-time caregiver and is part of the Operation Homefront Hearts of Valor program.

"I'm a little lost for words," Luther Martin said. "I was just told that we were coming to the race track today, but we had no idea that we were going to get a new car and free groceries.  I'm really thankful and humbled.  I can't thank Eckrich, Aric Almirola and Kroger enough for making this a great day."

Almirola, who is 15th in the points standings, starts 22nd in 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: July 26, 2015, 5:54 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Carl Edwards has the pole for the second-straight race.

The driver of the No. 19 started first at New Hampshire last week and will lead the field to the green flag in Sunday's Brickyard 400. he posted the fastest lap of the second round of Saturday's qualifying session with a speed of 183.464 MPH.

Edwards will start alongside Joey Logano, who posted a lap of 183.139 MPH. Logano also started on the front row at New Hampshire.

David Ragan will start third, Tony Stewart will start fourth and Kyle Larson will start fifth.

Ragan was also third at New Hampshire. According to NASCAR, the last time the same drivers started 1-2-3 in consecutive weeks was in 2009. Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson did it at New Hampshire and Daytona.

But those sessions were set by points because of rain. The las time the same drivers went 1-2-3 in back-to-back weeks was in 1972. The drivers were David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Buddy Baker.

Stewart was the fastest driver in the first round of qualifying and went out last in the second session. The trackers showed him faster than Edwards through turns 1 and 2 but the advantage disappeared on the backstretch.

Stewart said his first run gave him some confidence. Will it translate to a successful Sunday? He's mired in 28th in the points standings and has one top 10 in 2015 and has shown qualifying speed at other times this season. He's been in the final round of qualifying seven of the first 19 races of 2015. His highest finish in those races is 12th.

Ryan Newman's speed was disallowed and he'll start at the back of the field via a provisional. The time was disqualified because NASCAR said he didn't have a right-side window net. Josh Wise, Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson didn't qualify for the race.

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 25, 2015, 6:50 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Despite three practice sessions for Sunday's Brickyard 400, it's impossible to quantify just how much the higher-drag modifications to the Sprint Cup Series cars will affect the racing. It is apparent, however, that passing at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway won't magically be easy.

The cars at Indianapolis have a nine-inch spoiler (three inches higher than normal) and a larger splitter edge and bigger radiator pans. The changes were mandated by NASCAR in an effort to increase drag created by the cars. The higher drag means that, theoretically, trailing cars would have a large draft effect from the car in front of them.

The draft effect would then help facilitate passing. Which, according to Denny Hamlin, is still going to be hard to do. The fastest way around Indianapolis is single-file through the corners. While two-wide racing in the turns is feasible, it's not optimal.

"Passing will be tough to say the least," Hamlin said. "We're trying something new. I can't fault them for trying – they tried what we wanted to try and I thought we had a pretty successful race [at Kentucky] and now we're trying something different. We'll see if it's better or not. Still, here is a very tough race track. This is a one-groove race track where it's definitely been tough to pass here for 15 years or as long as I've been there. It's just going to be one of those tracks."

Cars typically don't run in close proximity during practice. Sunday's race will be the first real test of the modifications. But some teams – like Carl Edwards and his No. 19 team – tried to draft off other cars as much as possible.

And the draft does work. You can see cars catch up to the car ahead down Indianapolis' long front and back straightaways. But just because a car gets close doesn't mean it's able to pass. The draft goes away when a car pulls out to pass. The momentum gained in the draft seems to quickly go away. Or it hits its crescendo too close to a corner to make a move.

Joey Logano noted the dramatic effect of the draft Friday morning. But he also noted the potential downside of the higher drag package. The turbulent air from the car ahead negatively affects the handling of the trailing car in the corner. What the draft can give on the straights, the turbulence can take away in the corners.

"I drafted a car down the back straightaway as he was pulling in just to get closer and the amount of speed you gain as you get closer and closer to that car in front of you; and then I pulled out because he was pulling in – and when I pulled back into the air it was like putting the brakes on. It was like 'whoa.' The draft is huge," Logano said.

"What that does in the corners is going to be a different ballgame. Obviously, the hole in the air is larger, so druving the cars through the corners is going to be more challenging, but the drag down the straightaway will that overcome what the challenge is in the corner? We'll just have to wait and see. I think that's going to be an interesting part of the race."

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 24, 2015, 9:04 pm

The limited visibility out of the backs of the Sprint Cup cars has been a discussion point at Indianapolis with the nine-inch spoilers. Since the spoiler is taller, drivers can see less out of their rear-view mirrors.

During Friday's second practice, Denny Hamlin not only had less visibility out the back window, he could hardly see out the front windshield of his car either.

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Hamlin's hood popped up and in front of his windshield thanks to an issue with the hood pins. The impact with his windshield busted the hood and a caution was necessary for NASCAR to pick up the debris from it.

Hamlin was able to make it back to the garage and his garage stall. His team was also able to fix the car so that he didn't have to go to a backup.

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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: July 24, 2015, 6:43 pm

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

Apologies for the belated Happy Hour this week. With our tour de Indianapolis (and rural Ohio), it's been a busy week.

The spoilers are nine inches tall at Indy this weekend and ... yeah, they look like fins on the back of the cars. There is a see through part of the spoilers near the top, though drivers have said they don't have much visibility through them. With spotters, the limited visibility shouldn't be an issue, but they are jarring to look at.

Maybe NASCAR should #bringbackthewing.

Let's go ahead and start with a question that you can simulate in your head about 150 different ways.

@NickBromberg Who is more likely to win next in their pro career Tony Stewart or Tiger Woods?

— Keith D (@kdesorm2) July 23, 2015

After thinking about this for a while we can convince ourselves of either answer. We're going to go with our initial instinct and say Stewart, simply because he has more opportunities to win in a given year. Tiger Woods isn't playing 36 tournaments a year.

And Woods also has to string four rounds together for a win. Stewart just needs one race. Hell, even the problems the two are having are sort of similar. Woods can play a good round of golf – Stewart can turn a fast lap in practice or qualifying – but when it comes to consistency, it simply isn't there. We like Stewart's chances a bit better. Only if it's because there are more of them.

Though we do have a sneaking suspicion Stewart could be a factor for the win on Sunday. Perhaps it's the thought of the comeback story at Indianapolis that is clouding an otherwise rational observation that the race will end up like most of the races for the No. 14 this season.

Who of the two would you pick?

@NickBromberg YEAH, WHERE WERE YOU HIDING AT ELDORA? DID YOU DUCK ME? THAT WAS TWO QUESTIONS.

— ANNOYING RACE FAN (@annoyingracefan) July 23, 2015

Our phone provider apparently does not have any towers in the Eldora Speedway area. We were incommunicado. Besides, you're hiding your face. How can you be ducked if we don't know what we're ducking from?

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So was it Brad or Joey who got ate? - John

John is referring to Sharknado, which was on during the Eldora race. From what we've read, Keselowski got eaten after a shark fell from the sky. We'll ask him how he's doing this weekend. Hopefully he's OK.

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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: July 24, 2015, 3:54 pm

Rossburg, OHIO – Eldora Speedway stays with you.

It's visible on your clothing, which looks a lot different and dirtier when you see it in a well-lit area. It's visible in the sink and shower when you look down and see the streaks of dust that have turned into mud when combined with water.

Oh, and you'll always remember the experience too.

Wednesday night's Camping World Truck race won by Christopher Bell was our first trip to the speedway. And if you're a NASCAR fan wanting to make a tour of tracks, you have to put Eldora on the list.

If you're used to frequenting tracks with local racing and lower regional or national series, the Eldora experience may not stand out extraordinarily. But when judged against the context of NASCAR races, it's certainly unique.

While Martinsville is quaint and a different experience from an intermediate track, it's still clear the entire time you're in attendance that you're at a Sprint Cup race. At Eldora, if it wasn't for the trailers behind the turn three and four grandstands with the NASCAR logo or the haulers in the infield, you wouldn't have much indication.

The grandstands on the frontstretch now have bars behind them. And by bars, we mean full-service bars that wouldn't look out of place at your local dive. The prices may be better too. Beer is $2. Shots are $3.

The main concession stands are similar to a cafeteria line. You walk in, grab what you want and pay at the cashier. The hot cheese balls are a gut bomb. But worth the roughly $2 we paid for them. And if you're not wanting the cafeteria experience, you can always get the state fair one.

And that doesn't only reference the food. Where else can you see a mower that is outfitted like a winged sprint?

The merchandise is something else too. You can buy shirts of your favorite NASCAR drivers, an Eldora t-shirt splattered with screenprinted mud or something like this if your daughter is a race fan.

When you walk up to the track and see the trucks for the first time, it's a race experience that isn't outstanding. In fact, it's almost disenchanting.

The trucks can't be driven like a car set up specifically for the dirt. They simply don't have the same consistent pitch – where drivers dive the car in to the left and steer to the right through the corner – to get into and through the corners that dirt cars utilize to go fast. The lack of pitch is visible on television, and incredibly clear in person.

It means the trucks are pretty slow. The lack of speed isn't necessarily a bad thing (especially as we talk about how to make better racing in the Cup Series), but it makes you wonder just how entertaining a race would look like.

The heat races didn't do much to change our opinion either, despite our awesome view from inside turns one and two. WIth six or seven trucks on track at a time, the races quickly got single file and we'd probably only want to watch one again.

But man, the race is a spectacle. What one truck or seven trucks can't accomplish, 32 can. Any doubts about how the race would be to watch are erased in the first few laps as you're enveloped in the dust cloud from the track. Watching trucks attempt to slide into the corners three or four-wide, only to learn it won't work time after time is mesmerizing.

(We also won't deny our laughter when this truck the first spin of the night. It felt like an appropriate analogy.)

We spent most of the evening on Brad Keselowski's radio. He too was making his dirt track debut. Listening to his learning experience helped accelerate ours. He stayed out at the first caution to inherit the lead but quickly learned how valuable new tires can be on dirt as faster trucks with fresher tires passed him with relative ease.

The battle for the lead over the race's final segment was fantastic. And we wish it could have gone green to the end. Bobby Pierce, an 18-year-old dirt-tracker making his first NASCAR start for a team that hadn't ever gotten a top-five in the Truck Series, let alone a win, was faster than Bell over the last 25 laps, even with a decklid that was hanging on just by the tethers from hitting the wall so much.

But restarts were Pierce's demise. He had radioed his crew that his transmission was getting harder to shift as the race went on and the split-second he'd lose entering turn one was always enough to prevent him from getting around Bell on the race's final two restarts.

Even if the race wasn't thrilling, the trip to rural Ohio was worth it – and we're not just saying that because we went to the Maid Rite in Greenville. Much like Martinsville, Eldora is a throwback. And not only is the Truck Series racing more entertaining there than at, say, Texas, it's a much more real and in-your-face experience too.

If NASCAR ever wanted the Truck Series to get closer to its founding roots of the mid-1990s (yeah, right), it simply needs to look at what goes on Wednesday night to see how consistenly fun the races can 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: July 23, 2015, 1:50 pm

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

1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 2): if only Harvick would have thrown a huge block on Kyle Busch as Busch made the move to get his lap back before the next-to-final caution. He could have won the race. But let's be real, there was no way that he realized the move Busch was making was going to be the winning pass. After all of the cries from drivers to throw a caution because of oil on the track, you can't blame them if they thought the caution was never going to fly. Harvick ended up third.

2. Kyle Busch (LW: 3): Ahead of Jimmie Johnson? Why not. Power Rankings are more about what drivers have done lately, and Busch has won three of four races and is 58 points back of 30th. But we do feel the need to douse some cold water on the Chase talk. Busch still has a ways to go to get into the top 30. Despite the run of recent form he's still only cut his points per race deficit by a third (from 12 points per race on 30th to 8). If he loses 10 points to 30th on Sunday at Indianapolis, his deficit is suddenly 68 points with six races to go and back to over 11 points per race. It's easier to fall than it is to climb.

3. Jimmie Johnson (LW: 1): A speeding penalty under green meant Johnson's day was pretty much toast from then on. He ended up finishing 22nd, the first car one lap down. Hell, if there would have been a caution before the last lap of the race, Johnson probably would have fought back and finished 15th or so. Instead, it was one of the rare races of 2015 where the race's caution flags didn't play out in favor of the No. 48. How fascinating would it be if Johnson won Sunday's race to tie Jeff Gordon with five Brickyard 400s?

4. Joey Logano (LW: 4): If the Gibbs cars have been the fastest of the two weeks, the Penske cars are a close second. After finishing second at Kentucky, Logano was fourth at New Hampshire. And since Johnson had a bad day and finished 22nd, Logano now has second place all to himself in the standings. Though he's a whopping 69 points behind Harvick. If there wasn't a Chase, the championship would be heading to a very early clinch.

5. Kurt Busch (LW: 5): Busch salvaged a top 10 out of Sunday's race. He wasn't one of the fastest cars on the track throughout the duration of the race, but he certainly wasn't in any danger of losing a lap. He was clearly the second-fastest Stewart-Haas Racing car, but it's also necessary to point out Tony Stewart finished 20th and Danica Patrick finished 24th. Busch should be a top pick for Sunday at Indy.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (LW: 7): Junior finished fifth at New Hampshire and now has the most top five finishes at the track without a win. In 32 career starts at the one-mile track he's got eight top fives and 15 top-10 finishes. He's finished in the top 10 four-straight times and that bodes well for the Chase race in September. If he makes it five straight he's likely moving on to the second round of the Chase.

7. Martin Truex Jr. (LW: 6): It's time to panic. Truex finished outside the top 10 again. One of those statements is false. One is true. Which one is it? After finishing 12th, Truex now has 14 top 10s in 19 races after having 14 top-10s in 15 races. Truex was on an unsustainable top-10 pace, so this "slump" should be seen as nothing more than a regression to the mean. If the lack of top 10s becomes a drought before the Chase begins, then we can mention the p-word in serious terms.

8. Brad Keselowski (LW: 11): Keselowski was frustrated after the race despite his second-place finish. And do you blame him? He felt he had the best car and led 101 laps, the most of anyone. And even Kyle Busch said he had the third-best car of the day. While Keselowski is pretty much in the Chase becase of his win, a win on Sunday would have served as affirmation for the No. 2 given the circumstances of that first win.

9. Jeff Gordon (LW: 9): The Gordon tributes will be rocking at Indianapolis all weekend, especially since Gordon won in 2014. And while we mentioned the intrigue if Johnson tied Gordon on Sunday, what if Gordon won his sixth Indianapolis race in his final start to essentially clinch a Chase berth? After a season that hasn't been a fairytale farewell it'd be a crazy pivot point.

10. Denny Hamlin (LW: 8): Hamlin wasn't as fast as his teammates all day but got all the way up to fourth on the final restart of the day. He wasn't able to maintain his position after a two-tire pit stop and finished 14th. Now he's heading back to the scene of his Indianapolis crime. Or improperly fastened firewall block-off plates. Hamlin was fined 75 points for the infraction and lost then-crew chief Darian Grubb for six races. We're going to guess those plates may get triple-checked this weekend.

11. Matt Kenseth (LW: 12): Kenseth finished sixth and his career statistics at New Hampshire are basically like Junior's. Kenseth has seven top fives and 16 top-10 finishes in 31 races. Oh, and one win. Kenseth is going to stay down here all sneaky until he wins another race or two before the Chase. And then he'll still be considered a not-so-big favorite for the title and will still make the final eight. Mark it down.

12. Carl Edwards (LW: NR): Edwards' SportClips sponsorship got us thinking on Twitter on Sunday. Which sponsorship would have the lamest freebies? While everyone needs haircuts, would you really want haircuts for free given the possibilities of freebies from other sponsors? If we're ranking the sponsor swag, Jamie McMurray's Cessna sponsorship is near the top of the list. Anything involving insurance is pretty high too.

Lucky Dog: Austin Dillon's 8th-place finish was his second top 10 in three races and his third of the season.

The DNF: He finished the race, but Clint Bowyer's day wasn't exactly a good one. He ended up 34th.

Dropped Out: Jamie McMurray

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

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 21, 2015, 4:26 pm

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Kyle Busch is on a roll. And he got his third win of the season on Sunday with a big assist from some possible oil on the track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch was racing behind leaders Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski as multiple drivers were radioing to NASCAR officials that there was oil on the track and that a caution flag was necessary. The calls went unheeded for a few laps and Busch split Keselowski and Harvick as the three were passing Landon Cassill into turn one on lap 251.

He drove to Harvick's inside and passed the leader as the group drove through turns one and two. The caution finally came out a short time later as the cars were on the backstretch.

The pass wasn't for the lead of the race, however. It was simply to get Busch on the lead lap. But it turned out to be the winning pass as the rest of the field headed to pit road and Busch inherited the lead.

Busch, who led 95 of the race's 301 laps, had pitted early for his final pit stop with the thought that he had a right front tire issue. As the oil calls seemed to multiply over team radios, a caution seemed more and more likely. Had it come down with Busch a lap down, he would have started at the tail end of the field. It waited just long enough.

"Luckily I got back to the lead lap before the yellow came out, but man, that saved us right there," Busch said in victory lane.

He said he didn't know if the pass he made to get back on the lead lap would turn into the pass for the win.

"Five laps, I just drove as hard as I could off pit road. I knew I needed to get those guys. They were telling me [David Gilliland] was the lucky dog [first car one lap down] spot and once I got there I was like 'OK, what else do I have to do to get back on the lead lap?'"

"I figured it was [Harvick] still, and it was and [Harvick] and [Keselowski] were really the class of the field I felt like today. Our car was a close third but ... on the long runs our front end would die and just couldn't turn."

Busch was the leader when the race restarted. He pulled away from Keselowski on the restart and built up a lead of over two seconds before Keselowski mounted a late and futile challenge that ended when a caution flag flew on the final lap.

The win still leaves Busch more than a race out of the top 30 in points. After missing the first 11 races of the season because of a broken leg and broken foot at Daytona in February, Busch still has an uphill climb to make the top 30 in the standings to get to the Chase.

But the ascent has transitioned from a rugged climb up the Rockies to a one in the Applachians.

Busch returned to the Cup Series 179 points back of 30th place. He's now 58 points out of the top 30 with seven races before the Chase. He's gone from needing to gain approximately 12 points per race on 30th place to eight.

He's still not guaranteed to make the top 30. One bad finish thanks to an engine failure or someone else's mishap could skew the average towards its original starting point. But it's become more likely that Busch will make the Chase. And if he does, he could start the postseason as high as the second seed.

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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: July 19, 2015, 9:02 pm

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Wrecking on the way out to practice is one more incident away from becoming a trend in the Sprint Cup Series.

A week after Cole Whitt and Sam Hornish Jr. made contact on the way out to the track at Kentucky, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon ran into each other in the New Hampshire garage on Saturday morning.

Cup garages aren't exactly wide open spaces, especially at a track like NHMS that's only a mile long. Bowyer was heading out to the track and Gordon was backing out of his garage stall, just like you'd back out of your driveway into your street.

So in this instance, Bowyer is the car coming down the street. And one of Gordon's crew members his rear-view mirror. The crew member was waving Gordon out and the four-time champion kept backing out. As Bowyer kept going towards the track.

Neither driver stopped in time and the right front of Bowyer's car smashed into the right rear of Gordon's.

While Bowyer was able to get back on the track for practice, Gordon's team spent the rest of the session fixing the right rear and preparing it for final practice.

The incident brings back memories of 2012, the last notable time the two drivers had a run-in on the track. Gordon retaliated against Bowyer for contact earlier in the race. The crash ruined Bowyer's title chances and the driver of the No. 15 sprinted through the Phoenix infield to get to Gordon and his team.

This was clearly an accident. We can't see this reigniting the feud.

At Kentucky, Whitt and Hornish had crumpled fenders when Whitt slammed the brakes to avoid Danica Patrick. The entrance and exit to the garages at Kentucky is the same (most tracks have a separate entrance and exit) and Whitt stopped suddenly to make sure he didn't hit Patrick. Hornish didn't stop in time and ran into the back of him.

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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: July 18, 2015, 3:31 pm

Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi, who was injured in a crash at Suzuka in 2014, has died. He was 25.

Bianchi's family made the announcement Friday evening (Saturday morning in France). He had been in a medically induced coma after suffering a severe head injury in the crash last fall.

“Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” the Bianchi family said in the statement. “The pain we feel is immense and indescribable. We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice’s CHU who looked after him with love and dedication. We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months.

The October race was run in a downpour in advance of an approaching typhoon. During a caution period for Adrian Sutil's car, Bianchi's car hit an exceptionally wet patch of track. His car slid off the track and slammed into a tractor that was pulling Sutil's car to safety.

The track was under a local yellow instead of a full-course caution at the time of Bianchi's incident. A local yellow only mandates that cars slow down in a specific area. Under a full caution, cars slow down and form a line behind the safety car. The tractor was also between the track and the outside wall at the time of the crash.

Bianchi's family said he suffered a diffuse axonal injury in the crash. According to a brain and spinal cord site, 90 percent of people who suffer the type of injury never regain consciousness. His father had recently said Bianchi hadn't made any significant progress in recovering from his injuries.

The race was eventually called nine laps early because of the rainy conditions.

Bianchi drove for Marussia, a team that went defunct after the 2014 season and is now known as the Manor team in Formula 1. Bianchi scored the backmarker team's first points in 2014 at Monaco. He drove for Marussia for two seasons.

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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: July 18, 2015, 1:39 am

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