From The Marbles

  • Clint Bowyer, rested and ready, looks forward to putting his career back in gear

    Jay Busbee at From The Marbles 5 hrs ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The voice was familiar. The grin was, too. It’s just the finishing position that was strange.

    Clint Bowyer walked into the media center after a second-place finish in the second of Thursday night’s two Can-Am Duels and smiled. “Been a long time since I’ve been in here,” he said, then picked up a placard in front of him. “Look at that! Got my name on it and everything.”

    Bowyer’s wide-eyed enthusiasm is understandable, given that he’s spent the last 18 months in career limbo. One peculiar aspect of NASCAR’s have-and-have-not environment is the fact that there are more good drivers than there are cars in which to place them. So when Bowyer’s old team, Michael Waltrip Racing, announced in 2015 it would be closing its doors, that left Bowyer – once a reliable top-10 driver and a former Cup championship runner-up – without a ride available at a top-flight team.

    HScott Motorsports stepped up, as best it could, giving Bowyer a seat while everyone waited for Tony Stewart to retire. But Bowyer effectively threw away an entire year of his career in equipment that couldn’t come close to keeping up with the cars of his more well-funded colleagues.

  • Will NASCAR's new race format affect race strategies?

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 5 hrs ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — As lap 60 of Sunday’s Daytona 500 approaches, teams at the back of the pack may face a dilemma. Do you pit on lap 57 before the pits close? Or do you stay out and hope to work your way to the front in the second segment?

    The introduction of stages within races in the Cup Series in 2017 adds a huge wrinkle to in-race strategy. During last year’s Daytona 500, there was no guarantee a caution would fly around lap 60. But with guaranteed cautions on lap 60 and lap 120 of the 200-lap race and points awarded to drivers in the top 10 at the time of each of those cautions, some teams may try some previously unconventional methods to score points.

    “It will for sure impact how we race, especially at places we know we are running 25th,” Michael McDowell said. “If we have an opportunity; if a caution falls right; a strategy falls right, you can stay out and maybe get some points and get a little bit of a spotlight for your partners, I think you absolutely do it.”

    – – – – – – –

  • Joey Logano is going to be with Team Penske for a long, long time

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 6 hrs ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — By the time Joey Logano signs his next NASCAR contract, ads for the 2024 presidential campaign will be polluting our televisions.

    Friday at Daytona, Logano and Team Penske announced a contract extension for the driver that will keep him with the team through “2022 and beyond.” Shell-Pennzoil, Logano’s current sponsor, will also remain with the No. 22 team through that time period.

    “I’ve known my entire life I wanted to be a NASCAR Cup Series driver,” Logano said in a statement. “Now, to be able to know that I get the opportunity to drive for Roger Penske for the foreseeable future where I can focus solely on winning races and championships, is a life-long dream for me.”

    The contract means Logano now has one of the longest contracts in the Cup Series garage. And, perhaps staggeringly to some, it’s only through his age-33 season counting the 2023 season as the “beyond” in the announcement. That means Logano likely has at least one or two long-term extensions left in his driving career.

    For perspective, Logano’s Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, turned 33 in February. In 2016, eight of the 16 drivers in the Chase were older than 33.

    – – – – – – –

  • Duel inspection failures for Allmendinger and Truex mean a loss of points

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 10 hrs ago

    NASCAR’s new points format means AJ Allmendinger and Martin Truex Jr. have already earned and lost points.

    The two drivers finished in the top 10 of their respective Duel Daytona 500 qualifying races Thursday night. But along with Allmendinger’s teammate Chris Buescher, the three failed post-race inspection. Their cars were too low.

    In previous years, the infraction simply means the three drivers would start at the back of the field for Sunday’s Daytona 500. And they’ll still do that. But for Allmendinger and Truex, they went from having points to not having points.

    As part of the points changes NASCAR instituted for the 2017 season, the top-10 finishers in each Duel qualifying race earned points. The winners of each race — Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — received 10 points while the drivers who finished 10th each received a point.

    Truex finished seventh in the first Duel while Allmendinger finished fourth in the second Duel. Truex tentatively earned four points while Allmendinger had seven.

    Truex will start 35th, Buescher will start 37th and Allmendinger will start 38th. Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start on the front row.

    – – – – – – –

  • Denny Hamlin passes Dale Earnhardt Jr. on penultimate lap for Duel win

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 22 hrs ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Hamlin thwarted the possibility of a triumphant return for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Hamlin passed Earnhardt Jr. with two laps to go in the second Daytona 500 Duel qualifying race Thursday night and pulled away from Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch over the final lap.

    Junior, making his first (albeit unofficial) start since missing the final 18 races of 2016, ended up finishing sixth. He’ll start second for Sunday’s Daytona 500, however, after qualifying there during single-car qualifying last weekend. As the winner of Duel No. 2, Hamlin will start right behind Junior in fourth.

    Hamlin, the defending Daytona 500 champion, will also enter the 500 tied with Chase Elliott atop the points standings entering the Daytona 500 with 10 points. Elliott won the first Duel race. As part of changes NASCAR made to its point system in 2017, the top 10 finishers in the Duel qualifying races received points.

    “I don’t know what I could have done differently to defend that,” Junior said.

    – – – – – – –

    Follow @NickBromberg

  • Corey LaJoie crashes Reed Sorenson out of the Daytona 500

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 22 hrs ago

    Your browser does not support iframes.

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Corey LaJoie bumped his way into the Daytona 500.

    During the first of two Duel qualifying races Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, LaJoie was competing with Reed Sorenson for one of the final spots in Sunday’s race and found himself trailing Sorenson on the outside line as Lap 49 (of the 60-lap race) began.

    As Sorenson’s car slowed up just a bit exiting the tri-oval, LaJoie’s didn’t. The two made contact, and Sorenson went sliding into Paul Menard and an inside retaining wall.

    The impact crushed the front of Sorenson’s car. And his Daytona 500 hopes.

    “I really do feel bad about Reed,” LaJoie said. “I just tried to fill a hole and it was getting down to it and I probably did have position on him, but man when I’m trying to get into the Daytona 500, if my mom was in that spot I’d probably wreck her too.”

    The Duels are NASCAR’s unique way to set the starting field for the Daytona 500. Most of the field is already guaranteed a spot, but two were still up for grabs Thursday.

    – – – – – – –

    Follow @NickBromberg

  • Chase Elliott wins first Duel qualifying race

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 23 hrs ago

    Your browser does not support iframes.

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Chase Elliott held off challenges by Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray to win the first Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Thursday.

    Because the Can-Am Duel races are awarding points, Elliott is now guaranteed to start the Daytona 500 tied with the winner of the second Duel atop the points standings. Elliott earned 10 points for the race win.

    Elliott won the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500 last weekend, posting the fastest time of all 42 cars attempting to make the race. Because he was guaranteed a spot on the front row, he could have taken Thursday night’s race easy and rode around in the back of the pack and saved his car.

    Instead, Elliott raced up front the entire race. He fought back after being shuffled to the back part of the top 10 early in the race and once he got the lead late in the 60-lap race, he never relinquished it. As Harvick and McMurray tried to make runs behind him, they never got enough help to mount a serious challenge.

    “I just had to beat him [Soreonson],” LaJoie explained. “I didn’t want to be sipping Margaritas on the beach on Sunday.  I wanted to be out there racing.

    – – – – – – –

  • Your 2017 Daytona 500 qualifying races primer

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 1 day ago

    Welcome to the first points-paying edition of the Can-Am Duel qualifying races for the Daytona 500.

    NASCAR’s new points format means the traditional 150-mile qualifying races to set the field for the Daytona 500 will award points to the top 10 drivers in each race. Each race winner will get 10 points while 10th in each Duel will receive a single point (you can figure out how points for second-ninth are awarded). The points mean NASCAR will have official points standings before the first race of the season.

    The points given for the Duels are just like the points NASCAR will pay for the first two segments of races in 2017. The top 10 teams in each of the first two segments of all 36 Cup Series races will be awarded on a sliding 10-1 scale for the top 10. Full points, as always, will be awarded at the conclusion of official races.

    Those four drivers racing for the final two spots are Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie, DJ Kennington and Timmy Hill. Sorenson and LaJoie are in the first Duel while Kennington and Hill are in the second.



  • Are Team Penske's Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski the early Daytona 500 favorites?

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 2 days ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Teams haven’t done anything other than qualifying runs with their Daytona 500 cars and yet it may be easy find a couple of favorites for Sunday’s race.

    “I would definitely point towards to the Fords and Penske,” Kevin Harvick said.

    Harvick is referring to teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Logano won last week’s exhibition Clash race after Keselowski collided with leader Denny Hamlin on the final lap of the race. Keselowski — thanks to a push from Logano — went to pass Hamlin, who made a very late block and allowed Logano to fly past.

    Keselowski and Logano have won four of the eight points-paying restrictor plate races since 2015. That past history, Jamie McMurray said, is what makes them a favorite before Thursday night’s Duel qualifying races.

    “But, the two Penske cars were already there because they have run well for the last two years at every plate race,” McMurray said. “They’ve been fast. So, before we got here, we knew they were going to be fast.”

    And while Logano and Keselowski have had great equipment in those races, of course, but they haven’t been up front by accident.

    – – – – – – –

  • Danica Patrick believes she's suffered multiple concussions in her racing career

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 2 days ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Danica Patrick said she could relate to Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he said he’d suffered numerous concussions throughout his time as a driver.

    “I’ve had concussions,” Patrick said. “Every time you crash you have a concussion on a varying degree, I’m sure. So when he said something about having 12 concussions I was like, ‘Oh, I’m sure I’ve had 12 concussions.’”

    Earnhardt Jr. is making his return to the Cup Series in 2017 after missing the second half of 2016 because of concussions sustained over the summer. Junior has discussed his transparency during his recovery process numerous times, and Patrick said that openness has helped raise the level of awareness in the garage.

    “Now, I don’t think anyone else has as much luxury sponsorship-wise as Dale Jr. probably does to be able to just get out of the car like that, but it also is coming from a big-name driver that is setting the standard for well-being and it’s admirable,” Patrick said. “I think we like to sweep it all under the rug as drivers, like we feel fine and nothing is wrong, but it’s our life.”

    – – – – – – –

    Follow @NickBromberg