From The Marbles

  • After limiting Cup drivers in lower series, it's time to raise the bar for Cup Series participation

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 13 hrs ago

    Early Wednesday, NASCAR announced a rule limiting the number of races Sprint Cup Series veterans can run in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. Now that the rule is official, the series should take a hard look at creating another one centered around experience. Namely, one establishing a higher baseline experience minimum to compete in the Cup Series.

    18-year-old Gray Gaulding is attempting to make his Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend at Martinsville. Gaulding has raced twice in the Xfinity Series and has made 13 starts in the Camping World Truck Series. He’s recorded one top five finish.

    Nothing about Gaulding’s resume says he’s ready for the Sprint Cup Series. But since he meets the age minimum, has a sponsor and has a NASCAR license, he has the opportunity to hop in the No. 30 car in the hopes of making his Cup debut.

    And existing Xfinity Series or Truck Series teams could have the chance to gain a funded driver for a season, possibly giving a team or two a sponsorship opportunity it may otherwise not have.

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  • Experienced Cup drivers limited to 17 Xfinity and Truck Series races a year starting in 2017

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 1 day ago

    A rule limiting Sprint Cup drivers in NASCAR’s No. 2 and No. 3 series is official.

    NASCAR said Wednesday that Cup drivers with five years full-time experience in the series will be limited to 10 Xfinity races and seven Camping World Truck Series races a season starting in 2017. Cup drivers are also barred from competing in the Chase races in each series.

    It’s a compromise that allows sponsors the opportunity to sponsor Cup drivers at a discount in the Xfinity and Truck Series while also turning the championship focus to the drivers who compete in the series full time.

    When NASCAR instituted eight-race Chase formats in the Xfinity and Truck Series before the 2016 season, it said Cup drivers were barred from competing in the winner-take-all finales at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That ban is still in place.

    Cup drivers are also now prevented from competing in the four Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash races. Those races — Bristol, Richmond, Dover and Indianapolis — are given more importance on the Xfinity Series schedule with extra cash given to the highest-finishing Xfinity Series driver. Xfinity regular Erik Jones won two of those races in 2016 while Cup drivers won two.

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  • Power Rankings: Harvick's on-track pragmatism keeps him at No. 1

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 1 day ago

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

    1. Kevin Harvick (LW: 1): Harvick stays at No. 1 this week because of his incredibly smart decision to get off the gas when Denny Hamlin sliced in front of him in the tri-oval on the final lap. Harvick had every right to keep his foot on the gas pedal and potentially send Hamlin spinning off his bumper. But that decision could’ve had catastrophic consequences in the form of a massive wreck.

    And it would have been the second-straight time a Talladega Chase race ended with a crash off Harvick’s bumper. Thankfully we’re not going through that again. But his apparent punch of Kurt Busch after the race is weird. And if it was really a punch, it’s the third-straight year that Harvick has been in a physical Chase altercation.

    It’s hard for a car to stay near the front of the field with a broken engine.

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  • No, there's not going to be a penalty for those who laid back at Talladega

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 2 days ago

    Advocating for a penalty for the three Joe Gibbs Racing cars at Talladega? Stop. It’s baseless and a waste of your time.

    NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said Monday there would be no penalties for Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth. The three teammates finished 28th-30th on Sunday and advanced to the third round of the Chase by doing so. There was no need for the three to try to finish in the top 15 after engine failures to the cars of Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. earlier in the race.

    From NBC Sports:

    “I’d say they do not fall into (the 100% rule),” O’Donnell said Monday during his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Satellite Radio’s The Morning Drive . “The spirit of that rule is really to prevent somebody from intentionally allowing anther teammate to do something that would not be in the spirit of the rules of the race.

    Don't hate the player… Hate the game.

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  • Quick takeaways from Talladega: 2 of 2016's winningest drivers now absent from the Chase

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 3 days ago

    • Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. are tied for the Sprint Cup Series lead in wins. Each has four victories in 2016. Yet Keselowski and Truex aren’t among the eight drivers advancing to the third round of the Chase after their misfortune at Talladega.

    Both Keselowski and Truex had engine failures Sunday. Truex’s came first. Then Keselowski’s happened after he had previously had trash on the grille of his car.

    In a NASCAR that likes to tout the importance of winning, their absence from the final rounds of the Chase may seem glaring. Especially since it’s the first time in the three years of the current Chase format that a driver at least tied for the most wins in the series through 32 races has missed out on the Chase’s final two rounds.

    But that’s what happens in this Chase format. With three races in a round, one bad finish can ruin your championship if you don’t get a win in the round’s other two races. Truex was 13th and 11th over the last two weeks. Another top-15 would have meant easy advancement. Instead, Truex finished 40th.

    • How about Brian Scott? His highest finish of the season was 12th entering Sunday’s race. He finished second.

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  • Joe Gibbs Racing shows why being conservative works in the Chase

    Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles 3 days ago

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    Maybe Talladega was the “lay up” race of the third round?

    Joe Gibbs Racing’s four cars represent half of the eight drivers advancing to the third round of the Chase. And three of those JGR drivers played a survive and advance strategy to perfection Sunday.

    Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth entered Sunday’s race with hefty points advantages over ninth place. Kenseth was up 29 points on ninth, Busch 27 and Edwards 24. With one point being awarded per position, each of the three knew that it would take a big points swing to get knocked out of the Chase.

    The easiest way to be a part of a big points swing at Talladega? Get involved in a crash. So the three teammates ran behind the main pack of cars for the entirety of the day. Kenseth finished 28th, Edwards was 29th and Busch was 30th.

    The strategy to run at the back for most of the race at Talladega isn’t uncommon. Every race features at least a handful of drivers content to ride in the back for 400 of the first 500 miles to avoid any possible pileups. Then, as the laps wind down, it’s time to move to the front.

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  • Harvick has words, jab for Kurt Busch after Talladega

    Jay Busbee at From The Marbles 3 days ago

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    TALLADEGA, Ala.—Teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch are moving on together to the next round of the Chase. But all is not harmonious in the Stewart-Haas camp.

    Shortly after the end of the race, Busch hit Harvick in the side during the cooldown lap; it appeared to be a continuation of the paint-trading that happened in the final laps of the race. Harvick was angry enough that he stormed over to Busch’s car on pit road and punched at something—helmet, post, whatever—hard enough to rock the entire car on its chassis.

    “He cleaned the side of our car out after the checkered flag,” Harvick said. “I don’t really understand that.” Asked if Busch had offered up any kind of explanation, Harvick replied, “Not really.”

    Busch struck a tone that was a touch more inclusive, but no less pointed. “He has a misunderstanding of the call of the end of the race,” Busch said. “We’re great teammates. We’re doing good together. We have to work to beat these teams together, and he knows that.”

  • Joey Logano wins Talladega; Truex, Keselowski, Elliott, Dillon eliminated

    Jay Busbee at From The Marbles 3 days ago

    TALLADEGA, Ala.—There are three ways to race at Talladega:

    -Run in the front. -Run in the pack. -Run far behind the pack.

    No matter which option you pick, one of the other two was probably a better choice.

    Joey Logano won the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega, punching a guaranteed ticket through to the next round of the Chase. Drivers whose Chase hopes ended on Sunday included Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Austin Dillon.

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    Sunday’s race demonstrated just how tricky restrictor-plate racing can be, particularly when such a valuable prize as advancement is at stake. Keselowski and Truex lost out on their bids to advance when their engines failed them. Elliott wasn’t able to work his way through the pack, and Dillon lost out on a tiebreaker with Hamlin.

    The tiebreaker goes to the driver with the best finish in a round. Hamlin finished third Sunday, higher than any finish Dillon had in the second round.

    [Podcast: Why Talladega is an American sports legend]

  • Engine woes doom Brad Keselowski's 2016 championship hopes

    Jay Busbee at From The Marbles 3 days ago

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    TALLADEGA, Ala.—After a day in which he’d thoroughly dominated both the field and the track, a day that ended with a championship-killing engine failure, Brad Keselowski spoke for exactly 49 seconds. That was probably 48 seconds more than he needed; you could sum up Keselowski’s frustration with one single FCC-forbidden curse.

    Keselowski didn’t need a win to advance to the next round of the Chase, but he needed an exceptionally strong afternoon. And that’s exactly what he put together, using both strategy and physics to lead a race-high 90 laps. But on lap 144, Keselowski’s engine suddenly gave out, and he lurched from second place down to the apron before heading straight to the garage. The failure means Keselowski will not have enough points to advance to the next round of the Chase.

    “Just wasn’t meant to be,” Keselowski said moments after climbing from the smoking car. “That’s the way it goes.” After a few minutes, he appeared on NBC, holding his daughter and allowing that “We got our whining out of the way … we’re going to go and try to win the next four races.”

  • Martin Truex Jr.'s championship season evaporates with engine trouble

    Jay Busbee at From The Marbles 3 days ago

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    TALLADEGA, Ala.—Martin Truex Jr. began his year with a bitter loss in the Daytona 500, coming up just six inches short of a trip to victory lane. He’ll end this year with an even more painful thud, a championship-caliber season falling victim to a blown engine at Talladega.

    This was supposed to be Truex’s year, a season in which everything came together for the Jersey driver and Denver race team. Truex won four races, including the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500, and two of the first three races in the first round of the Chase. But in the Chase, you’re only as good as the current three-race segment, and Truex’s earlier victories meant nothing in the round of 12. Truex entered the race 13 points ahead of the cutoff line, not nearly enough to feel comfortable.

    Early on in the race, Truex, the pole winner, challenged Brad Keselowski for the race lead, even notching a couple laps led. But by lap 41, Truex’s engine let go, and he had no choice but to take his car straight to the garage.

    “I originally thought it was maybe a tire issue, but when I slowed down and came to pit road, I knew it was an engine issue,” he said. “I knew we’d need a miracle.”