From The Marbles
- Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles4 hrs ago
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The back road to Martinsville dips and turns through the woods. There are a few houses on each side. Then, suddenly, there are cars parked along the side of the road. We’re close to the track?
After parking, the walk continues down the road. A sign with “17” stands in the middle of a field that’s used as a makeshift parking lot. We take a right into the field.
Up a short hill, the grandstands appear.
If you’ve never been to Martinsville and wonder if the descriptions of its rural location are hyperbole, they’re not. The track basically sits in a bowl, with hills and trees all around. Houses too. And the train tracks, which run along the backstretch and separate the track from the helipad, which is essentially a flat spot of land where helicopters shuttling drivers and VIPs take off and land.
Sunday was my first time at Martinsville, and I also have a confession to make. It was my first Sprint Cup Series race as a fan. I started covering Sprint Cup races as an 18-year-old but never had been to one as a fan. Previously, if I’d been at a Cup race, I’d been there to work. This time was different.
- Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles5 hrs ago
NASCAR said Tuesday it was disappointed in the recent measure to enact a religious-freedom law in Indiana.
The measure has come under intense scrutiny since it passed because many believe it opens the door to discrimination against certain groups on religious grounds.
"NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana," chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said in a statement. "We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race."
Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence said he stood by the law, which goes into effect on July 1, but that he could have handled it better. He also said it doesn't encourage or allow discrimination.
- Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles1 day ago
NASCAR has made changes to group qualifying at Daytona and Talladega a reality.
Group qualifying was instituted at the beginning of the 2014 season, though 2014 Daytona 500 pole qualifying was unchanged a year ago from traditional single-car runs.
Now, qualifying will consist of single car runs, though there will likely be multiple cars on the track at once. NASCAR said Monday that for the races at Talladega in May and Daytona in July, cars will be released one-by-one at a prescribed interval from pit road. Each car will get one timed lap to post a speed. The top 12 cars from the first round of qualifying will advance to a second round and race for the pole.
- Jay Busbee at From The Marbles1 day ago
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There are literally billions of dollars at play in today's NASCAR environment, but for a few laps on Sunday, you could have been watching a good old small-track race in the middle of nowhere.
Well, technically, you were; Martinsville is one of the most remote tracks on the circuit. But you get the idea: for all the money and fame these drivers and race teams accrue, sometimes it comes down to two drivers, two cars, one prize. And on Sunday, it was Denny Hamlin who outlasted Brad Keselowski in the closing laps of the STP 500 to notch his first win of the season and fifth at Martinsville overall.
Hamlin had driven one of the best cars all day, but one by one his top challengers dropped back in the pack, either victimized by bad luck (Joey Logano got collected on a spin by Michael Annett) or their own mistakes (Jeff Gordon suffered a critical pit road speeding penalty with less than 40 laps remaining). As with last week, it then fell to Keselowski to sneak in and challenge Hamlin for the victory. Turn after turn in the closing laps, Keselowski got close enough to touch Hamlin's bumper, but couldn't get inside for a pass.
- Jay Busbee at From The Marbles2 days ago
NASCAR's future arrived at Martinsville on Sunday, and promptly got knocked back into the garage.
Chase Elliott, defending Xfinity Series champion and son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, made his Sprint Cup debut on Sunday in the No. 25 NAPA Chevrolet, and, well, Martinsville and the STP 500 didn't exactly welcome him with a gentle, loving embrace.
Martinsville often resembles a shopping mall parking lot at Christmastime, with cars circling, fenders bending, and tempers rising. Elliott, starting 27th, traded paint with his fellow mid-packers, and on an early restart, Brett Moffitt piled into him. Shortly afterward, on lap 75, Elliott went behind the wall with power steering and radiator problems. It took his team, comprised of Hendrick Motorsports veterans, 69 laps to get Elliott's car back in serviceable condition.
Points aren't the goal for Elliott; experience is. He'll run a handful of events this season in preparation for a full-time Sprint Cup ride next season taking over for Jeff Gordon. It's all part of the most celebrated Cup-level debut in recent memory.
- Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles2 days ago
Kyle Larson fainted at an autograph session Saturday and will not drive in Sunday's race at Martinsville. He's being replaced by Regan Smith.
Larson was awake and alert after the fainting spell and was evaluated at both a Martinsville-area medical center and a Charlotte hospital, where he was taken for evaluation by a neurologist. All tests so far have come back negative, however, according to the team, he's being held out as a precaution for more testing.
"After fainting yesterday at an autograph session in Martinsville, VA, Kyle Larson was first evaluated at a local hospital in Martinsville and ultimately evaluated at a Charlotte hospital," Chip Ganassi Racing said in a statement. "Although all tests came back negative and Larson feels completely fine, the doctors felt he should be held for more testing today. Subsequently, Larson will be unable to race today in the STP 500 in Martinsville."
- Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles2 days ago
A car crashed in an endurance race at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe in Germany on Saturday, flipping over a fence and killing at least one spectator and injuring others.
The car, driven by Jann Mardenborough, became vertical as it lost control. He then flipped over the catchfence after impact with the tire barriers in front of the wall. Here's video of the crash. You do not see the car land on the other side of the track. It then cuts to Mardenborough out of the car and a crowd around the scene.
The race was the first of the VLN Endurance Championship Nurburgring. Here's a statement from the VLN via Autosport:
"The opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship at the Nurburgring was marred by an accident on Saturday which injured several spectators.
"One of the spectators died, despite the immediate actions of the rescue crew in the medical centre at the circuit.
"The other injured spectators have been taken to hospital for ongoing medical care.
"The race was stopped to give emergency crew quick access to the circuit, and wasn't restarted.
- Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles3 days ago
Joey Logano got his second pole of 2015 at Martinsville.
Logano put down a lap of 98.461 MPH to best Ryan Newman for the top spot. Newman was the fastest car in the second round of qualifying.
It's Logano's first pole at Martinsville. His first pole in 2015 came at Atlanta where he finished fourth a week after winning the Daytona 500.
Martin Truex Jr. starts third to continue his early-season success. He's finished in the top 15 in every race this season and has started no lower than 15th.
Behind Truex are a few guys who have had success at Martinsville. Jeff Gordon starts fourth, while Jimmie Johnson starts fifth and Tony Stewart sixth. Gordon and Johnson have eight wins at the half-mile track while Stewart has three.
Chase Elliott will make his Sprint Cup Series debut on Sunday and he'll start 27th. Defending race winner Kurt Busch starts one spot ahead of him in 26th.
Two cars, Ron Hornaday and Brendan Gaughan, missed the race.
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- Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles4 days ago
After the following two Sprint Cup Series races – at Phoenix and Auto Club – NASCAR has taken tires for review. On Friday, crew chiefs Alan Gustafson and Chad Knaus said they were told by the sanctioning body that any tampering with tires would be met with stiff penalties.
“I don’t want to say warned," Gustafson, Jeff Gordon's crew chief, said. "Warned may not be the right term, just reminded.”
What could the issues be? Apparently there's talk that teams have been drilling tiny holes in the tires. The holes would allow air to bleed, ever so slowly, to keep tire pressures lower throughout the duration of a tire stint (as heat builds in the tires, air pressures increase).
- Nick Bromberg at From The Marbles4 days ago
Throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to email@example.com or @NickBromberg. We'll post them here and have a good time.
Well, have you recovered from the events at Auto Club Speedway?
While Kurt Busch has been the focal point of the "he got a bad draw with the final cautions" anger, Matt Kenseth shouldn't be overlooked either. The race was his to win until the first of the three cautions happened and it was no longer his after the axle issue leaving pit road.
The IndyCar Series season starts this weekend at St. Petersburg. It was supposed to start earlier in March but there was a bit of an issue with the race organizer and it didn't happen. The race begins after 3 p.m. ET, so ideally it will be still going on when Martinsville is over. That's a good move by the series, which has had way too many races start and end during NASCAR's television window recently.
Yes, there's a dedicated subset of fans that will watch open-wheel racing over NASCAR, but for the motorsports fan who watches all or most types of racing (more common than the IndyCar superfan), this is a great move.