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From The Marbles

The No. 77 is 'retooling,' which means there are only 42 Cup cars entered at Kentucky

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles
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Feb 28, 2014; Avondale, AZ, USA; The car of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney reflects in a water puddle during practice for the The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The No. 77 car owned by Randy Humphrey and driven by Dave Blaney has made four Sprint Cup Series starts this season. Its highest finish is 33rd in those four starts. No, the No. 77 has not been a barnburner in the Cup Series.

This week, Humphrey told NASCAR.com that the team was "retooling" and hoped to be back at Indianapolis. After entering the first 15 races of the season, the team skipped Sonoma and, as of now, will miss three more races.

Normally, the absence of a team struggling to make the field in the Cup Series isn't noticeable to most NASCAR fans. But it's notable this weekend. It means that as of Wednesday, the entry list for the Cup race at Kentucky on Saturday night has 42 cars on it. A full field is 43 cars. (Part-time teams like the Wood Brothers and Leavine Family Racing don't have Kentucky on the schedule.)

If the race starts with 42 cars, it'll break a streak that's gone on for more than 12 years. The last time a race was run without 43 cars was at New Hampshire in 2001, when the race was run in November instead of September because of the Sept. 11 attacks. (The race, run on the Friday after Thanksgiving, was set by owner's points at the time of the originally scheduled and the No. 27 team had folded since. Thus, no replacement was found.)

The last time a qualifying session was held with less than a full field in the Cup Series entered? You have to go all the way back to Dover in 1996, according to Jayski.

Is the lack of a 43rd car a big deal? That's up for you to decide, though if you think it is, don't go reaching for the megaphone to exclaim that the sky is falling. It does mean that each of NASCAR's top three series will have had a short field in 2014 and it's become obvious that there are significant barriers to entry for new and/or underfunded teams trying to make it in NASCAR.

But that's the case with or without one more car entered at Kentucky. NASCAR's national series, especially the Cup Series, are extremely close through speeds and scoring monitors. However, close doesn't always equal competitive; it's why wins like Front Row's at Talladega last year are so exciting. Smaller teams simply don't have a chance of winning most every weekend.

It would have been a victory for the No. 77 to finish above 30th at Kentucky, which is why, again, most fans wouldn't notice its absence on Saturday night. But because of it, there looks like there will be 21 full rows starting the race instead of 21.5. Will you notice that? Maybe. Is the absence of the half row indicative of issues facing teams in NASCAR? Definitely. Will it impact the race's outcome or how you view it? Not at all.

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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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