The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: New Hampshire-1 Race Recap by Amy Henderson -- Monday June 28, 2010

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Editor’s Note: Matt McLaughlin is on vacation this week. Senior Editor Amy Henderson filled in; look for Matt to return next Monday after Daytona.

The Key Moment: Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch put on a clinic of how to race at the finish, with Johnson using a bumper just enough to give the No. 2 a little wiggle with two laps to go – just enough to get by.

In a Nutshell: Johnson dominated all three practice sessions, then made little noise in the early going on race day. But in classic No. 48 fashion, Johnson found the front when it counted, winning his fifth race of 2010 and the 52nd of his career.

Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch turned a so-so day at Loudon into an exciting one with a fierce battle over the final laps.

Dramatic Moment: The final laps between Johnson and Kurt Busch had the potential to turn into a wreckfest – and didn’t. Had either driver stepped over the line, both could have ended up in a steaming pile of car carcass. Instead, they were able to make the finish one of the best battles we’ve seen this year – all without the need for a fake caution or green-white-checkered.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week:

Will he or won’t he? While it’s pretty safe to say that Bruton Smith is posturing right now to improve the situation with local law enforcement over track security, nothing he’s said this weekend would reassure New Hampshire race fans. When asked about a possible date switch, for the first time Smith did not deny that New Hampshire Motor Speedway might lose a Sprint Cup date, saying that fans “shouldn’t believe rumors,” then five seconds later adding that a date switch required NASCAR approval. As of Sunday, he does not have that approval, but Smith did not elaborate on whether he has asked for a date to be moved to Kentucky Speedway.

Which is too bad, because the crowd at NHMS is one of the biggest I’ve seen at a Cup race this year. There were a few empty seats low down on the frontstretch and a few more in Turns 3 and 4, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t one of the best attended races, in terms of fan to seat ratio, that we have seen in 2010.

Roush Fenway Racing’s 2010 drought continued at NHMS with a vengeance. By lap 225, not a single RFR car was to be seen on the lead lap, and Carl Edwards, just two years ago considered the title favorite at midseason, lost a second lap under green by the time the checkers fell. Ouch. While the FR9 alone wasn’t going to be enough to turn things around, it should have at least slowed the bleeding a little. Instead, the Blue Oval teams are hemorrhaging worse than ever.

Editor’s Note: Looking for a Danica opinion? This article from Managing Editor Tom Bowles should give you all the Danica fix you need over at SI.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune:

After dominating the first part of the race, leading 110 laps, the FR9 in Kasey Kahne’s No. 9 gave up the ghost with just 63 laps to go. The new Ford engine is supposed to be durable, with a self-cooling element, but don’t tell that to this one. For Kahne, who entered the day 120 points out of Chase contention, it could be the kiss of death for any title hopes. The way the Fords have been running, maybe Kahne should find a ride in a Chevy…

Some Editor Adds:
Bobby Labonte left TRG Motorsports this week, hoping to find new life in Robby Gordon’s No. 7 Toyota. By the end of it, he needed a new car after wrecking in Friday practice, then slumped to 30th on Sunday.

Juan Pablo Montoya had a top-5 car for most of the afternoon, but played a little too rough with Clint Bowyer and roughed up his splitter. A few laps later, a clearly crippled car was slim pickins’ for Reed Sorenson to play Target practice and hit the bulls-eye of his former sponsor.

Martin Truex, Jr. never got to pay back Jeff Gordon – probably because they weren’t ever in the same straightaway. The NAPA Toyota slugged like a snail all day, finishing off the lead lap in 22nd.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune:

I bet Jeff Burton would like a do-over on that last pit call. He had the race won until the caution flew for Juan Pablo Montoya at lap 282, and stayed out while the rest of the field pitted – perhaps the only way eventual winner Jimmie Johnson might have gotten by. Had it stayed green in those critical laps, Burton had the upper hand at a track where he holds the all-time Sprint Cup win record. Burton’s decision wasn’t a case of luck – but Johnson’s benefit from it was.

Some Editor Adds:
Tony Stewart was one lap down at one point after his crew failed to fill up his car with fuel under their first pit stop. But he got the cautions he needed to rally back up to second place.

Marcos Ambrose learned what happens when you don’t shut off the engine towards the end: you can actually move up the finishing order, not down it. Off the lead lap most of the day, he put a Lucky Dog to good use and rallied to 13th at the finish.

Clint Bowyer (7th) was lucky Mr. Montoya got wrecked before he came around for a little return visit.

Worth Noting

  • The top 10 Sunday consisted of seven Chevrolets, a Ford, a Dodge, and a Toyota.
  • Jimmie Johnson now has back-to-back wins for the second time this season.
  • Jeff Gordon (4th) now has three straight top-5 finishes for the first time in 2010, despite not leading a single lap in any of them.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (8th) now has three straight top-11 finishes for the first time since September 2008.
  • After winning seven of ten races, Joe Gibbs Racing has finished no better than ninth in the last two.
  • Juan Pablo’s pole was the third of his career – and his second at New Hampshire. I won’t call him a one-trick pony, but he sure has that flat oval figured out. On the flip side, he now has five DNFs in 17 starts, totaling seven finishes of 34th or worse to match his seven top-10s.
  • It’s rare that there are two drivers who have a shot at a weekend double, but this week that was the case, as Ryan Newman won a the Whelen Modified Tour race at Loudon to join Kyle Busch for the chance at two trophies. Of the two, Newman came closer to capitalizing, finishing 6th on Sunday.
  • Hendrick Motorsports only has one winning car in 2010. At this time last year, they had three.
  • Tony Stewart went from ninth to second in the final eight laps on Sunday. Is it time for Stewart’s summer resurgence?
  • A.J. Allmendinger continues to shine. His tenth-place finish was the best for Ford at Loudon.
  • Though pit stops and inferior equipment took their toll in the race results, Casey Mears consistently outran his replacement in the No. 83 at NHMS – with inferior equipment (Sorenson did wind up 24th to Mears’ 29th). Perhaps a decision made in anger and haste wasn’t the best one…
  • Carl Edwards (25th) has gone five races without a top-10 finish.











What’s the Points?

Despite having only one win to Jimmie Johnson’s five on the year, Kevin Harvick continues to show everyone why the first half of the season is an exercise in consistency, easily maintaining the points lead with his fifth-place finish. Too bad NASCAR says in nine weeks that lead is worth as much as a $4 bill, and hands it over to someone else.

Jimmie Johnson gained 35 points on Harvick with the win. Five wins is all well and good, but it’s Johnson’s three DNF’s that keep him out of the top spot, leaving him 105 points behind. Kyle Busch hung on to third, while Denny Hamlin manages to hold down fourth by a mere two points over Jeff Gordon.

Meanwhile, back at the Ponderosa, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is banging rather insistently on the door of the top 12 as the Chase looms closer, sitting just three points behind Carl Edwards, whose freefall continues. If Earnhardt doesn’t want to be in the top dozen, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer are also within 20 points of Edwards. Kasey Kahne might as well give his Chase chances a decent burial along with his Loudon engine; he slipped to 20th in the standings, and now sits almost 200 points behind the Chase cutoff.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — For awhile, this was looking like a solid two-can day, owing to the lack of mixing it up for oh, about 200 laps. (At least NASCAR gets bonus points for not trying to fake it with debris cautions.) But thanks to Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson (and indirectly to Juan Pablo Montoya and Reed Sorenson), the great finish means this one’s worth at least three Captain and Cokes.

Up Next
Next week, it’s back to Daytona for the former Firecracker 400 (Which is a WAY cooler name than the Coke Zero 400). I hope they have enough Bondo on hand in case another crater opens its yaw; and if that doesn’t happen, it’s still a plate race. That flagman better keep the red one handy.

Contact Amy Henderson

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Fixit
06/28/2010 01:39 AM
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Ok, evidently its a good thing I recorded the race. Watched the first half of it and assumed it was going to be yet another contrived ending race.

Fixit
06/28/2010 01:49 AM
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I even got a comment in before Dansmom was able to post anything about how great Danica did this weekend…and I will shut up now before I get banned from reading any more of Matt’s articles

DansMom
06/28/2010 04:07 AM
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Funny you should mention Danica – but this weekend PROVED that NASCAR is anti-Danica.

This new “boys have at it” policy is SO discriminatory against women. NASCAR instituted this new rule so that male drivers can wreck Danica and not get penalized. Its not fair.

And Morgan Shepherd should be ashamed! Has he NO moral compass! If I was his sponsor I’d drop him like a solid rock! That just simply cannot be forgiven. Or at least dock him enough points that his season couldn’t be resurrected. I mean, who does this guy think he is…?

Amy, noel_w, and us other women on this site – we need to speak out against “boy’s have at it”!!!! “ DRIVERS have at it” would at least allow Danica to get some revenge or express her emotions freely post race. NASCAR wants to make Danica the next vanilla driver clone. I mean, at least they let her start this race. I won’t even get into the REAL reason she only drives a partial schedule. (Ever notice last weeks nationwide race, and ALL cup races only allow “gentleman” to start their engines?!?!) You’d think after all these years, NASCAR would be a LITTLE less redneck than that!

I’m just saying, this could turn into the biggest NASCAR lawsuit yet!!!

DansMom
06/28/2010 04:11 AM
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As for the cup race, it was great to have a champion in victory lane!

janice
06/28/2010 08:05 AM
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i must have watched a different cup race on sunday. seats looked pretty empty to me.

i thought how intersting it was when either jimmy spencer of kenny wallace equated danica’s run to the disarray of jr motorsports.

Paul
06/28/2010 08:10 AM
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Thank you very much for mentioning the crowd size at the NHMS race. As a season ticket holder fearing that I’m going to be jobbed by Bruton in the coming months, it’s nice to know that others noticed the New England Region’s (and Eastern Canada) loyalty to this sport. Saturday’s Nationwide race drew more than Fontana’s Nascar race, FYI.

We should not have a date taken away if the fans are filling the place up, period.

Jim
06/28/2010 08:28 AM
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I’m ambivalent about the 48, but he made some comments in the press room afterwards that were just outrageous.

He seemed to be just stunned that the #2 would nudge him out of the way…couldn’t believe it, and he was going to wreck Busch if he had the chance.

I guess winning 4 in a row means that he can’t be touched, even in with the most time-honored bump-and-run tactic that has been a part of racing from Day One.

From now on, it’s ABJ for me (anybody but Jimmie).

Paul, I fear that B.S. has already made his decision…we’ll get to see yet another cookie-cutter date added, and the good ol’ oval at NHIS down to one race.

Mike In NH
06/28/2010 08:45 AM
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Also heard Chad Knaus go out of his way to compliment NHMS, the fans, and Gappens – seemed to be sending a message about how the track deserved a date. Also, got scared by the lobster prize. :)

I was at the race, turns 3 & 4. A fair number of complimentary tickets in those sections (including ours). We kept the extra so we’d have room for our cooler and stuff. But we bought stuff there so we helped contribute to the SMI bottom line!

kenkars
06/28/2010 09:39 AM
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“A Few Empty Seats” ??? Must have looked a lot fuller at the track than it did on my TV !! Looked like about every other seat was vacant.

RandyGoldman
06/28/2010 09:57 AM
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Yes… Jimmy winning 4 in a row does mean he cant be touched. He is the figurehead for the entire sport. He deserves the respect of the other drivers out there. When Kurt Busch steps it up and wins 4 in a row, he can do whatever he wants as well.

DansMom
06/28/2010 09:58 AM
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there were a lot of fans that were walking aroudn the bottom of the track.

I also think Amy’s comment is in relation to other tracks we have seen this year. You know, perspective.

Speaking of perspective. OF COURSE Chad Knaus thinks NH deservees two cup dates. One before, and one in the chase. The 48 team has that track figured out, and their future dominance depends on not only the chase line-up, but pre-race practices at those tracks in the regular season.

Bill B
06/28/2010 10:09 AM
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I agree. It looked like lots of empty seats to me but still better percentage-wise than most other tracks.

DansMom
06/28/2010 10:46 AM
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Too bad NH has less seats to fill (and no casino) which equals less potential revenue and will result in 1 fewer race. Economics 101.

Johnboy60
06/28/2010 11:11 AM
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DansMom is the perfect example why women should never been given ANY rights. A few of them, like her, run their mouth about things they nothing about. Every post she made here today and all others, can easily be refuted, but she continues to speak out the wrong end and learns nothing….Just keep on blaming your ignorance on women being repressed and we will keep on believing your stuff……….

RandyGoldman
06/28/2010 11:48 AM
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Plus, who cares about the new england market? Everyone knows that Nascar was born in the south and thats where the true fans are.

29racefan
06/28/2010 12:26 PM
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RandyGoldman - your true fan comments are moronic. DansMom – your comments defy logic.

ElectricPeterTork
06/28/2010 12:40 PM
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New Hampshire got a second race at the expense of North Wilkesboro.

At least NHIS will still have one race left if a date is moved.

DansMom
06/28/2010 12:43 PM
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I find it odd how last year everyone claimed how BORING the racing at New Hampshire is and now everyone wants them to have 2 dates.

Some people just like to stir up trouble!

RamblinWreck
06/28/2010 12:45 PM
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Is there some rule that even Matt’s fill-in can’t give a deserving grade to a race at New Hampshire? As much as I hate it when the best car doesn’t win (almost as much as I hate when the #48 does!), I’ll still admit that this was among the best races of the year. Five cold ones.

And I know you like Casey Mears, Amy. And as much as I’d love to see Reed make it in Cup, I don’t think he’s the right choice for the 83… but you have to figure that Tommy Baldwin, being a Modified guy from the northeast, treats NHIS like DEI treated restrictor plate tracks. Besides, considering Reed beat his teammate (and from everything else we’ve seen this year from that team), I’d say Red Bull’s problems are more than their driver.

RandyGoldman
06/28/2010 12:47 PM
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I say we give a second date to Sonoma… now that’s real racing.

JerseyGirl
06/28/2010 01:42 PM
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Dan’sMom – you and Danica give women a bad name. IMO Morgan Shepherd didn’t wreck the Princess deliberately — if you watched any of the race, any car running in that low line would slide up (especially if the car was tight). If you were on the outside, you got pushed up into the marbles — its the way this flat track has been for years. And Danica going down and stamping her foot and pouting was a really poor example of how a grown MATURE racer should act. Almost as bad a Kyle Busch and his tantrums.

And then you have Johnson who is shocked, shocked I say that someone would actually RACE him and bump him? OMG — how terrible?

Carl D.
06/28/2010 01:58 PM
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DansMom….

You comments about Morgan Shepherd’s sponsor were hilarious. There’s something deliciously ironic about a driver hailed as Nascar’s “savior” getting spun out by guy who drives for Jesus.

BTW, the folks ragging on you about Danica should just shut up. Danica got a 30th-place finish, her best yet! She’s obviously improving. In fact, I don’t think a top-25 is completely out of the realm of possibilities before the end of the season.

Bill B
06/28/2010 02:20 PM
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Awww, did I miss a Danica foot-stomp. I love it when she does that.

Susan
06/28/2010 02:44 PM
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Amy, did you actually watch the race on Sunday? Ryan Newman was never a factor, but stroked home in 6th place. Kyle Busch led many laps, and had a shot at the win until Jeff Burton took him out of contention. So who was actually closer to a double? Apparently you have taken the anti-Kyle Kool-aid that Matt started and Tom now requires of the FS staff.

On another subject, Harvick’s “points lead” is illusory. At this point, the Chase leaders are JJ and Hamlin with 50 bonus points each after the points are reset. There is no “regular season championship” in the Chase format.

DoninAjax
06/28/2010 03:46 PM
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Seeing as how Johnson was already leading there was no need to throw the phantom debris caution for a gwc. Didn’t the first “debris” caution look like a water bottle?
Did you see the bottle rolling around the track in the F1 race that the corner worker picked up while the race was on?

Jim
06/28/2010 04:28 PM
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Hey Randy,

Let me get this straight…New England fans don’t deserve a race, only Southerners deserve a race, and you want to give a second race to Sonoma?

I guess I’ll need to check my Atlas, but last time I checked, Sonoma wasn’t in a Southern state. Or maybe you think Sonoma stands for South Noma?

wingcars6970
06/28/2010 05:18 PM
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Randy Trollman says, “Yes… Jimmy winning 4 in a row does mean he cant be touched. He is the figurehead for the entire sport. He deserves the respect of the other drivers out there. When Kurt Busch steps it up and wins 4 in a row, he can do whatever he wants as well.”

Now that is some very funny stuff right there!

RandyGoldman
06/28/2010 05:22 PM
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California gets a pass because so many freakin awesome drivers come from that state. When was the last time someone any good came out of New England… and dont say Joey because he isnt even old enough to drink wine at Sonoma.

DansMom
06/28/2010 05:32 PM
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Hey Jim,

Last I checked Sonoma wasn’t a state either. California on the other hand… is.

IDontEatSweets
06/28/2010 05:47 PM
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California… beautiful!

Marybeth
06/28/2010 06:17 PM
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If I were Danica, :), I would want to run ARCA for a year to build skills & confidence before tackling NW.

Jim
06/28/2010 08:08 PM
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I give up.

OK, Randy, let’s have all the races either in the Deep South, then fill out the schedule with California races.

Then maybe you can bring back The Nashville Network and watch the race on tape delay after the Gomer Pyle marathon, because that’s where you’ll need to watch the races without a coast-to-coast track exposure.

Now run out and baste that possum you’re cooking on the grill before it gets all dried out.

mkrcr
06/28/2010 10:33 PM
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I thought Danica did an outstanding job. The way she battled back from five laps down to four was just the drive of a lifetime.
And does Reed’s performance answer any questions as to driver performance versus good equipment? The Red Bull car ain’t no slouch…but Sorenson?

DoninAjax
06/28/2010 10:46 PM
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Item from a newspaper

“Danica disappoints again
IndyCar driver turned NASCAR Nationwide Series hopeful Danica Patrick said before Saturday’s race in New Hampshire she wanted to give her fans a reason to cheer for her. She failed miserably.

Not only did she finish a dismal 30th in the race — her best result in five Nationwide starts — but Patrick seems to be oblivious to how NASCAR works.

Her day went bad seven laps into the NASCAR Nationwide’s New England 200 after Morgan Shepherd bumped Patrick’s car and she ended up in the wall. Note that Shepherd, a born again Christian who has “Victory in Jesus” painted on his car, is not exactly a NASCAR bad boy. He is also 68 years old.

But that didn’t stop Patrick from bumping Shepherd as they lined up for the restart, something she repeated as they hit pit road following the race.

More troubling was Patrick’s reaction to the incident: She asked her crew chief if Shepherd would get a penalty for wrecking her. In NASCAR where frontier justice reigns?

If she wants to be successful in bringing Danicamania to stock cars, it really might be a good idea for her to watch a NASCAR race or two and learn a bit more about the series she wants to join.”

Whaanica
06/29/2010 12:16 AM
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I think I look HOT when I stomp my feet and stick out my bottom lip!

old farmer
06/29/2010 01:31 AM
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I haven’t been reading any comments lately because of idiotic statements like those of DansMom. I thought perhaps things have gotten better; but, alas, they haven’t. She and her entourage are still spewing, so I’m gone again. Maybe I’ll check back later this year—maybe not, for I’m looking for intelligent comments. There certainly aren’t many here.

RandyGoldman
06/29/2010 08:25 AM
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Haha… stupid… its spelled opossum and its delicious if cooked right.

Grizzly Adams did have a beard.

Aaron
06/29/2010 09:51 AM
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DansMom, your comments are honestly idiotic. NASCAR, if anything, wants Danica to succeed to prove women can participate in racing. This would help grow the fanbase. NASCAR is not conspiring against Danica and saying that all drivers can wreck her. The “boys, have at it” is just a term and is not meant to be sexist.

 

Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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