The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Infineon Edition by Doug Turnbull -- Monday June 23, 2008

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Infineon Edition

Doug Turnbull · Monday June 23, 2008

 

Hey guys! Doug Turnbull here. Matt warned you that he wouldn’t be in the driver’s seat for his Infineon column — I don’t know if that makes me a road course ringer or not, but I do know that I am gonna stick to his format for wrapping up the race. This race seemed to play itself out as many predicted and in the end, the best driver and the best car won.

The Key Moment: Robby Gordon’s spin into Kurt Busch that not only left contenders, like Carl Edwards, trapped on the track, while Kyle Busch, David Gilliland and others pitted, but also caused Gordon to run out of fuel and never regain position.

In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch benefited from the first caution, when David Ragan sent Joe Nemechek into one of the tire barriers. Busch and others had already pitted, meaning the early dominant car of Jimmie Johnson lost a ton of track position on pit road. Carl Edwards got burned in the same way as Johnson on a later caution, and never fully recovered. Busch never looked back, hitting his marks while the other fast horses of Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, and Robby Gordon faded from contention. Would you like some M&M’s with that wine?

Dramatic Moment: Tony Stewart’s late race charge to the front to catch his leading teammate was foiled by Kevin Harvick’s Montoya-like decision to dive-bomb both Stewart and Jamie McMurray, eliminating all three of them, plus Ron Fellows, ending any chance of capturing the day’s trophy.

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

Kyle Busch not only manipulates fuel mileage to win a road race, but absolutely dominates. Any doubters of the No. 18 team, based on their performance during the two weeks prior to Sonoma, have their foot in their mouths now. During those two races, the Busch and the boys had a good car, but fell on the wrong side of racing luck. Eliminate a spotter mistake and being bitten by fuel strategy, and those doubters don’t exist. Many people also said that Kyle Busch is a driver that should not be considered a road racer. People’s memories are so short. Kyle did happen to win the Nationwide Series race at Mexico City earlier this season. These doubts only prove that this is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ sport now, more than ever.

Silly Season’s crazy sinews make another turn Sunday, as DEI says they are ready to begin running Aric Almirola full-time. This is not a bad decision, considering the driver has not run horribly, but do they really want Mark Martin walking out of their stable? As DEI says this, Rick Hendrick is non-committal about Casey Mears’ future in the No. 5 car beyond this season; sparking speculation that Martin may move to that team and pull together one final attempt at a full season. This brings up several questions that need to be answered, if indeed Martin bolts for Hendrick.

What is the future of Casey Mears’ Cup career if he couldn’t make it at arguably the best organization in NASCAR? What will the sponsor lineup look like at DEI? Can Martin revitalize the No. 5? Or who will take the wheel if Mears’ is canned and Martin doesn’t make the jump?

Joey Logano’s youthful smile may score big points with the younger ladies; but he didn’t score any points with Brad Keselowski or Clint Bowyer Saturday night.

Another topic discussed this week will be Joey Logano. Yes, he did have another great run in the Nationwide Series race at Milwaukee, finishing second; but he also managed to rough up race dominator Brad Keselowski on the track and points leader Clint Bowyer on pit road. These are the first noticeable mistakes the kid has made on the track, for his sake, they better not bite him back. Surprisingly, he is not running the entire rest of the season in the No. 20 Toyota, as Tony Stewart is scheduled to be behind the wheel the next two weeks. What is up with that? If Gibbs expects him to be ready enough to possibly run a few Cup races later this season, he needs to be in the car every week, learning how to not run into Brad Keselowski. If NASCAR has not yet approved Logano to run the superspeedways, they need to, because he will never learn how to draft on the sidelines, no matter how good NASCAR 09 is.

Kevin Harvick’s overzealous move on David Gilliland and Jamie McMurray, that ended up eliminating Harvick, McMurray, and Tony Stewart from contention, seemed to not only be a throwback move of Harvick’s from 2001, but also seemed to ironically resemble the move that Martin Truex, Jr. made at Watkins Glen that wrecked Harvick, Montoya, and RCR teammate Jeff Burton. The ensuing yelling and helmet shoving match between Montoya and Harvick became the NASCAR fight of ’07, as weak as it was – funny how the tables turn.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

This has to go to either Juan Pablo Montoya, whose back bumper made contact with the front bumper of Marcos Ambrose, causing Montoya to spin and lose valuable track position or Tony Stewart getting wrecked out of not only a Top 5 finish, but also the Top 12 in the points by Harvick.

A runner-up, though, has to go to all the road course ringers, most of whom ran well at times on Sunday. Ambrose broke a shock and got spun out by Elliott Sadler, ending his day. Boris Said had mechanical trouble on his self-owned car, relegating him to a 41st place finish. Ron Fellows got wrecked out of a Top 10 run by Kevin Harvick. Scott Pruett’s mediocre run was mellowed as Tony Stewart bulldozed him to a 38th place finish. Max Papis never was in contention and was put even further back by getting tangled up in the Kurt Busch-Robby Gordon wreck. Brian Simo suffered a mechanical failure early in the event.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

David Gilliland is a good candidate, pitting before two cautions and benefiting from later cautions, helping the No. 38 team to score the best Yates Racing finish since Dale Jarrett’s Talladega win in 2005 and Gilliland’s best finish of his career.

Matt Kenseth’s name was not mentioned the entire race, until he out of no where appeared in the Top 10 with just a few laps remaining. This allowed the 17 team to climb into the Top 12 in the points, something that seemed a silly thought a few races ago.

Worth Noting

Jeff Gordon struggled with an ill-handling race car for much of the Infineon race, but managed a third place run, after barely running in the Top 15 for much of the event. This allowed him to pull away from some of the stragglers in the back of the Chase standings.

David Ragan is no longer 13th in the points, but easily could have fallen further back in the standings, considering his lack of road racing experience. Instead, he garnered a solid Top 25 finish and avoided wrecking out, like David Reutimann.

The TNT boys did an awesome job covering Elliott Sadler being able to drive on a tire that was going down, during the final two laps. He was sitting in fourth under the red flag when he felt the tire going down. But he kept the car from wrecking and stayed out of the way of others, finishing 19th…and then wrecking in turn 1 of the cool down lap. Two thumbs up!

After practically being pushed out of his No. 26 Crown Royal driver’s seat, by the media, (including me), Jamie McMurray has two consecutive solid runs. He proved his road racing prowess at Infineon, before being taken out by Harvick, and nearly won Michigan, finishing in the Top 10. His future at Roush Fenway may still be in doubt, but he is at least doing his best to quell any rumors and prove that he deserves a winning ride.

In his Cup debut, Marcos Ambrose ran solidly in the Top 5, before breaking a shock and getting spun out, ending his day. This run is a shot in the arm to a struggling Wood Brothers team, one of the most legendary in the sport, who need good runs to build their confidence and get their sponsors on TV. It also is good to see another foreign-born driver running well in a sport that is not yet known for its wealth of diversity.

A big “what the heck?” goes to full-time road course aces on the Cup circuit. Where were Sam Hornish, Jr. and Patrick Carpentier during the race? They never showed their teeth, running in the back of the pack. Surprisingly, Dario Franchitti easily failed to qualify for the event, raising more frustration for a struggling Ganassi operation. This also goes to show that you need more than just a driver to run well at any track the Cup circus goes to.

Overall Rating: On a scale of one to six wine bottles, this race gets four. Why not? There were enough cautions to keep the field bunched up and there were enough story lines, (like Ambrose’s strong run), to make things interesting.

Next Up: New Hampshire. This is one race track that I hope loses a date. Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin both died here and the racing is boring. Clint Bowyer did win his first race there and needs another shot in the arm, after a good run at Sonoma. Reed Sorenson returns to the No. 41 car at a track that he runs well at. This could be a good place for him to get his season back on track and save his future. Matt McLaughlin returns to the seat next week, while I will return to my normal duties as writer of the TV column. Check it out every Tuesday!

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Kevin in SoCal
06/23/2008 01:44 AM
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A) Proofreading is your friend. You have several grammatical errors and typos.

B) Marcos Ambrose said on the air he broke his transmission, not his shocks.

C) You did fine, otherwise, thanks for the rundown.

Douglas
06/23/2008 07:47 AM
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Did I miss something? Help me out here folks:

“Robby Gordon’s spin into
Kurt Busch”??? I thought I saw Busch make a bonzai charge into the corner, unwarranted at that, and create the entire situation! Not sure Robby had anything to do with it other than suffer from some very poor driving by Kurt!

And, is NA$CAR really lying to me? First they, NA$CAR state that the CoT is really a good race car! Then they also say that they, NA$CAR, have the best drivers in the world!

So, with those comments in mind, please answer me the following question????

“Was it the cars or the drivers that made the Sonoma race a cruel joke?

Either the cars simply do not handle! Or the drivers cannot drive them!

Sonoma was a mess and the worst road course race I have ever seen!

urajerk
06/23/2008 07:49 AM
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stewart was at p19 when he tried to pass while everyone was chekcing up-punting pruett to hamlin.

part time road course ringers will never win because they play too nice;stewart,harvick thinks they deserve to run up front, does not matter if they wreck people in front of them.

tom1194
06/23/2008 08:03 AM
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Road course ringers? Ambros and Jon Wood were sceduled since the first of the year to run selected races for the Wood bros. Does that mean Jon Wood is a oval track ringer?
Ambros was about the fastest car all day long until Sadler outdrove his ability once more. I would certainly give Sadler a finger, not a thumb let alone two thumbs up. Ambros was the meat in a STewart/Sadler sandwich.
Btw, my understanding was Ambros tranny let go because of the smackdown by Sadler.
btw,btw Busch divebombed R. Gordon in the race I watched. wassup?

Ed
06/23/2008 08:16 AM
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Good recap. I agree with Douglas. Awful road course race. But it’s so much fun to watch drivers who don’t know how to road race. There were too many cautions. Please, naXcar, learn how to officiate a road race. There was no need for a full course caution when Ambrose spun Montoya. Have you never heard of a local caution?

Johnboy60
06/23/2008 09:11 AM
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Well, after reading all the comments to this article, I am glad I didn’t bother to even turn the race on! I never even missed it. Heard the winner on the late news. Might be the start of a trend!

bluescreen
06/23/2008 09:32 AM
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That race was more proof that the new car has SERIOUS aero push issues. Clean air is king. I feel like I’m watching a CART race from the mid 1980s. Lead changes occur on pit road. Expect another crap race next weekend at New Hampshire where front downforce is essential.

mmack
06/23/2008 09:56 AM
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“A big “what the heck?” goes to full-time road course aces on the Cup circuit. Where were Sam Hornish, Jr. and Patrick Carpentier during the race?”

To be fair to Hornish, he never was a road course specialist, even though he raced in the IRL. Those were the races he was weakest at, and even he’d admit it.

Carl D.
06/23/2008 10:10 AM
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I have a suggestion to the broadcast networks for the foreseeable future: Forget the lead car and focus on positions 2-43 during green flag racing. We will still see 100% of the passes and all of the exitement the race might have to offer.

I was hopeful that on a road course, maybe the front car with clean air wouldn’t have such an advantage and be able to pull away from the field. In fact, at Infineon it was worse than on the ovals. Look how strong JJ was at the first part of the race… He pulled away and was never challenged for the lead. But once he got back in traffic, he was never able to recover. And later with Shrub, even on restarts he managed to pull away from the pack with ease and drive off. This CoT needs some serious help, and don’t tell me it’s a work in progress.

Matt was smart to sit this one out. Wish I had.

Carl D.
06/23/2008 10:14 AM
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One final thought… the Hindenburg award should have gone to Jamie McMurray. Here was a guy who desperately needed a good run, and was able to stay in the top 3 for the entire second half of the race, only to be taken out in an accident that was not his fault. Jamie deserved better.

marshall
06/23/2008 10:38 AM
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You really have to feel sorry for the TV broadcast crew at Infinion . They had one issue after another all day long . First , they would show us a great shot from the “ footcam “ , but due to some sort of technical glitch every time they tried to give us that shot again , the only camara that woukd work was the one trained constantly on Jeff Gordon . Then they showed us a good shot from a camara mounted above the drivers head . But again , there must have been a technical problem in the production truck , all of the many times they tried to show us that shot , the only camara that would work was the one that for some reason was always on Jeff Gordon , even when he was in no way part of the story or even being talked about . They will be issuing an apololgy to the tv viewers later today .

Jim
06/23/2008 11:31 AM
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The finishing order of this race was determined more on luck than skill.
I also think the so called road course ringers should stay home, none of them finished better than 29th.

notjim
06/23/2008 11:56 AM
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Fellows was in top 10 all dya but (no)thanks to harvick ended in the rear. pruett was in top 15 with less than 5 to go when stewart can’t maintain his cool and punted him taking his teammate hamlin out as well causing the red flag.

nascar has no clue how to run/officiate road courses.

yankeegranny
06/23/2008 12:08 PM
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FOUR WINEBOTTLES OUT OF SIX. Are you sure you were watching the “infinity” race. That was an endless, boring mess. The caution during green flag pitstops determined the outcome, not good racing. I would give it one of Jeff’s daughter Ella’s used diapers. What a STINKER. I have already circled that race next year to do something else. And to all those idiots that think a road race belongs in the chase, go sit in a dark room and watch the Infinion race without commercials. talk about sensory deprevation; the commercials were the best part of the race this weekend.

Mike In NH
06/23/2008 12:12 PM
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Dougie, Dale Sr died at Daytona, so maybe we should close that track too! Maybe it’s because I actually watch the race closely rather than jump on the bandwagon of other complainers about the track, but I’ve seen some good racing at NHMS, and not only that, people actually show up (unlike Cali, Atlanta, and a few other tracks I could list).

Keith
06/23/2008 12:16 PM
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The reason Joey Logano is not running some races is he is not approved yet to run on restrictor plate tracks.

DB
06/23/2008 12:47 PM
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Another error in the recap: Stewart didn’t drop out of the Top 12, Harvick did. Stewart drove like a madman during the Green-White-Checker, picking up better than 5 positions (I don’t know how many) but he was passing cars like crazy.

I would have given the Hindenberg award to Marcos Ambrose… he had a top-5 run going before getting shuffled by the Caution, then got spun and lost the transmission. The guy who had the shocks go out(?), after complaining all day about no brakes, was Boris Said.

Travis Rassat
06/23/2008 01:14 PM
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I came to say what mmack said: Hornish hasn’t been known to be a road course guy in the IRL, he was much more comfortable and successful on ovals.

According to IndyCar.com, he’s never won at a road or street course. All of his 19 IndyCar wins came on ovals. Sam had 62 top-5 finishes in 116 starts, and only 2 top-5’s came at road/street courses.

db2
06/23/2008 01:35 PM
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stewart drove like mad alright – main cause of the red flag.

Connie
06/23/2008 02:05 PM
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That was the worst race this year! Thought the 24 hours of California was bad but wow that race was BORING. I fell asleep twice and my husband said I didn’t miss anything.

We are making a run at trying to attend all the tracks that the Cup series goes to but I think we can save our money and skip that track. By the looks of the stands ALOT of people saved money by not attending. Never heard how many people attended that race.

Gerry Blachley
06/23/2008 02:14 PM
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The Key Moment, of course you are talking about the TV adds, that came every four to five minutes, when will this stop the racers from watching,
I know the Gucci Gulchers could care less, but certainly NASCAR has some control little Bill was not that stupid to give Wall Street, total control or does he care.

Please big Bill come back and get Nascar back to caring about the fans and the old racer that can not afford the ticket pricing, let alone the gas

Douglas
06/23/2008 03:37 PM
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Hey “bluescreen”, consider this along with the “aero” push, if one watched this fiasco of a race, virtually EVERY car had car balance problems, most noted by the continuing locking up of the wheels, mostly the fronts, upon any kind of braking!

I firmly believe these cars have basically ZERO suspension travel primarily because of the splitter, it sits so low to the ground that any downward movement bottoms the splitter out upsetting the handling of the car.

The higher center of gravity in these cars, along with less than half the suspension travel of the older car, and you have races like we witnessed yesterday and each and every weekend NA$CAR runs!

That is why we watched car after car, driver after driver just dive-bomb to the inside of the corner with his brakes locked up hoping it would create a passing situation! Unfortunately, it also caused many accidents!

What is a NA$CAR driver to do? Sure can’t bad mouth the CoT after their little meeting at MIS!

Now, come to think of it, maybe that is exactly why NA$CAR had a “discussion” with the drivers last weekend! They (NA$CAR) knew what kind of racing the CoT would provide at Sonoma!

Kevin in SoCal
06/23/2008 07:34 PM
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Douglas, if I was you, I would go buy the complete NASCAR collection of races from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and instead of watching today’s races, you can put in a DVD and watch the same track from yesteryear. You’d be a lot happier than you are now.