The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: New Hampshire Edition by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday September 17, 2007

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: New Hampshire Edition

Matt McLaughlin · Monday September 17, 2007

 

The Key Moment - This one was pretty well decided when the green flag flew. After resuming the lead on lap 185 Clint Bowyer drove away at will.

In a Nutshell - Three hours of terrible tedium.

Dramatic Moment - 300 laps at NHIS were almost completely devoid of drama…at least it was over quickly.

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

We gave up a race at North Wilkesboro for this mess? NASCAR needs to move this race date to Darlington or Rockingham.

So much for the CoT ending the "dreaded aero push" issue. If anything, it looks like passing is harder in the new cars than it was in the old one. And I couldn't help but notice the track's street sweeper looked prettier and more aerodynamic than the new McCars in the event.

Junior in the 88? You might want to invest in the local tattoo parlor. There are three things a wise man will never have tattooed on his body; a wife’s name, a girlfriend's name, or his favorite NASCAR driver's number.

Seriously, how long did you last before channel surfing over to a football game or drifting off for a nap? That was just relentlessly putrid.

Bud is due to announce that their new spokesdriver is Kasey Kahne, who not only missed the Chase but is currently mired 22nd in the points. So, let me guess, the three creepy chicks from the insurance company ads run him off the road…and Kahne tells them, just because he has Bud on the car doesn't mean he has Bud in the car…then he accuses one of them of being Tony Stewart's sister. See you later you crazy, mutant, marketing types. Style over substance, indeed.

Another rumor has Coors Light replacing Bud on the 8 car next year. That's going to take some getting used to. What's the old joke about Coors Light being like making love in a canoe…not that there's anything wrong with that.

At least this week Dale Junior signed a contract extending his deal with Wrangler jeans. Longtime fans who recall his dad driving those blue and yellow notchback Monte Carlos (and Thunderbirds and LeMans, incidentally) can only breathe a sigh of relief. You have to have some sort of constant to tether your universe to; I just can't see Junior's Red Army of fans in Dockers khakis…

Kansas is now offering "ticket insurance" to fans who purchase tickets to their events (in the required season ticket package, of course.) The coverage protects ticket buyers who are unable to attend an event due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a medical issue, traffic accident, jury duty, employment termination or any other covered reasons that prevent the insured from attending. The coverage, which is an optional purchase, will be $6.25 per ticket, and is available to both current and new season ticketholders. However, the tickets do not cover fans who waste money on tickets to events that turn out to be frightful bores; even Lloyds of London wouldn't touch that one.

I finally managed to watch my DVR recording of "Dale" the movie this week. To anyone who hasn't seen it yet (both of you) it is an excellent film I highly recommend. It will make you smile and it will make you cry. I'm just baffled they left out then ESPN booth-man Benny Parson's infamous call near the end of the 2000 Talladega race; "Here comes Dale Earnhardt! Where did he come from?" I must warn you, the film will leave longtime fans a bit bittersweet, recalling the way racers and racing used to be before NASCAR became a four hour commercial occasionally interrupted by commercials.

So NASCAR still hasn't found a sponsor to replace Busch as the title backer of their AAA series? Hello, Mr. Brian France, this is your wakeup call. The proliferation of Cup drivers running (and dominating) Busch events has diluted the worth of the series. NASCAR says even if a new title sponsor can't be signed, they will run that series next season. After all, they can't have all those Cup drivers running around idle on Saturday afternoons getting into mischief.

But man, the dope is there's still hope. SPEED TV is reporting that as early as 2009 the series currently known as Busch series will have unique cars; to wit the Ford Mustang, the Chevy Camaro, and the Dodge Challenger. I've been advocating this since the new body style Mustangs hit the streets to popular acclaim and GM and Chrysler were forced to respond with "pony car" prototypes of their own. Let's face it, you buy a Fusion or an Avenger based on logic, but you buy a new Mustang or Shelby out of passion…and racing is all about passion. Of course, Toyota will have to come up with a suitable new car to enter the series. (The Solara just isn't going to cut it.) But the way things are going at Ford, maybe the 2009 AAA series will feature Toyota Mustangs duking it out with the local muscle. Anyone who recalls the 70s Celicas know Toyota execs have a great affection for the classic Mustang shape.

You want to talk a race sanctioning body imposing a real fine that sends a message? This week, the FIA fined McLaren one hundred million dollars for stealing trade secrets from archrival Ferrari. In addition, the McLaren team was stripped of all constructors points earned to date and will not be allowed to earn additional points in the season's final three races. Next time the 48 team gets caught with a doctored car perhaps a similar fine would finally get their attention?

What kind of "snack bar" adjustments can make a car faster? I suppose not letting the driver chow down too much to control his weight might help.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Kurt Busch seemed to have a Top 10 car until he dropped a cylinder in his Dodge.

Dave Blaney slapped the wall not once, but twice, in an otherwise relatively caution-free event.

Kevin Harvick had an up and down day. He overcame a flat tire and the resultant green flag pit stop by driving back to the Top 10, but he faded badly at the end to post a seventeenth place finish. Still, as close as he was to the spinning car of Reed Sorenson, it's amazing he finished the race.

The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

Bowyer had the sort of day most drivers can only dream of having just once in their career.

As seems to be typical, Matt Kenseth had to overcome a bad starting position and a mediocre car in the first half of the race. Yet somehow, once again he ended the day in the Top 10.

Carl Edwards wrecked his primary car in practice and never got to drive a single lap in race trim in the backup car because of rain. Considering all that, his twelfth place finish was quite respectable.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. spun about two thirds of the way into the race but managed to drive back to a sixteenth place finish. And he didn't even blow an engine!

The No. 5 team's pit strategy looked dicey but it worked brilliantly, leaving Kyle Busch with a fourth place finish.

All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished in the top 10.

Worth Noting

  • All twelve drivers in the Chase have now won at least one Cup event.
  • All 43 cars finished a Cup race for the first time since NASCAR implemented that number of starters for every event.
  • Chevrolet drivers took eight top 10 finishing positions including the top six. One Dodge (Newman) and one Ford (Kenseth) filled out the Top 10, while the top finishing Camry was David Reutimann in 26th.
  • The top finishing rookie was David Ragan in nineteenth.
  • Bowyer's first win was his third Top 5 finish of the season.
  • Tony Stewart has three wins and eight Top 10 finishes in the last nine Cup races.
  • Casey Mears had his first Top 10 finish since Pocono in July.
  • Jamie McMurray had his best finish since he won at Daytona in July. He'd finished 26th or worse in five of the six race run since that win.
  • Reed Sorenson had his best finish since the Brickyard 400.
  • Denny Hamlin has missed the Top 10 in three of the last four races. Kevin Harvick has missed the Top 10 in six of the last seven races, as has his teammate Jeff Burton.
  • Kasey Kahne's twentieth place finish at NHIS snapped a streak of three straight Top 10 finishes.
  • Kurt Busch endured his worst finish since Michigan in August.

What's the Points? - Johnson maintains his points lead over Jeff Gordon, who remains second and Tony Stewart who remains third in the standings. Johnson and Gordon each have 5210 points, but the first tiebreaker is number of wins, and Johnson has two more than Gordon. Stewart is ten points behind the Hendrick duo.

Clint Bowyer had the best day in the points, leaping forward eight spots to fourth. Kyle Busch advanced four spots to fifth. Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth each moved up a spot to sixth and seventh. Kevin Harvick advanced a spot to tenth.

Kurt Busch took the worst drop in the points, tumbling seven spots to twelfth. Carl Edwards fell four spots to eighth, while Denny Hamlin fell three spots to ninth. Jeff Burton fell a single spot to eleventh.

In the "Best of the Rest" category, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in thirteenth is now 41 points ahead of Ryan Newman, who is fourteenth.

Under the old points system Jeff Gordon would be leading the standings a mere 312 points ahead of second place Tony Stewart.

Finally, the No. 21 team remains 39 points ahead of the 22 team for the 35th spot in the owner standings that guarantees a starting spot in next week's race.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) This one gets a glass of tap water with an additional shot of Jack for a first-time winner.

Next Up - Dover and New Hampshire are both mile tracks, but then, Heather Locklear and Janet Reno are both women too, right?

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Ed
09/17/2007 06:07 AM
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I went away from that fiasco in short order. Bring back N Wilksboro, the Rock, anything but N. Hampshire. I noticed a lot of empty seats. It’s good to know that all the fans aren’t stupid enough to buy tickets to that loser.

M.B. Voelker
09/17/2007 06:43 AM
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Prospective series sponsors for the Busch series are probably delighted at the thought of associating their name with the top Cup stars. They are interesting in making money by marketing their brand — not contributing to a charitable fund for developing drivers/second-tier drivers.

What’s been holding them back is probably the inability to guarantee them the exclusivity that a title sponsor has a right to expect. Who in their right mind would cough up that kind of money to support their rivals’ marketing efforts?

So anyone who cheered the AT&T lawsuit can take some of the blame for the Busch series going sponsorless.

Racin Jason
09/17/2007 10:22 AM
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Rumor has it they might be giving one of NHIS’s dates to Kentucky…

Michael
09/17/2007 01:16 PM
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I hardly think potential sponsors for the Busch series are staying away because of fears over exclusivity. I’d say it has more to do with the amount NASCAR wants for the title rights ( exhorbitant as usual but coming down quickly ) and the much lower attendance and tv viewership for the Busch series. And any CEO or Director of Marketing for a large corporation upon seeing the headlines in the papers about NASCAR suing one of it’s own sponsors would have to have second thoughts about spending their advertising dollars with a sport like NASCAR.

jason
09/17/2007 10:00 PM
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Loudon may have been a stinker in terms of side by side racing this past weekend, but I think its totally unfair that you blame that on the track. The structure of the Chase makes guys happy with a second or third place finish or even a top 10 – you dont have to win races to win the chase. Without a real reason to go for it in the first race of the chase, I certainly wasnt surpised by the results.

And NHIS deserves its races. The New England region is filled with hard core racing – friday night series at small tracks like Lee Speedway or Oxford, lots of new england natives on the circuit like Steve Letarte and Rickey Craven. Loudon sells out every race and this fall was no different. I was there and there were no empty seats. I feel for Wilkesboro…and Rockingham…and Darlington for the Southern 500 loss, but its not like there isnt racing in the Southeast to see. NHIS is all we have from Pocono north and Michigan east and a lot of people live in that area.

If Kentucky buys NHIS from Bob Bahre then they have every right to move a race to that new track they built. Its a two way street in other words.

Scott
09/18/2007 07:43 AM
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Five years ago, I would have watched the Cup raced and flipped over to check football.

Now, I watch football and check the Cup race.

Is it the racing or how it’s portrayed on TV?

Where’s the excitement in the chase tracks?
Talledega and Martinsville are must watches
Atlanta, Dover and Charlotte are good
But where in the excitement in snoozers at NH, Kansas, Homestead, Phoenix, and Texas.

The fall schedule used to have N. Wilkes and Rockingham in it.

Bag the chase, and if you want come up with a “Nassau Press” points system that increases the amount of points for the last 10 races.
Double Points night at a weekend short track can translate to cup.
Let Gordon build the big lead, but make him race to hold onto it.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
09/18/2007 08:30 AM
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Rockingham is up for auction. Perhaps if we all chip in, we can save it from being purchased simply for the scrap metal from the grandstands. For shame…..

Matt
09/18/2007 06:01 PM
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I’m going to have to say I have never cared for NHIS. The unbanked corners just aren’t conducive to stock car racing. When I think NHIS the first thing I recall is being in Brattleboro Vermont en route there for the weekend when I heard on the radio Adam Petty had been killed in practice. I turned the car around, headed home and swore I’d never go there again. And of course I remember Kenny Irwin.

Nobody is saying that New England doesn’t deserve two race dates. It’s just hard to blame the Chase when there really never has been a compelling race at the track. Let me ask you this, given a choice between NHIS and a track patterned after Richmond in nearby Taxachusetts which would you buy tickets to?

Or how about some real fun. Let’s have a race at Vermont’ quarter mile Thunder Dome. That would be something to see.