The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud : Kansas Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday October 1, 2007

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud : Kansas Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday October 1, 2007


The Key Moment – Clint Bowyer was trying to reel in Greg Biffle when Juan Pablo Montoya slapped the wall and blew a tire, forcing the race to end under caution.

In a Nutshell - Grand Theft Auto Race. Biffle was unable to maintain the pace car's speed, but was still awarded the win.

Dramatic Moment - Two field-decimating wrecks badly damaged the title hopes of several championship contenders shortly after the race restarted following the second rain delay.

It's been a few weeks since we've seen three drivers racing hard for the lead, but that happened several times earlier in the race. Hmmm….they run the old cars, and fans see some good ol’ racing. There's got to be a correlation there.

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

How on earth could NASCAR say Biffle won that race? Apparently, he was out of gas and unable to maintain the pace car speed. Yet, as recently as the Montreal Busch Series race, NASCAR ruled that Gordon was not the leader despite having been up front when the caution flew because he spun (off the front bumper of Marcos Ambrose) and didn't maintain the minimum required speed. What a farce.

You've got to be kidding me! After fans sat out two lengthy rain delays and monsoon-like conditions, NASCAR decides they won't restart the race after the final caution. They said it was too dark. Well, how much darker was it going to get in the two minutes required to complete two more laps? I'm surprised there wasn't rioting in the grandstands.

I guess it's easy to be a Monday morning armchair quarterback, but the decision to leave Tony Stewart out with a badly damaged left front fender was clearly a poor one in retrospect. My guess is Carl Edwards would agree.

The next high income job in the garage area…*team meteorologist.*

OK, this is getting ridiculous. Carl Edwards wins the Cup race at Dover but doesn't pass post-race inspection. Ryan Newman takes the outside pole at Kansas, but his car fails post-qualifying tech. Kyle Busch wins the Busch event at Kansas, but his car is found to have an illegal (or to be politically correct, unapproved) intake manifold in post-race tech. Whatever credibility NASCAR has left is rapidly eroding away, and a series of slaps on the wrist doesn't seem to be doing the job. It's time to start disqualifying drivers and teams whose cars are illegal and sitting them out for a week. In the Busch race Saturday afternoon – with the finish between Busch and Kenseth so close – any performance advantage that manifold gave Busch clearly determined who won, even if it yielded only one or two horsepower. At this rate, something tells me this year's title won't be decided on that final Sunday in Homestead, but rather on the following Tuesday once NASCAR hands down more penalties…

When there's threatening weather in the area, why not move the starting time up? It would make sense to get the race underway before both the NFL games and this weekend's ball games that will determine the National League East began.

Wait a second! NASCAR is allowing Jacques (That's French for Jack) Villenueve to attempt to make his first Cup start at Talladega? Several drivers, notably Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, have expressed their dismay at the idea. Frankly, I can’t disagree with them; you don't toss a lad into shark-infested waters to teach him to swim. The problem at Talladega is one rookie driver's mistake caused by inexperience can set off a field-decimating wreck that sweeps up title contenders in its wake. In the past, NASCAR always mandated drivers make their first starts on short tracks, then work their way up through the intermediate speedways before getting approval to run at the plate tracks. But NASCAR says since Villenueve won the F1 title and the Indy 500, he's ready for Talladega. Which, if you think about it, seems to say "If you can make it in those leagues, you'll be just fine here in hick racing." It would seem that NASCAR is so desperate to try to win Canadian fans to bolster sagging TV ratings that they'll nod, wink, and hope for the best in this case.

According to Jeff Gordon, these new Cars of Horror (the ones with the wings) flex enough during the normal running of a race, the sides of the car need to be completely redone after each race so that they fit the templates before competing in the next event. Tell me again how the new car is supposed to save teams money?

A lot of fans like Tony Stewart's fiery personality and his willingness to speak his mind. On the other hand, he is a highly compensated athlete who knows there are standards that have to be met. Look at it this way: a race team spends enormous sums of money to build cars capable of winning a race and a championship. To take a car that is capable of finishing sixth and turning it into a race winning mount, or to give a driver equipment good enough to claim a title, not just make the Chase, costs hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. Teams hire new engineers, buy those seven-post shakers, and spend countless hours in the wind tunnels improving their cars. But if Stewart had lost 25 points this week because he can't open his mouth without cussing, and he went on to lose the title by less than 25 points, he'd have just blown millions of Joe Gibbs’ and Home Depot’s dollars by his childishness. Maybe it's time Tony takes a hard look in the mirror and ponders how his actions affect others working hard and spending the big bucks on his behalf.

Luckily for Smoke, NASCAR won't fine Stewart 25 points for cursing. They say the curse wasn't clear enough on nationwide TV, yet another decision that goes against precedent. Who is running the sport right now, the Three Stooges?

There are no big changes to next year's Phone Company Cup schedule…other than the fact it will be branded by another phone company. The Chicagoland date will move from Sunday to Saturday night, with new lights installed at the track. Repeat after me: we hold these truths to be self-evident, no stock car race should be held on a day other than Sunday, and the event should go green about noon so as to have it end if at all possible by four o'clock EST, with the fading hours of sunset in the fall that would allow fans to still have enough time to go for a thirty-mile putt on their Harleys after the race and prior to sun glare and white tail deer's suicidal road crossings in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

Weren't NASCAR officials saying one of the key benefits of the Car of Tomorrow was the fact the boxier cars would eliminate the need for the pileup plates at Talladega and Daytona. Yet, when the CoT debuts at Talladega next week, they'll be running slightly larger plates, not sans plates. Color me surprised. If the Car of Tomorrow has achieved any of its intended design goals, I am not aware of them. It's the least successful new car rollout since Malcolm Bricklin's Yugo.

Three drivers – Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch – are running three-wide for the lead, and ESPN decides to go to commercial? Something is terribly wrong there.

Within a week of John Force's horrific accident at Texas, the NHRA community was dealt another terrible blow. The founder of the NHRA and the grandfather of organized drag racing Wally Parks died in California this week from complications involving pneumonia. Parks was one of auto racing’s true pioneers and the guy who turned kids drag racing hot rods in the streets into an organized sport. He was also involved in the founding of Hot Rod magazine, a staple of my misspent youth.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

It's pretty hard for a lot of us to think Clint Bowyer didn't get robbed tonight.

Had the rains continued, Tony Stewart would have won the event. As things turned out, he got into the back of the No. 1 car during the big wreck and badly damaged the front end of his own No. 20 car. Not surprisingly, a tire blew shortly after racing resumed – Stewart wrecked, and he wound up 39th.

Carl Edwards was caught up in the mess when Kurt Busch was unable to avoid the rapidly slowing car of Stewart.

Martin Truex, Jr. had to claw his way back up through the field after hitting the wall on lap 32 and blowing a tire. He did just that… only to get collected on the first lap of green flag racing after the rain delay.

Kyle Busch got run into from behind on the straightaway and put hard into the wall. I have no idea what Junior was thinking.

Jeff Burton probably didn't realize ESPN had a camera trained on him when he decided to try to adjust his fender under caution; he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and lying about it afterwards. But it didn't matter much in the grand scheme of things, as Burton later lost a fuel pump drive cable.

The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

Jimmie Johnson had to start at the back of the field after wrecking his primary car in Happy Hour. He rocketed to the front of the pack, but was caught a lap down when rain started falling shortly after he pitted. He still finished third, or if you prefer, second among those cars able to maintain minimum speed on the final lap.

Kevin Harvick just missed the big wreck en route to a sixth place finish.

Jeff Gordon would have had a miserable finish if the rain never restarted, but he left Kansas with a fifth place result.

Contrast the No. 20 team's decision-making with that of fellow Chase contenders Kurt Busch and the No. 2 team. Busch bent up the front end of his Dodge (ironically enough, plowing into the back of his old buddy Tony's car) and the team decided to pit for emergency repairs and to replace four tires. Busch left Kansas with an eleventh place finish.

Ray Evernham had a pretty decent day, with all three of his drivers finishing thirteenth or better.

Worth Noting

  • Greg Biffle was awarded a win for the first time since last year's series finale at Homestead. It was just his fourth Top 5 result of the season, with two of them coming in the last two races.
  • Jimmie Johnson (3rd) has Top 5 finishes in four of the last five races.
  • Casey Mears (4th) has Top 10 finishes in the last three races. He hasn't managed that since the first three races of 2006.
  • Kevin Harvick (6th) managed his second Top 10 in the last nine races.
  • Reed Sorenson (7th) drove to his first Top 10 finish since the Brickyard.
  • Elliott Sadler (8th) scored his first Top 10 since the Daytona 500.
  • Kasey Kahne (9th) has Top 10 finishes in four of the last six races. So does Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (10th) for that matter.
  • Scott Riggs (13th) had his best finish since Martinsville.
  • Kyle Busch (41st) suffered his worst finish of the 2007 season.
  • Matt Kenseth has finished 35th in the last two races.
  • The Top 10 finishing drivers competed in six Chevys, three Dodges, and a single Ford. Dave Blaney in fifteenth was the top finishing Toyota driver.
  • David Ragan in 16th was the best finishing rookie contender on Sunday.
  • The win was the sixth for Ford this season. All six of those wins have been scored by Roush Fenway entries, with Carl Edwards accounting for three of those victories.

What's the Points?

Jimmie Johnson moves up two spots into the points lead, while former points leader Jeff Gordon is just six points behind Johnson. Clint Bowyer moves up two spots into third and is nine points out of the lead. Tony Stewart's problems dropped him two spots and 117 points out of the lead. Kevin Harvick moves up a whopping four spots to fifth, but is 126 points back.

Elsewhere in the Top 12, Kurt Busch moved up two spots to ninth. Kyle Busch fell two spots to sixth, while Jeff Burton fell two spots to tenth. Carl Edwards, Martin Truex, Jr. and Matt Kenseth all fell a spot; they are now seventh, eighth and eleventh respectively.

Also, all drivers from ninth place Kurt Busch on back now trail Johnson by more than a full race’s worth of points.

Outside the Top 12, Greg Biffle moved up a spot to 14th, while Casey Mears moved up a spot to 15th. Ryan Newman fell two spots to 16th.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) I'll give this one four cans of Colorado Kool-Aid a bit diluted by torrential rain waters. If nothing else, we'll be talking about this one awhile. And I have to admit, as the asphalt ages Kansas is providing a lot better quality of racing. Now, if only the weather didn't suck today!

Next Up - It's off to Talladega for NASCAR's version of high speed roller derby. Sooner or later – it's a stone cold fact – 43 ride out and only 42 ride back.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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10/01/2007 06:28 AM

What a farce! Who cares anymore? NASCAR is such an incredible joke! Enough said.

Terry S
10/01/2007 07:19 AM

It’s ridiculous that any Chase race is ran at a track without lights in the event of bad weather, especially considering there are no open dates in the schedule should there be a multiple day storm front that hangs over the track. Of course, Kansas is an ISC track which will part with a nickel the minute someone offers them a dime for it.

10/01/2007 08:07 AM


A few thoughts on your Kansas “Race” Recap:

1) The concern over Villeneuve at Talladega: Since the best Bill Davis racing entry is 36th in points, $5 says “Jack” falls victim to the Top 35 rule and fails to make the field.

2) Chicagoland at night, under the lights. An article in the Sun Times said the move was intended to boost sagging ticket sales, since this was the first year since the track opened in 2001 that tickets did not sell out. I share your skeptical nature on the move to Saturday night racing, especially in the summer months. On Saturday nights in the summer most people in the Chicago area are out and about enjoying the nice weather, not sitting inside watching racing on TV. I’d bet it’s the same in other parts of the country as well.

3) The race itself. I only saw a small amount of the race, but from your recap it’s hard to tell what’s the bigger disaster: The Kansas race or the Bears in the fourth quarter of the Bears – Lions game.

10/01/2007 08:08 AM

With the debris cleanup and the running of a couple more laps, it would have taken more than just a couple of minutes. One thing you need to keep in mind is that not only does the track not have lights (which is a huge mistake in my opinion) but the parking lots dont, either. The way it was, it was already almost completely dark by the time we got to the car and we left before the checkered flag even flew. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in another 10 minutes of darkness. NASCAR did the right thing.

Mike C
10/01/2007 10:16 AM

A few thoughts on your thoughts . The Tony Stewart “ bad word “ issue is over , because it was a non-issue to begin with except for the ESPN boys who love to create a story where there isn’t one . No Tony didn’t get fined . Nor did 95 % of the people in the stands, or the viewers at home when they used the same or worse words . Neither did Mike Helton when he used worse words than Tony after Biffle stoped in the grass and nascar had to figure some way to cover up the mess they made . . We really need drivers like Tony .
A rule is a rule , and it makes absolutely no difference if the infraction helped or hurt the car. Edwards was illegal according to the rule book .
I recall the Pocono race being called as soon as the second drop of rain hit the asphalt , so why was it so important to re-start Kansas , knowing that the entire distance could not be completed ? We all know full well why . Rather than letting the race play out , nascar manipulated the outcome to keep the “ chase “ farce going . Two of the bigger names would have taken a big points hit .

A Landry
10/01/2007 10:19 AM

Overall Kansas was by far frustrating for fans as well as the drivers. Nascar knew they could not finish the full length of the race, yet knowing that it was going to be basically a shoot out set up all the drivers for disaster. Im sure had I been at Kansas after the second rain delay I would have packed my things and headed home. I hope that today Nascar is playing Monday quarterback to themselves and questioning their ability to make sound decisions based on what is good for the sport. I hope they all went home with their tails between their legs. All anyone wants are clear rules with no exceptions. I hope that Nascars pencil broke yesterday.

10/01/2007 12:17 PM

Typically a farce like the race in Kansas would have gotten some national media attention questioning NASCARs “Rule Interpretation of the Day”. I believe they came up with at least (4) yesterday. Unfortunately they have already made so many inconsistent calls this year that nobody even cares anymore. The sport is a joke. My friends and I used to really enjoy the racing but now it’s nothing more that a conversation about the ridiculous calls and coverage.

10/01/2007 12:29 PM

We were at the track yesterday. IMO Nascar did the right thing by not calling the race after the 2nd red flag. It was clearly a line of showers that was blowing through at 45 MPH. As a fan, I would have been ticked. At Kansas, you have to buy season tickets even if you only want to go to the Cup race.

The problem here is they should not start the races so late at a track that doesn’t have lights. When the track first opened, the race was started at 12:00 CDT. Had they started this race then, almost the entire race would have been ran before the rain hit the 2nd time.

Nikki… are so right about the parking lot. It was so dark by the time we got out.

Kevin in SoCal
10/01/2007 12:34 PM

With all the complaining after NASCAR stopped the first Pocono race I am surprised at all the complaining about NASCAR restarting the Kansas race. You people are tough to make happy.
Robbie Gordon’s car stopped on the track. Biffle’s car did not stop until after he crossed the finish line. Had Biffle stopped before the finish line, he would not have won. Its that simple. (oh, and NASCAR gave him the win because it was dark and they didnt want to keep racing.)
Lastly, I’d like to call for Dale Jr to be penalized for rough driving and banned from NASCAR for the way he punted Kyle Busch into the wall during the race. See last year’s Talledega race and the Brian Vickers incident. Jr’s fans were calling for Brian to be punished the same way. I’m not a Busch fan, just stirring the pot.

10/01/2007 01:50 PM

So, NASCAR determined that Biffle was, in fact, “maintaining a reasonable speed under caution” so he is declared the winner.

If that’s the correct ruling, then Boyer, Johnson, and Mears should expect penalties to be handed down to them on Tuesday, right? The rest of that “reasonable speed” rule states that “THERE WILL BE NO PASSING UNDER CAUTION”, so those three clearly broke the same rule that NASCAR used to justify Biffles win.

They just keep digging themselves deeper and deeper, don’t they?

10/01/2007 02:17 PM

The more Saturday night racing the better.

Biffle didn’t win that race.

If I was a new driver, I would just get behind Jimmy or Jeff’s car and stay there all race every race. If they’re gonna be the darlings of the empire then just follow them. At least you should get a good finish…especially in rain finishes.

“Caution! Caution! Now! NOW!”

Unlike the movies, you’re not gonna beat the nascar empire.

10/01/2007 05:40 PM

Next Up – It’s off to Talladega for NASCAR’s version of high speed roller derby. Sooner or later – it’s a stone cold fact – 43 ride out and only 42 ride back.

What you hinting at, Matt?

10/01/2007 06:55 PM


10/01/2007 08:24 PM

Jimmy spencer never forgets

10/03/2007 08:58 AM

I remember back-in-the-day when ESPN did races that if there was a possibility of rain that when the broadcast came on the air (at Noon!) the cars were on the pace laps and at 12:05 the Green flag flew.

10/04/2007 09:45 AM

Dale Sr. would be appalled at the current state of NASCAR.

10/04/2007 07:35 PM

That’s kinda what I feared, bro. And I’ve had a really bd feeling about this weekend all week. Haven’t even read any racing news until today.

I hope you’re wrong, buddy. But you aren’t.