The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Goody's Cool Orange 500 by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday March 31, 2008

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Goody's Cool Orange 500

Matt McLaughlin · Monday March 31, 2008


The Key Moment: Denny Hamlin took the lead with seventy four laps to go, then benefited from some obstinate lapped traffic behind him to hold off Jeff Gordon for the win.

In a Nutshell: There's nothing wrong with the new NASCAR an old race track can't fix.

Dramatic Moment: Every restart featured the sort of fender banging, bumper beating, tire smoking action that put this sport on the map.

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

Where were all the fans? Yeah, the weather was pretty bad, but the on-track action was typical Martinsville hot.

I think any writer who is going to write off Jack Roush's comments on his stolen suspension piece ought to at least know the difference between a sway bar and a gay bar. Yeah, I know, it's easier to talk about Tony Stewart's haircut than to study the greasy bits of race cars.

Who better to ask if Michael Waltrip's Toyota team did anything wrong than Waltrip's brother, who is also on the Toyota payroll? I mean, there's an objective opinion. I think I liked it better when DW was mute. And who, exactly, are these “Raisin Boys” Waltrip is so high on?

The media pundits seemed a lot more impressed with Michael McDowell's efforts than the other drivers who had to share the track with him.

NASCAR this week said they would not allow teams to switch points to get one of their drivers into a Top 35 owner points position. (Which guarantees, of course, that driver and team earn a spot in each race, as long as they remain in the Top 35). That's truly outstanding. Now, if they'd just finish the job and get rid of that ridiculous rule that gives any team in the Top 35 a spot in each race — they might be onto something.

Eddie Gossage of the Texas track offered to allow NASCAR and Goodyear to test at his track prior to next weekend's Cup event. That means if next week's race is a debacle like Atlanta, at least the track's GM has his butt covered… leaving Goodyear and NASCAR the ones looking foolish.

Kyle Busch certainly has been a weapon of mass destruction this year. After Saturday's Truck race, I was half expecting to see the Army invade Virginia.

I've never heard of a sponsor suing a driver to remove their sponsorship decals from his race car; but after watching Robby Gordon on Sunday, I can understand why they did so. Side note: it was apparently Gordon's statement that, “Street gangs in LA are more dangerous than Al Qaeda” which made Vanguard decide to part ways with the self-proclaimed "America's most versatile race car driver.”

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Kyle Busch was none too pleased after a burnt up rear gear left him struggling to 38th in the final rundown.

Kyle Busch had an eventful weekend. He wrecked on the final lap of the Truck race, got spun by his brother in the Cup race, then went into nuclear meltdown and ran into everyone else while more than fifty laps off the pace.

Matt Kenseth got nailed on pit road, penalized for pitting out of the box, knocked around like a cue ball, and finally got summoned to the NASCAR trailer after deciding to park David Gilliland to avenge an earlier incident. He wound up 30th.

David Reutimann had a decent run going before suffering a ring and pinion failure. As a result, once again he'll be forced to make next week's race on speed, while the new driver of the car Reutimann drove for the first five races gets a mulligan.

Carl Edwards ran out of gas on the final lap, the second straight race he’s had fuel problems coming to the finish line.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Every fan on hand who wanted to see 500 laps of racing. It seemed like it was raining during the entire day; but somehow, they got it in.

Denny Hamlin was called into the pits out of the lead just as it seemed weather was going to end the event early. But the rains held off, and the pit strategy eventually worked out for the No. 11 team and their driver.

Jeff Gordon's day could easily have ended when the nose of his Chevy got bent up in the Truex / Labonte wreck. Two pit stops for repairs dropped Gordon to the back of the field; but he recovered nicely to finish second. What were people saying about the Hendrick teams being down for the count?

Jimmie Johnson got spun when the No. 12 and No. 16 cars tangled, but he fought back to fourth by the checkered flag.

Despite a very sore back that made every lap agonizing — and put Dennis Setzer on standby duty — Elliott Sadler drove to a credible fifteenth place finish.

Jamie McMurray's eighth place run was good enough that he won't have to race his way into the Texas field on speed. That's probably a good thing, too, because McMurray's qualified 31st or worse in four of the last six Texas Cup races.

Worth Noting

  • The Top 10 finishers drove six Chevys, two Toyotas, and a pair of Fords. The best finishing Dodge driver was Juan Pablo Montoya in 13th.
  • Regan Smith's 14th place finish was the best by a rookie at Martinsville.
  • Dennis Setzer's win in Saturday's Truck race was the first by any Dodge driver since the late Bobby Hamilton won at Mansfield on 05/15/05, almost three years ago. It was also the first win by any manufacturer other than Toyota this season.
  • Denny Hamlin scored his first Top 5 finish of the season, and his first win since Loudon last summer.
  • Jeff Gordon (2nd) managed his best finish of the year; he hadn’t finished that well since winning Charlotte last Fall. He now has Top 5 results in the last seven Martinsville Cup races.
  • Jeff Burton (3rd) has earned four straight Top 10 finishes.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (6th) has Top 10 finishes in five of this year's six Cup point races.
  • Casey Mears’ seventh place finish was easily his best of 2008, and his highest since Talladega last fall (6th).
  • Jamie McMurray (8th) scored his first Top 10 finish of 2008, and his best run since Dover last Fall (also 8th).
  • Carl Edwards (9th) managed his first Top 10 finish since he won back-to-back races earlier this season.
  • Kevin Harvick (12th) missed the Top 10 for the first time in five races.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya's 13th place finish wasn't without incident, but it was the best result of the year for the sophomore.
  • Dario Franchitti's 22nd place finish was the best of his six race Cup career.

What's the Points?

Jeff Burton advanced three spots to take over the points lead. Burton is 39 points ahead of second place Kevin Harvick, who advanced a spot to second; he jumped over Greg Biffle, who fell down a spot to third.

Three high profile drivers advanced into the Top 12 this week. Denny Hamlin advanced seven spots to eighth in the standings, Jeff Gordon made up five spots to take over ninth, and Jimmie Johnson moved up three spots to tenth.

Naturally, three drivers had to fall out of the Top 12 to make room for those above. Kurt Busch fell six spots to 16th, Matt Kenseth dropped four spots to 15th, and Martin Truex, Jr. fell a spot to 13th, now putting him 45 points outside the Top 12.

Other high profile drivers moving forward include Jamie McMurray (up six spots to 30th), Casey Mears (also up six spots to 27th), and Carl Edwards, up two spots to 14th in the standings.

STOP THE PRESSES: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. advanced a spot to fourth in the standings, 69 out of the lead.

On the flip side, notable drivers losing ground included Ryan Newman (down three spots to 11th), Clint Bowyer (down three spots to 12th), and Bobby Labonte (down three spots to 21st).

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic): We'll give this one five chilly and damp cans of Colorado Kool-Aid, with a shot of JD to restore blood circulation to fans’ fingers and toes.

Next Up: The circuit heads off to Texas, so get ready for some really lame cowboy jokes from the media. There just ain't no cowboys in the Carolinas.

Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why things went down the way they did at Martinsville? You’d know if you subscribed to the Frontstretch Newsletter and Amy Henderson’s Big Six column, a quick way to get you up to speed on any of the action you missed the day before. Still haven’t signed up for the newsletter? Click here to get it sent to your inbox ASAP; and remember, the best thing about it is it’s FREE!

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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…


©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

03/31/2008 01:45 AM

I found the booth buffoons defense of the theft of the swaybar by Micheal Waltrip, brother of Darrell Waltrip increadulous. Saying the theft of an actual part is not as serious as the theft of diagrams of a part is insane. Put that swaybar in my hands and I can measure it, test the composition of the metal, find the properties that make it worthy of stealing, make prints, machine copies and put them in my cheating Toyota race cars. Everytime DW is shown on the screen there should be a disclaimer stating his connection with Toyota, and the first few seconds of the ’80s hit “Turnin Japanese” by the Vapors should be played.

Reading your take on the race almost makes me think I should have watched it, but after years of saying “I’m Done With Nascar” this is the year. I caught enough of the pre-race to hear the Toyota Defense Team in action and saw all the empty seats, then went out to the garage to get some work done. I had the race on the TV but maybe saw 5 laps and don’t feel like I missed out on anything. All I really need is to read your review and I’m up to speed.

Margo L
03/31/2008 07:44 AM

Matt , you almost had me in tears over McMurray and Reutimann having to qualify on speed . Oh the injustice of it all .
Did anyone notice that the fans are now paying the price for complaining that Joy , Mac , and Waltrip shill constantly for the racing fuel supplier . The brand of racing fuel was mentioned in almost every single sentence , even when it had to be worked into a sentence that had nothing to do with fuel . The fans complain , sunoco pays extra money to the shills in the booth , the shills go overboard to rub it into the fans faces . Even the pit reporters were told to mention the name at every possible moment . I realise we’re talking about FOX , but it would sure be nice to see some integrity from this bunch .
Speaking of overboard , pontificating , shills , there was never the slightest doubt where the Hendrick cars were running , Joy breathlessly gave us the entire Hendrick running order about every ten laps .

03/31/2008 08:14 AM

i was so hoping dw had the same type of laryngitis i had a few years ago. i lost my voice for 2 months. oh well….can always hope he gets a relaps. interesting to see how he stayed out of the cold damp weather.

03/31/2008 08:46 AM

How stupid is NA$CAR putting 43 cars on a 1/2 mile short track?

And with the CoT at that?

And you blame the “drivers” for getting in each others way? I.E., McDowell?

43 CoT’s, that do not handle at all, and you blame the drivers?

Lets put this into perspective: 43 cars on a 1/2 mile track = 86 cars/mile! So, with that ratio, as established by tour Dumb friends at NA$CAR, then Talladega at 2.66 miles should be able to hold 228 race cars! Same track space per car as I see it!

And please stop maligning poor Robby! Robby is the only excitement in NA$CAR these days! Unless one counts Mr. Tony, as in Stewart! But with Tony, Mr. Good-guy, Mr. Bad-guy, you never know which one will show up at the track!

Now, I no longer watch any NA$CAR on the TV, being one of those “old core fans” NA$CAR has used and abused over the years, I did listen to the last 200 laps or so on the radio while driving home. I found it totally strange that during the broadcast, there was never any mention of what BRAND Car anyone was driving! Generally you would constantly hear such things as “And here comes Jeff Gordon in his Dupont Chevrolet”! Or, “here comes Ryan Newman into the pits to get new tires for his Dodge Charger”!!

NONE of this went on! No mention even in victory lane that “Denny Hamlin brought his TOYOTA to victory lane”! “Denny, your TOYOTA seemed to come on at the end”. etc!


MMMM, strange!!!!

And please do not “blame the drivers” such as a McDowell for “getting in the way”!

He deserves to be on the track! Blame the stupid CoT, a poor handling race car no one can seem to control! Where else can an upcoming driver get experience driving this slug? Certainly not on a Saturday!

As long as NA$CAR forces the CoT down our throats, gag-gag! And the drivers throats, gag-gag! Then the only way to learn how to drive one of these pigs is to drive it in a race!

But again! 43 CARS ON A SHORT TRACK????

How dumb is that?

Oh, sorry, we are talking NA$CAR here! So sorry!

03/31/2008 09:04 AM

What’s wrong with 43 cars on a short track? It’s been going on for years, Douglas. Where have you been?

I love Michael Waltrip’s innocent response to Jack Roush. We didn’t realize we had it. We just put it aside and forgot about it. This is NASCAR! Anyone who believes Toyota or any other make wouldn’t copy it has just crawled out from under their rock.

03/31/2008 09:17 AM

Coming soon,

Larry Mac: And here comes the field onto the Microsoft pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires, a tank of Sun-o-go racinf fuel abd a cold bottle of Gatorade so they don’t drip peepee into thier BVDs…

03/31/2008 09:38 AM

Why would anyone expect anything else that what we have in the announcers we all hate? This IS fox….home of the American idol…the biggest bull crap commercial of all time! Remember you get what you watch in tv land…….turn it off, they will get the message quick!! The radio broadcast and Sirius is the way to go!!

Not Happy
03/31/2008 10:07 AM

Once again FOX showed there were only ten cars running in Martinsville, What a load of ****. Next the announcer states “ lets ride along with Kassey Kane and check out his rhythm. THey start to show Kasey, they cut to the leader with no one racing around him. Even the announcer said “Or not”. Terrible broadcast. I now will just listen on the radio in the future.

Kevin in SoCal
03/31/2008 11:32 AM

Yah, where were all the fans? Can I start the “Martinsville stinks, it cant sell out, we shouldnt be racing there any more” chant like you all did about California? LOL (I’m being sarcastic here, dont get all upset)

03/31/2008 12:36 PM

Best race of the year so far

03/31/2008 01:13 PM

California and Martinsville have one key similarity over and beyond empty seats. They are both owned by the ISC, the France family as it were.

My guess is the empty seats reflect pricing, poor promotion and the cooler rules

Martinsville is no longer “The House That Clay Built.” It’s “The House Brian Ruined.”

Oh well at least they backed down from Hotfog gate and returned the hot dogs to wax paper with all the fixings

hank lee
03/31/2008 01:51 PM

I was hoping to go to martinsville, but I’m saving money to move this weekend. But prices at Martinsville are VERY competitive, some of the best on the cup circuit.

03/31/2008 05:28 PM

I think the majority of the empty seats were along the backstretch. Those seats are general admission and don’t go on sale until early Sunday morning. Normally you have to get there pretty early to get a good seat. But, if a set stands is going to suffer in sales due to unknown weather conditions then it would be those stands.

Managing Editor
04/01/2008 02:18 PM

Several comments have been removed from this thread responding to the article. Please keep in mind the rules of posting:

- Overly personal attacks on other posters — as well as writers — will not be tolerated.

- Comments are removed by the editorial and publishing staff, NOT by the writer who publishes the column.

Thanks in advance for your adherence to this policy, and I hope positive and productive discussion ensues going forward.

04/01/2008 04:04 PM

True or False?

When Matt Kenseth raises his voice and uses profanity on the radio and puts a guy into the wall as payback all in the same day — it was a good race.


04/01/2008 05:02 PM

Kenseth has shown himself to be quite the “goon” if you will when things are not going his way. Kinda makes you wonder about his run ins with Gordon, Edwards, among others.

Great driver, but don’t care for his practice of using his car as a weapon.

04/01/2008 08:36 PM

It seems more apt to label those on the transmit side of a fist, “goon.”

I kinda like this new “no-crap-taking-put-ya-in-the-wall-and-I’ll-cuss-while-I-do-it Matt Kenseth. He must be taking some Drivers Ed classes with Kyle.

Kevin in SoCal
04/01/2008 10:45 PM

When was the last time you saw Kenseth use his car as a weapon? My memory is short, but it was probably two or three years ago at Pocono with Kevin Harvick. The other times with Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards were just hard racing, not payback.