The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Samsung 500 by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday April 7, 2008

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Samsung 500

Matt McLaughlin · Monday April 7, 2008


The Key Moment: Edwards had been slow on restarts all day, but he got a good one when it counted as the final green flag waved.

In a Nutshell: Just another McRace. The new cars and the superspeedways just don't seem to produce very good racing.

Dramatic Moment: A green/white/checkered flag gave the rest of the field one last shot at the No. 99 on a track that was still possibly a bit oily in the high groove… but it was all for naught.

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

While the tires weren't terrible on Sunday like they had been at Atlanta, one can't help but wonder if Goodyear and the teams could have brought better equipment to Texas had NASCAR agreed to let the teams test there prior to the event… like Eddie Gossage offered to let them.

OK, so what is NASCAR going to find illegal on the No. 99 car this time? Let me guess… an illegal sway bar.

What was Juan Pablo Montoya thinking blocking the leaders all day? He was just a well-decaled obstáculo de camino Sunday.

OK, how deep into the race did you make it before a nap sounded like more fun?

How many more boring races is it going to take before NASCAR admits these new cars need a nose job? Cue up the Bob Dylan because the answer is blowing in the wind … even if you don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

It would have seemed Jeff Gordon's late race wreck at Vegas would have convinced every track GM that all walls at the track need to be protected by the SAFER barrier. Apparently, nobody at Texas got the memo, and it's fortunate J.J Yeley wasn't hurt after hitting that inside wall a ton and a half.

What in blazes is going on at Petty Enterprises? Kyle Petty said he didn't take part in the decision to replace him in the seat of the No. 45 car for Texas. Who's driving this bus, and who tossed Kyle under it? Kyle's commitment to step out of the seat to do TV work in June and July, combined with the loss of General Mills as a sponsor for the No. 43 car at the end of the season, have obviously raised the anxiety level up a few notches over there.

Michael McDowell’s car was a mangled mess after Friday’s terrifying wreck; but luckily, the rookie walked away unhurt.

There's no doubt that it was a horrific crash, but all those neophytes watching the video of Michael McDowell's qualifying wreck need to understand the physics of these crashes. When the car bends up and begins rolling and shedding parts, that's actually a good thing because the energy of the wreck is being dissipated. Compare Friday's wreck to the last lap tragedy of the 2001 Daytona 500. That black No. 3 car remained relatively intact, and all the energy of the impact was passed onto its driver. The difference is, you can replace a car…

NASCAR had previously had an unwritten rule about drivers rising up to the Cup level of racing. So, how is it with four Nationwide/Busch starts and one CTS start, Michael McDowell was able to get in a Cup car? McDowell had never finished better than fourteenth in any of those Little League races. On the other hand, a convincing argument can be made the wreck wasn't entirely McDowell's fault. Once again, it appeared that fluids on the track were not properly cleaned up — despite extensive down time on the track to do so — and that might have triggered Friday's wreck. From what I'm told, the synthetic oils the teams are using are more difficult to clean up than conventional petroleum-based fluids. The new oil dry required for synthetics is not only less effective, but tends to produce choking dust clouds when it's used. So, how hard would it be to just ban synthetic oils?

It looks like the unemployment rate in North Carolina is about to ratchet up a notch, courtesy of Chip Ganassi.

Anyone else still trying to pry the cat off the ceiling after Sunday's command to start the engines?

I'm hearing rumors Michael Waltrip's palatial home in Sherrill's Ford is on the market. The property includes a pool house perfect for hiding out from the police after a late night single car wreck. Maybe Britney Spears would be interested?

Only FOX could promote a baseball game with highlights of bench-clearing brawls.

Areas of the country struggling with lengthy droughts might want to schedule Nationwide qualifying sessions to get some much needed rain.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

It's been a long time since Jeff Gordon looked that awful in an undamaged car. Hitting the wall just put him out of his misery and out of everyone else's way.

Martin Truex, Jr. had a solid Top 10 run going before his engine expired with a handful of laps to go.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. looked to have a solid shot at a win at long last, before his team did what they always seem to be doing lately; they adjusted a competitive car to the point Junior would have been lucky to keep it in a 50 acre patch of briars.

The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

After qualifying 35th, it appeared that Jeff Burton was going to be an also ran on Sunday. Somebody forgot to tell Burton that.

Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race on Saturday, and finished third in Sunday's Cup event. All in all, that's a pretty fair weekend's work.

All three Joe Gibbs Racing teams finished in the Top 7 on Sunday, while all three of the Richard Childress-owned Chevys finished in the Top 11. 7 and 11? Is this Texas or Vegas?

Thankfully, J.J. Yeley got out of his car unhurt after a savage wreck. How many times must the white dove fly before concrete walls are forever banned?

Worth Noting

  • Edwards won for the third time in seven races this season. Even had he not been penalized those one hundred points, Edwards would still be fourth in the standings, 84 behind Jeff Burton and 25 behind Kevin Harvick, who hasn't won a race this year. That seems to be a pretty clear indication the points system needs a major tweaking.
  • Two months into the season, Kyle Busch has already won at least one race in all three of NASCAR's top touring series.
  • Jeff Gordon endured his third DNF of the 2008 season. Last year, he failed to finish only one race.
  • Jimmie Johnson finished second for the second time this season, but what you'll be hearing all week is none of the Hendrick teams have won yet in 2008.
  • Kyle Busch (3rd) managed his first Top 10 finish in three races on Sunday. Busch has now led laps in six of this season's seven Cup events.
  • Ryan Newman (4th) drove to his first Top 5 finish since he won this year's Daytona 500.
  • After a slow start to the season, Denny Hamlin (5th) has now posted three consecutive Top 10 finishes.
  • Jeff Burton (6th) now has five consecutive Top 10s.
  • Mark Martin's eighth place finish was his best in the five Cup races he's started this season.
  • Clint Bowyer (10th) has scored four straight Top 10 results in the Cup series.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 12th place finish was his second worst result of 2008.
  • The Top 10 finishers at Texas Sunday drove two Fords, four Chevys, three Toyotas, and a lone Dodge.
  • It was another tough day for the rookies at Texas. Patrick Carpentier's 28th place finish was the best by any Rookie of the Year candidate.
  • I've already gotten two emails asking me when Jeff Gordon finished dead last in a Cup race prior to Sunday. Oddly enough, it was at Texas in 1999.

What's the Points?

Jeff Burton maintains his points lead and increases the margin to 59 points over teammate Kevin Harvick, who remains second in the standings.

Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards had the best points days at Texas. They each advanced four spots in the standings to sixth and tenth place, respectively. Ryan Newman advanced three spots to eighth, while Kyle Busch advanced two spots to third in points, now 64 out of the lead. Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer also each advanced a spot in the standings; they are now fifth, seventh, and 11th, respectively. Matt Kenseth moved up two spots to 13th, just outside the Chase cutoff.

Holy Unsuited Shock package, Batman! Jeff Gordon tumbled five spots to 14th, out of the Top 12 for at least one week. Greg Biffle fell six spots to ninth in the standings, while Kasey Kahne fell five spots to 12th.

Any driver from seventh place Denny Hamlin on up could leave Phoenix with the points lead next week.

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 one can of lukewarm Lone Star, a brew so loathsome the Geneva Convention bans its use on prisoners of war.

Next Up: It's off to Phoenix for this season's first Saturday Night Special.

Did you hear the No. 12 car of Ryan Newman failed post-race inspection at Texas? You would have woken up to the news if you were subscribed to the Frontstretch Newsletter. Don’t waste another minute; get all the stories and columnists you love right at your fingertips, along with the breaking NASCAR news you need! Click here to sign up today!

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Today on the Frontstretch:
ATHLON SPORTSBOWLES: Is Kevin Harvick A Hall Of Famer?
Racing to the Point: I’ve Got the Green-White-Checkered Blues
Beyond The Cockpit: Ron Capps Could Have NASCAR Stars Trying… Drag Racing?
IndyCar Driver Profile: Sebastien Bourdais
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Darlington – Off Week Edition
Couch Potato Tuesday: Moving NASCAR Coverage Onto the Web
Voices From The Cheap Seats: NOTeworthy News


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

Margo L
04/07/2008 06:56 AM

There is no rationale whatsoever for all race tracks at the Cup level not having the best protection available for the drivers . And that means Safer Barriers on every wall that could be contacted by a driver . Maybe one or two less hospitality suites , maybe smaller or no fireworks displays , maybe no pre-race stunt shows , just spend the money on ensuring that drivers will walk away from crashes .
Regarding the un-written rule about getting into Cup , the first race in Cup by Kyle Petty was the first race ever for Kyle Petty . He went on to have a pretty decent career . All of the hand wringing over experience before coming to Cup racing is pointless , because for every rookie driver who doesn’t have the required experience
( whatever that might be ) to race at that level , there are many examples of drivers with virtually no experience in Cup type cars who do great things . I suspect that a drivers’ results in Cup racing , just like in all forms of racing , depend much more on the performance of the team overall than the drivers’ racing history . Or do you think Jeff Gordon could jump into the 00 car and put it on the pole at the next race . Not likely .
The very last thing NASCAR would want to do is ban synthetic lubricants . The synthetics are directly responsible for the increased longevity of engines and drivetrains , not by a little , by a lot . The cleanup proceedures may be less effective for synthetics , but the proceedures can be upgraded .

04/07/2008 07:06 AM

I think you’re wrong about Kyle. As I recall it he won an ARCA race in a Dodge Mirada prior to entering the Cup series.

Travis Rassat
04/07/2008 07:17 AM

“It looks like the unemployment rate in North Carolina is about to ratchet up a notch courtesy of Chip Ganassi.”

What do you mean by this? I must’ve missed something…

Margo L
04/07/2008 07:27 AM

Matt , you are absolutely correct . Kyles’ first race was at Daytona in an ARCA race . But again , a lack of prior experience didn’t seem to be a hindrance . I just think that the team is every bit as important or maybe even more important in a rookie drivers success than prior stock car experience .

04/07/2008 08:18 AM

One more correcton. Kyle Petty’s winning car in the 1979 ARCA race at Daytona was a Dodge Magnum. I don’t know if anyone has ever raced a Mirada in NASCAR or ARCA.

04/07/2008 08:35 AM

You forgot the mystery caution ….The one that erased an 8 second lead over jimmie for “ debris “ that they NEVER showed ..SEEMED like they were trying to manipulate a nice close finish …too bad cousin carl had em COVERED!

04/07/2008 08:36 AM

After Dario F failed to qualify on Friday, Ganassi blasted his entire team for thier efforts this year and said there would be wholesale personnel changes made if they didn’t get thier act together. See the whole story at Jayski’s.

04/07/2008 08:42 AM

I saw enough of the race at the end to notice that, once again, there were many empty seats. You can’t manipulate the cameras enough to completely hide them, but you can manipulate tv ratings and debris cautions.

04/07/2008 08:49 AM

Did anyone else get a sense of deja-vu on the way McDowell’s car went into the wall? But he walked away, and for all the things Nascar is guilty of, at least they have improved driver safety. 10 years ago, McDowell would be dead from that crash, just like Ironhead.

Margo L
04/07/2008 09:02 AM

It just proves that money alone doesn’t win races . The Ganassi Cup team is headed nowhere , unlike all of his other race teams that are wildly successfull . The test tunnel under the mountain in PA. that Chip owns obviously doesn’t help the COT aero performance very much . Let’s hope the team can get it together soon .

04/07/2008 09:19 AM

Wow…was that a snoozer! One can only hope that ALL 1.5 milers won’t (first) end with Edwards winning and (second) be this freakin’ boring!! But it’s not looking good so far. Nascar…wake up. These cars are junk on the intermediates.

doctor x
04/07/2008 10:02 AM

The teams’ hands are tied. They can’t try things to make the cars better from an aero standpoint and NASCAR doesn’t have an incentive (YET) to try to make them better. If the crappy racing at the 1.5 mile tracks continue people will stop watching and then maybe NASCAR will have an incentive to make changes to lessen the aero problems.

04/07/2008 10:23 AM

Oh my God when is Fox coverage over. I can not take it any longer. They tried everything to make people think this race was a barn burner. Mike Joy is an idiot. How many times did he say “we are overusing the Texas Metaphors but this is turning out to be like the “shoot out at the OK Corral” Hey dumb ass that’s an Arizona Metaphor. Any wonder why the TV ratings are down, what with snooze fest races commented on by NA$CAR sycophants bloviating ad nauseam.

04/07/2008 10:40 AM

The race was so boring I had more fun watching the open-wheel guys run under caution in the rain in St. Pete. Those were some BIG splashes!

04/07/2008 10:59 AM

Fox always gives us the classics in bad announcing , “ indeed “ and “ if you will “ and “ right now “ But in the best tradition of the Junior Samples Broadcasting School , what is Larry Mac and his “ Snoko “ What on earth is Snoko ?
If it weren’t for metaphores , the Fox broadcasts would be 4 hours of silence while staring at Hendrick drivers on screen .Hmmm, i might be able to put up with the latter for a guarantee of the former .

Joey D'Antoni
04/07/2008 11:40 AM

Is this Chez Waltrip. You get a lot for $10 Million.


04/07/2008 11:52 AM

I fell asleep 3 times during the race Sunday and that was not because of a late night out. Boring, Boring,and even more Boring!

These CoT cars are so much safer just ask McDowell, but the racing is boring. The T.V. coverage doesn’t help much either.

Again showing the winning driver in his car celebrating but not showing the rest of the field crossing the finish line. That is a time when the drivers are driving their hardest and can be exciting to watch. What is up with that?

04/07/2008 12:07 PM

I do believe the infeild crew @ the tracks could put together a better broadcast and more original than the fox group,at least at pocono away.The race had some interesting segments ,including blown coverage of the most important part of the race once again.The most upsetting was the video opening for fox nascar sports,1st time I’ve seen it,a music video with the refrain coming from a dw qoute,3b’s.what the heck was that,missing coverage is somewhat forgivable but making veiwers suffer with that is just plain inhumane.then again it beats the prn broadcasts.

Kevin in SoCal
04/07/2008 12:39 PM

And we all complained about ESPN last year and couldnt wait for FOX again. How ironic.

04/07/2008 12:57 PM

I turned my TV off during the caution with 2 to go!

04/07/2008 01:33 PM

Wow. That’s pretty extreme HankZ!

I’m gettin’ real impatient with that Juan boy. Yeah, me and Matt Kenseth both.

To heck with Jacques…Chip should be asking JP, “So whaddaya done for ME lately?”

Well let’s see…32, 20, 19, 16, 15, 13, 19.

Not much.

04/07/2008 01:42 PM

I think the primary solution to the TV coverage is going to the side by side coverage like ABC does with open wheel racing. I mean when there’s four legit passes for the lead and FOX is away in commercial for three of them that’s a problem

Travis Rassat
04/07/2008 02:25 PM

Thanks, Matt, for clarifying the Ganassi situation.

I thought the same thing as Dennis when Mike Joy mentioned the shootout at the OK corral. lol!

For those who talk about how boring this race was: I don’t think this race was boring because of the new car. It was boring last year and the year before, too. The problem is not the car, it’s the 1 1/2 mile tracks. I can’t think of any mile and half tracks that have produced exciting racing.

The IRL race was much more exciting to watch.

04/07/2008 03:52 PM

I have found the best solution for the boring races. I set the VCR and fired the grill up and sat outside with the old lady in the sunshine(which we haven’t had any of in the last three weeks). After we grilled, chatted, ate, and poisoned all the fire ant mounds in the yard, I watched the race in (Hey Brian check this out) 32 minutes! What a wonderful raceday.

04/07/2008 05:01 PM

how many more YEARS do we have to put up with chris myers in texas referring to dick b as “older than dirt”? not like myers is any young chickadee!

in the north i was taught that men remove their hats when they’re inside a building. apparently jeff hammond thinks he’s a woman??? as a child women were the only gender who kept their hats on in a building. when i heard hammond’s raspy voice on friday i was sooooo hoping he had a case of the dw virus. fat chance!

off to phoenix. they’ll pull out more western comments this week. of course they’ll probably set up talladega several times by mentioning “get ready for the big one” in a few weeks.

only positive thing about the cot i see is michael mcdowell walking away from that wreck. that hit looked similar to the one that took tony roper’s life.

04/07/2008 06:40 PM

Kevin, I for one did not complain about ESPN last year and I want Fox to go away. Fox lowered the bar on race coverage and I’m sorry to say ESPN followed them to some degree, but they are still light years ahead of the Fox coverage. I’m glad I was a fan when it was real back in the ’70s on up to 2001 but now the magic is gone and I place the blame on Hollywood Brain France and the Funky Bunch at Faux Sports.

04/07/2008 07:00 PM

Oops…I meant to heck with Dario.

Oh well, Dario…Jacques…AJ…Sam…Juan…what’s the difference.

04/07/2008 09:16 PM

I agree with Travis Rassat, in the past the races were the same way also. I think the car is fine. It doesn’t matter what the you do with the cars/drivers your not going to get side by side racing unless the tracks have the correct progressive banking.