The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: All-Star Edition by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday May 19, 2008

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: All-Star Edition

Matt McLaughlin · Monday May 19, 2008

 

The Key Moment: Kasey Kahne blew past Denny Hamlin’s ailing Toyota on lap nine of the final segment and drove off into the distance.

In a Nutshell: Forget checkers or wreckers; this one was laps and naps.

Dramatic Moment: The first ten laps of the final segment featured the only real competitive action of a long evening.

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

You need any more evidence this Ugly Dog new car is ruining racing? Time after time at Charlotte, the lead car in clean air simply drove off into the distance. Single file racing was the norm all night, and once-dominant cars couldn’t go anywhere once they got caught back in traffic. Somewhere tonight, they’re talking Humpy Wheeler down off a ledge. If there’s going to be 600 miles of this type of racing next weekend, it’s going to be a real long night.

Is all this All-Star foolishness outlasting its usefulness? With all the convoluted rules, it’s getting harder to figure out what the Hell is going on. I mean, come on, A.J. Allmendinger in the All-Star Race? My suggestion is to prepare equal cars for the competitors and run them at the dirt track at Charlotte instead; I mean, anything has to beat the monotony of the current format with the new cars. Burnout competitions, pit crew challenges, heat races, and fans voting a driver into the show? To heck with all that; I just want to see some good racing again!

Did it seem like Greg Biffle was forcing himself to sound upbeat after losing the race? Last week, he threw his crew under the bus at Darlington, igniting a firestorm of rumors he was looking to leave Roush Fenway Racing.

What in the Hell is wrong with the No. 24 team? If they’re going to run that bad next week, they might as well stay home.

Are there going to be enough parts to fix all the cars damaged at Indy this week?

No rain at Charlotte in the month of May? Maybe there is something to this global warming thing after all.

I guess Jack Roush laid down the law after Darlington; I noticed his teams were using torque wrenches to ensure the wheels were all tight on his four cars during the ten minute break. Unfortunately for the Roush teams, you can’t do that during a race; there were rumors that the No. 16 car had another wheel left loose on its final pit stop.

Kyle Busch might have replaced the Chase as fans’ favorite thing to hate. I actually felt bad for his crew guys having to listen to those cheers as they pushed their wounded car into the garage area; it seems people forget that they aren’t the ones that wrecked Junior.

The other teams really have to be worried about this experimental Toyota motor. Even on seven cylinders, Kyle Busch was faster than most of the other cars running full song. If JGR ever finds a way to get that new engine to last, look out.

Tony Stewart driving for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the Cup series next year? The Silly Season has officially gone insane.

With all the sizzle leading up to the event, you had to think there had to be some steak somewhere… but it was not to be. Give SPEED some credit, though; they showed each segment in its entirety without commercial breaks. FOX normally gets at least two breaks in during 25 laps of racing…

Call it the Hammond Factor: There is no program so poorly conceived, insipid, annoying, or pointless that it can’t be made even more unendurable by bringing Jeff Hammond into the picture.

Sprint decided to use their big show to honor their loyal customers. Maybe next week they can honor those of us who refuse to own or use a cell phone for all the traffic accidents we don’t cause driving while distracted, and the all the motorcyclists we don’t kill text messaging our buds at the wheel?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s special paint scheme (shown above) did little to help the No. 88’s handling throughout the 100-lapper; after a late race pit stop for four fresh tires, Junior could only battle back to 8th place by the end of the final segment.

They discuss what the stars show up wearing at the Oscars, so I guess we need to discuss all those special one race paint schemes used in the All Star Race. My nod for the best of them goes to the No. 88 car’s tribute to the Gray Ghost, the car that Buddy Baker used to finally won the Daytona 500 in 1980. Nothing else was even close.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Kyle Busch once again appeared to have the field covered, but lost an engine near the end of the second segment.

Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate, also gave up the lead as his Toyota’s mill expired with just sixteen laps left.

Dale Jarrett’s final ride resulted in a 22nd place finish in yet another hopelessly uncompetitive Michael Waltrip Racing entry. Maybe he should have raced that Big Brown Truck instead Saturday night.

With the old car, four tires might have been the right call — but Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s chances of winning another All Star race evaporated in the pits due to conservative strategy, as Charlotte’s track was a no-passing zone on this night.

Richard Childress Racing’s’ three Chevys looked off song all evening. Considering Kevin Harvick won this event last year, it looks like they’ve got some work to do before next weekend.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Some would argue that Kasey Kahne didn’t even belong in the All Star Race, having failed to win a race the last two years or earn his way in through the heat race. But the fans voted him in, and I’m never going to run counter to the fans’ wishes. Maybe Dale Earnhardt, Jr. isn’t all that popular after all, and the fans just like the Bud car? Nah.

Sam Hornish, Jr. managed to race his way into the big snore — I mean show — via the heat race, but hit the wall a ton early in the main event. He bent up his car and lost two laps because of it, but still managed to post a seventh place finish when things were all said and done. It just goes to show the value of never giving up, especially while having a car with the body so askew on the chassis it looks like a dog-trotting ’70s Nova.

Jack Roush’s Fords didn’t win the race, but they still looked strong on a midsize track, as they have all season long. The Roush Fenway drivers now look to be the favorites heading into next week’s 600. I know what you’re about to say; but do you really think a Gillett-Evernham Dodge is going to last 600 miles? Not going to happen.

As bad as he ran in the first three segments, Jimmie Johnson has got to consider a fourth place finish in the last one as a gift.

Tony Stewart was fortunate enough to have his JGR engine expire prior to the race, allowing him to finish the night in the Top 5 instead of in the garage.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic): A skunked can of Iron City. That was absolutely pathetic. If this “event” doesn’t cause NASCAR to tweak on the new car, then it appears certain this sport is headed right down the toilet. There’s only so much of this crap fans will put up with.

Next Up: Next weekend features three of the most dramatic and high profile racing events of the year; the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indy 500, and the nightcap, the Coca-Cola 600.

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M. B. Voelker
05/19/2008 07:03 AM
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Cars with fresh tires can’t catch/pass cars with 25-lap tires and you conclude that the problem is the car rather than the tires?

Come off it. The racing at Charlotte has been lousy ever since the repaving job. What’s needed are time and softer tires — the car has nothing to do with it.

Douglas
05/19/2008 07:32 AM
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I fell asleep during segment 3 of this stupid “event”!

And glad I did! What a snoozer!

Now I do not have anything against Kasey, actually glad he won, but when they hold an “All Star” type event, you would think the powers-to-be would let the silly race be won on the track, not in the pits!

Turns out that this Saturday night atrocity is more pit strategy than it is speed on the track!

And then you throw in the CoT!!

WHAT A DISASTER!!!

Ed
05/19/2008 08:03 AM
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They need to trash this mess! It was a good event for years, but NASCAR always has to mess up a good thing, by “tweaking” it. It was a travesty that Bill Elliott had to try to race his way in, but Jarrett didn’t. Former winners and champions, no matter their status, should be competing. I agree with you Matt. Let’s put them on a dirt track with equal cars and see how good they really are. The silly pre-race hype can come to an end as well. I checked at one point and the countdown clock said 45 min to go until the race. That was almost 2 hours before the race began. Needless to say I didn’t tune in until time for the green flag to fall. I also agree about Hammond. I don’t guess the FOX announcers will ever learn that they aren’t the “show.” DW and Larry Mac tried their version of making the race exciting with their constant yelling, but it didn’t work as usual. Then you add the COT, which looks like a worn out jalopy going down the highway these days, and you have your basic boring race.

Joe
05/19/2008 08:04 AM
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or… maybe Dale Jr. was already in the race and Kasey was the silver medal?

I too fell asleep after I saw Kyle go out then Biffle run away, Kenseth and Junior. Seems I didn’t miss much but it was surprising to see Kahne win.

My prediction for the World 600. Roush car will win it and 3 cars will be on the lead lap.

Joe
05/19/2008 08:33 AM
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Also, with Jr. going retro on the last 2 races with his paint schemes (Dew Crew DW scheme) and the Gray Ghost, I hope he can incorporate a Folgers look on one of his cars this year, preferrably at Pocono or the Glen.

Douglas
05/19/2008 08:38 AM
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QUOTE: “and the nightcap, the Coca-Cola 600”.

How very appropriate to say the 600 will be the “nightcap” of the day! “Nightcaps” by definition are designed to put one to sleep!!

mmack
05/19/2008 09:18 AM
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Matt,

First off, yes Mr. SmartA**, they do have enough parts to fix A.J. Foyt IV’s car after yesterday’s accident, in which his car did its best impersonation of a Roman candle. And if they don’t, Vision Racing has a backup car, so the worst that could happen is Foyt starts 33rd (go to your backup or substitute a driver, go to the back @ Indy for the 500) So there! :^P

Secondly, I’m afraid I have to agree with Ed, Douglas, and Joe: my wife and I fell asleep on couch not once, but TWICE trying to watch this! Once during the live coverage of the All-Star race, and then later when SpeedTV showed the replays.

But the night was summed up for me when my wife asked: “So how do they decide who gets into the All-Star race?” I realized that without going to the NASCAR.COM website I couldn’t explain it, and I was too comfortable cuddled up next to her while napping to get off the couch to find out.

My wife’s take: “The most exciting thing was seeing Dale Jarrett go around the racetrack in the Big Brown Truck during the pre-race”.

hank lee
05/19/2008 11:03 AM
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Matt, what’s with that backhanded remark about Allmendinger making the show? As long as I can remember the winner of the Open has always made the big show. And Allmendinger won the thing.

Connie
05/19/2008 11:08 AM
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I am so tired of listening to DW so far up Kyle’s butt it isn’t funny. That is ALL he can talk about. That is way to much favoritism coming from a race announcer. Sure DW is on the Toyota band wagon but come on. We were ready to mute the TV when Kyle went out of the race. That was the only way DW quit praising Kyle with his every word.

Jr. fans are NOT the only ones who dislike Kyle.
The Bif’s fan are not fond of him either and nor are the fans who weren’t happy Toyota moved into the Cup series. It’s just that Kyle happens to be the best driver in a Toyota so it is him they boo.

Joe
05/19/2008 11:59 AM
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Connie,

Kyle IS DW. Also, with the comment about Almendinger making the Winston, I will always call it that, one has to wonder if Matt felt the same way when Mikey won it back in the mid 90’s driving the Citgo car. When will people give the Toyota bias a rest and just accept that they are in NASCAR and not going anywhere for a while? The xenophobia is kinda ridiculous. No one cried when Daimler Chrysler re-entered the sport.

Racer X
05/19/2008 11:59 AM
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Easy on the Iron City bashing, they might not be around much longer.

mindcrime
05/19/2008 12:30 PM
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What will be interesting is how they will be able to take Saturday night’s race and make a promo clip for next year that makes it look exciting. My bet is that all the clips they will use none from this year because there was no excitement.

Joe, it’s every American’s God given right to be xenophobic no matter how pointless.

marty baker
05/19/2008 12:35 PM
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iron city beats your colorado kool-aid any day! nascar’s low just reached a new high.

Connie
05/19/2008 01:03 PM
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I really don’t care myself if Toyota is in the Cup or not. But I know LOTS of people who aren’t happy about it. I just tried to trade my Chevy Trailblazer in on a Toyota. Seems like the Toyotas can get better gas milage and produce a car that rates high in safety. Sad to say I owe to much on mine to make the deal. When I bought it the gas price wasn’t big deal, but now it is.

HankZ
05/19/2008 01:07 PM
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Yay for me…I finally got to see a race on SPEED. Absolutely thee most boring race I have ever watched. My friend, his wife, his kids and even his dog were out cold toward the end. On the other hand, what an eye-opener it was for me to see those two chicken-chokers in the booth.

Does FOX own SPEED? That’d be news to me, I thought SPEED stood on its own.

I predict the 600’s TV numbers will be down.

Kenneth
05/19/2008 01:40 PM
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Horrible, horrible ‘race’. Hell, it’s not even a race anymore; the drivers and teams admit so much that all it is is a glorified test session, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that the race comes off as being one.

Barring some fuel mileage drama or an extremely high engine attrition rate, the upcoming 600 has the potential to be the most boring race in recent history (which is saying something).

Joe
05/19/2008 02:06 PM
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Very true mindcrime, but to keep beating the same damn drum every week is kinda tired. It is what it is, deal with it and force the folks in Detroit to make a better car.

Matt
05/19/2008 03:12 PM
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What am i missing? Where’s the Toyota bashing?

I said DJs car wasn’t competitive. Didn’t even mention the brand.

I nited that the JGR experimental engine was faster om seven clyinders then most of the other cars, Toyota included, hitting on all 8. I didn’t call for the engine to be banned. ai just said the other teams have to concerned.

I don’t care if folks take exception to what I did write, but it’s tough getting blamed for what I didn’t.

Joe
05/19/2008 03:59 PM
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Matt, my comment was aimed toward another poster’s comments, not another poster thus hopefully no deletion. Sorry for the confusion. As for the beating the drum comment, again that was a general comment about the weekly Toyota bashing that occurs. Sorry, but it annoys me. No need to go to the way back machine and analyze the last 5 months worth of columns as that is simply my perception.

Why do you have a problem with Almendinger transferring on to the big race? It is what it is. Hell, Brett Bodine, Richard Brickhouse, Bobby Hillin Jr. and many others have happened upon a victory that is akin to the sun shining on a dog’s arse once in a while. My solution to the Winston and something that would make it more entertaining, for me anyway, is put 30 sets of rental car keys in a fish bowl and each driver picks one and they race what they get. If you drew the Aspire or the Cobalt, tough crap, make the best of it. If you draw the Hummer, good luck with the 10 miles to the gallon or whatever.

The “race” was as big a black eye to NASCAR as the wreckfest in the rain a few years back when Jeff Gordon won in a backup car. They may as well have called Saturday night the Polished Turd presented by Sprint.

One thing I did like was Hammond’s thinning hair to match his makeup. For someone who tries so hard to convey a macho, rough and tumble cowboy image, he sure does seem to spend quite a bit of time in the makeup chair. He’s absolutely horrible. Unfortunately I think he’s as much a product of the FOX hype machine as he is a self promoter like DW. I would say put Andy Petree in his spot but it’d be ashame to see Fox ruin Petree too.

Your last article really drove home the point as to what kind of fan I and probably a lot of old NASCAR fans have become. I, for one, can appreciate Kyle Busch as he has that swagger that DW, Tim Richmond, and Rusty Wallace had coupled with the talent to back it up. I was just hoping after the crowd cheered his car blowing up that he’d get on the loudspeaker at Lowes and challenge everyone in the crowd to a fight in the K Mart parking lot like DW did back in the day. I mean take out the twerpy lunch money look of Kyle Busch and go strictly by his driving and attitude and tell me you don’t see shades of the 3 drivers I mentioned. Plus the salute to Rowdy Burns during the truck race was hilarious. Free advertising for Exxon, as if they needed it. Open faced helmet with the tinted goggles and the microphone, that was classic. I think he’s the driver that many wish Tony Stewart or Kevin Harvick would have become strictly from the attitude stand point.

SS Mike
05/19/2008 05:39 PM
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Great read Matt. This race sucked. We just got SPEED and for the past few days before this so called race was all the hype.

I had hoped with SPEED I would see less of DW and the butcher of the english lanquage Larry Mac but no SPEED has these buttmunchs doing the main event.

But I must add I do not think the COT was the problem. The Winston or what ever it is called has sucked for years now.

We both fell asleep and saw the finish on the late night news.

Connie
05/19/2008 05:42 PM
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Joe
I get tired of everyone saying that only Jr fans dislike Kyle. Many people do not like Toyota’s – Kyle currently happens to be the best Toyota in the field so he is the center of the Toyota bashers. After he punted the Biff, Roush fans dislike him also. Ford drivers normally do not care for Chevy drivers and etc. Whining about the Toyota bashers will get you no where. I personally know only 1 person who drives a Toyota and she could care less about Nascar races.
Sure they are here to stay but your whining is NOT going to get people to be all warm and fuzzy about them. IT IS WHAT IT IS get over it.

Joe
05/19/2008 08:04 PM
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I don’t believe I said that only Junior fans dislike Kyle. As for whining about Toyota, hardly so Connie. I am simply pointing out an ongoing theme of the responses to Matt’s columns. No whining intended, I think you’re sniping and just picking out blurbs versus looking at the entire post.

Carl D.
05/20/2008 11:20 AM
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When the best thing you can say about a Nascar All-Star race is that the commercial frequency is a little less than usual, something is seriously wrong. Wake up, Nascar. And that’s all I have to say, thank you.