The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Camping World RV 400 by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday September 29, 2008

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Camping World RV 400

Matt McLaughlin · Monday September 29, 2008


The Key Moment: Carl Edwards sailed his Ford into the final corner in a kamikaze attempt to pass Jimmie Johnson. Edwards did get by the No. 48 car, but momentum carried him into the wall — allowing Johnson to retake the lead.

In a Nutshell: The race might have been a hundred miles too long but two laps too short.

Dramatic Moment: With passing extremely difficult, the pack raced hard three-wide after every restart.

That last lap will be remembered for a long time.

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

Let me join in those sending condolences to Paul Newman’s family and his myriad of friends and fans. In addition to being an actor almost without parallel (Nobody’s Fool’s Sully was my favorite role for the legend), Newman was a noted philanthropist whose Hole in the Wall camps inspired Kyle Petty’s Victory Junction Gang. In addition, Newman was pretty handy at the wheel of a race car. At the age of 70, he was one of the team drivers who won a Rolex 24 Hour sports car race. Teams he co-owned with Carl Haas won numerous open wheel races and championships; and during the Great Schism, Newman was a passionate advocate to see the two open wheel series in America reunited. I, for one, am glad he lived long enough to see that happen.

Many people might be surprised to learn that Newman won two Trans Am races at an age when most drivers are left running in the fast lane of a Florida interstate at 45 MPH with their left turn signal on heading for the local Olde Country Buffet. More important than anything, he accomplished was the way Newman did things. His accomplishments in life are too great for me to enumerate here, but whatever he did and however those efforts fared, Newman lived life with grace, humility and good humor, never losing sight of the common man nor the plight of those less fortunate. Good on ya, Paul. Godspeed. My guess is you earned an express ticket to your final reward.

Paul Newman’s influence was felt well outside Hollywood and the world of movies. His Hole in the Wall Gang charity was an inspiration for Kyle and Pattie Petty’s Victory Junction Gang Camps.

So now it’s down to a three man race for the title involving Johnson, Edwards, and Biffle who finished 1-2-3 on Sunday… right? Not so fast, Cowgirl. Next week, the Cup boys race at Talladega; and at Talladega in the plate era, it doesn’t matter how fast your car is or how well a driver competes. It all comes down to luck, and if you’re in the wrong place at the right time, a competitive car can be reduced to a smoking pile of junk in the blink of an eye — a car so badly damaged all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t piece it back together again. Let’s wait and see who survives Talladega before postulating guesses about this year’s title winner.

Am I the only one who thought the video clearly showed Clint Bowyer was still a half car length behind Kyle Petty when they took the green flag?

Juan Pablo Montoya won the pole Sunday. Oh, wait a second; no he wasn’t. The team was caught with rear shocks whose gas pressure was above the mandated allowed pressure. But after being caught cheating, the 42 team was still allowed to compete in the event. That confuses a lot of casual fans and non-fans and I can offer them no credible explanation as to how that works. My standard reply these days is, “This is NASCAR. It’s not supposed to make sense.” It’s as if a rider were found to be doped before the Tour De France and he was still allowed to compete but was penalized by having to ride with a wicker basket full of kittens strapped to the handlebars.

If things remain as they are on pit road, reporters are going to start demanding combat pay to interview Kyle Busch after a race. Given their recent work on pit road and in the garage area, one has to wonder if Jamie Little or Shannon Spake can see Russia from their houses, too?

Some folks would like to see Kansas get a second date, noting the facility will soon have a Hard Rock Café and a casino on site. Yeah, too bad they didn’t invest that same money into fixing the track. Those who want to see a second date at Kansas remind me of the sort who would go to the dentist and ask to have root canal done on a healthy tooth without anesthesia. Sunday’s race was good; but it was the exception, not the rule.

Kyle Busch says, despite his statements to the contrary, he hasn’t given up on winning this year’s title. In other news, Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he hasn’t given up on Tony Eury, Junior, Jeff Gordon says he hasn’t given up on Steve LeTarte. NASCAR says they haven’t given up on the Car of Sorrow and everything is going to be just fine. I’m reminded of the tagline from that Pepsi Super Bowl commercial that has recently come out of hibernation: “WAKE UP, PEOPLE!”

Three previous Cup champions — Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth – - remain mathematically alive in the Chase, yet still haven’t won a Cup race this season. Go figure. Kevin Harvick is also in the Chase but hasn’t won a race yet, either. If NASCAR ran the NFL, the Detroit Lions might be in this year’s Super Bowl at this rate…

Does anyone else think it’s time for Michael Waltrip to swallow his pride, hang up his helmet, and put A.J. Allmendinger in the No. 55 car for next season to contribute to the longterm health of his team?

I’m reluctant to dabble into politics even as this great nation reaches a crossroads where nobody seems to know which way to turn. But I am, after all, a car guy. As such, I find it somewhat amusing that one pair of candidates for the presidency want to be known as the “Mavericks.” As a car guy, the term “Maverick” still first and foremost denotes Ford’s misshapen, mutant and unsuccessful attempt at an economy car, one of Dearborn’s greatest disasters. Yeah, I once owned a primer gray Maverick with a worked 351 and 4.10 gears that was pretty successful on Front Street, but then, I once owned a Pinto Cruising Wagon too. I wouldn’t have wanted to try to pass a drug test in that era, either…

Yesterday, Philadelphia area stick and ball sports fans celebrated the Phillies clinching the National League East title. (Phat lot of good that will do them. The Phils winning the World Series? Michael Waltrip will be an eight time Cup champion first.) But Sunday, Philly area race fans got the latest slap to the face from WPVI, our ABC affiliate. In place of the pre-race show, fans got live coverage of the Puerto Rican Day parade instead. Yeah, yeah I get it. Cultural diversity, sensitivity and pride. Well, as a proud Irish descendant, I wouldn’t expect my local channel to pre-empt coverage of an NHL playoff game to show the Saint Patty’s Day parade live featuring adorable little Irish middle school girls dancing jigs in short green dresses. Once the market leader, WPVI seems to have lost touch with their viewers since hiring the Anti-Christ to be their head weather bunny. Please join our organization, ABC (Anybody But Cecily) and take up our battle cry: “She’s a witch… burn her!”

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Kyle Busch suffered through his third straight mechanical issue and lousy finish, and fans endured Busch’s boorish post-race interview as a result. Maybe there’s something to this “leaving the track without comment” routine after all.

Tony Stewart’s high speed lawn-mowing in the infield ended his chances at a good finish.

As a result of a terrible three week stretch, Joe Gibbs’ three championship contending teams now find themselves in the basement of the Chase — 10th, 11th, and 12th.

Joey Logano might be the next big thing, but a 39th place finish isn’t going to have him inducted into any Halls of Fame anytime soon.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. started the event quick, but faded later in the race. Haven’t I seen this Looney Tune before?

Martin Truex, Jr. ran in the Top 10 for much of the race, but ended up the only driver who managed not to finish (43rd) after he tore the shifter out of his car. In retrospect, DEI’s decision to run shifters built by Playskool rather than Hurst to save money might have been an error.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

While Jimmie Johnson might not have had the fastest car, he clearly had the fastest pit crew. Edwards would pass Johnson out on the track, but Johnson’s team consistently returned him to the lead on restarts.

Carl Edwards’ trip up into the wall on the final lap could have dropped him to the last car finishing on the lead lap, but he held onto second place. The fact he survived two pit road collisions to emerge at the front late is amazing enough.

The way most of his season went, the fact Greg Biffle is disappointed with a third place finish says something.

By his own admission, Jeff Gordon was sicker than he’s ever been climbing into a race car at the start of Sunday’s race. But he not only completed the event but finished fourth, which had to go a long way towards making him feel better.

If A.J. Allmendinger is auditioning for a ride next season, a solid Top 10 finish in what might be his final ride in the No. 84 looks good on his resume. After all, in a field of thoroughbreds Allmendinger was astride a lame mule.

Matt Kenseth went spinning off the bumper of the No. 5 car and almost lost a lap — but he rallied back to a fifth place finish.

It just didn’t look like it was meant to be a good race for Jeff Burton Sunday. The tach in the No. 31 car failed prior to the race, and after repairs were made, Burton had to start shotgun on the field; yet, he somehow still managed to post a Top 10 finish.

Worth Noting

  • The Top 10 finishers at Kansas competed in four Chevys, four Fords, one Dodge, and a Toyota.
  • Patrick Carpentier in 29th enjoyed the best finish by a member of this year’s sorry-ass Rookie of the Year contenders.
  • Jimmie Johnson scored his 38th career Cup win in 248 starts. Do the math. That means Johnson has won once for about every 6.5 races he’s started. Johnson has won three of the last five Cup races and finished second in another.
  • Carl Edwards (second) has Top 10 finishes in nine of the last ten races. He’s won three of those ten events.
  • Greg Biffle (third) has finished within the Top 3 in four of the last five Cup races.
  • Jeff Gordon (fourth) scored his first Top 5 finish since Bristol in August. Maybe they ought to give him flu shots prior to qualifying on Fridays. Not the sort of flu shots that prevent a patient from getting the flu… the kind that cause it.
  • Matt Kenseth (fifth) has posted back-to-back Top 5 finishes for the first time this season.
  • Kevin Harvick (sixth) has now managed nine straight Top 10 Cup finishes.
  • Harvick’s teammate, Jeff Burton (seventh) has strung together four straight Top 10s.
  • David Ragan (eighth) managed his first Top 10 since Bristol in a Cup car.
  • A.J. Allmendinger’s ninth place run eclipsed his previous best career Cup finish, a tenth at this year’s Brickyard 400.
  • Elliott Sadler (tenth) managed his first top 10 finish since Michigan in August. He hadn’t managed to finish better than 24th in the five races since.
  • Clint Bowyer has finished 12th in three of the last four races.
  • Give a shout-out to Bill Elliott’s 25th place finish, the third best by any Wood Brothers entry this season. (Elliott posted a twentieth place finish at Pocono this summer while Marcos Ambrose posted a third at Watkins Glen.) Elliott managed a credible seventh place starting spot on Friday, and might have finished even better were it not for a pit road speeding penalty during the race.
  • And while we’re at it, let’s not forget Morgan Shepherd’s unheralded 24th place finish in the Racing With Jesus Dodge in Saturday’s Nationwide race. Shepherd went to high school with Moses and his team has less funding than most little league ball teams, yet he finished ahead of such noteworthys as Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, and Kenny Wallace.

What’s the Points?

Jimmie Johnson wrested the points lead from Carl Edwards, who now trails JJ by ten points. Greg Biffle remains third in the standings, thirty out of the lead. Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick remain fourth and fifth but now trail Johnson by 121 and 136 points, respectively.

An ailing Jeff Gordon moved up two spots to sixth in the standings. All drivers behind Gordon are now at least a full race worth of points out of the lead.

Tony Stewart took the biggest hit in the standings, dropping four positions to eleventh — and falling a seemingly insurmountable 255 points behind. Clint Bowyer fell a spot to seventh in the standings as well.

Three drivers were able to move up a spot in the standings this week. Dale Earnhardt Jr. now finds himself eighth, Matt Kenseth ninth, and Denny Hamlin tenth.

Out of view and outside the Chase, David Ragan claimed the 13th position in the points from Kasey Kahne, who now trails Ragan by seven points. Ryan Newman is in 15th, but lags 215 points behind Kahne. This is the fellow that won the Daytona 500 this year, right?

Now, the professed reasoning for the Chase was that it ensured that eight and nine drivers would be competing for the title… right? Under the old points system it was only two or three drivers who’d be in contention when it came down to the money races. Gee, after three races it sure does appear we’re down to a three man title competition even __with_ the special change — but like I’ve said, I’ll reserve judgment until the smoke clears after Talladega 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 four and a half cans of well iced domestic stuff. Like most Cup races this year, it dragged in the middle sections but the closing laps were worth the price of admission.

Next Up: It’s off to Talladega for the latest edition of the “temporary” restrictor plate madness which will doubtless leave a smoking pig pile of wrecked cars and appeal to the Least Common Denominator types — while leaving real race fans cold and sick to the stomach. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself here: having a plate race in the Chase is like scheduling a bar fight as part of the NHL playoffs.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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

09/29/2008 01:41 AM

Burton did win a race this year at Bristol, so Gordon, Stewart, Harvick, and Kenseth are the only non-winners in the chase.

The Old Guy
09/29/2008 07:00 AM

David Ragan (eighth) managed his first Top 5 since Bristol in a Cup car.

Since when did an eigth place finish become a top five?

David’s coming. Maybe not this year, but he’s coming.

09/29/2008 07:56 AM

I am so very proud of myself, did not watch a single lap!

Oh, and why such a big deal out of Montoya being able to race on Sunday?

How stupid and controlling is NA$CAR when yet another “judgemental” rule is “broken”, i.e., “too much air in the shock”?

Just how stupid is that rule? And that’s the first time NA$CAR has seen this before during the season? Give me a break!

And! RIP Paul Newman! Had the good fortune many years ago to share pit space with this man at Mid-Ohio. A true gentleman & one that deserved respect!

Alway a smile on his face!

Thank you Paul!

Bill B
09/29/2008 07:58 AM

re:“I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself here: having a plate race in the Chase is like scheduling a bar fight as part of the NHL playoffs.”

I’ve never liked the restrictor plate races because they allow luck a greater factor in determining the winner (where else can a 38th place car stay within a couple second of the leaders?). I hate the chase for the same reason, it makes luck a greater factor in determining the champion. So… maybe the chase should be nothing but restrictor plate races. That would give NASCAR the type of manufactured excitement they’ve been working toward.
The barfights in hockey was a good idea too though.

09/29/2008 08:44 AM

Hey, Douglas, I’m with you man! Not a single lap. You know NASCAR has gone to hell in a handbasket, when there is talk of Petty Enterprises firing Kyle Petty.

Walt B
09/29/2008 08:59 AM


Just to let you know WPVI had the Pre-Race on 6.2. It might have made more sense to invert the programing. So what did Cecily di to you

09/29/2008 09:30 AM

wow…didn’t miss much. went to a memorial service sunday afternoon.

matt, you might want to warn people heading to ‘dega this weekend that we don’t have any gas here in atl/georgia or even into alabama. we’ve got gas lines, high tempers and gas at over $4/gallon here. even if i had tickets to ‘dega, i’d probably stay home cause i need gas for work. our lovely govenor is in china, and the oil companies are saying this mess will last here until mid-october.

09/29/2008 10:31 AM

Good thing Bill France wasn’t hell bent on these phoney “ debris “ cautions in the old days . The typical race at Darlington would have had a caution thrown every other lap for cars brushing the wall . We can easily see that there is no reason for a yellow in these almost wrecks , yet they receive a caution . SOMETIMES .How was it different when Ambrose brushed the wall ? Same incident as the others , yet no caution . And why did it take so long to throw the yellow when Waltrip blew a tire ?

09/29/2008 10:33 AM

Best idea I’ve heard yet. Put that kid AJ in the 55 car. That guy really is getting screwed for doing everything asked of him and more. He deserves another ride and MW has no business being in a ride of any kind. I’ll bet that kid would do well, as Ruitteman has shown those cars have speed, the 55 only needs a driver who would forget about putting his dopey face in front of a TV camera constantly and concentrate on driving.Maybe it makes too much sense?

09/29/2008 12:45 PM

Janice, I went to Talledega a few years ago, courtesy of Bill Elliot and saw the race from a box. It was a bore. If I could get gas in N. GA next weekend, I wouldn’t go to the race.

Kevin in SoCal
09/29/2008 12:54 PM

I saw Bowyer behind Petty too, but I guess NASCAR punished Bowyer for attempting to pass before the start line.

09/29/2008 01:03 PM

If NASCAR would do away with letting the top qualifier pick the #1 stall or better yet move the line they have to race to coming out of the pits the others might have a chance at beating the guy with the #1 pit stall.

09/29/2008 01:16 PM

I guess there’s no pleasing some of you guys. We have a great finish for the second week in a row and you are proud in not seeing it!

Señor Obvious
09/29/2008 03:22 PM

For those who want the credible answer to why the #42 team was able to race despite being caught with illegal shocks after speed trials type qualifying, without the McLaughlin hateperbole, it’s because the team had already qualified for the race by being in the top 35 in owner points.

Not that hard to figure out really.

09/29/2008 03:32 PM

I sat down yesterday about 1:45 and turned on chanel 6…and screamed out loud when I saw the parade…

Now I know it was all Cecily’s fault…what did she do to you ???

09/29/2008 04:00 PM

Can anybody explain why the Vickers fuel man was out in the middle of the pit box with his back to Stewart ? When refueling he is located on the extreme inside of the box , and when finished goes a foot and a half and climbs back over the wall . What on earth was he doing out in the middle where he was squarely in the middle of Stewarts hood ? Vickers has always been no more than a rolling roadblock on the track anyway , but now he and his team have apparently decided to block the competition in the pits as well .

09/29/2008 04:08 PM

I really believe “Jr’s fading” is due to his lack of exercise. He is spent when he gets out of the car, we see this week after week. I know driving an ill handling car is very taxing on the driver, but he looks like a whipped pup. He needs to lay off the computer games and hit the gym. I am starting to believe his inability to have a winning car is due to him not being able to control it as the race wears on. He seems to be over driving the car. He can’t have driver control if he’s physically spent at the half point of a race. He needs to follow Mark Martin’s example and start pumping some iron.

Big Sky
09/29/2008 08:48 PM

Yes, sure the race may have been somewhat boring in some places, but man, the ending made it all worth it. If you missed Carl Edwards doing all he could to win, then you truly missed on of the best moments of the season. And yet, people are glad they didn’t watch? I am not sure what you are waitng for. I mean we are at home. Watch some of a football game and switch back and forth. It makes for a very enjoyable day for me. I was very excited to talk about the end of this “around the watercooler”.

09/29/2008 10:12 PM

RIP Paul
“Does anyone else think it’s time for Michael Waltrip to swallow his pride, hang up his helmet”
I remember the last time I yearned for a road block waltrip to retire…then regretted it, BOOgity!What’s that saying..careful want ya wish for?oh, I didn’t watch the race, was out jockeying for some premium for the firebird.

09/29/2008 10:21 PM

For Philly fans only:

C’mon it can’t just be me who has noticed our weather has gone to Hell since Ms. Tyson flew in on her broom from Las Vegas with her screeching voice, dime store plastic surgeon tits and her inate inability to learn how to pronounce the name of local towns correctly despite her decade long reign of terror. The fact she still motions at Delaware while saying “New Jersey” drives me nuts. If Al Gore will wake up he’ll find that it’s Cecily Tyson not the beloved automobile that is the cause of global warming.

Action News had a proud tradition of Weatherfolks, with the still lamented Jim O’Brien (Former Boss Jock on WFIL) and the endearing if hard drinking Dave Roberts. Dave and Jim Gardner are great together. Other than the fact that weekeend anchor Rob Jennings seems to want to join the million man march of those who have been in Cecily’s pants there’s just no chemistry with the rest of the team.

But WPVI seemed determined to introduce the standard “sexy” blonde weather witch into the news program oddly enough to compete with that Frost chick who has a backfield the size of a Buick. About the same time they turned Action News from a true news program to info-tainment. I mean c’mon a Philly cop gets shot and killed by a guy who should have never been paroled and the Big Story on Action News is the Eagles continue to suck? If I see one more “news story” featuring drunken louts at a Kennsington watering holes chanting “E-A-G-L-E-S” I’m going to blow a gasket. That’s not news it’s sports. Sports gets it five minutes towards the end of the show.

Ms. Tyson hasn’t aged well despite the best work of an army of plastic surgeons. She looks like she grooms her forehead with a rake. I mean seriously who knew the Dollar Store sold blonde hair dye, right? She’s just flat out nasty looking. I try to eat my dinner during the news and the mere sight of her makes me toss prime rib in the trash.

Now let’s move on to the Cecily you might not know. Convinced she was destined for big things (and she’s tried to land gigs on the View, Regis and Good Morning America where her annoying voice and abject stupidity were noticed before she bought ABC crashing to the ground) the Material Girl uprooted her then husband from his job as a school teacher in Vegas to follow her to Philly. Once she arrived here she became a bar room floozy in the hip Manyunk scene sleeping her way through the phone book. In fact she earned the nickname “Open Cecily”. Among those who banged her like a warped board is my buddy’s brother Tom who is now a priest that says something. She then dumped her husband for her personal trainer after getting knocked up well before the wedding. Her two maternity leaves led to a renissance for Action News but like Freedy Kruger she keeps coming back to subject us to photos of her kids that would make Kathy Lee vomit. It’s amazing how she can comb thier hair to hide the horns.

It’s amazing to me how few people realize Cecily Tynan is the Anti-christ. You’ll find out one day when a Cat 5 hurricane strikes the “Delaware Valley” and Cecily is standing atop Billy Penn’s hat arms outstretched welcoming the storm and condemning the rest of us to death.

Dave Roberts might be a drunk but he’s an endearing drunk. Send Cecily’s ass packing and bring him back full time.

09/30/2008 02:27 PM

Since we are off the NASCAR subject, SCREW Paul Newman!

That jerk was a huge supporter of Cop Murdering Thug Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Justice for Daniel Faulkner, somebody shank Mumia!