The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Kobalt Tools 500 by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday March 9, 2009

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Kobalt Tools 500

Matt McLaughlin · Monday March 9, 2009


The Key Moment: Kurt Busch dominated the race, but a late caution and a two tire stop put Carl Edwards at the head of the pack. Busch was able to easily retake the lead when the green flag flew with two laps left.

In a Nutshell: It looks like this new Dodge engine is going to work out all right.

Dramatic Moment: Kurt Busch pretty much had his way all afternoon, but that final caution flag gave the rest of the top 5 cars a final shot at him.

A crew member of Marcos Ambrose’s team made an ill-advised stroll onto the quad-oval grass to retrieve a wayward tire, trapping many competitive cars a lap down during a cycle of green flag pit stops.

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

OK, it seems political correctness has gone out the window once and for all — and NASCAR better wake up and smell the coffee. Prior to the race, Junior his Very Own Exalted Self weighed in on the tire wear issue at Atlanta. “This is a hell of an excuse for a race car,” he said. “It is hard to drive. It makes everybody’s job harder, even Goodyear’s.” One Hell of an excuse for a race car? That’s less than a ringing endorsement from a fellow who actually has to pilot one of Brian France’s multi-make clown cars. Maybe we ought to see if Brian could drive one of these rolling abortions home from Happy Hour without hitting another palm tree.

How good was it to see a race winner drinking a beer rather than a soft drink in Victory Lane again?

Atlanta is known for putting on a good show, but obviously not good enough to bring out a full crowd.

Apparently, attendance is an issue that stretches beyond the seats in Chicken Bone Alley at Atlanta. A good friend with inside information tells me only half the corporate suites at the track were full on Sunday.

You’ve got to love it anytime the circuit arrives at any track owned by Bruton Smith, because you just know the Big Guy is going to have something quotable to say. Smith feels that it’s time for the season finale to move from Homestead back to Atlanta, where the circuit held its finale for so many years. Of course, O. Bruton put it a bit more colorfully than most, noting; “Why have the last race of the season at some Godforsaken area just north of Cuba?” Speak on, Preacher. The congregation hears you.

I’ve had a few people ask me via email this week whether I actually read the comments that are attached to my articles. Naturally, I do. I appreciate the positive comments, and I respect the opinions of folks who feel differently than I do. (Though I remain confused by folks who tell me if I don’t like the current state of Cup racing, I shouldn’t watch. Doesn’t that beg the question, if they don’t like what I do, why read it?) This week certain individual posters, one in particular, took my negative opinion of the Fontana race to task. Again, I respect those dissenting opinions. If they choose to buy tickets to Fontana, I’m good with that, as long as they aren’t taking the hard-earned money out of my wallet to buy them. This week, the loyal opposition (and I use that term affectionately, not cynically) put forth the proposition that the flat, multi-use tracks like Fontana provide better racing because the action is more cerebral than visceral. If I am interpreting their comments correctly, certain folks enjoy these races because to succeed at tracks like Fontana, the team has to bring their “A” game to the track aerodynamically and horsepower-wise. Drivers have to be mentally prepared for a 500-mile gauntlet, and crew chiefs must change strategy on the fly when cautions fall in a certain manner that alters fuel mileage and tire strategies.

In saying so, proponents of these races and tracks are correct, and I respect that opinion — just as I realize some people would rather watch a chess match than an outdoor motocross event. In my opinion (and that’s, in fact, what these columns are…opinions, not oracles) the racing at Michigan (the original multi-use track) was better back in the day when the draft played a large part in determining the outcome of the races — though strategy was always a big part of the game, too. And therein lays my complaint with today’s races like Fontana. The Car of Tomorrow won’t draft anywhere but the plate tracks. In fact, due to its aerodynamic deficiencies, the overtaking car is at a decided disadvantage to the car ahead of it due to aero push… an issue I think the new design was meant to address but has not. So, when NASCAR finally admits the Car of Sorrow is a like a Chihuahua — a high strung, unpredictable mutt that just won’t hunt — it behooves their design of the Car of Next Month to have the boxcar aerodynamics of the Glory Days cars of the late eighties (your mileage may vary). OK, Bobb?

I saw this one coming like a train wreck, but I hesitate to comment on it in these PC times. I get a ton of those annoying FW emails each day from friends, strangers, and fellow countrymen, and this week I got one with the title “Digger and the White House.” I’m a glutton for punishment, so I clicked on the link (since thankfully removed) that played a two minute parody of David Hill’s Little Digger cartoon character as a blatantly offensive and racist parody of President Barack Obama. I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks, because it was just that hateful and obscene whether you support the current administration or dislike it.

Another hot button issue I am hearing about from fans is the new Truck Series pit road rules that only allow teams to change tires or add fuel during a single pit stop. While the majority I have heard from disapprove of the rule, I like it. I understand that it’s been enacted to help the truck teams save money, and that can only be a good thing given the troubled state of the series and the dearth of full-time teams right now. Yes, it will take awhile for crew chiefs to adapt the rules to their best advantage; but once they do, it ought to make the racing more interesting.

Another sign of the times — or a sign their time is gone? Todd Bodine has finished first, second, and third in the first three Truck Series races this season; but unless a sponsor steps up to the plate before Martinsville in three weeks’ time, his team won’t be making the haul to the race. Can somebody please step up to the plate and back the No. 30 team? And you don’t think that the Truck Series is falling out of favor just because Toyotas have won all three races this season and claimed twelve of fifteen possible top 5 finishing positions, do you? Fans of other disciplines of motorsports can testify that when it comes to racing, Toyota’s motto is “I came, I saw, I conquered, I split,” usually leaving nothing but dust and ashes in their wake. If I were Brian France, I’d be sure to get my last free oil change on my Lexus prior to November…

Hey, maybe they are listening! If nothing else, FOX proved that when it comes to the pre-race show, less is more. Just thank goodness they were still able to work in the animated Digger segment. My life is Digger. Everything else is just waiting. Not.

It’s sad to say, but if the fans in Atlanta want to continue having two Cup races a year, they better start showing up at the turnstiles. Bruton Smith is probably going to have to move one of his races to get a second date at Vegas, and the difference in the crowds between last Sunday and this Sunday was notable.

I might be getting to the party late, but personal commitments Friday night meant I had to follow qualifying on the computer. I didn’t realize that SPEED was showing qualifying with tape delay until I talked to a friend who was watching the coverage live — and he was about five cars behind the live action.

Isn’t it sad that the only place race fans see Kyle Petty this year is during commercial breaks?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Joey Logano is going to be lucky to have a ceiling fan left if he doesn’t start running faster soon. Speaking of soon… it seems like he made the leap to the bigs a year too soon.

Mark Martin started on the pole, but was never a real factor in the race. A blown tire just added to his misery.

Atlanta’s favorite son Bill Elliott had a credible run going for the Wood Brothers until Sam Hornish finally got around to finishing off the wreck he’d been hinting at causing most of the race.

Jimmie Johnson had a car that appeared able to keep Kurt Busch honest, but a pit road speeding penalty cost him a shot at the win.

Doug Yates watched two of his three cars succumb to engine problems during the race.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

About the only thing that Kurt Busch wore out more than the rest of the field was his right side sheet metal. Yet despite visiting the Wall more than Pink Floyd, Busch hung on to win the race. He also had to overcome refueling issues in the pits to take the checkered flag.

Clutch problems could easily have brought Jeff Gordon’s day to a premature end, but he soldiered on to a second place finish.

If you think passing other cars is tough, try passing a kidney stone. Martin Truex, Jr. did so on Saturday night, yet came back to post a top 10 finish on Sunday.

Carl Edwards’ team struggled in the pits all day, costing their driver numerous spots during the race; but Edwards managed to finish third, anyway.

Tony Stewart’s team nearly sunk their boy’s battleship when they only got three gallons of fuel into the Old Spice car during a botched stop, but a timely caution allowed Stewart to come away from Atlanta with a top 10 finish.

Worth Noting

  • On Friday, Mark Martin posted his first pole since Richmond in the spring of 2001. Joey Logano was ten years old at the time. Martin noted that the pole winning run was a sphincter tightening moment for him in not so many words. Keep on trucking, you crazy old man.
  • Kurt Busch won for the first time since Loudon last year, a race that ended early due to the weather. His last win prior to that was at Michigan in 2007.
  • Jeff Gordon finished second for the second time this season and for the third time since he last won a Cup event.
  • The top 10 finishers at Atlanta drove six Chevys, two Dodges, a Ford, and a Toyota.
  • Joey Logano’s 30th place finish eclipsed his rookie rival, Scott Speed’s, 35th place result for top freshmen honors.
  • Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Tony Stewart have top 10 finishes in three of this year’s four points-paying races run to date.
  • Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne are the only two drivers in the top 10 in points who haven’t scored a top 5 finish this year. I can’t be the only one who has noticed that Kahne’s sponsor’s Creepy Chicks ads haven’t been a part of this year’s plethora of commercials during race broadcasts. Editor’s Note: Allstate has yet to appear on the rear quarterpanels of the No. 9 car in 2009.
  • Of the drivers who finished in the top 10 in last year’s Atlanta spring race, five of them duplicated the feat this year. (Gordon, Harvick, Vickers, Bowyer, and Stewart.) Jeff Gordon is the only driver to post top 10 results in the last three Atlanta Cup races. Gordon hasn’t finished worse than twelfth in the last eight Atlanta Cup races.
  • Brian Vickers managed his first top 5 finish since Michigan last spring.
  • Kasey Kahne scored his first top 10 result since last year’s Homestead season finale. Martin Truex’s last top 10 result occurred in that same race.

What’s the Points?

Repeat after me… it’s way too early to start worrying about points.

That being said, Jeff Gordon continues to lead the standings with a 43-point margin over second place Clint Bowyer. Kurt Busch’s win propels him forward four spots to third, a mere three markers behind Bowyer. Carl Edwards moves up five spots to fourth in the points, the highest he’s been so far this year.

Further back, Brian Vickers moves up six spots to enter the top 12 in eleventh. Jimmie Johnson also moved up six positions in the standings; he now finds himself knocking on the door in 13th.

On the flip side, Michael Waltrip fell out of the top 12 in the standings, tumbling four spots to 16th. David Reutimann fell seven spots after engine problems left him 32nd — but he’s still clinging to the 12th and final Chase slot.

The only people who need to be sweating the points right now are those drivers trying to stay in the top 35. After Bristol in two weeks’ time, only the top 35 teams in this year’s standings are guaranteed a spot in the subsequent races. Among the notables flirting with that 35th place mark are Mark Martin (34th), Joey Logano (33rd), and Ryan Newman (32nd) .

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 three cans of lukewarm beer. Yeah, Busch pretty much dominated, but Gordon and Vickers kept him honest at times. With two laps left to go, it was anyone’s race, but Busch was able to spring forward when it counted.

Next Up: Well, this is odd. Next weekend, the circuit takes a week off just four races deep into the season that includes damn few off weekends from now until Thanksgiving. Perhaps FOX can air a Digger Cartoon Marathon next Sunday to fill the air time…

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03/09/2009 12:45 AM

Great read Matt. Maybe the fans did not buy tickets at Atlanta because of the frigging COT.

Lets face it. The racing sucks with the COT.

The France family needs to get Brain Fart into either a rehab program or a school for the for the “mentally challenged”.

03/09/2009 01:06 AM

Yes, kudos to Fox for cutting down the pre-race show. Nice to see an earlier race today too.

Kevin in SoCal
03/09/2009 01:14 AM

Lets see here:
Fontana: Not a whole lot of fans in the stands, long green flag runs, cars strung out all over the track, cars running the high line and the low line, one car dominating the race, a battle at the end between two drivers who hadnt won a race in a while.
Atlanta: Not a whole lot of fans in the stands, long green flag runs, cars strung out all over the track, cars running the high line and the low line, one car dominating the race, a battle at the end between two drivers who hadnt won a race in a while.

Matt’s rating for Fontana: Warm cup of mule spit.
Matt’s rating for Atlanta: Three cans of lukewarm beer.

Now, explain to me the difference, if its not your east-coast bias?

03/09/2009 04:31 AM

You’re misrepresenting the races to make your point. And it looks silly complaining about bias with that name, especially when defending arguably NASCAR’s least popular track in favor of a historically popular one. It looks silly.

Bill B
03/09/2009 07:33 AM

Well, I think we have a new whipping boy for tracks that can’t sell tickets. Move over Fontana, make way for Atlanta. From what I saw, attendance was much worse in Atlanta.

Why no beer can rating for us to vote on this week?

03/09/2009 07:46 AM

Kevin, Matt is probably no more E.-W. biased than you or I. We all have these biases.
What I want to know is, what was wrong with Carl’s pit crew? They stunk so bad it couldn’t be explained as a bad day to me. And as long as toyota and/or kyle bush do now win it is a great race to me!! No matter where the track!!

M. B. Voelker
03/09/2009 07:57 AM

You never realized that Speed TIVOs the qualifying broadcasts so that we don’t have to miss parts during the commercials?

They’ve been doing that for a couple-three years now.

Mike In NH
03/09/2009 08:30 AM

Always thought provoking. A couple of quibbles among the majority of stuff which I agreed with:

First, there would have been a yellow with or without the crewmember stroll just because the tire was already out there, which would draw the flag. Though that guy was an idiot for being out there. For the record, that 47 tire got booted out there by another car, it didn’t just roll away from the 47 pit, though obviously it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Second, another whine/excuse from Junior doesn’t really register as the almighty truth for me. Certainly the Busch Brothers, Carl Edwards, Jimmy Johnson, and now his other teammate Jeff Gordon seem to be doing okay with the new car. It’s here, deal with it Junior or retire. You’re at the top level of the sport, its not supposed to be easy. But good job for not screwing up any pit stops this week.

Regarding attendance, I’m wondering if the track owners are making more money with two races 75% full than they are with one race 100% full. That would equal 50% more tickets sold per year, but of course it costs more to host two races. Just a thought.

Logano did come up too soon. JGR wasn’t planning on running him full time in Cup until next year but changed strategies when Tony left. Problem was that they couldn’t get a fourth car sponsored and who (that was any better) would sign onto the 20 car knowing it was only for 2009? Plus I think Home Depot was promised Sliced Bread for their car after Tony and didn’t want to support an interim driver.

Allstate no longer sponsors the 9 car, hence no more creepy MILF chick ads for Kahne.

Vickers crew cost him a better finish than he had. He was second before the pit stop and 6th afterward.

03/09/2009 08:32 AM

I just can’t see the poor ticket sales being a function of the COT as much as the economy.

The corporate suites weren’t half-full due to the racing (the suits don’t watch the race whether the race is a barn-burner or a dud)

They were half full because the expense accounts and discretionary spending at the corporations who purchase the suites are kaput.

Plus, let’s face it….both SoCal (sorry Kevin) and Atlanta just are not good pro sports towns/areas. Unless we are talking about the Lakers, or the Braves in a Game 7, fan interest is generally pretty weak. I haven’t seen full stands in Atlanta in years, well before the COT.

Anyway, nice to see the #2 in victory lane again.

03/09/2009 09:06 AM

the only thing the news here in atlanta is focusing on this morning is not the race or who won, but how empty the place was. and even the camping areas and the fact that hotels/motels near the track still had rooms available. normally monday after race here, they just talk about winner and that’s it.

i have a friend in maine who comes south to go to races with me. she called me right when they started the race and she commented about the empty stands. she was shocked to see them so empty, especially in champions grandstand where we normally sit. only place that had good seat coverage was the elliott grandstand and those tickets were $39-$65 and family 4-pack deal was offered. comment was made on traffic reports saturday afternoon about now easy it was getting to the track on saturday.

i thought about driving down after church yesterday and doing walk-up. glad i didn’t as it was ho-hum until the last 20 laps, and that was only exciting because caution kept falling. there are several members of my church that are racing fans and they weren’t at race either. their reason….cot…boring races and cost.

jr needs to wack himself with the hammer before he starts out on the team. you don’t hear bickering with other and drivers and crew chiefs like you do with the 88 bunch. i find it interesting how fox kept saying that jeff gordon is back on his game because he’s focused and physically and mentally prepared. maybe jr needs to have a copy of that commentary engraved on his brain.

they kept advertising tickets for bristol here during commericals. like they were shocked that there were seats available afor the cup race at bristol. now if there are still cup seats available for the summer bristol race, something drastically wrong. i know talladega keeps sending me emails about the aarons weekend.

i missed digger cause i was napping. i swear ams race use to start at 12:30. oh well.

was it me or were mike joy and his gang looking for things to talk about to help excite up the race?

03/09/2009 09:19 AM

I’m not so sure that we shouldn’t be pinning the poor racing on Goodyear just as much or more than the COT . The one recurring theme in every NASCAR race is the tires . HOW CAN RACE TIRES ONLY LAST 10 LAPS BEFORE THEY GO AWAY . THATS INSANE ! And we’ve all just excepted it .
Well , it isn’t normal for race tires to degrade so badly after 10 of the needed 50 or 60 laps of their service life . Not to mention the explosions ( aka cut down tires ) that have affected the outcome of most of the
races over the last twenty years . Track surfaces and every other excuse under the sun have been used to cover up what is simply very poor tire design . They need to be much wider , and a different construction . Other race cars of similar size , speed , and sideload have used wider tires for years .
Is Goodyear capable of producing Cup tires that work ? Sure they can but if they won’t they should be replaced by one of the number of race tire manufacturers who will make tires that can really be called race tires .

Bill B
03/09/2009 09:22 AM

re. your statement “you don’t hear bickering with other and drivers and crew chiefs like you do with the 88 bunch.”

Just remember if you are watching the race on normal television you only hear what the network decides to let you hear. Just because you didn’t hear “driver X” whining doesn’t mean he wasn’t.

03/09/2009 09:26 AM

Let’s face it Matt. A large number of fans attending any race aren’t from that city. They come from near and far. People simply can’t afford tickets and gas and motel rooms. Don’t completely blame the fans in a city for empty seats. Great column, otherwise. Nothing makes racing any worse than the fact that a car can’t pass another because of “aero” issues. Bring back the old car design and take “aero” out of the mix!

03/09/2009 10:10 AM

It’s amusing that poor attendance is not regarded as a function of the worst economy in 75 years!
Congratulations to Penske/Kurt Busch for thinking out every aspect of a worn out surface and developing a car that was in the top 10 through every practice session, qualifying, and the race. There IS something to be said for bringing the A game…
I’m eager to see just how powerful the new Dodge motor is when they get to a track that can hold the power without spinning the wheels and sliding the tires.
What do you call the moment that puts all but ten cars down 1 or 2 laps? Kudos to those that realize a) the tire in the tri-oval was booted there and b) it would have brought out a yellow flag if a crewman went out there or not!
Lsstly, Matt… I appreciate races like run at Fontana recently because of how the crews approach them… I never said they were better racing than…
Yeesh! How many warm beers did you have stewing over that drama in your mind?
Let me be clear lest you conjure up further fantasies… Not all races are the same! Plate racing is as different as short track as cookie cutters are from Pocono and the 2 milers. I can appreciate the effort to win each but I do note your disdain for a thinking man’s race; you don’t surprise me whatsoever in that regard.

03/09/2009 10:20 AM

Here is my story concerning Atlanta attendance because I live here and have been going for many years:

I have been lucky enough to get free tickets from a connection at Dupont for the last 12 or so years for both races.

So I would go over to the Dupont hospitality in the old cup garage and eat breakfast and lunch and drink the free beer.

A sweet deal no doubt.

Well, back in the late 90’s, there would be 600 or so folks in the Dupont area.

Last October, there were 200 at best, and they ran out of beer. I saw the handwriting on the wall.

Of course we all got tickets all in the same section (usually Earnhardt) and this is where we all sat.

Well, if Dupont kills their hospitality program at Atlanta, then that section of seats goes empty, and multiply this several times over for all the other companies that have killed their programs, and you can easily see why there are so many empty seats.

The fact is that in the last 12 or 13 years the companies have been purchasing half of the tickets and distributing them among customers, workers and friends.

So when things dry up, you get back to more realistic attendance figures for the region and the race.

I chose not to purchase a ticket and go to Atlanta, because if I am going to do that, I want it to be Bristol and Talladega. Those are my personal favorites.

Atlanta racing has just been sub-par in the last few years and I am not spending money on it anymore.

I know some think Talladega is bad racing, and I hate restrictor plates too, but I love the pure speed and imminent disaster that it is always on the edge of.

At the end of the day, the Atlanta spring race is probably only going to draw about 60,000, which is a very manageable crowd. Anything more than that taxes the roads and the facilities there too much anyway.

I predict the Labor day night race to be well attended – why?

Weather will be good, it is the first time for a scheduled night race there, and it is on Saturday night.

Races there in October and November always sucked because the weather was so unpredictable and usually cold.

I hope this sheds some light on attendance issues at this track.

Managing Editor
03/09/2009 10:25 AM

Just wanted to let everyone know Matt’s beer poll is now up and running. Sorry for the delay … vote away!

03/09/2009 10:33 AM

One more thing:

If Nascar wants good racing, remove the splitter and put bumpers back on them and allow air to flow UNDERNEATH the car!

And reduce horsepower.

There would be no “aero-push” and cars could pass at will.

Why won’t they do this?

They still have the Allison in-the-fence scene still playing in their minds, even with all the safety changes that all but prevent that from happening now.

Remove the splitter!

Ren - Frontstretch Publisher
03/09/2009 10:54 AM

Michael, the width of the tires is a function of NASCAR rules, not the tire companies. The wider the tires are, the easier it is to gain purchase which turns into better grip in the corners. However, making things easier isn’t something that should need to be done for pros at this level.

Personnaly, I don’t believe that the Goodyear tire is all that bad. Granted, there were some issues at Indy and the CoT has been pretty hard on tire, but most of the problems are from aggressive setups and/or hard driving which cause the tires to wear faster than other team’s and blow, not explode. They look like they are exploding because of the damage, but that damage is caused by bringing the car down from 200 MPH, then driving up to 2.66 miles to the pits at a relatively high rate of speed.

03/09/2009 11:37 AM

One of the biggest reasons that Atlanta has trouble drawing crowds is the traffic . And this isn’t only at Atlanta . But for world class , time and gas wasting traffic jams , Atlanta is very near the top of the list .
More and more fans have begun to question their sanity in attending live races . Giant ticket prices , giant food and souvenior prices , surly security people , and the feeling that they are obviously second class citizens since they aren’t in the high roller section . The average fan can simply stay home , watch the race on tv , and save thousands of dollars . Its no wonder ticket sales are declining every year .
Regarding the Goodyears , the announcers constantly talked about how the tires were only going to be good for 10 laps or so . Well a fuel run is far longer than that , so something needs to be done . The cars yesterday were virtually out of control because of the tires . They race for a few laps and then tip toe until the next pit stop so they can race again for another 10 laps . I don’t doubt that aero has something to do with it , but why can’t a competent tire company come on board and build something that works ?

Carl D.
03/09/2009 11:49 AM

You make a good point about how corporate hospitality tickets might be affecting race attendance. It’s something I hadn’t considered. It does seem to me, though, that the tracks would offer discounted tickets to fans and businesses in order to put more fans in the stands. The company I work for has gotten a good deal on a block of tickets for the All-Star race in Charlotte and made them available to employees at cost. Everybody wins this way.

Atlanta has received the top prize for traffic congestion at a race track for years. When they (the Atlanta area) lose a race, maybe it will hit them that they should have done something about the traffic mess while they still had time. I have to give Charlotte it’s due… they have been improving the traffic by adding roads, lanes, etc. since I started attending races there in the late 80’s.

03/09/2009 11:56 AM

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Allstate have to pull out along with Geico and State Farm due to Nationwide being a title sponsor much like the cell phone companies? I think a 1 year grace period was allowed.

03/09/2009 12:14 PM

I went to Atlanta several times… right after it was reconfigured.

I agree on two points… the traffic flow was a nightmare! But something I learned was no matter where you are going, head south first and you’ll save time in the long run. The vast majority of fans head north and go nowhere for hours!

Secondly, at both the spring and autumn events, I have all but frozen at one time or another. When I read that Bruton Smith wanted to once again have the season finale at Atlanta, I felt my toes freezing all over again!

The night, Labor Day race ought to be just perfect…

And yeah, the security folks at Atlanta are dubious. I was once detained for “selling alcohol” in the parking area… which turned out to be me carrying a case of beer from my truck to my trailer parked 100 feet away! Even showing that the truck and the trailer were both mine, the trooper wouldn’t relent until a gracious fan, that happened to be a lawyer, intervened.

Brent S
03/09/2009 12:34 PM

I liked how FOX didn’t notice that a lug nut fell off the RF during Vicker’s final pit stop, thus dropping him to 6th. You could clearly see on the broadcast the crew member picking it up off of the ground and putting it back on.

03/09/2009 12:36 PM

atlanta traffic is horrible. where i live, i would be able to take back roads all the way to the track. however, after the tornado a few years ago and rehabed the place, if you came to track on back roads, the “rent-a-cops” put you back on 19/41 in the back up. that really irritated me. going 19/41 to 75 is way out of my way. i remember, about 8 yrs ago it took me 6 hrs to get home from race. all the people before the race directing you to park and whatnot, but not a single soul helping to get 100,000 people out. once you get out then the state police take over and also the local sherrifs, who are more interested in ticketing people than directing traffic. they just stand there cause they’re on the clock at premium pay.

i know when i’ve had pit passes, the rent-a-cops that are the “security” for pit road are a joke. however, once the cars take the track, their egos swell and they love blowing their whistles. i remember a few years back, a fan got hit by rusty wallace, cause rent a cop wasn’t doing their job. now grant it, the fan should be aware of all around him first and foremost, but rent-a-cop was a joke. was more concerned with keeping people away from the fence that keeps you out of the garage area than keeping the entrance for the drivers/cars in the fence clear access.

Kevin in SoCal
03/09/2009 12:50 PM

To sighing… at 4:31am:

Your last part is exactly my point. Racing at Fontana is no better or worse than any other speedway, but because California has the second date, which used to be Rockingham, and had the Labor Day date, which used to be Darlington, it gets unfairly bashed for being a new track on the schedule, instead of one with a long time history such as Michigan or Atlanta. All I want is for people to watch the Fontana race with an open mind. But people like Matt, Amy, Tom, and others here on Frontstretch have already made up their mind that the race will be bad, and write their columns accordingly. The Fontana race two weeks ago played out almost exactly the same as the Atlanta race this weekend, including the poor attendance, but Matt rated Atlanta higher because its Atlanta.

Its the exact same as the Kyle Busch phenomena. Kyle was just another racer until he dared to spin Dale Jr at Richmond. Then suddenly everyone hated him and called him a bad guy.

Second, to those complaining about the tires only lasting 10 laps, did you complain the same way about tires at Darlington or Rockingham only lasting 10 laps? Why not? Its not Goodyears fault this time. Its the rough, abrasive track surface.

Ford Fan
03/09/2009 02:03 PM

Sighing— I think what Kevin is trying to point out is Atlanta and Fontana had many of the same characteristics, but Matt gave Atlanta two more cans of the brew. Actually it probably should have been two cans of the suds for both races. Too high for Atlanta and not high enough for Fontana. I don’t know about a East-West bias, but it sure seems like Atlanta=free pass and Fontana=always awful.

03/09/2009 02:14 PM

Kevin, I have been to Fontana a few times. It sucks more then any other track and I have been to many tracks.

03/09/2009 02:51 PM

One thing Fox really dropped the ball on was the 99 car and the issues in the pit. I have Hot Pass on Direct TV and listened to them the whole race. Late in the race, Carl actually asked if he could pit in someone else’s pit. Probably would have wanted Kenseth’s since those guys can do it quick. I am not sure what bungling was going on, but they kept dropping him from 3rd or so to 9th. Then he would slice and dice back up, and the whole process would start over again.

I am not sure you can use another pit, but one would doubt it.
Then at the end, that is mostly why he didn’t come in with about 45 laps to go. He could not trust his crew. They basically decided to do what the 24 car would do. But he was hot under the collar and there was some compelling discussion between him and Bob Osborne for the last half of the race. Much more compelling that the 88 car and the hammer comments.

03/09/2009 03:09 PM

I’m siding with Kev AND Bobb…Fontana isn’t as bad as you make it out to be, and Atlanta isn’t as good. California, as Bobb has said, is a different kind of racing, It’s wide, it’s long, cars are never very close together. So the racing is more chess-match than boxing match. It’s STILL racing. Atlanta is a 1½-er, like many others that size. This race yesterday was a snoozer, compared to LVMS the week before, though both weren’t no Bristol.

I don’t go to the races, personally. They’re WAY to spendy for the fun. The gang at Aloha Tav have a much better venue, with cable, than you get at a turn 4 seat in LVMS (2004, the only one I’ve attended) for $65.

But, still, the racing is as good as it’s ever been. Just different.

03/09/2009 05:48 PM

How can having 2 crew members standing on one side of the wall scratching their ass instead of being on the other side of the wall fueling the truck save any money? The money saving was supposed to be from limiting crew size to 12, it only takes 7 to pit normally so where is the savings by doubling the number of pit stops

03/09/2009 05:51 PM

Atlanta was a great track till Bruton made it a poor copy of Charlotte.

03/09/2009 07:26 PM

Bottom line is that Daytona,Fonyawna, and Atlanta all sucked. Las Vegas did provide some moments but until NA$CAR addresses the core problem, being the CAR OF SORROW and an inept tire manufacturer, exciting racing is lost no matter the track. I’m quite sure I’ll be reading the same thread after the Bristol race. Remember, this is a race that once was the hardest ticket in any sporting event to get. Now, two weeks before the event, tickets are being advertised nationwide. In some ways I believe NA$CAR may be relieved about the economy. It helps take the focus off of BF’s misguided attempt to lead a family dynasty.

03/09/2009 09:02 PM

I attended the Atlanta race and I have to say it wasn’t that bad of a race. Sure the top 10 were strung out at times, but there was plenty of racing further back in the field. The drivers were constantly altering their lines which meant they were actually having to drive the cars. The race really reminded me of Darlington. I might not be like most people, but I really enjoy races where the drivers have to do more than turn left and hold the gas pedal to the floor to go fast.

03/09/2009 10:33 PM

It is very hard to judge a race from watching TV. I have been to a few races that were pretty damn good that on TV looked boring as hell. I am sure all of us have. But that is because at the track we can watch what we want, not what they want to show. There is always more going on than between the #1 and #2 car. TV does not seem to get it. What they should do is secretly listen to MRN and then point the cameras at whatever they are talking about. The major problem with truck racing is that it is not on commercial television. It needs more exposure. It is some great racing and with more exposure it can’t help but become more popular to watch.

03/11/2009 07:14 AM

Alright Kevin, California sucks because we decided it does. Has nothing to do with the cars all racing a dozen car lengths from each other.

Atlanta sucked too, but I thought the mid-pack racing(when shown…) was considerably better. The racing for the lead sucks at any track over a mile with the COT, that’s a common denominator now, but the mid-pack racing is still varied. California magnifies the “boring racing for the lead” syndrome throughout the field with its long distance and wide, flat turns. It’s just designed like crap. I’d love to look at it with an open mind again like I did the first 2-3 times, but frankly, it was disappointing enough when the cars weren’t junk.