The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: All-Star Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday May 18, 2009

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: All-Star Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday May 18, 2009


The Key Moment: With two laps left, Tony Stewart powered by Matt Kenseth to take the race lead, then drove off into the sunset. Or he would have… but it was already dark out.

In a Nutshell: Prior to the final ten lap segment, the racing featured all the intensity and drama of a typical Brady Bunch episode.

Dramatic Moment: I’d guess what everyone is going to be talking about is Kyle Busch forcing the three-wide situation that wrecked Jeff Gordon. Watching the No. 24 car come back up across the track in heavy traffic with the driver’s side door panel facing oncoming cars was frightening.

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

Gene Haas talks to the media in Victory Lane Saturday night after his team won during his first appearance at the track this season.

OK, I’ll admit it. I never thought Tony Stewart or Ryan Newman were going to win a race this year after deciding to leave established teams for Stewart-Haas Racing. You know crow sandwiches don’t taste that bad if you slather them with enough salt, pepper, and horseradish…

Jeremy Mayfield was asked to leave the track after having been found in the infield watching his team compete in the Open. Apparently, Mayfield left peacefully and without protest after the rules regarding his suspension were Claritin… I mean clarified for him. But it looks like this was just a shot across the bow in what’s going to be a nasty situation. Mayfield went on record as saying that he won’t be entering a rehab program, since he has no drug problem that would warrant such action. However, NASCAR has made it pretty clear without rehab they won’t ever reinstate Mayfield. While they still won’t say what substance they feel Mayfield was abusing, reading between the lines they are strongly implying it was a “recreational” drug. I think this one is headed for court, which isn’t good for either party — though it ought to earn some lawyers a bunch of coin. In the meantime, drivers and crew members made miserable by seasonal allergies should probably just do what millions of Americans without health insurance or who can’t afford these grossly overpriced allergy medicines do: suffer in silence.

I guess it’s sadly ironic now that Brian France cited Jeremy Mayfield’s team as one of the positive things about this year’s downturn in the economy that has eliminated a lot of cars. New teams were trying to make it into the sport on limited budgets, right?

OK, I don’t get it. Brad Keselowski was in the All-Star race because he won at Talladega after punting Carl Edwards into the fence. He’s competed in six Cup races to date. Meanwhile Bill Elliott, who has won a Cup championship, 44 Cup races, and two of these All-Star events back when they were called Winstons has to race his way into the field to try to make the big show? I guess with the constant barrage of annual changes to the rules, I missed the one that used to give automatic entry to the All-Star race to previous champions and winners of the event? In this era of declining ticket sales (clearly evident Saturday night) if I was a race promoter I’d want Elliott to have his Rocky Balboa shot at winning the All-Star race to sell tickets to some old school fans.

Yeah, call me Captain Cranky, but I can’t help but wonder if this whole All-Star race nonsense has outlived its usefulness. There wasn’t a green flag pass for the lead until lap 81, as drivers seemed to be just going through the motions waiting for those final ten laps. And while a million dollars is a huge sum to you or me, it isn’t a life altering amount of cash to today’s Cup drivers. I’d rather see a points-paying event at Rockingham instead of the All-Star race… or even another weekend off in the drastically too long Cup schedule instead. If there has to be one, why not run it as a preliminary to the Nationwide race on the Saturday night before the 600?

Would anyone else like to see an independent audit of the fan voting that got Joey Logano into the Big Show?

Does it seem to anyone else that drivers who were wrecked out of the race were just a little too nice and gracious in their post-race comments? Vanilla ice cream is nice, but this sport needs a little more Rocky Road.

Did Jeff Gordon come down on the No. 18 car to trigger the big wreck, or was Kyle Busch trying to force the issue? This much is clear: in contemporary stock car racing, if there’s a three-wide situation the No. 18 car is going to be in the mix somewhere.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

If Charlotte is supposed to be Jimmie Johnson’s house, the roof is leaking after his big wreck in the final segment.

Mike Skinner took a horrific hit in Friday night’s Truck Series race. Thankfully, Skinner walked away from that terrible wreck unscathed.

It’s hard to get happy about finishing 19th with a thoroughly trashed race car, but things could have turned out a lot worse for Jeff Gordon when he slid up across the track in heavy traffic after the big wreck.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

For Gene Haas, this had to be a pretty nice way to celebrate his first weekend out of prison.

If Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman want to call the preseason naysayers “idiots,” I will admit I am guilty as charged.

Kyle Busch has gone on record as never liking to finish second; but considering he had to pass most of the field twice Friday night in the Truck race, Kyle can be credited with a nifty bit of driving.

Worth Noting

  • The top 10 finishers drove three Chevys, three Fords, three Toyotas, and a Dodge.
  • Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth are the only two drivers with top 5 finishes in this year’s and last year’s All-Star Races. Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. posted top 10 results in both those events.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has top 10 finishes in every All Star race since 2004.

What’s the Points?

This race is pointless… in more ways than one.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — I’ll give this one three cans of synthetic clear beer. The format is supposed to produce drama, and to some extent it did — at least in the final ten laps. But the whole thing was so artificial it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Next Up: Racing fans will be treated to what I still consider the greatest day in auto racing, the World 600 and the Indy 500. Take the phones off the hook, stock up on Cheezy Poofs, and make sure there is an abundance of cold ones in the fridge. The Memorial Day Doubleheader lives on.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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

05/18/2009 01:52 AM

Yeah, the new rule is only past champions and all-star race winners from the past ten years are eligible, thus Elliott was excluded. I’m still surprised he didn’t win the fan vote (or come close) though considering how many times he was most popular driver in the ’80s and ’90s, and considering today’s most popular drivers were all in the main event…

05/18/2009 02:42 AM

Matt, I am as disgusted with NASCAR as you are. I am a 21 year old student at UVA (from San Francisco) with no reason to go to Richmond, Martinsville, or even Bristol. A couple of weeks ago the 1996 August Michigan race was on MASN and I have never been more excited. Cars that had been passed for position could pass back. Jarett passed Martin for the lead with less than 10 to go and Martin was able to challange Jarett all the way to the end. Michigan in 1996 looked like Talladega or Daytona today. NASCAR’s complete disregard for anything resembling racing has not only infuriated former fans, it has also turned off anyone else from following the sport. NASCAR is in serious trouble. The races are dull, most of the tracks are all the same, and sponsorship has gotten outrageous. At the same time, every fan knows this. Why is NASCAR so stubborn? Why is NASCAR so full of itself? Why is NASCAR unable to admit it is wrong?

Bill B
05/18/2009 06:59 AM

I have to admit that was the most boring all-star race ever. I think the COT inability to pass for the lead was more evident at this race than ever.
I also wondered how Logano could have won the fan vote. The only answer I could come up with was that Home Depot paid for some votes. There is no way this rookie can have that many legitimate fans after 3 months.
I thought your 3 beer rating was very generous.

Sharon J
05/18/2009 07:13 AM

Waltrip gushing over Busch was pathetic. Enough said.

05/18/2009 07:49 AM

The Three Stooges in the booth. The wannabe cowboy in the “hotel”. Ric Flair. Enough said. For the first time in 35 years I’m more excited about the Indy 500 than Nascar.

05/18/2009 07:54 AM

i too was wondering how “sliced bread” made the all star race. i figured home depot made their 300,000 employees vote him in as part of their employment agreement. i think aj almindger would have been better…at least been more excited about making it into the show. but hey, what do i know. maybe na$car is a new non-drug cure for insomina. with how racing has been this season, i don’t look forward to 600 miles of racing this coming weekend in charlotte. better yet…should we just see how long the fans that are there stay there all night, especially if that 88 bunch runs as they’ve ran all season long? 600 miles of dw profession his adoration of kyle busch. that relationship is getting so old. let’s see, who will win the race….johnson, kyle busch or some team running hendrick equipment. how’s that for a prediction.

05/18/2009 07:58 AM

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the last segment. Sleep overtook me. Too boring, I suppose.

05/18/2009 08:04 AM

Your quote: “Dramatic Moment: I’d guess what everyone is going to be talking about is Kyle Busch forcing the three-wide situation that wrecked Jeff Gordon.”

You make it sound like it was Kyle’s fault that Gordon caused this wreck! If Gordon could not keep his car on the bottom, then don’t try to pass there!

Or maybe your implying that three (3) wide racing is a bad thing!

I dunno, I know that Gordon moved up the track about four lanes!

Let’s call it like it is, or was anyway!

05/18/2009 08:13 AM

“I was a race promoter I’d want Elliott to have his Rocky Balboa shot at winning the All-Star race to sell tickets to some old school fans”.

I couldn’t have said that better myself. How does the 96 get in and the 21 not?

05/18/2009 08:21 AM

That was the most boring race in recent memory. I like Smoke and I’m glad he picked up the win but, as you pointed out, there was virtually no side by side racing for any useful positions. This car is RUINING RACING.

05/18/2009 08:24 AM

You need to go back to the video, Matt. Gordon went into the infield with the driver’s side exposed, but he came back the opposite direction —- with the passenger side ready to take any shot that might have come. Kinda takes a little drama out of your dramatic moment, don’t ya think?

05/18/2009 08:29 AM

wait hold on, how the hell DID Logano get in the field? WTF did I miss?

And yes, as usual, the Camping World Truck Series put on the best show of the weekend… plenty of side-by-side racing, no certainty as to the winner… Although a lot of the excitement was Kyle Busch wrecking the whole field… :(

05/18/2009 08:36 AM

Hold up there Matt. Lets put the monkey where he belongs. Cousin Carl got punted because he threw not just a block, but a double block. Don’t blame the kid, this one’s on NA$CAR, & Tony Stewart. You are correct about the eligibility change. The heck with Million Dollar Bill, Who earned this name when a Million was something. What totally spoiled it for me, was no Mikey. I mean, like, come on! Forcing a great super star like him to actually have to qualify. Then to have to watch him finish something like 15th in a field of also rans. That was just too much. Besides keeping him out forced DW, total broadcast professional that he is.( OK, in the intrest of fairness. I will have to admit to noticing just a bit of leaning toward his Bro. & Toyota, but that’s probably just me.) To transfer his allegence to Shrub. Anyway I’m sure he was crushed, by Mikey’s absence as much as I was. Again, in the intrest of fairness, it must be pointed out that even the Masters, has changed the automatic for past winners from lifetime, to ten years.

Carl D.
05/18/2009 08:42 AM

I attend the race rather than have to endure Larry, Darrell, and his other brother Jeff on TV. I knew the racing was going to be crappy when David Stremme was able to stay up front in clean air for practically the whole qualifying race. The only excitement was seeing McMurray come from 32nd to 2nd in less than 40 laps.

As for the All-Star race itself… well, I don’t mind one car dominating a race if they’ve done their homework and they’re that much better than the other cars, but even without Jimmy Johnson leading the whole first 50 lap segment, there was practically no racing for position anwhere else on the track. Kurt Busch & Jeff Gordon raced each other a bit, but that was it. I felt like I was in Fontana.

Thanks to the contrived format of the race, the last 10 lap segment was pretty exciting, and Stewart was a popular win. As for me personally, I was just glad that the 70% chance for thunderstorms was wrong and the weather was great.

At first, I kinda hoped that Elliott would get the fan vote and make the all-star race. Then I realized that even if he was voted in, he would be about as competitive as the 96 and the 09. Better a competitive car make the race than one voted in simply for sentimental reasons.

05/18/2009 08:50 AM

Thats crazy talk Matt; allergy medicine costs around one of those 99c value meal items everyone eats too much of. We could compare it to the costs of smokes or going to a bar for a drink or two. It all comes down to what is more important to the individual. Oh, it’s not free so that makes it an overwhelming burden. Let’s get real and skip the hyperbole.

05/18/2009 09:06 AM

Matt ,you seem surprised that the action was missing in action until the final segment . The first three segments of the race are just a way to get to the final segment . No reason to worry about winning any of the first segments , it won’t have any effect on winning the last one , the only one that matters .
I can’t imagine anyone believing that Tony Stewart would struggle this year . Name one form of racing that Tony hasn’t risen to the top in his rookie year , including car owner . His first year as owner of the WOO team was wildly successfull .
Like him or not , Kyle sure puts on a driving show . And i was very impressed with Newman toward the end . The race was his until the coming together out of turn 4 .
Speaking of which , three wide wasn’t the reason for that crash . Gordon was on the inside and Busch right along side . Now Gordons’ version is he didn’t know a third car was out there . Nonsense . His spotter told him it was three wide . And even if it was only two wide , just where did Gordon think he was going . He certainly knew Busch was there . My take on it was that Gordon was planning on forcing Busch up into Newman ,moving back down away from the crash he just caused , those two wreck , and Gordon wins .
I’m not so sure about the votes being rigged for Logano . Hes a very nice young man , drives for a very popular team and car owner , and has been racing pretty well lately . Whats not to like ?

05/18/2009 09:13 AM

Did you even watch the race?

Gordon clearly lost control of his car and slammed UP into Busch.

05/18/2009 09:40 AM

PS. As for just sucking it up, & living with allergies. With certain allergies, my eyes tear up, & my vision gets blurry. Do you really think in the interest of safety, that would be OK for a driver going nearly 200 mph, or a crewman going over the wall in traffic on pit road? Give the guy a break, he was just supporting a sponsor just like NA$CAR want’s fans to do.

05/18/2009 09:54 AM

This was the first “Winston” I have missed live since 1997. We decided not to go for a number a reasons, one being that the racing had sucked for the last couple of years and chose Darlington instead this year. The best format they ever had was when they eliminated drivers in each segment. That lasted one year because Rusty was eliminated in the first segment and went crying on the TV about how HIS fans came to see HIM race and they got cheated. Well I am sure they did not go to see him race around in the rear! The first 90 laps of this race and the entire Open were a joke and I am glad I spent my money at Darlington last week…and will again in 2010 unless they make some dramatic changes!

05/18/2009 10:08 AM

Joey Lagono winning the fan vote? NO WAY, WHAT A JOKE! Bill Elliot had to race his way in because the all-star race only takes past all-star race winners going back 10 years. But HOW DID Bobby Labonte get in? Is there a past NA$CRAP Champion provisional for 1 past Cup Champion, with Bobby Labonte being the most recent Champion, thus eliminating Bill Elliot? JR. only got a top 10 finish thru attrition, hardly ‘raced’ his way there. What will NA$CRAP do in 2011, if JR. doesn’t win a race in 2010 and can’t use the 10 year all-star race winner provisional?

Carl D.
05/18/2009 10:19 AM

And another thing…

The burnout competion, although for charity, is pretty lame, even if you’re there in person. However, having Rick Flair as a judge for it was entirely appropriate.

05/18/2009 10:24 AM

Did everyone get the ironic tone of having “Natureboy” Ric Flair at a Nascar race?

Nas-WWE-Car…that could not have been more appropriate conjoining of two more scripted, faux-sports in the U.S. today.

The true regard of Brian France toward his grandfather’s business could not be more blatant than Saturday night’s example.

Ric Flair….sheesh!

05/18/2009 10:31 AM

Tony’s win didn’t surprise me nor has SHR success. The one thing that did surprise me was the fan reaction to Tony’s win. I have never seen so many fans stay that long after a race and not only that but they were chanting his name. I have to say that was very nice to see/hear.

05/18/2009 10:43 AM

Matt! You forgot to mention the best part of next Sunday…the Monaco the morning. If you want to watch a proper broadcast of a race with good commentators and real camera work, watch the race at 8 in the morning. And check out how many commercial breaks there are. When they cut to in-car cameras it lasts a lot longer than a few seconds.

Carl D.
05/18/2009 11:01 AM


I’m guessing that Flair’s appearance was at the invitation of LMS and not Nascar. I’m sure that if Brian France had anything to do with it, he’d have selected someone much more qualified… like maybe Paula Abdul.

05/18/2009 11:22 AM

Boy , i gotta agree with the F1 telecasts being the best in racing . Well , the NHRA broadcasts are pretty good too . Anything but the Joy , Waltrip , McReynolds , Hammond fiasco . Can’t force themselves to quit talking , almost never right about anything , stuck on a small group of drivers and one owner .
Please Please Please Nascar ! The technology exists to let the fans switch from listening to the talking heads in the booth to listening to the sound of the race itself . Please give us the ability to listen to the sounds of racing as if we at the track . And if we feel the need for commentary we always have MRN and PRN .

05/18/2009 11:24 AM

And it sure has been great to listen to Bob Jenkins on the Indy broadcasts . Another real pro .

05/18/2009 11:48 AM

The whole Indy qualifying crew on Versus was great! Very knowledgeable about the subject, and they didn’t just inerview the top 3 or 4 – they did in depth interviews with all 35 or so drivers on hand!! Happy we are almost done with Joy, Waltrip and McReynolds !!! (and especially Hammond and his partner!!)

05/18/2009 12:04 PM

The cup champ in the last 10 years/all star winner in the last 10 years rule has been around since I started watching in 04. The only entry rule that changed this year was no more car owner entries, hence why the 12 and 20 weren’t already in the field.

There are plenty of reasons to be pissed at Nascar, at least pick one that is alive. Bill Elliot has had to race the past few years. Labonte has been in the All Star race the last few years due to the champ in 2000.

Kevin in SoCal
05/18/2009 12:29 PM

Regarding Darrel Waltrip’s overly enthusiastic rooting for Kyle Busch: At least he’s rooting for a winner. It was even more pathetic the last few years listening to him slobber over Junior.

Carl D.
05/18/2009 12:49 PM


No, both are equally sickening.

05/18/2009 01:01 PM

Hey hey…lookit me…I got to see the race after all this year (ain’t got SPEED but a bud invited me over. I had missed the last two years). I didn’t miss much after all, what a let-down. Two cans of warm urine is all I gave it.

Logano the fan fav? ‘Dinger should have gotten it! Now I hope we will see an all out campaign from Red Bull for Scott Speed to beat the (slight-of-hand) 20 team. GO SS!!!

I’m a huge Gordon fan, and can say without a doubt he screwed himself of that three-wide deal. Then, he sounds like a donkey pointing the finger at Busch who “should’ve gave me more room”. As articulate as he is, he needs to keep his blow-hole closed sometimes.

05/18/2009 01:03 PM

Tony wasn’t overly impressive his rookie season in the Busch series. Also, his WoO team struggled the first few years until he got hooked up with Donny Schatz

05/18/2009 02:34 PM

I have never been a Stewart fan but was glad to see him leave Gibbs after Gibbs suddenly jumped ship to Toyota. I have admired the progress he and Newman have made this year until realised he is just a extension of the Hendrick dynasty. Where would Stewart be without HMS? The same place Haas was at the end of 2008.I lost any respect I might have for Hendrick when he bought J Gordon from Bill Davis. It pleases me to see Earnhart’s failings at HMS because knowing the $$$ that Rick has invested in Jr. would have as well been if stuffed up a wild hogs behind and hollered Soooeeeee…

05/18/2009 03:01 PM

Brent , You might want to check your stats again . Tonys’ team with Danny Lasoski , won about all there was to win in WOO his first year as an owner . And while you’re right about him not dominating the Busch series his first year , he ran at the front a number of times . In fact he came within 1/2 a lap of winning at Rockingham .

05/18/2009 03:21 PM

Pie-face, Haas has always had HMS help/support. Nothing changed when Tony came on board. The only things that changed were the people.

05/18/2009 04:40 PM

WHAT race did you watch? Were you in some bar or maybe the Speedway Lounge with another blithering idiot named Brian France? CLEARLY Gordon the Twerp came UP on the 18 car, not DOWN as you put it, and his drivers side was only exposed to TWO cars after hitting the outside fence….You and your column just lost hundreds of points of CREDIBILITY, McLaughlin….Hammercy!!!!

05/18/2009 06:22 PM

Accusing Keselowski of “punting” Carl Edwards is foolish, to say the least. Not even Carl saw it that way.

05/18/2009 06:31 PM

“Kyle Busch forcing the three-wide situation “

What the F are you talking about? Kyle didn’t force ANYTHING on that! It was Ryan who choose to go up top and Gordon who tried to go low too hard. Gordon even said so on Sirius. Jeez it’s one thing to dislike Kyle but c’mon!