The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Dover Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday September 28, 2009

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Dover Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday September 28, 2009


The Key Moment: Jimmie Johnson took the lead on lap 176 and was never headed.

In a Nutshell: Miles the Monster serves up a race with more than a modicum of mediocrity.

Dramatic Moment: Waiting to see if Joey Logano’s car stopped rolling before it got to Wilmington.

There was some decent racing back in the pack.

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

When was the last time a Cup car got up on its roof, much less rolled seven times at Dover?

You have to give Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, style points for rolling the dice with a four-tire stop late in the race. If Gordon had gone on to win, Letarte would have looked brilliant; but if the No. 24 got caught up in a restart wreck, he would have looked foolish. As it was, Gordon basically held serve (after a close encounter with Ryan Newman), but it was a gamble worth taking to try to steal a win.

Looks like Kyle Busch’s temper got the better of him yet again. The first rule of holes is when you find yourself in one, stop digging.

There were long stretches of the Dover race where drivers in the top 10 were spaced several seconds apart and nobody was passing anything but the time. What’s the solution? Shorter races? Wider tires? Readopting bias ply tires? Darned if I know, but the status quo isn’t acceptable.

Hold the phone. Maybe this Montoya guy is for real, after all.

For all the talk about Danica Patrick making the jump to NASCAR racing in 2010, it was announced this week that Ms. Patrick has signed a three-year extension with Andretti Green Racing to remain in the IRL. As usual, she was just using the NASCAR chip to play her hand for the best deal she could get in the IRL. For anyone who was surprised by this week’s developments, I’ve got some really bad news about the Easter Bunny…

A 2.5 overnight TV rating and a 3.2 final rating? That’s actually pretty good….for the Special Olympics Tiddlywinks Tournament on Versus. I’m thinking that starting the Cup races before the NFL games ought to help, especially among the demographic of viewers whose batteries have gone dead in their remotes and are too dang fat and lazy to get up and change the channel. Repeat after me: if they ain’t racing by one, the ratings aren’t going to be fun.

Remember all the uproar about whiskeymakers entering NASCAR as team sponsors? Folks were upset the booze makers were entering a “family sport” (that had its origins in running moonshine by the way) and circumventing the FCC ban on hard liquor advertising? Well, this week Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam announced they won’t be returning to the sport next season. I guess the economy and the health care debate are better promotional aids for hard drinking than racing. As best I know, there’s been no rash of elementary students getting sent home for trying to sneak flight bottles of Gentleman Jack into school in their Jeff Gordon lunchboxes.

After all the hoopla surrounding their entry into the sport, you can scratch Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam off the list of sponsors in the Sprint Cup Series in 2010.

Dover drew a decent crowd despite some nasty weather overnight Saturday and a cloudy, cool, threatening start to Sunday. Still, it was hard not to notice vast swathes of empty seats everywhere but the frontstretch and the track’s latest bit of subterfuge, using giant sponsor logos to cover even more empty seats. It was also hard not to notice the crowd began thinning noticeably before the halfway point of the race. Was that because Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was having (another) lackluster run, or just folks trying to beat Dover’s well documented post-race traffic nightmare?

Some folks are still debating whether it’s “Juan Pablo Montoya” or just “Juan Montoya.” Considering the huff he was in after losing to Mark Martin last week at NHIS, perhaps he should be called “Whine Pablo Montoya.”

Fans can debate forever whether the Dover Cup race is too long, but this late in the year it seems obvious the Cup schedule is at least six races too long.

Given another year to develop, maybe it’s actually Marcos Ambrose who will be the “Franchise” at MWR? Certainly it’s not going to be Ambrose’s big-mouthed, bone-headed boss who attempted to slam the Dover boilerplate across the Jersey State line on Sunday.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

When the season ends, Joey Logano’s place in the highlight reels won’t be his win at Loudon — it will be his savage Dover wreck. Logano is one lucky young man to walk away from that one under his own power.

At times, it seemed Kurt Busch had enough car to keep Jimmie Johnson honest, but the No. 2 bunch once again did their patented late-race fade routine.

It was a tough weekend for Denny Hamlin, who got dumped late in Saturday’s Nationwide race by a thoroughly unrepentant Brad Keselowski, then struggled to a thoroughly uncompetitive 22nd place finish in his ill-handling Toyota Sunday. The fact that the 22nd place finish was actually Hamlin’s best in his last five outings at Dover makes one wonder why he doesn’t just stay the Hell home when the circuit visits the First State.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

When Tony Stewart got caught up in the big wreck and damaged the nose and tail of his car, it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for the No. 14 bunch. But they were able to repair the car well enough that Stewart rallied back, and actually ran more competitively than his ninth place finish indicates.

Jeff Gordon’s late race contact with Ryan Newman had all the makings of a Monster mess, but he caught the car and drove on to a sixth place finish.

After the season he’s had since the first two races of the year, a third place finish had to feel like a win for Matt Kenseth.

Ryan Newman seemed to have a “Hit Me Hard” bumper sticker on the back of his Chevy, but he soldiered on to a tenth place finish.

Worth Noting

  • Jimmie Johnson’s fourth win of the season ties him with Kyle Busch as the second most prolific winner of the 2009 Cup season. They both trail Mark Martin, who has won five points-paying Cup events.
  • His second place finish was Mark Martin’s fifth consecutive top 5 run.
  • Matt Kenseth’s third place finish was his best Cup result since he won at Fontana seven months ago.
  • Kurt Busch’s fifth place finish was his third consecutive top 10 result.
  • A.J. Allmendinger’s seventh place finish was his best since Sonoma in June.
  • Tony Stewart (ninth) returned to the top 10 for the first time since Watkins Glen.
  • Don’t look now, but Ryan Newman (tenth) has strung together five straight top 10 finishes.
  • Carl Edwards (11th) missed the top 10 for the fifth straight time, well before his ill-considered flirtation with fate playing Frisbee broke his foot.
  • The top 10 finishers at Dover drove six Chevys, three Dodges, and a Ford. The top finishing Toyota driver was Marcos Ambrose in 14th.
  • Scott Speed (25th) was the top finishing rookie at Dover. Of course the only other rookie in the field, Joey Logano, failed to finish the race in somewhat spectacular fashion.

What’s the Points?

Mark Martin maintains his point lead over teammate Jimmie Johnson, who remains second in the standings. But Martin almost certainly feels the hoary breath of his younger stablemate and three-time consecutive titlist as the gap narrows to ten markers.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, and Tony Stewart each advanced a spot in the standings; they are now up to third, fourth, and fifth. Under the Laws of Conservation of Points Positions, three spots had to be yielded to allow them to advance. Denny Hamlin was Dover’s chief points victim, tumbling those three spots to sixth after yet another poor result at Dover.

Jeff Gordon moved up two positions to eighth in the standings, while Brian Vickers fell two spots to tenth. Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle maintained their places in seventh and ninth, respectively.

Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne remain the cellar dwellers in the Chase. Mark Martin would have to stay home next week for Kahne to have a chance at taking over the point lead, as he’s already fallen 189 back in just two races.

Matt Kenseth supplanted Kyle Busch (who planted his Toyota into the wall more than once Sunday) to take over the “Best of the Rest” honor of 13th in the standings.

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 semi-cold cans of Ballentine. There’s been better racing at Dover, but then Goodyear has brought better tires here as well.

Next Up: The Cup series heads off for yet another tepid tryst at Kansas. It’s actually the perfect venue for contemporary NASCAR racing. The Wizards behind the curtain need the brains to see this Chase thing isn’t working out and the courage to change it before they finish tearing the heart out of this sport. And you know whenever you see their lips moving, the cowardly lion lies within them. There’s no place like Rocking-home…

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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The Turnip
09/28/2009 07:22 AM

1. Hendrick cars 1 & 2, so much for “PARITY”!

2. So, the POS can roll over and the driver is “safe”? Seen the very same thing in open wheel racing, (why do we need an ill-handling, high CG car, gee, if the CG wasn’t sky high in the POS would he have rolled at all?) and the driver was “safe”!

3. GOODYEAR TIRES, nuff said?

4. “SELECT” teams tested tires at this track, and they came out on top? Imagine that!

5. We “re-set” the points with ten (10) races to go in the season, “TO MAKE THINGS MORE INTERESTING”! And here we are after two (2) races and two teamates, gee, Hendrick cars, are once again leaving the other 10 drivers in their dust! WOW! How exciting! So much for re-setting the points! Next idea please!

6. A 2.5 rating? WOW! Just a good thing the WNBA exists, or NA$CRAP would be at the bottom of the heap. And I do mean BOTTOM! So much for King Brain Farces “exciting playoff system”, never mind the racing in general!

I watched a bit of Speed TV last night, our beloved, “avoid controversy at all costs Dave Despain”, David Hobbs kept calling the CUP car EXACTLY what it is!


Ghost of Curtis Turner
09/28/2009 07:51 AM

After this weekends snooz fest I am so glad to hear that King Brian still say’s “There are no problems with the new car, the chase or anything else….and the stands are full of people”….. some one please tell him to change the channel.. He’s been watching the old re-runs on ESPN Classics….

09/28/2009 08:10 AM

glad it just wasn’t me who had difficulty with attention holding during the race.

i think tracks are getting smarter in selling only front stretch, turn 1 & 4 seats cause of tv shots.

Carl D.
09/28/2009 09:13 AM

Did ABC show the debris that the caution flag was thrown for during the latter part of the race? I didn’t see it, but I was lulled into a semi-conscious state by the 48 car.

Speaking of TV coverage, I have a rhetorical question… which company gets the most TV exposure… a home improvement company whose car flips wildly during a spectacular wreck which is replayed over and over, or a home improvement company whose car leads the most laps and wins the race?

I was very glad to see Joey Logano walk away from that wreck. Still, I feel for the poor guy… I hear he’s just starting out and he’s kinda on a budget.

09/28/2009 09:14 AM

Oh yeah Matt
Your idea for the points system is MUCH better than NASCAR’s
I dont think so

09/28/2009 10:10 AM

The people who were upset about the Whiskey sponsors entering their “Family Sport” should rent headsets for themselves. As well as Sis, & little Jr. They could see just what a “Family Sport it really is!

09/28/2009 10:13 AM

I think Home Depot got way more bang for their buck this weekend cause Joey’s wreck was, sadly, exciting part of the race. ABC/ESPN kept replaying it enough to compensation for the Lowe’s car being out front most of the day.

I can’t believe that Brain Fart isn’t concerned about declining tv ratings. The butts aren’t in the seats at the track and the butts aren’t staying on the couch at home, well the remote is being used a lot more during Prince Brian’s races.

How many more times will Martin’s age be referred to during these final races? I’m starting to feel old from hearing it so much, and I’m 50.

Why do we need a lie detector test by Stewart to show his commitment to Whoppers? Isn’t his physique enough of a testimony?

Did Dale Jr even go to Dover? If I were him I’d be embarrassed that Allemendinger and Ambrose got more mention during the race that he did.

I think next weekend I’ll go to the banks of the Hooch and watch the e.coli blossom from our floods. News reported that the bacteria is 42% higher than allowed for human consumption. Wonder if Brian would like some bottled hooch water??!

09/28/2009 12:06 PM

I finally know why Jerry Punch is allowed anywhere near a race broadcast . The producer and director of these race shows are huge Hendrick fans . They know it would be wrong to focus any more than the 83% of air time they already do to the Hendrick teams . So they keep Punch on board to spout constant inane stats about how wonderfull the Hendrick teams are .

09/28/2009 12:06 PM

I watched very little of the race. It’s getting so nas$car is to be compared to the WWF. You know which driver and what team (Hendricks or Hendricks-Stewart) is going to win about 90% of the time. If they don’t, it’s a fluke. Once again I have to state that this is coming from a FORMER diehard fan who didn’t use to miss a race. Aside from Logano’s rollover, this race had no excitement. What little I did watch of the race was what looked like a procession of cars following Jimmie Jimmie Johnson around the track. This is about exciting as watching grass grow. So I spent most of the day switching football and Tiger Woods. You know it’s getting bad when the liquor companies are leaving nas$car. It also doesn’t help that both the cars they sponsor have as much of a chance of winning as Joe Nemechek. Or maybe Robbie Gordon. Or maybe Casey Mears. If you’re car isn’t running in the top ten it has very little chance of being seen much. Other sponsors have had enough of the high cost and the low returns of funding nas$car teams. When a couple of big name teams dominate the sport it isn’t long before the fans of other drivers lose interest. The lack of sellouts and dwindling tv ratings are the true barometers. of what’s happening. The chase has been a disaster. nas$car continues to fix things that weren’t broke and drive off more and more fans. Well, sorry about being so long winded here, but I just had to state the truth. Thanks for listening.

09/28/2009 01:30 PM

Three cans?

About the only excitement was seeing if Joey was okay. Thankfully, he was.

Ironically, that wreck was caused because the field was so bunched up after a restart… for a competition safety caution.

Doug in Washington (State)
09/28/2009 02:13 PM

Three cans? Ugh, this race was worse than California. I didn’t tune in until after the Logano wreck (and hence only saw one replay of it), then when Johnson took the lead around lap 100 I went outside and rewired my truck, came back in after halfway, saw Johnson was still leading. zzzzzzzz. Knew that’d happen when he qualified on the pole, it’d take a royal screwup for him to lose. Yeah, I watched the rest of the race, hoping for a screwup by Johnson’s crew or at least some fireworks from anywhere in the pack, but it was not to be.

09/28/2009 04:16 PM

Joey needs a new commercial AND a new car. Maybe they’ve got them on aisle 3.

Bad Wolf
09/28/2009 04:22 PM

Glad I chose to watch football instead, how about Brett Favre!!! Now that was a show.

I’ve been seeing plenty of tickets for sale in the classifieds for Kansas. Looks like there will not be full stands there either. Hows that ticket package deal working for you now Kansas Speedway? I recieved an email telling me seats were still available for the Cup race, but the boneheads will not sell just the Cup tickets and are still trying to rip off the fans by making them buy 4 races just to see the one they want. I hope you choke on all your unsold tickets. I’ve bought my last $8.00 beer from you and will never return to Kansass Speedway.

09/28/2009 05:40 PM

After watching this race, last week at Loudon was an instant classic.

09/28/2009 05:49 PM

Speaking of rating this race by the amount of beers, this race doesn’t even deserve one near beer.

Mike In NH
09/28/2009 05:57 PM

I really tried but this race just didn’t hold my attention. Sorry, Dover fans. I’m guessing ABC is as much to blame as anything. Happens here at NHMS all the time.

As for who the franchise will be at MWR, I’d say Martin Truex has as good a shot as Ambrose and Reutimann do. It’d be nice if the three teams, now featuring drivers experienced AND competent, would be able to work together to lift all of them up to the next level. And I wonder how long it’ll be before Ryan Truex joins big brother on the Cup circuit? They still have room for a fourth car after all, and winning CW East in your first season isn’t too shabby…

09/28/2009 08:51 PM

In the words of Charles Barkley, “turibul, turibul. Crazy knuckle headed turible.”
I didn’t have any problem with my attention span, my tv was between the NFL and Golf (did you see Els near hole in one?) with an occasional peek at the race. Those peeks just confirmed my prerace prediction about JJ. No surprise after Knaus’s test session,oops, I mean tire test.
At least my pain in the ass Neilson box has one great purpose, contributing to the “screw you” tv ratings.

Kevin in SoCal
09/29/2009 02:04 AM

That had to be a bad race if GOLF was more exciting.

09/29/2009 06:04 AM

Hey Matt do you think they will change the point systum after Jimmie wins a fourth tittle.

09/29/2009 01:24 PM

I don’t understand all the fuss about the chase, I love it. With TV talking about nobody but those 12 drivers I no longer feel any need to watch any pre-race shows and have plenty of time for real entertainment elsewhere. As far as how good or bad any given race is/was we in TV land will never know, the Networks refuse to show any actual racing (assuming it still exists) unless by accident one of the annointed 12 are in the shot. Also even what racing is shown the shots are so tight it is impossible to tell where on the track the car is even at let alone if its loose or tight, as far as I can tell its sitting on pit road and all they are showing are still shots. Just my opinion but think it is a sound one.

09/30/2009 04:45 PM

Last week, you had Mark Martin leaving NH with a 35 point lead over Jimmy. This week, Jimmy wins (plus 10 points) and leads the most laps (plus 5) and winds up only 10 points behind Mark. Is it just me or did Jimmy get 10 “phantom” points because he is Jimmy?? I didn’t check your math from last week so this might be a mute point, but it seems funny to me.