The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Bud Shootout by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday February 8, 2010

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Bud Shootout

Matt McLaughlin · Monday February 8, 2010


The Key Moment: Kevin Harvick, on fresh tires, took the lead on the final restart right before mayhem occurred behind him, leading to a late caution in one of the most bizarre Green-White-Checkered finishes since… well, when Harvick won the Daytona 500 in 2007.

In a Nutshell: The racing fans got their racing and the wrecking fans got their wrecks. All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the evening in the blizzard-ravaged northeast quadrant of the U.S.

Dramatic Moment: When Harvick restarted the race on fresh rubber behind Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne, you just knew there were going to be fireworks. Fireworks and merriment, along with the expected NASCAR-rationed bit of bizarre quickly ensued.

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

What the Hell is the name of this race, anyway? It seems like we’ve been through at least three separate beer companies so far. It surely has strayed from its original concept of the previous year’s pole winners running 20 laps to kick off the season…

This isn’t racing-related at all, but I could go the rest of the winter without seeing a single snowflake and I’d be quite pleased. Saturday’s storm was a soul-sapper for an old cowboy waiting for springtime, his pastures to change. (And dreaming of doggies and glasses of beer… for the record, my pet population remains at zero, but my glasses of beer were Olympic Quality.)

I’m 100% on board with the idea of NASCAR allowing the drivers to police themselves when it comes to aggressive driving and bumpdrafting at Daytona. After all, it’s a long season, and there will be plenty of races left for the wronged to pay back any harm they felt was inflicted. The Daytona 500 may be the Big Daddy, but they all pay the same amount of points, right? Remember, this is stock car racing – not lawn tennis. Now, about that yellow line rule…

We’ll have to see how reliable they are, but those new Ford engines looked good in qualifying and the first segment of the Shootout. And thankfully, no Toyota NASCAR entries had to be recalled due to stuck throttle pedals – although it looks like Kyle Busch has a stand back excuse for the carnage you just know he’s going to produce this season…

Is there anything more boring than watching qualifying for a plate track with entrants taking more than a lap to get up to speed? My friend Andrew and I spent the morning coming up with a new acronym for the term NASCAR: Non-Addictive Sleep Causation Amidst Racing. (Get well soon, Adam!)

As long as Michael Waltrip is still out there racing, even part-time, we don’t have to worry about any races being run caution free. It’s odd to see Waltrip in the No. 51 rather than the No. 55 car, though (and without a hapless motorcyclist crushed under his front end). I’d suggest a change to No. 52… as in, Waltrip has managed to score wins in .0052 of his career Cup starts.

What in blazes happened at Daytona Saturday afternoon in the ARCA race? It was as if the majority of the field had taken leave of their senses. Danica Patrick’s much-hyped and scrutinized debut wound up with a sixth place finish in a stock car – or, if you prefer, sixth survivor.

Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and their respective spouses are both expecting new additions to their families this year. Something tells me this isn’t a coincidence, just Rick Hendrick paying heavy bonuses to make sure his domination of the sport continues into the next generation. Mark Martin might want to renew his Viagra sponsorship if he hopes to meet team orders…

I hear Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is planning to open a new Whisky River Saloon/Eatery in Florida. Great. That’s just what he needs – another distraction from his day job.

With Super Bowl ad buys having become so expensive in an uncertain economy, it seems some big players decided to run some well done ads during the Shootout instead. NASCAR’s new tagline seems to be, “I Believe In NASCAR.” Cool. But I believe in the Tooth Fairy, too, and I’m not counting on those quarters to pay for my dentures down the road. As for the local affiliate ad buys, things weren’t quite as adventuresome. It was the usual mix of ambulance chasers, commemorative coin dealers, fortune tellers, and fitness fairies. Hey, I do race commentary, not advertising. If the “I Believe In NASCAR” thing works (which I believe it decidedly will not) so be it until they start burning heretics like me at the stake.

Wow, it sure was great to get reintroduced to our cartoon pal Little Digger and to hear Darrell Waltrip spit the gruel out of the old age home’s menu long enough to chant, “Boogity, boogity, boogity” again, wasn’t it? No, in fact, it was not. It was like having a root canal without an anesthetic.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Carl Edwards had one of the strongest cars on the track Saturday night, but was left to wonder what might have been after some poor drafting choices left him back in the pack and wrecked by the end of the night.

In retrospect, not stopping for fresh rubber with six laps to go was a credible option for Greg Biffle, but an apparent flat tire and the subsequent wreck ended his Saturday night on a down note. In fact, it was an awful evening for the Jack Roush entries that showed such strength early in the event – only to have that late-race wreck decimate the herd. Biffle, Edwards, and Kenseth ended up 15th, 16th, and 17th, respectively.

Speaking of which, Carl Edwards looked untouchable early, leading a race-high 42 laps, but got shuffled out at the wrong time before getting swept up in that crash.

Kurt Busch showed some promise early in the event, but wound up with a wild slide through the grass, his hood bending back across the windshield of the No. 2 car and a hard hit in the outside wall. To top it all off, he had to suffer the indignity of racing a car with yellow wheels, so the big wreck was possibly karmic payback. Read my lips: Unless it’s a drag race, the natural order of things is for race cars to have black wheels. And this whole experiment with using dried elephant dung rather than steel for hood pins to save weight? I’d circular file that one.

Tony Stewart hit the wall while wrestling for the lead. Ninth place still pays pretty good, but it’s not going to keep His Obesity in Whoppers for the season.

For detractors of four-time champ Jimmie Johnson (and I have heard from a record number of you this offseason, which confuses me… no, he’s not the most colorful guy in the world, but I’m fairly certain he’s not the Anti-Christ either – even if he won’t throw his wife a Twinkie) a thirteenth place finish might be the first sign he has feet of clay. Let me remind you, though, Johnson doesn’t start racing until the final ten weeks of the season. Hate Brian France for that, not Jimmie, even if the only other people birth-named James who spell their first name “Jimmie” are gay bartenders in Malibu.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Kevin Harvick was at home earlier in the week with the flu. He rebounded quite nicely with a win in the Shootout, which ought to pay for a few doses of Tamiflu.

Kasey Kahne wound up second in his new Ford. The fact Harvick and Kahne, both of whom are rumored to be in their last seasons with their respective teams (which were admittedly in disarray in 2009), took first and second place in the Shootout may be the first shuffle in the Silly Season debate of 2010 – both had been looking at taking a third seat at Stewart-Haas Racing for 2011.

All three of the Joe Gibbs entries finished in the top 10. I guess those new gas pedals are working.

Worth Noting

  • At 51 years of age, Mark Martin is the oldest Daytona 500 pole winner. Harry Gant is an affable guy, but my intuition tells me he better get used to his “oldest driver to ever…” records falling as long as this cat keeps racing and winning.
  • Ryan Newman was running the Haas Automation colors Saturday. Still can’t find a full-time sponsor for 36 races, huh? That’s kind of worrisome, because the Army might be the last company still hiring in this economy.

What’s the Points? No points are awarded for the Shootout. Drivers don’t start sweating top 10 points finishes rather than wins until 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) – I’ll shock some people and give this one a solid four cans. It beat shaking a fist at the window railing against the blizzard.

Next Up: The new qualifying rules have largely stripped the Twin 125s of their importance, but they still tend to be rather dramatic. Of course, by Thursday I fully expect my frozen bones to have been gnawed clean by Wooly Mammoths. Hey, Vice President Gore, we need to have a talk about this whole Global Warming Crisis…

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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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…


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Brian France Sucks
02/08/2010 12:19 AM

Tough luck for the 99 bunch. Those new Ford engines looked stout. Let’s see what they do at the 1.5’s. Harvick is one lucky dude.

Bad Wolf
02/08/2010 01:39 AM

Boogity Boogity Boogity, Dancing with the Cars and the comment about the “Little Sick Man Winning”? I bet ‘Ol DW spent all winter coming up with the Dancing with the Cars bit, and he grated on my nerves like fingernails on a chalk board.

Hell, I forgot the clash was on until into the second segment, and it made me happy to think of all the folksy DWisms I missed.

How about the job Kurt Bushes splitter did scooping up the Daytona sod? That would make a great Digger cartoon; He pops out of his hole just in time for his cute little head to be sliced off, goggles flying and blood spurting in slow motion as the crowd goes wild. I can dream, can’t I.

Matt, I think the off season is sorta like closing time at the bar where all the girls start to look better. Having no racing, even bad racing, for a couple months makes anything seem a little better. I give you 3 races, no make it the second race which should still be at The Rock, to come back to your senses and give ratings of 2 or 3 cans of warm mule spit pale golden 64 calorie 2.4 carb light watered down near beer.

02/08/2010 05:12 AM

I’ll take listening to ol’ DW over LarryMac anyday. Quit making Hammond act like a FOOL and put him in the booth, He done more in Nascar then LarryMac could even dream of.

02/08/2010 06:46 AM

1) Did anyone notice how AWFUL Danica is at speaking in public? In fact, almost all NASCAR drivers are horrible in front of cameras. Funny how people say that real talent drivers are shafted from quality rides for “corporate clones”. Yet, Danica can’t give a quality interview, Jimmie Johnson is reportedly “bland and vanilla” (not exactly a recipe for a great spokesman?) and Dale Jr. can barely FREAKING TALK.
2) There has been a lot of talk about how AWFUL the state of NASCAR is these days. Listen to a Jack Roush interview. Listen to how he describes the record number of lead changes, the safety of the cars, and the closeness of speeds and competitiveness of teams being greater than EVER BEFORE. Doesn’t sound that bad when you listen to someone more involved, experienced, and influential than any McJouurnalist is on this topic. When will we learn to listen to the experts and not the mudslinging nay-sayers on this topic?
3) _CAN YOU IMAGINE if the scenario with the points system and the chase been reversed?
For years the Chase determined champs like Earnhardt, Petty, Allison and then they get rid of the case. People start asking “you mean you can win a championship without winning?” “how boring will those last 10 races be!?!” “Will anyone care about the Fall Race at Richmond?”_
4) Let’s talk NASCAR finance, of course teams start and park. They can’t get a job that will pay THAT well in this economy – let alone a job they love involving racing. Oh, and since it’s such a travesty to our sport – why don’t you raise the money, get the sponsorship, qualify faster, hire a crew, run the whole race, earn a spot in the top 35 and show them how it’s done. Or, offer an alternative solution.
AND finally, NASCAR will always choose tracks with more seats than short tracks. Until someone builds a portable short track and moves across the county to Pro Player Stadium, the Superdome, and the Rose Bowl – they’ll just race more at Vegas, Kansas, and California

02/08/2010 06:58 AM

No , just get rid of the entire on-air bunch from FOX and start over with people who care about the racing , not about re-living their own greatest racing moments or repeating the same tied racing 101 over and over and over .
Is there any analyst in any sport thats wrong more tha DW is . Every call he makes turns out to be wrong .

02/08/2010 07:23 AM

I guess Dale Jr. is going for a new sponsorship as the Brawny Man? Just in case the Amp thing doesn’t work out.

02/08/2010 08:18 AM

Well, the first race tells me not much has changed!! Some of the writers are already following the nascrp line, that all is well, the less learned fans are believing it, johnson and gordon got laid during the off season, nascrap is biting its lip as “the wrong guy” won!! Don’t believe Jack Roush, as he has a vested interest is drawing fans so he will lie right along with brain france! God I love this stuff!!

02/08/2010 08:19 AM

g/w/c on a plate track is instant wrecker heyday. i knew that was going to happen. and of course, jr benefited from it, his finishing spot improved. doesn’t mean he ran that well. to me it still looked that on long runs whomever was out front took off. maybe carl is practicing for his drive to the hosptial next week for the birth of his daughter.

kind of speaks about the economy when cars that could have been in the race didn’t try cause of sponsorship issues. by the way…derrick cope?! and kenny schrader?! they were really stretching the “rules” to qualify to compete in this race. surprised they didn’t give a call out to harry gantt or bobby allison to come race in the shootout.

02/08/2010 08:39 AM

Jack Roush has a vested interest in his product and wants it to be the best it possibly can. From his comments he feels that the racing is top-notch, but the media shines a negative light on it.

Laidback Racing
02/08/2010 09:36 AM

I hate a G/W/C on a plate track…it takes them over a lap to even get up to speed….good to have matt to read on Mondays….I agree with badwolf…the beer count will go down as the season goes on. I only thought it was about a 2

02/08/2010 09:48 AM

give jack a few months of racing and see how “top notch” he thinks the product is.

Sharon Jones
02/08/2010 09:54 AM

If I NEVER hear “Danica” again, I would be perfectly happy. The commentators covering the ARCA race should all be fired. All they could do was talk “Danica”.

02/08/2010 11:04 AM

High point of the ARCA race was the in-car camera on Danica when she started off into the grass . Not only did she do exactly the right things , the impressive part was her shifting into neutral so she wouldn’t flood or damage the engine . Ever wonder why drivers spin and then can’t get the engine restarted ? Because they don’t remember to push in the clutch or take it out of gear when they start to spin . . Her hand went from the wheel to the shifter and back to the wheel so fast , i had to watch the replays to make sure i saw what i thought i saw . That lady is a racer .

02/08/2010 11:37 AM

Message to Jack Roush:

Just because the cars are safer, the competition is closer, and there are a lot of lead changes doesn’t mean the racing is better.

You only have a few racing organizations that dominate the sport. Everyone is more concerned about finishing in the top ten than they are about winning. Aero push is a major issue in the inability to pass. A majority of the lead changes occur during green-flag pit stops.

This is a recipie for a parade, not a race.

02/08/2010 11:54 AM

Message to Mike:

Which decade of NASCAR has NOT been dominated by a few teams/cars?

The old points system was a testimate to “outlasting” your opponet with top 10s. In the chase you have to WIN to STAY IN.

Inability to pass does not add up to record number of lead changes and quality passes. Look at the facts.

Carl D.
02/08/2010 01:13 PM

I’d give the shootout about 4 cans too. Maybe it’s because the crappy racing of late has me thinking anything slightly more competive than a funeral procession is exciting, I dunno.

DW said that the rear end of brother Mikey’s car seemed to “snap around all by itself.” Well that explains everything… it’s not that Mikey can’t drive a racecar, it’s just that he’s driving a car possessed by a suicidal poltergeist. I knew there had to be a logical reason for all those wrecks.

Kevin in SoCal
02/08/2010 01:22 PM

Matt said: even if he won’t throw his wife a Twinkie)

Considering she’s pregnant, I’d say Jimmie has thrown his wife several twinkies. LOL

DW is great when he’s commenting on the history of the sport. But when he starts talking about himself, he’s a bore.

VABlueGrass, about your point #3, you are exactly right. Its not that NASCAR fans hate the Chase, its that they hate CHANGE, of any kind. We’re all traditionalists, and we dont like things being messed with.

David in Texas
02/08/2010 01:40 PM

“How about the job Kurt Bushes splitter did scooping up the Daytona sod? That would make a great Digger cartoon; He pops out of his hole just in time for his cute little head to be sliced off, goggles flying and blood spurting in slow motion as the crowd goes wild. I can dream, can’t I.”

Gawd, that’s funny. Thank you, sir.

The Mad Man
02/08/2010 02:51 PM

Love Bad Wolf’s Digger dream.

Having watched some of the ESPN Classic races over the winter where there was one camera covering the action on the track, one in the pit, one pit reporter, and two commentators who actually did race commentary about what was happening on the track, having to hear the normal pablum ad naseum coming out of the mouths of DW and Larry Mac just proved once again that the first part of the season will be as painful as a root canal done by a pack of demented rabid chimpanzees with a pry bar, and a jackhammer. The only plus was a lot of the cheerleading got cut short by the lack of performance from a lot of DW’s pets. It’s going to be a very long season. One can of stale drool from a mule without teeth chewing tobacco and not spitting is about as high a rating as I can muster.

02/08/2010 03:26 PM

2010 season begins with what?

Junior complaining of a loose race car that he can’t drive.

He was never in the game all night long….

I know that there are a lot of smart folks trying to get him on the right track, but it is looking like the same old result…


I’m thinking that as soon as they get that spoiler back on there, Junior will instantly do better – I think he can’t handle the wing, period.

Henry M
02/08/2010 04:39 PM

You need to run a poll on Bad Wolf’s solution for Digger. It would be unanimous! I can never decide which is worse; Larry Mac, D.W. or Digger. All three are an insult to NASCAR & the long-time fans. The newbies just do not get it.

02/08/2010 04:57 PM

Henry, you are 100% correct, what FOX gives us is a huge insult to us longtime fans and NASCAR, unless you listen to that guy Daly Planet who has to be on the FOX payroll. Meyers and Hammond were also at their worst, and DW, Larry. much worse than a root canal!

andy tiell
02/08/2010 05:43 PM

i can’t believe it’s been 3 days now and no one has said anything about how jeff gordan wrecked half the field?! if that would have been dale jr every damn article would have been about how bad a driver he was! gordan’s excuse was exactly how he wrecked biffle but no apology, no taking the blame, no nothing but i was going for the win. he knew bif had worn out tires and he still bumbdrafted him into the corner. i know nascar said they are going to let the drivers police them selves so i guess that makes jeff the top cop!!! since he was going for the win it was ok to wreck everybody. and shame on all of you reporters who saw the same thing we all saw but are too afraid to say anything about it.

Bad Wolf
02/08/2010 05:47 PM

Mark, what Danica did by shifting into nuetral had nothing to do with worry about flooding the engine, but everything to do with years of experience spinning in open wheel where if you kill the engine you get a tow into the pits to be started by an external starter.

02/08/2010 06:25 PM

Argee with Max. Also expect Gordo to do better when the wings come off too.

Hate to sound old-school, but when we finally get announcers who understand the broadcast is about THE RACE and not about them, the races will be more enjoyable to watch.

02/08/2010 06:28 PM

“andy tiell
02/08/2010 06:43 PM
permalink i can’t believe it’s been 3 days now and no one has said anything about how jeff gordan wrecked half the field?! if that would have been dale jr every damn article would have been about how bad a driver he was! gordan’s excuse was exactly how he wrecked biffle but no apology, no taking the blame, no nothing but i was going for the win. he knew bif had worn out tires and he still bumbdrafted him into the corner. i know nascar said they are going to let the drivers police them selves so i guess that makes jeff the top cop!!! since he was going for the win it was ok to wreck everybody. and shame on all of you reporters who saw the same thing we all saw but are too afraid to say anything about it.”
You tell ‘em Andy!!

02/08/2010 06:57 PM

In slight defense of FOX – when I first came to NASCAR I enjoyed the FOX broadcasts and found their segments on drafting, wedge, tire camber, pits, and pit stretegy enlightening and actually deepend my interest in NASCAR. Seeing the same things over and over again are boring – but you never know when a new fan – like I was will be watching.

I have never enjoyed Digger. My friends and I made it into a drinking game “drink when you see “Digger” – I don’t reccomend it if you have to work on Monday.

02/08/2010 07:21 PM

The best thing about Danica was the in car showing here pouting and “looking at her watch” under the Red Flag. If she could have gotten out and stomped around the car, I’m sure she would have felt much better. A preview of things to come. Kyle Busch should have proposed to her. On that note, did anyone expect that little Gold Digger to say no? Money can make you “love” anyone, even if they do look like Mr. Potatoe Head.

02/08/2010 08:39 PM

I’m already tired of pull them belts tight one more time Boogity Boogity Boogity lets go racing boys. It is so old it is pitiful.

02/08/2010 09:54 PM

It’s a race! Quit ending them under caution.

02/09/2010 11:43 AM

I really would have expected MATT to mention Gordon’s wreck, because it seemed to me to be the most blatant plate wreck since Junior/Vickers in last year’s 500. I noticed last year how DW was all over Junior but this year apparently he’s been told not to criticize any fan favorite.

“In the chase you have to WIN to STAY IN.”

Um, no. The chase system has the same points base as the Cup points system from 1975-2003, with a nominal bonus for winning. It’s simply about being consistent over 10 races instead of being consistent over 36. The first three chase champions won a combined two races in the chase, while others won more races than they did each season.