The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2010 World 600 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday May 31, 2010

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The Key Moment: Kurt Busch’s No. 2 team got him off pit road first after the final caution flag flew with 19 laps left to run.

In a Nutshell: It’s Ganassi 1, Penske 1, after 1,100 miles of racing on Memorial Day weekend.

Dramatic Moment: Jamie McMurray drove doggedly to run down Busch in the final 19 laps. In fact, the two battled hard the final 100 laps of the race.

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

OK, it wasn’t a great Indy 500, but it was still the Indy 500. Congratulations to Dario Franchitti.

Speaking of the 500, with our sport having no inherent time outs and with as many commercial breaks as there are during a Cup race, what’s it going to take for NASCAR fans to get the same “Side-By-Side” coverage IndyCar fans enjoy during commercial breaks?

It was far from a sellout, but there was still a pretty impressive crowd at Charlotte Sunday night. While it sounded childish at times during the week, I figure the Hamlin-Busch feud at the All-Star race as well as Kurt Busch winning in a car with its right side stoved in helped sell some tickets.

Shades of 1994. That year, Roger Penske won the Indy 500 with Al Unser, Jr. and Rusty Wallace, driving for Penske, finished second in the World 600 to Jeff Gordon. Remember 1994? Hell, do you remember back when Jeff Gordon used to win races?

The Penske – Ganassi rivalry may be fierce on the racetrack, but there’s mutual respect off it. Jamie McMurray showed how both sides carry themselves with class in congratulating winner Kurt Busch after the race.

It was a classy gesture for Jamie McMurray to head over to congratulate Kurt Busch after the race, but I’m not so sure about this pouring a coke down the back of his uniform gesture. That stuff gets stickier than superglue when it dries.

It just seems Kyle Busch can never leave a race track with “plays well with others” checked on his report card. For the record, I don’t think there is this mythical “new” Kyle Busch. Here’s the deal. When he wins races, he’s happy and pleasant. When he loses races, he’s unhappy. When he wrecks out of a race or loses one in the pits, he’s downright furious. This is part of the maturation process of a young driver. You can’t let the victories get you too elated, and you can’t let the defeats destroy you. Learn from each, but realize over the course of a career you’re going to lose more races than you’ll win.

Speaking of the younger Busch brother, the current Nationwide series points leader won’t be headed to that series’ next race at Nashville Saturday night. You have to wonder if after his post-victory antics there last year the fans, track management, and Sam Bass don’t want him to come back. That was one of those rare occasions Busch managed to act like a buffoon even in victory, and I think it has a lot to do with his image problem.

Looking for some good news? The four-month tidal wave of aural terror that is FOX’s part of the season came to an end Sunday night. Not surprisingly, the broadcast opened with Darrell Waltrip in a self-congratulatory mood. To give credit where credit is due, like an Edwardian era child, FOX’s chief pest, Digger, was more seen than heard this year. And in the final two broadcasts, it seemed like the higher-ups at FOX were finally getting the message after another season of sagging ratings and financial losses. The final two broadcasts featured more information and less lame comedy skits. Now, if they’d drop the Hollywood Hotel entirely and get Waltrip to tone it down a bit (if DW is, in fact, “the voice of NASCAR,” I wish I was born deaf) they might be onto something. Starting next week, we go to TNT for Cup races. Last year, the TNT crew put on the most informative and respectful broadcasts our sport enjoyed all year.

I’m a little worried about the start of next week’s Pocono race. Are all the drivers going to stall out heading to the green flag without having someone holler, “Boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing boys?” Yeah, maybe I worry too much.

I write about racing, not commercials, so I’ll bury this down here. I just can’t figure out what Toyota is thinking. Do you want to get chased by a bear while hiking? Hell, no! Count me out. Do you want to get attacked by a shark while surfing? Thanks, but I’d rather not. Then again, maybe I’d prefer either to entering a tight Interstate off-ramp in a three-ton SUV seemingly designed by Mattel with the throttle stuck to the floor.

The night was a blur for Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte, after two hard wrecks left him limping home 37th – his fourth finish of 30th or worse in just thirteen 2010 starts.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

What a strange May homestand for Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte. The driver who once dominated here wrecked himself three times between the All-Star race and the World 600. And all of it came at a joint Johnson once confidently called “His House.” Of course, statistically speaking a fellow is most likely to have accidents around his house.

Denny Hamlin had a competitive car early, but damaged the splitter of his car driving through the grass to avoid Johnson’s spinning Chevy. The car was clearly never right afterwards.

Jeff Burton had a solid top-5 car until that final restart, when Busch came to shove.

Greg Biffle ran the high line for most of the race and used it successfully, but it was perhaps inevitable he was going to eventually slam that wall rather than brush it running up there in the Harry Gant line.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

It looked like Kyle Busch’s evening was over when he ran into Brad Keselowski exiting his pits, but he rallied back to a third-place finish.

Winner Kurt Busch just barely avoided running into the back of Jimmie Johnson’s stricken car as they entered pit road. All in all, Charlotte was pretty good to Busch this month.

I want Mike Conway to pick my lottery numbers this week. He led laps at Indy, sending scribes scurrying to find their programs and figure out who the guy was. More importantly, he survived a last-lap wreck at the 500 that had all the markings of one of those tragedies that cripples a driver or worse.

A gutsy call to stay out during the final caution flag paid off with a top-5 finish for Mark Martin and the No. 5 team. Martin had spent most of the race running mid-pack.

Chip Ganassi has to be feeling pretty good after that Indy 500 victory and a strong second-place finish at Charlotte by McMurray. Considering the cloud of uncertainty hovering over the EGR team going into this season, it had to be sweet vindication.

David Reutimann’s strong fifth-place finish has to have some folks wondering if he might have won last year’s 600 even if it hadn’t rained.

Worth Noting

  • The top 10 at Charlotte drove the race winning Dodge, five Chevys, two Fords, and two Toyotas.
  • Kurt Busch has top-5 finishes in the three of the last four NASCAR events if you include the All-Star Race.
  • Jamie McMurray has finished second in three of the last five Cup races. He had just one top-5 finish all of last year, his win at Talladega.
  • Kyle Busch (third) has top-10 finishes in the last seven Cup races.
  • Mark Martin’s fourth-place finish was his first top-10 result since Talladega.
  • Paul Menard’s eighth-place finish was his best since Atlanta.
  • Ryan Newman (ninth) started the season slow, but has top-10 results in three of the last four Cup races.
  • Kevin Harvick’s eleventh-place finish was his worst since Phoenix.
  • Jimmie Johnson (37th) hasn’t had a top-5 finish since Fort Worth in mid-April.

What’s the Points?

Kevin Harvick continues to lead the points, but second-place Kyle Busch narrowed the gap to 29. Matt Kenseth remains third in the standings, 117 points behind Harvick. Jeff Gordon rose two spots to fourth, while Denny Hamlin rounds out the top 5.

Race winner Kurt Busch advances three spots to sixth in the standings, while another tough race for Johnson drops him three more spots in the standings to seventh. Jeff Burton holds eighth, and Greg Biffle fell two spots to ninth.

Mark Martin and Carl Edwards swapped the tenth and eleventh spots, with Martin now having the advantage. Ryan Newman rose a spot to take over the twelfth place ranking from Martin Truex, Jr.

On the outside looking in, Clint Bowyer is thirteenth, four points behind Newman and ten points ahead of Truex. Jamie McMurray is fifteenth, twelve points behind Truex, and one point ahead of 16th place Tony Stewart.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — We’ll give this one four cans. The race dragged a little in the center, but featured good racing early and late, along with two drivers gunning for a win who seemed more concerned with a trophy than points or a big check.

Next Up: It’s off to the tricky triangle at Pocono. Hopefully, the remaining fans trying to exit last July’s Pocono event have made it out of the parking lot by now.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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DansMom
05/31/2010 10:36 AM
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If Danica keeps getting top 5 finishes, she might make the Chase!

Janice
05/31/2010 11:35 AM
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what, no mention that jr lead some laps? i woke up (thanks to sinus and migraine) and they were saying jr lead 10 laps. wow….how did he manage that?

at other news sites, folks who watched indy had some less than flattering things to say about the tv coverage and the commercials, or amount of commercials. even after a while, the side-by-side split screen irritated some.

if memory serves me, doesn’t tnt do split screen sometimes when they have the broadcast?

how dw was lamenting, i initially thought fox would never be back to broadcast a nascar race again. geez…get over it dw. feb is right around the corner in the grand scheme of things. (joy).

GW
05/31/2010 12:47 PM
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You saw it like I did. You also did a great job summing things up. Perfect take on young Kyle Busch and congrats to Kurt for his dominating performance.

wcfan
05/31/2010 01:16 PM
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I took 2 cans away (would have been a 4 can race)for the dansmon caution when Jimmie scraped the wall and Denny went through the grass, this did not deserve a caution, Robby Gordon SLAMMED the wall and went half a lap dropping debris before he got a caution.

I thought both Charlotte and Indy had very good crowds, especially considering the huge amount of empty seats at other races this year.

I have never been a big fan of Brian Vickers, but it was nice to see him at the track during the Busch race, he seemed in good spirits and very positive, and did 100 times better job in the booth then anyone for Fox. Hope to see him back in the car next year.

Dansmom I see you are still following your Idol Prez.Obama saying one thing while doing something else.(you told all of us OVER A MONTH AGO YOU WOULD NO LONGER COMMENT ON MATT’S COLUMNS, and more times then not you are the first poster.)

While I agree 95% of what DW says is fluff, last week a heard him correct everyone who said Jimmie was less then 1/2 MPH over speed limit( At Dover) by stating he was 5+ Mph because nascar gives the drivers 5 Mph, This week After Mike Joy said there would be over 20 cars on lead lap at the finish and this would be a new record, DW correctly stated that with the wave around and lucky dog this record should easily be broken.

noel_w
05/31/2010 02:05 PM
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Well said on Kyle’s racing attitude, Matt.

Is something wrong with Johnson? Usually a DNF means he will come back the following week to destroy the field. This season, a bad day leads to a bad 6 weeks.

DansMom: Danica received a 1 position penalty for an illegal pass on Marco following the Conway crash. Technically, she only managed a top 10. Still, after qualifying 23rd, a great race for her (even if fuel mileage put her there).

Bad Wolf
05/31/2010 03:07 PM
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It was nice to see a race end like it should (Indy 500) without resorting to gimmicks like Nascars GWC. I do take exception to the BS black flags at Indy for blocking. Just shut up and race, blocking has been a part of racing since it inception.

Once again Danica gets a top ten based on fuel conservation strategy and not racing ability. Once again also we get non stop coverage of her based on her sponsor and liberal use of airbrushes and make up in her soft porn Go Daddy advertisments.

Otto
05/31/2010 03:32 PM
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The first 2 positions were held by Jack Roush rejects. I kinda wish Jamie could have won for Granissi so he could have 2 in one day. Guess Penske sayed at Indy and where was Richard Petty? I did not see him.
someone needs to build some horsepower in the new Ford engine so they could be more competitive.

budsudz
05/31/2010 03:46 PM
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It must have “looked” like a good crowd on TV. There were less than 100,000 in the stands and huge empty sections (Ford Grandstand, Blue Seats in Turn 4, Orange Seats under Ford Tower). The track has already reduced capacity from it’s prime by about 30,000 (covering the concrete back stretch grandstands, tarping off the Jewel Box seats in the Diamond Tower, removing grandstands between Turns 1 and 2) and still can’t get close to a sell out.

In fact all of the Suites in Turn 1 and the Diamond Tower Suites were unused.

Still better than California, but the attendance is off 50% at Charlotte.

Also, the Busch Race (Nationwide) drew less than 20,000 in the Grandstands

Bill Schee
05/31/2010 05:20 PM
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Bad Wolfe, blocking has not been a part of open wheel racing since the first time one of those open wheelers rode up the back of the one doing the blocking.

Danica drove a good race. I wonder how many of the keyboard commandos who spend most of their waking hours bashing her, could have done as well.

How about you?

midasmicah
05/31/2010 06:18 PM
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I’m a diehard Jeff Burton fan and I saw something you don’t see very often. Jeff Burton didn’t like being taken out by Busch and he let Busch know about it loud and clear. He doesn’t lose his cool like that very often. One more change they need to change on the COC. Get rid of the splitter. All it’s good for is cutting tires and mowing grass. I thought this was a decent race. Somewhere between three and four beers. I’ll end with a get well soon to Brian Vickers. He’s my second favorite driver after Burton.

Michael in SoCal
05/31/2010 07:02 PM
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Why can’t the splitters be designed so that they end about three inches inside the wheels? That way incidental contact would get a splitter into your opponent’s tire?

wcfan
05/31/2010 08:22 PM
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It has got hard deciding who to root for or against when it comes to the start and parks or front row motorsports during quailifing. One has NO INTENTION of racing and the other plans on racing by swapping numbers/cars to keep their sponser inside the top 35.
Both of these teams are playing within the rules BUT NOT BY the INTENT of the rules.

DansMom
05/31/2010 09:07 PM
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Great point Bill.

WC- if you woudl read my posts instead of just bashing them you’ll see that I said I would “boo-cott” Matt’s articles for a while to prove that less people post when not responding to mine. And that Matt’s articles get the most posts simply because he has top billing on Mondays.

Kate
05/31/2010 10:02 PM
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Ok – do you seriously think that they don’t want Kyle back at Nashville? He’s raced there since he smashed HIS f’n guitar. Get over it.

wcfan
05/31/2010 10:06 PM
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Dansmom
You do more bashing then the rest of the posters combined, most of your posts are so far out that you know people will reply to\correct you.

I have read and followed Matt and his writings(rants) over at least 4 web sites and 12 years, along with many others. He has top billing because he has a large following. And a true love of the sport, if you would go back over the years and read some of Matts post\stories you would see this.

I have missed reading comments from some of the long time readers of Matt and this web site(Douglas“Turnip”, Kevin from SoCal, M.B Voelker) are just a few of the posters I have seen little of this year. I do not know if this is because of lack of time, decline interest in Cup Racing, or because of some of the pettiness seen on this web site by some of the newer posters. Alot of these posters tell us “OLD SCHOOL” fans if we do not like the “new” nascar to move on. Well myself along with the many other “OLD SCHOOL” fans have been following Matt and Nascar since before many of you newer fans had any idea or interest what nascar or stock car racing was even about.

While I do not always agree with Matt or even at times the other posters it is good to here others options and ideas.

Bad Wolf
05/31/2010 10:41 PM
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Bill, I used to attend the Indy 500 back in the ’90s and followed it from the early ’70s, and they did block, but it was basically changing your line so as not to give the guy behind a clean shot at the pass. It was artfully done and not like a Nascar block. I call BS on the black flags for open wheel blocking by changing your line.

Danica is the most overhyped mediocre driver to ever strap into an open wheeler, and I stand by my previous statements.

DansMom
05/31/2010 11:27 PM
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Dub-C-(dub):

I remember “the shrub” and his posts were almost always resoundongly negative as are most of the columnists points of view on this site. I mearly provide a contrsting opinion to show the other perspective. I refuse to allow folks to continually bash a sport that remains the No.1 most popular form of motorsport in the country

Also, did you read my first post from today? What chase is danica making? Sarcasm seems to be lost on this crowd.

But the fact remains, Danica is the 3rd most recognizable NASCAR name of the past 50 years along with Dale Sr and Jr.

Fordfan
06/01/2010 01:24 AM
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I believe Kyle the Terrible is in second place for both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series. He is one point behind Brad Keselowski in Nationwide. As Brad said, “It’s nice to be in front when most of the other Cup drivers quit.” Ouch!

Kevin in SoCal
06/01/2010 01:29 AM
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Hey wcfan, thank you for the shout out. I have been a little busier this year and havent been able to keep up with the NASCAR races as much. I stopped taping the Truck and Nationwide races and only watch the Cup races now. I just finished watching the Cup race about 15 mins ago and came on here to see what everyone said about it.

Mike
06/01/2010 09:03 AM
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Danica is the 3rd most recognizable NASCAR name of the past 50 years along with Dale Sr and Jr.

If that’s true, its pretty sad that our most recognizable names are a driver who died 9 years ago, a driver who hasn’t won a race since 2008 (his sole win in four years), and a driver who has 3 Nationwide starts to her credit.

It would seem more important to worry about your PR firm than your standings headed into the ‘Chase’…

RandyGoldman
06/01/2010 02:15 PM
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Ir-regardless of how Danica got her awesome finish, it still proves that she is a much better driver than the majority of Nascar Cup drivers these days. I dont see Dale Jr finishing in the top five in NASCAR races, let alone in an IRL car which is obviously much harder and more complicated to drive.

Nicki LeMaster
06/01/2010 02:55 PM
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Hey Matt. Did I not read somewhere that Good Ole DW was going to TNT too along with Larry Mac and the others that usually go. If this is the case, we will probably still here “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” BOO!!!

noel_w
06/01/2010 03:19 PM
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@ Randy: Yet another idiotic comment. An IndyCar would be easier to drive than a stock car. Don’t believe me, Juan Pablo Montoya (a winner in IndyCar, F1, and NASCAR) said the most fun car to drive for sheer speed is an F1 ride. The hardest car he has ever had to learn to drive was the NASCAR stock car. Even Danica herself said that she was unprepared for how much the cars moved around at Daytona and how difficult they are to drive. And she wasn’t even in the top tier.
Look at it logically. An IndyCar weighs 1700 lbs., the stock car 3400. More weight equals a higher degree of difficulty to turn.
The IndyCar produces enough downforce to allow it to stick to a ceiling and drive upside down at speed (if it was possible to get it in that position without destroying it). The stock car provides around 1/20th of the downforce. Less downforce makes a car more difficult to drive through the turns.
IndyCars run on soft compound rubber and are approximately 1/3 wider than the stock cars hard compound rubber. A softer rubber compound and a bigger contact patch make it easier to maintain speed through the turns.
An IndyCar has around 800 bhp. The stock car has 850-875 bhp. More horsepower means the car is harder to control.
The IndyCar is much more aerodynamically efficient than the stock car. A boxier shape pushes more air and causes a greater instability. This produces a higher degree of difficulty.
In short an IndyCar is similar to talking a go-cart and injecting it with all the steroids the MLB has used in the last decade.

It is the combiation of all of these factors that allow the IndyCars to run speeds over 220 mph. For the record though, if they took the restrictor plates off the stock cars, they would run just as fast at Daytona and Talladega. Look at the fastest qualifying record ever. It was made by Bill Elliott at over 213 mph back in 1987. 23 years and nearly 200 more horsepower back up my statement.

Keep trying, someday you might screw up and utter a simple truth.

RandyGoldman
06/01/2010 04:03 PM
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Nothing hotter than a chick that pretends to know a lot about cars… OW OW! ;)

VolcanoNacho
06/01/2010 04:10 PM
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I think the charlotte race proved how great of a driver Rowdy Busch really is. To be involved in a wreck in a pits and a speeding penalty and then come back to finish third is amazing. I am calling it now, Rowdy kicks it into high gear and whoops on the rest of the pack the rest of the season to come up with his first championship. His only real competition would be Jimmy, the rest of the drivers seem like they dont want it.