The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Chicagoland Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday July 12, 2010

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

Matt McLaughlin · Monday July 12, 2010


The Key Moment – On lap 213, David Reutimann finally prevailed after a protracted battle for the lead with Jeff Gordon. Reutimann drove on to an easy win while Gordon faded to third.

In a Nutshell – Well, there’s one way to waste a perfectly good summer’s Saturday night. Maybe they should have called this race the Lifeless 400.

Dramatic Moment – In an otherwise uneventful three hours, I guess that battle between Reutimann and Gordon was the best action of the evening, hard-fought but clean. Unfortunately, the key pass occurred while fans at home were watching commercials.

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

They made a good move shifting Joliet to a night race. Now, to make things less tiresome for fans, NASCAR should just run the event with the lights out. Turn out the lights, I don’t want to see anymore… Mama told me not to come…

Does it seem Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team are beating themselves more this season than their competition is beating them?

No one can accuse David Reutimann of lucking into a win Saturday night. He passed Jeff Gordon after a hard but clean race, then drove off to the checkers in convincing fashion over the final 44 laps of the event.

OK, I’ll admit it. When I saw David Reutimann passing Jeff Gordon to take the lead in a Cup race, I was wondering what was in that tea Alice and the Mad Hatter were serving before the show. I was wagering with my buddies on what lap NASCAR would throw another unnecessary debris caution to tighten up the action (the over/under was with eight laps to go). However, it turns out officials seem a bit more circumspect about these mystery cautions lately – especially since a certain race winner called the sport out on them on national TV.

Oh, yes indeedy TV race broadcasters, Goodyear makes the best tires in the whole wide world. But something was bad wrong with that right front excuse for rubber that put Jimmie Johnson into the wall, and it wasn’t a matter of camber or suspension damage from the previous spin. That was just ugly.

A note to my old bud Robby Gordon: You might want to review yellow flag protocol. You’re supposed to hit the brakes, not a competitor.

Color me confused. In Friday night’s Nationwide race, Joey Logano was leading coming to the final restart. He chose the inside lane, as is the leader’s right to do. Brad Keselowski was second, so he was to line up to the outside of Logano. Kyle Busch was posted as fourth, so he was to line up behind Keselowski. Unfortunately for the Brad-barian, he finally ran out of gas and coasted down to the apron dead-stick heading to the green flag. So for the restart, Busch lined up to the outside of Logano, pinched him down in the first corner and took the lead. I get that part. What I’m wondering is why the third-place driver restarted the race ahead of the second-place driver? I know that’s how they do things at the start of a race if a driver has to drop out of line because of using a backup car or engine, but it seems counterintuitive to hand anyone an advantage like that with two laps to go. I understand another driver suffered misfortune late in the caution period, but it would have made more sense to see NASCAR call off the restart to sort things out. After all, they’ve done so numerous times to settle important arguments like which driver is going to restart 26th and which driver is 27th. If they did, I feel there’s no question they’d realign the field so the driver restarting second was on the outside of the front row. Also, keep in mind if Keselowski had stalled out on the apron, he would have been in harm’s way during a green-white-checkered finish, as evidenced by Daytona last week. Of course, if any of us could get a copy of the NASCAR rulebook or review it online, we might know if proper procedures were used for the restart… but alas, that’s not possible.

So the Toyota Cup teams have a new intake manifold that increases both power and torque? It’s odd I don’t recall reading anywhere such a piece had been approved by NASCAR.

What a week for uber-star/celebrity spokesperson Danica Patrick! Not only did she finish better than anyone of her chromosomal makeup (and Danica without makeup is Eddie Munster in a green flame retardant jumpsuit), in Friday night’s race she was a mere two laps off the pace at the end. Her home state fans, who failed to show up in droves on Friday, could not have been more proud, particularly those of them who derive their income directly or indirectly from the Danica-mania freight train. Not only that, but Friday she managed to avoid hitting not only stationary but also moving objects hard enough to render her car beyond repair, a trait shared with many legendary and successful race car drivers over the decades – and one loudly lauded by race team owners everywhere. As I see it, at New Hampshire Patrick finished five laps down. This week, she was only two laps down. Statistically speaking, that means next time out, she ought to finish the race a lap ahead of the field. It’s time to cash in your 401K and buy up Danica Patrick diecasts, T-shirts, caps, and coffee mugs. A decade down the road, they’ll be going for zillions on eBay when Patrick wins her eighth Cup title. It’s in the cards. Now, look at the first three letters of “title;” let’s just say that could make you very, very, rich with little effort or talent, like a certain female race car driver I could name. Seriously, it’s interesting that Sam Hornish, Jr., who won three IRL titles and not just a fuel mileage race overseas, is a mere asterisk on most Cup race broadcasts. If Danica Patrick was Daniel Patrick, you’d never have even heard of him.

Is there going to be anyone left to drive for RPM next season? Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler are gone, while A.J. Allmendinger is looking for gainful employment elsewhere. I’m figuring it’s time the King rings up Bobby Labonte and arranges a homecoming.

Kevin Harvick’s dominance on top of the Sprint Cup point standings took a hit once his car lost fuel pressure Saturday night. The faulty equipment left him 34th in the race, slashing his point lead from 225 to 103 over Jeff Gordon.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Jimmie Johnson had the dominant car at Joliet, prior to missing the pit road entrance during a green-flag sequence of stops, spinning out on a restart, then finally blowing a tire and hitting the wall. When the smoke cleared, a possibly winning car wound up 25th, one lap off the pace. At least he has his new daughter, Genevieve, to head home to and ease the pain…

Kurt Busch has been on a bit of a roll as of late, but Saturday night in Joliet his car was awful enough the crew even tried swapping the front shocks on a pit stop to see if they could keep the No. 2 car from getting passed by its own shadow. It didn’t work, leaving the Miller Lite Dodge languishing in 26th.

Kevin Harvick’s RCR entry suffered fuel delivery issues, taking him behind the wall and leaving the No. 29 car 34th in the final running order.

Greg Biffle sounded confident going into this weekend’s event, and ran well for much of the race before the engine expired to leave him 35th.

Joliet wasn’t a particularly impressive outing for the Joe Gibbs team. Kyle Busch qualified poorly and could never really advance. He wound up seventeenth. Joey Logano appeared to be floundering out there all evening and finished nineteenth. A month ago, the Gibbs team seemed to have the Hendrick outfit’s number, but not so much on Saturday night.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Nobody is ever going to be able to say David Reutimann lucked into his second Cup victory. He passed no less a driver than Jeff Gordon to take the lead and drove on. It should also be noted that during previous races where Reutimann was running strong, his efforts were negated by slow stops in the pits. Saturday night, his crew rose to the occasion every single time.

Saying Carl Edwards needed a good run is like saying perhaps Lindsay Lohan could use a couple weeks in rehab. He got it with a strong second-place finish, but admitted wistfully he might have been able to get up there and make a race of it if he didn’t have to worry about points so much.

Worth Noting

  • Who would have believed David Reutimann was going to snap his winless streak before Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and Carl Edwards?
  • More than halfway through the season, Ford is still winless in the Cup series.
  • Carl Edwards (second) scored his best finish since Pocono last June. Edwards was also runner-up in that race.
  • Jeff Gordon (third) is on a roll with a fifth straight top-5 finish.
  • Clint Bowyer (fourth) drove to his first top-5 finish since this year’s Daytona 500.
  • Jamie McMurray (fifth) returned to the top-10 finishers list for the first time since Charlotte. He’d led just one lap in that stretch.
  • Kasey Kahne (sixth) has top-10 finishes in four of the last five Cup races.
  • Denny Hamlin’s eighth-place finish had to be a relief after he’d averaged a 24th-place effort in the last three races.
  • Since Talladega in April, Tony Stewart (ninth) has led just twenty laps.
  • Martin Truex’s eleventh-place finish was his best since Richmond. If David Reutimann is “the Franchise” at MWR, Truex is apparently “The French Fries” as in, “you want fries with that?”
  • David Ragan’s twelfth-place finish was his second-best result of the season.
  • Matt Kenseth’s thirteenth-place finish was actually his best since Charlotte.
  • Mark Martin (15th) hasn’t enjoyed a top-10 finish since Charlotte. Call this the Summer of his Discontent.
  • Kyle Busch (seventeenth) has missed a top-10 result the last five times out in the Cup series.
  • Like General Francisco Franco, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s career continues fighting valiantly to remain dead. He slumped to 23rd, never a factor with handling problems.
  • Kevin Harvick’s 34th-place finish was his second worst of the season. Harvick finished 35th at Martinsville.
  • It’s a dubious distinction, but let the record show Joe Nemechek, who has eighteen official DNFs this year and one failure to qualify for a race in nineteen events, drove just 20 laps at Joliet before parking.

What’s the Points?

Kevin Harvick retained the point lead, but after an off-song night his margin dropped to 103 over second-place Jeff Gordon. Jimmie Johnson remained third, while Denny Hamlin moved up a spot to fourth in the standings. Johnson and Hamlin, it should be noted, have five wins apiece this season. Harvick has two, while Gordon has none – his winless streak is now at 48 races, the longest of a seventeen-year Cup career.

Kurt Busch fell a spot in the standings to fifth. Brother Kyle held steady in sixth, while Jeff Burton moved up a spot to seventh. Matt Kenseth dropped a spot to eighth, and Tony Stewart stayed ninth after his ninth-place finish in the race.

Further back, Carl Edwards’ second-place finish moved him up two spots in the standings to tenth, giving him 74 points worth of breathing room over the Chase cutoff. Greg Biffle fell a spot to eleventh after his DNF, while Clint Bowyer advanced two spots, back into a Chase berth in twelfth. He’s now got a narrow fifteen-point margin over Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who drops a spot to thirteenth.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — Give it a beer and a half, decidedly lukewarm, then pack the cooler and head for the Jersey Shore. We’ve got an off week ahead. Ocean City, New Jersey, the Anchorage (actually in Somers Point), V-twin motorcycles, and girls in their summer clothes earn a six-pack every time.

Next Up – What’s this? A week off in the Cup schedule. This gives NASCAR’s marketing types a two-week period to try to (probably unsuccessfully) whip up some PR hysteria about the upcoming Brickyard 400. The Brickyard is a perennial winner of the Clara Peller “Where’s the Beef?” award – a whole lot of sizzle with not much steak.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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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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Bill B
07/12/2010 08:01 AM

Hmmm, I actually thought it was a pretty good race for a 1.5 track. Short of removing all the 1.5 milers (which would be fine with me) and given the fact that NASCAR contrived “exciting” finishes aren’t fooling us and don’t add to the overall race rating, what is your definition of a good race at a 1.5 mile track?

Ghost of Curtis Turner
07/12/2010 08:12 AM

Was there a race Saturday? hmm didn’t even notice…….

07/12/2010 08:57 AM

toiliet, ILL???
erased the dvr.
didn’t watch.
didn’t care.

Mr Bill
07/12/2010 09:02 AM

I was surprised the TNT crew in the booth did not follow up more on the bad tire that came off the 48 car for no apparent reason. I was hoping that Kyle and Wally would have been their normal selves and not a bland touch and smile broadcast team. Was it indeed a bad tire or was the 48 car set up to wear the inside of that tire? The 48 is the 4 time and most recent champion and I still don’t know the truth about the tire two days after the race. Maybe next week a caution flag will come out with two laps to go and the people in the booth will have time to tell us about the tire problem on the 48 in the last race. Do you think!!!????

07/12/2010 11:29 AM

Jimm-i-e-not-y didn’t name his baby Danica?

No need for the last phantom debris caution because Johnson didn’t need it.

When a car falls out of line at the start or on a restart the cars just move up in line. NASCAR says its easier (faster)than realigning the cars.

I thought the race was pretty good. Lots of side by side racing and passing. Just because they don’t show the racing doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Check the scroll at the top and see who is running close together. Watch the race again on SPEED on Wednesday at noon. But I still would rather watch the LPGA for obvious reasons.

07/12/2010 11:48 AM

Matt you’re the one who can’t let a column go by without talking about Danica Patrick. All she does is show up to race , then the hack writers/tv personalities take over and make her the focus of attention .
I don’t care that you think women are second class citizens , i just care that you don’t have enough class to keep it to yourself .
Her name isn’t Daniel Patrick , so we’ll never know about your postulation . One thing is for sure though , your name is Matt McLaughlin and very few people have heard of you .

Bill B
07/12/2010 12:15 PM

Excellent point regarding the scroll. I find myself looking there more than watching the two cars the network decides to show. You can tell who’s gaining or losing ground if you pay attention. Props to TNT for showing the intervals on the scroll 90% of the time. It’s when the network decides to only show the running order that you can’t determine what’s going on in the race.

Get real. You have to realize that the only reason Danica receives so much attention is because what is (or is not) between her legs. Of course she isn’t the only one that receives attention for some reason other than her on track performance. If it was Dale Terwilliger Jr. instead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. we wouldn’t hear or see as much coverage or him either.

07/12/2010 12:32 PM

I’ve been reading MM articles for a really long time. It is usually the first read on Monday. I, too am disillusioned with the path of Nascar. The recaps are getting increasingly difficult to read. “(and Danica without makeup is Eddie Munster in a green flame retardant jumpsuit)” is one example. Really ?!?!? She had a mediocre finish. So do most rookies. The remark about Robby Gordon. Look at the replay – he was standing on the brakes and could not turn the wheel. The whole tone of the article is just damn disappointing. Childish references are getting old. Where is the snappy wit and sarcasm?

07/12/2010 01:48 PM

Yeah, Mark just forget about all of the talk show appearances. Also, forget about the sponsor ads with Danica, usually wearing something tight and low-cut. Danica is just out there to race! (Insert sarcastic laughter here.)

It doesn’t make a difference if she was a man or woman. If she looked butt-ugly, she would not be getting the attention that she is getting. I like to compare her to Anna Kournikova.

07/12/2010 01:58 PM

Your remark about the first three letters of “titles” in regards to Danica was offensive and uncalled for. Don’t forget there are almost as many female fans as male.

And Bill B, your remark was lewd as well. Remember big boy, You wouldn’t be walking this earth without the benefit of a female.

no Spin
07/12/2010 02:41 PM

“So the Toyota Cup teams have a new intake manifold that increases both power and torque? It’s odd I don’t recall reading anywhere such a piece had been approved by NASCAR.”
The last time a new intake manifold was used, Nascar let Jack use it until they were sure they would make a big dent in there Champion ship hopes, Did you notice I said Jack NOT MARK MARTIN I believe Jack thought if he had a NASCAR driver and not one of his Guchey Gulch sport car drivers Nascar would get off his back, it has not happened

07/12/2010 03:03 PM

Media cannot be pleased. You have said after almost every other race this year you would be perfectly fine with a race thats boring as long as Nascar doesn’t mess with the race. They didn’t. They did a great job with the cautions but you still complain. I thought it was a good race

07/12/2010 03:20 PM

I’ve never liked Chicagoland. And this is the first mention I’ve seen about tires. Goodyear brought new ones, and IMO teams did not get enough time to adjust their cars to them. Plus back to spoiler & big fin? Previous notes were useless.

M. C. Locklear
07/12/2010 03:25 PM

Much the way you feel about NASCAR, I feel about your recaps. There was a time when I really enjoyed digging into these recaps to find bright spots of humor and analysis from someone located outside the mainstream bubble. Sadly, the weekly recap has become nothing more than a running diatribe against the evil empire that is NASCAR. Just as drivers go on too long after their prime, it appears that you have also Matt. Your recaps are the rantings of a washed up once great “scribe” as you would say. I long for the days of “yore” where objective commentary was the way of MM. The further away we get from 2001 and into the After Earnhardt Sr. era, the more bitter you have become. People can blame NASCAR for the empty seats but let’s take a hard look at the REAL reality in this country. The working class, blue collar people that made this great sport what it is today are suffering greatly in this country and that has more do do with the empty seats than anyt other factor. The quality of racing is not much different than any time in the past. Sr. is not coming back so you may want to move on. Bitterness is not healthy for anyone…

07/12/2010 03:48 PM

No more night races. Short track racing in America is dying and Nascar isn’t helping. Leave Sundays for the big boys and let the locals have Saturday night. You would think Nascar would do more to promote grass roots racing, but they only pay a little lip service. I was at a local track in Florida a few weeks ago on a Saturday night, no more than 400 people there, 4 years ago it would have been 4000.

07/12/2010 04:07 PM

Both races at Chicago were a bore, the Cup lite version on Friday night was only half as boring because it was only half as long.

TNT was into total commercial overload for the Cup race. Of course there was so little action that even racebuddy battle cam couldn’t find it. So even though I prefer TNT’s booth and camera work to Fox, they really missed it on Saturday. Of course, I’m not expecting much better from ESPN when they go into their “if the race finished now” and “all chase/jimmie johnson” coverage either.

Maybe it was better being at the track but for me, it would be too far to travel to see a high speed parade.

Well, I’m not into the offensive comments about Danica, but you can’t really say she is just any rookie. She has been touted as a special race car driver and hasn’t lived up to the hype. Maybe that is the fault of the media for doing the whole feeding frenzy deal and there have been a lot of other IRL drivers who have failed miserably at driving the “taxi cabs”. Ain’t as easy as it looks, is it?

07/12/2010 05:53 PM

@Mac, I think they put it on Saturday night because it was just too hot & humid to run on Sunday aft.

07/12/2010 06:18 PM

wow…guess i didn’t miss too much. i woke up periodically during the race, and at end of race when 00 was crossing s/f line. saw jimmie johnson spinning in the grass. i did see the elliott/gordon wreck. matt you’re wrong. gordon’s breaks were smoking he had them on so hard. robby did textbook driving, wreck in front of you, keep going straight. robby gordon could provide matt mclaughlin the winning powerball numbers and he’d bet the only winner and matt would still find something to complain about.

Danica..i forget she’s racing. Had storm come through Friday night so Nationwide race was a moot point. she’s struggling like rest of open wheelers have struggled. she’s struggling just as much as her “veteran car owner” is in the cup series.

see where martin will probably be odd man out, again. funny how his results aren’t like what they were when he was welcomed with open arms into the hendrick fold. kind of interesting how the 5 and 88 teams are in the same shop and basically same boat.

matt and women…i’m surre the comment about him hating women will go over big with his sisters. but then the only positive woman he usually talks about is heather locklear and she’s aging and having her own problems with rehab.

maybe i’ll sleep though the revamping and changes to the chase that everyone is talking about. doubt that will put more butts in seats.

indy coming – yawn…“taxi cabs on flat track”. espn/abc coverage and hopefully ho rain delay to deal with. mother nature has been a bit prickly lately. maybe she doesn’t like matt’s viewpoint of women.

Bill B
07/12/2010 06:54 PM

Maybe I could have been more politically correct in stating my opinion (sorry), but I stand by the overall point. If she were just another guy no one would be paying attention and if you don’t believe that then you haven’t been paying attention.

07/12/2010 07:26 PM

Not really into parades.

I thought that the ARCA race was decent. It seems like the track in Iowa provides for some decent racing.

Big Donkey
07/12/2010 08:24 PM

Matt, some people just don’t get North Eastern humor. They read your stuff and then complain. But they keep reading even though most of them apparently have never heard of you. Keep the Robby Gordon jokes coming!

Bad Wolf
07/12/2010 11:52 PM

“People can blame NASCAR for the empty seats but let’s take a hard look at the REAL reality in this country. The working class, blue collar people that made this great sport what it is today are suffering greatly in this country and that has more do do with the empty seats than any other factor.”

So how do you explain the ratings drop on TV? If you can’t afford to go you watch for free on TV. Your synopsis is flawed.

07/13/2010 01:28 PM

We all know how Danica got where she’s at, Matt you don’t have to be such a blatantly rude/sexist/disgusting/jack-ass. It sounds as if your jealous of her accomplishments.

07/13/2010 07:52 PM

@24Crazy – it’s “you’re”, not “your”. Have you been swappin spit with DansMom or something?

old gal from socal
07/14/2010 12:07 AM

“•Like General Francisco Franco, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s career continues fighting valiantly to remain dead.” Now that there’s funny, I don’t care who ya are…