The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Richmond-2 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday September 13, 2010

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Richmond-2 Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday September 13, 2010


The Key Moment – Kyle Busch made a late-race surge after teammate Denny Hamlin, but licked all the red off his M & M’s candy (and burned all the good out of his Goodyears) in a determined charge that ultimately fell short.

In a Nutshell – Not too much drama other than ESPN hopelessly beating a dead horse, claiming that Bowyer was balanced on the edge of a razor trying to make the Chase when he’d all but secured his place in the title hunt by halfway. But there was some good old fashioned side-by-side racing and passes for the lead all the same.

Kyle Busch gave it his all, but teammate Denny Hamlin held him off for the win and the sole ownership of first place entering the Chase.

Dramatic Moment – When leader Denny Hamlin got caught up in lapped traffic in the final 25 laps of the race, Kyle Busch was able to get right up to his bumper and for several circuits could have knocked the No. 11 out of his way. Even a clearly concerned Joe Gibbs didn’t seem certain how that was going to play out.

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

Not too much of anything, I’m afraid, given the recent lack of notable news NASCAR-wise, which is especially troubling heading into this sport’s playoffs. Wondering whether Mattias Ekstrom was going to get the nod to drive the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota didn’t keep too many hardcore race fans awake late at night trembling with anticipation.

I guess the biggest news in NASCAR this week is what’s not happening. Wal-Mart will not be the primary sponsor for Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team next season despite protracted negotiations that lasted most of the summer. Maybe Rick Hendrick refused to have his cars built in Red China to save money because it would put Americans out of work? Truthfully, I never felt that Gordon and Wal-Mart were a good fit to begin with. My guess is he doesn’t run down to Wally World for charcoal, paper plates, and Dixie Cups when he’s having guests over for dinner. He probably has such affairs catered, living comfortably in a city (Manhattan) that doesn’t exactly have that type of store on the street corner.

The news, of course leaves a four-time championship team with no primary sponsor for the 2011 season. But I wouldn’t panic, they’ll find someone… just perhaps at fire sale pricing compared to the salad days of the sport. Wishing to help as always, I am willing to pay the sum of one hundred dollars, payable in U.S. cash, unmarked non-sequential bills on demand to have the No. 24 team run the “Save the Endangered Harley Riders… Get Off Your Damned Nextel and Drive!” logos I have designed for Daytona next year.

Was the roar of the crowd after the race a tribute to local boy Hamlin… or his detractors expressing their glee Kyle Busch had lost again?

A fond farewell to our fair-weather football fellow fans who only follow NASCAR racing until the NFL regular season kicks off. We’ll see ya’ll next year… maybe. I truly hope your season generates more excitement this year than ours has to date. And even for the rest of you, remember to check the batteries in those remotes because upcoming races are likely to have you channel surfing over to another network to see how the local team is doing.

With plenty of side-by-side racing throughout the 43-car field, Richmond offered the type of competition you would think fans really wanted. But with hardly any cautions and double-file restarts … did they wake up happy Sunday morning?

It ought to be an interesting week in the Comments section below and around the ‘net as we find out what some fans truly want as opposed to what they actually want. Yes, Richmond was a bit short on drivers throwing helmets, threatening to brawl, and questioning one another’s ancestry. That’s WWE stuff. There was, in fact, a lot of side-by-side racing and passing for the lead, featuring a protracted battle between Hamlin and Clint Bowyer who traded the top spot five times. With only three cautions (one for rain) there weren’t a lot of restarts, and there was no late-race debris caution (I guess NASCAR is still stinging from Hamlin calling them out on that one) to add artificial drama. But I was satisfied. I saw a stock car race, albeit one that didn’t have me on the edge of my seat. Other folks are going to say it was boring, the same folks who missed 25 caution periods during the Bristol night race. Some of you are going to say I’m letting Richmond off easy because I like the track. Hell, yeah, I like the track. What’s not to like? If they ran the season as a thirty-race schedule with all events held at Richmond, I’d watch every one.

Apparently, all the drivers and owners in the Cup garage got the memo. This is going to be the closest, most exciting Chase ever, not a seventh repudiation of Brian France’s ill-considered unwieldy method of determining a title. If it’s so, it’s because the outcome is manipulated, sort of like the NFL deciding all games will have their points reset to 1-0 entering the fourth quarter with the team leading at that point getting the one bonus point. If it’s not, and my guess is we’re in for another rout, will it finally be enough to abort this insane idea that should have been stillborn? What we really need is for FOX to cover the Chase races. That way, fans could despise DW more than Brian France.

It’s only fitting on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy a pre-race tribute was paid to the innocent victims of those attacks, as well as the first responders who continue to put rescuing others ahead of their own safety. But it makes me gnash my teeth to see NASCAR try to wrap themselves in the mantle of that tragic day. Here’s my recollections of NASCAR after 9/11. Like every other American and most citizens of the world I was saddened, shocked, and angered by the attacks of that tragic Tuesday. I’d been glued to the TV for the 24 hours after a friend woke me up that morning to tell me something was bad wrong in New York. I literally got sick to my stomach watching the second plane hit, and again when the Towers collapsed.
Because I was based outside of Philadelphia, I had planned to drive to NHIS to cover the event anyway – the grounding of the airlines had no effect on my plans. But I was certain that NASCAR was going to cancel the race, just as the NFL and MLB had already canceled their events for that weekend; I believed that partially out of respect, and partially because such a large gathering of people might be a tempting target to any terrorists still operating on our soil. I kept waiting for the announcement the race was postponed, but when it got to be 10 AM Thursday, it was time to fish or cut bait. I called NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach and asked if the race was going to be postponed. I was told firmly the race would go on as scheduled “no matter what.” So I was well on my way, driving the Pennsy Turnpike when word came down that the NHIS race was indeed postponed. I almost turned around and went home… but my buddy and brother-in-law Ken as well as my sister Jeanne lived in Vermont. I was headed that way anyhow, and I didn’t feel like spending the weekend alone as a single guy. I kept heading north. As I drew closer to New York, almost every highway overpass was draped in American flags. The truckers were saluting those flags with their air horns. I got as close as roadway closings would allow and parked my truck for a quick review of the forever altered New York City skyline I’d become so familiar with, as seen through eyes burning with tears looking at the still smoking ruins.

Nine years later, September 11th still resonates with millions of Americans who suffered through it.

Kenny had a nice piece of property but it was fairly remote, ten exits beyond “the sticks” and a quarter mile from the edge of the earth. It seemed like the safest place on earth that weekend, but Kenny was worried about an attack on the nuclear plant downwind. We discussed what we’d seen of the attack on TV: the people leaping out of buildings, the towers collapse, the toxic dust clouds, and the sheer insanity of it all sitting on a post fence drinking our Buds as the dirt bikes cooled off in the field. As we sat there discussing whether we felt the attack would be an isolated incident or the start of an all out war on American soil, I looked up at the sky. Even in rural Vermont, it was odd not to see at least an occasional jetliner pass by… odd and troubling, but all of the U.S. was a no-fly zone that day. Above us flew two bald Eagles instead, gliding in lazy circles over the field looking for lunch.

That evening, I recalled my mom telling me about her family learning of the attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio and how fearful, upset and confused they all were that Sunday. The World was at War, freedom hung in the balance and there were no guarantees. The next day, four of my Uncles went to recruiting stations to sign up. Only one of them came home after the war. Despite the terrible price, that one still worked out all right; sometimes, you just have to decide if you want to be the eagle or the rabbit…

The Indy Racing League and the ISC (International Speedway Corporation..the track-owning facet of NASCAR though they remain two separate entities – nod, nod, wink, wink) have parted ways. That means there will be no IRL races at the Glen, Chicago, Kansas, and Northern Cuba…I mean, Miami next year. Bruton Smith’s SMI will welcome the open-wheelers at Sonoma, New Hampshire (where I think eight people attended the last IRL race), Las Vegas, and Texas. The Texas event will be a groundbreaking event in that two full points-paying races will be held on the same weekend. Damn, I wish I’d been clever enough to suggest such a scenario months ago. Mr. Smith, can I get at least a free Mustang out of this one?

It’s time for me to quit smoking. Or at least try again. Chantix worked for Kenny and Jeanne, so that’s what I’m taking. One side effect of the medicine is vivid and occasionally terrifying dreams… but I’m good with that. After all, we used other substances for that purpose back in college. But my question to any other NASCAR fan using Chantix is do you frequently have nightmares about finding Tim Brewer in your garage? He’s just creepy.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Kasey Kahne not only missed the Chase, but offered some pretty convincing evidence why he wouldn’t have had a chance, anyway, slumping to a 29th-place performance – four laps off the pace.

Likewise, Mark Martin missed the Chase in pretty convincing fashion this year after making a run at the title in ’09. His 20th-place finish at Richmond was more a symptom than a cause for his missing the “postseason.”

If Martin and Kahne had bad nights, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s was downright catastrophic. He struggled home 34th, six laps off the pace, with no accident damage or mechanical woes to excuse his sorry performance. If the man had any pride rather than just big dollar sponsors and a famous last name, he’d stay home next week and test with the team until the point they can bring a competitive car to the track.

It was a tough weekend for Terry Labonte, who failed to qualify with his new No. 10 Stavola Labonte Chevy, sponsored by Gander Mountain, and then crashed out of the race after buying the No. 55 ride from PRISM Motorsports.

Saturday wasn’t a fine evening for the Brothers Labonte. Terry blew a tire and hit the wall a ton. Bobby watched as his car set itself ablaze during a pit stop. There comes a time when former champions need to head off into the sunset, keeping their dignity rather than drive for teams that couldn’t put together a cold bologna and mustard sandwich without screwing it up.

Jeff Burton gambled on the rain continuing when everyone else pitted, but I guess RCR needs a better weatherman. (They can have the Wicked Weather Witch of WPVI, Cecily Tynan… but she‘s not very accurate). Racing resumed, and Burton was forced to the pits; he wound up 13th by the end of the race.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Denny Hamlin blew an engine and finished 43rd last weekend at Atlanta but rebounded nicely with a win at Richmond. As such, he enters this Chase foolishness first in the standings as well, courtesy a nice little 391-point gift from Brian France compared to the “Classic“ (read: legitimate) points system. Remember when everyone decided Hamlin and the No. 11 team had written off this season after he elected to get knee surgery – originally planned for after the season – at the end of March?

Saturday was, in fact, a pretty nice evening for the entire Joe Gibbs organization, with all three drivers finishing within the top 5, a first for the outfit since they expanded to three teams.

Greg Biffle only needed one car to fall out of the race to make the Chase, and it’s a good thing he did. The veteran suffered through a less-than-stellar, star-crossed run on Saturday en route to a 32nd-place finish. You know it’s going to be a long night when your helmet starts smoking on the parade laps.

Not even a car designed by his three-year-old daughter, Ella, has been enough to push Gordon over the top and back into the top-5 in a Sprint Cup race these past seven weeks.

Jeff Gordon struggled mightily early in the race, falling a lap off the pace at one point. All things considered, a 12th-place finish wasn’t all that bad, but there was an era when 12th for the No. 24 would have been considered a total disaster.

Worth Noting

  • Almost half (six of fourteen) of Hamlin’s career wins have occurred this season.
  • Kyle Busch (second) has three straight top-5 finishes heading into the Chase.
  • Joey Logano (fourth) scored his first top-5 finish since Martinsville, the sixth race of the season.
  • Jimmie Johnson (third) has back-to-back top 5 finishes for the first time since he won at Sonoma and NHIS. Johnson has led laps in ten of the last eleven races despite an off song summer.
  • Marcos Ambrose (fifth) scored his best Cup finish on an oval.
  • Clint Bowyer (sixth) has three consecutive top-10 finishes coming into the Chase. Clint drives a Chevy. He’s in the Chase. One of the most famous lines from a Chevy Chase movie is “I don’t know why they call it Hamburger Helper, it tastes just fine by itself.” What are the odds?
  • Since winning at Watkins Glen, Juan Pablo Montoya (seventh) hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in the five ensuing races.
  • Carl Edwards (tenth) hasn’t finished worse than twelfth since the Firecracker 400.
  • It’s been seven races since Jeff Gordon managed a top-5 finish.
  • Matt Kenseth (14th) has just one top-5 finish in the last thirteen races. He’s in the Chase, but it might be premature to start printing those Championship T-shirts just yet. Then again, I hope Kenseth wins the title. It was Kenseth’s one-win championship year that convinced Brian France his organization needed to try a different way of crowning a champion back in 2003. Well, the “different way” has turned out to be a major league, yahoo, frickin’ disaster. Maybe a no-win champion would light a fire under France’s considerable butt, getting him to put down the booze and cocktail peanuts instead of preparing for an assault on palm trees on his ride home from Happy Hour to fix this mess. Or, he could step aside and let someone with a lick of sense fix it…
  • The top 10 finishers at Richmond drove four Toyotas, four Chevys, and two Fords. The top Dodge driver was Brad Keselowski in fifteenth.

What’s the Points?

OK, which points are we talking here, real points or Sergeant France’s Lonely Grandstands Broken Parts Club Band’s Chase points?

Here in the real world, obviously Kevin Harvick would still be leading the points by 228 over Kyle Busch and 230 over Jeff Gordon. Anyone who thinks that’s an insurmountable lead with ten races left to run doesn’t know who Alan Kulwicki was. In comparison, current points leader in La-La land points Denny Hamlin would be 381 out of the lead and doubtless be preparing shelf space in his mansion for some lovely parting gifts after the 2010 season, in between frenzied trips to his driveway to make sure his Lexus was locked. How does anyone endure this insanity, Alice? Either the Chase needs to go, or NASCAR needs to start paying for Tums which I am currently swallowing by the fistful. (For those of you for whom I have been too subtle, I don’t much like the Chase. Dr. Hunter Thompson once wrote that the ultimate way to die would be to have the radio fall into the bathtub where you were having a scrub, listening to Gracie Slick belt out the last few lines of White Rabbit… feed your head and whatnot. For me, the ultimate way to die would be to blow a valve hearing Brian France had his CD player tumble into the tub while he listened to Ms. Slick belt out those lines.)

Shake it off, Matt, shake it off. Denny Hamlin now leads the points. (NO HE DOESN’T, NO HE DOESN’T, NO HE DOESN’T) by ten points over Jimmie Johnson. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are a further ten points back tied for third. (What are the odds after all these races? Pretty good if you understand how this underhanded chicanery works.) Five drivers who have failed to win a race: Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, and Clint Bowyer go into the Championship Chase. (I think I just felt a little vomit in my nostrils writing that. To casual fans and non-fans who know me, I am not going to explain how that works at the Wawa tomorrow morning. It’s insane. I admit it. I follow an illegitimate sport. Brian France has bastardized Cup racing to the point it‘s just the WWE without the boobs. And the boobs are probably coming soon. I‘m just wondering where the lions are.)

Ryan Newman was left out of the Chase in thirteenth, a mere 98 points behind twelfth place Greg Biffle. Wow, what a squeaker! Can we re-tally the points from the swimsuit and talent portions of the competition just to be sure that we have a legitimate field of championship contenders? What’s that? Junior got an additional 270 points for his pedal steel banjo version of Led Zep’s Dazed and Confused and is now in the Chase? Seems fair to me.

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 and a half bottles of icy cold Corona. After this summer’s drudgery, that race was a classic.

Next Up – The All-Singing, All-Dancing Chase commences in a week’s time at New Hampshire. Can you feel the almost palpable buzz of excitement as mainstream American pop culture embraces this playoff as an obsession? Nope, me either. NHIS is likely to provide racing almost as exciting as the World’s Quadriplegic Tiddlywinks championship.

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Fact Or Fiction: Which Drivers Have A REAL Shot At Winning The Title?
The Cool-Down Lap: Junior, No. 88 Team Have Fight Club Moment At Richmond
Bubble Breakdown: Conway, Robby Gordon’s Team Still Headed The Wrong Way
Running Their Mouth: Air Guard 400
Nationwide Series Breakdown: Virginia 529 College Savings 250

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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Brians Mom
09/13/2010 12:59 AM

Thanks for the recap Matt. This old time fan was out enjoying one of the last nice nights of the summer with cool brews and friends and did not care about the race, but noticed one 24 fan had brought a tv to the gathering and I caught the last 15 laps before I left. A few years back we would have all been gathered around the tv hootin and hollerin, but now it was just one die hard hoping against all odds that his boy Gordon would pull a rabbit out of the hat, and myself who only paused to see the last 15 laps. Such is the state of Brians Nascar.

As posted by a reader in response to another article on this site, the NFL opener last Thursday set an all time record for TV veiwers. So much for Brians assesment that the economy is keeping fans away from the Nascar broadcasts.

I think if Jimmy Johnson (the head coach) can be the paid spokesman for Extenze and extoll its virtues it should be no problem for Jeff Gordon to claim he shops at Wal-Mart. They could show in the ads that he is just like us, filling his cart with Budweiser, Beanie Weenies and Spam as his wife follows close behind in sweat pants and curlers.

phil h
09/13/2010 01:18 AM

seems like after we lost Dale Sr in 2001,Winston left,Brian France became the fuhrer and Nascar has fallen off the radar.I am fearful for my sport. I just hope someone or something can turn things around in the future.

09/13/2010 01:55 AM

Because I had nothing better to do, I counted how many laps of green flag racing ABC would show before going to commercial.

Every time, ABC would show somewhere between 10 and 15 laps of green flag racing (usually 14), and go to commercial. That’s it.

The longest uninterrupted stretch of green flag racing was the final 22 laps.

Laps at Richmond are around 23 seconds. That’s around 6 minutes of racing, followed by 3 or 4 minutes of commercials, over and over and over.

Though I suppose I should be glad that they interrupted the wall to wall erectile dysfunction commercials with the occasional race break.

Want a reason people aren’t watching? That’s a pretty good reason.

And the Busch race was worse!

09/13/2010 06:37 AM


09/13/2010 08:14 AM

What do you mean, NASCAR doesn’t show off boobs? What about Danica? Oh wait, my bad…

09/13/2010 08:48 AM

Matt’s track prejudice is amazing. This race stunk, and if it were at Chicago or NHIS, he’d be all over it (He’s already detracting from the NHIS race, a week before it happens)

Can’t remember such a boring short track race, and it was easily the worst race of the year. There was no question that Hamlin was going to win by 9 o’clock.

But at least we now have an insight into why he hates NASCAR…they made him drive on hour or two on the Pa. Pike during the week of 9/11…poor baby.

I get all the boob I need from Nascar by reading this column every week! (Sorry…too easy)

Bill B
09/13/2010 09:38 AM

I hope Gordon, Burton, Bowyer, Kenseth or Edwards wins the championship but only if they can do it without winning a race all year. That would be hilarious and further discredit the concept of the chase (ie playoff format) in a sport in which a playoff format does not make sense. The only way I will ever buy into a playoff format in NASCAR is if those that don’t make the chase aren’t on the track once the playoffs start.

09/13/2010 09:56 AM

I was at the race in beautiful richmond and i had a blast. There was a lot of passing and side-by-side racing.

09/13/2010 10:00 AM

NASCAR is in trouble. Too many empty seats.
Inane TV announcing, and not very exciting racing.
I’d like to see them have the “fun” they did when Petty, and his peers were going at it on the track.

09/13/2010 10:15 AM

In this format a driver can win the chumpionship without winning a race.

I was watching the Red Sox on NESN and saw advertising for the New Hampshire “race” behind home plate.(Thank God for NESN and Heidi) is getting people’s selections for the drivers in NEXT YEAR’S CHASE. The end is nigh.

Great article Matt.

09/13/2010 10:52 AM

We see the same commercials over and over again because there aren’t very many companys
willing to sponsor the NASCAR broadcasts anymore .

Thanks to Marty Reid for the every 2 lap up date on where the Hendrick cars were running . Also for the constant shilling for the chase .
Not a bad race , but it was made totally irrelevent by the fixation on the chase . And thats the problem . Any race in the latter part of the season is going to be a step toward making the chase or a step toward winning the chase . The races themselves have become meaningless as races , they’re only regarded as a another stepping stone to the chase . ASnd that , more than any other factor , is responsible for the empty seats at NASCAR races . Since the focus is all about the chase , and since the chase drivers were already seeded ( as Marty Reid repeated ad nauseum ) why bother spending the money to go to the track .

09/13/2010 11:06 AM

I saw a wonderful race Saturday night. It featured plenty of drama with many sentimental favorites in the hunt for the victory, a pass for the win with only a few laps to go, and everyone fighting mightily for every position.

There was heartbreak too as three of the favorites were taken out of contention (two expired motors and a blown tire) after beating their cars up trying desperately to get to the front and handing the win to an underdog in the right place at the right time.

It was the Knoxville Nationals on SPEED and it was on at the same time as the NASCAR race.

Anyone who wonders what happened to NASCAR needs to watch racing like that. These are guys who want to win. They aren’t content to ride around in fourth to get points. There is action all over the track all the time.

Big money, cookie cutter tracks, bland drivers, and aero sensitive cars have ruined NASCAR. Brian’s ill-conceived chase was an answer to a question nobody asked. Phantom debris cautions don’t enhance competition. NASCAR has lost its vision and is trying to put on a “show” rather than a “race”.

It is just a matter of time before some other series has a breakout season and draws attention away from NASCAR. A good, competitive race lasting between two and three hours on a Sunday afternoon is what people want to see. As the IRL found out, it is a slippery slope to irrelevance once you get knocked off the top.

Carl D.
09/13/2010 11:21 AM

I’m going to go out on a limb here and pick Jimmy Johnson to win the Championship. Okay, I admit it’s a short limb, but Johnson has the last 4 Cup trophys, and until someone else can figure out a way to beat him in the Chase, he’s got to be considered the favorite.

Denny will choke again, as usual, and Kyle Busch will probably get some payback from Keselowski that will cost him the championship (at least I hope so). Harvick has a legitimate shot, but I’m afraid he’ll come up a little short in the end. The rest are all pretenders, sorry.

For the record, I’m no Jimmy Johnson fan, but I am a realist.

09/13/2010 11:54 AM

Once again, if Matt M. didn’t think of it first, it isn’t worth thinking about.

One more thing—somsbody had to drag “Old Dale” into the conversation. How was it that NASCAR ever developed (or survived) before him? He was just another good race driver—and there have been many. I’ve been around long enough to remember the sport before DE, and after him. Everything changes; get over it.

09/13/2010 11:55 AM

My review? I fell asleep twice. Then just went to bed at lap 20 to go.

So, 5 people in the chase with out a race win.

All that talk about Point leader Harvick for the past month and a half.

They think we are stupid. Anyone with a brain knew he was not going to stay on top come the shuffle.

NA$CAr dot CON showed a side by side breakdown of the points that I can’t find now.

How is JJ #2? I know he had 5 wins but the other factors were low. DNFs etc.

“Doctor my brain hurts”

Bill B
09/13/2010 12:19 PM

My point is that it is often cited that one of the main reasons for the chase was a reaction to Matt Kenseth winning the championship with only one win (2003 I think).
So if someone finds a way to win the championship without winning a race it will make NASCAR’s management look stupid. That will bring a smile to my face because I thing the chase is the worst business decisions since New Coke (and the ratings and attendence decline would support that argument).

09/13/2010 12:26 PM

I have my plan for the Chase this fall. While watching the real Mr. Excitement Miles Austin show his speed on Sundays, once in awhile I will look over on the shelf at my #28 Fred Lorenzen diecast and think about the real cars and drivers of the past.

09/13/2010 01:08 PM

How was it that NASCAR ever developed (or survived) before him?

Teach – you bring up a pretty good point; but, there is one flaw – Earnhardt was essentially the face of NASCAR during the early cable television years, as NASCAR started to develop a marketing campaign farther out than the South (mid-80’s), and as the internet started to really take off. It wasn’t that NASCAR couldn’t survive without him; but, they were totally able leverage the new technologies to grow with him.

He was at the height of his successes as a driver during this time, and this made him recognizable to many people – whether they were race fans or not. I think Dale Earnhardt (and his contemporaries) all represent the last link to a generation where racing was more than a vocation – it was a passion. And that came across loud and clear to anyone that was starting to pay attention to the sport. Maybe there are plenty of drivers who would still race “for a box of donuts”, but I have a hard time figuring out who those drivers are.

09/13/2010 01:11 PM

Fred Lorenzen? Didnt he cheat in the 1904 olympic marathon? This is an autoracing forum… not people racing. Come on man!

09/13/2010 01:42 PM

NASCARTuna – Fred Lorenzen was known as the “golden boy” of NASCAR. He raced in the 1960’s up through around 1972. He raced a lot of things, but I don’t think he was a marathoner in 1904 since he wasn’t born then.

And so as the wheel turns, once again NASCAR fans will be treated to the nonsense that is the chase for the chumps. Obviously if you are a 48 fan, you’re in hog heaven, but for me, its just bogus and like you, Matt, I don’t plan to try and explain this farce to my friends.

I don’t know how much racing I’ll watch on TV. Richmond wasn’t that exciting, at least not based on what little we saw on TV in between the many many commercials. Bored now.

Bill B
09/13/2010 01:45 PM

I don’t think it’s any secret that a substantial number of the late 90’s early 2000’s fans were more loyal to Earnhardt the man than NASCAR the institution.
With his untimely death, NASCAR was going to face a challenge regardless of what they did. Which makes it all the more idiotic that they decided to make so many changes between 2003 and 2006 (COT, chase, top 35, lucky dog, Darlington, etc.) when their main goal should have been to keep as many of the Earnhardt loyalist. By making so many changes and announcing their desire to abandon the southern “redkneck” roots, they basically gave anyone sitting on the fence the nudge they needed to move on.
Earnhardt wasn’t bigger than NASCAR but he certainly was what made NASCAR big.
BTW, I was never an Earnhardt fan (I was a Gordon fan) so this is a somewhat objective opinion.

Kevin in SoCal
09/13/2010 01:46 PM

Matt said: “Here in the real world, obviously Kevin Harvick would still be leading the points by 228 over Kyle Busch and 230 over Jeff Gordon. Anyone who thinks that’s an insurmountable lead with ten races left to run doesn’t know who Alan Kulwicki was.”

And how many times in NASCAR’s history has a driver come back from being 200+ points down and won the Championship? Everyone points to 1992, but I’d bet the reason why you remember it so fondly is because it was such a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I’d much rather see the points separated by no more than 60, than see one guy run away with it by 200+ year after year.
Actually, I’d rather see the Chase be 5 drivers, 5 races, have at it boys, but I’ve beat that drum only slightly less often than you’ve beaten the “I hate the Chase” drum.

Bill B
09/13/2010 01:51 PM

Kevin in SoCal,
I think they should reset the points after every race.

09/13/2010 01:52 PM

“The Texas event will be a groundbreaking event in that two full points-paying races will be held on the same weekend.”

That is incorrect. There will be 2 half distance races that equal what one event would be, and each race pays half points. They are counted as 2 seperate events, but are only worth half.

Kevin from PA
09/13/2010 02:41 PM

Thanks for the racing recap, Matt. Here in SW PA, NASCAR has been reduced to page 7 of the local news.

Sorry Brian France but your beloved Chase is getting beat by the 235th news report on a backup QB. I don’t think NASCAR is even mentioned on the 5, 6, or 10 o’clock news either except for a 10 second who-won blurb.

(As a side note: Listened to Mike and Mike this morning. Unless I missed it, I don’t think they mentioned NASCAR at all. Rather sad when a key program basically ignores a sport that is carried by their own company.)

Brians Mom
09/13/2010 04:00 PM

“And how many times in NASCAR’s history has a driver come back from being 200+ points down and won the Championship? Everyone points to 1992, but I’d bet the reason why you remember it so fondly is because it was such a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

And that is the exact reason it was so special, and why we will talk about it forever. I would compare it to the 1980 hockey win over the Russians, another once in a lifetime event.

In SoCal Kevins world everything would be bland vanilla pudding pops and no one would remember by next season. I’ll take the chance of a 500 point blowout so when someone does make a huge points comeback it’s something special to remember.

09/13/2010 05:33 PM


4 and a half beers!?
Thats pretty funny, because thats how many beers we spilled after we fell asleep as we nodded of during the WORST RACE OF THE YEAR
That race sucked!!!!!!
If that was a cookie cutter track, you whould have rated it 1 beer at the most. Good god, lets get a little more realistic here!
Maybe you drank 4 and a half beers before the race started and your vision was a little blurry. No Matt, that wasnt 2 wide racing at the end, just a bunch of follow the leader racing on a big old conveyor belt track.

09/13/2010 05:50 PM

It was a good race. No fake cautions means it was a real race. I could care less if there are only 3 cars on the lead lap, not unusual at the main event at your local short track.

As a huge open wheel fan, I think it’s great the Izod Indy Car Series (not the IRL, a term no longer used) has told ISC to take a walk. ISC’s problems in marketing Indy cars is similar to their problems understanding what made Nascar great. Good riddance. The funniest part of it is, ISC built all these cookie cutter 1.5 mile tracks to help accomodate open wheel cars. In reality, open wheel fans don’t have alot of use for those tracks, just look at the attendance numbers. Now, Nascar is left to run on those tracks, Indy isn’t there, and Nascar has abandoned the tracks that made the sport, Rockingham, 2 at Darlington, North Wilksborough, the old Nashville track, 2 at Atlanta.

What would the ideal schedule be? If I was in charge, Darlington, Rockingham, Loudon, Daytona, Homestead, Talladega, Atlanta, Charlotte, Texas, North Wilksborough, Martinsville, Richmond, Phoenix, Bristol, the Old Nashville Fairgrounds, Pike’s Peak reopened, St. Louis (gateway), Milwaukee, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta, Road America and the new F1 track in Austin, Texas. Throw in a couple of one off old school short tracks like Myrtle Beach and Hickory.

Sorry for all the areas with the new cookie cutter tracks. Tear them up and build something cool instead.

09/13/2010 06:15 PM

didn’t watch. tried, pre-race was interrupted by college football, then when i came on, i lost interest. then i saw jr sink faster than a boat anchor i laughed. flipped to other channels, woke up at 11, didn’t even look to see who won, figured it would be hamlin or ky busch.

i guess brain fart will make change to the chase format to include the top 20 drivers in points to give jr a fighting chance to make chase next year, the 4th year of his 5 yr contract with hendrick.

too much talk about chase and constant updating, too many shrews following the na$car script.

sad, i’ve completely lost interest in a sport i so passionately lived and followed for 30 yrs.

Chris Evans
09/13/2010 06:39 PM

I read somewhere that something like 226 of the 400 laps were shown on TV of the cup race. That would have been great in 1976. Now that is pretty pathetic. I agree with the comments above on how inept the announcing and TV production has become. That is killing NASCAR at about the same rate as the mediocre races and driver personalities.

09/13/2010 07:19 PM

When the Yankees win their division by 17 games MLB doesn’t change the rules.

When a football team clinches their division with four games left in a 16 game season, the NFL doesn’t change the rules.

When a golfer wins a major by 15 strokes (Volcano is getting excited), the PGA doesn’t change the rules.

09/13/2010 07:58 PM

Last week at Atlanta, Nascar tried to keep Jr. on the lead lap, while Rick was trying to bury him in mid-pack. This week Rick established that he runs Nascar. Mark Martin, his garage mate, also ended up 2 laps down. He is also R&Ding. HMS wants JJ to win his 5th championship, 5 in a row to set a record that will be hard to beat, and HMS is behind other teams, so all resources will be going to making that happen. Even JG went down a lap. Only JJ was up front. Can you imagine Jr. having these problems if Chad or Addington were his cc…? Not a chance! Jr. said in an interview on Friday that all resources would go to JJ’s win. This is just the way it is going to be. Contrary to what some folks who call themselves reporter/journalists keep repeating, Jr. is not in a ‘deep emotional abyss’, but handling the reality of the situation he has been trapped in by Rick with a great deal of maturity & responsibility. He is rationally analyzing where he is & what are reasonable expectations, and will be, for the next 2 1/3 years, unless the Lord intervenes. :) Why drop into a deep funk? I would love to see Dr. Phil fairly analyze what is going on at HMS. Have you ever heard of the 25/88 R&D car running competitively for a championship…? If Rick wanted Jr. winning, he would be. I am praying for the Lord to intervene. :)

09/13/2010 11:10 PM

MaryBeth the alien from planet AMP continues posting delusional excuses for Dale Jr. Really think God cares where Jr. finishes in a race? At Richmond Dale Jr. used his God given average at best talent and drove it hard in a “Danica Patrick Type Performance”. Starting 8th and racing to the rear, Jr. finished 34th, 6 laps behind the winner. Now 80 races without a Na$crap assisted win.

old gal from socal
09/13/2010 11:16 PM

“Sergeant France’s Lonely Grandstands Broken Parts Club Band”

The 2nd best line of the weekend! The first came from my husband, regarding the 18 during Saturday’s NNS race when KB left his pit with equipment: “When you drive a pink car and wear a pink suit you should expect something to get stuck up your butt.”

09/15/2010 05:50 PM

Sounds like if you saw the race in person, it wasn’t a bad race. But because ESPN decided to show only the leaders lap after lap, everyone who watched it on TV thought is sucked.

ESPN obviously doesn’t care about Nascar once their bread and butter sports (college football and NFL) start. Now Nascar is just a time filler for them, judging by the amount of promos they showed during the race for those 2 sports.

NASCAR made their bed by accepting all that tv money from them, and now the fan has to suffer through the rest of this contract. ESPN is a good reason why this sport is on the decline. They stick to a script (for racing?), talk about the Chase ad nausiam (sp?), and the JJ show, and its only going to get worse starting this weekend. Those remotes are going to get alot of work switching from NASCAR to football this weekend.