The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2011 Bud Shootout Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday February 14, 2011

Go to site navigation Go to article

Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2011 Bud Shootout Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday February 14, 2011


The Key Moment – On the final lap, Denny Hamlin made an ill-considered move to dip (well, hell, actually he dove headfirst) below the yellow line coming to the stripe, cementing the win for Kurt Busch.

Kurt Busch holds up a special one-finger salute to his first Bud Shootout win, a surprising upset that also represented his first victory on a restrictor plate track during the maiden voyage for new Penske Racing sponsor Shell-Pennzoil.

In a Nutshell – I haven’t heard of a two-by-two procession like this since Noah loaded the ark.

Dramatic Moment – Well, four cars racing off of turn four to the checkered flag was pretty intense. Too bad only one of them was racing.

A close runner-up: Waiting to see if the back straight lights were going to go out again Saturday as they did in Friday night’s second round of practice for the race. At the time, four cars were passing by at full speed, locked up at over 200 MPH before getting blinded. Even a normally droll Matt Kenseth was discussing taping flashlights to the hood of his car just in case.

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

Are we due another eleventh hour rules change this week reducing the size of the restrictor plates? NASCAR officialdom tends to brown their drawers when speeds exceed 200 MPH at Daytona or Talladega in particular and we’re well north of that now; on Saturday night, Michael Waltrip reportedly turned a lap in excess of 206. The rules change to limit cooling ducts to the engine was supposed to limit the amount of time one driver could push the car in front of him without overheating, but there was no evidence of that working Saturday night. A major, last minute rules change isn’t unprecedented in this former sport; remember the “no bump drafting” rule instituted at the drivers’ meeting at Talladega in the Fall of ’09?

Editor’s Note: As of Sunday night, NASCAR did institute two new rules which, despite not involving the restrictor plates should still curb the use of these two-car drafts going forward. Now, the maximum size of the air inlet for the cooling system will be 2½ inches tall by 20 inches wide, while the pressure release valve on the water system will be set at 33 pounds per square inch. Combined, these changes will (in theory) keep the cars from being able to lock together in the fashion they did Saturday night by causing them to overheat. Stay tuned…

OK, I just don’t get it. NASCAR schedules a major four-day test on Daytona’s new track surface this winter. The teams come and dutifully participate. Some outfits, unhappy with their results, take the test data, go back to the shop, and build a new car to fit the rules and the new track surface. In the case of the No. 48 bunch, they built not one but two new cars looking for speed given the new reality of the two-car draft being fastest. Then, the teams actually arrive at Daytona and NASCAR decides it’s time to change the cooling package on the cars, the sort of change that would usually lead to a flurry of wind tunnel tests. So why hold a test at all? If NASCAR folks didn’t know that speeds with the new cars and surface were going to be north of 200 MPH, they must have been partying with J.C. France during the test.

There were nothing but raves about the new smooth and grippy track surface at DIS. It would seem that Goodyear has brought the perfect tire for the new surface as well. But I can’t help but feel that an opportunity was squandered here. While they had the old asphalt – which looked like the parking lot of an old steel mill abandoned generations ago – torn up they could have lowered the banking ten degrees, dropping the speeds and helping ensure no cars could get airborne enough to enter the grandstands.

Well, if they haven’t figured out how to sell tickets again (and to be fair, there looked to be a pretty fair crowd on hand Saturday night for the Shootout) Daytona management has at least found a way to make the stands look fuller. The multi-color lower grandstand seats give an impression at speed that those empty seats are full.

Valentine’s Day came early on the NASCAR circuit Saturday night, drivers coupling up in drafts of two cars apiece to produce one of the more bizarre superspeedway races of the restrictor plate era.

Give credit where credit is due. This year’s iteration of the Car of Sorrow “stock car” with its new front end does, in fact, look more like a car. But it still doesn’t look very “stock.”

OK, so where do you and your buds stand on this “new” form of racing at Daytona? (That’s what the comments section below this article is for.) I’m not completely sold on this two-by-two form of racing, armed with a closing rate of 20 MPH+ on a single car ahead but I like it better than the big packs of the last few years where driver skill and car prep had little to do with the outcome of the race. On the flip side, Monte Dutton of the Gaston Gazette declared Saturday night’s race a “farce” and went on to say it was a “stupid ending to a stupid race.” I’ve got a ton of respect for Dutton as a straight talker. So is this new formation flying better or worse than what we had, gentle readers?

I am not the brightest bulb on the tree but I don’t get it. Sure, it’s nice Daytona has lights, but the Bud Shootout is held on Saturday evening, a traditionally slow ratings night, when a majority of fans could arrange to be home Saturday afternoon to watch it in daylight. In comparison, the Twin 150 qualifying races, typically two of the more competitive races of the year are run on Thursday afternoon when a majority of fans at home will be at work. Even a lot of those traveling to the race won’t have arrived yet…

Well, it didn’t take long for Darrell Waltrip to find a way to earn a big check from his friends at Toyota with the annoying new “tattoo” commercial. Of course, the Toyota folks realized if he shoots a commercial with them, DW will be plugging the “Furrin‘” cars incessantly for the whole FOX portion of the season rather than showing any bare modicum of journalistic detachment. But if I were DW, I’d get what looks like a melanoma beside his left eye in the commercial looked at before too long.

To help fans with brand identification with the “universal” new cars, manufacturers might want to quadruple the thickness of the carmaker logos on the front bumper. With the new package, they’re worn away to illegible in ten laps. By the way, it’s good to see the rules change has also added fake foglight decals to the front of Cup cars. Do they have a fake foglight switch decal on the dash, too?

Doesn’t ESPN love us anymore? They’ve consigned this spring’s Richmond Nationwide race to SPEED so they can cover the NFL draft. The draft? Come on, it isn’t even a game.

It looks worse on some color cars than others, but this new apparently mandatory lime green “American Ethanol” logo around the car’s fuel fillers just isn’t attractive. As it is, it’s been pretty well proven that using corn to produce ethanol takes more energy than it produces and is increasing global hunger plus the national debt with all the subsidies for the industry. (Has the AARP gotten that memo yet, Jeff?)

The latest troubling trend in the battle between wealthy Cup teams and those struggling to get by? Hendrick teams this year will bring two full pit crews per car, a first and second-string crew, just in case the “A” team falters like they did several times last year for the No. 48 bunch. This way, they don’t actually have to swap crews like the 48 and 24 did last year in the Chase. Didn’t NASCAR try to cut costs by limiting the number of credentials any one team was issued for individual events? At least maybe it gives all those unemployed catch can guys a new lease on a job…

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Denny Hamlin had a second-place finish in hand but took the chance going for the win and strayed below the yellow line. I do have a ton of respect for his decision not to try to force Newman high, which likely would have ended up with a car in the catch fence. Hopefully Brad Keselowski was watching.

A blown engine in the race’s first segment wasn’t exactly what Kasey Kahne was hoping for Saturday night driving Red Bull Racing’s No. 4.

Kasey Kahne’s first full season with Red Bull Racing got off to an inauspicious start with mechanical woes long before the first intermission.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. started from the pole (I find it laughable some folks say he “won the pole” by correctly choosing a red bottle) but his night ended early after losing an argument over real estate with Carl Edwards and Regan Smith.

Tony Stewart survived his wreck with Michael Waltrip relatively unscathed but suffered radio problems all evening that kept him from making a late-race charge. He wound up 11th.

Michael Waltrip’s presumably last Speedweeks as a driver got off to a slow start after contact from Stewart destroyed the No. 15 car in the second segment. Speaking of Waltrip, I hear he’s written a book. I didn’t know the iPad accepted crayon input.

Kyle Busch’s car was clearly one of the fastest but he got turned by a repentant Mark Martin. It’s not often Martin wrecks out a competitor.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Bobby Gerhart won his seventh ARCA race at Daytona Saturday afternoon. To put that in perspective, Gerhart has won eight ARCA races total in his career. And you’re wondering why an 18-year-old kid was afraid to try to pass him?

Kurt Busch seemed more surprised than anybody he’d won the race.

The Roush Camp in particular and the Ford camp in general haven’t had much to cheer about so far this Speedweeks, but Greg Biffle’s fifth-place finish in the Shootout and Trevor Bayne’s third-place qualifying effort in the Wood Brothers car might indicate things could get better for the Blue Ovals later this week.

Worth Noting

  • While Kevin Harvick missed scoring his third consecutive Shootout win, Busch carried the Shell/Pennzoil colors into Victory Lane a third time.
  • Jamie McMurray was the only driver to score top-5 finishes in the 2010 and 2011 Shootouts.

What’s the Points? – This race is pointless… and increasingly so each year.

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 give it two cans of Bud. It was an intriguing race even if it wasn’t a particularly good one.

Next Up – The Daytona 150 Qualifiers run Thursday, and based on Saturday night it ought to be rather tense with the new rules package. So they say Chevy (and even GM brass say it’s OK to use that abbreviated form of “Chevrolet” again) “Runs Deep?” Let’s just hope they don’t fly high when crossed up in a wreck heading to the checkered flag.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Heartbreak On Valentine’s Day: Can New Rules Tear Apart NASCAR ‘Couples?’
Access ARCA: On ARCA’s Grandest Stage, Bobby Gerhart’s Performance One of Mastery
The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same: Daytona, Latest Example
Running Their Mouth: 2011 Budweiser Shootout
Fact or Fiction: Did New Asphalt, Earnhardt Come Through In The Clutch?

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Bad Wolf
02/14/2011 03:27 AM

The 2 car draft is Nascars version of Pro Wrasslins’ tag teams, and I predict major carnage from it next week after watching how well it worked Saturday night. Anymore the Nascar rulemakers remind me of a bunch of monkeys in a room full of footballs with their childlike band-aid fixes. Over 20 years of frustration and 20 years of trying and they still can’t fix the temperary solution called the restrictor plates.

I predict Nascar will look foolish once again as the overflows spew steam and engines expire from overheating, and we may well see a fusilade of beer cans tossed on the track when Jr’s mill expires from being stuck back in the draft with yet another ill handling car.

Anyone else notice how Fox missed a lot of the live on track action as they were showing us replays of what happened while they were away on commercial break or showing us Digger? At least Larry Mac gave us a break from his usually lame “Pull dem belts tight one more time” schtik, but ol DW still had to give us his triple B claim to fame at the drop of the green.

I noticed Saturday night they were advertising tickets are still available for Nascars Superbowl. Funny, I didn’t see ads for tickets to the NFL’s superbowl advertised during the Bears-Packers game.

R.I.P. Tom Carnigie. You were the voice of Indy and there will never be another like you.

02/14/2011 06:32 AM

Matt, it’s time to stop dissing Brad for Carl’s swerving across three lanes of traffic. Brad did exactly what he should have, as per NA$CAR’s rules. He maintained his line, and won a race for a true underdog team. Blame Carl, NA$CAR, and blocking for Carl ending up in the fence.

As for the rest of your column, thanks for the update. I (as usual) refuse to watch the train wreck that NA$CAR is, and I was sure that I wouldn’t miss anything important. It would seem that I was right.

Finally, in NA$CAR’s defense (I feel dirty just saying that), it’s wasn’t possible to lower the banking in the time that they had to repave the track. Between July and February, the would have had to remove the old asphalt, adjust the banking, add new walls and safer barriers, pave the track again, and adjust the lights.
It would require more than a year to do all of that, and you know that they would never close any ISC track for a year, much less Daytona or Talladega, their only two action producing tracks.

OK, randy “need one more?”, “volcanonacho”, “DansMom”, JACOB goldman, if you have anything retarded to add under my name, now is your chance.

Bill B
02/14/2011 07:44 AM

Since I am not a fan of restrictor plate races I can only say that the two car draft isn’t much better than the large packs. As long as you can only go fast with the help of other competitors I will never like RP racing. I will say this, I found the two car break away deal less exciting to watch than the large pack racing. It was probably more fun for the drivers though. I still feel the RP races are crapshoots and I didn’t see anything Saturday night to change that opinion.

02/14/2011 08:36 AM

That “race”…. there are no words. Well, maybe one, awful. Just another by product of what Cup racing is today; NASCAR makes rules to stay in control of “the product” and race teams figure ways around them bringing all sorts of new rules and undesirable results.

Michael Pittenger
02/14/2011 08:43 AM

I pay no attention to off season changes. When I watched the shoot out I had no idea there was going to be two car drafting.
I did “laugh out loud” when I saw the two car packs running around the track. It looked silly.
Also, what happened to the catch can guys?

02/14/2011 09:02 AM

Yeah, RG, that was exciting… if you like wheel-barrow racing. Old school racing ? Hardly. Good article, Matt, keep ‘em coming.

02/14/2011 09:58 AM

I thought the Bud “shootout” was a complete waste of my night. I was looking forward to seeing the cars on the track again and boy was I disappointed with the “2 car tango” BS.

Plus Fox was a mess. They missed everything as it happened, we saw it all in replay. Based on this, I don’t plan to watch the entire 500 mile debacle on Sunday – unless it’s raining or snowing in NJ – I can watch the first 10, stop by once in a while to catch up and then watch the last 20 and not waste my entire day having to listen to DW blather on about Junyah or toyotas.

Doug (wis)
02/14/2011 10:15 AM

Randy…sorry, but your comments always seem clueless.

02/14/2011 10:21 AM

Looked like a street stock buddy race where they chain the cars together. Make it interesting, add a Figure 8 track. Lead changes mean nothing at the big tracks, just some hype to drive the sport..sorry , that stat means nothing at all. At least they didn’t show the “If the race ended now, who would be in the chase crap, thanks FOX. Why the football lead in music?

Bill B
02/14/2011 10:24 AM

RE: “Still don’t understand why people don’t like this kind of racing. It’s unpredictable, it’s exciting, there are lead changes, there’s action, big wrecks, strategy, high speeds. What more do you want?”

Your definition of good racing seems reasonable on the surface but since most fans know the only reason that is happening is because of the restrictor plates we can’t pretend to be excited about it. Restrictor plates makes the whole thing contrived and fixed to many of us. People don’t like to waste their time when they feel that the “sport” of the event is being compromised in the name of entertainment. I don’t want a crapshoot I want the best cars/drivers/teams be able to beat the crap out of those who aren’t the best. You watch, at Daytona and Talladega, drivers that quickly fall off the lead lap in 90% of the races will be able to stay within a few seconds of the leaders as long as they don’t lose the draft.
Personally, I can’t accept a rules package that allows that to happen.
The only thing worse about RP racing is that someone can purposely ride around at the back to avoid the big one until late in the race and then “make their move” and still win it. You tell me one track other than Daytona and Talladega where that is possible. Anywhere else you lose a lap real quick if you decide to ride around at the back until the last 50 laps.

Doug (wis)
02/14/2011 10:37 AM

The new two car drafts are kind of interesting with the added speed,etc. But its not really racing unless the car in back actually tries to pass once in a while, not just let go by from the buddy to get car cooled down. Racing is not buddy-buddy. I would really like to see Brian France and Mike Helton put on helmits and race the season. Then we can have a rookie of the year again.

The Mad Man
02/14/2011 10:59 AM

What we saw was similar to “chain racing”, which is what Bob referred to. It’s not a big draw at the local tracks either. So if this is the path NA$CAR wants to go down, then they had best be ready for another Monte Dutton saying. Fans disguised as seats.

It sure was strange seeing ads for Martinsville during the Shootout. Is NASCAR really in that dire of straits that they still have tickets availble for the 500 and have to advertise for Martinsville before the first official race has been run?

phil h
02/14/2011 11:17 AM

I’ll have to agree with Randy on this one.I’d rather see them 2×2×2 20 deep or even a freight train of 12×12 side by side than be scattered out here and there with half the field way off the pace,and then be praying for a caution to bunch the field back up.

It ain’t perfect,but it is what it is.The racin’ is exciting,didn’t you hear the drivers saying how much fun they were having! That’s a good sign! or at least I think it is.

02/14/2011 11:32 AM

I don’t see what’s wrong with the 2 car draft. Its a little more like the old days and its a hell of a lot better than a 30 car parade like we’ve seen since 1989.

02/14/2011 11:32 AM

to answer Matt’s question “where do you and your buds stand on this “new” form of racing at Daytona?:”
I can’t find anyone here at work who watched it.

Bill B
02/14/2011 12:24 PM

Hak J Kim,
The drivers don’t get tickets because the cops can’t catch them. The police vehicles can only go 120-130 mph, while the cars on the track are going 200mph.

Bill B
02/14/2011 12:29 PM

Viva la Resistance!

Settle down Beavis.

Don Mei
02/14/2011 12:32 PM

Can you hear the sound of one hand clapping? Does a wet bird fly at night??

02/14/2011 12:33 PM

The “racing” Saturday night was the most boring race I have seen in a long time. Maybe they could just eliminate the driver in the pushing car and control both throttles from the front car. Sunday’s race ought to be real exciting especially for the odd man out. There will be 21 packs of 2 cars with 1 left over.

Carl D.
02/14/2011 01:39 PM

“Matt, it’s time to stop dissing Brad for Carl’s swerving across three lanes of traffic. Brad did exactly what he should have, as per NA$CAR’s rules. He maintained his line, and won a race for a true underdog team. Blame Carl, NA$CAR, and blocking for Carl ending up in the fence.” – Jacob


02/14/2011 02:48 PM

Bill B, great post!

RandyG, I don’t consider myself one of your “haters” and I did NOT like the racing. I’m with Bill B – excellent assessment

02/14/2011 02:54 PM

Not a huge fan of the two-car style of racing, but I’ll see what we end up with on Sunday. The 500 has a pretty good record of living up to its own hype.

What else they’ll be talking about: due to a bad rule at plate races, the car who crossed the finish line first didn’t win. (Also, it looked to me like Hamlin was past Newman before diving under the line, which isn’t a yellow line violation anyway… but I’m sure someone will have a yellow line column this week.)

No spin
02/14/2011 04:05 PM

matt the corn put More carbon in the air NOT LESS

02/14/2011 05:19 PM

Susan – The only problem with your theory is that Nascar couldn’t organize a gang splash in a whore house.

Sharon J
02/14/2011 05:25 PM

I would not call it racing. Awful. It all depends on who you happen to get attached to your bumper and no chance to change. That is luck, not racing.

02/14/2011 05:31 PM

Thanks for coming back for another season Matt, really enjoy your columns. Racing was okay, I really can’t say it was great or terrible in the little taste we got Saturday night. On a different note, did I hear this correct, “only two cars per 150 race will be racing for a place in the 500”? As a long time fan I have to say that the “top 35” rule is really taking the excitement out of speed weeks. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Jeff Meyer FS staff
02/14/2011 06:47 PM

Bob said… “Why the football lead in music?”

I’m glad I’m not the ONLY one who noticed that!!!! I thought that was pretty laughable and pathetic too!!!! Just shows Fox’s and nascar’s desparation!!!!!

Moe Foe
02/14/2011 07:00 PM

The only thing ‘bad’ about NASCAR is reading the above drivel by all you ijits. It is racing! If Richard and Cale coulda kept their cars in line, they woulda raced two-by-two also. Whether its 2-paks or 36-paks, it’s still restrictor plate racing, and is different than the whiry-gig of Bristol.

If ya don’t like this racing, SHUT OFF THE TV, go outside, and do something else. there will be a race next week that you MIGHT like. If more than 6 races a season make you upset, you might consider Monster trucks, THAT might be more to your liking.

NASCAR is a marathon, always has been. If it bores you, watch something else…it may be above your attention span.

02/14/2011 07:06 PM

Matt, “Dale Earnhardt, Jr. started from the pole (I find it laughable some folks say he “won the pole” by correctly choosing a red bottle)”. You probably found his winning the ‘500’ Pole laughable too.

02/14/2011 07:58 PM

Good column Matt & geez do you people have a life or what??..3, maybe 4 posts were from fans who watched the race, Damn people, If you don’t like Matt or Nascar stay the F**k away & let the rest of us conversate about the column…

02/14/2011 08:29 PM

I seem to recall Donnie and Cale pulling away in a two car draft in 1979 to settle the 500 themselves. Look how that turned out. Too bad some of these posters never saw races from the seventies and sixties.

02/14/2011 09:10 PM

Get used to the Football Music. FOX is using it on all sports packages. Started during the World Series last year.

Matt good column, the permanent 2-pack is teh suck as far as I am concerned!
Chris in TX
02/14/2011 10:12 PM

I thought the Shootout was interesting to watch. Can’t really say I’ve seen anything like that with the plates before. I think that NASCAR’s doing the right thing by trying to make it work less, without taking it away. The 2 car hookup should be a tool, not a magic bullet. I think with warmer weather (daytime) for the duel and the 500, it’ll be just that.

The closing rates were insane.

old gal from socal
02/14/2011 10:15 PM

“Wheel barrow racing” Good one, Frank. That hot mess made me yearn for “normal” plate racing. Wow…did I say that out loud?

Bill B
02/15/2011 07:33 AM

I didn’t think they used restrictor plates when Cale and Richard raced.

02/15/2011 08:55 AM

It’s not just football music folks, surely you’ve noticed. The verbal terminological conversion of NASCAR to football began when we put helmets on the teams rather than on the pit crews. We now have out of bounds, overtime, Saturday night we had half-time even though the break in the race was at about the one-third mark. The attempted transition to football has been there for quite a while. The next time you watch a race, if you bother, count the number of times you hear football or other stick-and-ball terminology applied in the commentary.

02/15/2011 09:11 AM

I’ve seen worse racing at Daytona. I think the year they introduced the Taurus, Larry Mac made his comment about cots in the grandstands.

Was it the best? No, and part of me thinks McMurray was sitting back so he could avoid the inevitable wreck.

Same thing will happen next week but will the driver drop below the line?

02/15/2011 04:54 PM

I didn’t like the two car “packs.” It looked silly and reminded me of local short track chain races like a couple have mentioned above. The one thing that stuck out to me right away was during driver announcements how most of the drivers had non-descript black firesuits while a few had their normal colors. Is Fox trying to slip in their non Fox sponsor airbrushing again like they did a few years ago?

Also I wanted to mention this last year. Why do you have to be over 300 lbs to be a pit road official? It looks like “The Biggest Loser” could do an entire season just on NASCAR officials. How does NASCAR afford to fly those behemouths all over the country? Do they have a second plane to carry their luggage?