The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2011 All-Star Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday May 23, 2011

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The Key Moment – Carl Edwards’ crew got him off pit road first after the final mandatory four-tire stop with ten to go. The No. 99 cruised to an All-Star Race victory from there.

In a Nutshell – For all the pre-race hype concerning bad tempers, revenge, no remorse, paybacks and the gloves being off it was a pretty sedate date at Charlotte Saturday night.

Dramatic Moment – This event was devoid of drama… utterly soulless without a hint of excitement.

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

How in the Hell did we allow the All-Star race to become such a bloated mess? Four hours? You’ve got to be kidding me. The first two Winstons lasted less than an hour. The original concept was simple: Drivers who won a points race the previous season qualified. That’s it; there were no “qualifier” races, past champion provisionals, or Fan Votes to take pity on others. Yet over the years, we have endured such gimmicks as field inversions, a do-over when Jeff Gordon wrecked in the rain, and giant pachinko machines. Can we trim the fat, please, and get back to a single 50-lap race for drivers who won a race the previous season that’s over in ninety minutes? Either that, or let’s just enjoy another weekend off.

Can you imagine if Edwards had actually managed to get his car over on the roof, as he felt it might end up while celebrating a victory? You know there’s something to be said for just driving to Victory Lane without the histrionics as if you expected to end up there.

Maybe they should have had *another fan vote Saturday night:*seeing what percentage of people wanted to use the giant remote to watch something else on the giant TV by the midway point of the All-Star Race.

An absolute minimal rule change I’d recommend if they want to continue this silliness next year: abandon the rule that requires all teams to stop for four tires prior to the final ten-lap segment.

I think I’ve had meaningful relationships that lasted a shorter period of time than driver introductions Saturday night.

So why wasn’t there more physical racing, fist fights and other such hooliganism Saturday night? As a crew chief once explained to me the afternoon before a Winston, “We don’t need that car next week, but I gotta have my driver in one piece and ready to go.”

Wow, what were the odds? Somehow Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made the field for the main event based on the fan vote. That was twice I was shocked out of my boots on Saturday. First, Junior made the field. Secondly that right-wing, media savvy nut job was wrong and the world, in fact, did not end; it just felt like it during driver introductions. (For the record, had the world ended at 6 PM Saturday the Motor Company would have been providing the Sweet Chariot to carry me home. I was somewhere north of Eagle on 100 at the time.)

The tedium wasn’t confined to Saturday, either. Friday, Kyle Busch won another Truck race with ease. If you didn’t see that coming, seek a second opinion from a passenger before driving through any railroad crossings. Clint Bowyer’s frustrated comments over the radio after the race were priceless.

Though it was a SPEED event (though it was hard not to notice all the cameras said “FOX” on the side) Saturday night’s event might have been a preview of on the on-air and pre-race lineup for FOX going into the future. That just makes me shudder in horror. We’re stuck with these Bozos through at least 2014.

OK, I’m off topic (and that’s never happened before) but this drives me nuts. Why doesn’t that moron cowboy in the Viagra ad just engage four-wheel drive in his Dodge to pull out of mud that is barely rim deep? Sure, unloading the horses is a more practical solution. Absolutely. And don’t even get me started on the idea of pouring ice cold water into the radiator of a badly overheated Camaro. It’s not like that would crack a head or blow a head gasket. And there’s no sense in checking for a blown hose, leaking water pump or stuck thermostat while you’re under the hood, right? You’re only driving back into the desert in a 42-year-old car, vulture-bait.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

So Edwards wins the race with nary a scratch on the No. 99 car, but still manages to tear the front end completely out from underneath it with a celebratory spin through the grass after the win?

Kasey Kahne had a solid run going when he slipped up and nailed the wall.

Brad Keselowski lost his brakes early in the main event and was forced behind the wall.

Kurt Busch endured yet another one of those nights with a bad pit stop and a penalty for having his crew come over the wall too early. At one point, Busch was suggesting to his spotter he go have a boat drink. (I think a lot of folks at Penske South better hope the Captain wins the Indy 500. If he doesn’t, he’s likely to be in a bad mood this June and clean house in his stock car racing organization.)

A fat lot of good the fan vote did for Dale Earnhardt Jr. His car continued wallowing like a wounded walrus trying to get back to the sea all night long.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Kyle Busch didn’t win the All-Star race but he finally finished one. And the entire Busch family ought to be able to spend a much more pleasant Thanksgiving weekend this year as a result.

David Reutimann was able to capitalize on a spectacular effort by his pit crew on the final stop to drive on to a notable third-place finish.

Greg Biffle skated through several close calls en route to a fifth-place finish.

Jack Roush saw all four of his drivers manage a top 10 result in the big show. (And, as icing on the cake watched Nationwide driver Ricky Stenhouse claim his first win at Iowa on Sunday.)

Worth Noting

  • The top 10 finishers drove four Fords, three Chevys and three Toyotas. Kurt Busch in thirteenth was the top finishing Dodge driver.
  • Tony Stewart was the only driver to post top-5 finishes in the 2010 and 2011 All-Star Race. Stewart has finished in the top 5 in this race in every event since 2007.
  • Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick had top 10 results in this year’s and last year’s All-Star race.
  • Ricky Stenhouse’s Nationwide series win at Iowa Sunday was the first by a series full-timer since Justin Allgaier won at Bristol in March of last year.

What’s the Points? – This race is an exhibition and is pointless… 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) — Give this one two cans for a thoroughly ordinary race. No race was going to live up to the network’s pre-event hype but this one was more sedate than most. Nice TV they built there at Charlotte, though. Will they tune it to Indy for early arrivals next weekend?

Next Up – From one of the shortest events of the year to the longest, the World 600 presented by some soft drink company or another. Oh, and I hear they’re having an open wheel race of some sort in the Midwest as well. Then there’s another open wheel race over in Europe on the streets of some ancient tax haven principality. Yep, Memorial Day weekend is the best weekend to be a race fan. Ladies and gentlemen, start your coffee makers.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
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Stephen HOOD
05/23/2011 06:56 AM

I don’t agree that the All Star race should only include the winners from the previous year. How many cars would that be? 12? Plus, the showdown was the better race. Keselowski’s pass between the grass and Ragan’s #6 was the best move of either race. Giving the knuckleheads a chance to get in the $1,000,000 show creates enough desperation to create some interesting drama.

I do agree with the rest of what you wrote. The All Star was damn boring and the mandatory 4tire at the end eliminated a race winning gamble or other questionable pit strategy. Charlotte is a good track for a long race but doesn’t lend itself to the 25 lap short runs of the All Star, at least with the COT. I’m surprised that the marketing geniuses working for Bruton Smith haven’t developed a more compelling format. 4, three lap shoot outs at the end might produce a more compelling event and give the histrionics that the media and the fans seem to want.

You are probably right that the race needs to go away, although I think there is still a compelling reason to have a few non points races per year.

Bill B
05/23/2011 07:04 AM

Yawn. zzzzzzzz

05/23/2011 07:58 AM

Boring? Two cans for a thorouthly ordinary race? I must have been watching another race then! I thought that race was one of the best All-Star races since 2005. Don’t condemn the race just because your precious Kyle and Jimmie didn’t win and NASCAR’s most hated driver did. It was clean and full of honest racing. This despite that Brainless Brad did his best to wreck David Ragan in the Showdown with his aggressive move. And I think that even Edwards backed off when he came up on the moron when said moron was multi-laps down. Even Carl knew what was on the line. It also shows how much mistrust there is for particular drivers. For the record, I rated this event a full six cans of Rickart’s Red! (One of the best beers available here in Canada).

Overall, Jack Roush has every reason to be smiling right now. One of his drivers won the Showdown, won all four segments of the All-Star Race, AND his Nationwide-only driver won the Nationwide race in Iowa. Way to go Roush-Fenway!

05/23/2011 08:21 AM

I said the same thing over that overheating Camaro ad. The guy pours 20 ounces of ice cold water in it and he’s good to go back out in the desert. No looking for a bad hose or anything. I just chalked it up to him being a typical Chevy driver.

Bill B
05/23/2011 09:04 AM

“It was clean and full of honest racing. “

That’s what I want to see for the 36 points races. For the allstar race I want mayhem!

PS- I was glad Kyle and Jimmie did NOT win.

05/23/2011 09:06 AM

Not the best All Star event by far. The mandatory 4 tire stop before the end eliminated any need for gambling. The winning move was staying out as much as possible before the last segment because you have to take 4 tires anyway. I like making the pit crews part of the race, but make the mandatory stop between segment 2 and 3. The Showdown was the best race of the weekend.

Carl D.
05/23/2011 10:08 AM

It was an extremely boring race, but that was because Carl Edward’s car was easily the class of the field. Sometimes a team is just so much better than everyone else that it stinks up a race. I can live with that.

Thank God for the driver introductions. That gave me time to change the oil in my Mustang, balance my checkbook, and read Stephen King’s “The Stand” between races. Plus, now I know the driver’s names.

I hate to put this in print, but Michael Waltrip wasn’t too bad in the booth. In fact, he was better than Darrell. Maybe Larry Mac should lobby for Michael to take Darrell’s place in the booth.

Ken… going three-wide for the lead is what a driver is supposed to do. No one got wrecked; Brad’s pass was daring but it was clean. If a driver can’t handle three wide racing, then hey… McDonald’s is always hiring fry cooks.

05/23/2011 10:09 AM

The Showdown was a good race, but I can’t give it best race of the weekend honors. Apart from Kyle Busch taking the lead with a few to go and winning yet another minor league race, the truck race was the race of the weekend for me. Side by side all action all night, going three and even four wide at times. I was riveted until Busch took the lead with less than 10 to go. Though it was no surprise that he won, it put an asterisk on what, for my money, was a fantastic race. I’ll take that kind of action with a winning pass with pass with less than 10 to go and a half second margin of victory any day over a 300 lap snoozer with a .010 second finish. All Star Race put me to sleep though. On a side note, because I know you all care, Sunday is my birthday and the plan goes something like this: 9 am- Wake up. 10am – 11pm: Racing or racing coverage of some sort (mixed with food and perhaps a cold beverage…)

05/23/2011 10:39 AM

If I have to hear Jimmie Johnson referred to as “5 time” again…

I thought the Rapture did happen, both Waltrips in the booth. Only thing that would have confirmed that we did in fact have the Rapture would have been if instead of Junior winning the Fan Vote, Todd Bodine won it.

On another note, anyone know who’s going to run the 21 this week? Will it be Stenhouse? Sad deal for Bayne as he is the new Steve Park of this era of NASCAR, as a guy who was on his way to doing some great things only to be derailed by illness or injury.

05/23/2011 11:04 AM

Two cans? It wasn’t even worth one. And yes. Just take the drivers with at least one win from the previous year and let them have it. And how about a heat with no changing of tires. The only thing that happened that was exciting was watching a “cup lite” regular win a race.

05/23/2011 11:11 AM

The hour and a half wait to get the All-Star race started, pretty much ruined my interest in watching the race. The format ruined the rest of it. What a JOKE!

Greg in Atlanta
05/23/2011 11:30 AM

The only THE WINSTON I have seen in person was the very first one (1985) and only because we already had tickets to the “Grand National Series” race (as it was called then) … yes, THE WINSTON was only announced and added about a month before the race and was run after the GN race the day before the 600! It was a “freebie” if you already had Saturday tickets! … … It also had the best format … just the drivers who won in 1984 and ’85 (to that point) … 70 laps (because they wanted everyone to have to make a gas stop, but didn’t require WHEN!) … the only “gimmick” was a tire change pit stop was required between laps 30 and 40 — and obviously the drivers planned in advanced because they spread their stops over the entire 10 laps; never were there more than two (of the 14) cars on pit road at the same time. … … Yes — I would be very much IN FAVOR of reinstating this format!

05/23/2011 11:37 AM

Matt, I didn’t have a problem with either race. I like Kyle Busch winning and I just approached the All-Star race as the carnival it is supposed to be.

But what DOES bother me is that nobody, but me, seems to appreciate, or even mention, the big variable that is now in play: The FR-9 engine. Roush is learning how to get more and more out of that power plant and neither GM or Chrysler has anything to match it. It reminds me of what happened when Junior Johnson came up with his “secret” engine way back when.

J in KC
05/23/2011 12:21 PM

Thank god I’m not alone with the Viagra spots hatred. They act as though they’re catering to “real men” by showing utter moronic content, which no “real man” would be stupid enough to do in the first place. Course if you need pills in the first place, perhaps your time in the manly department has come and gone? Nature just might be tellin ya something…

Uncle Birt
05/23/2011 12:30 PM

Message to Carl D.
I look forward to the day when there is not a Waltrip any where in racing. Broadcasting, car owner or anything else. I wish the whole family would move to Iran and race camels.
Congrats to Jack Roush on a winning weekend. I read where Roush- Fennway is going to donate to the storm victims of Alabama and also some employies are donating their time to help. I guess after Sunday Night’s storms Carl Edwards might help out in his home state of MO.

05/23/2011 12:38 PM

Roush did have some stout cars Saturday. Biffle led quite a bit too. I remember when every mile and a half track was pretty much the Bobby Labonte invitational and then Gordon would come out of nowhere and win it.

Carl D.
05/23/2011 12:41 PM


Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather there be no Waltrips in the booth as well. I’m just saying Mikey was better than Darrell. Like how flies are better than mosquitos.

Joe W.
05/23/2011 12:50 PM

Hey Ancient racer you must be a Chevy guy. Ford fans have been waiting for this kind of engine. We endured some bad years watching Chevy and even toyota win. Now we have the 1st ever race only Ford engine and it’s a beast. Now you guys want to complain about it? Figures. didn’t hear any of this crap when Chevy dominates. Go Ford Racing!! It’s worth it to mention that A.J. and Marcos were pretty good in the open too and could be a threat in the 600. Makes me actually want to watch again.

05/23/2011 12:51 PM

The Truck event was a great race and even though KB won again, I’m alright with it. I’m no fan but the guy spun earlier in the race and saved it. Then fought back through the rest of the race for an earned win. That’s racing.
Indy Qualifying was more exciting than the All the same Race.

05/23/2011 01:18 PM

Carl D.-
I agree with you… Mikey Waltrip was the least annoying broadcaster in the booth. Which doesn’t say he’s what I want to listen to, just that he’s better than the other two.

Yep, Indy quals were the event of the weekend. Thrill of victory, agony of defeat, professional competent announcers… bump day had everything.

05/23/2011 01:25 PM


Well, why should I have crabbed when we were winning? And, yeah, I am mostly GM (except I like Kyle Busch — though I wish Coach had stuck with Chevy). Not really Chevy, btw. Oldsmobile. But Olds is dead, so Chevy is left. But if Olds was still around someone there would be about the business of coming up with something. :)

05/23/2011 03:26 PM

Is anyone else as ticked off as me that the All Star race didn’t get started until almost 10pm Eastern time. The showdown was done at 8:30. That’s 90 minutes of talking heads and WWE introductions. It took longer to set up the damn introductions stage than it did to run the actual event. Then the racing didn’t live up to the hype…or should I say overhype. Bad all around.

What is the deal with Joy and all his nicknames. 5-time (JJ), big daddy (Gordon). I usually like Joy, but his nicknames are starting to wear on me.

Like someone else said, the best racing of the night was the Showdown.

So Jr wins the fan vote and does absolutely nothing with it. You wonder how well Ambrose or Allmendinger might have done with a spot in the field instead.

05/23/2011 03:35 PM

A lot of good points here. I am glad it’s not just me that the Viagra ad bugs…That and bathtubs for the other drug. NASCAR and it’s “partners” have gotten really good to draggin this thing out longer and longer every year. It’s just downright carny and boring to wait that late to fire um up. Maybe they are trying to give “the fans” more for their money I dunno. But to keep on draggin it out for such lame racing is just pissin on your fans. But we want to thank the fans though. thankye thankye thankye fans for being fans oh those fans thank um well. it’s so insincere it’s pathetic. If the powers that be were for the fans so much they would not have allowed 1000% inflation on tickets trinkets and food over the last 10 years. ticket prices may be decent now but when “dem fans” git doze credit cards back in their pockets and tix sales go up, we will see how fast these people drop that “thank the fans” shtick

05/23/2011 06:36 PM

Steve, For Saturday night Rick gave Jr. a car that was last driven by JG at last July’s Indy. It was generations old. SInce Jr. was their only driver that still had to race his way in, you would think that Jr. would get the newst & best, especially with all of the money he puts in Rick’s pockets. Rick keeps trying to tell us that his drivers have equal equipment. Hogwash.

05/23/2011 07:18 PM

Mary Beth, and you know that Jr had an “old” car how? somehow I just don’t believe that Rick would deny his cash cow in the 88 anything that would help him win a race – including a non points one. that simply makes NO sense to me.

I was at the race – I think that it’s way too long. The race should start no later than 9 p.m. and although it’s nice to acknowledge the team aspect, intros are way too long, too. And I’d like the see that last mandatory pit stop go away too. the last 10 laps were a lot of letdown and no showdown at all.

I’d also like to know why no one has mentioned that Weasley ran over one of the 24 pit crew on that last stop? Sounds like Alan tore Voldemort a new lower body orifice, too! good for him!

05/23/2011 07:25 PM

OK marybeth, I just read an article about Jr using an old car, so I apologize.

However it sounds like Letarte made the call to do that, not Rick

Funky D
05/23/2011 08:36 PM

I had to take my wife to the ER with what we thought might be appendicitis (thankfully it wasn’t), but from reading this column, a night spent in the ER waiting room seemed to be about as exciting as the 2011 All-Star Race.

Bill B
05/23/2011 09:00 PM

Thanks for that info. Is that why Gordon dropped from 6th to 15 on that last pitstop?
If so it just shows how terrible the broadcast crew is at actually covering the race. They’d rather talk about nothing than update the audience with what happened.

05/23/2011 10:21 PM

NASCAR is another example of something good that the government screwed up. The tobacco settlement forced Winston out and allowed Nextel/Sprint to come on board. Couple this with BFrance running the show and we end up with the mess that we have now. The media used to cover the race now they are broadcast partners. I used to be loyal to the sponsors. I always chose a NASCAR sponsor when choosing a product. I would never buy Sprint. I actually signed up with ATT when Jeff Burton drove that car because ATT was the anti-Sprint.

05/23/2011 10:40 PM

Congradulations to Dale Jr. for winning the first PITY PASS Trophy for HMS after finishing 6th in a race for Losers. It will look so cool in Jr.‘s little corner in one of the massive trophy cases in the 48/88 shop. Right next to the checkered flag JJ gave Jr. after JJ won Talladega, and right along the 3 Na$crap Most Popular Loser trophies. It’s a shame Dale Jr. didn’t want to win at Martinsville. Could have had a trophy for actually winning a race. But Jr. Nation can only delusionally dream what might have been. Right Marybeth?

phil h
05/24/2011 12:39 AM

That was the nearest nothing race I have seen in years.

I’m sure fans would have appreciated to switch the big television to “TOP GEAR” or a CMT rerun of the Dukes of Hazzard! I’d rather have watched the General Lee than that rubbish!!

05/24/2011 10:16 AM

I’m glad I’m not the only one annoyed by those Viagra commercials. C’mon, who really carries a singletree, collars, and long reins in their horse trailer, just in case they have to hitch up the horses to the 4WD pickup? And who really doesn’t just lock out the hubs and drive in 4WD?

05/24/2011 10:39 AM

I enjoyed what racing I saw. Hated the crap that went on in-between. This is the God’s honest truth…after the first race I did a load of wash, cleaned up the dinner dishes, pots & pans, changed the sheets on the bed, updated my Facebook page, and ran to the store for bread and milk. I STILL had to sit through crap before the All-Star race happened. It was so freaking late that I went to bed and read. I had lost all interest. Had they gone from the qualifying race to the main event, I would have been very happy to stay and watch the whole thing. What the hell are they thinking?

05/24/2011 11:04 AM

Bill B — yes, that’s why the pit stop was so bad. Apparently the 5/48 hit the tire carrier or actually the tire, but it threw him up onto Gordon’s car and obviously screwed the pit stop up. Apparently Alan went over and yelled at Knaus – it should have been covered on TV. The booth would rather talk about nothing than what is actually happening.

Gordon confirmed it when he was on Wind Tunnel on Sunday. Fortunately the crew man wasn’t injured

However, IMO, the last 10 laps were a total waste of my time, the fuel for the cars and money!

Steve and AnnieMack – yes, I was in the stands and at the end was thinking the same thing that has come to mind the last 3 years – this event should NOT last until midnight.

The Mad Man
05/24/2011 12:00 PM

I think one can of warm horse spit for the 4 hour infomercial is about the best I can muster.

05/24/2011 08:13 PM

Jersey girl, The official HMS race preview for JR. said that he was driving the car last driven by JG in July at Indy last year. After the race a many sites quoted Jr. saying in quotes that the car was generations old but was being run by him as a benchmark to test against the newer cars. Hogwash!

05/24/2011 09:45 PM

the Rapture did happen Saturday.

But only Macho Man Randy Savage went! Go figure.

billy thomas
05/24/2011 10:40 PM