The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2011 World 600 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday May 30, 2011

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The Key Moment – Dale Earnhardt Junior ran out of gas exiting the fourth corner on the final lap allowing Kevin Harvick to streak by and claim his third win of the season.

In a Nutshell – I don’t think Moe, Larry and Curly could have done a worse job of officiating a race than NASCAR did tonight. But then NASCAR has a lot more than three stooges.

Dramatic Moment – Waiting to see who was going to run out of gas on those final two laps.

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

You have got to be kidding me! Yeah, NASCAR could use an Earnhardt Junior win. In fact they need Junior to win. But the fact no caution was thrown after the melee that followed the final restart just because Junior would clearly have run out of gas during another GWC segment was a case of blatant favoritism. Earlier in the race the same officials had thrown a caution for a beer can laying on the track and the 2 car was losing chunks of metal a lot larger than one of those. It was just another huge step towards reducing the credibility of the organization to that of the WWE.

Speaking of which, Kahne was clearly out of fuel before he ever even reached the green flag. With that entire pack of cars behind him, should the restart have been waved off to allow him to get out of the way?

By the rule book pushing a teammate is legal until the final lap of a race. But you have to wonder if Harvick might not have run out of gas too had not two of his teammates been pushing him under the final caution.

It’ll be interesting to see if a “language” fine is handed down to Chad Knaus later this week for his now infamous “F-bomb” after Johnson’s engine expired as broadcast live on national TV. A similar but slightly less profane term uttered by Earnhardt in victory lane at Talladega once cost him a ton of dough and even points. Maybe there’s an ancillary rule to “Boys Have At It” that states, “Kids say the darnedest things.”

NASCAR made the headlines again all this week though not perhaps in the manner the Daytona Beach politburo would have preferred. Kyle Busch took a Lexus LFA (a high dollar, high speed car that Lexus intends to compete with the lower line Ferraris and Lambos….though it might sell a bit better if they hadn’t had a Japanese cartoon anime animator design it) for a little spin and got pulled over by the law running 128 miles per hour in a residential area. Many area residents were outraged the Cup star wasn’t hauled off to jail (and presumably beaten within an inch of his life) after being apprehended.

I can say from personal experience as a 17 year nobody I was pulled over at triple digit speeds the same night, on the same stretch of lonely highway near the Shore by the same cop twice (and then compounded my problems by earning a third ticket smoking the tires leaving the second stop) and I wasn’t taken to jail. I was just advised by the trooper with a decidedly less than sunshiny attitude that I should kiss my license goodbye before I slipped it back in my wallet. I wasn’t a celebrity but I was asked for my autograph three times, just like Tony Stewart was when he got caught late one night buzzing across a Florida bridge at triple digit speeds in his Ferrari a few years back. The cop had me sign all three citations. Stewart got a warning and let go. I got grounded for a month.

I guess it’s because of Busch’s career-long antics that people want to see him hung at the nearest stout branch while Nationwide driver Michael Annett’s far more serious DUI arrest earlier this year barely caused a ripple in the pond. I’d guess in my lifetime I’ve driven over fifty cars at triple digit speeds ranging from a twin turbo 78 Corvette, a couple Boss Mustangs, a couple Buick GS Stage cars, and even Mom’s old 318 Aspen woody wagon but as I grew older I learned my lesson. Helping carry your best friend to his final resting place after a high speed late night accident will do that to a fellow. Perhaps as part of his rehabilitation Mr. Busch would like to spend a day with one of my best friend, Andrew’s son, who was a passenger in a friend’s BMW when the driver decided to check out the capabilities of the car a year and a half ago. The car hit passenger side first into that tree. Adam is making decent progress relearning to walk, talk, feed himself and such and even cut the front lawn for the first time last weekend on a riding mower but he’s got a lot of challenges that still lay ahead before he is the vibrant, funny, talented, athletic young man he once was before a diffuse axial brain injury. When you’re up here for Pocono next month, Mr. Busch, stop by. I’ll introduce you two.

Paul Menard is the latest addition to the list of Cup drivers injured in bizarre circumstances. Menard took twenty stitches to his right foot (the one that holds the gas down) after stepping on a piece of metal entering his dock. Let’s see. Johnson fell out of a golf cart. Carl Edwards got hurt playing Frisbee. Trevor Bayne is still down and on the side with a mysterious (and worrisome) illness still undiagnosed but thought to be related to a bug bite. When did the men of steel of yore get replaced by these china dolls?

Maybe we’re getting her by default. According to all the open wheel writers and even her sponsor (the website hosting venue with the cheesy commercials) Danica Patrick will make the jump from Indy cars to Cup racing next season. In somewhat frank terms the open wheel journalists seem glad to see her go as it will allow the other drivers, and Indy Racing is chock full of colorful personalities, a little time in the limelight at long last. They are worried about the sport’s highest profile figure leaving for the greener pastures of NASCAR and its effect on the TV ratings but you can’t base a racing series on one driver. Ms. Patrick remains coy on the issue of her future saying no decision has been made yet, but surely the opportunity to lose 36 races a year rather than 17 and still make more money doing it has got to have its appeal with her stated intentions to retire before 40. As her sponsor rep noted; “She doesn’t exactly work for minimum wage.”

Am I the only one who thinks there’s some disconnect between the audio and video feed on the SPEED channel’s Speedcenter program? Commentators lips are often moving for several seconds after the audio stops. It’s like watching a really bad Kung-Fu movie on a Saturday afternoon back in the days of UHF and Panama Red.

A note to the folks at FOX: Despite what a soda company may have told you the official start of summer is on June 21st, three weeks from now.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

I’m told some Earnhardt fans exited the grandstands in tears after the race thinking they’d been about to see the redemption of their hero. Don’t worry Earnhardt Army, Junior will win one soon. NASCAR will find a way to hand it to him.

Kyle Busch emerged seemingly out of nowhere later in the race thanks to the varied pit strategies employed all evening. But two unforced errors spinning out ended his chances after he briefly led the race with the final incident putting him out of the event.

Jamie McMurray had his best run in ages before losing an engine aoround midway through the race.

Kahne never even made it to the final green flag before running out of gas.

You have to feel both for Earnhardt and Steve LeTarte. It was a gamble worth taking but ultimately it didn’t pay off. For the want of a teammate to push him a half lap under caution….

The heartache of the day award has to go to Indy 500 rookie JR Hildebrand who was one corner away from winning at the Brickyard but somehow managed to stuff his car into the wall in the final corner. Even with his right front suspension grinding into the wall he was able to coast across the finish line in second but nobody remembers who finished second.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Listening to Harvick gripe about his car earlier in the event you’d have thought he’d be lucky to keep it in a fifty acre briar patch much less win the race.

Denny Hamlin thought he had an engine expiring midway through the race but the team diagnosed the problem as a malfunctioning carb. They were able to replace the Holley under caution without losing a lap and miraculously Hamlin drove on to a tenth place finish.

Joey Logano narrowly avoided two wrecks and was given two lucky dog passes when he was a lap in arrears to the leaders. He went on to finish third.

David Ragan had one of the better runs of his career and dodged the mayhem there at the end to finish second.

Ricky Stenhouse had a credible debut in the Cup series finishing eleventh despite having put himself into the wall three times.

There’s signs of life for the Petty teams again with both Ambrose and Allmendinger acquitting themselves well and rising in the standings.

Kurt Busch overcame another loose wheel to post a fourth place finish.

Worth Noting

  • David Ragan’s second place finish was the best of his Cup career.
  • Joey Logano (third) scored his first top 5 finish since Phoenix last fall.
  • Kurt Busch’s fourth place finish was his best of the season.
  • AJ Allmendinger’s fifth place finish was his first top 5 result of the season.
  • Ambrose (sixth) has posted top 10 finishes back to back for the first time in his career.
  • David Reutimann’s ninth place finish was his best of the season.
  • Denny Hamlin (tenth) has top 10 results in three of the last four points races.
  • Edwards sixteenth place finish was his worst since Martinsville.
  • Jeff Gordon (20th) is now mired in a four race drought outside the top 10. He’s averaging a 22nd place finish in those four events.
  • Johnson’s DNF was his first since Daytona last July and the 48 team’s first engine failure since the ‘08 600.

What’s the Points?

Edwards stays atop the standings. His third win of the year propelled Harvick three positions forward into second, 36 points behind Edwards.

Jimmie Johnson slipped a spot to third but is just one point behind Harvick. Earnhardt holds serve in fourth (43 points out of the lead) and Kyle Busch fell two spots to fifth.

Kurt Busch had a good points night advancing three spots to sixth.

The wreck he got caught up in really cost Ryan Newman in the standings. He dropped three spots to tenth.

Denny Hamlin re-enters the top 12, advancing a spot to twelfth.

AJ Allmendinger now finds himself 13th, just four points out of the top 12 and eighteen points out of a locked-in playoff berth.

Mark Martin fell three spots to fourteenth.

When Jeff Gordon won a race everyone assumed he was locked into the Chase. Maybe not. Gordon fell another two spots into the standings and is 24 points ahead of 21st place Martin Truex Jr. To earn a wild card slot a race winner has to be in the top 20 and the 24 team is clearly struggling right now.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) We’ll give this one four cans. If nothing else it was unpredictable.

Next Up – After a brief vacation at home in Charlotte, the Cup series heads west for the summer. Kansas City, KS is the next stop….hey kid you wanna see the big top?

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Swan Racing Announces Restructuring, No. 26 & No. 30 ‘Sold’ Off
Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
Vexing Vito: Three Drivers In Need of a Role Reversal
Going By the Numbers: Top-10 NASCAR Variety Hard To Come By In…
Truckin’ Thursdays: Lessons Learned Just Two Races In
Fantasy Insider: Team Revelations For NASCAR’s Short Tracks



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Brian France Sucks
05/30/2011 01:41 PM

I’m with you Matt. NA$CAR brass were dancing in the control tower after Kahne ran out. There could have been a herd of cattle, three double-wides, and a bus full of nuns strewn across the track and it wouldn’t have mattered. They weren’t throwing the caution. But karma is a b!t<h. Earnhardt running out of gas probably caused a few thousand domestic abuse events in trailer parks across the nation.

05/30/2011 02:01 PM

Where did my post go? Neverland?

05/30/2011 02:24 PM

Mr McLaughlin,
How many cars wrecked in turn one on the white flag lap as a result of the wreck on the second to last lap?
How many cars suffered blown tires on the white flag lap after making it through the first two turns as a result of debris from the wreck on the second to last lap?

As much of a great story it makes for NASCAR to be biased towards its biggest star, you do a disservice to all the men and women of the 48/88 shop who devote their lives to the performance/welfare of their team, often at the expense of family time. These men and women work hard to get the results they do within the same set of rules as the rest of the competition. Your conspiracy theory devalues their hard work and effort.

If NASCAR was in a conspiracy to get the #88 to victory lane, do you really think that it would have taken 105 races to do it? If NASCAR was invested in getting the #88 to victory lane, they would have thrown the caution flag for debris as soon as Dale Jr took the white flag, ensuring victory for the #88 car/team.

It is unfortunate that after such a competitive and dramatic race you are unable to come up with a legitimate subject to base your article on.

If you are going to regale us with theories of conspiracy within NASCAR, how about doing a little bit of research and providing some evidence for your seemingly baseless claims? While you may simply be stating your opinion that NASCAR is fixing races, a few facts to back up your claims would tend to lend you some credibility.

05/30/2011 03:11 PM

all kinds of conspiracy theorists are out. why didn’t they throw yellow after jr took white flag, would that not have frozen the field and saved him a few drops of fuel to milk home the car. how interesting that post race coverage spent more time with jr than harvick in victory lane. watching jr push his car to pit road after the race made me laught. him hanging half in and half out the window pushing made me remember his father when he leaned out the car to clean his windshield at richmond a lifetime ago.

i also thought it was interesting that everyone else who went careening throught the front stretch grass tore up front end of car, but not bush. but of course he did finally have problems.

fine for what chad said….have to wait and see how much of a donation to the brain fart france trust fund is made this week.

i was shocked dw didn’t harp for 30 minutes on his latest buddy, kyle bush, on his run-in with the law last week.

more shocking is i stayed awake to see the end.

Tom, in PA
05/30/2011 03:47 PM

I heard what Knause said, if there is a fine it should be levied against Fox. They have delay technology. They could have broadcast Chad 5 seconds later, bleeped him out, and still had the same impact.

05/30/2011 03:58 PM

If you’re not allowed to advance your position under the caution, how can Menard push the Burton and Harvick cars. I also wondered why no one pushed Junior.

Does anyone want to mention Robbie Moroso? At least Kyle wasn’t DWI. More than one Indy driver has been caught speeding on city streets after the Toronto Indy. The cop gets his autograph and sends him on his way.

There was no caution at the end because the race was over the four and a half hour limit and going to go past the allotted broadcast time. People complain about the length of the race and want more caution laps. Go figure.

05/30/2011 04:05 PM


You write a passionate and well reasoned defense of your opinions but I continue to disagree with you.

NASCAR clearly wanted Junior to reach the white flag thus freezing the running order despite a major incident that was unfolding behind him. You ask “Well what did happen” and I in turn ask “what could have happened” given a driver on the apron with his fuel cell exposed and the end of the race charge to grab every position a driver can? Remember in the same race a caution was thrown for an empty beer can on the track? In the past, I think most posters here have seen Earnhardt in danger of dropping a lap to the leaders when suddenly a caution would fly for a peice of debris the size of a postage stamp on the apron. No, NASCAR can’t hand a driver a win, but they sure can give them what Mark Donahue used to call “An unfair advantage.”

Nobody, or perhaps I should say no reasonable person can doubt the hard work, sacrifice, and talent of the crews of the 48 and 88 teams (or the 24 or the 5…or the 99,6,etc.) Fortunately they are aided in thier hard work by huge financial commitments that allow them to be paid pretty well for success. There are other smaller teams (Regan Smith’s comes readily to mind) where less people work just as hard for less money just to be in the game. Are they are talented? Not yet or Rick or Jack would probably have gobbled them up already.

Oddly enough I am not the only writer who sensed something stank in Denmark last night. Various drivers with various degrees of candor on and off the record acknowledged the reason the caution never flew. I defer to them without wishing to diminish in any way the dedicated individuals that work for Rick Hendrick.

05/30/2011 04:38 PM

Matt, your analysis of the bloodlust directed towards Shrub regarding his recent ‘driving award’ is spot-on. Rarely do I wholeheartedly agree with you, but you have this unfortunate situation described perfectly. A stupid, potentially disastrous act, but best left to the local authorities to deal with.

05/30/2011 05:46 PM

I believe Mark Martin has caused more wrecks this year then in his whole career. For most of his career he was know as one of the cleanest drivers on the track, not this year.
I only wonder if this is from bad eye sight or disappointment in his teams performance?

05/30/2011 05:49 PM

I was shocked that Na$crap DID NOT let Dale Jr. pass the pace car 3 times under caution like they did 3 years ago at Michigan when they assisted in Dale Jr.‘s only win in the last 5 years. But that would have been TOO obvious. Then again, had Dale Jr. been in 2nd place when the that crash occured, Na$crap would have thrown a “Jr. Caution” in a heartbeat.

05/30/2011 06:06 PM

anyone else find it ironic that in the Indy 500 and Coke 600, the car leading the white flag lap and suffering mishaps in Turn 4 were both sponsored by the National Guard.

As for the caution or lack thereof, I’ve seen cautions for a hell of a lot less than wrecking autos, hell Jimmy Spencer once caused a caution for roll bar padding.

NASCAR’s only defense was they would dramatically alter the finish because so many cars were so short on fuel and likely could not last another 5 laps (caution plus G-W-C)

I’m not the gearhead that a lot of folks here are, in fact I spent most of the race doing a tune up on my van, that, oil changes and brake jobs are the extent of my mechanical acumen. Anyway my question is, wouldn’t turning the car on and off as Dale Junior did, suck more fuel due to the act of firing up the car than would idling the car at speed on the apron? Someone let me know if I’m off.

05/30/2011 06:26 PM

I figured that NASCAR was going to do whatever was necessary to make sure Jr won that race. It didn’t seem to matter that Kahne had run out of gas or that other cars were wrecking on the restart, it was all about Jr. I don’t hate the guy – not at all – he seems like a decent person, it’s NASCAR who is at fault here for blatantly manipulating their playing field and rules.

Re: Jeff Gordon – they had a decent car once they got track position – I thought they had finally caught a break staying out when the other caution came out but the 48 blowing up at a seriously inopportune moment made me want to pull my hair out. Color me a frustrated 24 fan –

Re: Kyle Busch – I don’t think that he should be hung from the nearest tree, but I think your suggestion of meeting some people recovering from accidents on public highways might be an eye opening opportunity. Like you, I have a friend who was injured after the vehicle in which she was a passenger was in a head on collision. She was broken — that is the only word to describe it. She is recovering but it makes you think – one of the most dangerous things we do all the time and take for granted is drive on the highways.

05/30/2011 08:44 PM

another good article Matt I think everyone knew the caution wouldnt come out with Jr in the lead and I think if they wouldve known he was gonna run out on the final lap they wouldve thrown the caution when he took the white flag but as brian france sucks states karma is a b****

05/30/2011 09:24 PM

I was disappointed to hear ONLY KEVIN HARVICK THANK THE VETERANS AND CURRENT MILITARY MEMBERS not a word from Dale Jr(National Guard) or A.J. Allmendinger(Air Force), or any of the other drivers on Memorial Day.

Bad Wolf
05/30/2011 09:25 PM

My first thought on the non caution was “What the %#@&, the 21 gently brushes the wall earlier and the flag is waved 10 milliseconds later, but then it hit me that Jr. was in the lead and it was all about him. I laughed myself silly after he ran out of fuel, and I’m an original Dale Earnhardt Sr. fan from way back in the day.

Between Jr, Whanica and Dee Double You there won’t be any room or time left for anyone else. It’s sickening to get the “Where is Danica Running Now” updates all race long in open wheel. Just wait till Jr and Whanica team up for a tandem at the plate tracks, Durril will get a tingle up his leg and proclaim they are the greated racing pair in the history of the world.

05/30/2011 10:39 PM

Matt, you clearly nailed the non-caution at the end of the race. Anyone but Jr. and the flag would have flown.
It was amazing how quickly DW jumped to NASCAR’s defense and praised NASCAR for letting them race (and he did it more than once if I remember)
wcfan—I’ll cut the driver’s a little slack after 600 miles of racing. Had it been a press conference or pre-race, you would expect those comments, but in a quick post-race sound bite, I don’t denounce them for not working in a mention to our fine troops.

05/31/2011 12:08 AM

Anyone else hear DW say ‘Kyle Busch got turned’ – then replay clearly showed he was running by himself, clear of any traffic by 3 carlengths and just lost the rearend? The day they announce DW has retired from announcing will be the almost as great as the day I hear that I hear Brian Z has stepped down.

Sue Rarick
05/31/2011 09:05 AM

“By the rule book pushing a teammate is legal until the final lap of a race. But you have to wonder if Harvick might not have run out of gas too had not two of his teammates been pushing him under the final caution.”

When I saw that I turned off the TV and may have my future Sundays free.

I have been a racing fan since the ’50’s and if I wanted to watch a team sport I would watch baseball or football. Daytona and Talladega were bad enough, but that team push got to me and I just turned off the TV. The fact Harvick won most likely because of that assistance just confirms my resolve

I think I will stick with local track racing and say the hell with NASCAR for a while.

05/31/2011 10:06 AM


You have argued:
NASCAR clearly wanted Junior to reach the white flag thus freezing the running order despite a major incident that was unfolding behind him.”

I don’t see how this is what NASCAR wanted, or how it is clear, as the caution did not fly when the #88 took the white flag. The field was not frozen, and the #88 finished in 7th place.

I reference previous precedence that NASCAR has established from an article by David Newton in September 2009 for cautions in the final laps of a race. NASCAR spokesman Ramsay Poston gave the following quote:

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Allmendinger was given every opportunity to clear the track so the race could be completed under green, which is the ultimate goal.

Allmendinger’s car did not create unsafe racing conditions, Poston argued.

“We waited as long as we could so we could complete the race, but when the 44 didn’t move in time we had to display the yellow between Turns 3 and 4,” he said. “We were able to let the guys race it out as much as possible while keeping everyone safe.”’

There was controversy over the timing of the caution flag in this race, but it isn’t as if this situation hasn’t risen before.

link to article:

We all know that NASCAR’s stated mandate is to finish the race under green with as few attempts at it as possible. Just because they’ve said they get 3 attempts at it doesn’t mean they want to use them. It happens all the time at plate tracks where wrecks happen behind the leaders and they race back to the line with no caution. (2007 Daytona 500 Mark Martin vs Kevin Harvick) NASCAR has said if there is no danger, no caution.

I am aware that NASCAR threw a caution early in the race for an empty beverage can. I don’t dispute that NASCAR could be more consistent with their calls. I suppose it could be argued that the official may have thought the can was full, or not known exactly what it was if he just caught the glimmer of metal out of his eye and prematurely judged danger. I am not privy to the officials thoughts which caused the caution to fly, however, if there is danger to the competitors and or their equipment than there should be a caution, if there is no danger to the competitors there should not be a caution.

There has been such outrage in the past by NASCAR fans that they are way too quick to throw a caution and that fans want the race to finish under green, however when that happens and the #88 car is given a percieved advantage, everyone calls foul. Again I say, the #88 finished 7th! If NASCAR was going to attempt to give the #88 a win, in 105 races, it would have happened by now.

The team and driver are clearly in a better place than they have been at any time since Dale Jr has been at Hendrick, and are performing at a level where a win is going to be EARNED by them. There is no need for NASCAR to ‘give’ them a victory.

I suppose we will have to respectfully agree to disagree, but that is what makes this sport great.

Thank you for aknowledging the effort and dedication of the people in the sport that strive to do the best they can for their team and the sport as a whole.

05/31/2011 10:16 AM

MATT- I agree 100% with you about NASCAR trying to get a win for Jr. I’m not much of a Harvick fan but at least Jr. didn’t win! GO ROWDY … Speaking of witch, Kyle is far from being the first NASCAR driver to be busted for speeding!

Bill B
05/31/2011 12:25 PM

The only reason NASCAR didn’t throw the caution the minute the white flag was taken while Jr was in the lead was because that would have been TOO obvious. Come on, even NASCAR can’t be that blatant.

05/31/2011 12:26 PM

Unfortunately the first example that comes to mind is Robby Moroso. He killed himself and the oncoming driver (a young mother) speeding home from Twister’s in Cornelius.

Bill S.
05/31/2011 01:55 PM

Bill B, I agree with you 100%. NASCAR did not throw the yellow at the white flag, first, because it would have been too obvious. Second, because they assumed Junior had a big enough lead that he could coast to the finish line, even on fumes.

As for Kyle, “coulda, shoulda, woulda” applies here. No one was injured and the law makes a big distinction between speeding that results in injury and speeding that “might have” resulted in injury. And seriously, what did Lexus/Toyota expect him to do with that car on a test drive? What was the point anyway? For him to report back on how the car handled at 45 mph?

05/31/2011 03:00 PM

The F bomb by Knaus should not receive any penilties. That is ALL Fox’s fault. They had his scanner being broadcasted live instead of delayed. I am not a fan of cheater Knaus but in this case he was not in the wrong. Can’t believe I wrote that.