The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Michigan-1 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday June 20, 2011

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Michigan-1 Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday June 20, 2011


Denny Hamlin won the race off pit road on the final stop of the day and turned it into a trip to Victory Lane in Michigan.

The Key Moment – Denny Hamlin emerged first from the pits on the final caution and held off a determined Matt Kenseth for the final five laps.

In a Nutshell – It was a long wait for a brief payoff there at the end.

Dramatic Moment – Those final five laps the drivers finally seemed to disengage cruise control and get up on the wheel.

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

First off, thanks to Junior for sparing us yet another fuel mileage finish.

What’s all the fuss about Ford having an unfair advantage this year? The last four races have been won by two Chevys, a Toyota and a Dodge. Yes, the Ford teams are more competitive this year after a few years of having their noses rubbed in it. Does that mean they have an advantage or the playing field is somewhat more level?

Don’t you hate it when the race leader allows his teammate by for a lap to earn a bonus point?

Yeah, Matt Kenseth has some right to feel annoyed with his pit crew after some problems today, but they have a right to be feel disappointed with his buzzing the tires on the final restart with victory within their grasp. You win as a team, you lose as a team. (Someone forward this memo to Kurt Busch.)

It appears that Joe Gibbs Racing is interested in retaining Carl Edwards’ services if he doesn’t re-sign with Roush Racing. I can see why J.D. Gibbs is interested; it would be nice to have a driver the team doesn’t have to make excuses for, send to a sports psychologist after a loss or flat out apologize for.

Thirty pound oil pans on the JGR cars? I don’t see a rule against that in the nebulous book someone sent me during the offseason. The trick to racing cars on ovals (and in general) has always been to get the weight down low on the car and use the weight savings to reduce heft higher on the car to lower the center of gravity.

How is a six point penalty on Kyle Busch and the No. 18 car fair? (The M&M’s Toyota was found to be too low under the measuring sticks after last Sunday’s race.) That’s a reduction of six finishing positions. Last year, Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 team got hit by a 150-point penalty and the loss of their crew chief for four weeks just as the Chase started for a similar infraction. Yes, the points system was different last year, but the loss of 150 points dropped him not six finishing spots but down around to forty-something.

Obviously, Darrell Waltrip needs new eyeglasses. During Tuesday’s announcement of the five new inductees into the Hall of Fame, he accidentally kissed Brian France on the cheek rather than the ass as he’s been doing since he became a broadcaster. Of course, given the usual proximity of France’s head and his ass it was perhaps an easy mistake to make.

I was truly thrilled to see Richie Evans, nine-time NASCAR modified champion, make the cut to enter the Hall of Fame. I was blessed to see Evans race many times as a youngster growing up in the Northeast and there was never anyone finer at the wheel.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Jimmie Johnson spun (a rare unforced error) and fell two laps off the pace as the team repaired a sway bar mount. He never really recovered and finished 27th, handing back a big chunk of that points lead Carl Edwards handed him last week.

Junior ran in the top 10 for the first half of the race but then began to fade. The final insult was having his teammate pinch him up into the wall en route to 21st.

Kasey Kahne not only ran out of gas, he had his starter lockup trying to refire the car. He slumped to 28th.

Regan Smith fought all day to get up to the top 10. only to cut down a tire with two and a half laps to go. That left him 33rd.

Greg Biffle dominated sections of the race, but had just pitted when a caution flag flew. While he was able to get his lap back, in dirty air the No. 16 car lost its magic, a common occurrence for the Roush Fords as Biffle could only battle back to 15th.

Cale Gale was running away with Friday’s ARCA race until he blew a right front tire and stuffed his car into the concrete. Between hitting the wall or running out of gas while dominating a race, there seems to be a lot of that going around lately.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Edwards missed the weekend sweep but his finish could have been much worse. The No. 99 car had a tire going down just as a timely caution flag saved the day.

Landon Cassill enjoyed the best run of his fledgling Cup career, finishing twelfth.

After a hot start to the season, Paul Menard faded from the spotlight. But a fourth-place finish at Michigan seems to indicate the team has the laces on their work boots pulled up tight again.

Kyle Busch finished third despite complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath early in the event, so much so the team had Scott Riggs on standby as a relief driver. That’s rather alarming in a man Busch’s age.

While his sixteenth-place finish won’t grab the headlines, it was nice to see Trevor Bayne back in a Cup car after an extended and mysterious leave of absence due to illness.

Worth Noting

  • For Hamlin, it was his first win since Texas last fall.
  • Kenseth (second) enjoyed his first top-5 finish since winning at Dover.
  • Kyle Busch finished third for the second consecutive week and for the fourth time this season.
  • Menard’s fourth-place finish was his best of 2011.
  • Carl Edwards (fifth) managed his eleventh top-10 finish in this season’s fifteen Cup races run to date.
  • Kurt Busch earned his third straight pole at Michigan, equaling the number he had during the 2007-10 seasons combined. The last time a driver scored three straight poles was Ryan Newman at Charlotte, Dover and Pocono in the spring of 2007.
  • Speaking of Newman, his sixth-place finish was his best since Darlington.
  • Martin’s ninth-place finish was his best since Dover. It’s odd that Earnhardt didn’t rush over to congratulate him, huh?
  • Prior to Sunday’s twelfth-place result, Landon Cassill’s best Cup finish was 24th (twice).
  • The top-10 finishers at Michigan drove five Chevys, three Toyotas and a pair of Fords. Kurt Busch in eleventh was the top finishing Dodge pilot.

What’s the Points?

Edwards remains atop the points standings by 20 over Kevin Harvick, who moved up two spots despite a pedestrian 14th-place finish. Dale Jr. holds on to third.

Meanwhile, Johnson tumbled three spots to fifth in the standings while Kyle Busch advanced a spot to fourth. Technically, he is tied with Johnson, 29 points out of the lead but Busch gets the nod with two wins to Johnson’s one.

Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch are now tied for sixth in points, while Ryan Newman moved up two spots to eighth. Hamlin’s win springboards him ahead three spots to ninth, now with a win as backup in case he falls outside the top 10.

Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart each fell two spots in the standings. They are now tenth and eleventh, respectively. Jeff Gordon’s two wins now loom even larger, as he falls a spot to twelfth in the standings, but a pair of wins probably makes him a lock for the Chase.

Greg Biffle moves up a spot to thirteenth in points, thirteen points behind Gordon. Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya round out the top 15.

One minor note: I’m a little curious as to why NASCAR stats have Bayne listed as 46th in the championship race. Bayne signed up to compete for points in the Nationwide Series, making him ineligible to earn Cup points the rest of the 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 it two cans with one earned in the final five laps for those who hadn’t drifted off for a summer’s afternoon nap by then.

Next Up – The series heads west to Sonoma for the road course race. Enjoy it ya’ll. I’m taking the week off. Racing stock cars on a road course is like racing garbage trucks in a gymkhana.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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ATHLON SPORTSBOWLES: Is Kevin Harvick A Hall Of Famer?
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IndyCar Driver Profile: Sebastien Bourdais
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Darlington – Off Week Edition
Couch Potato Tuesday: Moving NASCAR Coverage Onto the Web
Voices From The Cheap Seats: NOTeworthy News


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Stephen HOOD
06/20/2011 07:34 AM

The race might have been boring but at least it was quick. I will give TnT kudos for finding the action on the track whether it was for 1st, 8th, or 15th. At least at Michigan they don’t line up in single file except at the front.

06/20/2011 08:32 AM

thought we’d get through an article without a Darrell Waltrip bashing luck..try again next week … “roll my eyes“.

Laidback Racing
06/20/2011 09:07 AM

matt…the “Darrell Waltrip needs new eyeglasses” comment almost made the coffee come out of my nose

Bill S.
06/20/2011 09:42 AM

I guess Matt would see no reason to apologize for a driver who forces his crew to spend 179 laps behind the wall fixing a damaged race car just to so said saintly driver can punt his nemesis into the retaining fence, risking not only Brad K‘s life, but the safety of the any spectators in a twenty-mile radiue.

Life is simple when you apply Matt’s Rule: Kyle, bad; Carl, good. It eliminates all but the caveman thinking and hypocrisy Matt is famous for.

Carl D.
06/20/2011 10:19 AM

I’ll give DW his due for being inducted into the Nascar HOF. He was heck of a driver in his day and he has the stats to back that up. Unfortunately, he’s a total embarrassment in the booth.

Bill S… I don’t buy the ‘aw-shucks’ Carl Edwards personna either, but that doesn’t mean Kyle Busch isn’t an ass.

06/20/2011 10:44 AM

Matt, I usually see eye to eye with you…except when it comes to road courses. The road course races are consistently some of the best of the year. Second to Martinsville and… well, Martinsville. Now it would certainly be interesting if JGR picked up Edwards. Here’s a question. If JGR does pick up Edwards, do they dump Busch or Logano or run a 4th car (I don’t see them getting rid of Hamlin anytime soon). A few weeks ago, I would have said you were crazy for even suggesting that Roush wouldn’t give Edwards whatever he wanted. But with Bayne and now Stenhouse lighting up NW and both looking for Cup rides, and JGR’s affinity to sign guys who seem to focus on beating up the guys on Saturday instead of trying to beat Jimmie Johnson on Sundays… it wouldn’t be that surprising to me.

06/20/2011 11:08 AM

We had plans for Sunday so we DVR’d the race and watched after dinner. We started watching at 7:30pm and after fast-forwarding through commercials, the race was over by 9:30. I’m not sure how long the race lasted, but we zipped right through what seemed to be over an hours worth of commercials. It actually seemed like more than Fox and I didn’t think that was possible.

Also, kudos to TNT for placing Kyle Petty’s microphone so that we couldn’t hear a word he was saying. It was wonderful.

06/20/2011 11:31 AM

“My Wranglers were to tight and cut off circulation to my right (gas) foot.” Dale Jr.‘s excuse for not winning next week’s race.

Michael in SoCal
06/20/2011 11:35 AM

A couple of comments here…

I totally agree with your assessment of the 18s penalty for being too low. How does the 6 point penalty equate with Bowyer’s 150 point (plus a fine and crew chief suspension) penalty last year? Oh yeah, it doesn’t.

How was Biffle not penalized for a tire going outside of his pit box on his last pit stop? There was no team member there to grab the tire, and when it left the pit box, the official stopped it. I understand the official stoppng the tire for safety reasons, but that should have been penalized. Way to be consistent Nascar.

Lastly, so if you run over an airhose on pit road you get penalized. But if you hit a crew member (as Hamlin did leaving his pit stall) it’s all good??? WTF?!?

06/20/2011 11:43 AM

I forgot to mention the lack of paying spectators in the stand. I actually do feel sorry for the track owners but they dug their own graves when building all the seats and jacking up the prices. It still breaks my heart to see it.

I really wish they’d cut the paychecks for the millionaires and put the tickets prices and concessions at a price that is reflective of today’s economy and unemployment rate. It is human nature for fans to WANT tickets when they see the tracks are sold out and it’s also human nature to shrug off buying tickets when you see the stands are empty.

Bill B
06/20/2011 12:17 PM

re: DW… he’s annoying. What do you expect? He never shuts up and he’s like something on the bottom of your shoe that you can’t scrape off. Shouldn’t he be in the background now that Fox’s portion of the season is over? He’s ok in small doses but too much DW and people get sick.

The commercial situation in yesterday’s race was ridiculous. It seemed we spent more time watching commercials than the race. Someone has got to be smarter and realize that there is a tipping point. If you overload the broadcast with too many commercials you force people to rely on the DVR instead of watching it live. Once that happens, none of the commercials get seen. I’m just saying that they really beat us over the head with commercials yesterday.

Bill S,
I agree with Carl D’s comment with regards to Edwards vs Busch.

Kevin in SoCal
06/20/2011 12:43 PM

Kyle Busch even admitted the springs sagged under the heat and weight of the race car, which to me seems a bit strange.

06/20/2011 12:43 PM

Has anybody else but me noticed how much cash Edwards is making now? And he wants more? Give me a break. Matt, I disagree on Infineon. It’s a nice break from ovals and always gives the fans exciting racing. Which, by the way, doesn’t happen on very many of the “cookie cutter” tracks.

06/20/2011 12:45 PM

Matt…..the BEST quote ever regarding dumb ass DW! “ he accidentally kissed Brian France on the cheek rather than the ass as he’s been doing since he became a broadcaster. Of course, given the usual proximity of France’s head and his ass it was perhaps an easy mistake to make”! ha ha ha! Hey Phil….see what at least one of your colleagues thinks of the Toyota shill?

06/20/2011 01:58 PM

From AnnieMack:

*I forgot to mention the lack of paying spectators in the stand. I actually do feel sorry for the track owners but they dug their own graves when building all the seats and jacking up the prices. It still breaks my heart to see it.

I really wish they’d cut the paychecks for the millionaires and put the tickets prices and concessions at a price that is reflective of today’s economy and unemployment rate. It is human nature for fans to WANT tickets when they see the tracks are sold out and it’s also human nature to shrug off buying tickets when you see the stands are empty.*

I couldn’t agree more. This is the first year in a decade where we did not attend the MIS June race. It had become a Father’s Day tradition, even though the last two years the race was held the week before Father’s Day, but increasing ticket prices and increasing fuel mileage endings to Michigan, finally made us admit our $110 a seat for Grandstand could be put to better use. 4 years ago the price of our seats was bumped up $11 a seat. Last year in the 3rd year of the “derecession” and yes that is the word, I choose to call it, we were offered a $5 a seat, valued season ticket holder reduction. Hhhhmmm…
For a track that boasted a sellout for more than 23 straight years, it is pitiful to see what the last few years have become. I can not understand why ISC would rather fill the skyboxes and see the rest of the seats half full then drop the prices across the board in the regular seats and fill the track. I agree with AnnieMack, its far better to see a track sold out then to see it half empty. Get a clue race promoters.
And I also endorse Carl Edwards idea of taking away downforce on these cars and making them race. Between fuel mileage and downforce, follow the leader racing at too many ovals is becoming unwatchable.
And finally, Matt while I almost always agree with you, I happen to really like road courses. Its another form of racing the best drivers have learned to master, and seldom does the dominant car in the beginning win a road course. I think a road course should be in the abominable Chase….

Bill S.
06/20/2011 02:04 PM

Carl D., I made no comment on Kyle’s assiness or lack thereof, only that Carl’s felonies are bad enough without any comparisons needed.

I have also heard, because I read other info than FS biased rants, that Carl is slated to be the new Home Depot driver, with Joey getting the 4th car or the boot. No f’ing way are you getting rid of Kyle, who has recently been named the most-valuable driver in TV sponsorship worth during the first 12 NASCAR telecasts this season. Sorry, you and Matt lose again.

Finally, the typical points penalty in the previous points system was 25, which equates almost exactly to six in the new system. Bowyer’s punishment was unusually punitive and severe because RCR had been warned before about cheating – another in a series of black eyes for the dirtiest team in NASCAR, bar none.

06/20/2011 02:36 PM

Sorry matt,like the road courses but don’t like infineon, its like racing on a parking lot.Would like to see the stock cars on Road America. Check out the Nationwise race. Great facility and a real road course.

06/20/2011 03:17 PM

LOL, Matt,this column just cracked me up. Loved the BZF comment esp.

06/20/2011 03:54 PM

“Obviously, Darrell Waltrip needs new eyeglasses. During Tuesday’s announcement of the five new inductees into the Hall of Fame, he accidentally kissed Brian France on the cheek rather than the ass as he’s been doing since he became a broadcaster. Of course, given the usual proximity of France’s head and his ass it was perhaps an easy mistake to make.”

I don’t care who you are, that is damn funny.

Carl D.
06/20/2011 05:08 PM

I made no comment on Edwards’ or Busch’s talent level or marketability. I merely repeated what Brad Keselowski said last year at Bristol… Kyle Busch is an ass. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t hire him to drive my racecar. I just wouldn’t invite him dinner.

Bill S.
06/20/2011 06:09 PM

Well, Brad is hardly an authority. He probably chews with his mouth open. And Kyle has never come close to killing anybody, which puts him way ahead of Carl.

06/20/2011 06:47 PM

I actually came over here looking for Matt’s annual Father’s Day column. Not to be this year, I guess? It is and will always be my favorite NASCAR words written.

Otherwise, I was at the race yesterday – I thought it was pretty damn good. Even for a 17 fan. There was a decent size crowd (ok, no it wasn’t sold out…blah, blah, blah – and the T3 seats were only about 1/2 full as opposed to when I was there in June ’08 and they were full – oh well, we’re in a recession, blah, blah, blah…I do tire of everyone making judgement about the quality of NASCAR based on race attendance. Everybody has a choice what they do with their hard earned cash – if it ain’t on a NASCAR race, so be it. I really don’t care what you spend that money on, NASCAR race or not.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, MIS yesterday. Matt Kenseth is gettin’ damn sick of racing his fuel tank and not race cars. Apparently, his gas man can’t pack a fuel cell. Hopefully, they’ll get that figured out and we can get back to the job at hand…racing at full throttle and not half.

06/20/2011 07:04 PM


The Father’s Day column ran last week because the auto parts store that I deal with gave me a calendar that mistakenly noted last Sunday as Father’s Day.

If you go to the top of the page and select “Staff” then my name it will be in my archives.

Thanks for the kind words,


06/20/2011 08:28 PM

count my vote as “for” road courses, too. I like them as a change from the regular overabundance of D shaped ovals.

old gal from socal
06/20/2011 08:34 PM

MATT-Just finished your annual Father’s Day article, which is always delightful reading. I’m assuming that, sometime in your career, you’ve actually met your hero Richard Petty. What was that like? I met my NASCAR hero a few years ago and I was so shocked to come face to face with him that I literally almost fainted like a silly schoolgirl! I’m betting that your rendering of meeting up with the King the first time would make a great read! Thank you for continuing to take risks in sharing your treasured memories.

06/20/2011 10:33 PM

Isn’t it amazing how the 48 car gets a caution when they need it. It’s amazing what Hendrick money will do.

Bill B
06/21/2011 07:16 AM

While I agree it does seem that way, if it were true they would have thrown two quick cautions after he went two laps down on Sunday so he could take the wave around and get back on the lead lap. I’m glad they didn’t.

06/21/2011 08:00 AM

First a comment on commercials. I don’t think there are more, I think the issue is TNT did a lot more 1 commercial breaks instead of running 5 or 6 in a row like Fox so it seemed like more.

Second, I enjoy the TNT announcers just because they actually watch the race. Sitting with my neighbor there were many time one of us would comment on something in the backround and Wally or Kyle would then mention it. It would never happen on Fox as the race is a sidebar to DW’s life story and none of the announcers have a clue to what is happening on the track.

06/21/2011 12:06 PM

Poor DW, always getting criticized ! He has 100% power to change all that. Try watching tapes of how Ned Jarret conducted himself on air. Watch the TNT guys and ACTUALLY PAY ATTENTION.Stop the bragging, schilling, do some preparation for telecasts so you know what’s going on.Stop thinking your a comedian, when your not even close. THINK, I say THINK, before you speak and don’t talk over the others on the broadcast. Change these things and the criticism would change dramatically. I really don’t hate DW, but I do hate how he approaches the on air part of his job. Lose the arrogance and start with these changes.

Bill S.
06/21/2011 01:05 PM

Let us not forget that Matt’s hero, Richard Petty, was arrested and charged with reckless driving and hit and run after a road rage incident in 1996. This was AFTER he had terrorized NASCAR with his incompetent driving for the last 10 years of his career. On the bright side, the incident ended Richard’s budding political career as a redneck gun-toting diversity-oppposing conservative.

As for Matt’s heroes, he is more fickle than the bachelorette. In other words, being Matt’s hero is worth about a week’s adulation, followed by a lifetime of vitriol and bitterness.

Keep your stories to yourself, Matt. I know you too well and for too long to believe anything you pretend to.

06/21/2011 08:34 PM

Hey, Bill, what does “S” stand for. Susan perhaps. (Go ahead and deny it. I can see the IP addresses ya’ll can’t.

But keep your hateful rants coming. It’s great for the rest of us to remember how blessed we are not to be mentally ill.

Iowa Guy
06/22/2011 12:03 PM

At least Richard Petty didn’t “run all over the other drivers” during his career like someone else did. While Richard was not competitive during his last years, he was FAR from incompetent.
Nice come back Matt !

06/23/2011 02:05 AM

You should watch the race at Infineon Sunday, Matt. It’ll be some of the best racing all season. You are really missing out. You should love NASCAR road racing. Your all time favorite Tim Richmond won a road course race once.

Bill S.
06/23/2011 12:12 PM

Matt, foiled again. My first name is Bill, but my last name does not begin with “S.” Only a complete fool would use any identifying characteristics in posting on an Internet forum, especially one as fraught with hostility as Frontstretch. In fact, I would bet a week’s pay that “Susan” is not even a woman. He just uses that name to poke you with a stick (very effectively) over your obvious misogyny.

As to IP addresses, those belong to the server, not the individual computer. For example, all of AOL’s servers are located in Virginia, even though their clients are worldwide. So what are you trying to prove?

As to the driving skill of Richard Petty, Iowa Guy. Just off the top of my head, I remember him causing the first accident known as “the Big One” at Daytona in July, 1990 when his little OOPS took out 22 cars on LAP ONE. He also wrecked in his final race at Atlanta in 1992, in a huge fireball. His crew managed to repair the car so that Richard would not have the dubious distinction of having a DNF in his (thankfully) final start. And he was charged in 1996 with reckless driving and hit and run on the Interstate. How admirable.

Bad comeback, Matt.