The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Pocono-2 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday August 8, 2011

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

Matt McLaughlin · Monday August 8, 2011


The Key Moment – Kyle Busch got so preoccupied with Jimmie Johnson’s attempted divebomb pass to the inside, a quick move on Turn 1 of the final restart they both flat out let Brad Keselowski get away.

In a Nutshell – It wasn’t very exciting, there wasn’t a lot of passing and rain caused a two-hour delay but at least the winner wasn’t determined by fuel mileage.

While Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson mixed it up on the final restart, Brad Keselowski and his broken ankle drove off to the win at Pocono.

Dramatic Moment – That final restart had all the makings of a disaster.

Johnson and Kurt Busch spiced up the pot a bit on the final lap. Post-race comment analysis… advantage, Kurt Busch.

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

Give Keselowski style points for even getting in his car Sunday after a triple digit wreck at Road Atlanta that broke his ankle and left him bruised and battered. To win the race after all that was a major display of intestinal fortitude. Didn’t Denny Hamlin win a bunch of races last year after knee surgery? Perhaps trauma to the lower extremities makes a guy faster.

Ironically enough, had it not been for the rain delay this would have been one of the faster 500 miles at Pocono. But I’m still for breaking both Pocono dates into a pair of 200-mile races.

Once again, a comparison of this week’s Nationwide and Cup race yields the same old results. Smaller race tracks and slower speeds make for better racing.

Best wishes to Drs. Joe and Rose Mattioli, well-respected owners who have cultivated the Pocono track all these years. They announced their retirement earlier this weekend, unexpectedly; grandson Brandon Igdalsky now holds the title of President and CEO.

Why is it NASCAR seems to want to lump all their most boring races into the summer stretch?

I dunno, but I think if I worked for the No. 22 team and Kurt Busch started complaining about the car while leading, I’d just lay aside my headset and go home.

Ford executives were doing backflips of their own this week after Carl Edwards’ decision to stay with the manufacturer long-term.

OK, so Carl Edwards is going to stay with Roush Fenway Racing. Apparently, the Ford Motor Company had to throw in a bunch of cash to seal the deal. It’s about time. Roush and Ford have had a habit of letting their most talented drivers defect to other brands over the past couple decades.

You have to figure when a race transporter entering the track manages to take out the starter’s tower you’re in for a long, difficult weekend.

Really? ESPN continued a live interview while Taps was played as part of the pre-race ceremony? And this is the day after this country lost 31 soldiers in an attack in Afghanistan? That’s just disrespectful.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Had it rained a little harder and longer, Joey Logano would have won the race. To compound his misery, a pair of poor pit stops plus a flat tire sent him tumbling to a 26th-place finish.

As one might expect at Pocono, Denny Hamlin ran up front and had a real shot at winning until a pair of miscues in the pits derailed his little red wagon. Lugnut problems left him fighting for 15th.

David Ragan’s chances at a competitive race ended barely 20 laps into the proceedings when he backed into the wall. Ragan wound up 34th.

Juan Pablo Montoya usually runs well at Pocono, but he was off-key to say the least on Sunday. A late-race wreck with Kasey Kahne only extended the misery; in the two races since Brian Pattie was replaced, he now has an average finish of 30.0.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Who knew a blown engine could still take you to Victory Lane? Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. caught a huge break when second-place Carl Edwards slid into the No. 6 car, slipping in oil left behind by that faulty motor while pushing them both across the line.

Ricky Stenhouse won Saturday night’s Nationwide race in almost unbelievable fashion. Leading on the last lap, Stenhouse blew an engine exiting turn four. Carl Edwards was closing hard on his teammate but was unable to see through the smoke or steer on the oiled down track; he ran right into the back of Stenhouse, propelling him across the finish line with the two back tires several feet off the ground.

Jeff Gordon started the Pocono race in 31st after slapping the wall in qualifying. For the first half of the race, he seemed unable to stay out of his own way but rallied back to a sixth-place finish. Plus, Gordon was back in his comfortable position of having the broadcasters all but cutting out little red construction paper hearts for him as they sang his praises and celebrated his “resurgence.”

Kyle Busch bought out the day’s first caution only twelve laps into the race with a single-car spin. Yet he recovered well enough to finish second.

Johnson thought he had a transmission coming apart late in the race but it turned out to be nothing. He went on to run fourth.

IndyCar TV ratings probably got a big boost Sunday when the lengthy Pocono rain delay overlapped their broadcast.

Tony Stewart had yet another miserable run going by halfway once an equalized tire dropped him off the lead lap. But somehow or another, Stewart clawed back and wound up in eleventh at the end of the race. I think he took a shortcut.

Worth Noting

  • His second-place finish was Kyle Busch’s eleventh top-5 result in 21 Cup races run this year.
  • Kurt Busch’s third-place performance was his first top 5 since he won at Sonoma.
  • Johnson finished fourth at both this year’s Pocono events.
  • Jeff Gordon (sixth) hasn’t finished worse than eleventh in the last six races.
  • Greg Biffle (eighth) has now scored back-to-back top 10 finishes for the first time since Texas and Talladega this spring.
  • Dale Earnhardt’s ninth-place finish was his best result since he finished sixth here in the June race. Even better, it’s the first time he’s had top-10 finishes in both Pocono events since 2003.
  • The top-10 finishers at Pocono drove two Dodges, five Chevys, two Fords and a Toyota.

What’s the Points?

Edwards remains atop the points but is now only nine ahead of Johnson. Kyle Busch moves up a spot to third, just two points behind. Kurt Busch advanced two spots to fourth while Kevin Harvick fell two spots to fifth. Matt Kenseth fell a spot to sixth; all those drivers, along with seventh-place point man Jeff Gordon are a full points’ worth of races ahead of 11th.

Drivers in point positions eighth through twelfth held serve this week. While Greg Biffle in thirteenth is just three points out of the top 12, that’s not going to matter unless he wins a race. Ranked eighteenth in the standings and having won two races this year, Brad Keselowski currently holds the top “wild card” spot while Denny Hamlin would grab the other, hanging on with a single victory in 11th.

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 three cans of lukewarm stuff. Like I said, it wasn’t decided on fuel mileage.

(Some of you have asked what sort of race gets a full six-pack? Saturday’s Nationwide thriller gets a perfect score.)

Next Up – The wallowing walruses of Cup cars take to Watkins Glen. Yawn. See ya in a couple weeks when real racing resumes.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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Bill B
08/08/2011 07:11 AM

Was I the only one that knew NASCAR would throw a debris caution to bunch up the field as soon as they made it to halfway? No bogus cautions before the halfway point because they wanted to make sure the race was official in case of bad weather. But then, right at the halfway point they throw a questionable debris caution. How can they be so transparent?

Carl D.
08/08/2011 09:02 AM

As Pocono races go, it was okay. Although clear air was still the best advantage, there were a few passes for the lead, and even more passing within the rest of the top ten. We had the Jimmie Johnson-Kurt Busch battle, and the suspense of watching Kyle Busch try to run down Keseloski at the end. There was nothing anyone could do about the rain delay but wait it out; If Pennsylvania is anything like the Carolinas, they desperately needed the rain even if it didn’t come at the most fortuitous time.

The Nationwide race at Iowa was great. This racetrack proves that the future of Nascar is dependent on tracks that provide for good racing. I noticed the stands at Iowa were packed for the second time this year. There’s a lesson there, Brian.

Last but not least, congrats to Brad for a great win despite the broken ankle. Even moreso, thanks to Brad for reminding us that the real heroes this weekend are the brave soldiers in Afghanistan who made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for our great nation.

08/08/2011 10:23 AM

I tuned in at the end of the rain delay. Wasn’t it great to not have commercials from the restart to the end?

In regards to the last line Matt, there hasn’t been real racing in Cup for years.

08/08/2011 10:23 AM

You said it best, “Gordon was back in his comfortable position of having the broadcasters all but cutting out little red construction paper hearts for him as they sang his praises and celebrated his “resurgence.”

I wonder how much JG has to pay ESPN for this “promoting”.

08/08/2011 10:50 AM

Matt – You may give the race 3 cans of lukewarm stuff to the race; however, I offer an ice-cold sixer of Schaefer Beer to the Mattiolis for their multi-decade commitment to racing at Pocono and keeping ISC and SMI at bay. (For those who don’t recall, Schaefer was a big supporter of Pocono races – especially USAC – in the 70s.)

08/08/2011 11:52 AM

obviously I’m biased, but I’m pretty happy that the broadcasters are speaking well of Jeff Gordon again these days. As a long time fan, there were a couple of years where it was simply painful to watch a race on TV.

And on that note, I doubt that anyone could pay Rusty enough money to make him speak well of Jeff.

A better than usual Pocono race – although that doesn’t say much. I’ve been there twice, that was enough for me. At least watching it on TV, I can do other things while they “race” at Pocono.

I thought the caution at the halfway point was humorous too. NASCAR really does think the fans are stupid.

08/08/2011 12:15 PM

J.J. is such a jerk!! I hit him mommie, but he HIT me back!!! WAAAAAAAAA

08/08/2011 01:08 PM

the carl edwards thing although good for carl can’t be good for racing in general. it adds even more money into a sport that is bloated and out of touch. you can’t tell me some other ford teams aren’t going to see less money because of this. looks to me like he took a page right out of danica’s book. drop hints that you are going elsewhere and say nothing and watch the offers roll in but stay where you are at the end of it because that’s always been your best shot. speaking of danica… never mind, i’ll get to say it next year when she can’t perform in great equipment next year either…
the jj kurt “scuffle” was rather humorous. wonder if jj will apologize once he watches the video. first time i’ve ever agreed with something kurt said though…
matt, i think i agree. 2 200 milers but only once a year. too bad you’re skipping the road race. lately they’ve been stacking up as pretty entertaining racing and i’d love to hear your take again.

Don Mei
08/08/2011 02:10 PM

Since you obviously dont know much about road racing, it’s probably a good idea that you do something else next weekend. Maybe that new show “Trailer Park Housewives”.

08/08/2011 02:11 PM

Always entertaining to see JJ and Kurt mix it up. Amazing how JJ always thinks he’s the good guy and everyone else is a jerk. It was pretty funny to see him walk away from Kurt twice and then head back over like he was going to punch him. What a wimpy whiner. Look at the replay JJ … sad thing is you’re going to ruin Nascar even more by winning a 6th title (vomit).

08/08/2011 04:59 PM

I know I’m in the minority here, but I thought yesterday’s race was a clear-cut “ZERO” cans of beer! Worse than the June race! Why? If for no other reason because it was won by the biggest fecal-brained moron in NASCAR. Yes, an even bigger moron than Cryle and that over-priviged cry-baby in the #48! Sorry, but I cannot stand this jerk! I don’t care if he did drive hurt, and I know it was good that he at least swallowed his greatly bloated ego and saluted the armed forces people who gave their lives on the weekend, he’s still a complete jerk! As much as I can’t stand Cryle, I would have taken him winning over Crasheloski! And to think that, this afternoon, on his Sirius Speedway show, Dave Moody actually had the audacity to call this punk ‘The New Ironman’! If I was Jack Ingram, I’d punch Moody right in his yap!

On the lighter side, way to go, Kurt Busch! Poor, poor Jimmie! Someone actually raced him! Bad boy, Kurt! You’re not supposed to race NASCAR’s chosen son! Take heart though, Jimmie, if it had of been the Bad-boy Brad who raced you that way, he would have turned you head on into the wall, then he would have sicked his daddy (one of the dirtiest racers who ever drove in the old A.S.A. series! Watched him at the old Cayuga Speedway one day when he spun Butch Miller and Bob Senniker out in two separate incidents!) on you when you went after him! When comparing Bob and Brad, it’s truely “like fater, like son”!

08/08/2011 05:02 PM

Sorry, that should have been “like father, like son”.

08/08/2011 05:39 PM

So let me get this straight….You aren’t a BK fan? lol
I’ve been to Cayuga a few times – seen some good racing there.

08/08/2011 06:07 PM

I’ve never been to Cayuga… But that won’t make me a BK fan. And I was so hoping Kurt would put JJ into the wall.Better luck next time Kurt!

08/08/2011 09:04 PM

What’s the Points?
With the top six – 26 points apart, the top ten about 80 points apart since they changed the points structure, What’s the point of the Chase Format???

08/08/2011 09:22 PM

If you want to see super late models racing at Peterborough Speedway check out linktest.

08/09/2011 12:59 PM

How did Stenhouse get the win? Isn’t there some rule about your car having to pass the start finish line under its own power on the last lap? LOL

08/10/2011 03:55 PM

Watkins Glen will be a better race than Pocono.. and Loudon.. that’s a promise, Matt

08/11/2011 11:32 AM

I gave this race one beer and I might have given it too much credit. Just more of the same tired parade racing. You are right about something though, Matt. Two 250 mile races would ease some of the boredom.