The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Talladega-2 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday October 24, 2011

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

Matt McLaughlin · Monday October 24, 2011


The Key Moment – Clint Bowyer out drag-raced teammate Jeff Burton out of turn four to the flag, on the final lap to win what some pundits will allege to be a race.

In a Nutshell – Even Alice in Wonderland would be in line at the walk-in methadone clinic if she’d been forced to endure this bizarre approximation of a stock car event.

Dramatic Moment – Bowyer and Burton staged a classic last-lap duel for victory. That was racing. I’m not sure what that was going on behind them or for the first 187 laps Sunday.

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

For the second time in as many weeks, the motor racing community must come to grips with a fatal incident in a high-profile race. Sunday, Moto-GP rider Marco Simoncelli was killed during the second lap of the Malaysian GP. While Moto-GP has only a (devoted) cult following here in the states, in Europe and Asia GP riders are among the same pantheon of sports stars as F1 drivers and soccer players. For whatever reason in auto racing, long periods of drivers and riders walking away from spectacular crashes tends to be followed by a brief period of multiple tragedies. It’s the nature of the sport but damn, do I hate it.

Well NASCAR’s plans to break up the tandem racing with a larger restrictor plate and lower pressure cooling systems didn’t work too well, did it? In fact drivers brought things to the next level, having preplanned what other driver they’d partner with prior to even arriving at the track. In fact, some teams had de facto team orders for which of the two paired drivers would win if it came down to the last lap with that tandem up front.

OK, so we’re stuck with this sort of racing. How do we slow the racers down, add some more sheet metal around them for safety reasons, and make the race more fun to watch? Let’s steal a page from some local bullring promoters and have the tandem teams compete in school buses with the trailing driver’s bus chained to the rear bumper of the towing bus. It would have to be more interesting than what we have now, plus imagine the hilarity in the pits and all that extra space on the side of the buses for advertising decals. Oh, and apparently we only need to schedule the race for ten laps in length since the drivers only really get after it in those final laps.

Eventually a force more powerful than NASCAR or even the win is going to mean the end of tandem racing. Recall it’s the sponsors’ millions that keep the teams running. Sponsors base their decision on the effectiveness of their funds spent on Joyce Julius minutes, the amount of time their logos are shown clearly on the TV screen during an event. In the case of tandem racing, the trailing cars logos and decals are all but invisible which has got to tick some marketing types off.

You think maybe Edwards and Biffle and Johnson and Earnhardt decided to lay back in the pack just a smidgen too long there at the end?

If there’s anyone else left out there foolish enough to doubt the SAFER barrier’s effectiveness, watch a slow motion replay of Regan Smith’s impact into the outside wall and how much the SAFER barrier deflected to absorb the hit, possibly sparing us a third tragedy this week.

Nobody won the Championship Sunday, but a lot of drivers made major strides in losing it. Such is the nature of the Talladega beast, I suppose. Under the old “pack racing” scenario, we’d wipe out dozens of cars in an instant. Now, with tandem racing we wipe cars out incrementally many times during the race and still end up with the same amount of carnage when you total it up at the end of the day.

I can’t help but feel the results of this race would have been quite different if NASCAR threw the red flag to halt the field while repairs were made to the SAFER barrier and the track cleaned up after Smith’s wreck. Only two laps of racing remained when the green flag flew. But if there had, in fact been four laps left to run Sunday on the final restart I wonder if anyone would have finished.

What was with the long delay in throwing a caution flag after Joey Logano spun and shredded a tire and fender all over the racing groove trying to get back to the pits?

When Jack Roush and Ford racing brass formulated their “One Ford” strategy this week I don’t suppose they intended it to mean Not One Ford will finish in the top 10.

They’re at it again? Recall in the team’s Cup debut Michael Waltrip’s car was caught cheating in the infamous “jet fuel” incident and they’ve been nailed numerous times for rules infractions. So this week, the windshields of the two full-time MWR racing entries and that of their satellite team, JTG, were found out of compliance. Oddly enough, the windshield of the DW tribute car Michael Waltrip entered was apparently fine. That’s if it was even checked. Recall A) Nobody really thought he was going to qualify B) NASCAR owes both those Waltrips a debt of gratitude for cheerleading.

There’s limited time to act to protect you and your family. The neighbors are going to have to fend for themselves in this annual act of electronic terrorism. You must act before Saturday afternoon at 3:30 ET. Every member of your family needs to be given a blindfold and good-fitting ear plugs. By 3:20, you’ll want to trip the main breaker to your house’s electrical supply and move the family into an interior room with no windows. It might be wise to ask the cable company to disconnect your service until Monday. Yes, next Monday is Halloween and doubtless the cast of the pre-race show for the Truck Series are going to be dressing up in costume again in a little loved attempt to prove they have a sense of humor… it’s just lost on everyone else. If you’ve never seen it, you can’t imagine how bad this annual rite is. If you have, doubtless you are already on the horn with the cable folks. The last two years have involved Batman and Gilligan’s Island, so look for another campy ’60s sitcom theme this year. You’ve been warned.

The tech savvy sorts call it convergence. Basically, they want to watch NASCAR racing on their cell phones and internet-enabled tablets. I don’t really have a dog in the fight since I don’t have a cell phone or a tablet, but the concept has me scratching my head. By this point, most of us have spent a ton of money on the biggest honking plasma high-def flat screen TV we could afford, but these folks want to watch the race on a cell phone screen the size of a White Tower hamburger? Would you even be able to see the undersized NASCAR Non-Stop screen on a cell phone?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

If it wasn’t bad enough for Regan Smith to have to endure a savage hit during the race, what were the odds his team’s transporter would also be set ablaze afterwards?

Jeff Gordon got hosed by Trevor Bayne, who dumped his “partner” on the final restart after agreeing to work with the No. 24 on the radio. Gordon fell from a legitimate contender for the win to a 27th-place finish. (For the record, Bayne contends he was ordered to leave the No. 24 to work with the No. 17 and he wasn’t happy about it.)

Ironically, the driver Bayne dumped Gordon to hook up with was Matt Kenseth, who’d run up front most of the day. But the move didn’t work for either. Kenseth wound up eighteenth, while Bayne dropped to a fifteenth-place finish by the checkered.

Talladega has become one of Kevin Harvick’s better tracks, one of many that have kept him near the top of the standings all season with a remarkable string of top-10 finishes. But Sunday, his luck ran out when he got a major piece of the wreck triggered by A.J. Allmendinger’s sideways Ford. A broken oil cooler forced the No. 29 team to the garage for lengthy repairs.

Kyle Busch also got a piece of Allmendinger’s wreck and it skewed the rear end housing of the car to the left. He also was forced to the garage area for extensive repairs and ended the day 33rd.

Kurt Busch was playing the role of pusher in a tandem and was thus unable to see Bobby Labonte’s car sideways across the track until it was too late to brake. The DNF left him 36th.

Robby Gordon and Bayne were one of the surprising duos at the front of the pack until the rear TV panel on Gordon’s car came loose and impeded their ability to draft together. After the race, the No. 7 team came to an agreement in the future they won’t install bodywork with scotch tape and library paste.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Clint Bowyer is leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the year, but at least he gave the team and his guys one last victory to remember him by.

Jeff Burton was agonizingly close to a long overdue win but as badly as that outfit has been running this season, second place was a respectable result.

Dave Blaney and Brad Keselowski didn’t make a lot of noise during the race but they were the duo that in the end best timed their charge forward for the final two laps: Blaney wound up third and Keselowski finished fourth. By the way, Blaney was in a Chevy and Keselowski was in a Dodge. Can’t we all just get along?

It seems likely that the entire Red Bull team will be shutting down at the end of the year but Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne paired up for a fifth/sixth-place result.

Denny Hamlin started the race without a drafting partner and soon lost a lap. Then, once back on the lead lap he had to dodge at least two major wrecks, often times hanging on as a “third wheel” behind another twosome to climb up to an eighth-place finish.

Worth Noting

  • Just three drivers in the Chase (Brad Keselowski in fourth, Tony Stewart in seventh and Hamlin in eighth) were amongst the top-10 finishers at Talladega.
  • The top-10 finishers Sunday drove four Chevys, five Toyotas, and a Dodge. Carl Edwards in eleventh was the top-finishing Ford.
  • Yes, that was Richard Childress Racing’s 100th win in the Cup series.
  • Bowyer’s win was his first since this event last year and his third top-3 result of 2011. He finished second at Talladega and Texas this spring.
  • Jeff Burton’s second-place finish was his best this season, easily eclipsing his previous best, a ninth-place result at the Glen.
  • Blaney’s third-place finish was the best of his Cup career. He’s done it two other times: at Darlington in 2003 and this track four years ago.
  • Keselowski’s fourth-place finish was his fourth top-5 result in this year’s six Chase races.
  • Vickers’ fifth-place finish equals his best result of the season. He also finished fifth in the first Dover race and at New Hampshire last month.
  • Kasey Kahne (sixth) has now strung together four straight top-10 finishes. And having finished my fourth can of Red Bull this afternoon, I am now hanging from my ceiling by my nails like a cat being forced to listen to a Britney Spears concert.
  • Hamlin’s eighth-place finish was his best of the Chase.
  • Michael Waltrip (ninth) scored his first top-10 finish since Talladega in the fall of 2009.
  • Martin Truex, Jr.’s tenth-place finish was his best since the Bristol night race.
  • Edwards’ eleventh-place finish was actually his worst result since Michigan in August.
  • Kyle Busch’s 33rd-place finish was his worst since Loudon in July.

What’s the Points?

Edwards maintains his points lead and is now fourteen points ahead of his teammate Kenseth, who moved up a spot to second. Brad Keselowski moved up three positions in the standings to third and is eighteen points out of the lead. Fourth-place Stewart is one point behind Keselowski.

Harvick’s misfortune dropped him three spots to fifth in the standings, a not inconsiderable 26 points out of the lead. So I guess despite the Karmic wisdom of Moe, Larry and Curly, oil is not well that ends well.

Kyle Busch fell two spots to sixth in the standings, a nearly insurmountable forty points behind Edwards with four races left to run in this year’s title hunt. Behind him, the good news for Johnson is he’s up a spot to seventh in the standings. The bad news is he is now fifty points out of the lead.

Kurt Busch fell a spot to eighth, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sits ninth. It’s a little too late to revive their title hopes now, but Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin each moved up a spot to tenth and eleventh. Ryan Newman fell two spots to twelfth.

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 it two cans, laying on their side, lined up a paper’s width apart.

Next Up – From NASCAR’s largest track we move on to the sport’s smallest, the quaint little half-miler at Martinsville where time has seemingly stood still since back when Leave it To Beaver hit puberty.

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
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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Kevin in SoCal
10/24/2011 02:25 AM

Anyone else think Bowyer dumped Burton on purpose because he’s leaving the team at the end of the year? Anyone else wonder what would have happened had Burton hit Bowyer in the quarter panel a little harder?

10/24/2011 07:10 AM

yes, yes and two cans?
very generous.
can we stick a fork in chad’s efforts now?
please god anyone but edwards.

10/24/2011 07:21 AM

Thanks for the Help
Fords Forever
Your Buddy

10/24/2011 07:48 AM

Somehow, I get this feeling that Stenhouse just supplanted Bayne as next in line at Ford Motor.. I mean Roush/Feway Racing. Looks like another year in Nationwide for Trevor. Ashame. The kid could have won the race had he stuck with Gordon.

just talking
10/24/2011 08:34 AM

Mary will you go to the prom with me? Sorry Johnny I already promised Tom.
Sue will you go to the prom with me? Sorry Johnny I already promised Mike.
Debbie will you go to the prom with me? Yes Johnny I will go with you. I was supposed to go with Billy, but then he said he was going to go with Jane. Wait until Billy finds out Jane is really going to go with Bobby.

Whoever thought Nascar would turn into “Mean Girls”?

10/24/2011 09:33 AM

“•Just two drivers in the Chase (Tony Stewart in seventh and Hamlin in eighth) were amongst the top 10 finishers at Talladega.”

Am I reading this wrong? Brad K was in the top 5.

10/24/2011 09:37 AM

Actually, from the top of the RV the race was not that bad. Of course, I had been drinking since we got there Thursday so my judgement might have been impaired…

10/24/2011 10:04 AM

PS: I do have a smart phone. It was a gift. Hasrdly any apps really. I have to use 2.5x reading glasses to see or send texts so I don’t do that much (though I am now) and I have tried the TV thing. I had to go to Dollar Tree and get a pair of 4x to see the teensy weensie screen. Not worth the trouble.

Bill B
10/24/2011 10:47 AM

That race sucked. They have ruined the Talladega race (not that I’ve ever been a fan of RP racing). At least it used to be exciting for the majority of the race even though it was still a crap shoot. This broke-back racing sucks. There is no way someone should fall a lap down like Hamlin did just because he didn’t have a partner. That ain’t racing.
I felt like a schmuck sitting in front of the tv for four hours watching that crap.
Zero cans and NASCAR owes me four hours of my life back.

10/24/2011 12:16 PM

Relaxed pit stops, waiting for their buddy…

Sorry – This Ain’t Racing!

Thank god for Martinsville.

10/24/2011 01:07 PM

21 of 27 motivated voters said 0,1 or 2 cans. That pretty, pretty, pretty well sums it up.

AncientRacer @ 9:37am…Too Funny. Your comments are spot on.

Sharon J
10/24/2011 01:18 PM

And those sand baggers call themselves racers? Carl should have finished back there with the rest of the sand baggers. Kudos to the drivers who RACED!!

10/24/2011 01:32 PM

Didn’t Junior and Johnson learn at Daytona that if they wait too long to make their move it is too late. I think the race would of been better if they would ofd put all the start and park drivers in the chase cars.

Bill S.
10/24/2011 01:39 PM

So, we now will probably have “stroker Carl” as our champion. Wow, that sure is an improvement over anybody who actually races to win. (Please note sarcasm.)

Carl gets rewarded for not racing a single lap Sunday. WTG, man! Hope your FR9 blows up the next 4 weeks.

I have become a Matt Kenseth fan by default. The “quiet one” at least did some racing Sunday.

And Trevor, I’ll bet even Tom Bowles is not clapping for you after that deceitful move at the end. Not only did you hang Jeff out to dry, you lied about it before you did it. Another WTG, man!

Zero beer cans. One large case of arsenic-laced Kool-Aid, please. Send it to Roush racing.

10/24/2011 01:46 PM

2 cans? Wow that’s more generous than I would be. Half a can maybe – boring race with nothing going on until the GWC. I too wondered why they didn’t red flag the race.

I understand that Bayne obeyed the orders given to him by those who sign his paycheck, but IMO he could have told Gordon on the radio he couldn’t work with him and that would have been fine, but don’t say one thing and do another. they call that “lying”.

I’m now rooting for Tony to take the trophy. I hope he kicks Edwards and Kenseth’s ford’s to the curb.

Red Carey
10/24/2011 02:10 PM

Considering the farce of the casual pit stops, the pre-arranged partners, the pre-arranged factory orders,Denny Hamlin going a lap down only because he was the 43 car so to speak, and I swear more tv commercial time than tv race time (I even include the split screen as it detracts from my viewing enjoyment as it is like watching the race on a cellphone)I also feel that NASCAR owes me 4 hours of my life back as well as some more for the aggrivation of it all. This whole series has become one big joke. This makes the WWF look real.

10/24/2011 02:10 PM

I’ve been saying for years (but who am I) there is a simple way to force everyone to race all race long, every race. Score points for your position each lap of the race. Of course there would be much more points for the last lap. This would also reward qualifying since qualifying up front would lead to additional points earned in the early laps of the race.

10/24/2011 02:12 PM

team orders = blah

what was with this “i’ll wait for your service so we can line up correctly with the dancing partners on pit road…WHAT A JOKE!!!!!

i think part of the male anatomy was left behind in charlotte.

Sue Rarick
10/24/2011 02:37 PM

I thought the race was fun and exciting………..oops I forgot I was iRacing during the bad

10/24/2011 04:04 PM

I seem to remember, a few years back, the Anointed One telling Smoke he would draft with him to the end of the 500 race. 10 laps to go he couldn’t wait to leave his “favorite” drafting partner out to dry. At least then you had a chance to get to the front in different drafting combination. Now, its all about the two step.

And I think it is absurdly ironic that the supposed brilliantly conceived Chase was in part the result of Matt Kenseth winning only one race in 2003. We wanted our Nascar Champions to have wins under their belts. And now Kenseth sits directly behind cousin Carl with how many wins? and he will likely still come in second to Carl with one win this year. Its the nature of the beast Nascar has created. The drivers know that to stroke a lead in the Chase is to probably finish in the number 1 position. Its not that Carl wouldn’t like to win another race, its the chance to win a Championship for someone other than “Five Time” that makes the decision a moot point.

Carl D.
10/24/2011 05:32 PM

Yeah, I hope Kenseth beats Edwards for the championship. Matt did what a racer is supposed to do… race, while Carl ran around at the back of the pack. It’s hard to blame Edwards, it’s just the nature of this bastardized form of racing, but I ain’t gotta like it. I’m just glad Edwards and Biffle waited too late to make their charge, because if they had won this race by hanging out at the back all day, it would have been an even bigger travesty than the race already turned out to be.

Props to Keselowski for staying in contention all day and being the best finishing chase driver. I really wouldn’t be surprised to see Brad win the whole thing.

10/24/2011 06:13 PM

carl – i would love for brad to win the chase…..see a bunch of jaws drop that weekend if that happened at homestead. kid will race.

10/24/2011 08:07 PM

CindyLacey, The Anointed One hung Jr. out at the Daytona 400 & I believe he was trying to do something similar again yesterday & got caught up in it himself; & killed his own chance for the championship. He had grass on the grill & only 2 laps to go. JG had about 20 laps to go in a race, the car overheated, & he kept driving. He might have won. I don’t remember.

Doug in Washington (State)
10/24/2011 08:09 PM

I was surprised Gibbs let Hamlin go stag to that dance. Guess he figured Hamlin was so far out of the running that it didn’t matter, but I’m surprised he didn’t have Brian Scott run a 4th car just to give him a chance. Or hell, pay a S&P team to go the distance to “help”, like the #66.

For Trevor, did he even have Jeff’s channel? Or were they doing it all through spotters? Trevor himself had been left out of the Ford “Pardner Up!” since only 11 Fords were going to “Run the distance”. If Ford was issuing the orders, why’d they let FRM part the #55 since that would have made a nice even 12.

Anyhow, I’ve lost any hope of seeing “real” racing at Talladega. Until drivers have to slow down for the turns, it’ll always be either a pack, a single file line, or tandem racing.

10/24/2011 09:54 PM

Marybeth…. Still waiting for Dale Jr. to make a move to win the race, now we have to wait until next week. Only 4 races left for that perfect year, 0 for 2011. Could we then call it a 3-peat?

10/24/2011 11:25 PM

NASCAR will probably tell Speed to stop showing the Aussie V8s. We get to see real racing. DW is almost bearable.

10/25/2011 09:25 AM

I have two words to describe this race, but I’ll fuse them into one. Fugly. I will not watch any more “square dance” races. If that means not watching the Daytona 500, so be it. Damn it, I can’t believe I said that, I’ve been following nas$car for upwards of 25 years and the racing this year has been God awful. Neutering Bristol and Talladega sucks big time for us long time fans.

10/25/2011 09:28 AM

Oh, I forgot to give this race a rating. I gave it one beer and that’s being generous.

10/25/2011 12:29 PM

Also, I’m not a huge Edwards fan, but I really really really really want him to win the championship with just one win… at Las Vegas… in a Roush car… like a certain other Roush driver that triggered this ridiculous farce of a playoff a few years ago.

10/26/2011 11:37 AM

I was there Sunday and I was sitting in the stands thinking “what am I doing here?”

This is what Talladega has become.

Also, when the F-22 Raptors were doing the flyovers, I saw above the track, say about 10,000 ft, two black specs and 4 white specs in a circle formation and they were stationary.

I thought more about that the whole race than the race itself.

When the planes left, one by one the objects disappeared.

Weird stuff.

No, I wasn’t drunk yet either!

10/26/2011 10:25 PM

well they ruined bristol by repaving it now they ruin talladega by tandem drafting at least we still have richmond and martinsville
did anyone happen to hear chads orders to jimmie to wreck the car if they won then say they were doing nothing wrong

another good read Matt

10/27/2011 10:34 AM

I thought there was a race on Sunday, but I didn’t see any racing. WTF?