The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2012 Bud Shootout Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday February 20, 2012

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2012 Bud Shootout Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday February 20, 2012


Kyle Busch recovered from not one, but two near-wrecks to charge towards victory in Saturday night’s Bud Shootout.

The Key Moment – Kyle Busch used a David Pearson, patent perfect slingshot pass to get around Tony Stewart coming to the line.

In a Nutshell – A whole lot more wrecking than racing. At times, I was wondering if anyone was going to finish the Shootout.

Dramatic Moment – Jeff Gordon decided he was going to get around Kyle Busch even if he had to wreck him. Ironically, in attempting to avoid that crash that never happened, Gordon found himself on his roof and out of the race.

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

Has this “race” outlived its shelf life? The “Born On” date for the Bud Shootout (nee the Busch Clash) was February 11th, 1979. The nine drivers eligible for the event had won a pole position at a Cup race the previous year; points, manufacturers, etc. had nothing to do with it. They raced for all of twenty laps, competing in an event that lasted just 15 minutes and 26 seconds. Buddy Baker won the race in dominating style, leading 18 of 20 laps and beating second-place Darrell Waltrip with ease. His winnings? Fifty grand even, big coin back in that era. It was a reasonable concept; but over the years, the length of the race has swollen and eligibility requirements have slackened. (Hate to say it, but the downward spiral began with the Earnhardt factor. Dale Senior was never much of a qualifier and they wanted to be sure the sport’s most famous face was in every Shootout.) This year, it seems that to be eligible, a driver had to have a pulse and a car. In fact, multiple drivers who were eligible chose to sit this one out either for lack of a ride or sponsorship. What’s the problem? For one, it’s distance; seventy-five laps are way too many for a “Shootout.” I’d love to see the race go back to twenty laps and be restricted to actual pole winners from the previous season again. Putting $500,000 in the kitty for the winner would guarantee some spirited racing, too. (Breaking News: NASCAR has announced that criteria for the 2013 Shootout will go back to the old rules, restricted to drivers who win a pole this season and previous winners of the event. Now, about that length…)

Among the notables not participating in this year’s Shootout was Trevor Bayne who, of course, won last year’s Daytona 500. He chose not to… what does that tell you about this race?

OK, after that one common logic says that NASCAR will add yet another new rule for Daytona, stating drivers cannot bumpdraft in the corners. But how to they enforce that and determine whether contact was accidental or intentional? After all the carnage Saturday night, my guess is that the first 190 laps of the Daytona 500 are going to be rather sedate, with many drivers choosing to cruise at the back at the pack until the pay window starts to open. After that, watch out.

One issue a lot of folks emailing me are flat out pissed off about is NASCAR’s blessed policy of buying a guaranteed starting spot in this year’s 500 based on the work and effort of others last year. Naturally, most of the ire is directed towards the No. 10 team, a result of some unholy alliance between Hendrick / Stewart-Haas and Tommy Baldwin Racing that secured Danica Patrick a top-35 spot in owner points. The practice amounts to corporate welfare for the wealthy which hurts legitimate teams trying to break into the sport.

A former boss taught me that if you’re going to point out a problem, you ought to have a suggestion to fix that problem at hand. So here’s my solution to teams buying into the first five races of the season. Daytona 500 qualifying has always been a bit Byzantine, what with Sunday qualifying and the 150s on Thursday. How about we keep both events, but the driver who qualifies fastest on Sunday gets one point towards making the race. The driver who qualifies second fastest gets two points and so on down to the 49th-fastest driver, who gets 49 points. Then, on Thursday the winner of the faster of the two 150s gets one point. The winner of the other 150 gets two points and so on down through the field. When the dust settles on Thursday evening, the 43 drivers with the lowest point totals (think golf) are in the Daytona 500. It doesn’t matter what the driver or team did last year or how many championships they might have won. The fastest 43 cars make the race and everybody else goes home.

Two-car tandems dead in the water? Try saying that, then explaining how this picture of “speed dating” perfection unfolded in the final laps of Saturday night’s race.

I’m a little confused with the sound bites and headlines coming out in the wake of Saturday night’s race. The general consensus amongst drivers, team owners and media members is that “Tandem Racing” is a thing of the past. Well, I guess I saw the wrong race, because it appeared to me that in the final laps, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch paired up in a tandem to escape the pack so they could settle the matter between themselves. From my view, yes two drivers can no longer hook up as easily or stay hooked together as long due to the new rules package. But… they still can. That means problems will occur when two drivers try to pair up to move forward in the pack because, in close quarters the slightest miscalculation can be disastrous. So what do we call this new hybrid of pack and “Tandem Racing?” How about Tupac Racing?

Oh, boy, Chad Knaus is up to his old tricks yet again. The No. 48 car entered for the Daytona 500 failed tech inspection due to C pillars that had been massaged to guide the air away from the rear spoiler – a modification which would have been a huge speed advantage on a plate track. Oddly enough, no other car in the Hendrick stable, not even the No. 48 car prepared for the Shootout, was stitched up in the same manner. Knaus, you’ll recall, was nailed red-handed at the last restrictor plate event (Talladega in the fall) telling his driver to run the back end of the car into the wall if he were to win; this car is the very same one. Now, the last time Knaus got nailed with a major rules infraction at Daytona, in 2006 he was escorted off track property and not allowed to return for the 500 (an event Johnson then won, with Darian Grubb on the box filling in for Knaus) but NASCAR says that won’t happen this time. Still, once again the validity of Johnson’s five titles has to be called into question. I’d recommend a record fine and suspension for our boy Chad, even if it’s not until after this Sunday’s 500. He’s not just a cheater, he’s a habitual offender.

Jimmie Johnson had a rough weekend at Daytona; after getting busted in pre-qualifying inspection, the No. 48 Chevy wrecked in the final laps of Saturday’s Shootout.

Speaking of habitual offenders, Michael Waltrip Racing got nabbed yet again after qualifying. Clint Bowyer’s car was found to be too low and his time was disallowed, forcing him to start in the rear on Thursday. Well, I guess it’s better than a tank full of jet fuel this time…

A few notes on FOX coverage of the Shootout and the events leading up to it…
A) Wow, it didn’t take long for Danica-Mania to take over the Shootout Coverage, did it? Could they maybe have mentioned some of the drivers actually running in the race first?
B) It’s pretty sad that much attention had to be paid to the fact Daytona International planted two different types of grass in the infield grass to give the terrain a striped effect. Of course, listening to Darrell Waltrip again had me wishing for a little bag of a third sort of grass.
C) No, FOX doesn’t care what fans think, even in this age of social media. Not only is the ever annoying Boogity chant back, so is that stupid verminous gopher.

Only the FOX/SPEED team could come up with a method of drawing for starting positions for the Shootout that lasted longer than the race itself. If you spent an hour and a half Friday night watching drivers, some of them clearly irritable at being called out into the rain, pick beer bottles you really need to get a life or some reasonable facsimile thereof. And if there’s one thing worse than watching race fans scream and carry on, trying to get themselves shown on TV, it’s watching those Bozos being too stupid to come in out of the rain.

Sometimes politically correct is just stupid. The Grand Marshal of the Cup race at Phoenix won’t be allowed to drive his General Lee Charger around the track because it has a Confederate flag painted on the roof. Come on. Who’s going to be offended by the cartoonish General Lee, still a late night staple for insomniacs on cable? Those of you old enough to actually have seen the show may recall Cale Yarborough was an occasional guest star, back in an era when practically nobody north of the Mason-Dixon knew who he was. (Roscoe once threatened to arrest him for “impersonating Cale Yarborough.”) When the original Bo and Luke left the series for a year, the storyline went they’d gone off to run the NASCAR circuit.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

David Ragan’s Shootout lasted only ten laps before contact with Paul Menard sent him spinning into a pack of cars. Michael Waltrip was third man in. Color me surprised.

Brandon McReynolds would have won the ARCA 199.9-mile race. He ran out of gas within a thousand feet of the checkered flag.

Kurt Busch wrecked a car in practice for the Shootout and totaled another in the event itself. At this rate, James Finch is going to be out of extra sheet metal by Fontana.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a great car Saturday night and led several stretches of the race to the considerable delight of the fans on hand. But he was unable to avoid the big wreck that resulted when Joey Logano got knocked sideways. With NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver out of the race, a ton of fans started visibly heading for the exits. It’s not easy being an Earnhardt fan…

Denny Hamlin and Darian Grubb had to fight through adversity Saturday night, but their patience paid off. The No. 11 Toyota scored a top-5 finish in their first race together.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Kyle Busch’s car was sideways and completely out of control at least twice during the race, but he gathered it up each time. Not only were both incidents glove saves, and beauties, but Busch went on to win the event in a thoroughly used up Camry.

In the ARCA Series, coming out of the fourth turn to the checkered flag Bobby Gerhart was running fifth. He scored an improbable win when everyone ahead of him seemed to run out of gas or run into someone else who had.

Clint Bowyer went for a wild ride through the grass but survived the incident well enough to finish eighth.

Despite never having run in the Shootout before, Marcos Ambrose did a credible job Saturday, leading the event late before finally finishing third despite having cooked his brakes early in the event. Brakes? We don’t need no steenkin’ brakes.

Denny Hamlin lost two laps having crash damage repaired, an incident he thought might have damaged his engine, too but went on to finish the race in fifth.

Tony Stewart mangled his car in the first practice session Friday but his team (with Stewart assisting with the wrenching) pieced it back together well enough for the series champion to finish a close second on Saturday night.

Worth Noting

  • As I get older, my attention span is in a tail dive and my tolerance for gimmickry is worn clean through to the primer.
  • Busch’s win was the first for Toyota in the Shootout.
  • A total of three cars – Nos. 14, 2, and 16 – stayed out of all of the evening’s incidents. There were 25 cars entered in the race.
  • Of all the drivers in new rides this season, Clint Bowyer had the best outing Saturday, finishing eighth.

What’s the Points?

This race is pointless, in more ways than one.

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 bottles of icy cold Bud with two of the bottles cracked, leaking, on fire and upside down.

Next Up – Qualifying will be over by the time this article is posted, so next up is the Twin 150s Thursday afternoon. Like the original Shootout, these were once very exciting races. Not anymore. With the top 35 in last year’s owner points now guaranteed a starting spot for the 500, about all we’re left with is battles at the back of the pack, scrapping over which driver will have the honor of being the first to start and park next Sunday.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
NASCAR Mailbox: A ‘Normal’ Saturday And A Valuable Lesson
Beyond the Cockpit: Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher
Open Wheel Wednesday: Controversial Moves, Long Beach Crowds, and Being a Fuddy Duddy
The Frontstretch Five: Pleasant Surprises of 2014 So Far
IndyCar Driver Profile: Takuma Sato
Beyond the Cockpit: Tommy Baldwin on Owning His Team, Hall of Fame and the Number Seven


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Sharon J
02/20/2012 06:40 AM

What a waste of good cars. This is not a race, it is a demolition derby. If I were an owner, I don’t think I
would sacrifice a car for this race. The odds of finishing are not good. Good to see you back Matt.

Carl D.
02/20/2012 08:32 AM

Matt, I’m not with you on shortening the shootout, whether it qualifies as a “shootout” or not. After the off-season DT’s, I need more than a 20 lap fix. Besides, if Michael Waltrip wrecked on the first lap, he wouldn’t even have time to make it to the booth for the end of the race.

Yeah, there was a lot of torn up cars Saturday night. They say that’s what the fans want to see. That and Danica.

Somebody needs to change the pit rules for the ARCA race so that it’s not virtually guaranteed to finish with multiple drivers running out of gas.

I don’t much like Kyle Busch but damn he’s fun to watch race.

02/20/2012 10:02 AM

It is nice to have your column back, Matt. I find nothing to disagree with and I particularly agree about the 90 minutes of choosing bottles one-by-one. I have puzzled in my head in previous years, and did again this year, whatever would I do if I were presented with a program concept/script to doctor where the central action must and can only be choosing bottles one at a time and peeling the labels. My solution, absent a hefty check for the work (I can be bought) would be to hit the delete key.

While I am here let me note what I think is 2012’s version of The Wang — which was added, according to Helton, for cosmetic purposes and resulted in airborne cars as any idiot with a basic undserstanding of areodynamics could see it would. This year’s The Wang award goes to the tandem of the smaller spolier and the UUUge (in Trumpspeak) Shark Fin. Simple physics and, again, a basic understanding of simple areodynamics tell you the highest area on the new fin coupled with the small spoiler produced very light back end and the heavy front end produces a pivot point that sends the back around really fast. This would have happened to the #18 as it did to other cars except for the fact he was at the bottom of the track and grounded out — twice thereby getting the milliseconds he needed to wheel it. The Shark Fin needs to be addressed.

Finally: I’d go for 25 lap Shootout(simply because I like 50 milers), and I think I like your qualifying idea, but need to cogitaate on it a bit.

02/20/2012 10:26 AM

Mondays are normal again! It’s amazing how your comments match the thoughts of so many of us old timers.

Let the destruction continue.

02/20/2012 11:49 AM

Matt, it’s great to have you back.

The only real mind numbing things so far are two (2) Waltrips in the booth with one on the track, and an overblown Danica presence in the booth, on the spotter’s stand, on the track, and damn near everywhere. HTH are we going to stand a full season of this? MUTE

02/20/2012 12:01 PM

Hey Matt! Good to see you back, and in fine form.

I’ve asked my electronic genius husband to design an automatic Waltrip/Larry Mac mute filter for race broadcasts. And maybe a pop-up blocker for Digger. By Thursday if possible.

Bruce Florman
02/20/2012 12:07 PM

Regarding the “sound bites and headlines” and the end of “tandem racing”… while you’re technically correct that Stewart and Busch paired up in tandem with a lap and a half to go, the end result — the guy in back successfully passing the guy in front by himself — and all of the events leading up to that point, were markedly different in nature to the racing at the plate tracks for the past couple of years. So while the sound bites and headlines are over-simplified, that’s what sound bites and headlines are supposed to be. I think the fundamental message — that the four-hour “brown nose” marathons are gone — is true.

Regarding shortening the race… I’m only in favor of that if NASCAR will also publish reliable start time information. I briefly tuned in near the start of the broadcast and figured out that it was nowhere near the start of the race. So I went off and did other things, and didn’t turn the TV back on for a couple of hours. By the time I got back, the younger Waltrup had just arrived in the Hollywood Roach Motel, but I really don’t feel like I missed much. If the race were only 20-25 laps long, I’d have either missed it altogether, or would have had to watch some of the pre-race.

02/20/2012 12:15 PM

Hell no don’t shorten the Shootout. The distance is fine. You get two solid hours of racing. It is what it is, a fun event to kick off Speedweek. Great event this year.

02/20/2012 01:03 PM

welcome back matt, i look forward to your thought inspiring and often humorous column. I have a few disjointed thoughts and observations which i’d like to share.
3 levels of ridiculous:
1. pulling beer bottles for position…?? um.. sorry didn’t (wouldn’t) watch it.
2. DP offering her cup car “expertise??” er.. nope. sorry… fast forwarded.
3. Digger?? never saw it’s mangy hide (thankjeeves.)

The race.
I found it entertaining and enjoyed the actual racing vs running around in the back and other plate track nonsense. While I’m not a huge fan of all that wrecking at those speeds, at least it was because they were racing. I’m not an expert so i have no solutions to offer.

And finally. he’s still somewhat of a jerk but man that kyle can turn a wheel. I also found the length of the show to be fine. shortening the race would be ok with me if they ran two shorter races with one being a consi or last chance qualifier for whoever didn’t but still would want to run (or risk a car) in the “main.” Heck, it’s a plate race and usually almost anyone can win one of those. Pack racing for most of the 500 with some of the usual nonsense and then I think we’ll see several two car train (wrecks?) for the win.

02/20/2012 01:08 PM

“His winnings? Fifty grand even, big coin back in that era.”

Thanks for not saying, “Back in the day.”…I heard that enough Saturday night!

02/20/2012 01:31 PM

Fox started the broadcast by kissing Ole DW’s HOF ring, and then straight to Danica for “expert opinion” about a race she likely will never be in unless they create a “pity pass” like they do occasionally for Dale Jr.

The Mad Man
02/20/2012 01:32 PM

Good to see you back Matt.

I think the Shootout gave us a dose of what to expect this season from Fox. Besides being sickened with 2 Walldrips flapping their gums constantly, the Fox coverage will be All Danica All the Time, even if she’s not on the track.

I’m thinking that the 26 part series of the mating of the Peruvian Spotted Slug on BBC America might be more interesting than the coverage (or lack thereof) that Fox will provide.

02/20/2012 01:40 PM

FYI…good advice for a bet in Las Vegas for the 2013 Shoot-Out winner, any driver in a Yellow uniform. Four in a row 2009 thru 2012!

Kevin in SoCal
02/20/2012 01:41 PM

20+ years ago, crew chiefs worked in every grey area they could to get a performance advantage in the car for their driver. Matt calls that brilliant.
In 2012, Chad Knaus works in a grey area to get a performance advantage, gets busted for it, and Matt calls him a cheater. Its good to have you back Matt, you’re always a good read.

02/20/2012 01:55 PM

Damn that kid can drive! GO ROWDY!

Bad Wolf
02/20/2012 02:03 PM

Two Waltrips and Butch Patrick in the booth, Thank God for radio.

02/20/2012 02:09 PM

Kevin ISC, (coincidence?)
When it comes to the bodies on this generation of Cup cars there are no “gray areas” Knaus’s infraction was so blatantly obvious and so sure to get caught it reminds me of what Smokey Yunick wrote in his book. Present a car with something so obviously wrong they can’t miss it and you’ll get away with three things you really want they would have found if they looked a little closer.

02/20/2012 02:58 PM

No wonder the reaction of the crowd was cheering & clapping when they saw Jeff was ok. The Jr fans had left already, so they were not there to cheer that he had wrecked, then booing & hissing when they saw he was not hurt like were hoping he was.

02/20/2012 03:01 PM

Just think what it would be like if Earnhardt would be around and in his prime racing against Rowdy. Yikes!!!! Not a fan of his but the kid can drive a race car. I agree with Carl D, Rowdy sure is fun to watch.

02/20/2012 03:42 PM

The best part of the broadcast is Crank It Up. Gives about two minutes of silence from DW.

02/20/2012 03:47 PM

Thank you Iheart radio!! I can listen to MRN online at any station across the country. They sure do make a race exciting! The way they scream with excitment, I have to go running into the living room to look at the TV. LOL! Then again, they could make watching paint dry sound like the most exciting thing ever! LOL!

02/20/2012 04:57 PM

Avoided all the reality shows by not watching any of the broadcast that didn’t show cars on the track. However, it only took about two laps of green to get sick of DW and Larry MackReynolds.

I used to love the raceday preview shows and would start watching ESPN and Speed at 10:00 for a 1:00 start. Never again.

The racing was okay, nothing to write home about. Tandem racing was just as exciting, but without the multi-car pileups.

They need to take about two more inches off the rear spoiler to bring back the days of yesteryear. I remember watching cars qualifying and racing with spoilers laying flat behind the trunklid in the early 80’s and those were better races in my opinion.

Will be glad when the real racing starts in a few weeks.

02/20/2012 05:32 PM

Danica used a popular political tool. If you babble on long enough people may start believing you know what you’re talking about.

02/20/2012 06:02 PM

what a mess….i said after the january testing that the only winners at daytona would be the fans that collect sheet metal as souviners.

so when danica wrecks out sunday, will she join the booth for her insight and viewpoints? the waltrip brothers is enough to push me over the edge.

whenever there’s an arca race at daytona and if bobby gearhart is on the lead lap he’s a threat to win it. congrats to bobby!

matt……know you’re not a fan of fox’s broadcast, as well as most of us…but no condolence to Chris Myers? no parent should have to bury a child.

Ken from The Frozen North
02/20/2012 09:00 PM

Welcome back Matt! Since they have decided to return to the roots of the original shootout (Busch Clash), I don’t mind the distance, but how about making it 3 25-lap segments. Just a suggestion. As for the “qualifying show”, if I remember correctly, in the very first Busch Clash, all the drivers stood around a large bowel with Busch beer cans packed under a mound of crushed ice. The cans had numbers on them that would decide your starting position. Whoever was officiating the show, and I can’t remember but it may have been Ken Squire, they waved a green flag in the air and all the drivers reached into the ice and grabbed a can. it was a lot more entertaining than what was on Friday night! Especially when they started throwing the ice at each other! And remember, we are talking about the likes of Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, David Pearson, and even D. W. Woops, I’m aging myself here. Can you imagine Carl, Kyle, Denny, Tony, Jeffy-Poo, and Junior doing that today? Somehow, I can’t! Anyway, just a suggestion!

Ken from The Frozen North
02/20/2012 09:06 PM

Opps! I meant to say “bowl of ice”, not bowel. Bowel is throwing a large round ball down a nicely waxed and polished narrow hardwood floor and watching said ball go into the gutter without hitting anything!

old gal from socal
02/20/2012 09:27 PM

Glad you’re back, Matt. Long column for short attention span :-) How’s the knee?

02/20/2012 11:03 PM

Not that Kyle’s save wasn’t impressive but Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon made saves like that last year and no one made this big of a deal about it. And those two saved it the first time it went sideways.
Also watch the video again people Kyle didn’t save it the second time. He held it for a little while but you can see him spin down towards the inside wall. You can also see him pull back on the track in the background behind Gordon’s upside down car.

phil h
02/21/2012 12:54 AM

Not only is the ever annoying Boogity chant back, so is that stupid verminous gopher.

and guess what?? so is Matt McLaughlin !

Bill B
02/21/2012 08:31 AM

Glad to see you are back Matt to keep it real.

The Shootout starting grid process is the dumbest thing ever to be televised. But you need to see it for what it is, an hour commercial for Budweiser.

I for one am glad that the 2×2 racing won’t be as prevalent. It was nice to see drivers not being dependant on their partner. Even when two drivers teamed up, they couldn’t pull away from the pack for long.

I think the length of the Shootout should be 5 laps longer than a fuel run just to force everyone to pit at least once during the race.

02/21/2012 01:04 PM

Hey phil h (02/21/2012 01:54 AM) – if you are so annoyed don’t read it – it’s so easy a caveman could understand that. Just the same as I do with NASCAR: if it is good, I watch it. If it sucks, I don’t. And I’m not even a caveman yet.

02/21/2012 01:22 PM

@Ken from the North.

“Bowl” is also the game with the black ball. “Bowel” is where that brown, smelly, snake comes out of you into, funny enough, a toilet “Bowl”.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

02/22/2012 04:25 PM

Ah you know its racing season when Matt fires up the keyboard, glad to see you back for another season Matt, honestly for the 1st time in at least 5 years, I believe nascar might possibly, kinda sort of, be on a small up swing, I look forward to another year of your insight, now lets just hope nascar gets back to at least some GOOD racing this year.