The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Daytona 500 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Tuesday February 28, 2012

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Daytona 500 Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Tuesday February 28, 2012


Final Results & Awards: Daytona 500

The Key Moment – Matt Kenseth drifted high on the final restart to pick up teammate Greg Biffle, who never made a move on his teammate down the stretch. While Biffle and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. battled for second, Kenseth drove to his second Daytona 500 victory in four years.

In a Nutshell – And the hits just keep on coming…

Dramatic Moment – When the field hit turn three for the first time after the cleanup of the jet dryer fire, I wasn’t sure any of the drivers would make it to turn four.

After a Daytona 500 that included rain delays, wrecks, and Juan Montoya blowing up a jet dryer, Matt Kenseth visited Victory Lane for the second time in five… er, six days.

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

The Daytona International Speedway…..putting the “car” back in “carnage.”

Think the NASCAR officials were just a tad slow in throwing the caution flag at the end of the Nationwide race? Sure, they want to the fans to see an exciting finish but the safety of the drivers involved (and about to get involved) in that savage wreck, along with the ability to get rescue crews to them quickly should have taken precedence. And speaking of precedent, NASCAR needs to set one for what happens when there’s a violent multi-car wreck on the final lap of the race. Are we going to use the last scoring loop at the time caution is displayed, review videotape to decide who was running where when the yellow lights came on, or are we going to wait to throw the flag until someone takes the checkers, as happened on Saturday?

While the teams gear up to run the first season with fuel injection in the Cup Series it appears that some of the parts and pieces needed for EFI are in short supply. When a team as big and wealthy as Hendrick Motorsports rolls a backup car off the rig for Kasey Kahne and it doesn’t even have an engine inside, that should tell you something.

It’ll be interesting to see the TV ratings for the 500 later this week (overnights had them at a 7.7, down six percent from last year). However inadvertently, the race became the first broadcast on a weeknight in primetime, and right in the middle of the February Sweeps. If the ratings are good, might we see some NASCAR races moved to weeknight slots? Will America choose Two and a Half Men or 42 Men and Danica?

LEMASTERS: Is NASCAR Ready For Primetime?

I’m told after Daytona Speedweeks, the price of scrap metal has dropped ten cents a pound. The supply now greatly exceeds demand.

Any penalties handed down to Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team this week, resulting from Daytona pre-inspection will be appealed by car owner Rick Hendrick.

If Dave Blaney had, in fact, won the Daytona 500 could Tommy Baldwin have sold the win to Danica?

The penalties for the unapproved C-pillars on the No. 48 car won’t be announced until sometime this week, but car owner Rick Hendrick has already said whatever penalties are levied against Johnson and Co., he will appeal them. He claims that the No. 48 car that failed pre-practice testing last week was the same car that had been entered in all four plate races in 2011, and as a result it was inspected and approved countless times. I’m not following the logic here. It’s like telling a store clerk, hey I passed four counterfeit fifty dollar bills here last month so you have to take this one, too.

John King might have won Friday night’s Truck Series race, but the last portion of that event looked like it was scripted by Stephen King.

BOWLES: Who Is John King?

What sort of “handout” did Rick Hendrick give the FOX broadcasters? Should race broadcasters be taking handouts from team owners they are paid to cover? Editor’s Note: Hendrick flew the entire FOX broadcasting crew to California, for free in order for them to attend Chris Myers’ son’s funeral. Yes, it was a classy gesture; but however nice it was, Matt’s question still definitively applies.

And now, for the latest installment in As The Keg Turns: None of us realized it last Saturday night, but we were watching the final Bud Shootout (nee Busch Clash) this year. Starting in 2013, Budweiser will no longer be the sponsor of the quasi All-Star Race that kicks off the season. Why? Well, it’s gotten to be a rather awkward state of affairs for an event originally limited to pole winners from the previous season now that Coors Light is the official sponsor of the weekly contest for the pole in Cup and Nationwide Racing. You can’t very well have a Bud Shootout limited to the winners of the Coors Light Pole Award, now, can you? But this changing of the guard should be no big deal. In theory, Coors Light would just take over sponsorship of the quasi All-Star race for winners of Coors Light Pole Awards (and any other driver born on a day of the week that ends in “Y” if history bears witness to the declining eligibility standards.)

Not so fast, Bubbalouie. Bud has also signed on to be the exclusive beer sponsor of next year’s Speedweeks (leaving very much in question what they’ll call the pole winner; it sure won’t be the Coors Light Pole Award winner, right?) In addition, Bud will replace Gatorade as the official sponsor of the Twin 150s (now Budweiser Dual Duels, presumably.) And the ultimate irony would be if the Miller/Coors Dodge wins one of them, which would probably lead to a shooting war between Missouri and Colorado. How did this whole sorry state of affairs come to be? Simple. NASCAR wants to dig their fingers deep into the wallet pocket of both breweries. And if another brewery wants to be the Official Imported Beer of NASCAR, doubtless the France family would want their snouts in that trough as well. It’s enough to make you want to go have a Corona.

This frightening jet dryer fire, caused by Juan Pablo Montoya wrecking into this Michigan Speedway machine resulted in a two-hour red flag delay for cleanup and track repair.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Juan Pablo Montoya was lucky to escape injury in the most bizarre incident I’ve ever seen during a race. He was accelerating to catch back up to the field under caution when something in the steering linkage broke. The No. 42 car then ran into the back of a jet dryer truck, igniting nearly 200 gallons of jet fuel in a hellish inferno. Fortunately, both Montoya and the truck’s driver Duane Barnes, escaped relatively unscathed from the frightening-looking wreck, which caused a two-hour red flag for cleanup. (Montoya ended the race 36th.)

Danica Watch 2012: Edition One. 150-mile qualifier: a wreck and a 16th-place finish. Nationwide Race: a wreck and a 38th-place finish. Daytona 500: a wreck on lap 2 and finished 38th again. During the red flag period, she also got confused and started taking her clothes off yet again. I also hear FOX’s experiment to have Danica walk across Lake Lloyd was a dismal failure as well…

This weekend’s big losers, as in any rain-delayed race, were the fans. Thousands held tickets to the 500, NASCAR’s Super Bowl for months but – due to work or family obligations – weren’t able to stay over until Monday for the race.

If that storm cell had held together a little better or the track had fallen apart a little bit more, Dave Blaney would have won the race. Instead, he finished 15th but that had to feel like 40th considering the circumstances.

Barely a lap into the race, Jimmie Johnson got turned into the wall. As he slid back across the track, Johnson took a savage hit to the driver’s side of the No. 48 car. That Chevy got hit so damn hard it probably bent both C-pillars, so tell Chad not to worry about post-race inspection this week. The No. 48 team… putting the “car” back in Karma. (He wound up 42nd.)

Things didn’t go much better for Johnson’s teammate, Jeff Gordon. The No. 24 had its engine expire in a fireball on lap 81; unofficially, it broke a crankshaft as Four-Time wound up 40th.

When Ryan Newman lost a wheel in the pits, A.J. Allmendinger drove into the back of the No. 39 car, ruining his debut at Penske Racing. He wound up 25 laps down in 34th place.

Rick Hendrick had six cars destroyed during Speedweeks. James Finch saw three of his cars totaled. My unofficial count lists 68 race vehicles (and one jet dryer) totaled during Speedweeks. But like John Prine used to sing, “If heartaches were commercials, we’d all be on TV.”

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 car began overheating badly early in the event. He experienced fuel pickup problems, a failed tachometer and a broken radio. Yet, somehow, Kenseth still won the race.

Earnhardt, Jr. started off the season well with a second-place finish. His was also one of the few Hendrick cars that could be driven back onto the truck after a race.

While he finished 12th, Martin Truex, Jr. did bank two hundred grand for leading at the halfway point.

Carl Edwards got sent to the back of the field after the red flag period for removing a windshield tearoff under the red. He got a piece of the ninth caution of the day but still soldiered on to an eighth-place finish.

James Buescher found himself running eleventh exiting the final corner of Saturday’s Nationwide race, but all ten cars ahead of him wrecked in that final dash to the checkers. A clearly surprised Buescher swerved his way through the carnage to take his first Series win. They may still be debating who finished second…

After a five-year absence, Ward Burton returned to NASCAR racing in Friday night’s Truck event. While he suffered mechanical issues, Burton’s experience in Daytona allowed him to survive the carnage and post an eighth-place finish.

Worth Noting

  • This year’s Daytona 500 marked the first time in 54 years the event had to be postponed until the next day.
  • No driver who posted a top-5 finish in the 2011 Daytona 500 repeated the feat this year. Paul Menard, Edwards and Mark Martin managed top-10 finishes in both races.
  • Jimmie Johnson’s finishes at the Daytona 500?
    2012: 42nd
    2011: 27th
    2010: 35th
    2009: 31st
    2008: 27th
    2007: 39th
    2006: Winner

You’ll note in four of his five championship seasons, Johnson started the year poorly at Daytona but won a title anyway.

  • Tony Stewart is now 0-for-14 in Daytona 500 starts. In comparison, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. went 0-for-19 before win number one in 1998.
  • Earnhardt’s second-place finish was his sixth runner-up result since he last won a Cup race at Michigan 130 races ago.

What’s the Points? – Not surprisingly, the points look a whole lot like the the finishing order of the race. Kenseth is atop the standings, by five over Greg Biffle, Earnhardt, and Denny Hamlin. Jeff Burton, after a horrific 2011 season starts off this one sitting fifth. Paul Menard is sixth, Kevin Harvick is seventh, and then there’s a tie between Carl Edwards and Joey Logano for eighth. Mark Martin rounds out the top 10, while Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex, Jr. would be the “wild cards.” Of course, it’s “wild” to be thinking about points after just one race.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — I’ll give this one three cans of well dented Bud with a slight aftertaste of jet fuel and smoke.

Next Up – The circuit heads off to Phoenix for what many people consider the start of the “real” racing season. Last Fall, the newly redesigned track out West sold out. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of crowd they draw this time.

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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02/28/2012 07:05 AM

huh… so why didn’t anyone stick a mic in danika’s potty mouth face after she drove down into the 34 killing her third car at daytona? KB got wise and stayed in the car to finish the race to avoid a repeat performance? DW credits Danika for JJ taking his hands off the wheel? really? I wonder why they didn’t stick a mic into the post race “conference” between Jr and the Biff? did crashcar make some “suggestions” to the media concerning post wreck interviews? fire up those black helicopters!

02/28/2012 07:17 AM

I couldn’t believe that DW failed to give Danica credit for putting out the fire, and repairing the track. He gave her credit for darn near everything else that happened at Speedweeks.

02/28/2012 07:20 AM

Nice Article. One small correction,it is Dale Jr.‘s 6th runner-up finish since his last win, his 3rd in the last 12 months.

02/28/2012 07:50 AM

As referred to by Brazzy, the DW praise of Danica was truly annoying, won’t have to hear it again until Darlington. Luckily I’ll be at that race and not listening to Fox.

02/28/2012 08:03 AM

And did you notice now that Tide is not paying DW that those orange boxes on the track were detergent and not Tide. I guess they think all of us Nascar fans are idiots and can’t read. I guess I am showing my love of DW here, but also bothered me that after the 1st wreck right after they showed JJ moving in his car looking pretty OK that DW gave us his sad voice saying “hope Jimmy is OK”. Don’t the Fox announcers ever watch the race or at least have someone explain what is going on? I saw many things last night that made me say what was that, and nothing from the Fox “experts”.

02/28/2012 08:05 AM

Danica, Danica, Danica. Danica this. Danica that. Danica WHO? My poor ears can’t take much more Danica. Please make it stop. I beg you.

Bill B
02/28/2012 08:30 AM

I’ll give the race 4 cans just because that jet dryer “blew up real good”.

Can you ever remember any car 60 laps down being covered by the media as thoroughly as Danica?

A Red Carr
02/28/2012 08:40 AM

I didn’t hear anyone mention how perfect the weather was the week before. For over 50 years it was often said that Big Bill made a deal with the devil to have no rain on the 3rd weekend in February. Looks like Brian broke that deal.
Can anyone report the size of Monday’s crowd?
Glad your back Matt! All is right with racing as long as you keep NASCAR’s feet to the fire.

02/28/2012 08:47 AM

Anybody notice..Six or Seven $60,000 jet dryers and only one water hose to wash the track!

02/28/2012 09:35 AM

Danica coming to NASCAR is a big story…get over it. And none of those wrecks were her fault, period. As a friend of mine said on facebook….“2.5 miles of track and Montoya’s car broke at the perfect spot to hit something the length of 2 pickup trucks: those odds are million to Juan!!!”

02/28/2012 10:19 AM

I’m all for the 500 to be on primetime from now on.

I’ve been wanting to see cup races on weeknights for a long time.

And I loved how as soon as the broadcast came on it was time to race and not an hour of filler.

02/28/2012 10:34 AM

I’m so glad Larry Mac pointed out the fact that the rear end housing is housed under the rear end of the car!

Carl D.
02/28/2012 11:37 AM

“If Dave Blaney had, in fact, won the Daytona 500 could Tommy Baldwin have sold the win to Danica?”
That would be funny if it weren’t so true.

I wonder how many television sets were turned off within seconds of Matt Kenseth crossing the finish line this morning.

I’m no Jimmie Johnson fan, but it’s gotta suck to spend a week and a half in Daytona to get taken out on lap 2 in an accident that’s not your fault. Then again, my Mom alway told me “cheaters never win”.

Watching Ryan Pemberton walking down the turn 3 banking in a coat and tie only added to the whole surreal feel of this year’s Daytona 500.

Finally, with apologies to “Days of Thunder”, Juan Pablo is now “perfect”.

02/28/2012 12:09 PM

Rick, I agree 100% about NASCAR on primetime, but I agree 200% with getting right to the race without useless filler!!

Bill B
02/28/2012 12:19 PM

Ha ha ha, you know damn well that even when the race is scheduled for prime time (weekday or weekend) there will be an hour long pre-race show. The only reason we were spared last night was because the originally scheduled time was rained out. Get real guys!

Keeping it Real
02/28/2012 12:23 PM

I think I’m done here. Bad on you Matt and worse on the managing editor who added the note under the “handout”. Why does Matt always assume the worst about Hendrick? I am a RCR fan, which clearly means I haven’t been pleased with the cup champ since about ’94. However, let’s get real here for a second. Hendrick lost his SON and brother and some employees to an accident. Do you REALLY think his intention in flying the crew to the funeral was publicity? That makes me sick. I can’t stand Jack Roush, for various reasons. However, if he had done this, my instant reaction would have been “good on you, Jack”. That speaks to their character. You bash Hendrick all the time. Yet, what I hope irritates you the most .. is ask any Hendrick employee why that team is the best. The answer? Because of the atmosphere and desire to do well for Rick and the whole team. They all love Rick. Must he be the bad guy you constantly make him out to be? I’m moving on. Just tired of the biased reporting here. Call a good deed a good deed, regardless of the doer.

02/28/2012 12:27 PM

Why wasn’t NASCAR smart enough to let the drivers go back to their pit area during the red flag. I am no driver, but I would think being stuck having to sit on the backstretch for 1 1/2 hours is like waiting on the tarmac in a plane. How stupid. Unless they did this after I turned out the lights for the night?

Sucks listening to DW, but I have a feeling most of us on here aren’t your average Joe. When flags are flown at half staff for Whitney Houston, and one of the headline shows at the Superbowl weekend is a group with the name of LMFAO, you know we are a screwed up country when it comes to what most people think is good entertainment and personalities.

02/28/2012 12:48 PM

What was Montoya doing going so fast with the dryers out during a yellow anyway?

02/28/2012 01:04 PM

KIR, Leave if you wish but you’re always welcome back. Yes, Rick’s gesture was magnaimous and no I haven’t forgotten he lost a son too. It’s interesting you cite “biased” journalism. Let me give you an example. Later today or tomorrow the 48 team is likely going to face a large fine aqnd perhaps even a suspension for Knaus. That’s going to be highly embarrassing to the team and its sponsors.It’s also newsworthy. So how are the FOX broadcasters going to cover the story? Surely they don’t want to further embarass Hendrick after he did them such a solid last week. The story will likely get swept under the rug. Perhaps DW will even say in his expert opinion Knaus didn’t knowingly cheat, it was just one of those gray areas. Do you really think that Joy, Waltrip or McReynolds couldn’t afford a plane ticket to California?
In journalism, whether it be TV, print or the net there’s supposed to be an absolute seperation like church and state between those who provide editorial content nd the ad department. FOX is notorious for breaking down that wall. What stories get told, wha drivers are shown on TV? Those whose sponsors buy ad minutes during the broadcast. David Ragan rarely ran well in the UPS car but he was constantly on TV because UPS bought aa ton of ads. So you have Hamlin contending for a title in the FedEx car but he’s getting less air time than Ragan and UPS. If Ford were to become a major sponsor of this site and I began cranking out articles praising the engineering in the FR9 engine, reeferring to one car as Edwards in the number 99 Subway Ford Fusion and another as Gordon in the 24 car would that be all right? Especially if you found out I was driving a 2012 Boss 302 Ford had given me. The best way to avoid biting the hand that feeds you is to brown bag it everyday.

Bill B
02/28/2012 03:52 PM

“the engineering in the FR9 engine, reeferring to one car as Edwards”

Matt, are you implying Edwards failed a drug test?

Carl D.
02/28/2012 03:56 PM

Were you wondering why Danica was taking off her fire suit during the red flag? She was contractually obligated. Find out what happened next at

02/28/2012 04:49 PM

She took her firesuit off because the Hopper was the only thing left at the track she had not SMASHed into.

Don Mei
02/28/2012 04:51 PM

There has always been far too much shilling in Nascar. “he took a tankful of Sunoco fuel”, “new goodyear tires”. The Waltrips, (waltons? ) are among the worst offenders. Its simply modern day payola.

02/28/2012 04:57 PM

Carl D. …. Great comment about Danica and!

02/28/2012 06:26 PM

Translation of “Boogity, boogity, boogity” is “ I’m ignorant, I’m ignorant, I’m ignorant”. I now stream the races on MRN to get away from the dopey Waltrips, except during the dual when Dopey jr crashed by himself,I had to mute MRN to listen to the excuses. One was miscommunication, yes no communication between the pea brain and his body. No doubt, FOX is clueless having those two self promoting bufoons ruining the telecasts.

02/28/2012 07:22 PM

Is it Me or why couldn’t
the outside lane make a charge to the front.
They did all thru speedweeks, in every race I watched. Any thoughts?…Jimi.

02/28/2012 09:47 PM

I’ve a question… Did Hendrick fly just the announce crew out to the funeral or were other FOX employees included? My first thought is, why fly those guys? They can afford their own flights. Now the operator of camera 2 or the grip or the audio guy in the truck, maybe not so much. Just curious who the “favor” was extended to?

Sue Rarick
02/28/2012 11:53 PM

Everytime I read Matt’s comments I just wonder how often he calls home to let them know their village idiot is well.

02/29/2012 12:46 PM

Gunadoo – I don’t think the guys in the outside lane tried enough side drafting. They mostly maintained their line up top. I think if they tucked down closer more often they would have moved up faster.

I was going to say something about Elliot Sadler but he has already said it himself, so that is that.

JPM added to his list of hitting everything on the track. I know his car broke, but if he wasn’t doing a buck fifty or more past the safety equipment, he might not have lost the car and we wouldn’t have had to wait for that mess to be cleaned up.

The commercial fest got real tiresome. I came real close to shutting the TV off all together. If Fox does that again, running commercials 3 to 4 laps apart, or whatever it was, (way too close) I will shut it off. That is bull****.

02/29/2012 03:10 PM

One small correction about the white elephant in the room. nascar did not clean up the fuel spill, they made it a 1000 times worse, they swept it under the carpet of infield grass. they added at least a 1000 gallons of soapy, fire retardant material mixed in water to the spill. No spill containment, whatsoever and Lake Lloyd within a couple hundred yards, I betcha they will be having a fish kill in the next week. All this on national TV. so much for nascar going green!!Nascar continues to teach any kids watching go for the money, to hell with everything else. Everybody should be calling the DEP for that area to complain. 1-407-897-4100.

03/01/2012 06:48 PM

I’m surprised that no one mentioned anything about Carl Edwards pass below the yellow line that was not penalized at the finish.