The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Dover-1 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday June 4, 2012

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

Matt McLaughlin · Monday June 4, 2012


The Key Moment – Jimmie Johnson aced the final restart, despite a concerted charge by Kevin Harvick to his inside to win a race he dominated for much of the afternoon.

In a Nutshell – Yeah, it wasn’t classic Dover, but sometimes a driver and team hit the right setup for a particular day and they dominate. It’s been that way since stock car racing began.

Dramatic Moment – Jeff Gordon had what might have been the best car on the track. He stalked, ran down and passed Johnson for the lead only to have to surrender it and head to the pits to have a loose wheel tightened. Were it not for a pit road miscue, we might actually have had an exciting race.

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

Yep, I felt that Sunday’s race was a bit better than most this season, though the ending felt preordained by the time it occurred. That’s not because there was a big old pig pile of a wreck, but in spite of that incident.

Add Jeff Gordon to list of drivers calling into question race officials decision making in calling debris cautions despite how tactfully he stated his objection. Of course, Gordon needed the race to go green for just ten more laps to overcome his pit road misfortune and get back in sequence with the leaders. In his post-race comments, it was clear that Gordon’s head is now in a bad place, and usually a driver with his head in a bad place doesn’t score good finishes. Ask Denny Hamlin.

After his latest media meltdown, the 2012 Kurt Busch Career Redemption Tour has been terminated. Ticketholders to the events can apply for refunds on an individual basis; hopefully, all three of those individuals get their refund. And any corporation considering sponsoring the No. 51 team? They can burn the cash in 55-gallon drums instead. Any penalties for Busch’s actions, in which he berated the Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass after the Nationwide race will likely be announced on Tuesday afternoon. (It’s interesting that there’s actually a rule in the book that prohibits any driver from “interfering with a member of the broadcast media” but I doubt that rule applies to mere scribes.) Busch should strongly consider buying a comfortable recliner so he has someplace to watch the Cup races next year.

Wow, shades of Stroker Ace in a rubber chicken costume. Yes, I know the brightly colored fright wig Johnson wore in Victory Lane was tied to a movie promotion advertised on his car, but it just wasn’t right. Let me tell you something, no matter what they paid him Cale Yarborough wouldn’t have donned that wig.

In the aftermath of the big Lap 9 wreck, I was left wondering if perhaps the two cross-track structures at Dover, one a stairway to get from the outside of the track to the infield and the other a suite, are somehow limiting drivers’ vision ahead and the ability of the spotters to try to guide their driver through chaos. I drove a Cup car in a school at Dover many years back and while the overhead suite wasn’t in place, the track crossover was and I seem to recall it blocked my vision for what could have been a vital few seconds during an actual race.

In an apparent coincidence, Busch’s girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, is now saying that a media member shoved not only her but her child to get access to Kurt. She didn’t say when, where, or who but it appears that the battle between Busch and the media is about to become a shooting war.

With the broadcasting switch to TNT this Sunday, drivers will be issued a memo this week to remind them of the proper procedure at the start of the race. Contrary to what they’ve heard, the event actually begins when the green flag is displayed – not when Darrell Waltrip utters the most annoying catchphrase in the history of race broadcasting.

Yep, the NASCAR on FOX season has come to its welcome conclusion. Unfortunately, when FOX returns at Daytona next year Dr. Dick Berggren will no longer be part of the team. He’s retiring from race broadcasting to pursue other interests and I wish him well. Quick show of hands, how many of you wish Berggren would be back at Daytona and the Waltrip brothers wouldn’t be? Dr. Berggren recently stated that his favorite place to be is in the grandstands at a local short track, with a hot dog in one hand and a beer in the other. How can you not like a guy like that?

Yes, Memorial Day was last weekend. But take a few moments this Wednesday, June 6th to recall the courage and sacrifice of the troops that fought on D-Day to liberate occupied continental Europe. It was the battle that turned the tide of the war and as such, still allows us to live in freedom. But freedom came at a terrible cost. On Omaha Beach alone nearly 5,000 U.S. soldiers gave their lives that day.

Wednesday evening Tony Stewart’s annual charity event, The Prelude to the Dream, will run at Eldora Speedway. If you’re not able to attend in person, the race will be broadcast on pay-per-view. I’ve always felt that once summer begins and kids are out of school, NASCAR ought to run some midweek evening events to free up weekends for some summertime fun.

Any one else notice that Rick Hendrick didn’t hurry over to the No. 48 car for another side-saddle ride to Victory Lane? He’s probably still icing his nuts.

You think some of this year’s NASCAR races have been a mess? IndyCar trumped the worst of them Sunday. A week after a highly competitive and lauded Indy 500, that circuit headed off for self-inflicted disaster at the winding roads of Belle Isle in Michigan. About halfway to the scheduled distance, the track surface began falling apart to the point the debris launched James “Manica” Hinchcliffe skyward and into the tires outlining the course. The race had to be red-flagged for two hours while track repairs were made and shortly thereafter, it began raining. The race was reduced to 60 laps, but ABC had already bailed on their coverage of the event before it resumed. For anyone else without ESPNEWS, Scott Dixon won the race.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Gordon is going to have to start inventing new ways to lose races because he’s used all the conventional methods already this season. The No. 24 car was at least equal to, if not better than the No. 48 but a botched pit stop threw any chance of the win away. Then, a debris caution at the worst possible time finished him off, trapping the car in traffic and a lap down until it was far too late to make up the distance. Unfortunately, the way his luck has been running this season a resultant 13th-place finish was probably his “best case disaster scenario” this year to date.

Tony Stewart’s weekend was probably derailed on Saturday when he qualified so poorly (29th). Since Smoke started so far back, he was running in the midst of the least common denominators on Lap 9 when the big wreck took place. Landon Cassill, Stewart and Regan Smith were at the center of the melee; Smith took the blame, but Stewart deflected it and put it straight back on Cassill instead.

Juan Pablo Montoya was another driver swept up in the Lap 9 wreck. The Target car looked like it had been used for “Target Practice” after the incident. With all the smoke, I was actually wondering if there was a jet-dryer somehow involved in the incident as well.

Carl Edwards had a solid top-5 run going much of the race only to blow a right front tire and take a hard, one-way excursion into the outside wall.

Kyle Busch had to pit a second time to have a loose wheel righted. Shortly thereafter, he blew an engine to end his agony.

Jeff Burton was enjoying a rare run inside the top 10 until his motor expired in dramatic fashion.

Kurt Busch’s car was so bad that at points, he was asking if any of his team members felt like taking over driving duties. Before anyone could volunteer he, too blew an engine.

Well, you’d think winning at Daytona would at least mean your ride for the rest of the season was secure. That’s not the case for John King, the upset winner of the Daytona Truck race. This week. it was announced Red Horse Racing was shutting down his team at least until some sponsor funding could be found. (And ironically enough, King’s former RHR teammate, Todd Bodine, won Friday night’s soggy truck race at Dover. Bodine was initially signed to a one-race sponsorship deal but it was he, not King kept at the multi-car organization.)

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Harvick missed his pit stall while trying to stop while running third, a mistake even he claimed was self-inflicted. The miscue dropped him to eighteenth, the tail end of the lead lap but team and driver rallied back to a second-place finish.

Johnson and Kenseth had an extremely close call entering pit road late in the race, a catastrophe narrowly averted once the No. 17 car darted to the inside heading towards the first timing line. Contact, should Johnson have tried to block could have upended the results of the race.

Struggling Ryan Newman drove through Clint Bowyer’s pit, actually running into the No. 15 team’s jackman in the process. While the crewman wasn’t injured, the misstep messed up Bowyer’s day – just not to the point where he couldn’t battle back to an admirable fifth-place result.

Joey Logano’s engine mysteriously switched itself off under caution, dropping him from eighth to fifteenth. Ironically, he was able to rally back to finish exactly eighth.

Despite insisting he had brake issues for much of the race, Aric Almirola managed to finish sixth.

Marcos Ambrose’s car was so loose much of the race, he was exiting some corners sideways, but his team was able to put a good enough mount underneath him under the final 100 laps that Ambrose drove forward to a 10th-place finish. It was a pretty good day for Richard Petty Motorsports, who had both their cars inside the top 10 for the first time all season.

Nobody had a Truck that could even keep Kevin Harvick’s in sight during the Friday night race. But ever mercurial Mother Nature splattered the area with just enough rain showers that Todd Bodine was able to win a mechanized game of musical chairs in the pits.

Worth Noting

  • It’s now been thirty races since a Cup pole-sitter last actually went on to win that same race. That’s the longest stretch of futility for first-place qualifiers in NASCAR’s 64-year history.
  • Johnson’s seventh win at Dover ties him with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison as the most prolific winners at the Delaware track.
  • Johnson’s win was the third straight victory for HMS in Cup points races. He’s scored two of those wins.
  • Harvick’s second-place finish matched his best of the 2012 Cup season. He also finished second at Phoenix. It had been eight races since Harvick’s last top-5 result.
  • The top-10 finishers at Dover drove four Chevys, three Fords and three Toyotas. The top finishing Dodge driver was Keselowski in twelfth.
  • Earnhardt continues to lead all drivers with ten top-10 finishes in this year’s 13 points races. Kenseth and Biffle have seven top-5 finishes apiece, pacing all comers in that category. (Hamlin and Johnson have six each.)
  • Kenseth now has eight consecutive top-10 finishes.
  • Bowyer’s fifth-place finish was his best since Bristol.
  • Almirola’s sixth-place finish was the second best of his Cup career. He finished fourth at Homestead in November 2010.
  • Logano’s eighth-place result was his best of this season. Combined with a win in Saturday’s Nationwide race, it was a pretty fair weekend for the young man.
  • Kahne’s ninth-place drive was his seventh straight top-10 result.
  • Newman has now endured a seven-race stretch without a top-10 run.
  • Kyle Busch’s 29th-place effort was his worst since Martinsville.

What’s the Points?

Biffle remains atop the championship race, but he now only has a one-point margin on teammate Kenseth. Earnhardt moves up a spot to third in the standings, just ten points out of the lead.

Denny Hamlin fell a spot to fourth, twelve points behind Earnhardt. Johnson, Truex and Harvick remain fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively.

Stewart (+1), Kyle Busch (-1) and Bowyer (+2) round out the top 10. How does a driver like Stewart finish 25th in a race, the price paid after wrecking on lap 9 and still gain a position? Simple: the drivers in front of him in the standings had even worse days.

Brad Keselowski remains eleventh in the standings but has the extra insurance policy of having won two races to make the Chase. Not so fortunate is Edwards, who is listed in twelfth but has not visited Victory Lane since Las Vegas in March, 2011. If they were to start the Chase next week, he’d be displaced by 13th-place Ryan Newman, who has won a race this season. Kasey Kahne, another race winner, is listed as fourteenth in the standings, now just one marker behind Newman.

Further back, Gordon moved up a spot to 21st in the standings, just one point outside of the top 20. That’s important, because the “wild card” slots for the Chase will be determined by the driver with the most wins outside the top 10; but to be considered, those drivers need to be inside the top 20 in points. That’s all a moot point, though, unless these drivers can start kicking their slumps. Simply put, Gordon and Edwards need to start winning races if they’ve got any title aspirations this year.

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. Maybe that’s generous, but given this season to date, it was far from the runt of the litter.

Next Up – The series continues the Northern Trek with a visit to the Pocono track up the road aways from here. The triangular raceway is newly repaved and thus, scary fast; drivers were running wide open through the once-feared Tunnel Turn in testing. Additionally, next weekend’s race is only 400 miles in length, shortened by 40 laps over 2011 so expect the unexpected.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
Vexing Vito: Three Drivers In Need of a Role Reversal
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Truckin’ Thursdays: Lessons Learned Just Two Races In
Fantasy Insider: Team Revelations For NASCAR’s Short Tracks



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06/04/2012 08:12 AM

wonder if any of Harvick’s crew members gave him a dressing down for his pit screw up the way he does when anyone makes a mistake that costs him position. damn whiny bastard

06/04/2012 08:43 AM

i can’t help but think that jr is getting us prepared for lousy runs, as he kept mentioning in post-race interview about heading to tracks he dislikes.

personally had another lazy sunday afternoon nap. flipped and watched the irl drivers twittling their thumbs and running from the pit reporters.

can we trade a 70 yr old dr. dick b for 2 waltrips?? i wish dr. dick b. a wonderful retirement and thank him for his years of reporting. he will be missed.

06/04/2012 08:47 AM

Kurt should have b-slapped that twit. Pocketass has no business getting up in the face of Kurt, he was trying to goad him and it worked. Nice story. Why did the scribe have a camera with him?

06/04/2012 09:09 AM

The reporter’s question was a pretty simple question actually, ‘Does being on probation make you race differently?’ or something like that. What’s the big deal? It’s real easy to see why Kurt Busch is where he is and where he won’t be.

06/04/2012 09:11 AM

Yeah, shame on Kurt Busch for showing some emotion.

You know what? I hope Kurt keeps this up and doesn’t get a major sponsor. His brother will give him a ride, he’s already made 10 times what we’ve all made in the aggregate in our lifetimes, and we’ll have a little bit of a reason to watch the races.

Funky D
06/04/2012 09:35 AM

Didn’t get to watch the start, but after hearing about Tony’s wreck before I could get to the Tv, I didn’t even bother and did paperwork. When THAT is more involving than watching today’s NA$CAR, something has gone wrong. Every JJ win diminishes my interest even further.

Rate this one 1½ cans of warm Diet Pepsi with all the fizz gone.

bill sprehe
06/04/2012 10:12 AM

“Start & Parks” turned into “Wreck & Park” this week.
How about a “Start & Park”
heat race to see who gets in the race? How about anything but the norm!

06/04/2012 10:35 AM

Newman drives through Bowyer’s pit and hits the jackman?

Did Bowyer’s CC accost Newman after the race or did they have enough sense to realize the pits are tight and unfortunately sometimes bad things happen.

Why was there so much coverage when Busch did it and not when Newman does it?

06/04/2012 10:43 AM

Props to Berggren, one of the best reporters in motorsports. He’ll be missed. Is there a third Waltrip brother they can put in the pits to replace him?

Sounds to me like the media is trying their best to get Busch angry. He had an awful day and a reporter, who WRITES articles, as opposed to making TV clips, shows up with a video camera? For god’s sake leave the guy alone.

06/04/2012 10:59 AM

The Busch incident took place on Saturday which wasn’t an awful day for Kurt. He’d finished fourth. The fact a SPEED camera (Pockrass is a print journalist) caught the interaction isn’t unusual with the swarm of media on pit lane after a race.

06/04/2012 10:59 AM

Dick Berggren is the ONE thing that I will miss next year when Fox returns to broadcast the races. He was a true class act and I enjoyed getting to listen to him.

Best of wishes to him in his retirement.

Like many others, I am wondering if we could trade him for both Waltrips and get them on retirement.

Carl D.
06/04/2012 11:27 AM

“Quick show of hands, how many of you wish Berggren would be back at Daytona and the Waltrip brothers wouldn’t be?”

Both hands raised, and with an appropriate gesture for each Waltrip.

I agree, not the best Dover race, but you can’t blame this one on the car, the tires, the track, the chase, or on Nascar. The blame for this one lies squarely on Chad Knause and the #48 team. This team is on a tear, and the rest better take note. I’m not ready to concede the title to them just yet, but only a fool would bet against them at this point. And by fool, I include the Waltrip brother that picked Junior to win the championship yesterday.

Bill B
06/04/2012 12:11 PM

“Why was there so much coverage when Busch did it and not when Newman does it?”

On the surface and the way you present it there doesn’t seem to be a difference between Newman driving through Bowyer’s pit and Busch driving through whoever’s pitbox that was last week. But there was.

Newman was forced there by an untimely coincidence of Bowyer coming in as he was trying to leave. If there was anyone to blame it was the crewchief for not making Newman aware of Bowyer coming in (or vice-versa).

Busch on the other hand drove through the pit in a fit of anger being the usual dickhead he is.

There you have it.

06/04/2012 12:24 PM

Glad I missed (again) the nascar “race”. I turned on the radio with about 20 laps to go only to find out that, yes, another Hendrick car, the 48, was leading. Boring.

And now nascar is heading into the boring summer races starting at Pocono. Great.

06/04/2012 12:33 PM

KuBu fan here. He simply called that pocketass guy out on his baiting question.
I say Kurt should race for the Nationwide title next year for Monster.
And as someone previously pointed out….How hilarious is it that Harvick caused his own pit road problems after the way he treats his crew.

06/04/2012 01:09 PM

Count me in as wishing it was Dr. Dick back instead of the Waltrips.

I was at Dover. Since I was watching the 24 drive through the field with what was the best car I’ve seen him have there in years, I didn’t really care about what the rest of the field was doing.

I am, like most Gordon fans, getting really tired of stupid crap causing him to finish poorly.

Matt, I hope you’re wrong about Jeff’s head being in a bad place. He doesn’t need THAT on top of the rest.

Yes, I too, think that NASCAR is stupid about calling their debris cautions. They called the caution, sent a truck out there, which sat there for 30 seconds and drove off – no one picked anything up — there wasn’t any debris.

Quit manipulating the dratted races and if they are, how does Johnson winning all the time help them? I can’t be the only fan tired of the 48 winning so much.

06/04/2012 01:22 PM

Thanks Bill, I didn’t watch the race so I wasn’t sure what happened. Your explanation makes sense.

06/04/2012 02:03 PM

I agree with GinaV24.

Jeffrey R. Gordon MADE the race, and even with the lousy FOX coverage the damn thing was exciting … because of Jeffrey R. Gordon. Poppa was haulin’ the Mail all day.

I’m usually not a big booster of longer races, however had Jeff had some more laps (HEY! Don’t ask me how many more! Some more!) he could have taken Weasley.

And instead of feeling blue (though I am blue but that is off topic) that the DeathEaters won again I would be doing my Happy Dance which my Cats think is really kinda cool (should invite you over to see it sometime). :)

My Grade: Five. Cold. Each and every one for Jeffrey R. Gordon :)

Sharon J
06/04/2012 03:06 PM

Just remember Kurt, the First Amendment does not apply in Nascar. In Nascar
there is no FREE SPEECH.
It is easy to see why some drivers disappear quickly after a race since they do not speak politically correct Nascar.

Dyno Dave
06/04/2012 03:52 PM

I have been reading and watching Dr. Dick Berggren ever since he was a columnist on Northeast modifieds for Stock Car Racing magazine. You will be missed Doc. Wish I could sit in the stands at the local tracks with you and talk about the good old days…

The Mad Man
06/04/2012 07:37 PM

Put Berggren and Mike Joy in the booth and can the rest of the commentating colons of Faux. The things dreams are made of. I hope Berggren enjoys his retirement and can only wish him the best.

06/04/2012 08:01 PM

Johnson is back to passing cars like they’re standing still again and still passing inspection. Oh yeah, there’s that guy who rules on the penalties, so I guess that doesn’t prove anything.

Stewart caused the wreck-em derby and again it was somebody else’s fault.

Edward’s year is almost like Gordon’s.

06/04/2012 11:34 PM

No arguments with your article, as usual, but you could also point out that today marked the 70th anniversary of another turning point of WWII: The Battle of Midway. God bless our troops, past, current and future.

06/05/2012 10:45 AM

Probation is the only thing keeping BA Kurt Busch from “beating the #$@%” out of some reporter? Ha ha, good one. That wormy little twerp probably couldn’t stop Justin Bieber from tearing him a new body orifice.

Notice how the modern punks of NASCAR like the Busches, Stewart, Harvick, etc. always direct their little temper tantrums at people they know can’t or won’t do them any harm?