The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Kentucky Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday July 2, 2012

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Kentucky Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin · Monday July 2, 2012


The Key Moment – The gamble by the No. 2 team to stay out during the fourth caution period paid off in spades. That track position allowed Brad Keselowski to cruise to a third victory this season over Kasey Kahne.

Brad Keselowski and team played perfect pit strategy to get to the front and stay there in Kentucky.

In a Nutshell – If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Well, um, the traffic was a whole lot better than last year during a weekend of three tiresome and tepid races.

Dramatic Moment – There was a protracted and well-driven battle between Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin around the two-thirds mark of the race, one that eventually went the No. 48’s way.

Kasey Kahne’s headlong rush to the front in the waning stages was fun to watch, even if a lot of drivers were letting him by because they were worried about having enough fuel to finish the race.

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

OK, Bruton Smith. You fixed Bristol, you fixed the Kentucky traffic disaster, can you maybe fix this mess of a racetrack too?

I can’t say if it’s aerodynamics, the tires, or drivers running for points rather than racing but I can say that events like Saturday night’s are eventually going to reduce NASCAR “racing” to a historical footnote. Whoever had the lead had such a clear advantage in “clean air” that by the halfway point, there was a sixteen-second gap between the leader and the tenth-place car. (My rule of thumb is once there’s a ten-second gap within the top 10, the race is officially boring.) I mean, come on, the fire engines will be running closer together than that at this week’s Independence Day parades.

Looking at the grandstands it became apparent that a lot of folks who got caught up in last year’s epic traffic disaster decided not to return. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Apparently, Ryan Newman is upset with Joey Logano. Prior to the incident most people saw on TV, Newman contends that Logano lost control and slid up the track in front of him. Further contact was made, bumping that sent the No. 20 right into Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota. Newman then left the track pledging to teach Logano some manners in the near future if necessary. Um, Joey, ask Juan Pablo Montoya how that typically works out. Maybe Newman’s just ticked he didn’t get the ride in the No. 20 car next year…

That soft whimpering sound you heard after the race were the last dying gasps of Jeff Gordon’s chances of making the Chase this season.

Jack Roush expressed shock, even bits of anger and hurt at Matt Kenseth’s decision to leave the RFR team at the end of the season. So where’s Kenseth heading: JGR in the No. 20 car, JGR with a fourth team or a newly formed Michael Andretti Dodge outfit? I don’t know, but Jack, like a steam locomotive rolling down the track, he’s gone, he’s gone and nothing’s going to bring him back.

Long live NASCAR’s King, who turned 75 years young this Monday.

Monday Richard Petty, the King, will celebrate his 75th birthday. Unfortunately, it will also mark the 48th anniversary of Fireball Roberts’ death. Roberts had suffered horrific burn injuries in that year’s World 600 and finally succumbed to them on July 2nd, 1964.

The brutal wildfires ravaging Colorado (and many other western states) have forced the organizers of the annual Pikes Peak hill climb to postpone the event. Thoughts and prayers go out to those affected, particularly those who have lost their homes.

Think penalties for reckless driving are tough here in the States? You might want to avoid Saudi Arabia. During an informal drifting demonstration there, a driver lost control and went into the crowd, killing two people and injuring others. So he’ll get his license suspended, right? Nope, he is scheduled to be beheaded. Well, there’s one way to reduce recidivism…

NASCAR fans have finally really united. The next time that Mac and Cheese/Mashed Potatoes and Gravy ad runs there are going to be KFC restaurants burning coast to coast. Thanks for some very amusing emails on this issue, folks. My vote? Sorry, I’m allergic to potatoes and lactose intolerant. My idea of a perfect side for an original recipe breast is a brew.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Greg Biffle squandered a potential top-10 finish when he pitted late with what he thought was a flat tire, slipping to 21st. Only problem was, the tire wasn’t flat.

Tony Stewart’s car started cutting out on him only 29 laps into the race and he was forced to go to the garage area, where a defective sensor in the fuel injection system was diagnosed and repaired. (As hot as it was in Kentucky, it’s a wonder that more teams didn’t suffer electrical problems.) Stewart wound up finishing 32nd, but that was still two positions ahead of teammate Ryan Newman, who lost an engine and hit the wall after sliding in his own oil. All in all, it was yet another miserable evening for Stewart-Haas Racing.

The No. 99 team endured a horrific night on pit road. A strategy call to leave Carl Edwards out on the track, hoping a few more caution laps would allow him to finish the race without refueling backfired and he was forced to pit late for a splash of gas. That dropped last year’s title runner-up from a potential top-5 finish to a 20th-place result.

From runner-up to run down, all in the course of seven months? Carl Edwards has gone from championship contender in 2011 to simply struggling to make the Chase in ’12.

Austin Dillon drove to a dominating win in Friday night’s Nationwide race but his car was found to be too low in the rear during post-race inspection. Expect heavy financial penalties and a possible loss of 25 driver and owner points to be announced Tuesday.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Keselowski wiped out his primary car in the first lap of Friday’s practice and had to go to a backup. Prior to the race, the padded section of his steering wheel came free of the hub. During the race, he actually ran out of gas, forcing him to coast to pit road. Yet he still ended up in Victory Lane…

Kahne was forced to the pits when a tire was left loose on his car. Despite falling a lap off the pace at that point, he was able to rally back to a second-place finish.

Denny Hamlin finished third despite having a tire that was deflating during the final laps of the race.

Jimmie Johnson had to overcome a pit stop that could have been timed with a sun dial during a race where he appeared to have the fastest car on the track. After the final restart, Johnson got sideways several times and felt he had a tire deflating, too. But the Goodyears held up and he was able to drive on to a sixth-place finish.

I’m not sure which category to classify Kyle Busch’s evening under. He had a very fast car and led a lot of laps before putting himself sideways into the wall. The No. 18 team was then forced to change a broken rear shock under caution but did so quickly enough to keep Busch on the lead lap. A tenth-place finish isn’t too bad, considering the above but it had to leave the mercurial driver wondering about what could have been.

Worth Noting

  • Keselowski is the first driver this season to post three Cup wins.
  • Johnson now leads all drivers with nine top-5 finishes in seventeen points-paying Cup events this year. Johnson and Earnhardt lead the pack with thirteen top 10s in those races.
  • Kahne’s second-place finish was his best result and first top 5 since he won at Charlotte.
  • Hamlin’s third-place finish was his eighth top-5 result of the year. Last year, he managed only five such finishes.
  • Earnhardt’s fourth-place run dropped his average finish this season to 8.1.
  • Gordon’s fifth-place outing was his third consecutive top-10 result.
  • Johnson’s sixth-place finish ended a streak of four straight top-5 performances.
  • Kenseth (seventh) hasn’t finished worse than 13th since Fontana.
  • Truex’s eighth-place finish ended a run of three straight races without a top 10, the longest such streak he’d had this season.
  • Allmendinger’s ninth-place run was his second best of the season to date and the first time he’s posted back-to-back top-10s in 2012. He finished second at Martinsville back in April.
  • Kyle Busch’s tenth-place finish was his first top-10 result in five races.
  • Edwards (20th) hasn’t managed a top-5 run since Fontana.
  • Biffle’s 21st-place struggle was his second worst run of the year. He finished 24th at Pocono.
  • The top-10 finishers at Kentucky drove two Dodges, four Chevys, a Ford and three Toyotas.

What’s the Points?

Kenseth remains atop the points standings. He’s now 11 ahead of second-place Earnhardt and 23 points ahead of third-place Johnson. Earnhardt and Johnson both advanced a spot, pushing former number two points man Greg Biffle back to fourth.

Denny Hamlin leapfrogged up three spots to fifth in the standings. Kevin Harvick is sixth while Clint Bowyer now sits seventh, the best he’s been all season. Martin Truex, Jr. moved back up a spot to eighth.

Look out below! His fuel injection woes dropped Stewart four full spots down to ninth in the points, while Brad Keselowski sits in tenth. Carl Edwards, still winless in 11th drops down to 34 points out of a postseason spot.

If the Chase were to start right now, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne would occupy the two “wild card” spots. As odd as it seems 17 races deep into the season, Kahne, Newman and Logano have all scored 463 points total. All three drivers have won a race and thus are in contention for a “wild card” berth, the twelfth and final spot in the Chase. Right now, based on the tiebreakers Kahne has the edge by virtue of his second-place finish Saturday night. As our buddy Ancient Racer might say, Boy Howdy!

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — I have to give this one a single can of skunked warm generic beer with an aftertaste of wombat piss.

Next Up — The series heads off to Daytona for the Firecracker 400. Does anyone else wish they’d change the Fourth of July holiday to Independence Day and hold it on the first Monday in July?

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…


©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Carl D.
07/02/2012 08:09 AM

If Brian France were beheaded for his reckless actions running Nascar, his IQ would probably triple. Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist the easy comment.

I’d give the race three cans of Miller Lite, but that’s only because my favorite driver won it. Truth is, I recorded the race and then fast-forwarded through the boring parts, so I watched that it in about an hour. It’s a crying shame that Nascar racing has been reduced to just a few competitive laps per race.

07/02/2012 08:20 AM

heh… i gave it one.. because a favored driver won.

i too dvr’d it but started watching too early. i had to endure 45 minutes of… something that left me questioning why i bother watching. i WANT it to be good, i’d even take decent. some one give us our good racing back please.

Carl D.
07/02/2012 08:24 AM

PS… There’s a very insightful article entitled “Racing Into Oblivion” about Nascar courting favor with EPA at

07/02/2012 08:50 AM

A Roush car needed a caution and never got it. If a Hendrick car needs a caution, all the announcer has to say is “Hendrick driver (insert name here) needs a cau…yellow is out for debris.”

Switched to the race after it started and got a commercial. Went back to watching an exciting baseball game. Switched back to the race and got a commercial. Went back to the exciting baseball game. Switched…

Joe D.
07/02/2012 09:00 AM

I wonder how much a fire truck is affected by the “dreaded aero-push”…

One good thing about working until 10 PM on Saturday (gotta love working in retail) – I only had to sit through the race for about 2 hours thanks to the fast forward button.

Independence Day always on Mondays? Um, NO!!!!!

07/02/2012 09:02 AM

As if the racing wasn’t boring enough, the sheer amount of commercials drove me away to baseball. Every time I switched back to check on the race, it was at commercial. I think one beer was too good of a rating and judging from the poll numbers I’m not alone.

07/02/2012 09:12 AM

humm….looks like i didn’t miss much. i flipped tnt back on at 10:50 pm when i woke up and they were already showing the opening credits of the movie that was coming on.

what kind of racing can we expect to see next weekend at daytona? maybe i should take a back pain pill before the race so i can stay awake.

07/02/2012 09:16 AM

The only KFC in my area closed last year and has never re-opened. Based on the sheer repetitiveness of those commercials, I don’t think I’d eat at a KFC for a long while, just as I think I can find something else to do with my time this Saturday night.

Unfortunately I think you are right about Gordon’s chances to make the chase – it will take a miracle – what a bummer, but then again, that frees up all my weekends in the fall since unless you are in the chosen 12, you don’t get TV coverage.

Does Roush own his race team or not? How could he not know that Kenseth was considering leaving? So acting all surprised and hurt – sheesh, well, Jack its just business, isn’t it?

07/02/2012 10:02 AM

A Grateful Dead reference is always welcome, Matt…bonus points for work U.S. Blues into next week’s column.

The Roush/Fenway group is really strange. The owners of the Red Sox seem more interested in their Liverpool soccer team than the Sox…perhaps Roush is too busy looking up Ortiz’ OBP than worrying about Kenseth?

07/02/2012 10:02 AM

Baseball’s attendance is soaring this year; I wonder if NASCAR still plans to use that “bad economy” excuse for their audience size plummeting.

Brian France – the best thing to happen to baseball since Babe Ruth!

07/02/2012 10:26 AM

The cars, the tires, the points system, the chase, the 1.5 mile tracks…

It’s true…nascar has made me a baseball fan.

Nascar has become not only pathetic but irrelevant.

07/02/2012 11:09 AM

Even with DVR, the TNT commercials are killing me. Here’s a link to the breakdown of commercials vs. race.

Note the stats at the bottom: 3 minutes racing, then 3 minutes commercial happened quite a bit.

No wonder we can’t enjoy the broadcast!

Sherri T
07/02/2012 11:48 AM

I wish there was a web site that would just put out an ariel view of the track dubbed over with radio coverage – they would get my attention! I’d even pay for that – then I could watch the drivers I wanted to watch and skip all the – one car on screen – talk about what the network wants us to talk about BS…

just a thought…

Kevin in NYC
07/02/2012 01:38 PM

Nice job working this in! “…like a steam locomotive rolling down the track, he’s gone, he’s gone and nothing’s going to bring him back”

07/02/2012 02:03 PM

Like I told you,
what I said,
Steal your face right off your head.

07/02/2012 02:11 PM

I don’t have anything good to say since you already did the traffic report, but I do have something I find Big Effin Time Funny posted by an anonymous poster in another place. I cannot top it for this week and I doubt anyone else can either:

“I wonder though, is it safe to mix 5 hour energy, Viagra and KFC mashed potatoes or will that cause a dangerous interaction causing one to dress as Spiderman?”


07/02/2012 03:40 PM

I have Direct TV & watch the races on the driver channels. Sure, there are commercials, but there is a split screen that shows the race during the insufferable ads. And, I know why Austin’s car was too low after his win…Richard threw baby Kyle in the trunk!

07/02/2012 04:56 PM

I suppose everyone knows by now that I’m not a fan of HMS, or JGR, or commericals for that matter. So, I had absolutely no (not one) reason to watch the race this weekend. I’m just stupid, I guess.

For the entire first half of the race, all I got was a steady diatribe of Hamlin, Busch, Johnson, Earnhardt, Gordon (running 20th), and Kahne (running a lap down). Then 10 minutes of commericals, then the exact same rundown again, then 10 more minutes of commercials. I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I canned it to watch a MythBuster’s rerun.

Until the Nascasters start showing the field, and at least one top 20 rundown every 50 laps or so, I’m pretty much done. 40 years of listening and watching has come to this.

I guess it was nice to see Kenseth on TV for a couple of laps while e still drives for Roush. I’m sure those shots were just so they could talk about his leaving for JGR though. I was a Matt fan, but like Burton and Martin before him, I’ll have to start looking at him as a member of the “dark side”.

07/02/2012 05:12 PM

I’m sorry to see Kenseth leave Roush. He, like little E and Boyer is no longer on my favorites list.

07/02/2012 05:59 PM

I second the Direct TV watching option, does make it a much better experience. I had Harvick channel on, and it at least paints a picture of someone as you go along. Not a Harvick fan, but I was vested as I listened to their choice of options. Harvick should just crew chief. All he does is overrule the chief, and they do what he tells them.

As for the racing, Harvick was battling several drivers, 3 wide repeatedly and they never showed it. I mean good entertaining racing. I could see it on his bumper cam. All this time, they showed Hamlin over somebody by several car lengths. The networks could add some spice to the dull races if they just did not fixate on the top cars.
Too bad, I am enjoying Wally and Kyle.

07/02/2012 07:35 PM

I watched every minute and while it wasn’t a wreck-fest there was plenty of action for a RACE-fan. It is painfully obvious however that the broadcasters have a few favorites and cover them constantly. I.e. The 78 car could finish 20 places ahead of any hendrick car and get half the exposure. But c’mon? Did someone actually compare MLB attendance to NASCAR? The most expensive MLB seat is less than half the price of a comparable NASCAR seat, and with 1/10th the action

07/02/2012 09:34 PM

I still hope some non chase driver gets hot and wins three or four of the chase races. That would be great. The Chase stinks.

07/03/2012 12:36 PM

Apparently you haven’t priced the most expensive MLB seats lately, some of the least expensive seats are more than what na$car is trying to charge.And MLB is packing the stadiums. And 1/10th the action?? not in the races that have been broadcast this year. Are they holding some secret races without telling the general public??

07/03/2012 09:44 PM

It seems to me that people watching a race on TV or a ball game on TV are doing exactly the same thing. They’re waiting for something to happen. The pitcher throws the ball. The people watching the race are still waiting.

07/03/2012 11:39 PM

I was going to say, my sister typicallly pays 20 bucks just to park at the Bank where our hapless Phillees play. Tickets to some of these NY team’s best seats approach 10 grand I’m told. Can’t say for sure. I’d rather have root canal without anasthesia than watch MLB.

Bad Wolf
07/04/2012 12:44 AM

I’m so done with Nascar I forgot to check out Matts recap until Tuesday night. I pretty much have not watched a race the last couple of years.

Phil H
07/04/2012 02:15 AM

Mac and Cheese!!Mashed Potatoes and Gravy!!!

I thought the KFC ads was about the most excitement I Saw from Kentucky. sure wasn’t Kentucky Speedway !!

07/04/2012 01:36 PM

Thanks, Carl D, for the link to PJMedia…great article. Every serious stock car racing fan should read it and judge for themselves. I am so sick of the shilling for ethanol; now I understand that it’s simply a small part of a bigger agenda.