The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: New Hampshire-1 Race Recap by Matt McLaughlin -- Monday July 16, 2012

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Kasey Kahne capitalized on Denny Hamlin’s mistake to win in New Hampshire and for his trouble he got a lobster nearly as big as himself.

The Key Moment – Denny Hamlin dominated much of the race but miscommunication in the pits dropped him to fourteenth. Kasey Kahne inherited the lead and with clean air on the nose of his Chevy drove to an easy win.

In a Nutshell – The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong.

Dramatic Moment – Hamlin’s determined drive over those final laps to get back to the lead was something to watch, especially at a track where passing is so difficult.

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

What a fantastic race! Seventeen passes for the lead in the final half of the race and a margin of victory of only three thousandths of a second! It was so close NASCAR had to consult their photo finish cameras to decide who won. Of course that was Saturday’s Whelan Modified race not the “big” show on Sunday. Who else wishes ESPN would have broadcast the modified series race from New Hampshire rather than the Global RallyCross event?

There were exactly two on-track green flag passes for the lead in the 300 mile event. Both occurred before the first corner on restarts. Graduated banking isn’t enough. I suggest having the New Hampshire Air National Guard use the place for bombing practice and starting over.

It’s hard to label the radio disaster that cost Hamlin the win as a simple miscommunication. What we have here is the biggest failure to communicate since the Captain and Cool Hand Luke. These races are tough to win. It’s a shame to throw one away.

Brad Keselowski, teammate to the suspended AJ Allmendinger, isn’t sounding very supportive of his running mate. He stated that whether the B sample comes back positive or negative it’s still “a death sentence.” Keselowski went on to say he strongly believes NASCAR drivers should not take any sort of supplements as well, including Flintstone chewable vitamin tablets. Wow. When the day comes a driver is suspended for taking kid’s vitamins I’m kicking this hot dog stand for good. (Imagine a nightmarish situation where it’s found the sesame seeds and secret sauce on a Big Mac combine to trigger a false opiate result.)

Speaking of Allmendinger he was silent this weekend, said to be relaxing at home with his family. About the only thing of substance (no pun intended) he had to say was denying a report he planned to have legal representation with him when the B sample is tested. Good for him. I’ve found in life there’s no situation so bad it can’t be rendered worse by having lawyers get involved.

A final note on the Dinger-gate. It seems the NASCAR PR folks are playing this one smart. The second test won’t be run until this week and next weekend is an off weekend. That means a lot of fans won’t be following the sport too closely for the next two weeks and by the time racing resumes at the Brickyard the Olympics will be the big sports buzz. (And no doubt a few failed drug tests in London too.) Right then, this little spot of embarrassment ought to be a blip on the radar screen.

SPEED really seemed to stir up a hornet’s nest with their coverage of qualifying. While it appeared to be a live broadcast, it was in fact tape-delayed for much of the coverage. Thus if you were watching live timing and scoring or following on Twitter, they got to be almost a dozen cars behind. Kyle Busch had actually won the pole almost a half hour before the qualifying show ended. Speed.com’s editor-in-chief, Tom Jensen, defended the practice noting they wanted to show the maximum possible amounts of cars (and fans often complain about not getting to see their driver as well) and with the need for commercial breaks he estimated they’d have missed one in four cars. Back when TV was the only way to follow events this was fine, but it’s a bit unwieldy with so many alternative methods to follow the sport.

Others objected to the prolonged discussion of fears of Friday the 13th in the booth during qualifying. For the record the medical term for this phobia is Friggtriskaidekaphobia. Yeah try working that into a Tweet. (Frigga is of course the Norse goddess for whom Friday was named. You can’t make this stuff up folks.)

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Pole-sitter Kyle Busch had the fastest car in the first segment of the race. A speeding penalty and a botched pit stop dropped him from the lead to 22nd. Busch kept his temper and methodically drove his way back to the front. Then he entered the pits too hot and overshot his pit box. He then, by all accounts, flipped the Hell out. Despite a strong car he was only able to rally to a 17th place finish.

What in blazes was with Carl Edwards all weekend? He looked like a monkey trying to hump a football out there on Sunday. He eventually finished 18th about where he ran all day.

Greg Biffle arrived at New Hampshire with high hopes. His weekend first hit a sour note when he backed out of the garage and into the No. 48 team’s wheeled generator cart. He lost control in qualifying and delivered a profanity laced tirade over the radio. He never seemed completely on song all afternoon and was lucky to escape NHMS with a ninth place finish.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Johnson was caught out by an untimely caution flag right after he’d made a pit stop. (Johnson apparently believed that the caution was unnecessary which is why he was so livid but cautious to say anything in his post-race comments.) He used the wave around rule to get himself back on the lead lap and then drove on to a seventh place finish.

At a track where everybody (with the possible exception of Hamlin) was saying passing was all but impossible Keselowski moved from a 22nd place starting berth ahead to a fifth place finish. He looked whupped after the race. Hopefully somebody gave him an energy drink and a chewable vitamin.

Jeff Gordon’s gamble to stay out under the first caution flag gave him the lead but put him off cycle with the majority of the field. He was forced to make a green flag pit stop ten laps before the rest of the pack and fell from 3rd to 22nd. Fortunately a timely caution flag (and they were few and far between Sunday) helped get the No. 24 back in sequence with the leaders and he drove on to a sixth place finish.

It was a good afternoon for Rick Hendrick who saw all four of his cars finish in the top 7.

Worth Noting

  • The top 10 finishers drove six Chevys, two Toyotas, a Ford and a Dodge.
  • Kenseth, Johnson and Hamlin lead all drivers with nine top 5 finishes this season. Earnhardt and Johnson lead the pack with 14 top 10 results each.
  • Of the top 12 finishing drivers, eleven of them also started inside the top 12.
  • Kahne’s win was his second of the season. The last season Kahne won more than one race was 2009. (In 2006 he won six of the things.)
  • Hamlin’s second place finish was his best since Darlington on Mother’s Day weekend.
  • Earnhardt now has eight top 5 finishes this season, one less than he managed in 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.
  • Harvick managed a top 10 result for the first time in the last four events.
  • Biffle hasn’t managed to put a top 5 on the board since Michigan.
  • Ryan Newman has back to back top 10 finishes for the first time since Fontana and Martinsville. But he hasn’t led a lap since Martinsville either.
  • Truex hasn’t managed a top 5 result since Darlington.
  • Kenseth 13th place finish matched his result at Sonoma, his two worst finishes of the season since Fontana.
  • Kyle Busch hasn’t managed a top 5 finish since Charlotte.
  • If misery loves company maybe you’ll see Edwards and Kyle Busch sharing a sherbet at the Cold Stone Creamery this week discussing the possibility they might both miss the Chase. Edwards hasn’t had a top 5 result since Fontana. Last year Edwards had top 5 results in 19 of 36 races.
  • Kurt Busch has refrained from posting the crap out of a top 20 finish the last two events in a row.

What’s the Points?

Kenseth maintains his points lead and is now 16 points ahead of second place Earnhardt.

Biffle and Johnson hold serve in third and fourth positions. Johnson is now more than a full race worth of points out of the lead. (Oh, and oddly enough if that 25 point penalty at Daytona had been upheld he’d still be fourth in the standings.)

Hamlin advanced two spots to fifth in the standings.

Another curiously lackluster run by Tony Stewart dropped him two spots to seventh.

Bowyer and Keselowski swapped ninth and tenth spots with Bowyer now having the advantage.

Carl Edwards remains 11th in the standings but there’s an ominous goose egg in the wins column beside his name. If the Chase were to be set right now Kahne would supplant him as the first wild card with his two wins.

Kyle Busch currently holds the second wild card berth. He’s nine points ahead of Ryan Newman and 12 points ahead of Joey Logano. All three of these drivers have a single win apiece this season.

Jeff Gordon remains seventeenth in the standings and still hasn’t won a race. It appears nearly impossible he’ll make the chase this year, but then again with only two top 5 results in 19 races he probably wouldn’t be a factor even if he snuck his way in.

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. The race started slowly then petered out all together until the No. 11 team shot themselves in the foot and Hamlin made that mad if ultimately futile dash back towards the front.

Next Up – The Cup schedule takes a week off and so do I. Racing, or some semblance thereof and my writing, or some sembalance thereof, return at the Brickyard.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Joe D.
07/16/2012 06:00 AM
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Just be careful out there, Matt – while the race might not always be to the swift, someone with that surname might just be lurking to sneak a Flintstones vitamin into your beer…er…energy drink.

(Hey, it’s 6 A.M. and I’m on vacation – my brain cells are down a cylinder…)

janice
07/16/2012 07:54 AM
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it’s poppy seeds that through drugs tests for a loop.

i went out to lunch for 1.5 hrs of the race….came back and realized i didn’t miss much. pathetic.

dang the lobster is half the height of Kahne.

off weekend then indy….while indy has the glory and history of racing, it’s not a track that is for good racing of the stock cars.

Bill B
07/16/2012 08:02 AM
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The commercial to race ratio is getting to be unbearable. Do they want to force people to DVR the race? Is that what they are trying to tell us?

The race was boring but that’s OK, it happens. What really pissed me off was the fact that I knew that first fake debris caution was going to be called before they went to the commercial break. How transparent NASCAR is and how stupid they think their fans are.

Matt L
07/16/2012 08:04 AM
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3 cans is VERY generous Matt.

AncientRacer
07/16/2012 08:50 AM
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I would like more mods on TV. I have been saying so for years. They go fast, they are fun and wind tunnels run screaming for the exit when they look at them.

just talking
07/16/2012 09:19 AM
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Lawyers – Shakespeare said it best – “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

Like Matt L. above – 3 cans is generous. A product of lower expectations I bet.

Second year in a row the Whelan race was way (way way) better than the Sunday race.

Hamlin’s run was exciting, and I know he is one of the better drivers. But – did anyone even attempt to race him? Does anyone really care about 6th or 10th? I really don’t want to downplay Hamlin’s run, but I guess I have gotten very cynical about these drivers. If 4 tires make such a difference why did they all take 2? If track position and clean air is so important, why was it not for him? Like I said – cynical.

The “miscommunication” seemed to me to be much more. It seems like real bitterness – like the crew chief was happy to show the driver up.

Did anyone notice the stands? Yikes – Hello Nascar!!

john
07/16/2012 09:22 AM
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The Modifieds, particularly the NHMS races, are usually broadcast 1 or 2 weeks later on SPEED. Always look forward to them.

mike
07/16/2012 09:36 AM
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Why is it that the “support” series, whether it’s the mods or the trucks generally are the best races of the weekend?

I realize I complain about tracks, especially the cookie cutter tracks, but the mods raced on the same track as the cup guys this weekend and it sounds like a whale of a race, and the trucks put on a good show at Texas while the cup race was a snoozefest.

Why don’t the powers that be in Daytona see this and do something to change the cup series? Yeah, I’d love to see better tracks, but at the same time it seems like some rules changes to the cup cars would make the racing better..

Countray
07/16/2012 10:36 AM
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I’m in agreement with Mike. I’ve seen the trucks put on great shows during companion events when the Cup race just blew. And even though it’s kind of been Cup Lite, the Nationwide Series still puts on a better race almost every weekend. I find myself looking forward to the Nationwide and Truck races more than Cup. Is it the cars? The tracks? The race distances? I don’t know. What bugs me is even with the car being equal, on a notoriously horrible track, I’ve still seen good shows. Anyone remember the IROC Race at Michigan where the Great Dale Sr. beat Jr. to the line by just ever so much?…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0qvLvXLXBE

Those were spec cars on a cookie cutter track and that was exciting as hell.. I don’t know what’s going on but I’m this close to giving up caring about Cup races. Hell, look at the point standings in the Nationwide Series. EVEN WITH THE CUP FOOLS STINKING UP THE SHOW, the gap between first and second is what… 3 points?

It’s possible to put on great races, Brian Fuc… er France needs to get his head out of his ass, stop being an arrogant prick, and fix the stupid chase, and let the guys work on the cars, or move over and let somebody in who will…

Don Mei
07/16/2012 10:42 AM
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Keselowski is one hell of a driver but he really is a bit of a sniveling self-centered punk as a human being.

johnboy60
07/16/2012 11:13 AM
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Carl Edwards has had one of three things happen. Either he is just sitting back enjoying that fat contract, his crew chief is trying to make sure he is a non factor or Jack Rouse has totally lost his control of his race teams!! Frankly I think Jack should sell out and let someone who care come on board. He is was too interested in building some bad-ass street cars and the racing has suffered!!…Come on Ford, Give the guy the boot!!

Chris
07/16/2012 11:19 AM
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Another entry for “Whats the points” Brian Vickers is 35th in points after only running 4 races.

Spridel
07/16/2012 12:08 PM
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Seventeen passes for the lead in the final half of the race and a margin of victory of only three thousandths of a second! It was so close NASCAR had to consult their photo finish cameras to decide who won.

And that’s restrictor plate racing for the Modifieds!

Matt
07/16/2012 12:20 PM
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Just Talking,
Announced attendance at NHMS was 95,000, same as last year. Media Guide says there are 93,500 seats at the track. I guess a lot of folks were under the grandstands fighting over who sat where. Sure did look like a lot of empty seats to me.

babydufus
07/16/2012 12:35 PM
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geez, i’m starting to see that the nascar drug testing policy and subsequent procedures look a lot like the salem witch hunt and the spanish inquisition. maybe the dinger can land a ride at the james finch rehab center once kurt graduates.

qualifying tape delayed?? how did you know? does anyone even watch that?

being from the northeast i love the mods and have been disgusted for years at what little nascar does for them as a series. but it is funny how they can outperform the big boys at an aero track. i remember the first year at his when they made them wear the restrictor plates because they were a couple of mph faster than the cup cars.

as usual, i did dvr the race to avoid the commercials but still couldn’t help but notice how many time that stupid danika/dale jr abomination was played. come on it’s a one line joke and it wasn’t funny the first time… move on.

the brickyard is next? looks like two weeks off for me. heh.

janice
07/16/2012 12:35 PM
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matt – maybe the head counter is the same group that the government uses to calculate the unemployment rate. that place was far from jammed full up.

Matt
07/16/2012 12:41 PM
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Janice,
It might be a retired general who used to issue the enemy body count totals over in Nam.

Gary
07/16/2012 12:54 PM
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The Global Rallycross Championship on Saturday after the Nationwide race was the best racing of the weekend. What’s a Cup car?

Matt
07/16/2012 01:20 PM
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Isn’t rallycross just motocross for wimps who are afraid of motorcycles? Those cars look like the offspring of the unholy union of a Cessna and a low end rental sedan. Made for TV racing has never worked. I bet when the KFC slacker dude in his parent’s basement gets done killing vombies he switches over to Rallycross coverage.

Bill W
07/16/2012 02:03 PM
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Matt, don’t bomb the track. As you pointed out the Mod race was phenomenal so it clearly is the cars and not the track that need to be bombed.

Matt
07/16/2012 02:10 PM
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So what’s the difference. Mods are lighter, have bigger tires and no real aero. Drivers are more interested in winning races than titles as they try to advance careers. Where do we start?

Red Carey
07/16/2012 02:21 PM
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Wow……..I couldn’t skip forward on my DVR fast enough. I did however watch the last run to the checkers. Hamlin drove the wheels off that car and he just about made the comeback.

Between the incessant bombardment of commercials, the lack of any semblance of quality racing, and the let’s wait until the last 30 laps to get up on the wheel it looks like my future NASCAR viewing will be done via “Thinking Out Loud” and “You Tube”. I’ll save the DVR space for more interesting TV fare such as Knitting and painting with Bob reruns.

Gone are the days where the wife was always getting upset that I was parked on the couch for every race with my beer and snacks. It is definately a shame and an embarrassment how far BFjr has allowed this sport to degrade.

How about the guy with the most wins during the season wins the Championship. Simple and easy to figure out. As Reese Bobby used to say…“If you ain’t first your last” .

I am now going to pop my Flinstones and the requisite metamucil chaser.

Matt…..you didn’t say what kind of liquid was in those cans so I will just assume it was at best a near beer, just because of Hamlin.

midasmicah
07/16/2012 02:49 PM
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Three beers is way to generous of a rating for this farce. The only thing exciting about this race was Hamlin trying to catch Kahne. Hmm. That shows me that passing is possible if the drivers’ really wanted to try it. But points racing is the norm these days. Boring frigging points racing.

janice
07/16/2012 02:53 PM
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i remember hearing on the nightly news the body counts during the viet nam war, and having a family member killed during that war, i don’t appreciate the remark.

jason
07/16/2012 03:11 PM
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This race was no more than one can at best, the only exciting moment was Hamlin’s charge at the end, which was anti-climatic at best

Bill B
07/16/2012 03:29 PM
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Matt and Janice,
It’s actually just a guy that’s really, really drunk counting the attendance. Double vision.

BTW, while I understand that Matt’s Vietnam analogy may have hit a nerve with you personally, his point was well made. In the Vietman PR war at home, body counts of dead Vietnamese were routinely exagerated so that Johnson/Nixon could say we were winning the war and put a positive spin on our own casualties. Much like NASCAR does now to prove that the sport is thriving.

Earner
07/16/2012 03:46 PM
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Didn’t think this race was all that bad …3’s ok…Thought the best race of the wknd was Iowa (trucks) ..seems to be the closest to 70’s Nascar … Just an opinion & lay off the nam stuff…some folks just take things to far

janice
07/16/2012 04:22 PM
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i know how the government inflates numbers and the pr machine that they have at their disposal.

i apologize.

Mike Welch
07/16/2012 04:27 PM
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1-star
Yes it is the Cars/chase format
Kez
….do you know that your sponsor (MillerLite) is a drug company.
And you dont do drugs, Is that what I heard you say…

Matt
07/16/2012 04:50 PM
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Janice,
No need for an apology. I guess I need to be more sensitive in making sure what’s supposed to be a toss-a-way comment isn’t going to be offensive to even a minority of people.

MGH
07/16/2012 05:49 PM
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I just watched the ’99 Richmond night race won by Jarrett. It blew me away how far this sport has dropped since then.

Not only was the stands full, but the cameras showed the stands…even had cameras in the stands.

Cars were passing all over the track during the race…NOT just on restarts.

I have several old races on VHS. If you have a chance to watch an old Winston Cup race DO IT.

MGH
07/16/2012 05:57 PM
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I forgot to add: in that ’99 Richmond race…

Drivers were having trouble with their Goodyear tires….so I quess not everything has changed.

AncientRacer
07/16/2012 06:37 PM
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Interesting post today .. so on off week I am going to IWK 250 at Riverside Speedway in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. A truly fine weekend or racing fun. :)

Matt
07/16/2012 06:47 PM
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Antigonish….is that Canadian for heavily salted mackeral with a Molson?

Andy
07/16/2012 07:24 PM
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Back when TV was the only way to follow events this was fine, but it’s a bit unwieldy with so many alternative methods to follow the sport.

TV has to run commercials, Twitter doesn’t. What do you expect the broadcasters to do? And who cares anyway? The polesitter rarely wins and the top 35 are in the race no matter how badly it goes.

Matt
07/16/2012 07:38 PM
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Andy,
If they ran the commercials in a side by side format like during the Firecracker this wouldn’t be an issue.

Gary
07/16/2012 10:00 PM
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Matt: I was being facetious

DoninAjax
07/16/2012 10:22 PM
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“Hopefully somebody gave him (Kesolowski) an energy drink and a chewable vitamin.”

And then gave him a drug test.

Antigonish is Canadian for race track with real race cars.

Matt
07/16/2012 10:25 PM
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Gary, Well at least you can spell it correctly ;-)

Matt
07/16/2012 10:29 PM
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Antigonish is Canadian for race track with real race cars.

Well OK. What channel is it on? And what would be the Canadian term for heavily salted mackeral with a Molson AND a side of mashed potatoes and gravy….mac and cheese…mashed potatoes and gravy…do you even have KFC in the Great White North?

Vince
07/16/2012 10:30 PM
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“I suggest having the New Hampshire Air National Guard use the place for bombing practice and starting over.”

I agree 100%. This track has always sucked. Just like Fontana. Blow them both up!

3 beers??? I wouldn’t give that race 1/2 can of warm panther piss. It put me into a coma for 3 hours.

SHOEMAN
07/17/2012 02:48 AM
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Not a very good race. One and a half cans at best. The only high point was watching Hamlin. Too bad the race wasn’t a few laps longer.

Steve
07/17/2012 12:16 PM
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Funny how the racing is crap everywhere but you want to only blow up this place. I would take this place over any cookie cutter track anyday. And if you were at the race, there is racing all over the place but tv doesn’t show it. And didn’t someone just say that Hamlin was able to pass when he wanted to? Its not the track folks.

And I don’t know what race you were watching but the front grandstands was completely full. The turns are the last tickets to be sold as well as the bottom seats. Those are the only places that had empty seats. And Matt if you did any research the place holds over 100,000 as its capacity. So 95000 was pretty accurate, even for a Bruton Smith track.

Red Carey
07/19/2012 03:52 PM
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Hey Matt, we do have KFC but no mac and cheese or mashed potatoes. Make a break for the border and I will trade ya a 12 pack of real beer for a mac and cheese and a mashed with gravy……LOL