The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Talladega-2 Race Recap by Thomas Bowles -- Monday October 8, 2012

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Talladega-2 Race Recap

Thomas Bowles · Monday October 8, 2012


NOTE: Tom Bowles took care of Matt’s column today.

Key Moment – Matt Kenseth entered Turn 3 of the last lap a sitting duck – even though he was leading the race. Seconds later, he exited Turn 4 the only car still standing in a 500-mile event that could have easily been run as a 1-lap Demolition Derby.

In a Nutshell – A spectacular, heart-stopping final 20 minutes of side-by-side drama turned into an eyesore of an ending. Drivers left angry, owners lost millions, officials are lucky no one was killed, and the sport wound up with a virtual punch in the face.

In other words… just another day at Talladega?

Before the last-lap carnage, some of the pack racing at Talladega turned out spectacular. But that was the calm before the storm… a last-lap wreck damaged 25 cars and left Matt Kenseth (No. 17) the only one running to the checkered flag cleanly.

Dramatic Moment – No doubt: the wreck that wiped out every meaningful contender. With one ill-timed block on Michael Waltrip, Tony Stewart lost control, got airborne, started flipping, and, suddenly, 25 cars of 43 (a whopping 58 percent of the field) suffered some degree of damage in a wreck NASCAR video games couldn’t master. To have it happen in the last minute of the race, on the white-flag lap probably left several fans flirting with heart attacks.

That’s if they weren’t already carted to the hospital. The number of hair-raising moments throughout the final 40 laps left everyone on the edge of their seat, torn in half with every type of conceivable emotion except for “bored.”

You also had an “uh-oh” every time someone hit another’s car, which down the stretch was pretty much an every-lap occurrence. Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, in particular, made highlight-reel saves after bad bumpdrafts that only a handful of drivers will ever be capable of doing.

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

Will NASCAR do anything to change the style of racing at Daytona and Talladega? The finish of Sunday’s event was embarrassing, a mess of mangled cars that made the sport look more like the WWE than actual athletic competition. When the Cup Series’s Most Popular Driver refers to the current plate package as “bloodthirsty,” says he doesn’t even want to race here or at Daytona next year, and refers to officials’ inability to come up with a better solution as “incredulous,” you know you have a problem. Frankly, during that vicious final wreck where Stewart landed on top of and nearly inside several cars NASCAR was lucky no one wound up getting seriously injured or killed.

Jimmie Johnson’s car was just one of several destroyed after Talladega’s “Big One” coming to the checkers on Sunday.

So, in order for change to happen… will those who watch suck it up and deal? Jeff Gordon summed it up perfectly when he said, “I don’t like the type of racing that I have to do. But if I’m a fan, I would love that. I think it’s incredibly intense.” The sport has used that enthusiasm as an excuse for decades, especially since the ratings back it up; Daytona’s July night race ranks as the most-watched for the sport since Charlotte’s Memorial Day Weekend. So will a return to tandem drafting, or even a package that forces single-file competition at points keep everyone tuning in?

It’s a shame the championship could be decided by which mangled race car made it to the finish line first. Yes, every race is filled with could haves, would haves, and might have beens. But you’re telling me Jimmie Johnson could lose six straight because of the ten title contenders, his car caught on fire a little more than Denny Hamlin’s? Come on. It’s an abomination this race is in the Chase and could affect the outcome of a postseason NASCAR started to (how ironic!) create more legitimacy compared to the stick ‘n’ ball sports.

The ability for cars to bounce back quickly from a one-lap deficit is getting out of hand. Check out this scenario from Sunday: a debris caution with fewer than 50 laps to go gave Kyle Busch a free pass back onto the lead lap. Then, after his normal stop (one lap after the leaders by rule, keeping him back in the 30s), Busch watched a number of cars in front of him duck in for a quick splash of gas. That meant by doing nothing in particular, other than a yellow coming out the No. 18 car jumped up from 31st to third in the running order for the restart. Confused? I sure am; it has nothing to do with Kyle, of course, but NASCAR’s asinine policy that makes getting back in contention easier for those who face adversity during the event. Remember when drivers lost ground and actually had to get it back by racing for it? The rule should state that whoever gets their lap back needs to start at the end of the longest line, period no matter how many people experience problems ahead of them.

Michael McDowell, typically a start-and-park entry could have a chance to “knock out” a funded Cup Series regular in 2013 based on the sport’s new qualifying rules. But will that also be the only time they’ll choose to run the distance without proper funding?

It’s about time NASCAR did something to change its qualifying system, a process that’s favored the “haves” over the “have nots” since eliminating provisionals. But bringing back the sport’s old way of setting the grid, giving fewer guarantees to anyone attempting to qualify on speed is a classic case of too little, too late. Removing the top 35 rule would have added plenty of drama in a 43-car grid when there were more than 43 funded cars attempting to qualify. Now? The question becomes if a start ‘n’ park team can knock out a Cup Series regular and force them to “buy” a ride.

Rusty Wallace during the ESPN Countdown Show Sunday: “I wouldn’t let little kids watch this race.” What a great way to advertise an event and attract new fans! My Twitter feed was also lit up with complaints from people angry a longtime analyst couldn’t pronounce the name of their hometown racetrack correctly. I would say Rusty’s just Rusty when it comes to television, but it’s been six years now – he should know better. Time to get with the program or get out. On another note, did anyone catch how distraught Brad Daugherty looked when talking about pursuing future sponsorship in a later segment? One wonders how much cash that No. 47 Toyota has on hand for 2013.

ISC this week reported a $1 million dollar loss for the last quarter of operation. That’s huge news for a company who’s spent the last two decades virtually printing money faster than the government itself. Chicagoland, Fontana, and other underperforming tracks beware; the bigger the number becomes, as time goes on make the Speedway Corporation a little bit more open to pressing the “foreclosure” button.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Whether Kurt Busch ran out of gas or simply got gassed by a bad move on the backstretch is anybody’s guess. Here’s what we do know: the No. 51 slammed into the inside guardrail after contact while running up front. Busch was unhurt, but before the safety crew could finish their checks decided to drive off with their heads in the window and a giant bag of equipment on the roof. Without a helmet on, he went several hundred feet before stopping on his own accord … not NASCAR’s directive. As you might imagine, that’s ticked off everyone with a suit down in Daytona Beach, and Kurt Busch’s bizarre postrace interview (which had a bit of a “why me” slant to it) might add to indecision and tip the scales in favor of suspension. Either way, it was the perfect ending to Busch’s career with this team: Maximum effort, poor luck, stupid result, then frustration unleashed in the most inappropriate way possible. Have fun selling mattresses, Furniture Row!

The only thing worse than leaving Talladega with a damaged car is trying to ride around all day with one. Carl Edwards had that feeling for over 400 miles, part of an early yellow that saw Cole Whitt crash hard right into the side of the No. 99. As icing on the cake, the crew was visibly and audibly disorganized in making repairs, sloppy performances all around which left Edwards ten laps down in 36th.

Michael Waltrip saw his chance to be the biggest upset winner at a race this year disappear the second Tony Stewart turned down on him. Ditto Casey Mears, Waltrip’s unlikely drafting partner who led several laps and put himself in position to win with the No. 13 takes the runner-up spot – both were simply taken out in that last-lap wreck for the ages.

Jamie McMurray had a top-5 result in the making, his first since Bristol in August of last year before getting wrecked in the tri-oval to set up the final round of chaos.

”The Seven Come For Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

The drivers. Once again, we had Demolition-style carnage at one of the sport’s fastest tracks and people wound up walking out of there on their own two feet. That’s a major plus.

David Ragan’s car will likely make its way straight to the junkyard this Monday morning. But despite getting hit every which way, the engine kept running and the car stayed straight enough for him to limp the underdog Front Row Motorsports car home in fourth place.

Jeff Gordon, for all the terrible luck he’s had this year finally had the odds swing in his favor on that wreck. Shoved down onto the apron, that forced him away from the carnage and he was able to drive the DuPont Chevy up to second.

After a penalty for pit road speeding, Kyle Busch appeared destined to end the day a lap behind the leaders. But a late-race caution for debris — that mystery kind which also helped Dale Earnhardt, Jr. get back on the lead lap — led to the free pass and an eventual third-place finish.

Worth Noting

  • Matt Kenseth (1st) ended the restrictor plate season with podium finishes in all four events. His average finish in 2012 at Daytona and Talladega? 2.0.
  • Jeff Gordon (2nd) has podium finishes in six of his last seven races. If he had simply run fifth at Chicagoland, which is about where he was before that stuck throttle Four-Time, would be second in points, 12 behind Brad Keselowski and in perfect position to challenge for a fifth.
  • David Ragan (4th) earned his best result since Roush Fenway Racing released him at the end of last season.
  • Regan Smith (5th) wound up with his best performance since Indianapolis in the summer of 2011 (third). That’s the way to go out with a team you’ve been a part of for four years; the driver will move over to Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 starting next week.
  • Travis Kvapil (8th) scored his first top-10 finish of 2012 and the best ever performance for first-year BK Racing. When’s the last time Kvapil ran that well in the Cup Series? You have to go back to November, 2008 and the season-ending Homestead event, a seventh-place run driving the former No. 28 Ford for Yates Racing.
  • Interesting quirk: Kevin Harvick (11th) has an average finish of 11.8, with none lower than 13th during the Chase but has zero top-10 finishes.
  • Jimmie Johnson (17th) was technically given credit for “running” at the end of Talladega’s Frightfest 2012. But in reality, he finished off a dubious record of being wrecked out or suffering engine failure at each of the sport’s four restrictor plate events this season.
  • The top-10 finishing drivers Sunday drove four Chevys, three Fords, two Toyotas, and a Dodge. Turns out there’s parity when it comes to sheet metal destruction…

What’s the Points?

With results very unofficial at this point, it’s likely a three-horse race for the title from here on out. Brad Keselowski’s lead has grown to 14 over Johnson; Hamlin sits third, 23 back and on the fringes of contention. Kasey Kahne, in fourth place is 36 behind and would need help to get back in it with the “Big Risk” races out of the way. Ditto for Clint Bowyer, who fell to fifth after a late-race pass attempt on Kenseth fell short.

Jeff Gordon sits sixth in the standings, up a few spots but still a likely-insurmountable 42 outside the leaders. Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Greg Biffle sit behind him, facing a deficit at or over one race’s worth of points behind that would be borderline miraculous to overcome. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. post-wreck fell to 11th in the standings while Matt Kenseth rounds out the top 12.

In the “Best Of The Rest” category, Kyle Busch continues to run away with it. He’s ahead of Ryan Newman by 47 with six races remaining.

Overall Rating (from one to six beers, with one being a total snoozer and a six-pack an A+ effort): In the past, I’d say five cans but there’s no more ignoring the major danger plate racing has become. We’ll go with one can of three-year-old beer, with some awful bacteria growing inside and crossed fingers you won’t catch cold once you drink it. “Talladega for Dummies!”

Next Up: The sport attempts a return to normalcy at its home track for most Cup Series organizations – Charlotte.

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Contact Tom Bowles

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Bill B
10/08/2012 07:25 AM

That ending would have been comical if we didn’t know the danger involved. The WWE couldn’t have scripted the ending any better.

With that said, I’d rather have that then the stupid tandem racing where drivers are paired up like dates at a high school prom.

We all know the problem is restrictor plates racing itself. Get rid of the plates and you get rid of the problem. Of course then you come up with a bunch of different problems; a boring race and more danger for the fans. As many have said, the answer is to bulldoze those two tracks and start over but we know NASCAR will never go down that road.

Carl D.
10/08/2012 07:32 AM

“Yes, every race is filled with could haves, would haves, and might have beens. But you’re telling me Jimmie Johnson could lose six straight because of the ten title contenders, his car caught on fire a little more than Denny Hamlin’s?”

Tom, the truth of the matter is that the top three in points finished pretty much like they ran all day. Keselowski ran in the top 20 all day and finished 7th. Hamlin and Johnson hung back all day and finished 13th and 17th respectively. Yeah, they were waiting until the last few laps to make their move, but that’s the price you pay for playing that strategy.

Michael Waltrip should win the Hindenburg award for the season. He had one heck of a run going on that final lap when Stewart took him out, and I think he would have won this race. What a story that would have been. Of course, we’d have had to hear him run his mouth about it every chance he got for the next ten years, so maybe it was a blessing for us fans.

Bobby H
10/08/2012 07:37 AM

It wasn’t a bad race if it ended before the “Big One”. I hate the chase and this is one of the reasons. Your champion could win the cup just by virtue of limping across the finish line in that race. As they would never rebuild the track; maybe the next choice might be to have a daytona/talladega specific motor with no restrictor plate and 150 less HP?

10/08/2012 07:45 AM

i found the end of the race very fitting to the pre-race segment on the “baby boom”….numerous drivers said they didn’t want their children to watch races like ‘dega.

all day long there should have been wrecks that didn’t materialize thanks to the skilful driving of drivers.

you forgot to mention jr racing back to the tail end of the lead lap. i thought it was at that point the “mystery debris caution was thrown” to enable jr and kyle to get back on the lead lap.

can we mention the fact that at plate tracks g/w/c seems to contribute to the last lap carnage we’ve seen recently? takes almost 2 laps to come up to speed and them one lap at speed to race. maybe at plate tracks, since na$car doesn’t seem like they’re ready to bulldoze the banks, can we eliminate the g/w/c finish? there are enough wrecks with g/w/c on non-plate tracks when it’s the last laps of the race.

that wreck started with cars going 200 mph…$car should be thanking their lucky stars that no one got seriously hurt or killed yesterday.

i still say maalox or prilosac should be sponsor of plate races. my stomach churned most of the day from the intensity.

10/08/2012 08:43 AM

Typical Talladega. You just sit on the edge of your seat waiting for what you know is going to happen. Absolute carnage. My fear is that another driver is not going to walk away from a wreck like this. This is how Dale Sr. died. Just get ride of the plates and let them race. They’re already hitting speeds over 200 mph.

10/08/2012 09:50 AM

Plate racing is no more dangerous now than it has been all decade; the only difference is that the danger is these days most likely to happen all at the end. If today’s finish was somehow eye-opening in its barbarity, you haven’t been watching plate racing for the past three or four years. In other words, I highly doubt that most people and NASCAR will consider this some sort of “turning point” as far as restrictor-plate safety and whatnot.

I always enjoy Talladega because the racing is unbelievably tense, Big One or not. With all the lead changes, wild saves, and nervous moments as the field passed lapped traffic, my heart was pounding and my eyes were glued to the screen. It was a pleasant surprise to see a restrictor-plate GWC finish that wasn’t decided by a couple of tandem breakaways, and the fact that the field ran four-wide, five-deep for most of the last two laps was crazy. They might have all finished, too, had the cars in front of them been able to run three-wide.

10/08/2012 09:53 AM

I laughed my butt off when that last wreck occurred. NO I didn’t want to see anyone hurt. It was just the simple fact that it was so predictable. It was almost as funny as KB driving off with the gear on his car. Why do these stupid things occur at these restrictor plats. (remember JuanP) Tony was a complete jerk for blocking like that and ruined Mikey chance to win – which he or Casey would have won for sure and in the process ruined a million bucks worth of cars and then was a jag when asked by the reporter. I think it would have been an awesome finish to see Mikey come from nowhere to win that thing. Just to see them stick it in the faces of the Nascar bosses as well as well as the chase teams. Stewart might be related to the Busch clan.

10/08/2012 09:54 AM

Get rid of the plates and the sport will die. Part of what makes racing popular is the danger element. That is why people watch and that is why these guys get paid. Driving 200 mph isn’t suppose to be easy, but that’s what these guys signed up for.

Jacklegged Nascar Expert
10/08/2012 10:43 AM

fntasm has got it right. Also now I am reluctant to by anymore gear from Bass Pro. Maybe “ largemouths” attract eachother?

10/08/2012 11:04 AM

I agree with fntasm about Mikey. I’m happy with how the race finished because it worked out perfectly for Jeff Gordon, but my favorite aspect of the wild plate racing of the past few years has been the upset wins—Keselowski, Bayne, McMurray, King. If Tony hadn’t made that ill-advised block, Mikey or Casey probably would have won the race and we all wouldn’t be here forgetting 188 1/2 thrilling laps because of one bonehead move.

10/08/2012 11:10 AM

So everyone is in a pack, someone makes a mistake so now we want NASCAR to make ANOTHER rule change? No thanks. I like JR but he is not the only driver out there and virtually no others share his sentiment. If he is too scared to run speedways then quit. I expect those comments out of JG, he lost his edge when he married and moved to NYC. But JR? I don’t get it.

10/08/2012 11:31 AM

“Will NASCAR do anything to change the style of racing at Daytona and Talladega?” … uh, NO.

It HAD changed (and personally, I thought the tandem racing was exciting and quite interesting because it was unique) so NASCAR changed the rules to revert the racing to the pack … which is ultimately the cause of those 25 cars being wrecked yesterday.
And the top 35 rule change is rather pointless when there are only 31 cars actually competing now.

10/08/2012 11:56 AM

So Rowdy geis lucky dog, race has late caution leaders pit Rowdy moves up to Third. And now nascar needs to look at this rule.

Never mind 10-15 cars taking wave around when nascar throws back to back debris caution to get cars on lead lap.

DAMN wheres Matt when we need him.(I know and understand what happened to Matt and wish him the best of luck. Just venting at stupid comment that most fans have complaned about for years.)

Managing Editor
10/08/2012 12:11 PM


Don’t let the Matt-love (which we all have) blind you on this one. For years, I’ve been advocating the wave around and Lucky Dog need to simply go away… I can send you column links if you want :O). But since it hasn’t been brought up in awhile, and I haven’t done this column much this year (meaning a possible different audience) I brought it up as if it’s a first-time thing — instead of “This is the 10th time I’ve complained this year.”

I’ve hated the wave-around rule for years, would change it in a heartbeat if I were NASCAR CEO for a day. Trust me on that :)

10/08/2012 12:28 PM

What a stupid race. The cars are all able to be driven flat out all the way around. Every driver in the field is capable of that. The first 450 miles are a joke and anyone who finds the “danger” element to be attractive to the serious fan has never plopped his fat a** in a race car.

Mr Bill
10/08/2012 12:41 PM

Tom, you and I know you did not write these comments. Good to hear from you again Matt!

awww shucks
10/08/2012 01:15 PM

can you imagine what stewart would have been saying had another driver caused this and wrecked his cars. bad decision on his part. and even if mikey is irritating in the booth, it would have been a cool story if he had won.

10/08/2012 01:19 PM

I would say Rusty’s just Rusty when it comes to television, but it’s been six years now – he should know better. Time to get with the program or get out. On another note, did anyone catch how distraught Brad Daugherty looked when talking about pursuing future sponsorship in a later segment? One wonders how much cash that No. 47 Toyota has on hand for 2013.

Rusty is indeed Rusty on all counts. The one that I can’t stand is Brad D – his comments in the booth are way out of line – especially considering that he is an owner in the series that he’s commenting on. personally I hope he goes broke and can’t put that car on the track in 2013.

I don’t like the Talladega crapshoot any more than I like the Daytona deal. It’s a stupid way to race. Of course, Gordon is correct that the fans do find it entertaining – probably because the racing at most of the other tracks are such boring parades that no one cares any more.

NASCAR broke it, now they are trying to backpedal to fix it but they’ve already annoyed a big portion of the fan base so people aren’t going to races or watching on TV. They keep blaming the economy, which I am sure is partially true, but a lot more of it is due to the fact that NASCAR, Fox, ESPN and others have spent a lot of time telling the fans they are stupid and don’t understand how exciting it all is – the chase, the kit car, the 1.5 mile tracks, Bristol (now that it’s been neutered). Yeah, well, eventually when people are insulted often enough, they leave.

JD in NC
10/08/2012 01:28 PM

Tony Stewart is one of, if not the most talented wheelmen in NASCAR, but he should feel like a real idiot today. On one hand, this is typical plate racing. Going into the GWC, I knew the odds of all the cars crossing the finish line in one piece were pretty slim. If Tony hadn’t started it, there were a dozen or so other drivers that were trying their best to wad up the field. The thing that should make Tony feel like a complete idiot is that he’s spent the last year or so bitching about other people blocking him and how he’d put ‘em in the fence if they did it, no matter who it was. Then here he blocks on the last turn at the most dangerous track they race on and puts 20+ cars in the dumpster.

10/08/2012 01:28 PM

Glenn, Gordon didn’t say he was “scared”, he said he wasn’t having any fun at RP track any more. Obviously Jr felt the same way as did others.

10/08/2012 02:40 PM

It always kind of weird to come by here and visit my old stamping grounds only to see my ghost still haunting the joint. While Tom did a laudable job recapping the race, I’d like to add some thoughts and revisions of my own. You remember what I told you about fire horses hearing that bell?

In a Nutshell- Perhaps the most farcical, contrived, and idiotic “race” ever to pose itself as a sporting event. Talladega was relentlessly, totally and inarguably putrid. If NASCAR were to replace some of its army of accountants with spin doctors they’d been up last night wringing their hands till they bled drafting a statement, a basic mea culpa admitting fault and promising fans, drivers and teams they’d have a solution for this unholy mess and promising a fix in time for the Daytona 500. As it is I imagine Brian France watching the last lap of that race in his luxurious crib in south Florida pounding down boat drinks and shrugging his shoulders while muttering, “Oh, well. Didn’t cost me a dime.”

Only the dimwitted and disaffected point out a problem without offering a solution. Here’s mine. Obviously having lost a million bucks last quarter NASCAR and the ISC aren’t going to lay out the coin to bulldoze Dega and Daytona and start over. Here’s a cheaper alternative. I imagine a chicane added to the track with a left hand turn several hundred yards from the current Turn 3. The drivers would hook left, take a gentle right in the chicane and then another left to rejoin the track near the exit of the current turn four. That would offer two braking zones for drivers to outdo one another and an acceleration zone where they could outdrive one another for position. It’s gotta beat the current layout where drivers act like purple-butt baboons trained to hold their right foot to the floor for five hundred miles.

Roush Racing seems in disarray. As Tom notes the 99 team seemed unprepared to deal with major damage to Edwards’ car despite the near inevitability such an incident will occur at Talladega. A shock fell off the 17 car earlier in the Chase. Greg Biffle’s Ford was such a garbage scow last week the normally mild mannered driver was cursing his team a blue streak over the radio. Having dominated the regular season atop the points Biffle and Kenseth are now hopelessly out of title contention. Kenseth has now won the Daytona 500 and Talladega yet Jack professed to be surprised when Matt announced he was leaving the team. To top it all off, Sunday night when the team jet began take off to head home, someone forgot to secure the cargo hold and team members’ luggage was left scattered down the runway. The Ford Motor company has got to be delighted that their premiere team seems to be being run by Moe, Larry and Curly.

Jeff Gordon can serve as poster child for the idiocy of the Chase format deciding a phone company cup title. This guy has finished second the last two weeks and third in another “Chase Race” but the hung throttle and resultant 35th place at Joliet at are too much for him to overcome. It just proves that the current Chase format penalizes a driver more for one bad run than it rewards him (or her if Danica Patrick would ever learn to drive worth a lick) for strong runs. So how do we fix this? A) Let every Chase driver drop their worst finish in the last ten races from the accounting when the final points are tallied. B) Add a bonus points system with the Chase driver who runs the highest average position during an entire event 12 bonus points, the driver with the second best average running position 11 points etc. That sure would get rid of drivers timidly running around at the back of the pack trying to avoid wrecks.

Speaking of the Chase, intended to add a dash of excitement to the end of the season, are you curious as to how the points would look under the traditional Latford system? Biffle and Keselowski would be tied for top spot. Johnson would be 2 points out of the lead. Earnhardt would be 11 points back and his army of fans would still be engaged not watching NFL games. It’s hard not to notice that the last two Cup races run prior to “Dega were among he lowest rated for events run at their scheduled times (as in not rain delayed or postponed) in the format’s history. Thanks, Brian!

Earlier this week it was announced the AARP folks and their drive to end hunger amongst the elderly have signed an extension through 2014 with Jeff Gordon and the 24 team. Reading between the lines it seems to me that JG will retire after 2014. For gray hairs like me, it’s still easy to consider Gordon as a young gun though in fact he has been racing at the Cup level nigh on twenty years. However it turns out, if Gordon can leave the sport on his own terms and own two feet I will applaud him for a career of near unparalleled accomplishment. After all his old nemesis Dale Earnhardt Sr. never got that chance.

Also reading between the lines, it would seem that somebody has finally fastened a leash on the vitriolic Kyle Busch. After his profane tirade launched at TRD statements issued by all parties seem to indicate the mercurial driver was in danger of losing his ride if he didn’t apologize quickly and sincerely. Gibbs and M and Ms have waffled expressing their “disappointment” with some of The Wild Child’s antics previously but Toyota drew a clear line in the sand this week. Maybe that sent a message. JGR without Toyota funding is a future start and park.

Speaking of the Brothers Busch, on an already bizarre day at ‘Dega elder sib Kurt provided some footage for the highlight reels after he wrecked. For reasons only known to him KuBu decided it was time to drive back to the pits even with a medic still leaning in the car and that fellows black bag on the roof on the 51 car. Busch then engaged in a round of hugs with the members of the Finch team he is leaving and gave a bizarre interview noting that this sort of crap just seems to keep happening to him and he may be partially at fault. Had he ended the interview by launching into an off-key rendition of Linda Ronstadt’s “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me” we’d have been well and truly down Alice’s rabbit hole. (Note to Phoenix Racing….The Phoenix race cars run sans sponsorship most every week anyway. The Phoenix is the mythical bird that rose from the ashes immortalized on the hood of countless 70s Trans Ams. Why not add the infamous “screaming chicken” decals from a Pontiac restoration shop to the hood of your cars for style point?)

If Kurt’s interview was a bit bizarre it couldn’t hold a candle to Tony Stewart’s insane rant after the spring Talladega race, apologizing on behalf of the drivers for not wrecking enough cars to meet fans expectations. Well he sure took care of that on the last lap Sunday, didn’t he?

Many drivers had some pointed comments about the current state of plate racing after Sunday’s race but none were more poignant than those of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s. Earnhardt said if they raced like that every week he’d find a new “job”. Keep in mind that statement was made by one of the most successful practitioners of the dark art of plate racing who has won numerous times at the two plate tracks. Back in the day if his late father had made such a pointed set of comments maybe NASCAR would have listened. Or maybe not. The elder Earnhardt was once quoted about plate racing “I don’t care what they say, this ain’t real racing” and he subsequently lost his life on a plate track, 2/18/01. It’s gonna happen again, folks, probably sooner than later. But Brian France will profess to be surprised when it does. After all he’s got a new initiative to raise a 100 foot bronze statue of himself outside NASCAR headquarters to celebrate how swimmingly everything is going in stock car racing since he took the helm. Fans will be invited to offer pagan sacrifice and leave drink offerings at the foot of the statue on alternate Fridays.

Hey, Ill admit I was struggling to keep my eyes open most of the race which I watched on the DVR Sunday night. I was coming off a streak of five nights closing the store and getting home after 10 PM. A friend concerned that I’d been subsisting on a diet of Burger King value menu items for those five days due to finances left me a nice turkey dinner plate Sunday and the trytophan and a 40 of Colorado Kool-Aid had my eyelids trying to lull me into a long winter’s nap. Watching those last couple laps had me believing maybe I’d missed the end of the “Race” and was seeing the end to “Would You Die Hard Already You Ugly Old Bastard Part XXIII”. Had Bruce Willis climbed out of the 17 car in victory lane it would have been perfect. That many cars haven’t been destroyed since the final wreck in the Blues Brothers movie. I gotta agree with the Intimidator, “I don’t care what they say, this ain’t real racing”.

10/08/2012 03:02 PM

DonMei, I assume that you are referring to my “fat a**.” Well, I’ll have you know that I have raced on ridiculously narrow gravel rally stages. So I would be careful before you shoot your mouth off.
My point was that new fans are attracted to the danger element. Football wouldn’t be so popular if the guys didn’t hit each other. Of course serious fans don’t care, we just want to see a good race. But at the end of the day, wrecking is part of racing in the same way that getting sacked is part of being a quarterback. It’s not want you wanted to have happen and it could get you hurt, but it is what you signed up for.

10/08/2012 03:09 PM

matt…..back in the day….yep….no one listens now.

stewart mugs for the camera and talks about his finely tuned athletic body. who is the driver that can make enough noise to get na$car to listen? jr’s comment about na$car building the cars to save the teams money, wished someone would listen to that.

as you said, it’s only matter of time before the stockcar world is mourning the loss of a driver during a race. i NEVER want to see that again, but fear we will.

53% of the field wiped out on the last last yesterday. millions of dollars.

i still say i na$car doesn’t want to change ‘dega and daytona, there are enough fans that are outraged that would be willing to show up on back hoes, picks and shovels to do it themselves.

and what about the empty seats, at ‘dega?!? when i use to sit was empty. upper seats were the best seats in the place, but also the most expensive. economy still in toilet, especially here in south. i think the absence of butts in seats showed that fans are fed up. even campgrounds and parking areas were empty.

Iowa Guy
10/08/2012 03:32 PM

Regarding the “caution flag” just after JR got around the leader to be on the same lap, it did show the safety crew picking up the debris…BUT it sure looked like it was well below the yellow line and not in the racing groove at all !

10/08/2012 04:26 PM

Well, I was at the race yesterday and I have to admit, it was fun to watch live. Everyone bitches about no lead changes and a lack of side-by-side racing… well that’s exactly what you had for 499 3/4 miles yesterday.

I have an opinion on a few things, so I’ll put on the flame suit.

First, I thought I respected Dale Jr., even though I cannot root for him. On the other hand, I didn’t see him bitching about the racing during those years that he had 50 more horsepower than the rest of the field. In addition, I also didn’t see him bitch about that “mystery” debris caution that we all called the Jr. caution yesterday. It’s fine as long as you’re running up front and winning in a cheated up car, but when you have equal equipment to the field and the talent actually has to show, you’re a whiney little “entitled” Hendrick twit.

Tony Stewart. It even hurts my brain to type the name. If he is not the most hypocritical a-hole in the sport, I don’t know who is. He calls every other driver an idiot or a “dart without feathers”, or the “Eddie Haskell” of Nascar, but I honestly think the man’s the Antichrist. He causes more useless, unnecessary, and dangerous crashes than anyone in the sport. Take a look back over the years and you’ll see one boneheaded move after another, but it’s always someone else’s fault. This time, he admits that he caused the wreck, but I don’t give him a pass for that, he still wrecked the entire field. People say he’s the best out there, but that doesn’t mean that the laws of physics and the rules of racing don’t apply to him. I’ve seen this pattern before and it is disturbing. He doesn’t have a car capable of winning, so he puts people into the infield or the wall trying to outdrive his equipment. Probably just a good ass-kicking would settle him down a bit.

Matt Kenseth deserved the win yesterday. It was obvious to all of the fans in the stands that he and McMurray had the fastest cars on the track.

Fix that fake caution (the Jr Caution), and fix the GWC finishes, and you’ll stop some of the wrecking. The big one happened yesterday because you had everyone bunched together, without any forward momentum, trying to block the guys that were following the drafting script. It’s as simple as that.

Ray H.
10/08/2012 04:28 PM

Here is my solution. Score a random lap from each quarter section of the race. 43 points for 1st place 1 point for last. Do not let teams know which laps are scored until after they are scored. At the end of the race add all the points together.The winner of the race gets there points multiplied by 1.2. This way there is an incentive to race each and every lap and rewards the final race winner.

10/08/2012 04:30 PM

Speaking of caution flags, let’s discuss when they are appropriate. I think the rule states that the caution flies when there is debris or a wrecked race car on the track that means it is unsafe to continue racing at full speed. Such circumstances should be obvious to fans. Yet, while a beer can below the yellow line can trigger a caution midway through a race it seems on the last lap NASCAR prefers to put thier hands over thier eyes and hope for the best. We saw it happen Sunday as a 25 car pig pile erupted but NASCAR hesitated several seconds before tossing the yellow hanky. We saw it at the end of the Feb. Daytona truck and NW races. And to this day I still think that Mark Martin was leading Kevin Harvick in the Daytona 500 when the yellow should have been thrown for Bowyer sliding towards the finish line on his roof.

10/08/2012 05:13 PM

If you wanted to remind fans of your postion I believe that after Jeff Gordon made chase because of lucky dog would have been better example of absurdity of this rule.
Gordon’s car was so out to lunch he had nothing to lose by pitting after receiving lucky dog, while Kyle (who I believe was in top 5) played the odds.

Chris Evans
10/08/2012 06:11 PM

What a dangerous, insane ending. How long is this going to be continued? 25 years and counting.

I think the drivers and NASCAR have got cocky that they have safer barriers, head and neck restraints, etc. and that no one can get killed at these things anymore. So what the heck? Let’s run ‘em, crash 20-25 of ‘em and on to the next!

Now that they can’t fill up completely Talladega and Daytona they can’t use the excuse that it fills up the seats.

As Matt said in 2001(!) “Stop the Madness”.


Chris Evans
10/08/2012 06:17 PM

I totally agree about less Horsepower. Why, why do they have to run 200-205 mph to crash all of these cars?

Couldn’t drivers maybe react better at about 150-160 mph as the top speed?

Maybe they also need to shorten these races. Why run around for four hours and then crash everybody? Shorten the races to 100 laps. They can destroy millions of dollars worth of cars in less time!


JD in NC
10/08/2012 06:47 PM

Its pretty impressive (sarcasm) to wreck 58% of the field, but that’s figuring 25 out of 43 cars being involved. But, there were not 43 cars running on the last lap (or at least to turn 4 of the last lap). I think there were only 36 cars still on the track. Crunching the math on those numbers yields about 70% (25 out of 36)of the field being in the supersized big one.

10/08/2012 08:07 PM

Matt, thanks for coming to add your comments. I really really hope that Jeff Gordon gets to retire on his own terms. I thought that he would retire when the DuPont contract ended. I don’t want to see any driver lose their life and Jeff has had quite a few really ugly wrecks esp those that have happened when his wreck has found the walls not protected by SAFER barrier. It makes me cringe to see wrecks like the one we saw on Sunday and it makes me sick to think of losing another driver because NASCAR can’t pull its head out of its collective posterior.

10/08/2012 09:50 PM

Underbird. Before you go off on a driver, don’t start the comment by saying it hurts your brain to type his name. You lose all credibility before you even make your comment.

Also, because of your obvious hate for Stewart, you blame him for the wreck, calling him the Anti-Christ even. But then you state that everyone was blocking. At least you got the last part right and this wreck would have happened anyway regardless of who started it.

And given Stewart’s a 3 time champ, I’m not willing to put him back in NW or trucks due to his bad driving just yet.

10/08/2012 10:44 PM

It’s a descriptive phrase that shows my feelings for the guys’ attitude and demeanor, not to mention his character. It’s like me saying “Steve, don’t lecture me on what to write in my own post because it shows your intolerance for people who have a different opinion than you”. That may or may not be true, but now that its written, it goes down as part of the record.

The last part of your second paragraph is wrong. I did not say that everyone was blocking. So your conclusion that it would have probably happened anyway is just another opinion. In my opinion, someone else didn’t wreck the field, your three-time champ friend did, so I’ll voice my low opinion of Stewart anytime I feel entitled to do so.

Finally, no one is calling for him to go back to NW and trucks. I think he’d only do the same there to some less experienced drivers and probably kill someone.

Don’t take it personally my man, I hate all those sniveling Chevy drivers equally. It’s just that your guy picked a bad week to start throwing around his little sarcastic sayings about how crappy all the other drivers are.

Randy Goldman
10/08/2012 11:45 PM

Did you notice…

that Tom is the only one who places a written claim for credit the article before it’s written? #slefimage

that Tom still has a link to that PATHETIC “clap clap” story from what… 2 years ago?

that Talladega seems to have drawn quite the controversy again. Which makes it newsworthy, which makes it
popular. Why does no one at fronstretch realize that? NASCAR will never eliminate plate racing. As Dale Sr. said… as long as they’re making noise. #GOODBuisnessModel

that Fronstretch does like to silence it’s most commented on readers… kind of funny. How are they still in business? (Matt, please don’t call me racist AGAIN for no reason)

that FS refuses to let RG1 audition for a spot on the weekly recap… due to the aforementioned reasons. #alreadyprovedmyworth

10/09/2012 08:59 AM

Randy, there are eight million NASCAR blogs in the Naked City. This is only one of them. I haven’t read your audition columns but it shouldn’t be hard to find somewhere that will publish you if you’re good.

Try Insider Racing News. IMO, they can use a few more good writers and they don’t have a comment area so you’ll be relatively free from people calling you names.

Chris Evans
10/09/2012 10:21 AM

I don’t think it is good for business to make your sport look like a total idiot by wrecking 25 cars every time you go to a restrictor plate track and that is how you get on the national news.

IRL got national exposure last year with the tragic death of Dan Wheldon at the insanity that was IRL Las Vegas. I don’t think was a good business model.


10/09/2012 12:17 PM

There are several easy, easy solutions to fixin plate racing.

Right now, restrictor plate racing is the only thing giving NASCAR good ratings.

And that means they don’t want to fix it.

1. They could knock the banking down on the tracks, and take the plates off.

2. They could put big wicker boards up on the roof like the Frank Kimmel Street Stock Challenge does, rag them down to 180 mph and take the plates off.

3. They could take the plates off and let them run 220 mph. Most drivers would still prefer this. Get to the corner and let off.

4. Mandate new engine specs specifically for the super speedways, something like 300 cubic inches, or a much smaller lift/duration on the cam, to make 450-500 hp instead of 900. And the argument that that costs too much is absurd, big teams already have “restrictor plate engine programs” spending thousands of dollars to find 2-3 hp in a plate engine.

But they won’t do any of these things, because NASCAR wants big giant wrecks. It brings the hillbillies to watch, it makes the 5 o’clock news, and it improves the ratings.

Until someone else dies, or until the drivers get together and boycott this BS.

That's so 90's
10/09/2012 05:27 PM

“Don’t take it personally my man, I hate all those sniveling Chevy drivers equally.”

So you hate stick Chevy on decals, and the sniveling drivers who drive the COT adorned with Chevy decals? I bet you love all the drivers who drive the very same COT with the race only spec engine and nothing that conforms to a Ford you can buy but has Ford stick on stickers to make it look different than the Spec COT with Chevy stickers.

Get with it and come out of the ’90s. This is 2012 and all the cars are the same, from the same spec sheet. There are only Chevy’s and Ford’s in name only.

10/09/2012 05:53 PM

The plate tracks would be a good place to try out a new formula. Stock body templates, production based V8 engines, DOT tires and 87 octane pump gas. That should scrub about 50 mph and would spread out the field so at least the best factory design would win.

Seems to me a similar formula took the sport to where it is today.

10/10/2012 12:48 AM


You bash Rusty for Rusty’s comments about not letting little kids watch this race, saying “what a way to get new fans” and that Rusty needs to “get with the program”.

Except, if you had bothered to actually listen to Rusty, he said he wouldn’t want the little kids OF THE DRIVERS watching this race. They were talking about how wives/parents of the drivers handle the stress of watching wreckfests like Talladega, and since they had just had a segment on the “baby boom” that has hit pit road amongst the drivers, Rusty (quite naturally, I might add) made the “little kids” remark.

Tell me, “Tom”, if you had kids, would you want your 4 year old daughter watching you in a race where your car might end up sailing through the air like Tony’s? I would hope you wouldn’t want to expose a small child to that image haunting her the rest of her life — especially if you weren’t able to walk away from that wreck like Tony did.

Oh, and “Tom”, don’t you think you kinda/sorta/maybe contradicted yourself in “your” column? You go on and on (and ON) about how unsafe the race was, how the fans may have had heart attacks both before or after the big wreck, and that there is “no more ignoring how dangerous” the racing has become. BUT you also proceed to bash Rusty for his concern over the drivers’ little ones watching the race?

Who are you to be bashing anyone, when you do such a fine job of crying about the dangers of the race yourself? It sounds more like you just don’t like Rusty, and thus made a fool of yourself for bashing Rusty for what he said, while you then go even further than he did with your own remarks.

Great job, “Tom”.

PS — BTW, Matt Kenseth was hardly a “sitting duck” going into Turn 3. He had no competition for the win except for the Waltrip/Mears combo coming at the bottom of the track, and Kenseth had Harvick pushing him. If ANYONE was a “sitting duck” going into Turn 3, it was Stewart. But then Tony decided to spread his wings, and the rest is (unfortunately) history.

10/10/2012 02:18 PM

To: That’s so 90’s…

Yep, I love those spec cars, with spec engines, and spec chassis. I root for the machines themselves, moreso than those drivers who I think are mostly a bunch of prima-donna whiners. That’s not a 90’s attitude my friend, it’s a 60’s, 70’s and 80’s attitude. Those were my formative years, so I won’t apologize for feeling the way I do.

Yes, Chevy and it’s teams have a legacy of payoffs, cheated-up cars and whining to get the rules changed when they don’t have a decided advantage. Therefore, I root against all of them, all of the time. I’ve been following Nascar for well over 40 years and they’ve always had a special place in their heart for the bowties, and their bank account as well. So I tend to not pay a lot of mind to those who say “it’s the new Nascar, get with the program”, since I know deep down, nothing has really changed.