The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud : Auto Club 500 by Matt McLaughlin -- Sunday February 25, 2007

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud : Auto Club 500

2007 California Race Recap · Matt McLaughlin · Sunday February 25, 2007


The Key Moment: Kenseth's team got their driver out first on the final pit stop while Johnson lost several spots on the same stop. Kevin Harvick's flat tire under caution helped seal the deal for the 17.

In a Nutshell: Race fans didn't expect much from a race at Fontana and they got what they expected.

Dramatic Moment: Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon ran hard side by side for awhile and the action got physical on at least one occasion. Those two seem to be developing a genuine dislike for one another.

Waiting to see if David Reutimann was going to get out of his burning car all right. That was a nasty hit he took head on into the wall. Props to the rescue crews for their rapid response to a frightening incident.

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

Could Harvick have run down and passed Kenseth if it wasn't for that flat tire?

Mark Martin is leading the points. Will he race at Vegas in yet another Quixotic attempt at a title or will he stick to his game plan to run part time this season?

And the Oscar for the worst performance by a parade trying to present itself as a race goes to……. the Auto Club 500. (Sorry, there's a NMPA rule that all writers have to make at least one bogus Oscars award joke this weekend.)

Wow, even Jimmie Johnson made a sarcastic comment about one of those bogus debris caution flags NASCAR threw.

Did it seem like FOX was in commercial every time there was a pass for the lead?

Did the introduction of unleaded gas have something to do with all those engine failures, particularly those early in the race? One of the primary functions of lead in gasoline is lubricating the valves. (As well as boosting octane.)

According to newly minted NASCAR spokesperson Owen Kearns NASCAR has a new rule in place for Talladega and Daytona. Not only is the yellow line rule rescinded once the leaders come off turn four if drivers can see the checkered flag "anything goes." OK. I just hope they remember to pack extra body bags.

He's been dead quite some time but do you think Moe Howard minds David Reutimann stealing his haircut?

Well you can't say Sammy Hagar lacks enthusiasm can you? But the drivers got bored of waiting and fired their engines before the command was given prior to the Busch race.

Wow, I've seen more folks at the volunteer fire company's monthly mud bog contest than showed up for the truck race Friday night.

Should someone point out to Darrell Waltrip and Mike Joy that State Farm is the official corn dog of NASCAR?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

David Reutimann took a nasty hit into the wall off of the front bumper of Greg Biffle.

Kevin Harvick's strong runs in both the Cup and Busch race ended by flat tires.

What's worse than failing to qualify for a Cup race? Having your rookie team driver bump you out of the field. Ask Michael Waltrip. At least the 55 car was allowed to continue its substance abuse therapy.

Jimmie Johnson's crew is normally one of the fastest on pit road but they let their driver down in a big way today especially on that last stop when all the marbles were on the line.

It's bad enough to blow an engine but Dale Earnhardt's team made him go back out and REALLY blow up what was left of his engine in such spectacular style Earnhardt took a bow afterwards.

A pit road speeding penalty cost Tony Stewart a shot at the win.

Kasey Kahne led early but lost an engine.

The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

So much for having a crew chief suspended being any big deal. For the second time in as many years a driver (Matt Kenseth) without his crew chief atop the box won at Fontana.

Kyle Busch overcame sloppy work in the pits to post a top 10 finish.

David Ragan overcame an early spin to post a respectable sixteenth place finish.

Worth Noting

Mark Martin is the only driver to score top 5 finishes in both of this season's Cup points races.

David Ragan was the top finishing rookie in the race coming home sixteenth.

The top 10 finishers competed in a Ford, seven Chevys, a Dodge and a Toyota.

The win was the first for Kenseth since Bristol last August. In that time period Greg Biffle's win at Homestead last November was the only other victory for Ford. Dodge has won two of those subsequent fourteen Cup points race and Chevy won the other twelve.

Jimmie Johnson has top ten finishes in seven of the last eight Cup races.

Jeff Burton had his best finish since Charlotte last fall.

Don't look now but Clint Bowyer has top 10 finishes in three of the last four Cup races.

Kurt Busch enjoyed his best finish since Talladega last fall.

Tony Stewart posted his first top 10 finish since winning at Fort Worth last fall.

Ryan Newman managed his first top 10 finish since Bristol last August.

Kevin Harvick endured his first finish outside the top 5 in five races.

In every race since Atlanta last fall Dale Earnhardt Jr. has finished worse than his result in the previous race.

Roush prepared Ford have won five of fourteen races at Fontana in the Cup series. Four different drivers have combined for those wins. (Kenseth, twice, Martin, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle.) This marks the fourth time that Roush entries have won both the Busch and Cup races at Fontana on the same weekend.

Toyota scored their first top 10 finish in just their second Cup start.

What's the Points?

Mark Martin moves up a spot and takes over the points lead. He is now five points ahead of second place Jeff Burton. Jeff Gordon advanced five spots to take over third in the standings. Kevin Harvick's flat tire drops him to fourth in the standings 28 points in the arrears of Martin. A surprising David Ragan finds himself fifth in the standings.

With Clint Bowyer posted in sixth, all three of the RCR cars are in the top six in the standings. Joe Nemechek is the second Ginn Racing driver in the top ten. JJ Yeyley, Kyle Busch and David Stremme round out the top ten at this early juncture in the season.

Kenseth's victory catapults him ahead 28 spots in the standings to twelfth.

Among the drivers digging a deep hole early in the season are Tony Stewart (21st), Carl Edwards (26th) Dale Earnhardt Jr. (41st) and Kasey Kahne (32nd.)

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 two cans of lukewarm Natty Bop, the shame of Baltimore. Judging by the amount of empty seats in the grandstands it appears the tepid racing in Fontana is being rejected by the locals.

Next Up - Next week the circuit heads to…..what the blazes? Next week the Cup circuit takes a week off. No wonder NASCAR can't get any ratings traction.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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

02/26/2007 06:45 AM

I hate to be picky, but Martin will be at Vegas; he’s not currently scheduled to step out of the 01 car until Bristol. He swears he will not be racing there, but maybe there could be some friendly wagering on it.

The official corndog of NASCAR is State FAIR, not State Farm, who, unless they have branched out into the food industry, primarily sells insurance.

John Trussell
02/26/2007 07:09 AM

On the MRN post-race, Martin answered the reportter’s “Are you going to stay in the car, with all the success you’re having?” with an unhesitating, firm “No.”

But if he’s still in the points lead — or even the top five — going into Bristol, I don’t see how he can not run that race.

02/26/2007 07:43 AM

I also want to point out that Jeff Burton has had 2 top 5’s also. 3rd at Daytona and 4th yesterday. Other then that i’m glad I found you again Matt been looking for you since you left that other website.

02/26/2007 08:17 AM

Thanks for pointing out the usual mistakes in Matt’s column guys. As for empty seats, I guess you better wipe off your 12 inch black and white set in the garage. Friday and Saturday were poorly attended, but it sure looked like a pretty full house on Sunday. We get it, you don’t like racing in California, but try using facts to back up your crap.

02/26/2007 08:28 AM

ya ! more facts and crap.

02/26/2007 08:31 AM

Fox showed yesterday everything but the race. They came back from a commercial to Hammond and then back to commercial! Two cars side by side for the lead – who cares?

John A.
02/26/2007 10:41 AM

I dont know what Jerry B. was watching but, the front grandstands looked about half full on Sunday. It is just a boring track period. I so long for good racing back at Rockingham! Also for TV ratings, those mysterious debris cautions still haunt us if the ending is not as close as NASCAR wants it. Tough luck for the 48 bunch as it was to big of a lead. Result tighten it up with that debris caution. I have been a diehard fan for over 30 years but it is getting harder and harder. Oh yeah now we get to look forward to the COT. Boy, Brett Bodine what an expert to help out! Look out his great racing career? It will be like an IROC race with IMSA looking cars. Anyway good to unload!

Hot Rod Don
02/26/2007 12:29 PM

Hey Matt, glad to see you back.
Hot Rod Don,
Port Perry

02/26/2007 01:20 PM

I’ll take a double order of facts and crap to go, please. Hold the mayo!

02/26/2007 01:40 PM

Every time Darrell Waltrip speaks my head is about to explode.. Fox coverage is about as bad as it gets..missed re-starts, boogity boogity, no interest in lead changes and then commentary from the Hollywood Hotel during the race!!! If all they did was show the race, post the intervals between cars and occasionally show us who is running the fastest (Not always the leader) I think we are a pretty easy bunch to please..

02/26/2007 03:08 PM

So glad I found you again Matt! You rock. I enjoy your summary posts more than the cookie-cutter races like the one this week :P Keep up the feature posts too, they’re awesome.

02/26/2007 04:30 PM

I thought the coverage was painful at best..C’mon, sure..we all don’t want to go back to the days when there was so little coverage but now aren’t we really going to the other side of it all? Now we have to deal with the oh-so painful pre-race shows that have nothing to do with racing..during the race we have to deal with Wolfgang Puck talking about food which is followed by the guys in the silly hotel showing off a tray of food. How about racing? I don’t care for any other sport but I have to say that the NFL, MLB, and the NHL haven’t forgotten about their main objective which is the sport itself. NASCAR,(France), has certainly put racing on the backburner it seems. I didn’t bother to watch the Busch race as I figured I’d see all the same guys running on Sunday anyway. Who exactly designed the NASCAR schedule to have an off week just two weeks after the season starts anyway?

02/26/2007 04:50 PM

For the second week in a row the fastest car did not win. I saw MANY empty seats in the frontstretch stands. Don’t know why JerryB thinks they were “pretty full”. There had to be 5000 empty on the backstretch.

02/26/2007 06:15 PM

Good stuff as usual Matt. Fox’s coverage was about what I’ve come to expect, but I was glad to hear DW after listening to Rusty for 3 hours on Saturday night. And I was really looking for to ESPN’s return. Sorry Jerry B, the place was embarrasingly empty. If it wouldn’t have been for the rain in Carolina, we would have watched the race from The Rock!

02/26/2007 06:50 PM

One other thing..I’m not sure who’s girlfriend/wife they showed..if it was Harvicks or Kenseth’s but she’s wearing a drivers suit with the sponsors and all that..I’ve seen this before and I can’t help to laugh, even if its a sad laugh at how silly some stuff looks while watching the race. I’m sure that she was ready to go as a fill-in driver if needed.;-) Just plain stupid looking…

John H
02/26/2007 07:52 PM

I was at the race and from my seat it appeared to be pretty packed. Nothing like Vegas where an entire section will be empty but you still can’t buy a seat in the stands through the track. The racing in CA is the same as everywhere else. Aero is the race unfortunately, well, unless you want to run restrictor plates everywhere. Maybe the brick of tomorrow will help.

02/27/2007 11:54 PM

Perhaps you’ve banged that wall a few too many times, “Wallbanger”. There could not have been 5,000 empty seats on the backstretch at Fontana because there are NO seats on the backstretch. Obviously, you were watching the race through the same biased eye that Matt does. Too bad you can’t just enjoy the fact that we have cars on a track again, like the rest of us real fans. Quit complaining!

03/02/2007 09:58 AM

Good to find you again Matt. Ive been a fan of Nascar for around 20 years. I know the sport has to change, but maybe you should run your Turkey Ct. article from years ago,It might help some of the new fans to understand where us older fans are coming from.Keep up the good work