The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Pocono 500 by Matt McLaughlin -- Sunday June 10, 2007

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Pocono 500

Matt McLaughlin · Sunday June 10, 2007

 

The Key Moment: Rain began pelting the third turn just as Ryan Newman was setting up Jeff Gordon to take the lead.

In a Nutshell: The No. 24 had no brakes, no tires, and no fuel… but all the luck they needed.

Dramatic Moment: On fresher tires and seeing rain on his windshield, Ryan Newman drove his heart out trying to complete the pass for the lead just as the yellow flag flew. Had the race lasted another ten laps, the finishing order would have been radically rearranged.

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

How surprised was Jeff Gordon to win? He failed to mention a single sponsor in the first three sentences of his victory celebration.

Remember when NASCAR used to talk about "parity"? With one team winning ten races and one manufacturer winning thirteen of fourteen, "parity" has become a parody. Also of note, ten of the twelve drivers currently in contention for the Chase drive Chevrolets.

What is it with races and rain all of a sudden? This is getting frustrating. Are teams going to start adding meteorologists to the crews and begin launching their own low orbit weather satellites?

During the big "mystery debris caution" debate after Phoenix NASCAR officials repeatedly said they would always "err on the side of caution" when deciding when to throw the yellow. So how come while the 48 car was chugging around the track on a flat left front tire, throwing molten metal debris everywhere, the race wound up staying green?

Hey, wasn't TNT's stretch of coverage supposed to be commercial free? (Like the Side-by-Side coverage the IRL gets).

Editor’s Note : That’s actually still partially correct. One TNT race IS scheduled to run commercial free; the Pepsi 400 on July 7th. Titled “Wide Open Coverage,” a revolutionary new way to cover the sport will fit promotional materials in the lower 3rd of the screen so that the race fans never miss a part of the action. If that experiment is successful, we could see this idea implemented more in future years.

It might have been because of the rain, but TNT's initial offering of the 2007 season was marred by a surprising number of video and audio problems that would have embarrassed a local access channel.

To all those folks calling for the 500 mile races at Pocono to be decreased (by design, not rain) are we talking about an attendant drop in ticket prices? The price to get into the Pocono infield, the Wild Wild West of NASCAR, is highway robbery.

Should NASCAR have suspended Kurt Busch? It's beginning to look like a driver throwing a tantrum is going to have to kill a pit crew member before NASCAR gets serious about policing pit road. Maybe we could get Paris Hilton's judge to reconsider NASCAR's decision?

Sounds like Dale Jarrett is looking hard for a way to jump ship at Michael Waltrip Racing, and that's pretty wise. There's going to be a lot of rats looking for a way off that Ship of Fools soon. Toyota may be trying to help DJ find a new ride with another Camry team, supposedly an existing team that will switch to Toyotas next year. Some folks are saying Joe Gibbs Racing (DJ drove for Gibbs in the past), but the railbirds are citing Chip Ganassi's struggling organization. After all, Juan Pablo Montoya used to drive Toyota-powered CART entries for Ganassi.

Another brilliant programming move by SPEED TV: They decided to move the Pocono ARCA race, which ran Saturday afternoon, to a time slot where it ran against the Nashville Busch race on ESPN2. I'm going to guess the live Busch race edged out a ratings victory against a tape delayed ARCA race. And that both beat the ratings for the Canadian GP (which ran against the Pocono race) by a comfortable margin.

Speaking of F1, did anyone else see Robert Kubica's crash in Canada? It's a stone miracle he walked away.

Damn. Carl Edwards is leading the Busch points standings by 662 points fifteen races into the season. At this point last season, Kevin Harvick was only 272 points ahead of the second place driver. (Carl Edwards, incidentally.) Any more questions why NASCAR is apparently struggling to find a new title sponsor for the Busch Series?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Denny Hamlin clearly had the fastest car on Sunday, but the rain-inspired game of musical chairs in the pits didn't fall his way.

The race only went half the distance, but Dave Blaney ended up taking half a car to the pits.

Greg Biffle's Ford was just flat out horrible all weekend. Don't expect Blaney to feel sorry for him, though.

Jimmie Johnson was among the Hendrick juggernaut running up front until a flat left front tire permanently derailed his chances at a good finish.

The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

The string of events that converged to give Jeff Gordon a win was practically cosmic.

Martin Truex had a pretty good week with a win on Monday at Dover and a third place finish at Pocono on Sunday.

Like his teammate Gordon, Casey Mears couldn't have gone much further on fuel were it not for the timely intervention of Mother Nature.

Worth Noting

  • Today's was the shortest event ever run at Pocono, as the race was called 265 miles in. The previous shortest race at this track was in 1986, when Tim Richmond drove to Victory Lane after just 375 miles.
  • Rick Hendrick-owned teams have won eleven of fourteen races run this season. Both Gordon and Johnson have each won four races apiece.
  • Jeff Gordon has won four of the last seven races, and has finished first or second in half of this season's fourteen points events.
  • Ryan Newman finished second for the second consecutive race and has Top 10 finishes in five of the last six races. Maybe he could lend teammate Kurt Busch some points?
  • Martin Truex, Jr. has back-to-back Top 10 finishes for the first time in his career.
  • Casey Mears has Top 10 finishes in two of the last three races.
  • Tony Stewart has Top 10 finishes in four of the last five races.
  • Denny Hamlin has Top 10 finishes in the last five races and in eight of the last nine events.
  • Kyle Busch enjoyed his first Top 10 finish since Richmond. Kevin Harvick in eleventh also had his best finish since Richmond.
  • Jeff Burton has just one Top 10 finish in the last seven races. He started the year with six Top 10 results in the first seven races.
  • Matt Kenseth has Top 10 finishes in four of the last five races.
  • Joe Nemechek had his best finish since Fontana.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya had his best finish since Texas.
  • Eight of the Top 10 finishers at Pocono drove Chevys. The Bow-Tie Party was spoiled only by Dodge's Ryan Newman in second and Ford's Matt Kenseth in ninth.
  • The top finishing rookie was Juan Pablo Montoya in 20th.

What's the Points?

Jeff Gordon remains in first, opening his lead to 242 over new second place man Matt Kenseth. Kenseth and third place Denny Hamlin each move up a spot, with Jimmie Johnson dropping two spots to fourth after his troubles. Jeff Burton rounds out the Top 5.

Further back, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards swapped sixth and seventh place, with Stewart now holding the advantage. The rest of the Top 10 held serve : Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch. Martin Truex, Jr. and Mark Martin round out this week’s version of the Chase Top 12.

Drivers gaining spots after Pocono include Casey Mears (up four spots to 23rd), Ryan Newman (up two spots to 13th), and Juan Montoya (up a spot to 21st.)

Drivers riding the downbound train include Jamie McMurray (down two spots to 15th), Sterling Marlin (down three spots to 27th), and Greg Biffle (down a spot to 19th.)

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 rainwater diluted Schlitz. There's one thing more frustrating than competition interruptus…but it wouldn't be polite to discuss.

Next Up: It's off to Michigan on Father's Day for one boring mother of a race.

Editor’s Note : For some of our other commentary columns weaving into yesterday’s Pocono 500, click here to get this week’s version of Bowles-Eye View involving Jeff Gordon, or here to get Becca’s Big Six questions resulting from this week’s race.

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Mark
06/11/2007 12:26 PM
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Matt, Kubica didn’t exactly walk away – his broken leg kinda prevented that. Still, a miracle that he survived. I enjoy F1 and NASCAR equally, but there is something to be said for the big cars with lots of space and metal protecting the driver.

al burns
06/11/2007 06:20 PM
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did anybody else find it coincedental that the yellow just happened to come out as Ryan Newman was ready to get by Gordon for the lead??As you may have guessed,I’m not a Gordon fan!

Travis Rassat
06/11/2007 06:29 PM
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If you’re talking about worldwide TV ratings, I’m guessing the Canadian Grand Prix probably beat the Busch, ARCA and Cup races this weekend.

I was really happy to hear that Robert Kubica was doing OK – that was a scary crash. According to the latest reports, he ended up with a sprained ankle and a light concussion. Simply amazing – kudos to whoever designed that safety equipment!

Vito Pugliese - FS-Staff
06/12/2007 11:57 AM
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Memo to track engineers:

Concrete walls positioned 90 degrees to a turn are a bad idea.

That was a bad wreck. That had all the makings of Greg Moore’s fatal accident at California in 1999.