The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Texas Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Sunday April 14, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Texas Race Recap

Mike Neff · Sunday April 14, 2013


Key Moment – Martin Truex Jr. was comfortably ahead, in position to break a six-year drought since his lone Cup win when the caution flew with 21 laps to go. As the cars came off pit road, Kyle Busch screeched out in front and from there, it was all she wrote. He went on to lead the final 20 laps and take the win.

In a Nutshell – Dominance for Kyle Busch. Heartbreak for Truex. Waiting for Fontana’s action that never came.

Dramatic Moment – During pre-race inspection, both cars fielded by Penske Racing were told that the tech inspectors did not like their rear end housings. The No. 2 and 22 cars had to change their rear ends in order to pass technical inspection. After the No. 22 swapped their rear end, it took them three tries to get through a laser inspection. By the time they got to the grid, the command to start engines had been given and Joey Logano had to start at the back.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski’s teams should expect their “rear ends” to get beaten with the rulebook this week, as loss of points, fines, and suspensions for crew members are all possible outcomes. You have to piss NASCAR off pretty good to have them take parts from your car, to the point the beginning of the race was slightly delayed.

After Saturday’s race Terry Blount from ESPN reported Brad Keselowski let fly at NASCAR, which will most certainly draw some additional ire from the suits in Daytona. A snippet of his quotes are below… a lot of inferences are given but not a whole lot of actual information. You know, like those “secret fines” from NASCAR back in the day…

“I have one good thing to say. That’s my team and effort they put in today in fighting back with the absolute bull that’s been the last seven days in this garage area. The things I’ve seen over the last seven days have me questioning everything that I believe in, and I’m not happy about it. I don’t have anything positive to say and I probably should just leave it at that. There’s so much stuff going on … you have no f——— idea what’s going on, And that’s not your fault and that’s not a slam on you. I could tell you there’s nobody, no team in this garage with the integrity of the 2 team. And the way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve ever seen a team targeted. But my guys kept their heads on straight and they showcased why they are a winning team and championship team. We’re not going to take it. We’re not going to be treated this way.”

Texas Motor Speedway has a worn out surface that allows for all kinds of racing all over the track. While that was good for the battling back in the pack, the racing at the front of the pack was a mirror of what we’ve seen for years. Whether it was Busch or Truex, the driver in the lead had a very big advantage over the rest of the field and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.

NASCAR, once again has developed the itchy caution flag finger. Between the Nationwide race having multiple cautions for debris, in locations where a car could not physically go and the Cup race, with cautions for cars that “looked like” they were blowing up, the sanctioning body was looking to find any old reason to throw the yellow. News flash: bad racing, fixed by automatic manipulation doesn’t get the fans back in their seats. It gets them to change the channel…

Fans called into the Masters on Friday to report a penalty that should have been called on Tiger Woods but wasn’t assessed until after the round. Wonder how many fans called into NASCAR to tell them that Tony Stewart’s sideways pit stop had him touching the line, like Brad Keselowski did last week and that he should be penalized just the same.

Rumors are flying around that Chip Ganassi is looking to sell off his race team. That organization has been somewhat rudderless for a few years; the last thing they need is the distraction of team selloff rumors. Hopefully, Ganassi can either quash them or make it official quickly, so that the teams can remain focused on trying to make their cars better. Jamie McMurray, at least is showing some signs of life as of late but any type of recovery is fragile at best.

The NRA sponsorship of the race this weekend was a hot topic; however, the race itself was hardly affected. Perhaps the only cave to those angry over the partnership was when FOX never showed the ceremonial “six shooter” shots of Kyle Busch in Victory Lane, firing blanks out of two silver-plated revolvers.

Someone needs to tell Jeff Hammond that his fake bake suntan makes his Dillon Brothers’ edition cowboy hat look orange.

Karl Malone showed again that he is truly a NASCAR fan with a fine effort at the command to start engines.

Hey, Sara Evans, Francis Scott Key was a good song writer. Just sing the anthem the way he wrote it, not how you think it will best show off your dynamic vocal range.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Hendrick Motorsports may be battling Joe Gibbs Racing for the top rung of the NASCAR team ladder but Sunday, they were battling some of their own demons. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a battery inexplicably die and lost four laps due to the issue, while Jeff Gordon burned up a right front hub, dropping him from the race after 306 laps. Kasey Kahne, so dominant at Las Vegas was never a factor and Jimmie Johnson had a quiet night, the only one of the foursome to wind up inside the top 10 (sixth).

Kurt Busch had another bad day at the track. He broke a fuel rail and had to go to the garage to get it fixed. At least this time, there wasn’t a fiery ending to the story although 37th is hardly a consolation prize. After back-to-back top-5 finishes, the last two races have been far from memorable for Furniture Row.

Austin Dillon put together his own deal to run the No. 51 in the race this weekend, but didn’t even make it to a lap that matched his car number. 45 laps in, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. bounced off him on the back straight to put him into the wall and make for a long day for Richard Childress’ grandson.

Jeff Burton had a bad time on Saturday when his spotter didn’t tell him to check up when Marcos Ambrose spun on the back straight. Bouncing off a couple of walls, Burton at least got on the race broadcasts, flailing his hands around in the car to show his displeasure. He ran 23rd.

Not only did Martin Truex, Jr. fail to break his winless streak, but he also failed to pass post race inspection. Truex’s shocks would not rebound which meant the nose was too low. Imagine the uproar if he’d have won the race.

Bobby Labonte had the stomach flu but his team couldn’t find a substitute driver for a bunch of laps, which resulted in his team finishing the race in 42nd place.

Matt Kenseth shot a lug nut out from under his tire on pit exit, starting a fire in some spilled fuel. The crew members played it off as no big deal and actually looked pissed that the fireman in their pit sprayed their pit stall with the fire extinguisher.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Aric Almirola was very fast this weekend and his Petty Blue No. 43 was almost conjuring up memories of the King. Only failing to make it to Victory Lane caused that delusion to fall apart but a seventh-place result, for this program must feel like a win.

Kyle Busch was going to finish second behind Martin Truex Jr. until the caution flag flew for Mark Martin almost spinning off of Turn 4. That caution gave his team the chance to rip off a sub 12 second stop and give Busch the win.

For all Joey Logano had been through Saturday night, ending the race in fifth had to feel like a minor miracle. Teammate Brad Keselowski struggled after the rear end change but received the Lucky Dog on the last caution and passed his way to a top-10 finish.

Ryan Newman and Matt Borland tried some of their old fuel mileage/tire trickeration in the middle of the race that didn’t pay off. They still managed to get a Lucky Dog after going a lap down, though and ended up 10th.

Carl Edwards had some whacky mechanical issues going on with his car this weekend. Initially, the team thought there was an engine issue, one that went away only to be followed by tire problems and poor track position. After all that, Edwards came home third and moved into the top 5 in points.

Worth Noting

  • The biggest fine in NASCAR history was the $200,000 dumped on Carl Long, effectively ending his Cup career. While that won’t put an end to Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski, I expect a similar total assessed to them or the team this week. Keselowski’s postrace rant about a witch hunt certainly won’t help matters much.
  • The win for Kyle Busch this weekend is his 26th of his Cup career. He is now tied with NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Fred Lorenzen for 23rd all-time. It’s also his first at the track.
  • Busch has the most top 5s on the circuit with five in seven races. Brad Keselowski has the most top 10s by a driver this year with six.
  • Martin Truex Jr. has now gone 210 races since he won his ;one Cup event.
  • The top 10 at Texas was made up of:

Ford – 5
Toyota – 3
Chevrolet – 2

  • Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of James Smith, an SK Modified driver at Thompson Speedway who passed away from a heart attack after competing in a race during the Icebreaker on Saturday. Cool to hear that Thompson is going to extend the Icebreaker feature to 33 laps to honor Smith on Sunday.

What’s the Points?

Jimmie Johnson’s night was enough to keep him on top, nine points ahead of Brad Keselowski, who soldiered his way to an amazing ninth-place finish. Kyle Busch is now third, tied for the series lead in wins with two. Roush Fenway Racing drivers Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards round out the top 5 in the standings.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home with his worst finish of the season on Saturday after battery and pit lane issues (29th). That’s dropped him to sixth in points, 35 behind Johnson. Kasey Kahne is enjoying his sophomore season more than his freshman year at Hendrick and is now seventh in points after his 11th-place finish Saturday night. Clint Bowyer continues to battle the runner-up jinx, maintaining eighth in points after Texas. Joey Logano and Paul Menard finish off the top 10, followed by Matt Kenseth in the top Wild Card spot. Kevin Harvick, sitting 12th would round out the Chasers as of today.

For those interested, Denny Hamlin is now 17 points out of the top 20 in points, the cutoff for Wild Card eligibility. With at least three more races to miss, it is going to be a substantial hole for him to climb out of once he gets back behind the wheel of the No. 11.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – Two flat Busch Lights. After California, it looked like the new car had found its groove and the racing was going to be great. Texas slapped the fans in the face and reminded them that having a car with the nose planted on the ground is most likely going to cause the car in front to be too much better than the cars chasing. The end result is the lead car running away from the pack and that is what happened again at Texas.

Next Up – The series heads to Kansas. Um, if you think Texas was bad, wait until you go to a track that has fresh pavement. The race will be on FOX Sunday, April 21st at 1:00 PM Eastern. You can also catch the action on MRN radio.

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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04/14/2013 10:28 AM

This race stunk, and not just because of the jerk who won it! Despite failing post race inspection, that was Truex’s race until the bogus caution came out at the end. Maybe D.W. ran next door and sweet-talked NASCAR into the caution so his illegitimate son will win?

And regarding The Penske issue. Brad did all but call out Hendrick, and in particular the 48 team, for cheating back in August after the Michigan race. (Gee, Brad, tell us something we don’t know!) Bet that got Brian a call from The Felon! Shut that punk up! Then, Brad criticised NASCAR at the start of the year. Well, Brad, you committed two deadly sins in the NASCAR realm. You called out Hendrick as cheaters, which everybody knows they are, and you criticised the almighty NASCRAP! First, the bogus pit road penalty at Martinsville, and now they don’t like the rear end housings on you, and your teammate’s, cars. And you can bet NASCAR will hammer Penske hard! After all, Mr. Middlebrook is The felon’s friend, not Roger’s, so don’t even try to appeal it. My bet? Penske tells Brian to shove his bogus, rigged show where the sun doesn’t shine and leaves the “sport”, and I don’t blame him one bit.

As for the rating, one flat, mouldy can of the “New Coke” that came out a few years ago and has been left open since then. And I’m being kind!

04/14/2013 12:42 PM

It was an uninteresting race..but it normally is so ranting seems useless. Brad must’ve been dropped in Texas by the “Mother Ship” directly after leaving Martinsville! For some reason in his rant he mentioned his team had been picked on in the garage for the last 7 days..not sure who was picking on them…but shame on them! I think Penske needs to take away Brad’s access to Miller…and maybe check his water bottles…brad came out of his car spouting stories of black helicopters, spies, and conspiracies … Alittle too much towards a Twilight Zone episode for me..or maybe closer to One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest! Not sure how the Suits are going to feel about Brads derogatory comments (yet again) towards the sport…but sometimes it’s just better to keep your mouth shut!

04/14/2013 12:45 PM

“Truex’s shocks would not rebound which meant the nose was too low.” Guess the guy that put the stack together made a mistake. Certainly wouldn’t have been on purpose would it? Two shot penalty I guess.

Wayne T. Morgan
04/14/2013 12:57 PM

S.O.S at Tex-ass as usual and knew that yellow fever would return shortly. As for Penske cars there again NA$CAR’s rules do not allow you to be creative in anyway to their bastard child. Such a shame, now Ole’ Roger will be in the same boat as the Felon and deemed a cheater!!

04/14/2013 02:44 PM

Fox turned cowardly PC—didn’t show Rowdy firing the pistols. I would have expected that from NBC or other networks but not FOX.
Hope Brad saved some money, the dude is going to wind up like Carl Long after the billion dollar fine he’s going to get.

04/14/2013 02:52 PM

The racing at Texas isn’t consistently good enough to warrant having two races a year, and it hasn’t been for a while. I would be all for moving one of the TMS races to the Circuit of the Americas next year.

04/14/2013 03:53 PM

I didn’t have high expectations for this race so when I got an invitation to meet friends for dinner on Sautrday night, I happily went. Based on what I have read about the race, I made the right decision.

I like Brad K but I’m sure he is going to get fined. NASCAR always wins, even when they are wrong, wrong, wrong.

04/14/2013 04:16 PM

Another typical Texas race…I had a very nice nap for the last 100 laps due to boredom. Why they race at this track is a mystery to me.

04/14/2013 04:32 PM

Can someone please tell me how Tony Stewart does it…? If he wasn’t out of the box at first on that pit stop, if you review the video you’ll see that he backed even further out of the box before they changed his left side tires. If that would have been anyone else but a Hendrick team, that would have been at least a drive-through.

In addition, how the hell can a car run two days of testing, two days of practice, qualifying, and then be found to have parts that are “not in the spirit of the rule” be found on the morning of the race? Signs are that Ford is not paying enough money under the table to the France’s bank account. Looks like Toyota outbid Chevy for the championship this year.

04/14/2013 04:37 PM

yuppers, Old Marty hit 210..what a feat. Logano gets slammed for 104, Jr. gets slammed for 144. Love the bias. 210, now thats a story.

04/14/2013 04:44 PM

I agree with Under, why wasn’t TS given a penalty, he clearly was out of the box. Also is it true that Kyle entered pit road and it was closed and did not receive a penalty?

Red Carey
04/14/2013 07:38 PM

I was getting up on the edge of the couch looking forward to see if the #18 would run down the #56 and then if the pass would be made. I was completely dumbfounded when NASCAR threw another bogus yellow. I don’t think I can take much more of this BFjr era. BTW…..I have always been a Penske #2 fan and without this caution a 9th was virtually impossible, but I am a fan of good hard racin foremost.

04/14/2013 08:26 PM

I’ll bet that all the #2 rear housings are more legal than the current #48.

Last year Brad beat Brian’s Golden Boy. How’s that working out?

It seems Tiger is the Hendrick of golf.

Tom Dalfonzo
04/14/2013 11:20 PM

You know what needs to be done after last night’s abomination? Award a Cup race to the Circuit of the Americas, along with a host of other tracks to replace these horrid, insipid cookie cutters.

Brian France Sucks
04/15/2013 12:13 AM

@ Tom Dalfonzo:

The Cup Series used to have a multitude of unique tracks that provided quality racing. Those tracks were purchased by the France family (I$C) and Bruton Smith ($MI), then closed. Their dates were awarded to wait for it……. Texas, Kansas, Joliet, Kentucky, Loudon, and California. Gone are Rockingham, Wilkesboro, the Southern 500, and one of the Atlanta dates.

One more example of greed ruining NA$CAR.
And is it just me or did both Brian France and that Kim dude from North Korea get lucky and win the genetic lottery? Neither would be running anything if they didn’t.

Bill B
04/15/2013 07:05 AM

Too many bogus cautions ruined the race. NASCAR has a pre-determined number of drivers they want on the lead lap, usually around 20. So keep an eye out. The next time there is a long green flag run and they reach that 20 cars on the lead lap mark, a fake caution is a comin’.

04/15/2013 08:42 AM

Please move this race to Rockingham! They can run the trucks on Saturday and Cup on Sunday. Think about all the travel money teams could save if they ran that close to home.

04/15/2013 09:00 AM

I really hope that Brad and Hamlin (and a few others) don’t back down…but we’ll see. I seriously doubt John Middlebrook will rule in THEIR favor.

Kyle and Toyota better be careful. If they start winning too much Nascar (and those “judgement calls”) will show up and find “something”.

04/15/2013 09:00 AM

got an early start on my bedtime saturday night. woke up and saw jr was running back with danica. guess dw’s comments about jr being points leader from a few weeks ago are true?!

what i remember seeing of the race, i don’t recall the commentators overly hyping the nra 500. sure that is based on political outcry.

i feel sorry for brad. roger is going to have to sit him down and tell him it’s just not worth fighting the monster of na$car. lots of us long-time fans realize that, and truex even made a comment about that bogus late race caution. brad just needs to take the punishmnent and race hard to re-take the points lead. it’s going to be a l o n g, horrible season if no one shakes up the top spot in the points this early in the game. already the talking heads are spouting 6th championship.

04/15/2013 09:28 AM

I wish the fans would stop going to Texas. I used to think California was the worst on the circuit, now it’s Texas with Phoenix a close second. Hopefully Kansas will have more tire failures like last year which actually created a good race – If not, it’s gonna be a really fast, aero dependent snoozer.

Carl D.
04/15/2013 10:14 AM

I fell asleep just after the halfway point of the race. I had a cup of coffee just after the race started but even that just wasn’t enough to overcome 500 laps of sleep-inducing boredom.

You know what would fix this sport? If Brian France could penalize fans $100 every time they complain about the racing, they’d quit their whining and start enjoying the races again. If we’d just shut up…

04/15/2013 11:08 AM

Hammond looks almost as stupid in that hat as the Dillon brothers. Guess they all wanna be cowboys. Arrested development? :)

04/15/2013 12:02 PM

you know, i wonder about why they have hammond out on the south-40 like they’ve had all year long. not that i don’t mind….he’s just an IDIOT who loves his tanning bed or spray tan subscription. at least he didn’t have his pink scarf on this time!

Bill B
04/15/2013 12:21 PM

Carl D.
That would definitely “fix” the sport. In fact it would “fix” it up real good. People would finally have a financial incentive to stop watching.

Carl D.
04/15/2013 12:44 PM

Bill B….

Sorry… that was the kool-aid talking. Wicked stuff; apparently it causes your tongue to get stuck in your cheek.

04/15/2013 12:46 PM

Bill B and Carl D: if not a financial incentive, I’ll take the MENTAL HEALTH incentive: if I have to watch any more garbage like Sat’s TX race I will go mentally insane…oh wait, sorry, additional comments were just cut short by NASCAR throwing a bogus yellow on me…

Kevin in SoCal
04/15/2013 02:26 PM

RE: Tony Stewart’s pit stop, I can’t remember the rules. Is the issue the front wheels, or the whole car? Because at Bristol I know its legal to make a pit stop with the right rear tire over the line, as the pit boxes are very small. Isnt that the case everywhere, though? As long as the front is within the lines, the right rear tire can be on or over the line.

04/16/2013 03:32 PM

So wasn’t this car supposed to make the cookie cutter tracks more racy? Still waiting for that to happen. And I agree, Texas has never provided good racing, so why are we going there twice again?

I know the teams will get better at it, but I see no indication of the racing getting any better with this new car. Sure hope that changes soon, but I’m not holding my breath. So far the car is all hype and no substance.


Contact Mike Neff

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