The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: New Hampshire Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday July 15, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: New Hampshire Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday July 15, 2013


Key Moment – Brian Vickers chased down Tony Stewart and passed him for the lead on lap 287. He survived the final restart to score his third career Cup series victory and broke a 75-race winless streak.

In a Nutshell – In another homage to the aero dependency of modern NASCAR stock cars and the rock like durability of their race tires, the race saw three on track passes for the lead that did not occur on a restart and Brian Vickers rode his tires and fuel to the win by being out in front at the end of the event.

Dramatic Moment – Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch went three wide into turn one when the final green flag of the event flew. Vickers stayed in the gas on the outside, Stewart got loose in the middle and Busch made the car stick on the flat of the apron. Vickers cleared turn two with the lead and pulled away for the victory.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

Not sure if NASCAR is sending a message to the No. 48 team but after Jimmie Johnson’s car was found too low in the front after qualifying his time was disallowed and he was put to the back of the pack for the start of the race. When Sunday morning rolled around, the team presented the car for technical inspection and had to go through the inspection process no less than three times to be approved for the race. Johnson’s car is historically one of the most scrutinized cars week-in and week-out, but this weekend they were examined even more thoroughly than normal. Perhaps the team was trying to push the envelop a little again and NASCAR is making sure Chad Knaus knows they’re watching closely.

Danica Patrick dumped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who then took out Travis Kvapil. The TNT folks tried to make it look like she might have been bumped from behind before she hit Stenhouse. The video did not seem to justify that stance but there was no question that she turned hard left and took out Stenhouse. In her garage interview after getting out of the car, she stated she misjudged the braking zone and lost control of the car. The No. 17 driver has won the Rookie of the Race in all but two races this season so perhaps she saw an opportunity to finally scored another ROTR award.

Racing involves speed and when objects are traveling at speed and they run into items that aren’t moving it can do damage to a car. However, the incessant cautions for debris that, at least based on what they showed on TV, was nothing more than large pieces of tire slag outside of the racing groove is simply frustrating for both fans and drivers. There is a constant stream of rubber coming off of race tires during events and sometimes it accumulates under cars and falls off in a large piece. It isn’t metal and it isn’t going to cut a tire. The sanctioning body needs to let the drivers race and stop trying to make the race track a pristine environment.

Brian Vickers won the Camping World RV Sales 301 as a part time driver. The last part-time driver to win a Cup series race was Trevor Bayne in 2011 driving for Wood Brothers racing. The last part-timer to win on a non-plate track was Johnny Benson in 2002 at Rockingham.

While the Cup series put on a snoozer of a race and the Nationwide event was another Kyle Busch domination, the Whelen Modifieds put on a tremendous race at New Hampshire. 27 lead changes among four drivers. Only three stints at the front lasted more than seven laps. 12 cars finished on the lead lap and the margin of victory was .153 seconds.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Joey Logano must have broken a big mirror or something. Last week he ran over something at Daytona and cut down a tire, killing a shot at a decent finish at the World Center of Speed. This week just five laps into the event he cut down a left rear tire and killed his car. It might behoove Logano to sacrifice a chicken during the off week.

Casey Mears gets caught up in more people’s junk than anyone else in the series (purely unscientific statistic). Sunday he was just getting into the rhythm of the race when Kevin Harvick and Marcos Ambrose got into a pissing match and Ambrose went for a spin. Mears had no way to avoid the spinning No. 9 and center punched his passenger side door. Mears might want to buy the chicken for Logano during the off week.

Marcos Ambrose raced Kevin Harvick hard early in the race and attempted to crowd the Bakersfield, CA driver as he was going by him in turn three. Harvick took exception and dumped Ambrose on the exit of turn four. It took Ambrose team 20 laps in the garage to fix his car, which took him out of contention for the win, but got him back on the track in time to garner as many valuable championship points as he could.

Kurt Busch was the car to beat for most of the day. On a very jumbled up restart on lap he went into turn one three wide in a battle for eighth position. Ryan Newman was on his outside and had been beating and banging in his own right since the drop of the green. Busch came down in front of Matt Kenseth and, while they didn’t make contact, was incredibly close and lost the rear end of the car, sliding up and taking himself and Newman into the fence. Newman pulled away with damage while Busch’s day ended near the wall in turn two.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Jeff Burton is keeping the seat warm for Ty Dillon which will keep him in the Cup series for two more seasons at least. While he’s managed just six top 5s and 15 top 10s in the last two and a half years, he still shows moments of his former self. Loudon has always been one of his better tracks so a podium finish is not a total surprise. After starting ninth, Burton ran around the back of the top 10 or the beginning of the teens for the first half of the race before a pit call put him up to the front of the pack. He ended up capitalizing on that change in track position to bring home the No. 31 in third.

Aric Almirola ran around in the 20s for much of the race before a pit call in the early part of the last 100 laps managed to get him to the front of the pack. He battled courageously through four restarts and was able to bring home the legendary No. 43 in fifth place.

David Stremme started the race in the 42nd position. Through hard work and keeping his nose clean, he was able to bring home a 20th place finish. Stremme has not scored a top 10 since 2007 and only has three top 20 finishes this season, but he still represents the old school mentality of racing for the love of the sport.

Worth Noting

Brian Vickers ran seven races this season before his victory today at Loudon. He had only managed two top 10 finishes and had an average finish of 19.6 with two DNFs. For his career he has three wins, 25 top 5s, and 65 top 10s in 271 starts.

Since the first race at Loudon in the 2008 season, no one has been able to win twice at the track. The 11 races have seen eleven different winners. They’ve include Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers.

This race was Vickers first win at Loudon. In 16 career races at the track he has three top 5s and four top 10s. His average finish is 19.1 at the Magic Mile.

Kyle Busch’s runner-up result was his ninth top 5 of the season. It is his fifth top 5 of his career at Loudon.

Jeff Burton’s third place finish is his second top 5 of the season. It is his ninth top 5 finish in 37 career races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Aric Almirola’s top 5 run increased his career total by 50%. He now has three top 5 finishes to his name in his 90 career races. Almirola has landed a top 5 finish both last season and this one.

Top 10 by manufacturer

Toyota – 3
Chevrolet – 4
Ford – 3

Even though his girlfriend sent him for a spin that knocked him out of the race for several laps and sent him to a 34th place finish, Ricky Stenhouse Jr was still the rookie of the race.

Morgan Shepherd started the race in the No. 52. At 71 years and 9 months old, Shepherd broke the record for oldest driver to start a Cup race by five years. While Shepherd was anything but competitive, he is still in great shape for a man of his age and it was great to see some attention come his way for something besides running at the back in the Nationwide series. Current fans don’t realize that Morgan has four wins, 63 top 5s and 168 top 10s in the Cup series in 514 races over a 27 year career in the Cup series. Shepherd finished fifth in the points in 1990.

What’s the Points

After all of the trials and tribulations of post-qualifying and pre-race inspection, Jimmie Johnson still brought home a sixth place finish. The resulting points now have Johnson in the points lead by 56 points over Clint Bowyer. Carl Edwards finished eighth in the race and is still third in points, 73 behind Johnson. Kevin Harvick ran in the 20s and high teens for 2/3 of the race before jumping up into the top 10 and ultimately scoring a 7th place finish. That keeps him fourth in the point standings, one behind Edwards and 74 behind Johnson. Dale Earnhardt Jr. started the race in third and slowly but surely worked himself backwards, finally coming home with a 14th place finish. He is still fifth in points 118 away from the top of the points.

Matt Kenseth ran a very uneventful race, leading near the midway point before finishing off the race in a ninth place effort. That leaves him in sixth place in the points, 120 away from Johnson. Kyle Busch’s runner-up performance has him tied with Kenseth for sixth place in the points but Kenseth owns the tie-breaker with four wins to Busch’s two. Greg Biffle finished the race in 15th position which leaves him eighth in points a mere 150 behind Johnson. Defending champ Brad Keselowski started on the pole and ran in the top 5 for the first half of the race before slipping back into the teens for a short period. He came back to notch a 4th place finish that, thanks to the troubles for Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr., vaulted him to 9th place in points. Rounding out the top 10 is Kahne who, after nearly being wrecked on the back straight late in the race, rebounded to an 11th place finish which moved him up two spots and put him in the top 10.

Kurt Busch lost five points after leading the most laps in the race before taking himself out along with Ryan Newman with an aggressive, three-wide move in turn one. He’s now 14th in points and does not have a win to fall back on in the Wild Card yet so he is in need so some strong finishes over the next seven races. Along with Busch was Tony Stewart’s effort to try and win the race on fuel that ultimately backfired. His 26th place finish dropped him three points in the standings to 13th, but that does keep him in the Wild Card hunt.

The Wild Card race, at this point in the season, is Martin Truex Jr. and Tony Stewart, each holding one win. Truex is just one spot away from the top 10 in points and could easily end up there providing he can have a handful of quality finishes.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – The race on the flat, one-mile track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway very well could have been a single can stinker. However, there was quite a bit of racing and movement in the pack behind the leaders, and the fuel/tire strategies did actually provide for some movement in the pack. With that said, it was still a track position battle that saw only three passes on the track for the lead. Seeing cars three-wide as the race was winding down and the all out battles for position saved the race a little, but it didn’t make it a classic. In the end, it is a two beer effort that allowed Brian Vickers to do something that we don’t see happen very often — a part-time driver winning a race.

Next Up — Next week, the Cup series is off for their final break in the schedule before a champion is crowned in Homestead. Enjoy the Nationwide Series at Chicago or visit a local short track and watch the future stars of NASCAR as they hone their skills in the Whelen All-American Series.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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07/15/2013 07:46 AM

i saw post race interview with johnson…surprise, surprise, surprise…he complained about inability to pass. what a rare complaint from him, but he still managed to finish in top 10 after starting last.

i liked hearing that they had difficulty getting through tech prior to the race. nascar scrutinized the 2 bunch for a while as well.

not sure, but what happened to logano? i guess i missed that when i flipped channels. congrats to brian vickers. thankfully mikey was in england so we didn’t have to see him.

what i was of race, i got tired of the broadcasters talking about johnson.

i see another great weekend for jr nation….started 3rd dropped like a rock. wonder if letart’s job is in jeopardy?

Bill B
07/15/2013 07:53 AM

I’m not sure why NASCAR felt the need to throw so many questionable debris cautions yesterday. There seemed to be enough legitimate ones. Of course, as you mentioned, when the only passing occurs on pit road and track position negates racing, I guess you need as many cautions as possible to manufacture some excitement.

07/15/2013 08:06 AM

So would that last caution been thrown if the 88 was leading the race at the end?

How many times does a car have to fail inspection before nascar says “that’s it, go home”? How many chances does one get?

07/15/2013 10:46 AM

I think ol’ Havawrek deserves the “Dickhead of the Race” award. The B.S. with Ambrose was just that….B.S.

Michael in SoCal
07/15/2013 10:55 AM

The modifieds put on a heck of a race this weekend. Too bad the Nationwide Series nor the Cup Series had racing that matched the modifieds.

07/15/2013 11:25 AM

after reading mike’s thoughts i’ll add some of my own…

so i’m watching the modified race and thinking how those guys were complaining of a rock hard tire yet they still managed to put on a spectacular show. then i wondered what if anything nascar could/would learn from that (a free-er rule book? match the cars to the tracks better? less dependency on aero?)

After watching harvick mercilessly dump ambrose it seemed to reaffirm my theory that many of the so named “elite” drivers seem to have a sense of “entitlement,” guys like him, denny and carl seem to have no problem dumping people who race them hard and any point of a race, jimmie certainly thinks that people should just move over for him and rollover and play dead on restarts. the gap between the havs and the have nots seems to be widening. i don’t see that as an indicator of a healthy sport. then i look at kurt who now has to earn everything he gets. he’s probably over driving the car to make up for the fact that it isn’t top equipment and making mistakes doing so. yet he’s loathed for past actions and racing harder than “the new elite.” i wouldn’t exactly say i was a fan but right now i’ll respect drivers like him and brad and even kyle to some extent over the “gimme boys.” this is called “stock car racing” not “endurance racing” and should be treated as so by the participants.

speaking of denny i’ll say it again, that team isn’t running well enough to make “the chase” even if they didn’t miss races.

ok, so kyle might be right after all, danica… not a racer, and i think the sport and the racing would benefit if that ride were in the hands of someone else who actually is a talented racer while she runs in another series learning the trade. and just what does it say about the money in the sport when stewart dumps “his friend” for the likes of either harvick or danica? when “the sport” becomes more business than sport, my observation is that you can see; more commercials, less fans, more entitlement, less racing and once mighty coliseums removing seats and building facades and other means of generating profit (or if you call it what it is, draining money from the fans who still support the venue.) i wonder if there’s more comparisons to the mods… a series that comparatively has way way way low money involved but puts on a much much much better race.

07/15/2013 11:26 AM

I followed some of the race while doing chores. It wasn’t that interesting to watch on TV.

I’m not sure why Harvick dumped Ambrose, but then again, I’m not sure why the rich kid in the 27 car dumped Gordon either. I was glad that Gordon was able to drive up through the field and get a top 10 finish.

I’m happy for Brian Vickers. He’s worked hard to get another chance in Cup. I hope that Stenhouse wins Rookie of the year, but then again, NASCAR would probably prefer his girlfriend wins it, so I wonder how that will all turn out?

07/15/2013 11:32 AM

It makes no sense to me why Johnson would be complaining about not being able to pass. He drove from last place to where he finished, so it is a dumb comment. I think babydufus is right. It is the whole “entitlement” concept and “how dare your race me” that has become rampant and stupid. The 48 car, for the most part, always seems to be able to pass no matter what. Somebody needs to deflate his ego or he won’t be able to fit in the car.

I was happy for Brian Vickers for the win, but even happier that Mikey wasn’t there to put his mug into the camera shots.

The Great Waltripo
07/15/2013 12:40 PM

Glad I stopped watching. Thanks for the column so I only have to waste 5 minutes a week on the farce that is Nascar.

07/15/2013 03:03 PM

My first trip to NHMS. Great experience. Pretty good racing on Saturday and Sunday (outside of Kyle Busch whipping the Nationwide field again).

Chris in TX
07/15/2013 05:11 PM

Modifieds are always a good show. In addition, they look better doing it. Let’s get some wider, softer tires on the cup cars and see what they do.

Of course, leave it to a cup driver to create an 8 car pileup in the Mods.

07/15/2013 06:44 PM

When Brian heard about the penalty on the 48 car, he didn’t want to answer the phone when Hendrick called this morning.

Maybe they should put the Cup drivers in modifieds on Sunday.

07/15/2013 07:10 PM

Making the comment about Danica dumping her boyfriend to win the ROY, is about as dumb a comment as I have seen on this website. And you guys wanted to get respect from the reader? Anything to continue the hate on Danica I guess. Will anything she does make you happy, Mike? You hate hearing about her but you have a negative comment about her every week.

It looked to me like Gordon tried the slide job on Menard and slid up in front of Menard while Menard was on the gas. I call the error on Gordon.

Harvick doesn’t like anyone racing close to him, so him dumping Ambrose didn’t surprise me. He’s always whines when someone actually races him.

another Andy D
07/15/2013 07:55 PM

Overall, I’m happy Vickers won, but I’m always suspicious when a car can’t do a burnout.
Harvick showed his true colors, without a doubt.
The Newman/Busch/Kenseth thing was just kind of strange as was Patrick losing control.
NHIS is the closest track to me, but I’ve never been interested in going there. Now that there are some seat available in turn 1, maybe I’ll give it a shot. I like seeing the cars exit the pits.

Bill B
07/15/2013 09:35 PM

“Will anything she does make you happy, Mike?”

I can’t speak for Mike but how about if she admits she wasn’t ready for the Cup level and go back to Nationwide for a year of two. Like Hornish.
That would make me respect her and happy.

07/16/2013 01:31 PM

Bill B, what I don’t get is people crapping on her for no reason. The media started this circus, not her. She is in her first full year in Cup, seeing some of these tracks for the very first time in a Cup car, but if she doesn’t finish top 10 every week she is a failure? Why isn’t she given the 3 year window like most other rookies? Is it because she’s female? Indycar drivers have all struggled in Cup (yes Juan has struggled too) so I don’t know what anyone was expecting out of her.

Every interview I have seen she talks about learning and getting better. I don’t see why that makes her so evil?

She also didn’t make the decision to put her in a Cup car so soon. I totally agree with you about pushing her up too soon. That decision was all about money. Funny how Pastrana hasn’t done much in NW but he seems to get a pass, even though he is basically there under the same circumstances.

Alot like to compare her with her replacement in the GoDaddy Indycar when it suits them best, but I don’t remember Danica crashing on the first lap of any races recently.

I just don’t get the outright hatred that some people have for her for no reason at all.

Mike Neff
07/16/2013 01:57 PM

Hey Steve,

First of all, thanks for taking the time to read and especially to write. I truly appreciate each and every person who takes time out of their day to read what I write. I’m truly humbled.

As for Danica hatred, I don’t get why I’m accused of that when I very seldom mention her in the column. I don’t have the exact numbers handy but just off the top of my head I believe I’ve only mentioned her four times in the 20 or so columns I’ve done this year. I don’t have feelings about her one way or the other. I very seldom write about anyone in the 20s and 30s in the finishing order. I merely observed that, as she headed into turn 1 she was three to four feet to Stenhouse’s right and turned dead left to make contact with him. I’ve watched a lot of racing in my time, and done some, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a car go that hard to the right or left without a major parts failure. That’s why I wrote about it this week.

Again, if you can point out where I’ve been overly critical or harsh when it wasn’t warranted I’ll accept the criticism like a man, but I just don’t think I say or point out anything that isn’t true.

Thanks again for reading and especially writing. It means the world to me whether you agree or disagree with my point of view.

07/16/2013 09:24 PM

Gina, if your not interested, then dont comment. Oh and BTW it was only a matter of time til Danica wrecked her BF. She’s hit everybody else so far.

Sherri T
07/18/2013 02:33 PM

I’m surprised you only gave this one 2 beers Mike.

I thought the network did a much better job of using the stationary cameras and giving more wide shots of the racing action. I liked the mix of strategy and tire wear and the need for some finesse when running on a flat track.

I would have given it at least 4 if only for the chance to see some of the better drivers in not so great equipment get a chance to shine with their skills…

But that’s just me…


Contact Mike Neff

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