The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Loudon-2 Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday September 23, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Loudon-2 Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday September 23, 2013


Key Moment – On the final restart, when track position is the key to everything, Kenseth took off and left the field. He led the final 43 laps and wasn’t challenged by anyone.

In a Nutshell – Matt Kenseth led one lap before the halfway point of the race. He led all but one of the last 92 laps, and that was just because he pitted in the first stall on pit lane so he didn’t lead the lap when all of the lead lap cars came down the pit lane under caution. Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex looked strong early but both had rough races during the second half of the event and never contended with Kenseth.

Dramatic Moment – Kahne and Truex were out of contention by lap 200 but Jeff Gordon looked like he had the potential to run away with the race. Unfortunately there was a caution on lap 202 and when Gordon came into the pits he slid through his pit, decided to take four tires and never got above 13th after that. With Kenseth running away from the field, it might have been a little more interesting if Four-Time might have been there to say something about it.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

Twitter will be the death of our society yet. Apparently, NAPA is going to leave Michael Waltrip Racing because of all of the negative comments posted on Twitter after the Richmond race. First of all, if that is the only reason that NAPA is leaving MWR, then their management is even bigger morons than they appeared to be for all of these years that they actually gave their money to Michael. Secondly, if this is going to cost Martin Truex, Jr. a ride, he should be suing the crap out of NASCAR. Truex was the only driver at Richmond in the MWR stable who did nothing but give 100%, which is exactly what NASCAR just made a rule for. Truex didn’t do anything wrong and not only lost a Chase berth but now is supposedly going to lose his job. If I was Truex, I’d be getting my hand on F. Lee Bailey’s phone number and setting up a dream legal team to pry Brian France’s wallet open.

NASCAR called for another competition caution due to rain the night before the Cup race; however, only some teams heeded the warning. Why? This may be an incorrect assumption, but aren’t competition cautions supposed to be a safety precaution so that the teams can look at the wear on the tires since the track is so green after the rain? If that is the case, then the teams should be required to change all four tires to look at the wear. If the teams don’t feel that the danger of blowing a tire is greater than taking two tires to gain track position, then NASCAR is wasting their time throwing the caution. Basically, take a vote in the drivers’ meeting. If more than half want the caution, then throw it and let every team change four tires. Even better, let everyone change four tires and keep the same position they had on the track when they came in for the yellow flag.

If we’re going to have to hear about restarts constantly now that they changed the rules, can we just change them one more time and go to a standing restart? Just like school bus races during the Summer Shootout at Charlotte, stop the cars on the front straight and once they’re all stopped, drop the rag and everyone go. No jumping, no dropping back. If you go before the flag, you’re black flagged. If you go on the green, you get what you get and good for you.

It hasn’t been mentioned enough lately, but the Gen-6 car is still hurting the sport. During the telecast, Dale Jarrett was talking about the speed that the cars have now and how that makes things even tougher than they were before at New Hampshire. The cars are so fast, and so dependent on the air flowing over them to make them handle better, which makes them faster, but also makes it even harder to pass. We’ll keep preaching it until someone listens. Just take everything off below the front bumper and the cars will slow down. The air going under them will keep the cars behind from being aero loose and the overall result will be much better racing.

There were speculations this week about the 2014 schedule. Well, don’t expect major changes. The majority of the rumors have already been debunked thanks to early announcements. Darlington will not be on Labor Day, at least in 2014. Atlanta still has a race date, and it will be August 31st. Nobody is going to get a race date unless they are already on the schedule or owned by SMI or IMC.

For all of the integrity fans, the debris caution on lap 200 was for something on the backstretch. If the slightly slightly wadded up advertising decal was the debris, then NASCAR and their tireless search for integrity has hit another black hole. For the love of all that is reasonable, stop throwing cautions for anything under the sun if the race isn’t playing out the way you want to see it.

Hearing that Chip Ganassi was on the radio and none too pleased with Juan Pablo Montoya for spinning his teammate Jamie McMurray. With Montoya leaving at the end of the year, off to work for Roger Penske in the world of open wheel, these next few months could turn into a real circus.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Kasey Kahne looked like a car who could contend for the win early in the race. Unfortunately for him, with 50 laps to go, he ground to a halt on the inside front straight wall and saw his hopes for a title go up in smoke. Kahne got inside of Brian Vickers on the exit of Turn 4 and broke loose, slamming into the inside wall and breaking something important in the front end. While he did make it back out to run a few more laps, his thoughts of winning a title are now a pipe dream.

Bobby Labonte got back into the No. 47 for the first time in three weeks thanks to broken ribs from a bicycling accident. He made it 53 laps before he blew a tire and was torn up on the frontstretch when Kevin Swindell ran into him after he spun. Labonte finished the race 139 laps down and out of the race.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Jeff Burton started 25th and simply marched toward the front, ultimately finishing up with a top 10. Burton found himself on the outside looking in at the racing groove with twenty laps to go but muscled his way back into line continued his run to the front.

Jamie McMurray was sideways on the frontstretch on Lap 38. He gathered himself, drove a smart race and came home with a top-5 finish. He also is in good graces with his boss, unlike his teammate.

Brian Vickers was the car Kasey Kahne was trying to pass when he had his misfortune. Vickers held onto his car and eventually came home in seventh place. Vickers is certainly looking like he’s going to be a contender next year, at least for the regular season.

Worth Noting

  • Kasey Kahne was interviewed when he came out of the infield care center and looked completely out of it. He ended up going back out onto the track and turning some laps. It would look, to the uneducated outsider, that Kahne had a concussion and never should have been back behind the wheel of a car, let alone a race car. Hopefully NASCAR will look at that video and realize they need to tighten up their concussion policy.
  • Kenseth’s win was his 31st of his career. It came on the day of his 600th start. Kenseth became the second driver in history to win his 600th start. Now he and Richard Petty will both be listed in the record book for wins on their 600th start.
  • This race was Kenseth’s sixth top 5 finish at Loudon but his first win ever at New Hampshire Speedway.
  • The win is Kenseth’s seventh win of the season and eighth top 5 finish of 2013.
  • This is the third time a driver has won the first two races of the Chase. Greg Biffle did it in 2008 and Tony Stewart did it in 2011. Only Stewart won the title.
  • Kenseth is the 12th different driver to win at New Hampshire in 12 races.
  • Kyle Busch’s top 5 was his 13th of the season. He has consecutive runner-up finishes at Loudon.
  • Greg Biffle’s top-3 finish was his third of the season. It is his sixth top 5 of his career at Loudon.

The top 10 finishing cars by manufacturer were:
Toyota – 4
Ford – 2
Chevy – 4

  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was the Rookie Of The Race again this week.

What’s The Points?

Matt Kenseth was in first place after all of the shenanigans that are the point reset took place after Richmond. He has since won two races which, no matter how you try and convolute the point system, means he still has the point lead. Kenseth is 14 points ahead of Kyle Busch and 18 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson. With eight races to go in the Chase, Kenseth is certainly looking like the favorite after two weeks. Carl Edwards rebounded from a horrible starting spot and a rather unimpressive run to finish in ninth place. That still leaves Edwards 36 points out of the lead. Edwards will have to outrun Kenseth by five positions per race over the final eight to beat him to the title. The way the No. 20 team is running, that is a tall order. Greg Biffle is fifth in points, 38 out of the lead. In reality, he’s probably already out of the title hunt but we’ll let the optimists try and convince us otherwise.

Sixth place in the points, sitting 39 from the lead is Kevin Harvick. The consistency of the No. 29 is admirable but that isn’t going to help make up that kind of deficit in eight races. Kurt Busch fell a spot to seventh and now needs to make up 40 points and leapfrog six people. As much as people would love to see Kurt make it to the top of the ladder, it isn’t going to happen this year. Jeff Gordon’s popular day ended poorly, with his car in 15th position. While he led 36 laps, he wasn’t near the lead when it mattered the most and finds himself on the outside of the hunt looking in. Newman and Bowyer are the first drivers that are basically a full race behind and done for in the Chase. Earnhardt Jr. and Logano are beyond out of it, they’re trying to just save face and possibly make it to Vegas for the banquet. Kasey Kahne is hoping for a full field invert with four to go.

In the battle of the rest, Brad Keselowski is leading Martin Truex Jr. by 40 points.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic) – New Hampshire is always a great race, provided they don’t put restrictor plates on the cars. This one was no exception. Drivers were putting their cars two and three wide all day long and tires at least made a little bit of a difference. In the end, being out front was more important than anything else, which is why Kenseth won the race, leading most of the last third of the event. We’ll give this one three frosty Miller High Lifes for entertainment, but only entertainment because there was no suspense.

Next Up — Next Sunday, the series heads to Dover International Speedway. The race will be at 2:00 Eastern and will be shown on ESPN. It can also be heard on MRN radio. For those who are hoping for a different outcome, Kenseth has an average finish at Dover of 13.6. It is where he made his Cup series debut and he has two career wins.

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09/23/2013 09:21 AM

Didn’t Swindell run into McMurray?

Carl D.
09/23/2013 09:38 AM

Best action on the race track was Johnson trying to overtake Biffle for third in the closing laps. Should Johnson lose the championship by one point, Greg Biffle will be my hero.

I hope Labonte didn’t re-injure his rib cage. I never saw them interview him after his crash, but I could have missed it; the Panthers were crushing the Giants on another channel.

And…. another top-30 for All-Star Danica Patrick. Kudos to the Go-Daddy girl!

09/23/2013 09:43 AM

Wasn’t it Kenseth’s 500th start?

Glen H.
09/23/2013 09:49 AM

It was Kenseth’s 500th start not his 600th and both Kensteh and Petty are the only two drivers to win on their 500th start.

09/23/2013 09:54 AM

It was nice seeing Kyle drinking the Monster drink after the race. I wonder what Coke and Pepsi think? Shouldn’t Kyle be stuffing his face with M&Ms?

09/23/2013 10:06 AM

“Just take everything off below the front bumper and the cars will slow down. The air going under them will keep the cars behind from being aero loose and the overall result will be much better racing.”

Could it really be that simple? Oh wait. Where did you get your Master’s degree in Aerodynamic Engineering? Oh, that’s right.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s more to it than you know.

09/23/2013 10:26 AM

Someone at NASCAR marketing isn’t reading thier memos. Thier oft repeated Chase commmercial still has a tag line “12 drivers- 1 Champion) Um, guys, this year it’s 13 drivers. I counted.

09/23/2013 11:22 AM

Surprised Hendrick did not pay NA$CAR to give Jeffy Poo the win.

Tim S.
09/23/2013 11:36 AM

New Hamspshire is always a great race, with one exception? To each his own, but I can’t remember more than a handful of non-Modified events at this track that were worth an afternoon.

09/23/2013 11:57 AM

matt – thought the same thing when i saw that commerical yesterday. guess they didn’t feel like spending money to re-do it.

when i first went on line sunday am said 80% chance of rain and i thought, oh no, here we go again. thankfully they got that race in, sun shined and it looked like a nice day in new hampshire. clouded over at end of race.

wonder how tough that huge lobster is that kenseth is holding.

so kasey kahne had his bell rung…didn’t see very clear after being released from infield care center.

can this season just be over with? tv commentators are reaching as well as they were already talking about “whomever survives the big one at talladega”.

think i saw jr more in tv commercials than i have on the track past few weeks.

oh well… onto dover. wonder if mwr can stay out of the news this week?!

09/23/2013 12:39 PM

i thought the restarts were fantastic and provided side by side by side racing but i noticed that it took three or so laps to get single file. ho hum.

i thought casey was just pissed and didn’t feel like answering the same question posed three different ways. his “sorry, i can’t really hear you” was much nicer and more polite than “will someone get this mfer out of my face.”

interesting that the guys who normally run well at NH were very nearly “also rans” it seemed like track position was far more important than it usually is there. speaking of the gen 6 car i just can’t help but notice how much it really doesn’t look anything like the street car past the front bumper, especially the nationwide cars. can you honestly say that you’d buy a camaro or mustang that looked like that? i think not.

also found it interesting over at jayski’s that the points would be tighter under the old system, not that it really matters as teams race the new system quite differently.

also thought that the overheard comments from the president of 5 hour energy to clint boyer before the race are maybe the most telling indicator of nascar’s true standing….
“There’s a lot of talk about integrity,” he said. “When the guy who’s in charge can say, ‘I can do whatever I want and I’m going to do it and I just did,’ I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?”
never mind smelling the smoke, anyone else see flames?

phil h
09/23/2013 01:29 PM

be interesting to hear if Dr. Jerry Punch thought Kasey Kahne was loopy from the wreck or just pissed he crashed!

He looked like he’d been drinking or high on tv.

Either way, I’m glad he’s okay.

09/23/2013 01:44 PM

Twitter will be the death of society? Really, somehow I doubt that, but certainly social media plays a role in getting things out in public faster than it used to. A few years ago, you may remember BottleGate in NaSCAR. That was when NASCAR sold the rights to VL to Powerade but some of the drivers who were winning races – Johnson & Gordon in particular – had contracts with Gatorade. NASCAR was putting signs on the cars in VL that were a direct opposition to the sponsors for those cars and then fined Johnson’s team for putting their own sign up that obscured the Powerade sign. Gordon won the Brickyard and celebrated on the front stretch. Next wk, NASCAR penalized the team by failing them during tech and causing them a problem on pit road. My point is that everything in NASCAR is sponsor driven and sometimes NASCAR takes advantage of that. They also take full advantage of the fact that it is their field, bat & ball & they make the rules. No team should ever forget that.

During Bottlegate, I called Coca Cola since that was back before social media had become so popular and expressed my dismay at NASCAR penalizing drivers in VL. The PR lady told me – we don’t control that. My response – you control the $, the $ controls the actions. I don’t know if Coke got in touch with NASCAR about it, but the nonsense did stop.

In this case, the NAPA and 5-Hr Energy, bad press is bad press, whether it comes through FB, twitter or the old-fashioned way, in a letter or on the news. Let’s face it – CBS did a segment about cheating in NASCAR. The guy from 5 hr energy was making noises about NASCAR’s integrity – well, most of us fans already know that deal. Over the years, we’ve seen the debris cautions that don’t exist, the restarts that are questionable, maybe even speeding penalties, the list goes on, so yes, I think that manipulation by the sanctioning body goes on at the track every week. That doesn’t excuse an entire racing organization attempting to manipulate things there way or for their sponsors to condone it.

09/23/2013 01:44 PM

Unless the 20 has a part failure or gets wrecked in the next couple of races, this is down to a 3 team battle (18, 48). I’m really impressed by what the 20 team has done this year. I just hope if they keep it rolling and clinch at Phoenix, NASCAR won’t use it as an excuse to gimmick the Chase up even more.

09/23/2013 02:42 PM

Good article. I would give money to the Truex or Bowyer legal defense fund. But once they go down that road, they are screwed as far as Nascar is concerned. It’s bad enough to not be a Hendrick/chevy driver.

I wrote NAPA a nice little letter this weekend letting them know, amoung other things, that they will not be getting my business anymore.

Watched football all weekend, the refs are so bad this year that I began to wonder if they were all related to Brian France.

JD in NC
09/23/2013 03:31 PM

I really hope things work out for the best for Truex (one of my favorites). He’s a good clean competitive driver and seems like a really nice guy. This may actually be a blessing in disguise, especially if JGR creates a spot for him with a fourth team.

Last year when word got out that Kenseth was leaving RFR, Jack Roush said Matt was going over to the dark side. I’m thinking things are looking pretty sweet for Kenseth on the dark side this season!

another Andy D
09/23/2013 05:30 PM

Kind of shocking start to The Chase, Kenseth winning the first 2.
Didn’t Biffle win the first 2 one year?
Anyways there’s still hope for the competition.
Dover is next and Kenseth’s last 2 fall finishes are 40th an 35th.

Where's Juan going?
09/23/2013 06:35 PM

There’s still NASCAR racing? Think I’ll return to Indycar … maybe the Indy 500 will be a BIG DEAL again. NASCAR needs to remember that fiasco ‘cause they’re well on their way down the same ‘track.’

Bill B
09/23/2013 07:27 PM

Twitter might not be the death of society but it certainly has brought back the pitchfork mob mentality to the world. Never in the history of mankind has there been such an effective way for a relatively small, very loud, group of likeminded people to sway public opinion so easily. And Corporate America, being the wusses they are, can’t handle the least bit of controversy. Mob Rules! Thanks Twitter.

09/23/2013 09:33 PM

Good point about the sponsors, and these idiots listening to the Twitter twits don’t understand that half of them could care less, they like to complain, about what they do not know but complain they will. That is why Napa and any other sponsor caving to this mob mentality will not get my business.

09/24/2013 08:42 AM

agree with Mike – remove everything under the front bumper, and introduce tire competition into the racing – i bet the product will improve tenfold….“crap-year” needs some competition to get their real tire engineers back in the game.

Chris T
09/24/2013 08:05 PM

Just sell a “The Official Pizza Of NASCAR” sponsorship and make all the cars run with a Pizza sign L to R on the roof.


Contact Mike Neff

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