The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Charlotte-2 Sprint Cup Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday October 14, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Charlotte-2 Sprint Cup Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday October 14, 2013


Key Moment – Kasey Kahne was on two tires while Brad Keselowski was on four as the field restarted with 23 laps to go. With 11 to go, Keselowski cleared Kahne in Turn 4, but Kahne pulled the crossover and held onto the lead. Two laps later, he wasn’t close enough to cross him over again and Keselowski pulled away to the win.

For most of the race at Charlotte, it looked like Rick Hendrick, Chad Knaus, and Jimmie Johnson would be sitting in Victory Lane. Instead…

In a Nutshell – The Hendrick cars were dominant. They led all but 21 laps. Kasey Kahne led the most, with 138 while Jimmie Johnson led 130. Johnson was on his way to a win, and a lead in the points when NASCAR threw a caution for a piece of debris that was unidentified by television cameras. On the subsequent restart, Johnson fell back, opening the door for Kahne to grab the most laps led bonus point and Kenseth to beat him to the finish line while Brad Keselowski, who had faced adversity and been nowhere for most of the race, led the final nine laps to take his first win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Dramatic Moment – During the final caution of the night, with 25 laps left when the cars came to pit lane, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon took two tires while Jimmie Johnson took four. The resulting track position cost Johnson on the final restart and kept him from winning or even gaining points on Kenseth.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

A late-race debris caution gave Brad Keselowski the trophy.

The folks at NASCAR have issued rules to try and ensure the integrity of the sport, yet they still throw caution flags for debris that no one can see and the television cameras can’t find. If the sanctioning body is going to hold the competitors’ feet to the fire about giving 100%, then they have to step up and develop a means where the fans see whatever debris it is they’re throwing the caution for 100% of the time. If they don’t have the respect for the fans to afford them that common courtesy, then don’t expect the fans to take it lying down. Every caution along those lines is a judgment call; the fans have the right to judge it. Don’t leave it a mystery.

Longtime fans of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have heard this refrain before. The race is going well, Earnhardt looks like he’s going to be in contention to win and then, the right front tire starts chattering. After the race, the driver stated he was positive something was broken on the car due to the rapid pace they fell back through the field. Hopefully, that’s the case because the bad set of tires and chattering right front are old excuses and worn out explanations for failure.

Testing is going to take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway Monday to try some different adjustments to the Gen-6 car in an effort to make the racing better. It is rumored a modification developed by Toyota can virtually eliminate aero push from cars that are following others on track. That development alone could practically save the sport. The folks at Goodyear still need to continue working on tires that fall off, to pair with any positive changes but the people running the show are at least trying.

Darlington Raceway announced last week their race in 2014 will be in April. For those of you uninformed about the history of NASCAR, March and April weather in the low country of North and South Carolina sucks. There is a decent chance it will be cold and a better than average chance it will rain. NASCAR, if you’re going to move the Darlington date, move it to September, run it in the daytime and stop all of this crap you’re trying to pull. Not sure what the logic is to move the race to April, but it would certainly look like it is designed to force Darlington to lose its final race date.

Travis Kvapil was arrested for domestic violence this past week but was released on bond before the at track activities began at Charlotte. He wound up racing the No. 93 and will seemingly continue to do so until the legal system runs its course. As always in America, you are innocent until proven guilty so we will have to see what develops as all of the facts come out in the case. Whatever the end result, the timing couldn’t be worse for Kvapil considering October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. The driver actually had a sticker on his car in support of prevention of domestic violence.

Three cautions for debris or fluid. One for an incident. After last week’s yellow flag extravaganza, it was enjoyable to see multiple opportunities for green-flag pit stops. Tire wear and track age allowed for some on-track passing, although there were only three on-track passes for the lead.

High-wire acts are certainly death-defying when you don’t use a net, but after a guy has walked across a wire over Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, it is a little anti-climactic walking 100 feet above an infield. Maybe next time, they can fire T-Shirt Cannons at the Wallendas in order to add to the excitement.

Kyle Busch did a noble thing Friday night by donating his entire Nationwide Series check to charity promoting Breast Cancer awareness.

Breast Cancer awareness is one of the most supported causes in America. While many sports figures sport pink during the month of October, they don’t always put their money where their mouth is. One NASCAR athlete, in particular is bucking that trend. Kyle Busch announced in Victory Lane, after his Nationwide Series win Friday night that he’s donating all of the winnings from the race to his wife Samantha’s Pretty in Pink Foundation.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Mark Martin is keeping the seat warm for injured driver/owner Tony Stewart in his No. 14 car. That’s about it. His blown engine early on Saturday resulted in a 42nd-place result, pushing his average finish since joining SHR to 22.125. There is no question that it is time for Mark to pack up the AARP card, heading down to Florida to spend time with his family while calling it a career.

Kyle Larson made his Cup Series debut for Phoenix Racing Saturday night. After a strong run on Friday night, at the top of the track he spent much of Saturday night running the bottom line but still slowly picking his way forward to the top 15. Unfortunately for Larson, his engine gave up after 247 laps, prematurely ending his inaugural Cup race in 37th.

It is rare that you put someone in this category who finished the race in fourth place, but for Jimmie Johnson, there is no doubt he was handed a foul-tasting fate thanks to the final caution of the night. Johnson was on his way to a win and the point lead when the yellow flew for a still unseen piece of debris. Chad Knaus, who’d earlier said that his car was the same with two tires or four, decided to go for four and was beaten off pit lane by two cars. On the restart, Johnson was jostled around a bit and ended up in seventh position. He fought his way back to fourth, but that was poor consolation when he should have been sitting in Victory Lane.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Brad Keselowski was smiled on quite a bit by the fickle finger of fate on Saturday night. At one point, he was well behind the lead cars after taking the jack out of his pit box, running outside the top 20 and took over 250 laps to work his way into the top 5. He still wasn’t in contention, more than 15 seconds behind until the final 35 laps of the race. But when the final restart occurred, Johnson’s misfortune was Keselowski’s good luck charm. The defending series champ slotted into third shortly after the green, passed Matt Kenseth with 15 to go and took the lead from Kasey Kahne with nine left.

Matt Kenseth did things like he used to at Charlotte Saturday. Kenseth qualified like the Kenseth of old with a 20th-place starting position. He then methodically marched his way forward, broke into the top 5 with a little more than 100 laps to go, and then took advantage of Johnson’s poor final restart to actually gain a point in the standings rather than losing six.

It’s been a season to forget for Denny Hamlin, but Saturday night, he scored his first top-10 finish in 17 races.

Denny Hamlin’s season has been quite a disappointment, to say the least. His top 10-finish on Saturday night was a bright spot for this half of the season. Hamlin’s ninth place was his best result since Pocono; yes, that would be the first Pocono race in June. This is Hamlin’s second top-17 finish since then after his 12th-place result at New Hampshire last month.

Worth Noting

  • Jeff Gordon’s pole for the Bank of America 500 is his 74th of his career. Gordon has been in third on the all-time list for a while. He’s 39 behind David Pearson and 49 behind Richard Petty, the all-time leader in pole positions.
  • Brad Keselowski’s win at Charlotte was the first win by a non-Chase driver in a Chase race since 2011, when Kasey Kahne won at Phoenix in the next-to-last Chase race of that season.
  • Keselowski was tied for the most pit stops of the night Saturday with nine. There were six drivers who made nine stops, but Keselowski and Kyle Busch were the only two on the lead lap to hit the pits that many times during the race.
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was the rookie of the race again, running 13th. Girlfriend Danica Patrick had a decent night, though finishing 20th.
  • Keselowski’s win is the 10th of his career. He is tied for 56th all-time with Donnie Allison and Sterling Marlin in that category. He is 190 wins behind Richard Petty for the all-time series lead.
  • This victory is the first for Keselowski in 2013. His last win had occurred at Dover, in September of 2012.
  • Kahne’s runner-up finish is his seventh top-2 result of 2013 and 22nd of his career.
  • Kenseth’s third-place finish was his eighth of the season and 79th of his career. Saturday night was his first top 3 of the year that was not a victory.
  • JJ Yeley finished 43rd on Saturday. It is the second time this season he finished last. Both results were caused by crashes.

Top 10 Finishes By Manufacturer
Ford – 2
Chevrolet – 5
Toyota – 3

What’s the Points?

While it looked like it was going to be Jimmie Johnson leaving Charlotte with the point lead Saturday, the last caution caused Matt Kenseth to not only beat Johnson to the checkered flag, but gain a point on his rival to now lead the standings by four. Kevin Harvick came home in sixth place and lost four more points to the leader, leaving him 29 out of the top spot. With Talladega on the horizon, Harvick could close that gap if both Johnson and Kenseth get caught up in some kind of mishap… but that is his only hope at this time. Gaining six points per race on both drivers is a tall order. Rounding out the top five in points are Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, who are 36 and 37 points away from the leader, respectively.

Greg Biffle had a disappointing Saturday night, posting a 16th-place finish. With that effort, he is 58 points behind Kenseth in sixth place. Kurt Busch was fast in practice and looked to be in contention early but faded late to come home in 14th. That leaves him 59 points in arrears to the leader. Clint Bowyer’s engine went south late in the race on Saturday, but it did keep running enough to let him finish on the lead lap in 11th. That result has him sitting 63 points away from Kenseth and three ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who sits in ninth. The last driver set to go to the banquet in Vegas, at this point in time is Carl Edwards. Cousin Carl is one point behind Earnhardt with 2,158 points in his column.

The last three drivers in the Chase standings are Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, and Kasey Kahne. Kahne is 14 points out of the 10th spot and three points behind Newman to avoid finishing last in the Chase. Keselowski’s win has him two points ahead of Jamie McMurray for best of the rest.

Overall rating (On a scale of 1-6, where 1 is a stinker and six is the finest of brews and a instant classic) — The character of Charlotte Motor Speedway is coming back. There are washboard bumps at the bottom of the turns while there are other bumps scattered around the periphery of the track that can upset the handling of cars. The tires are starting to actually fall off during the runs, which has put a bit of a premium on new tires after double-digit laps. With all of that said… the racing is still lacking with this new car on mile-and-a-half tracks. Hendrick Motorsports leading 313 laps didn’t do anything to enthrall those fans who don’t cheer for the HMS teams. In the end, the late-race pass for the lead salvaged a second can of adult beverage for this one, which had been forfeited by the utterly bogus caution that flew with 26 laps to go. Here’s hoping they figure out something on Monday to make the racing better with this aero dependent car.

What’s Next — Call it the “wild card,” call it the crapshoot, call it the wreckfest. Whatever it is, the roulette wheel that is Talladega begins spinning on Sunday at 2:00 Eastern time. It can be seen on ESPN and heard on MRN Radio.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
Thinkin’ Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
Sprint Cup Series Facilities Can Build Upon Fan Experience by Looking to Their Roots


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Bill B
10/14/2013 06:51 AM

Yes, NASCAR and the networks need to show debris or keep the flag in their holster.
You have to admit though,,, it was really exciting to see if that trash would come off of Dale Jr’s front grill. Man, we were on the edge of our seats.

Carl D.
10/14/2013 07:43 AM

The race was pretty boring until the last 23 laps and then Brad and Kasey put on a show. In the end, tires made the difference. It was nice to see Brad compliment Kasey on being a clean racer, and it was an obvious dig at Kyle Busch for being, as Brad has called him before, an ass.

I’m a lifelong resident of SC and I can tell you the weather in May is no better that the weather in April when it comes to rain. I’m hot-natured and like the cooler temps, but that’s just me. If in fact this is a prelude to Nascar moving the race out of Darlington all together, then I will be done with the sport when that happens. When Chicago has a race and Darlington doesn’t, then the sport truly deserves to die.

Kudos to All-Star Danica Patrick for another top-20 finish. I believe this was her 7th of the season.

10/14/2013 07:48 AM

Watching a race dominated by Felon Racing, and seeing them get beat in the end by a Ford made the race worth watching. As for that last debris caution, and Jimmie’s whining, all I can say is: “Waaa! Waaa! Waaa!” Aside from the fact that you seem to be taking lessons from your whiny, crybaby teammate (Jeff), you and Chad have had your way for way too long! It looks good on you when you get beat! But, that’s Ok Jimmie. I’m sure Rick will be having a good long talk with Brian to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Guess Rick either didn’t stuff enough money in that envelope he gave Brian last week, or he didn’t get it to Brian in time.

10/14/2013 08:10 AM

note to dale jr….while it’s great to see you leading the race early on, leading on the last lap crossing the s/f line is the only leading of the field that matters….just ask kevin harvick!

once the kane/johnson leading starting, i switched channels and fell asleep and forgot to turn back to race to see end of it.

i’m assuming the fact that i haven’t read or heard, that the 2 passed post-race inspection.

driving into atlanta to work today, i noticed rv’s already heading west on i-20 to ‘dega for party weekend. right now, i’d still pack a poncho or rain suit as the weather can’t decide what it wants to do on friday.

10/14/2013 08:44 AM

I am normally a skeptic of conspiracy theories, but the string of phantom debris cautions that have bewitched Johnson’s track position are growing in number. Those used to help shine his lucky horseshoe. Makes you wonder, at least a little bit, if the brain-dead trust as NA$CAR understands a little that yet another title for Cheanin’ Chad & company will drive a lot of fans out of the sport for good…hmmm…

10/14/2013 09:08 AM

I was switching back and forth between a real sport and the “race” when Johnson took off on a restart and left the field. I stopped switching and didn’t know who won until late Sunday and couldn’t believe it wasn’t Johnson. The whining must have been loud and long. I would not want to be Brian this morning.

Is it just me or is Johnson lousy on restarts when he isn’t the leader?

Back in the mid-70s Joe Ruttman drove the AVC Camaro to a lot of wins. I saw him win long-distance races at three different tracks on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the same weekend. AVC built and sold race cars in competition with Howe and Dillon and others. A driver I think was from Toledo Speedway bought a car and couldn’t get it to handle. He took it back and complained. AVC put the setup that Ruttman used for the speedway on the car. He won the next feature at the track.

10/14/2013 09:10 AM

I was at the race and it was amazing to see how many people left with over 100 laps to go. You would have thought the checker flag and been thrown. Wake up NASCAR! You need to put something exciting on the track or things are just going to get worse. I feel that moving the Darlington date to Mother’s day eve would have killed off the famed SC track but it didn’t. Let’s hope the ticket buyers continue to support the track long enough to see them move the date back to Labor Day.

10/14/2013 09:29 AM

It seems odd that passing other cars with gen sux car is hard, yet the Hendricks cars seem to be able to mow by other cars with ease. I didn’t watch very much of this race and what little I did watch was just boring. I gave this race zero beers.

Fed Up
10/14/2013 09:38 AM

I fell asleep with about 100 to go. Boring..
Na$car testing spoilers and splitters at Charlotte today. Here’s a hint. GET RID OF BOTH!

10/14/2013 09:39 AM

considering the monotony of the race on Saturday, I’m very glad I didn’t spend the $ on airfare to fly there and back. The last 20 something laps were fun to watch, but the rest, well, at least at home I can do something other than be bored AND stuck.

I find it funny though that NASCAR castigates the drivers for manipulation when they are SOOO good at it themselves.

Then the change in schedule for Darlington! What the heck? Kansas doesn’t deserve two races yet they are going to take the date that Darlington has managed to make a decent race weekend – by a lot of hard work from them again? I guess NASCAR is back to it’s let’s knock off the interesting tracks for the boring mile and a half ones again. Yeah, that tactic has worked out well, hasn’t it?

10/14/2013 11:29 AM

regardless of who won the race, the end was contrived yet again showing that this is no longer a sporting event but simply an entertainment venue.

i keep thinking that in theory anything could happen at any race. the points leader could blow up or be taken out by lapped traffic just as easily as being swept up or causing the highly vaunted and viewer generating “big one” which may or may not even happen. if i hear that “talladega is a wild card” one more time, i’m going to scream.

10/14/2013 12:58 PM

I would be willing to bet that the majority of smart Nascar fans knew the caution was coming out at some point with under 50 to go. The only doubt that could be placed was the person that was leading. Would Nascar really throw a yellow with Jimmie out front?

Looks like ensuring an exciting finish trumps pleasing Mr Hendrick. Rick will put a stop to that I’m sure.

When will the media and broadcasters start taking Nascar to task for this obvious minipulation? Since ESPN is stuck with coverage next season, I would love it if they call out Nascar during races for these yellows. Listening to Bestwick, he sounded a little frustrated when he reported debris “somewhere” on the backstretch. It would expose Nascar for what it is. A show and not a competition. (As a lifelong fan, I can’t believe I posted that last statement) My how times have changed.

Wayne V
10/14/2013 01:12 PM

As controlling as NASCAR is and given that they over officiate everything, I’m still amazed they don’t make it a “must” that debris that causes cautions be shown on TV every time. They could have one official make sure the network knows where the debris is and makes sure it’s shown. Nothing undermines their credibilty like the notion that these are phantom cautions to make the racing action better.They are also spending a gozillian dollars at Daytona on amenities when they really need to lower the bankings so that they can race rather than crash.

10/14/2013 02:01 PM

Rarely has an incredibly sketchy debris caution been more welcome. JJ was stinking up a race that had, for the first 120 or so laps, been quite interesting, what with the high line working well and some decent racing to be found. The race to the finish between BK and Kasey was fantastic, one of the best this year. It’s just a shame the 200 laps in between were awful and that the only thing that could save the race was an extremely suspicious caution. I agree with Wayne V above that if NASCAR wants to maintain its credibility it should be demanding the networks to show every piece of debris.

Gosh, I REALLY hope the aero improvements work as expected. It would be a huge boost to the sport and would really get me excited for 2014.

10/14/2013 07:26 PM

The race was a snorefest, till the end. Big deal. All you heard or saw was the HMS cars all that was talked about was the HMS cars, and how full the stands were. They really think we are stupid. The media if the want to have a job and something to write about better start calling Nascar out, just like you got your pitchforks sharpened for Travis Kvapil and the Richmond race, plenty of nasty stuff there, aim it at Nascar, there’s where you need your frustration to go. Get it done for your fans, cause if the fans ain’t watching, nobody is going to reading your work or watching you on TV!


Contact Mike Neff

Recent articles from Mike Neff:

Thinkin' Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Special Winter Sprint Car Series set for January debut at Cocopah Speedway
Beyond the Cockpit with Ben Rhodes
Kroger 250 postponed until Sunday afternoon
Denny Hamlin out of the car for the race at Auto Club Speedway

Want to find out more about Mike Neff? Maybe see all the articles he's written here at the Frontstetch? Check out his article archive and bio page then!