The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Texas-2 NASCAR Weekend Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday November 4, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Texas-2 NASCAR Weekend Recap

Mike Neff · Monday November 4, 2013

 

Key Moment – Carl Edwards came into Texas with the most wins in the history of the Cup Series. Early in the event, he was able to get in front of Jimmie Johnson and keep him at bay for 10-lap segments. But on Lap 186, Edwards’ engine started going south and Lap 187 saw his day come to an end with an engine failure. That also put an end to anyone who truly contended with Johnson for a win at Texas.

In a Nutshell – The race in Texas started out with Jimmie Johnson in third place. It took him nine laps to get to the front. After a couple of caution periods, pit stops left him a position or two behind but he quickly worked back to the point as the tires began to wear. During a green flag stop on Lap 240, the right-front tire changer dropped a lug nut which caused the stop to last 17 seconds. As a result, he came out of the pits in sixth. It took him 16 laps to drive through the front of the field and reassume the point. From there on, it was the Jimmie Johnson show. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished second for the fifth time this season while Matt Kenseth managed a fourth-place run to stay within seven points of the lead in the standings.

Dramatic Moment – Matt Kenseth had a pit road speeding penalty on lap 173 that ultimately put him back on track just in front of the car of Jimmie Johnson. While it could have been a disastrous moment for Kenseth, he and his team maintained focus, stayed on the lead lap and battled back to a fourth-place result.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

Told you before Talladega: this championship is a two-horse race. After Sunday, there is no doubt that the only two teams in this title hunt are the No. 20 and No. 48. Matt Kenseth’s team went into Jimmie’s house last week and stole the points when everyone thought Johnson would take the win. This weekend, the pundits were sure that Kenseth’s prowess this season on mile-and-a-half tracks would afford him the chance to stretch out a lead. Instead, Johnson came in and laid the smack down, dominating the race and sending a very clear message that the title goes through them. Phoenix will hold the key of whether Homestead will be a race between the two or a points race by the leader only.

Texas offered up the opportunity for tire management for one of the few times this season. It made the racing a bit sportier in the pack, and again allowed for on-track passes for the lead, even if the vast majority of them were by Johnson blowing by whomever was in front.

Last year, Johnson and Brad Keselowski put on a memorable show at Texas, trading paint and leads before Johnson ended up winning the race. A blown tire for Johnson at Phoenix then torpedoed his hopes for title number six last season. This year’s Chase run seems to be a little bit stronger for the No. 48 team, their best since 2010. That’s said despite claims Chad Knaus had on Sirius XM Radio after the race that, while he felt like the team is good, it definitely still needs improvement. Well, if the No. 48 bunch gets any better before next week, this thing could be over quickly.

Martin Truex, Jr. is going to be driving for Furniture Row Racing in 2014. It was announced he’ll be driving the No. 78, which has historically carried the Furniture Row livery. There was no mention of NAPA during the press conference, although the thought was that the auto parts supplier would be coming along. Perhaps Barney Visser, team owner, will split some of the races to finally spend someone else’s money in this racing game. If not, NAPA may go elsewhere or they may bail out altogether on the sport. Time will tell.

Texas Motor Speedway has been one of the most popular tracks on the circuit since it was constructed, especially in terms of at track fan attendance. But in what can only be described as a display of the state of the sport, the stands were ¾ full at best on Sunday at TMS. Next season, we’ll see if the addition of the giant HD screen will make a difference or if the lack of racing produced this season is just keeping people from attending these events.

While a recent national story was posted about the future of stock car racing, especially the Cup Series in terms of little to no talent coming up through the development ranks I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. Attending the All-American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway this weekend, it was quite evident there is a plethora of talent moving toward the upper divisions of stock car racing. Chase Elliott won the race and put a bow on the career Super Late Model Grand Slam. Daniel Hemric won the Southern Super Series Inaugural Championship as he prepares to make his second career Truck start next weekend in Phoenix. John Hunter Nemechek and Harrison Burton both raced on the historic track surface. Hunter Robbins had a great run for a top-5 finish. Other hot shoes that competed in the 400 included Ross Kenseth, Kyle Benjamin, Cody Coughlin and Erik Jones. There is no doubt the sport of NASCAR racing has a very bright future with all of this talent moving up.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Jeff Gordon woke up the echoes of four-time nation with his win last Sunday at Martinsville. The thoughts of a run at a fifth title went up in a cloud of wall paint dust when his tire blew in turn one on lap 73 and he pounded the wall. While the team got him back out after 184 laps, his hopes of shocking the world with an asterisk title were dashed.

Kyle Busch really didn’t get the chance to establish whether he was going to be a contender on Sunday before he lost a tire and hit the wall in turn three on lap 57. His team kept him on the lead lap and tweaked his car to get him back to a runner-up position until lap 298, when he sped on pit lane and had to pay a pass through penalty. He kept himself on the lead lap and clawed his way back to a 13th place finish.

Bobby Labonte’s career very well might be coming to an end before our eyes, one Sunday at a time. While he is one of the classiest drivers in the garage and a fierce competitor, this season has been a disappointment to say the least. Sunday didn’t help any thanks to an expired engine on lap 144. If this is the end, it was a pleasure watching Labonte win Joe Gibbs Racing’s first Cup title and becoming the first driver to win a Nationwide and Cup title in his career.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Matt Kenseth had a pit road speeding penalty that could have severely damaged his title hopes. Fortunately for him, Carl Edwards done blowed up and dropped some oil on the back straight, bringing out the caution and allowing him to catch back up to the field. Eventually, he would work the No. 20 Toyota back into the top 5 and settled for fourth place.

Speaking of drivers whose careers are winding down, Mark Martin has been less than dominant while filling in for Tony Stewart. The team has been struggling to give Mark what he needs in a car and Mark has been struggling to race what they’ve given to him. This weekend, the team built a new car for Martin and did some experimental things in the package. There was no telling if the car would even last for 500 miles, let alone be competitive. Fortunately for Martin, he made it to the end and actually came home in 11th position — his best run since Richmond in September and arguably his best since coming to Stewart-Haas Racing.

For the second race in a row, Denny Hamlin finished seventh. His recent treatment for his back pain has been relieving quite a bit of the agony and has him feeling more of what the car is doing through the seat of his pants. Whatever kind of animal sacrifices his witch doctor is doing, hopefully they’ll continue to work so that he can get back on top of his game for next season with no pain. The treatments have worked, so well the driver is even considering abandoning offseason surgery.

Worth Noting

  • Jimmie Johnson left Texas in 2012 with a seven point lead. He did not win the title. Johnson leaves Texas with a seven-point lead over Kenseth.
  • Johnson’s win is his 66th of his Cup career. That leaves him 10 behind Dale Earnhardt for seventh, 17 behind Cale Yarborough for sixth, 18 back from Darrell Waltrip and 19 away from Bobby Allison on the all-time list.
  • The win is Johnson’s sixth of the season, one behind Kenseth for the series lead of seven this year. The win is also Johnson’s third at Texas, which ties him with Carl Edwards for the most all-time in the series at the mile-and-a-half quad oval.
  • Johnson now has 24 Chase race victories in the 98 career Chase races in which he has competed (24.5%). Tony Stewart is the only driver besides Johnson with double-digit wins, scoring 11 in 90 Chase races.
  • While Johnson’s winning percentage in Chase races is impressive, he’s had 17 races where he has not finished on the lead lap. Everyone else in the series has more races where they did not finish on the lead lap, but his overall success in those races makes that statistic rather surprising.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second for the fifth time this season. His previous high water mark for runner-up finishes was three in 2003. Not coincidentally, that year was Earnhardt’s highest career points finish. Earnhardt has climbed from the bottom of the Chase standings to fifth in points with two races to go and still has a chance to finish top 3.
  • Joey Logano’s third-place run was his sixth podium finish of the season. The result leaves him ninth in points and poised to head to Vegas for the banquet.
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. reclaimed his rightful place as Rookie of the Race. He was 16th, two laps back while Danica Patrick finished three laps behind in 25th.

Top 10 finishes by Manufacturer
Chevrolet – 5
Ford – 2
Toyota – 3

  • While everyone is grumbling about Johnson running away with the race, causing the boredom that defined this “show,” Sunday was not the worst ass-whipping in Texas Motor Speedway history. In November of 2006, Tony Stewart won the race while leading 278 of 334 laps.

What’s the Points?

Jimmie Johnson had a maximum point day while Matt Kenseth finished fourth. As a result, Johnson leads Kenseth by seven points with two races to go. The only other driver who can mathematically take the lead in points on a single race day is Kevin Harvick, who is sitting third, 40 outside the lead. 52 out and in fourth is Kyle Busch, whose difficulties on Sunday kept him from moving up to the third spot. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. booked another runner-up finish, which has him sitting 62 points behind Johnson but 22 in arrears to Harvick for third.

The second half of the top 10 is started by Jeff Gordon, sitting 69 behind the leader. The crushing day at Texas took him from potential title winner to virtually eliminated. Clint Bowyer is tied with Gordon, 21 points more than the maximum number of points a driver can earn in a single race behind the leader. Greg Biffle sits in eighth, ahead of Joey Logano and Kurt Busch, the last two drivers inside the top 10 in points.

The rest of the Chase contenders are Carl Edwards, 116 points behind Johnson; Ryan Newman, 118 points out; and Kasey Kahne, 133 points behind and last amongst the Chasers. Kurt Busch through Kahne are mathematically eliminated from the title now that Texas is in the book.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – On-track passes for the lead tend to make a race exciting. When every on-track pass for the lead that doesn’t take place on a restart is by one driver, the excitement fades. When that same driver leads 255 of 334 laps, the excitement is extinguished. Intermediate races have been snoozers for most of the year and the second-to-last one of the season was no exception. Try as we might to give this event any substantial amount of brews, we just can’t do it. One old, moldy Hudepohl is all that can be mustered for this runaway snoozefest.

Next Up — The series heads to Phoenix for the penultimate race of the 2013 season. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth head in to battle for the season title. Johnson looks to have a better result than last season while Kenseth looks to send another message and see if he can make Johnson have to race at Homestead. The race coverage begins at 3:00 PM Eastern on ESPN. For those who like to listen rather than watch, the MRN gang will be broadcasting on your local affiliate along with SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio.

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kb
11/04/2013 02:31 AM
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ROTY is a joke, as each rookie..all three of them have had horrible seasons. The worst I can remember anyways…ugh. Why bother.

JP
11/04/2013 08:19 AM
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If I go to a Texas race next season it will be for the trucks and Nationwide race.

The Cup series is BORING.

Hello Nascar? There’s an iceberg ahead.

midasmicah
11/04/2013 08:45 AM
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I turned this race off early on and never looked back. It seems that Johnson has at least 30 more hp than anyone else. Zzzzzero beers.

jerseygirl
11/04/2013 08:49 AM
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All of you Frontstretch writers must have “asterisk” on the brain! First Bowles in his tweet after Gordon’s crash, now here again. Well IMO, EVERY Chase trophy winner should have an asterisk after their name — it is NOT a full season championship, this has been and continues to be a stupid way to define a champion using just the last 10 races that happened to be on the schedule.

ROTY? Ha, what’s that? Another wasted award considering the field of candidates over the past few years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see NASCAR give it to Danica just to have another something to crow about in their PR since certainly the performance of the highly touted Gen 6 car and the racing are not worth anything.

Oh yeah and NASCAR should apologize to Denny Hamlin & refund his $25K since he wasn’t wrong in his comments after all. Of course the fans knew that all along, it’s only NASCAR and it’s management who aren’t very bright, along with so many of the media who until recently have been saying like a bunch of robots – the Gen 6 car is great.

Bill B
11/04/2013 09:33 AM
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I agree with jerseygirl… all chase championships should have asterisks after them.

Zero beers.

Carl D.
11/04/2013 09:37 AM
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The race was pretty boring and I can’t stand the #48 team, but that doesn’t change the fact that they delivered a solid butt-whippin’ to the entire field yesterday, and they certainly made a point with it. I won’t concede that championship to them just yet, but they have to be the favorite now.

All-Star Danica Patrick got quite a bit of TV time yesterday. I think ESPN showed her getting lapped at least 3 times by the #48. I guess any exposure is better than no exposure.

I wonder how Jack Roush feels watching Penske’s 2-car Ford operation run up front while his 3-car operation blows, both literally and figuratively.

Thanks for the kudos to Bobby Labonte, Mike. He’s always been one of my favorite drivers. I was in Charlotte when he got his first cup win and won me the money from our race pool that day. I was in Darlington when he won the Busch race in the Shell car while subbinbg for Tony Stewart who had an Indy car race that day and got my picture taken with him before the race. He’s always been a class guy and though his cars haven’t been much to speak of over the last few years, you never heard him complain about it. If this is truly it for him in cup, I hope he sticks around and drives in some truck races next year.

Janice
11/04/2013 09:43 AM
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i got tired of hendrick-lovefest from pre-race show. for some reason it seemed painfully slow and long. watched a bit, saw johnson take lead, flipped to watch falcon’s lose, flipped back to race, saw johnson leading, gordon in garage, then later flipped back and saw tires with strange wear patterns. flipped again, fell asleep, phone call at 7 pm woke me up and flipped back and it was over with. i didn’t even bother to try to find out who won, as i knew it was johnson. guess hendrick’s check cleared brain fart’s account this week.

Flash
11/04/2013 09:57 AM
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Glad to see you mention the talent moving up and the AA400 this weekend. In a way the future is very bright, however the cynic in me wonders other than Chase & possibly Ross, how much of that talent will actually get a chance to make it to cup.

It’s no longer just about talent, now the only way to break through is to bring a sponsor.

Tim S.
11/04/2013 10:03 AM
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Here we are with our Hendrick fatigue again, Janice. I knew what the story would be and who they would talk about no matter who dominated. I checked timing and scoring three times, saw Johnson with midasmicah’s aptly-put 30hp advantage, and never gave it another thought.

chuck
11/04/2013 10:07 AM
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Since Texas has had two dates for Cup, the November attendance has been the lesser attended of the two events. Yes, people are still recovering from the economy—a good portion of Texas attendance comes from out of the DFW metroplex. But it is also opening weekend of deer season here and the Cowboys had a home game Sunday. Sure that cuts the numbers. Seems NASCAR would switch the Texas and Phoenix fall events. Might get some of those deer hunters back in the stands.

indigo
11/04/2013 10:15 AM
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There was a race this weekend? Damn, missed yet another one.. oh well, I’ll just have to catch one next season…that is, if Billy-boy and his Band start playing OUR song again…

babydufus
11/04/2013 11:27 AM
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time to watch the event – 37 minutes. with 80% less gibberjabbing and no commercials, kudos to the guy who invented the fast forward button. while texas dosn’t top the list of races that shouldn’t have two races… well…

i’m not a conspiracy theorist although there’s damning evidence that nascar isn’t above manipulation but isn’t it odd that the 48 and the 20 run at the top of the leaderboard every week and the 20 comes through what seemed to be the mostly cars “not in the hunt” with ease on an aero track where passing is usually limited to restarts and pitstops?

why do i keep watching? because sometimes.. sometimes a good race breaks out despite nascar and that my friends is pure joy and worth my time. like for those lucky enough to have recorded the world series whelen modified race at thompson. i think it was on fs2. (heck, even watching tv i was standing and shouting at the tv for the last 20 laps of a race that was recorded.) i remember when that was more often the case with nascar “cup” races. so sad.

Chris in TX
11/04/2013 11:49 AM
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The race (as it usually is) was pretty entertaining in-person. However, this is one of the few TMS weekends where the nationwide race was probably a better race than Cup (NW usually is kind of a stinker). Truck is always a better race, so no change there. Ty Dillon kinda put a whuppin’ on the field in that race, which was unusual.

The 48 was definitely just better than everyone else. Significantly. Old tires. New tires. Unless they were actually cheating, not much that can be done about someone just having a better car. Even in comparison to his teammates.

Upstate24fan
11/04/2013 12:41 PM
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Oh Texas Motor Speedway how do I hate thee, let me count the ways.

1. House of horrors for Jeff Gordon.

2. The poster child for boring cookie-cutter racetracks built in the 1990s.

3. The “Ferko” lawsuit and it’s aftermath.

They can build as big a TV as they want and create many more bacon concoctions, but I don’t think I will be going out of my way to visit Texas anytime soon. I really wish we could take this date and give it to the Circuit of the Americas.

john
11/04/2013 12:54 PM
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BOOOOOOORING.

On the plus side, the Truck race was great, and the Whelen Modifieds season finale at Thompson was also played on Sunday, and it was FANTASTIC.

Paul
11/04/2013 01:28 PM
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Anytime a Hendricks car wins I’ll give it ZERO!

Chris Fiegler
11/04/2013 04:55 PM
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Do you think that the AAA Texas 500 is the Worst Sprint Cup Series Race of 2013?

Ken Smith
11/04/2013 04:55 PM
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Right on babydufus! Whelan Modifieds – the best kept secret in NA$CRAP. All of their races should be televised.

Tom Dalfonzo
11/04/2013 06:30 PM
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Which of these would be the best thing to do:

1. Increase the banking in the turns at Texas Motor Speedway from 24 to 31 degrees in all four turns.

2. Award a NASCAR Cup Series race to the Circuit of the Americas.

racebuster
11/04/2013 07:47 PM
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It doesn’t bother me so much when Jimmy wins races, its just that when he wins, there isn’t anyone else to equal enough to race with him. Years past when there were dominant drivers who won a lot, at least they had to actually race against someone to get the wins. With approximately twenty cars capable of winning, why can’t at least a handful be competitive in the same race, especially with all the ones that tested before this race.

another Andy D
11/04/2013 07:47 PM
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It sure looks like the 48 and the 24 switched cars for a while to give Gordon a chance to get into the Chase.

EZ
11/04/2013 07:56 PM
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The best thing to do is get someone that knows about racing in charge instead of Brainfart and his band of yes man lackeys.

Hotdogger
11/05/2013 03:34 AM
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How this **** show gets ratings over 1.0 is a testament to NASCAR’s turd-polishing abilities. Cup series needs a new formula. Today’s generation is not interested in watching a single file parade for 5 hours and it shows in the attendance.

Rob
11/05/2013 08:14 AM
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I hate the dominance of the 48, in fact something about the cool precision of the entire team just puts me off without obvious reason. Then I read where several folks are saying how much better the truck race was but it was a carbon copy of the cup race with Ty Dillon and the 3 playing the part of JJ and the 48.

What gives? Is the 48 dominance just that sickening to 90% of us race fans? I wish I could put my finger on what it is about the 48 team that makes me want to take a nap or put sugar in their gas tank.

NASCAR with the 48 team involved feels like having an undertaker at a birthday party. Sure, he’s a nice guy and is good at his job and all but, ick, who want’s to pal around with him?

 

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