The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud For Matt McLaughlin : Nashville by Thomas Bowles -- Monday March 24, 2008

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Thinkin' Out Loud For Matt McLaughlin : Nashville

Thomas Bowles · Monday March 24, 2008


Editor’s Note : Matt McLaughlin took the weekend off … so Editor-In-Chief Tom Bowles filled in for his usual Monday column for Nashville.

The Key Moment: Scott Wimmer ran down, then passed teammate Clint Bowyer with 21 laps to go for his first Nationwide Series win in five years; both benefited from a lap 163 incident in which Kyle Busch took himself out of contention.

In a Nutshell: See Kyle. Run, Kyle, Run! No, no, Kyle, what were you thinking! See teammates. See teammates play nice. Yawn. Race over!

Dramatic Moment: Kyle Busch's dash through the grass was some high drama, especially when it occurred in front of the whole field. Also, Wimmer and Bowyer were close on fuel towards the finish, so it was a bit of a nailbiter to see if they ran out of gas.

What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Scott Wimmer does burnouts following his victory at Nashville; was it enough to impress owner Richard Childress he deserves a spot on the Cup side of his operation?

After finally scoring his first win in RCR equipment running a part-time schedule, should it be Wimmer, not Bobby Labonte, who gets the nod to drive the organization's fourth full-time Cup car in 2009? I still think Labonte's the frontrunner, but don't count this guy out …

Moving over from Hendrick Motorsports to Joe Gibbs Racing certainly hasn't made Kyle Busch any less aggressive … at least in both feeder series. Perhaps the bad luck in this series is a result of trying too hard … it's the only one of NASCAR's top-tier divisions (Cup, Nationwide, Trucks) in which Busch isn't leading the points, and I'm sure he wants to hold that distinctive record in a bad way.

Please, please, will no one make a mountain out of a molehill with Kyle's post-race interview. Yes, the man was curt and perhaps slightly rude in tone to ESPN's Vince Welch … but he'd also spent upwards of 60 laps stewing over the fact that he wrecked away his chance to win the race. If it were me, I'd need some more time to cool off… and anyways, isn't raw emotion all we really want from drivers, anyway? Give me a driver who's not that pissed after losing a race he should have won, and I'll give him the keys to a local school bus … not a race car.

I will give the Kyle Busch detractors one thing. No matter how upset he was after his accident, Busch should have never, ever blocked the battle for the lead by notching himself in between Bowyer and Wimmer for the amount of time he did after his pit stop. Busch shouldn't take out his problems by blocking an innocent man like Wimmer; at one point, it looked like those moves would cost Wimmer a shot at the win.

OK, whose hairbrained idea was it for the first Nationwide Series standalone race to be on Easter weekend? Not only is that equivalent to a sacred weekend in the South - a time for both church and family - but there's not even Truck or ARCA Series support races to beef up some extra crowd. Add in a little thing called the NCAA Tournament, and the race was lucky it wasn't moved to ESPN8, the Ocho - as it is, qualifying wasn't televised by any network. So much for giving this series the love and affection it deserves …

Along those same lines, I've decided upon the following competitive tier system I'm going to assign to Nationwide teams this year. It's a very hard line … let's put it this way, if you're finishing above your tier, you had a Herculean effort during your race day:

Tier A: The We Shouldn't Be Here Division: Composed of top-notch equipment and top-notch Cup drivers who get more practice at the track per weekend than anyone else … as well as possess the most experience. Seriously, under the current setup how could anyone below Tier B have a shot at a win? This tier includes Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, David Reutimann, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, and Matt Kenseth.

Tier B: The Right Place, Right Time, And Maybe We'll Get Lucky Division: Top-notch Nationwide equipment provided by top-level Cup teams, driven by Nationwide drivers that can only get part-time gigs to fill in for Cup veterans. Also, Cup youngsters that are in Nationwide purely because they don't have enough experience, period, go here. Included in this tier is David Ragan, Wimmer, Stephen Leicht, and Dario Franchitti.

Tier C: The We're As Good As We Can Get With 25 Cup Drivers Invading And Monopolizing Our Series Division: Nationwide Series teams that have at least a reasonable amount of money to compete, but aren't aligned with the Cup Big Boys. They pull a valiant effort each week, but they'll never catch up to their veteran counterparts the way the rules are designed. See: Kelly Bires, Jason Keller, Mike Wallace, and Marcos Ambrose as examples.

Tier D: We Don't Have A Chance In Hell … But At Least We Try For The Whole Race Division: Drivers and teams who have no business being on the track in the equipment and talent level they're at; but to their credit, at least they try and finish the race each week in their underfunded operations. This group counts Robert Richardson, Jr. and Eric McClure among its members.

Tier E: We're Stealing Money Because Our Plan Each Week Is To Start And Park Division: Drivers and teams taking full-bore advantage of the short fields in the Nationwide Series to simply collect a check and park it — sometimes the whole team, sometimes an extra backup car. Members include … The No. 90 / 91 teams, The No. 52 team, Morgan Shepherd for the umpteenth year in a row doing this in one of the feeder series, The No. 0 team … you get the idea. That’s not what racing should be about …

Here’s the moral of this story … when you can clearly separate all the teams in your series into Tiers … parity isn't really something you have going for you right now. Especially when Tier E is usually a quarter of your field.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune and The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

See our own Bryan Davis Keith's Nationwide Series Breakdown for similar categories and explanations.

Worth Noting

  • The Top 10 finishers drove five Chevys, three Fords, and two Toyotas. Mike Bliss was the highest finishing Dodge in 11th place.
  • The Nashville race was run without a single caution flag for a wreck; just three caution flags overall set a new low record for the track.
  • Scott Wimmer (1st) scored his first victory for the No. 29 car of Richard Childress Racing, and his first win since Pikes Peak on July 26th, 2003.
  • Brad Keselowski (4th) and Kelly Bires (5th) enjoyed their best ever Nationwide Series finishes. The same goes for Cale Gale (8th).

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) We'll give this one three bottles of generic. With teammates racing at the end, it wasn't as dicey up front as it could have been; and no contenders ran out of fuel, making things somewhat anti-climactic. However, there were times when this race had its moments.

Next Up: The series takes a week off, then returns for Texas on April 5th.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

03/24/2008 11:52 AM

Do yourself a favor and drop the idiotic complaining over the fantasy “ stop and park “ teams . It makes you look foolish ,( yes even more so ) and illustrates how little you really do know about the internals of racing . Is it possible that a car falls out after 5 laps because of engine problems ? Sure , happens all the time . Brake issues ? Suspension failures ? Electrical malfuntions ? Major oil leaks ? Yes ! So exactly what criteria do you use to write that a team decided to “ stop and park “ . The team told you ? Are you disparaging a team with no proof ? Or are you simply supposing, just to have something to complain about? And by the way , any team that does do what you allude to is trying to survive , and i for one have no problem with it .

D. Brown
03/24/2008 04:25 PM

NASCAR would rather have a bunch of Start-and-park teams than have a short field, which has actually started happening in the Truck series recently. The biggest problem I have with the Start-and-Park teams is when the field isn’t short and they end up bumping a team that intends to go the distance. And the “excuse” the teams give for parking is silly. You can fix handling. It didn’t go away after 5 laps. And you sure didn’t blow an engine or transmission when you show up the next race with the exact same hardware (some of the start-and-part teams run the same engine all year- right down to the spark plugs).

It makes a lot of sense (and cents) for these “teams” to start and park- they aren’t “racing” for points, and the difference between 43rd and 15th in prize money is only a couple hundred dollars- it costs more to run the laps than they would get.

You can tell a start-and-park team right off the bat- they only lease one set of tires for the whole weekend, and don’t even have a full pit crew. Some of the teams admit this, some don’t.

NASCAR could easily solve the issue- REQUIRE teams to lease the full allotment of tires and require them to have a full pit crew.

If I were King, My solution to end the start and parks immediately would go straight to the pocketbooks- prorate the prize money based on laps completed. You run 10% of the laps, you get 10% of the allotted prize money for that position. For the fully funded teams who might wreck out ten laps in, that doesn’t really matter because most of their “prize money” is sponsor based anyway (not truly from the race purse). The well funded teams don’t race for prize money anyway- it’s a drop in the bucket. But you can almost guarantee Shepard won’t be showing up to run 30 laps if all he’d get is $1800 instead of $18,000.

NASCAR won’t do that though because it’d result in short fields. I’d rather see a short field than see a bunch of cars peel off and go to the garage without making a single pit stop.

For the argument that the teams are trying to show up to woo potential sponsors, that’s a bunch of hooey. Sponsors want to see you prove you can show the company colors, and you can only do that by running the whole race. You have to spend money to make money, but start and park teams see just qualifying as a paycheck.

03/24/2008 05:22 PM

i agree on the start and park guys, Matt

03/24/2008 09:42 PM

McNair “Do yourself a favor and drop the idiotic complaining over the fantasy “ stop and park “ teams . It makes you look foolish ,( yes even more so ) and illustrates how little you really do know about the internals of racing.”

You take the writer to task for making an assertion with no proof.

However you have done the same, or did I miss something in your comment that proved no one is riding long enough just to say they did and then collect a paycheck?

A little review of historical records will show Darrick Cope, Schrader and more than a few others consistently have had “problems” within the first 20 laps in many events over the last 2-3 years. (Far more than that actually)

It’s an extreme stretch of the imagination to believe on every occasion they actually had mechanical problems forcing them to the sidelines.

Yeah right! Only “five laps completed… “due to “handling.”

Sure I’ll believe that. Not.


Contact Tom Bowles

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Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
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