The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: New Hampshire Spring Race Recap by Thomas Bowles -- Monday June 29, 2009

Go to site navigation Go to article

Editor’s Note: Matt McLaughlin is off this week. He’ll return next Monday, July 6th … for New Hampshire, Managing Editor and Sports Illustrated’s Tom Bowles filled in.

The Key Moment: Joey Logano got the Lucky Dog not once, but twice, then caught a Lucky Break from Mother Nature to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history.

In a Nutshell: A fine mix of, “Are you kidding? This is the New Hampshire that used to put me to sleep?” combined with, “Are you kidding … this is the New Hamp … zzz.”

Joey Logano and Greg Zipadelli were just as surprised as anyone when Mother Nature allowed their fuel mileage gamble to pay off with a trip to Victory Lane at New Hampshire.

Dramatic Moment: Almost every double-file restart gave us racing at New Hampshire the likes of which had never been seen … at least in the Cup Series.
Watching Ryan Newman run out of fuel, then Joey Logano inherit the lead at exactly the right time was pretty breathtaking to watch – even if it was surreal.

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

They say celebrities die in 3s (as Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Billy Mays proved this week) … but how about NASCAR upsets? In the past three months, we’ve seen three first-time winners who reached Victory Lane under Twilight Zone-type circumstances. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and David Reutimann have less than 125 starts between them at NASCAR’s top level, but what they lack in experience they made up for with a year’s worth of luck. This trio led a total of 16 laps combined in the races they won, but – as Jeff Burton would say – they “put themselves in position to win” when circumstances dictated the outcome. There’s a lot of people who would like to argue that’s just not fair – but that’s not going to change the fact the fastest guy doesn’t always win the trophy. It’s one of the basic tenets of racing, proven for over a century … and you’re never going to be able to change it.

For those silly enough to believe Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli aren’t on speaking terms, you can go ahead and throw that theory right out the window. Stewart was one of the first to congratulate his former crew chief in what can only be described as a classy move. Wait, I just called Stewart classy? So much for me pretending to be Matt for a week…

If what we saw Sunday is any indication, the double-file restarts on the short tracks of Bristol, Richmond, and Martinsville are going to be something to see.

Doesn’t this always seem to happen? New Hampshire pulls not just a better crowd but arguably a better race than fellow SMI track Atlanta – but yet it’s probably the one in position to lose its second date to Kentucky, Las Vegas, or some other Bruton Smith fantasy in 2010.

In response to rumors the Truck Series is in danger of folding, Vice President Steve O’Donnell came out and said things are “going strong.” It’s been two days now, and I’m still searching for any and all signs of strength for which he speaks. In an unrelated story, O’Donnell failed to mention his cable service doesn’t carry SPEED channel.

The Danica Patrick circus continued full steam ahead this week, even though everyone and their mother seems willing to get off the train. But hidden amidst the Danica mess is the real story: her future is the only Silly Season story worth talking about. Here’s your moves for 2010 in a nutshell: Martin Truex, Jr. to the No. 55. Michael Waltrip retires. Brad Keselowski gets a full-time ride with Stewart-Haas. David Stremme gets fired and replaced by Justin Allgaier. And … we’re done. Unless Danica barges her way in somewhere and gets some more dominos to fall, we’re in for one of the quietest Silly Seasons in years; and a quiet Silly Season means no free publicity for the NASCAR/WWE. Catch my drift? So, like it or not, get ready for Danica to be shoved down your throat until the last possible moment…

Martin Truex, Jr. may have pulled one of the better fake helmet throws in recent history … but wasn’t he mad at the wrong guy? Seems that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was the one who spun his tires in the first place; but then again, it was nice for the best buddy to step up and spark another Busch rivalry while the bigger fish continues to try and take the high road.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Richard Childress Racing spent the weekend shooting down rumors the team would be cut down to two cars for 2010, then watched its team cut in half by force on Sunday after both Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick got swept up in the big crash. With Casey Mears bringing home the bacon with a disappointing 11th place, the rain-shortened ending capped off the worst month for this car owner since Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s death in February, 2001.

Ryan Newman was busy minding his own business until Logano promptly shoved him into the backstretch wall midrace. He put himself back in position to have the last lap … and promptly ran out of gas while leading five laps before the final caution.

Reed Sorenson had a top 5 car in all three practice sessions, but never so much as sniffed the top 5 during the race while slumping to 17th. Sorenson is just like the McCafe he drives these days: a good idea on paper, but not when you’re forced to stomach it down.

Scott Speed and Brian Vickers had a war of words Saturday after both wrecked on the white flag of the Nationwide race. Both Red Bull drivers followed that up by knocking themselves out in separate crashes during the Cup show.

Carl Edwards was done in again by a faulty pit stop. At this point, don’t be surprised if one more problem causes a new AFLAC trivia question about the last time an entire crew got fired all at once.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

This is certainly not the way Joey Logano pictured his first win — but he’ll take it. Driving a crippled car after a mid-race spinout, Logano benefited from not one but two Lucky Dogs, then stretched his fuel tank to the limit before Mother Nature gave him the break of a lifetime. The 19-year-old also just missed being part of the day’s multi-car melee, that Lap 176 wreck on the frontstretch that collected over half-a-dozen cars.

Speaking of that melee, David Reutimann was one of the innocent victims, spun around after getting tapped from the rear. But another round of top-notch gas mileage got him to rebound up to 4th.

Tony Stewart’s car was in such bad shape early, he never led a lap and had to pit under the race’s first caution on Lap 17. He spent the rest of the day making up for lost time, but once again crew chief Darien Grubb worked some magic tricks to have the No. 14 contending for the win late before fading to fifth.

It wasn’t one of Kyle Busch’s best races Sunday. He ran over a crewman from the No. 98 team on a pit stop, never got the track position he needed and technically tapped Truex to start the day’s big wreck. Yet despite all the problems, he came home with a badly needed top 10 finish to give himself some breathing room in the points.

Meanwhile, considering brother Kurt Busch looked ready to wreck the field on every
restart, it’s a miracle he made it through to a top 5 finish without getting punted.

Worth Noting

  • The top 10 finishers at New Hampshire drove four Chevrolets, three Toyotas, and three Dodges. Greg Biffle was the best-running Ford in 18th.
  • Joey Logano becomes the youngest winner in Sprint Cup history at 19 years, 1 month, and 4 days – breaking the record set by teammate Kyle Busch at California in the Fall of 2005. Not surprisingly, Logano was also the highest-finishing rookie of the race and the second freshman to win an event this season.
  • Jeff Gordon (2nd) leads all drivers with four runner-up finishes this season.
  • Kurt Busch (3rd) had his best finish since Phoenix in April.
  • Brad Keselowski (6th) scored his third top 10 finish in five Cup starts this season.
  • Sam Hornish, Jr. (8th) scored his first top 10 finish since Richmond in May.
  • John Andretti (16th) scored his best Cup finish of the season.
  • Ryan Newman (29th) has now gone three straight races without a top 10 finish.
  • Kevin Harvick (34th) hasn’t run higher than 11th since Atlanta in March.
  • David Ragan (38th) is without a top 10 finish since the Daytona 500.

What’s the Points?

Jeff Gordon’s second place finish allowed him to close the gap on Tony Stewart a bit. Gordon trails by 69, with teammate Jimmie Johnson 169 back in third. Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards maintain fourth and fifth in the points, respectively, with nine races left until the Chase starts in September.

Denny Hamlin moves up a spot to sixth in the standings, displacing Ryan Newman who dropped a position to seventh. Kyle Busch jumps up to eighth, leading a pack of six drivers separated by a total of just sixty points. The others, are, in order: Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kasey Kahne. Kahne now trails Montoya by only one point for the all-important final spot in the top 12.

Further back, David Reutimann is 11 behind Montoya in 14th, with Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton 15th and 16th. Brian Vickers is now 196 points behind in 17th spot and is in all likelihood the final driver with a chance to make the Chase. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. moved up a spot to 19th, but is a whopping 294 markers outside the top 12..

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 plastic cups of a mystery brew. All day long, you never quite knew what you were going to get, leaving everything from a memorable to a downright sour taste inside your mouth.

Next Up: The circuit heads to Daytona for their annual Saturday night showcase on the 4th of July – officially ending the first half of the 2009 Cup season.

Contact Tom Bowles

NASCAR NEWS, RIGHT TO YOUR INBOXAND IT’S FREE.
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:
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
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…
FREE NEWSLETTER! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

 

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

MilChad
06/29/2009 07:44 AM
permalink

Great, another driver falls a$$ backwards into a win this year.

Cardsfan2
06/29/2009 08:27 AM
permalink

Ed McMahon,MJ and Farrah were the 3 celebs to pass on. Billy Mays a celeb??? Maybe in your world.

Jim
06/29/2009 08:27 AM
permalink

Just a shame that the rain deprived us of what I believe would have been one of the great finishes between the 2 & 24. I was sitting between turns one and two and the way those two were leaning on each other was something to see…definitely no points racing there.

But, give the kid his due, he may have lucked out this time, but he has been improving all year…he is going to be a force to be reckoned with down the road. I saw him up close on the Speed stage during an early morning interview and you just can’t get over how young the kid is.

Good column, Tom, but I can’t see NHMS losing a date…the place was packed, despite just an awful week of weather and a very poor forecast which alas came true. And, Smith is sinking plenty of money into the infrastructure.

Paul
06/29/2009 08:28 AM
permalink

Having been at all three days of races this weekend, I want to point out to Mr. McLaughlin although he is on vacation- The attendance at the track was excellent all week. Everyone agreed- that was the largest Nationwide/Whelen mod raceday we’ve ever seen in my 8 years of going. Sure, the sprint cup race wasn’t a sellout, but given the weather forecast (We’ve had rain for 20 days straight) and current economic climate, I can’t help but feel proud of the display that New England showed up. I know NHMS gets a bad rep as “boring”, “difficult to pass”, and “doesn’t deserve two dates”, but I feel that This weekend proved exactly the opposite. The racing was excellent, the turnout was amazing given the circumstances and when compared to other races this year, and we had a hometown boy steal one on a really great call.

I think you’d be crazy to argue that this weekend was a resounding success, all things considered, and that NHMS outright deserves both dates on the schedule.

Mike
06/29/2009 08:56 AM
permalink

I dont know how long it takes to dry the track…an hr? 90 min? but the radar was CLEAR as of 6pm. (which would have been obvious that it would happen to anyone monkey with a doppler radar within view). 30 las left = 15-20 min of racing with 30 second laps at NH.

Nascar COMPLETELY blew this call handing Logano the victory (whihc I am sure they were quite pleased to do).

No matter what, with no lights at Loudon, you would have to call the race at 8pm. Instead of prematurely calling it to ruin what would have been a great shootout between the 2, 24, 14…why not wait an d attempt to dry the track?

If you cannot get it done by 7:30..then call the race….I mean they left us up till 2am in Fonatana…lol

Jim
06/29/2009 10:10 AM
permalink

Sorry, Mike, you are a fraud…I got out of the parking lot at 6:08 and it was raining at the time…my windshield wipers are not Doppler-enabled, but they were certainly in use at the time. The folks on Sirius were also commenting on how heavy the rain was and they did not take over the broadcast from PRN until 6PM.

Just amazing to me the lengths that the haters will go to pin something, anything, on NASCAR.

midasmicah
06/29/2009 11:33 AM
permalink

After Burton got taken out by a buschleague mistake, I pretty much lost interest in the race. Coming from a person who has over the last few years lost interest in nas$car, this should be a wake-up for the head honchos in Daytona. Burton is the only reason I’m still watching nas$car. Now that he’s pretty close to being out of the chase, I’m losing interest even more.

Mike
06/29/2009 11:47 AM
permalink

NA$CAR will keep the fans hanging on for hours when it rains. A few rain drops and they call the race so Sliced Bread gets a win.

NA$CAR has gotten worse then the WWF

Managing Editor
06/29/2009 12:00 PM
permalink

Hey,

Just to add to what Jim was saying … it was honestly a raging downpour until long after the track could have dried things in time before darkness set in. You can blame NASCAR for the late start time (Green Flag not until 2:07 PM EST) but you can’t blame them for weather that’s out of their control.

Paul
06/29/2009 12:01 PM
permalink

Mike, I live 20 minutes from NHMS. Believe me when I say this- It hasn’t stopped raining since the race was called.

Douglas
06/29/2009 12:59 PM
permalink

Someday in NA$CRAP the “fastest & best” car will once again WIN A RACE!

A 39th place car wins on sunday, and everyone is happy?

Just like Mark Martin’s win at MIS! The driver is “totally” suprised he won!

WOW! What racing?

Bill B
06/29/2009 01:33 PM
permalink

You’d think that most important requirement on NASCAR’s list would be to get the entire race in if possible. The fact that they wait until almost 2:30 to start the race means they lose two hours of their window. This isn’t the first time an earlier start would have made the difference. Guess getting the race in is secondary to making the television network happy.

Dennis
06/29/2009 05:23 PM
permalink

I was at NH and there was no way they could have gotten 2 laps in. Fact of the matter is that every team had the same RADAR. The 20 put themselves in the position to be in the front at the end.

What NASCAR needs to do is create the urgency to race (every race) like there was yesterday when rain was threatening. Because of the weather everybody wanted to be up front.

That same urgency needs to present every race. Maybe the points needs to be further separated. Maybe position 30 and higher should get nothing? I don’t know.

What I do know is NASCAR should drop PreRace shows. 3 Dog Night? I thought at least 2 were dead. The best PreRace show NASCAR could put on is a Truck Race. Now that is an opening act. Why not since they start the cup race so late anyway.

NHMS was not a sell out, but there were no Giant SUNOCO or SRINT banners covering large sections of empty seats like a certain other track last month.

As for not being able to pass? That’s a fault of too many less than stellar drivers than the track. There is plenty of passing, you can’t judge a race from the TV coverage of it. TV truly blows.

Let’s take an honest look at NASCAR today. Remove an accident, blown engine, or another unforseen event. There is usually the same 10 drivers in the front pretty much all year.

Dennis
06/29/2009 05:26 PM
permalink

PS. Kyle losing the “youngest winning driver” title that same race was Divine intervention and Karma on a stick.

Kryle the Krybaby
06/29/2009 05:57 PM
permalink

Well done Joey and the #20 team. You have smashed Kryle’s record as youngest winner by far. HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Now we never again have to hear about Kryle Baby being the record holder for this stat. In your face. Thunder taken. Screw you Kryle, you suck. This kid has more class and professionalism at 19 than you ever will in your entire career.

MrFixit
06/30/2009 01:48 AM
permalink

Ok, I understand the aggravation with a first time winner, using fuel mileage AND rain to win. I guess my question is, would you rather have 1 driver winning half the races during the season, or the interesting finishes we have had this year? The COT is awful, the racing is pathetic most races, but the strategy is obviously becoming more and more important. Thank god for double file restarts.

Wolfman
06/30/2009 03:03 PM
permalink

If the winners of the races are the cars that squeeze the most miles out of a tank of gas, how long until they start racing ugly hybrids?
Bad Racing=Empty Seats

illogic
07/01/2009 03:53 PM
permalink

MrFixit – I don’t mind a fuel win, but needing two lucky dogs to win, that’s a joke. The lucky dog is CRAP.

 

Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters
Did You Notice? ... Keep On Asking, And You Will Receive A Qualifying Sigh Of Relief

If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.

Want even more Tom Bowles? Check out Tom's archive at SI.com.