The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: California Race Recap by Thomas Bowles -- Monday October 12, 2009

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: California Race Recap

Thomas Bowles · Monday October 12, 2009


Editor’s Note: Matt McLaughlin was off this week, so Managing Editor Tom Bowles filled in. Don’t worry, race fans, Matt just had a pre-planned vacation; he’ll be back in action for next Monday’s recap from Charlotte!

The Key Moment: Jimmie Johnson finally beat back a pesky Jeff Gordon after a series of frantic restarts over the final 15 laps of the race.

In a Nutshell: Hendrick Motorsports starts the day with a one-hour self-portrait documenting their success, and ends it with their cars 1-2-4. The perfect Hollywood script … one just wonders if even their fans themselves stayed awake to see the first 450 miles.

Of course, there is the small matter of that little prizefight to the finish. What does Matt call these? McRace? Well, with every McRace now comes that mysterious McDebris to bunch up the field and create an artificially contrived finish. I want to win McDonald’s Monopoly as much as the next person, but do we really have to bunch up the field and look for pieces with 15 laps left? Sounds unsportsmanlike to me.

Dramatic Moment: Every one of the last 15 laps, where it looked like a bomb exploded and lit a fire under the entire field.

Honorable Mention: Denny Hamlin taking the lead then subsequently wrecking himself on Juan Pablo Montoya’s front bumper.

Undramatic Moment: At one point, Jimmie Johnson was so dominant no one but Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick were within 10 seconds of him. If it wasn’t for Jamie McMurray’s crash, all but the top 15 cars would have been lapped by about Lap 100.

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

In need of additional sponsorship, NASCAR’s looking at renaming the Chase the “Hendrick Processional Parade: A 10-Week Success Story Narrated by a weeping Jack Roush.” OK, maybe I made that up. But it’s certainly not looking so good for everybody else. Not only did Hendrick cars have a 1-2-4 finish in the race, but Hendrick-supported cars took four of the top 5 spots and are 1-2-4-5 in the points, respectively. Looking ahead to the next two weeks, Johnson calls Lowe’s “his house” due to his five career wins there, and Hendrick cars have won eight of the last ten races at Martinsville. So unless Montoya wants to use his front bumper on anyone else not named Denny Hamlin, it’s time to turn out the lights everywhere else: they might as well write “Rick Hendrick chassis and engines” on the trophy and call it a day.

In NASCAR’s defense, there actually was a “piece of rubber” on the backstretch with 15 laps to go. Too bad Kasey Kahne chose to speak out the one time the actual piece of mystery debris was shown on television; I’m sure he’ll have a nice little apology all ramped up for later in the week. But if NASCAR is calling these late-race cautions in the interests of safety, what would you choose – and more importantly, which one is more safe?

Door #1: Leaving this miniscule chunk of rubber on the backstretch in the off-chance someone runs over it and cuts down a tire when there’s only 30 miles to go.
Door #2: Bunching up the field due to one piece of rubber, causing two wrecks that wipe out one-third of the field. One of those launches a driver into the air and occurs at the end of the frontstretch, involving eight cars going over 200 miles an hour.

Exciting? Yes; but the last time I checked, racing didn’t involve a roulette wheel.

Much has been made of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s sudden “surge” towards the front of the field as a sign crew chief Lance McGrew is finally turning things around. But even at his best, Junior was no better than the 5th-fastest Hendrick car all race, eventually caught up in a wreck not of his own making at the finish. Call it improvement, but I highly doubt Junior made the switch from DEI to run 5th or 6th on the Hendrick totem pole. Tell me they’ve improved when the No. 88 finally finishes what they started…

How much did John Skipper and ABC have to be banging their heads against the wall on Sunday? During a media conference call this week hocking consistent start times starting in 2010, a reporter asked Skipper, the Programming VP, what the network would do if a race would ever be pulled from the network if it infringed on the crucial 7:00 primetime hour. As you might remember, the last time that happened at Phoenix NASCAR faced the ugly scenario of being moved to ESPN for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Skipper adamantly denied that would ever happen again, going on the record with a decision they backed up in Sunday’s race. But here’s the ugly truth for NASCAR: going off the air long after 7:00, they preempted a program in “Videos” that had a 4.5 rating, 8 share, and 8 million viewers last Sunday. With no Chase race pulling more than a 3.2, it’s doubtful NASCAR came close to matching those numbers, meaning lost money and audience for the fledgling ABC network no matter how much we love our sport. The big money of the current TV contract gives Brian France some leverage in those situations right now; but the way these ratings are going, they can’t expect the same type of pull in 2013. It’s just not feasible.

Swept under the rug on a busy news weekend was a report ISC and SMI did try and buy Dover Downs back in 2007. A conflict between a small-time voting shareholder and Dover Motorsports Management made a letter public in which the two companies were hot on the trail of a potential sale before a deal fell through. Reading between the lines, though, you get the sense that the door isn’t fully closed, which if that happened would reduce the number of independent tracks to two (Pocono, Indianapolis) out of the nearly two dozen on the schedule. It’s one of the most incredible consolidations of power in the United States, let alone American sports, very similar to the type that’s going on in the Cup garage. Ten years ago, at least we had some version of rich and poor. Now, we’ve got rich, and a handful of desperate, starving vagabonds looking to simply walk away with some crumbs.

We had to wonder if Chad joined the masses shopping at souvenir trailers while his driver held a nearly 10 second lead at times on Sunday.

Here’s a new one: in an attempt to continually win over the media, Gillian Zucker actually held press availability during the race to put a positive spin on Auto Club Speedway. See, I knew there was a reason I always took the Fall race off! Anyways, from what I hear Ms. Zucker claimed the reason the stands looked half-full was there were thousands shopping underneath the stands and in the Fan Zone. Riiight … because people go to the race to not actually watch once the green flag drops. Even in L.A., where this happens all the time at sporting events, that’s a pretty hard sell. I’m not going to take a stab at an attendance number, but I can tell you based on accounts from the speedway and just looking at the camera shots 60-70% capacity would be a reach.

In Zucker’s defense, though, just when you thought California couldn’t hold an exciting race, they held a Nationwide Series free-for-all on Saturday. Between Joey Logano and Greg Biffle playing on-track bumper tag to the three-way battle between Denny Hamlin, Biffle, and Brad Keselowski that ended in wreckage, there was action all over the track from start to finish. Many will tell you the aggression came as a result of ten cautions that bunched up the field throughout. But in a race where pride, not points, were on the line for all but a handful of drivers, you saw everyone giving their best shot right from the drop of the green. It was a refresher that top-level talent can hold a great race on any type of track under the right circumstances. Now, to bring that aggressive attitude back to Sprint Cup week in, week out…

One interesting tidbit from Saturday is the Logano – Biffle feud, which ended in Joey’s father Tom getting involved in an off-track confrontation with Biffle on pit road. Now, I understand that Joey’s 19 and any father will go to great lengths to protect his children. With Biffle all but admitting a move to smoosh Logano’s car on the backstretch was payback, any parent who loves their child would be upset in that situation. But there comes a time and a place where those same people need to recognize their children are adults, ready to fight their own battles. For most people, that’s college … and at 19, Logano would already be a sophomore. Considering he’s about to be Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, I think a guy with a national fan base might be responsible enough to take matters into his own hands at this point…

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

The government allowed Richard Petty Motorsports to declare a state of emergency Sunday after all four of their cars were destroyed in a late-race wreck. Hardest hit was their lone Chaser, Kasey Kahne, who also was the innocent victim of Kurt Busch’s bounce off the wall which sent him spinning through the infield with 10 laps left. No wonder he was so cranky and did things like accuse NASCAR of fixing races. On a related note, doesn’t it look like everyone at RPM is deathly afraid/confused of what’s going to happen next season? It’s like George Gillett announced a merger with the NC State Prison. Somebody smile already!

Denny Hamlin went from hero to goat after a jump on the restart wasn’t enough for him to clear Juan Pablo Montoya’s front bumper. To his credit, though, Hamlin manned up after the incident and took blame for making a mistake that took him from first place to out of the title Chase in a little less than 15 seconds.

David Gilliland’s career is in a do-or-die scenario as he prepares for a golden opportunity: three races behind the wheel of a fourth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. So when Kyle Busch was too sick to finish the 500 miles, Gilliland got a head start by jumping from his start-and-park No. 71 right into the No. 18 car. But he was never able to make the adjustment as a super sub, finishing a disappointing 24th, two laps off the pace. In the process, he never expressed his disappointment in having to park the car he qualified in a TV interview, failing to say even the name of the team (TRG Motorsports) or mentioned their lack of funding in running over to greener pastures. I don’t know about you, but the whole concept of a guy starting-and-parking to go in the Big Boy ride just made me a little sick to my stomach … remember when we had 43 teams and that would never happen?

Brian Vickers has been the king of intermediate tracks all year, but he’s now been out to lunch for two straight weeks. That eight-car wreck late in the race took him out of his misery after running 30th for most of the second half with no right rear shock.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Jimmie Johnson seemed to have the world stacked against him Sunday. His team lost him a total of a dozen spots on pit road, costing him the lead virtually every yellow flag stop. Then NASCAR threw a slew of debris cautions to bunch up the field and keep his dominant car from lapping everyone. Add in his Chevy’s one weakness – it took about 2-3 laps to get going – and Jeff Gordon just about stole a win at the end of the race. But Johnson had enough of a final restart to pull it out.

Tony Stewart lost a lap due to a pit road speeding penalty, but used the wave around penalty to get it right back (which is becoming way too easy to do: see Did You Notice? Wednesday for more.) Once back on the lead lap, Stewart’s crew nearly blew it again by keeping their driver out on older tires about ten laps later than the rest of the field. When the debris caution flew, the No. 14 was coming off pit road in 20th place; but a call for fresher tires during a slew of late-race cautions gave them speed to jump to fifth at the finish.

It’s been a horrific year for Richard Childress Racing, highlighted by Kevin Harvick’s interview this weekend in which he admitted things we all knew months ago: he wanted out at RCR this year except Childress balked, and he’ll be sitting in a new ride come February 2011. At least three cars in the top 11 gives them something to build on for an intermediate track program that’s been God awful all year.

Kurt Busch looked like dead meat after slamming the outside wall with 10 to go, taking out Kahne and fellow Chaser Greg Biffle in the melee. The car was smoking so bad, it seemed all but certain NASCAR would have to throw the black flag, a tire would blow … or a combination of both in the final 10 miles. But shockingly enough, he held on, limping home 8th in a run that kept his faint title hopes alive.

Worth Noting

  • Jimmie Johnson has now won 16 of 54 (30%) Chase races, the most of any driver. He and Mark Martin are now tied for the league lead this season in wins (5).
  • Jeff Gordon now has two straight runner-up finishes and a career-high eight this season (to go with only one win).
  • Juan Pablo Montoya (3rd) is the only driver with top 5 finishes in all four Chase races.
  • Carl Edwards (6th) scored his best Chase finish since winning Homestead in 2008. Last year, he’d led 179 laps after four races. As for this one? He’s stuck at 3.
  • David Ragan (7th) had his first top 10 finish since the Daytona 500.
  • Casey Mears (11th) has four straight top 20s for the first time all season.
  • Michael Waltrip (17th) had his best finish since Pocono in June.
  • John Andretti (19th) had just his third top 20 finish all season.
  • Reed Sorenson (31st) has wrecked in three straight races – ever since it went public he’s been racing for free. He may not be making $$$, but he’s certainly making things costly on the way out the door…
  • The top 10 drove seven Chevys, two Fords, and a Dodge. Chevy swept the top 5 positions in the race, while their closest rival (Toyota) could do no better than 14th with Joey Logano.
  • Speaking of Logano, that finish gave him Rookie of the Race honors for the 21st time this season.

What’s the Points?

With Jimmie Johnson taking the victory, he also jumped on top of the standings by 12 points over Mark Martin. It’s the first time Martin’s lost the lead in the Chase, but he’s still 46 up on Juan Pablo Montoya in third. Tony Stewart held serve in fourth, while Jeff Gordon jumped two spots to round out the top 5.

Kurt Busch dropped two spots to sixth. The Roushketeers now run seventh and eighth, with Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards gaining one and two spots, respectively. Denny Hamlin’s DNF had him tumbling down to ninth, with Ryan Newman rounding out the top 10.

Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers remained 11th and 12th. It’s the battle for 13th behind them that’s gaining some intensity, with Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, and David Reutimann separated by a total of 87 points.

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 two shots of really bad vodka, the last one mixed with a little bit of Red Bull. The first half seemed destined to put you to sleep; but when all seemed lost, the last 15 laps were so wild they couldn’t help but hold your attention.

Next Up: It’s the final primetime race of the season, as teams and drivers head home to Lowe’s in Charlotte for a Saturday night showdown under the lights.

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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…


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10/12/2009 01:34 AM

Hey Matt – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 4 races into 2009 chase. That’s 54 chase races, not 44. I haven’t checked Johnson’s win number you cite at 16 chase races, but please get the math right. Johnson has never missed a Chase (obviously) so he’s ran 54 of them now. Sorry, I just get tired of reading incorrect stats, seems to happen at a frightening rate here on Frontstretch.

Kevin in SoCal
10/12/2009 01:45 AM

So Tom drew the short straw and had to write up the California recap. I should have known Matt would pass on it. I figured he’d pull out the same column he wrote about this race last year.
As you all know, I was there at the track. The beginning of the race was great with Denny Hamlin and then Juan Pablo Montoya leading. But then Jimmie Johnson took over and put such a spanking on the field, I swear I could hear the sound of TV’s switching channels. I havent watched the race on TV yet, so I dont know about the debris cautions, but the accidents sure spiced things up a bit. Jimmie needs to put new rookies on his pit crew every week. Then when he loses a spot or two leaving pit road, it gives the rest of us a slight hope that maybe he wont win after all. Then 3 laps later he blows past the field, has a 5+ second lead, and we all go back to sleep. I knew I should have called Las Vegas and put $100 on Jimmie to win. I might have made back $105.
From my seat just past the start/finish line, there were more than 70,000 fans in the stands. The edges of turn 4 and especially turn 1 were empty, but the rest of the stands were filled in quite nicely. I think your estimate of 60-70% of 92,000 seats is wrong.
The best part of the day was listening to MRN radio interviewing drivers before the race. One reporter asked Mark Martin how important it was to lead laps and get bonus points. I swear I could see the expression on Mark’s face as he looked at the reporter increduously. Then a few minutes later, a question was asked to Tony Stewart if he ever thought about the points during the race. He responded that it wasnt his job to worry about the points during the race. That was the media’s job, and if he did that job too then we wouldnt need the media around any more asking stupid question. I laughed so hard the people behind me asked what was so funny.
And speaking of MRN, this was the first time I listened to them during a race. I dont know why the fans say to turn off the volume on the TV and listen to MRN. I heard just as many commercials as I see on TV, and the radio people spent a lot of time doing interviews and not discussing the race during green flag racing. What gives?
Overall, I had an awesome time at the track. I got to meet D.J. Copp, Kenny Wallace, Jimmy Spencer, and John Roberts. I got to see the Sprint Cup Trophy, walk on the track, and I was on TV during NASCAR Raceday several times. I hope I can go back again in February, or even go to Las Vegas or Phoenix next year.
And how about that Nationwide race on Saturday? That was friggin’ awesome and gave hope that Sunday’s race would be better. But alas, Jimmie Johnson made sure that wasnt the case.

Bad Wolf
10/12/2009 01:53 AM

Seemed like every time I would surf over to ABC to see what was going on the 48 car was all alone with a single file parade behind him. Yawn.

I did hear the Kasey Kahne interview where he called out Nascar for the B.S. caution, then the spin from Nascar apologist Brad Dourety. Brad, I think Kasey has a lot better veiw from the track than you have in the press booth. Your statement that he could not possibly see the “Water Bottles that were thrown on the track” is the lamest attempt at a save I have ever heard.

Kevin in SoCal
10/12/2009 02:11 AM

Two things I forgot. Did you hear Kasey Kahne’s MRN radio interview after his accident? Obviously he was upset over wrecking out, as he called the track boring, the racing boring, and called out NASCAR for having to throw a caution to make things exciting. Wow. You California-haters must have loved it.
Second, the crowd was VERY pro-48, as every time Jimmie passed the leader the crowd cheered as if it was Dale Jr at any other track.

Bad Wolf
10/12/2009 02:26 AM

So the crowd cheered once, when Jimmy passed the leader?

From the little snippets I saw from the second half that race was poetry in motion. I would compare it to the skill and grace one would see from figure skating.

Kevin in SoCal
10/12/2009 02:38 AM

No, Jimmie’s crew would lose him a few spots on every pit stop, and he’d have to actually work hard for a couple laps to get back up front. Then the crowd would cheer and go wild for him as he put the car back on cruise control.

Managing Editor
10/12/2009 03:21 AM


A couple of things real quick …

1st off: Matt Math, thank you. However, you must have caught this column right as it was posted. A late editor had yet to go through and the stat was corrected, the mistake wasn’t there for long and would have been caught. We haven’t made a stat mistake in weeks, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a correction so I see we’re doing a great job. Sorry you disagree … by the way, I (Tom) did the column this week, Matt’s on vacation.

Kevin … 70% of 92,000 is 64,400. I can buy MAYBE 60,000 … even Zucker said sales were flat at best, which means it can’t be more than 70K. My guess is it was about 55% capacity, and attendance for Nationwide looked atrocious (although the race was the best stock car one put on at that track).

Thanks for the comments all.

10/12/2009 06:55 AM

On Hendrick dominance: Could someone explain to me how Hendrick is allowed to supply engines, chassis, and technical support to two additional cars in addition to their four, while Jack Roush has to give up one of his five? Roush never dominated like Hendrick is now, you’d think NASCAR would come down on Hendrick like they did on Roush.

Oh, I forgot…the Golden Boy drives for Hendrick now. Back when he was driving for a two car team and missing the Chase, a five car team doing well was a problem. But the team Junior drives for can run essentially six cars with no trouble.

I’m a Jeff Gordon fan and even I think that’s a bunch of horse s***.

Bill B
10/12/2009 07:21 AM

I am tired of the debris cautions. It has become very obvious that NASCAR is using them to attempt to orchestrate “exciting” races.
I’d prefer seeing someone with a good car lap the field rather than contrived cautions.

The Turnip!
10/12/2009 07:44 AM


Hey, how about you becoming my accountant! I could use the extra cash!

And, for Kevin in Socal, I now know what you look like!

The TV cameras scanned the stands, and showed a close up of the TWO (2) spectators, I just didn’t know if you were the one on the right, or the left!



Were you also counting hot dog wrappers?

10/12/2009 08:19 AM

Might’ve been a better race had Hamlin not taken himself out.

Hey, it was a hell of a lot better use of 3 plus hours than the Browns-Bills, Giants-Raiders or half a dozen other NFL games yesterday.

Ed - Georgia
10/12/2009 08:26 AM

Looked like they had a race at Fontana and no one showed up to watch it. I’d say 60% was a really big stretch. The stands were virtually empty, frontstretch and all. 70,000?? I don’t think so.

Kevin in NYC
10/12/2009 09:00 AM

“the fledgling ABC network”

It’s been around since 1948.

Carl D.
10/12/2009 09:08 AM

I’ve been trashing the Fontana track for years, so I must now eat some crow and say that the track can actually host a pretty decent race. The Nationwide race Saturday was one of the best races I’ve seen this year. NO COT, no Chase format, and what a race it was! Too bad only maybe eight people actually showed up at the track to watch it. Ironically, at least twice that number showed up the next day for the Cup race and saw 470 miles of nap-inducing monotony followed by 30 laps of actual racing dominated by HMS teams (plus Monotoya). Can it get much worse?

10/12/2009 09:16 AM

So it’s Hendrick’s 25th…at a California track…with two California boys up front.

Yeah…this is exciting. As much as watching paint dry.

10/12/2009 09:19 AM

More people go to Pole Night at Charlotte Motor Speedway than were at the Nationwide race Saturday. That was seriously pathetic. As for Sunday, did you all notice all but about one debris caution came out during commercials? How stupid does NASCAR think we are? Let the race play out on the track and stop effing with it already!

P on U
10/12/2009 10:21 AM

Boo Nascrap! Yet another race where they have ‘tampered’ with the out come. What a bunch of BS. At least Kasey let them know what was up. I can’t remeber the last time a driver called out Nascrap! I’m sure he has a scar on his forehead today from Nascrap re-programming him. What a bunch of sh$%!

This ‘sport’ is fixed!

10/12/2009 10:37 AM

There was a race in California on Sunday? There was football on my big screen Sunday and the games were great! No Jimmie Johnson in sight!

Fat Willie
10/12/2009 10:57 AM

Am I blind, or what? No one mentioned JJ pushing Montoya on the restart when Hamlin came down as the writers say to block.I didn’see it that way. Many drivers come down low before the turn only to drift up going thru the turn. I don’t know if that was Hamlin’s intentions but his spotter probably did not see he didn’t have room. Maybe he was blocking. And JJ pushing is not illegal but he should have been more patient, the race was a long time from being over. My take is that JJ should take part of the blame for the wreck. I guess JJ will win a forth title but I’m pulling for Martin.. If it weren’t for him Hendrick and all his operation can go up in blue blazes for all that I care. His money can buy almost anything even keep him out of prison. Guess that was why he wanted to help Haas and Stewart while Haas was serving his time…

stan schmidt
10/12/2009 11:45 AM

Matt, isn’t is a little curious that since all hendrick cars are supposed to have the same engines, that jj was able to drive away from the 24 on the straightaway on the restart. It would be interesting to see the speeds at the end of the straights during the race. Also gordon needs to get a crewchief that believes that winning is the way to win a championship.

10/12/2009 12:01 PM

Tom , could you elaborate a little bit on your theory that the chunk of rubber on the backstretch could have cut down a tire ?
Or let us know what a “ small time voting shareholder “ might be . And what type of family were you raised in ? Apparently one where after a certain age , the kids are on their own . I’d certainly jump in to defend my son , no matter what his age . And i’m sure he’d do the same for me . And i’m well past college age .

Kevin in SoCal
10/12/2009 12:06 PM

Douglas and Ed: Virtually empty? Two people in the stands? Oh please. Were you only paying attention to the edges of the grandstand in turns 1 and 4? Those were the only empty sections. Or did you get Saturday and Sunday confused? Yes the Nationwide race attendance was very sparse, at best.
After I left the set of NASCAR Raceday and went to my seat, with about 30 minutes left before green flag, there were still A LOT of people at the merchandise trailers, concession stands, and the bathroom.

10/12/2009 12:28 PM

i’m beginning to think that na$car doesn’t want ganassi to win a race. montoya was way in the lead and bam, mystery debri caution. this is becomming a joke. whomever got out front took off. i didn’t want to see another jj win, or hendrick team (satelite team) for that matter. jr, if that boy didn’t have bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck. and jr being in top 10 during race is big news these days. wow….sad. can we give johnson the trophy now?

i did enjoy, very much, the nationwide race. of course they run different car. i guess nationwide races will be the same crap when they go to the cot. i can understand the safety and all, but man!

and now a smaller plate for ‘dega. that will just bunch them up even moreso. i thought they gave them a slightly larger plate a few years ago to aid the drivers in avoiding wrecks. now back to square 1. i mean ‘dega did increase the height of the catch fence.

sot his week we’ll hear about the lowes house and johnson being the owner of that track. yawn. didn’t lowes not renew their sponsorship of the track? will it revert back to charlotte motorspeedway?

Ford fan
10/12/2009 12:34 PM

Attended the Nationwide race on Saturday and it was fantastic. I think besides what Tom mentioned about most of the drivers racing for pride not points, I saw a couple more reasons why it was so competitive. First, Kyle and Joey got out of the mix early because of an accident and illness. Otherwise Kyle/Denny or Joey would have put a whopping on the field.Second the race was only 300 miles. Making it 300 miles made each lap mean more and ratched up the intensity. The racing was great. I wasn’t there Sunday but 500 miles is too long and bores both the crowd at the racetrack and watching on television. No excuses for the poor attendance on Sunday. It looked like close to the same attendance figures as in February when the weather was rainy and cold. I would say the economy and the high prices for tickets played a big factor. The seats that sold were the 35 and 55 dollar tickets. Paying 75 and 105 is too much in these times.

The Turnip!
10/12/2009 01:12 PM

ok, ok, maybe a few more than just two (2), but not by many.

And for the record, I turned the channel to the California fiasco just twice, for maybe a total of four (4) laps.
Once when they were showing Newman, for whatever reason, and then later when the caution was out, but I didn’t stay long enough to know why this caution was flying, BUT! My point, is that during the “Newman” part, they panned (mistakenly I assume) the stands and low and behold, from the view it looked like more seats were vacant than occupied! (right, they were all out in the restrooms and buying soveniers)

And this was ALL ALONG the main straight!

Oh, as a reminder to everyone, Jeff Gordon “owns” JJ’s car, so don’t think there is different “equipment” in the 48 from the 24!


Make no mistake!

10/12/2009 01:17 PM

I have an idea to determine the champion. Race twice at each track and take the better finish of the two.

10/12/2009 01:36 PM

I will never understand the massive amount of discussion in this column relative to the attendance at a given race (and only when there are empty seats, by the way).

Hey Turnip, when was the last race you actually attended? My guess is that if they had a race next door to you and offered free admission, you wouldn’t go, so what do you care? Are you a shareholder in the corporation or something?

I go to three races a year, put my money where my mouth is, and could care less if there were 10,000 or a 100 thousand in attendance. It’s always a great experience in person…TV, not so much. But you just keep watching on your Philco for your 4 laps a week, so that we can hear what a bore it was. Always good to hear from an expert

Kevin in SoCal
10/12/2009 01:44 PM

The overnight TV ratings for this California race were 3.0. That was higher than the 2.5, 2.7, and 2.6 for the first three races. So let me guess, the people watching at home turned to the race, immediately fell asleep, and werent able to change the channel, right?
And with the attention paid to the new universal start times for next years races, it really makes me question the intelligence of NASCAR fans. How difficult is it to read a TV Guide? We all know the races are on ABC right now, and all but one are on Sunday afternoons. I guess I’m spoiled because I press the “GUIDE” button on my remote, search for “NASCAR RACING” and press “RECORD.” How difficult is that?

10/12/2009 02:12 PM

You checked the bathroom for extra people at the track, Kevin?

Seriously, consistent start times are good because it’s a pain in the ass to look for when the race starts, and also because those of us on the east coast (no offense) would like to eat dinner after the race, not during it. I have no problem with the Fontana race starting at 4, but I’m sick of getting ready for bed right after the Daytona 500. So I applaud the move. Not all of us are willing to pay for Tivo/DVR etc.

Remember, NASCAR wants that “casual fan”. Casual NFL fans know when the games come on and don’t have to look it up.

10/12/2009 03:10 PM

33 people voted ZERO beers for the race!?
Dont watch anymore then
Your a bunch of cry baby asswipes

Bill B
10/12/2009 03:43 PM

I gave it two beers this morning but since it bothered you so much bill I just re-voted for zero….LOL.

10/12/2009 05:06 PM

People actually spend money to attend a race at Fontana? I did twice and still regret it after all these years.

I don’t know anyone who even watch’s it on TV. Fontana sucks and always will.

10/12/2009 05:59 PM

Ok ,What I did notice when ABC showed the debries was the little buggy racing away from the are of the debrie(look to the right of the screen) What was that doing there?

10/12/2009 06:08 PM

Zero beers. Johnson won. Shocker!!! As a long time fan, this stuff is too much. I didn’t watch a race for the first time in years. It’s Monday afternoon and I just checked to see who won. Johnson!! wow. How about that Hendricks processional parade. Makes for great racing! Notice my sarcasm. It’s getting to the point where bowling is more exciting to watch then nas$car.

Kevin in SoCal
10/12/2009 06:08 PM

Yes Mike, myself and three other friends spent money to buy four tickets. Two of my friends had not been back since 1999, and the other was last there in 2007. I hadnt been there for a NASCAR race since 2003. We all had a great time, and made plans to come back again in February and/or October next year. The track isnt as much a problem as the terrible ESPN coverage and commercials every 3 laps. Not to mention NASCAR’s use of the yellow flag for no reason, and not throwing the yellow for a good reason. There was some great racing the first 100 laps for once, as Hamlin, Montoya, Martin, and Johnson all led several times. But once Johnson got hooked up and ran away with it by over 5 seconds, it became a bore. It wasnt until the last few laps, when NASCAR decided to influence the outcome to break up Johnson’s dominance, that the fireworks happened again.

stan schmidt
10/12/2009 10:47 PM

Hey turnip, gordon may own jj’s car but he doesn’t build or pick the engines jj uses. That engine that jj had was in a class of its own. Somebody should be looking for the nitrous bottle. Yes chad is a genius but with that motor jj could start anywhere and still run everybody down.

10/12/2009 11:37 PM

Knaus won? What a concept. I never give JJ credit for any win, just like the early space program, he’s just the monkey along for the ride. Give me a “rulebook” and access to Knaus’s car and I bet I can find a violation. NA$CAR never will ‘cause they’re well on their way to the coveted 4 time Chumpionship.

Michael in SoCal
10/13/2009 03:11 PM

Jim (at 1:36 pm) – Hear, hear… as in “Hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!”

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
10/13/2009 11:44 PM

Here is something that nobody has mentioned…


He messed up the second verse, and then skipped one. Nice work guy. Maybe next time they can get Carl Lewis to belt it out. “UH OH!!!”


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