The Frontstretch: Frontstretch Breakdown : Samsung/Radio Shack 500 by Thomas Bowles -- Monday April 10, 2006

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Frontstretch Breakdown : Samsung/Radio Shack 500

Thomas Bowles · Monday April 10, 2006

 

To the Point: On the race’s final restart, Kasey Kahne took off like a rocket ship, leaving the rest of the field in his dust and coasting to victory in Sunday’s Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas. Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the Top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Greg Biffle. Speaking of taking off like a rocket ship, that analogy may not have adequately described how good Biffle’s car was this day. Starting 5th, Biffle’s 16 car roared towards the front, taking the lead by lap 12 and immediately stretching out an advantage of over 7 seconds on the rest of the field by the 50-lap mark. Although the race remained in its early stages, one was beginning to wonder not IF Biffle was going to win, but by how much. Then, the first caution of the race for a spring rubber on Lap 65 changed everything. With the field just having made green flag pit stops, several cars chose to stay out on five-lap old tires, and Biffle found himself back in the pack for the restart. No longer in clean air, Biffle’s car took a little more time working its way through the field, but clearly remained the best car. However, on lap 82, while attempting to maneuver past Kurt Busch on the back straightaway, Biffle’s car turned to the right to finish his pass"¦except the 16 car found the front bumper of Busch’s vehicle still in its way. Five seconds later, Biffle’s car was in the wall and totaled, the front of Busch’s car was ruined, and for the 3rd time this year, a possible win for the Biff resulted in a DNF instead.

Five Questions You Should be Asking After the Race Weekend:
1) Are you SURE this is the same Kurt Busch that was employed at Roush Racing for seven years?

If there were any lingering friendships from Busch’s seven years at Roush, he’s doing everything he possibly can to rip them to shreds. First, Busch bumps Matt Kenseth out of the way at Bristol, now he’s involved in an incident with Greg Biffle at Texas that takes out what may have been the best car in the field. Let’s not even mention the Kevin Harvick fiasco"¦while this week’s incident may not have been 100% his fault, if I were Kurt, I’d be working on an assumed name and a fake moustache for Phoenix, because several drivers will be gunning for him.

2) Who would have won in a "catfight," Kurt Busch’s fiancée Eva or Greg Biffle’s girlfriend Nicole?

Things never got quite that far"¦but you’d better believe most male TV watchers on Sunday (and many females as well) were thinking about the answer to that question when Nicole strolled over to "talk" to Eva atop Kurt Busch’s pit box on Sunday. Those drivers may not be able to say what’s on their minds all the time"¦but their girls apparently have no problem speaking the truth!

3) How can NASCAR not determine what type of debris is on the race track?

OK"¦so you’re telling me there are electronic scoring loops set up all over the track, some of the best technology out there to help freeze the field during a caution flag"¦and NASCAR can’t invest in a few cameras to zoom in and find out whether debris on the track necessitates a caution? Worst case scenario, they can’t borrow the FOX feed to figure it out? Come on.

4) Is this year’s crop of rookies something, or what?

After a rough two weeks at Bristol at Martinsville that resulted in zero Top 10s for the rookies, two of them cracked the Top 10 at Texas, with Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. both having the best points finishes of their seasons in 4th and 8th. Not only that, but Reed Sorenson, J.J. Yeley, and Clint Bowyer all found themselves in the Top 5 at one point before suffering a variety of late-race problems. While this group may not be ready yet to win a points race"¦I’m no longer so sure that will be the case for the entire season. What a talented group.

5) How must Jeremy Mayfield feel right about now?

Poor Mayfield lost his Nextel Cup Team Director with whom he was working so well, Kenny Francis, to Kasey Kahne’s team this offseason in a restructuring move to bring the 9 team back to the front. Since then, Kahne’s made it to Victory Lane twice, while Mayfield has only one Top 20 finish, with his 31st place run on Sunday putting his team 36th in owner points and forcing him to qualify on speed April 22nd at Phoenix. Can you say ouch?

Solid Runs
Matt Kenseth: Early on, it looked like Kenseth’s day would be a disaster after running into the back of Scott Riggs car on pit road. For once, though, the luck pendulum swung the 17 team’s way, and the damage to the car wasn’t serious"¦Kenseth rallied and carved his way through the field and back to a 2nd place finish, closing the gap on points leader Jimmie Johnson.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick soldiered on to a 5th place finish at Texas, using late pit strategy to work his way up towards the front when it counted. Most importantly, it was his first Top 5 on a superspeedway since Las Vegas LAST March, proving the 29 team is moving back towards being a weekly contender at any type of track. Three straight Top 10s and 9th in points certainly beefs up Harvick’s status heading into contract negotiations with RCR during the next few weeks.

Jeff Burton: After the bad luck bug bit one of this season’s biggest surprises, Burton recovered from three straight finishes outside the Top 20 with a 6th place run on Sunday to get him right back in the thick of the race for the Chase.

Bobby Labonte: 10th place may not mean much to Nextel Cup’s weekly frontrunners, but to a team like Petty Enterprises, it means the world, especially when its the second Top 10 in three races for the 43 team, backing up Labonte’s 10th place qualifying effort with a solid finish. More importantly, Labonte moved the 43 back to 30th place in owner points and locked the team back into the starting field"¦for now.

Tough Days
Greg Biffle: See above. Biffle finished 42nd, and dropped to 23rd in driver points, 406 behind Jimmie Johnson and currently out of the Chase.

Carl Edwards: Every time the 99 team seems to right the ship, Edwards appears to be shooting himself in the foot in what is becoming a very up and down sophomore season. A contender to win, Edwards led 3 times on the day for 50 laps"¦but then got himself in the high groove and spun himself out while running 2nd, nearly taking out Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon in a long, lonely spin into the inside wall on the backstretch. Edwards finished 36th.

Jeff Gordon: Speaking of Jeff Gordon, he’s never won at Texas, and Sunday reminded all of us why"¦his luck and his car are never good here. Gordon’s car handled terribly, and he had a rear tire go down late in the race, putting him two laps behind. Then he found himself the victim of a hard knock from Carl Edwards"¦a disappointed Gordon finished 22nd.

Jamie McMurray: It’s one thing to have a car handle so bad you have to pull it behind the wall because you can’t drive it"¦it’s another for that car to belong to Roush Racing. McMurray’s season clearly hit a low point Sunday, as the race became a test session for one of Roush’s five teams at a track where they’ve clearly had good setups and good race cars through the years. McMurray’s 37th place finish dropped him to 21st in points and raised questions about just how well that team is clicking, if at all.

Points Shuffle:
For the first time in a few weeks, the points leader remained unchanged after Sunday, as Jimmie Johnson held onto the lead by 13 over Matt Kenseth despite a ho-hum 11th place run that saw him go a lap down at one point. Although Kahne’s two wins technically put him third in points, he and Mark Martin find themselves tied, 46 points back, with Tony Stewart rounding out the Top 5.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. moved up to sixth in the standings, with Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Casey Mears finishing out the Top 10. Mears has a 17 point advantage on Dale Jarrett for that 10th spot, currently 218 points behind Jimmie Johnson.

Seven races in, there are now just 21 drivers within that Chase magic number of 400 points, with Jamie McMurray being the last driver "in" the Chase if the regular season ended today. Among those drivers who would currently miss the cut: Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Joe Nemechek, and Robby Gordon.

Quotable:
"We had a really great racecar. The Dodge Charger was awesome. We started out really loose and fell back to sixth or seventh. We just kind of let the car come to me. We were just fortunate enough to hit the adjustments right late in the race and made "˜em better on that final stop, and had a great racecar those final 20 laps." Kasey Kahne

"Awesome race for us"¦it was so much fun racing Kasey (Kahne). I’m glad he won. My congratulations to him, (owner) Ray Evernham, and their guys. We had nothing for them there at the end. We put on a set of tires at the end of the race in an effort to be a little bit tighter so that we could run harder, but ended up being freer." Tony Stewart

"I don’t know what he (Greg Biffle) was doing. I was a lapped car trying to get out of the way. He had trouble passing the 21, and he checked up down the straightaway. I tried not to get into him. I had nowhere to go. He had a fast racecar. He caught me from like 20 car lengths back in like a lap, so I don’t know why he couldn’t pass the 21. I was just trying to get out of the way." Kurt Busch

"(Kurt Busch) just ran into the back of me and turned me into the fence. It was clear that we had a winning car"¦you’ve got to have a little bit of respect for the other drivers you’re racing with and Kurt hasn’t shown respect, or that surely wasn’t showing respect." Greg Biffle

"Something happened in front of us. I saw Casey Mears get sideways, but I’m pretty sure Sterling Marlin’s hair piece just got in his eyes and he couldn’t see what was going on." Ryan Newman, after being turned by Sterling Marlin and wrecked in Turns 1 & 2. Newman finished 40th.

Next Up:
The Nextel Cup series takes its first week off in over a month to celebrate the Easter holiday. They’ll be back in full force April 22nd at Phoenix for a Saturday night race under the lights at the one-mile track. The Subway Fresh 500 will be held at 8 P.M. EST LIVE on FOX.

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Rajeev Jaswal
04/10/2006 08:59 AM
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No mention of Stewart’s solid run again…this is irating.

Connie
04/10/2006 09:07 AM
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Your bias against Tony Stewart is almost laughable. A driver comes from 40th to first in under 100 laps, leads the most laps of the race & finishes 3rd has had a pretty “solid” run. Last week, Tony also led the most laps, but according to you, he shouldn’t have won the race. I know this is your view of things, but, you have a very short sided view….

Anonymous
04/10/2006 09:28 AM
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Well Connie that’s the beauty of opinions…he can have his and you can have yours :)

Connie
04/10/2006 11:55 AM
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Anonymous…(not brave enough to list your name??) At least I have the facts to back up my opinion.

Connie
04/10/2006 12:41 PM
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Tony Stewart had the best car. As mentioned above he came from the very back and lead the most laps. Much more impressive than Biffle ’s run (all 82 laps). Biffle was running on the bottom and moves all the way to the top cutting off Busch and almost stops in front of Busch and then whines that Busch should have let up. First of all who would think Biffle was going to make such a bone head move? Pass a car on the far inside and then move two lanes up?? As hard as Busch hit Biffle, Biffle had to have slowed up, most likely scared of the wall at that point. Their was no way such a GREAT car pulling in front of a lap car wouldn’t be going fast enough for only a wiggle type bump to happen. Busch most likely had no time to let up to save Biffle. I am so sick of everything being Busch’s fault. I by no means am his fan but these drivers have to own up to their own mistakes. Busch has became the whipping boy of Nascar. Alot of drivers have to envy Busch for getting the #2 ride. In case you wonder go #8.

T. Bowles
04/10/2006 02:07 PM
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Hey guys,

I rarely publicly answer comments (email me and I’ll always respond), but this has been going on for a couple of weeks, so I felt compelled to answer the Stewart criticism.

For the “Solid Runs” section of the Breakdown, I try and pick drivers who truly felt when they got out of the car at the end of the day, they had a solid performance. The four drivers listed fit that criteria.

Stewart’s third place run was solid, but he was far from satisfied with it, considering he had one of the fastest cars for much of the race. As for last week, Gordon had the fastest car at the end of the race and was clearly gaining on Stewart. Therefore, I felt he should have won had circumstances fallen his way.

I have no bias whatsoever against Stewart or any other driver. If I was so biased against Stewart, why would I include him in the Quotable section congratulating Kasey Kahne and showing he was a factor in the race? If Stewart was the one closing on Gordon and came up short in Martinsville, I would have written the same blurb on Tony. That, of course, is my opinion…I welcome and respect all of yours, but I respectfully disagree.

Thanks for reading!

Connie
04/10/2006 02:22 PM
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Thanks for addressing this. I apologize if indeed there is no bias on your part. It’s just that when a driver comes from 22 in points to 5th in 5 races, leads the most laps in the last 3 races & has one win is barely mentioned during that time frame, it seems to be a glaring, deliberate ommision.

(from the first Connie)

Rajeev Jaswal
04/10/2006 07:45 PM
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Thanks for clearing the air. Being a huge “Smoke” fan, it’s irating to see that week in and week out his name is not mentioned in any of the list despite his strong runs. He has been a model of consistency and hopefully will satisfy all the criterias set forth by you to make your list :I
Connie: As for the Busch brothers, I guess they have a penchant for making few friends on the race track. Looks like Kurt is gradually cutting his ties with his old team mates. So far he has successfully managed to rub Burton, Kenseth and Biffle the wrong way. That was clearly Busch’s fault on Sunday. He could have easily checked up and avoid that disaster which took him out of the race too.

Jay
04/11/2006 04:13 AM
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Robbie has horrible luck. Twice he pits under green and a caution comes out. The first time he stays on the lead lap ahead of the leaders and pulls away and earns his lap back the old fashioned way. The second time it’s to late in the race to recover.

 

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