NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2008 Dover Spring Race Recap

The Key Moment: Kyle Busch emerged from the pits with the lead after a green-flag sequence of stops and drove off into the sunset.

In a Nutshell: The day started out in the Hollywood Hotel, and ended with Kyle Busch checking out.

Dramatic Moment: In a day where there were damn few of them, I guess the nods goes to the lap 19 melee Elliott Sadler triggered.

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

This is Dover. This is Dover with the new car. Any more questions? (Visualize a frying egg here).

Does that new suite area that stretches over the track block drivers’ vision of what’s going on ahead of them at corner exit, leading to a mess like the big wreck?

Busch’s quote of the week after being asked a question he found stupid: “Duh.” Did he pick up that one at charm school or in the second grade?

Still think that Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t the most popular driver in the sport? Did you notice the mass exodus out of the grandstands when the No. 88 car was taken to the garage?

To be consistent, I have to give NASCAR credit. At least on Sunday, they didn’t attempt to resuscitate a moribund race with an artificial “debris” caution at the end.

It appears some of my fellow pundits missed the biting sarcasm in Tony Stewart’s post-wreck comments. No, Stewart didn’t apologize and admit fault for the wreck. He sarcastically noted that running within a half-lap of Sadler puts a driver in the danger zone. He was clearly blaming Sadler for the wreck.

Speaking of debris, I noticed a few beverage cans being tossed onto the track late in Saturday’s race. And here’s the weird part: Busch was already out of the race by then.

Yeah, the weather forecast was grim, but even at that the crowd in the grandstands Saturday was just embarrassingly small. You gotta wonder if there’s a growing number of people not willing to burn a tank of gas going to a Nationwide race to see another Joe Gibbs Toyota stomp the rest of the field.

STAFF SIDE-BY-SIDE: TOO MUCH, TOO SOON FOR JOEY LOGANO?

Speaking of Joey Logano, is he really that talented, or could just about anyone run up front in a JGR car right now? My guess is it’s some combination of the two. The kid did drove a clean, smart race and caught a sideways car coming down the front straight to the checkered flag. My suggestion is just that he not take any more suggestions for surviving the first 20 laps of a race from Denny Hamlin.

When you’ve been around as long as I have, you tend to think you’ve seen it all at a racetrack – but admittedly, I’d never seen a jet dryer blow a portion of pit road into the air like that.

And on a brighter note, FOX’s reign of terror covering the 2008 Cup series is over. Fans will likely feel like they’ve gone deaf with Darrell Waltrip out of the booth, and trailer park residents reporting seeing space aliens after drinking a 30-pack will take over mangling the English language from Larry McReynolds. Among the things I’d like to see FOX leave at home when they come back next year are the Hollywood Hotel and its residents, the Digger cam and graphics, most of the pre-race show, and that annoying little ditty they’ve opened every broadcast with. It’s so bad even FOX stopped promoting it.

Speaking of FOX, it seemed even the boys of the booth seemed to be lapsing into a coma and struggling to find anything to say as the Busch runaway wore down to its conclusion.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

You had to feel for Stewart. He drove his severely wounded racecar around the track for hours and didn’t make up even a single position.

A valid point could be made that the 42 drivers who weren’t Busch had a long afternoon on Sunday.

Earnhardt Jr. seemed to have his car whoaed up enough to miss the big wreck when he got plowed into from behind.

Everyone is always arguing over whether drivers who compete in the Nationwide Series on Saturday learn anything that’s to their advantage for Sunday’s race. And despite winning the day before, Hamlin apparently never figured out the brake pedal is the one in the middle on both cars Sunday.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Hopefully, Busch will savor this victory, because it’s only once in a great while even a great driver can spank the field like that.

Despite his evident frustration, Carl Edwards did have a decent weekend in Dover, finishing second on both Saturday and Sunday.

Joe Gibbs had an excellent weekend at Dover, winning both the Saturday and Sunday races.

Jack Roush had four of his drivers finish in the top 10. (Edwards – second, Greg Biffle – third, Matt Kenseth – fourth, and Jamie McMurray – 10th).

Jeff Burton weaved his way expertly through the lap 19 carnage en route to yet another top-10 finish.

Worth Noting

  • The win was Busch’s fourth of the 13-race Cup season to date. He hasn’t finished worse than third in the last five races, and he’s won three of them. It’s Busch’s world… we just live there.
  • Edwards (second) scored his fourth straight top-10 finish.
  • Kenseth (fourth) managed just his second top-five finish of the 2008 Cup season.
  • Jeff Gordon (fifth) has finished inside the top 10 in the last four Cup races. Yeah, he took a bad-handling car to a fourth-place finish in the 600 last week, but when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.
  • Jimmie Johnson drove to his first top-10 finish since he won at Phoenix.
  • Burton didn’t finish on the lead lap for the first time this season. Then again, only six drivers finished on the lead lap at Dover on Sunday.
  • Dave Blaney (ninth) pulled off his second top-10 finish in the last three points races.
  • McMurray (10th) scored his best finish since Martinsville, and only his second top 10 of the season.
  • Travis Kvapil (11th) has finished 11th or better in three of the last five points races. Will somebody please sponsor this team?
  • Earnhardt Jr. (35th) struggled with his second worst result of the season.
  • The top 10 finishers at Dover drove two Toyotas, four Fords and four Chevys. Juan Pablo Montoya in 12th was the best finishing Dodge pilot.
  • Sam Hornish Jr. (18th) was the top-finishing rookie at Dover.

What’s the Points?

Hey, guess what? Busch is still leading the points. (As he might add, “Duh”). Burton remains second, but is now 142 markers behind at the halfway point of the “regular season.” Earnhardt Jr. is third in the standings, but is a sobering 271 out of the lead. Everyone from fourth-place Edwards on back is at least two full races worth of points behind Busch.

The early wreck did scramble up the middle portion of the top 12 in the points standings. Biffle moved up a whopping six positions to find himself fifth, while Gordon moved up four spots to take over sixth. Edwards moved up three spots, from seventh to fourth.

On the flip side, Hamlin tumbled five spots to ninth in the standings, while RCR teammates Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick both fell three spots – they are now eighth and 10th in points, respectively. Stewart fell three spots to 11th and is only 35 points ahead of David Ragan in 13th.

That 150-point penalty is coming back to haunt the No. 66 team in the owner standings. They’ve now fallen out of the Top 35 in owner points and will have to make the field at Pocono on speed.

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 race one can of lukewarm Natty-Bo. It was definitely unpalatable.

Next Up: The circuit heads north to Pocono. The combination of the oddly-shaped track and the even more oddly-shaped new cars ought to make for an interesting weekend.

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