Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2009 All-Star Race Recap

The Key Moment: With two laps left, Tony Stewart powered by Matt Kenseth to take the race lead, then drove off into the sunset. Or he would have… but it was already dark out.

In a Nutshell: Prior to the final 10-lap segment, the racing featured all the intensity and drama of a typical Brady Bunch episode.

Dramatic Moment: I’d guess what everyone is going to be talking about is Kyle Busch forcing the three-wide situation that wrecked Jeff Gordon. Watching the No. 24 car come back up across the track in heavy traffic with the driver’s-side door panel facing oncoming cars was frightening.

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

OK, I’ll admit it. I never thought Stewart or Ryan Newman were going to win a race this year after deciding to leave established teams for Stewart-Haas Racing. You know crow sandwiches don’t taste that bad if you slather them with enough salt, pepper and horseradish.

See also
Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: Tony Stewart Boldly Goes Where No Sane Man Has Been Before

Jeremy Mayfield was asked to leave the track after having been found in the infield watching his team compete in the Open. Apparently, Mayfield left peacefully and without protest after the rules regarding his suspension were Claritin… I mean clarified for him. But it looks like this was just a shot across the bow in what’s going to be a nasty situation. Mayfield went on record as saying that he won’t be entering a rehab program, since he has no drug problem that would warrant such action.

However, NASCAR has made it pretty clear without rehab they won’t ever reinstate Mayfield. While they still won’t say what substance they feel Mayfield was abusing, reading between the lines they are strongly implying it was a “recreational” drug. I think this one is headed for court, which isn’t good for either party – though it ought to earn some lawyers a bunch of coin. In the meantime, drivers and crew members made miserable by seasonal allergies should probably just do what millions of Americans without health insurance or who can’t afford these grossly overpriced allergy medicines do: suffer in silence.

I guess it’s sadly ironic now that Brian France cited Mayfield’s team as one of the positive things about this year’s downturn in the economy that has eliminated a lot of cars. New teams were trying to make it into the sport on limited budgets, right?

OK, I don’t get it. Brad Keselowski was in the All-Star Race because he won at Talladega after punting Carl Edwards into the fence. He’s competed in six Cup races to date. Meanwhile Bill Elliott, who has won a Cup championship, 44 Cup races and two of these All-Star events back when they were called Winstons has to race his way into the field to try to make the big show?

I guess with the constant barrage of annual changes to the rules, I missed the one that used to give automatic entry to the All-Star Race to previous champions and winners of the event? In this era of declining ticket sales (clearly evident Saturday night) if I was a race promoter I’d want Elliott to have his Rocky Balboa shot at winning the All-Star Race to sell tickets to some old-school fans.

Yeah, call me Captain Cranky, but I can’t help but wonder if this whole All-Star Race nonsense has outlived its usefulness. There wasn’t a green-flag pass for the lead until lap 81, as drivers seemed to be just going through the motions waiting for those final 10 laps. And while $1 million is a huge sum to you or me, it isn’t a life-altering amount of cash to today’s Cup drivers. I’d rather see a points-paying event at Rockingham instead of the All-Star Race, or even another weekend off in the drastically too long Cup schedule instead. If there has to be one, why not run it as a preliminary to the Nationwide race on the Saturday night before the 600?

Would anyone else like to see an independent audit of the fan voting that got Joey Logano into the Big Show?

Does it seem to anyone else that drivers who were wrecked out of the race were just a little too nice and gracious in their post-race comments? Vanilla ice cream is nice but this sport needs a little more Rocky Road.

Did Gordon come down on the No. 18 car to trigger the big wreck, or was Busch trying to force the issue? This much is clear: in contemporary stock car racing, if there’s a three-wide situation the No. 18 car is going to be in the mix somewhere.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

If Charlotte is supposed to be Jimmie Johnson’s house, the roof is leaking after his big wreck in the final segment.

Mike Skinner took a horrific hit in Friday night’s Truck Series race. Thankfully, Skinner walked away from that terrible wreck unscathed.

See also
Tracking the Trucks: 2009 North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte

It’s hard to get happy about finishing 19th with a thoroughly trashed racecar, but things could have turned out a lot worse for Gordon when he slid up across the track in heavy traffic after the big wreck.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

For Gene Haas, this had to be a pretty nice way to celebrate his first weekend out of prison.

If Stewart and Newman want to call the preseason naysayers “idiots,” I will admit I am guilty as charged.

Busch has gone on record as never liking to finish second; but considering he had to pass most of the field twice Friday night in the Truck race, Kyle can be credited with a nifty bit of driving.

Worth Noting

  • The top-10 finishers drove three Chevys, three Fords, three Toyotas and a Dodge.
  • Stewart and Kenseth are the only two drivers with top-five finishes in this year’s and last year’s All-Star races. Edwards, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted top-10 results in both those events.
  • Earnhardt Jr. has top-10 finishes in every All-Star race since 2004.

What’s the Points?

This race is pointless… in more ways than one.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): I’ll give this one three cans of synthetic clear beer. The format is supposed to produce drama, and to some extent it did – at least in the final 10 laps. But the whole thing was so artificial it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Next Up: Racing fans will be treated to what I still consider the greatest day in auto racing, the World 600 and the Indy 500. Take the phones off the hook, stock up on Cheezy Poofs and make sure there is an abundance of cold ones in the fridge. The Memorial Day doubleheader lives on.

About the author

Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.

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