NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2010 All-Star Race Recap

The Key Moment: When Kyle Busch and teammate Denny Hamlin got to arguing over the lead and the No. 18 car hit the wall, Kurt Busch took advantage of the situation and shot from fifth to the lead in one lap.

In a Nutshell: A perfect example of this year’s Cup racing to date… 90% tedium followed by 10% terrific.

Dramatic Moment: When they dropped the green flag with 10 laps to go, you had to figure there were going to be fireworks and there were.

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

What the hell is Kyle Busch so angry about? He was in second, had a good run and was trying to pass Hamlin, who obviously moved up to block the move in a non-points paying event that pays pretty well to win. Busch got up into the wall, but there was no apparent contact between the two cars. This is stock car racing, not lawn tennis. Maybe the Shrub is just ticked off because the fans celebrated his misfortune so lustily and loudly. As ye reap, so shall you sow. If anyone had a right to be angry after the race, it was Kasey Kahne. Busch knew he had a tire rub but remained on track. When that right-front tire finally blew, Busch sent Kahne hard into the wall, ending a thoroughly disappointing run for the No. 9 team (and ironically, almost costing Kyle’s older brother Kurt a win.)

That being said, Hamlin’s No. 11 car was like the Bermuda Triangle Saturday night. Anyone venturing too close tended to disappear.

Busch should consider himself fortunate he wasn’t black-flagged for passing the leader coming to the line on the first restart of the final segment. The mayhem that developed behind him might have had NASCAR officials swallow their whistles.

I’m wondering if any fans in the stands were injured when the right-side window of Kahne’s car flew into the (fortunately sparsely populated) grandstands during his wreck with Kyle Busch. In this case, I guess no news is good news.

Here’s the thing about race fans. Everybody has their favorite driver. When one other driver starts beating them too often, they tend to dislike the fellow who is “hogging” the victories. It happened with Dale Earnhardt the Original. It happened with Jeff Gordon. And it was pretty hard not to hear that a lot of folks in the grandstands seemed pretty pleased Jimmie Johnson suffered misfortune after stinking up much of the show. In fact, the cheering after the incident seemed to approach the ABG (Anybody But Gordon) hysteria of the late ’90s. There’s one thing about the three drivers I’ve heard booed most loudly during my long-term tenure with the sport; Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson were all winning bunches of races and titles when it happened. Like Earnhardt once famously said, “If they ain’t cheering, they damn well better be booing.”

It’s got to be a dark, scary time for those running the Ford NASCAR racing program. Two of their highest-profile sponsors this year, UPS and Bud, are said to be in talks with Richard Childress Racing to sponsor Kevin Harvick now that the points leader has re-signed with the team. You know, winning a race occasionally might help Ford retain ancillary sponsors.

Speaking of Ford, those FR9 engines looked strong in the preliminary event. Of course, it’s been so long since a Ford won a Cup race that event was heavily laden with their best teams trying to make the big show.

The first All-Star Race back in 1985 was 70 laps long, and concluded in just over 40 minutes. We need this bloated freak show the All-Star Race has become to get back to its roots. 110,000 showed up to watch that first Winston. Draw your own conclusions.

Yeah, I’m a cynic, but I did tear up a little listening to young Taylor Gibbs’s invocation prior to the race.

Sab-a-toogie? Team members claim that they found lugnuts on three wheels of Kyle Busch’s Truck Series vehicle loosened prior to the rain-delayed race Friday night. Those wheels were said to have been carefully checked prior to that occurrence. While Busch’s truck was fixed, Austin Dillon, whose truck was parked beside Busch’s, blamed his wreck in the event on a loose wheel though Dillon’s truck had also been checked over. In the NASCAR garage, with all the cameras and phones that double as cameras, it’s tough to believe anyone could get away with anything so underhanded or a poorly thought out prank, but if it occurred someone needs to accept blame. The lives of drivers and fans alike are at stake. Longtime fans might recall an incident at Talladega in the ’70s, when many teams arrived at the track Sunday morning to find that brake and fuel lines on their cars had been cut and foreign substances had been put in the fuel tanks. Nobody ever did figure out who was responsible for that vandalism.

Back when this whole “single race” paint scheme started with Earnhardt’s silver car and Bill Elliott’s “Thunderbat,” it was pretty cool. But nowadays, there are just so many single-race schemes, particularly in an event like the All-Star Race, the switches to the warpaint just tend to confuse fans who can’t pick out their favorite drivers. That having been said, I thought the all orange No. 20 car looked a lot better than the week-to-week paint scheme.

I like surprises. I enjoy spontaneity. I like plans that change at a moment’s notice. Some Mondays, I’ll be thinking “tonight, I write my midweek column” but Kenny shows up on his motorcycle to go riding, or the usual suspects in the neighborhood show up with a six-pack and pull up a lawn chair to settle in for the long haul. But sometimes in life, it’s important to have anchors to keep an even keel. For instance, I know what I’m going to be doing every Monday night at precisely 9 p.m.… not watching Fast Track to Fame on SPEED.

I’m not sure about the wisdom of starting the rain-delayed Truck race after 10:30 p.m. ET. The event concluded about 1 a.m. Saturday morning, making for a real long day for fans in the stands and at home. With so little on-track action scheduled for Saturday and a stellar forecast, why not postpone the race? I doubt the sponsors are going to be very happy with the ratings or the amount of eyeballs watching their rolling billboards after the witching hour Saturday night. Cup races have been shortened due to rain delays because neither the track officials, law enforcement or NASCAR wanted them running that late at night.

Apparently, the IRL fan’s love affair with the all-singing, all-dancing, quick to strip down, Ms. Danica Patrick is wearing thin. After a thoroughly disappointing 23rd-place qualifying run, her perpetual petulance led Patrick to say on the public address system fault lay with her team (owned by one Michael Andretti), not her. The crowd’s reaction was loud, profane and overwhelmingly negative. Come on back to NASCAR, Danica. FOX still thinks you’re the next best thing to Junior.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

In the two intermediate sections of the race, Johnson looked untouchable, but the final segment didn’t go his way. Johnson took a decidedly agricultural detour through the grass after losing traction on the back end of his car.

Mark Martin seemed to be setting himself up quietly for a shot at the win late in the race when Joey Logano’s Toyota came out of the grass and into the side of the No. 5 car.

Gordon, who has won this deal three times, managed to put his car into the wall on the very first lap of the event.

Jamie McMurray had a much stronger run than his 18th-place finish indicates, but that seems to be the case nearly every week for the No. 1 team.

Three of Rick Hendrick’s cars got caught up in the big wreck, leaving Johnson to have to remove himself from competition unassisted.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

It was a pretty good weekend for Roger Penske, winning the All-Star Race and claiming the top-two starting positions for the Indy 500.

Kurt Busch bounced off the wall twice during the event but rebounded to win it.

Martin Truex Jr. had to race his way into the All-Star event, and thus started at the back of the pack for the big race. He rallied nicely to a second-place finish.

As badly as Tony Stewart ran much of the night, it actually seemed that his car ran stronger after getting involved in the big wreck. Stewart rallied back to fifth; but of course, in this race nobody remembers who finished second, much less fifth.

Worth Noting

  • Kurt Busch, Stewart and Hamlin scored top-10 finishes in both the 2009 and 2010 All-Star races. Logano had top-10 results in both races.
  • The top-10 finishers drove three Toyotas, three Chevys, two Fords and two Dodges.

What’s the Points?

This race is pointless. Which, I guess, is supposed to be the point.

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 can of generic stuff… all earned in the final 15 minutes. Up until that point, “the Big Show” was a colossal dud.

Next Up: From what should be a brief non-points event to the longest points-paying event on the circuit… the World 600 takes center stage next Sunday night. (Oh, I hear they’re having some sort of race somewhere in the Midwest next Sunday afternoon, too.)

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