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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2010 World 600 Race Recap

The Key Moment: Kurt Busch’s No. 2 team got him off pit road first after the final caution flag flew with 19 laps left to run.

In a Nutshell: It’s Ganassi 1, Penske 1, after 1,100 miles of racing on Memorial Day weekend.

Dramatic Moment: Jamie McMurray drove doggedly to run down Busch in the final 19 laps. In fact, the two battled hard the final 100 laps of the race.

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

OK, it wasn’t a great Indy 500, but it was still the Indy 500. Congratulations to Dario Franchitti.

Speaking of the 500, with our sport having no inherent time outs and with as many commercial breaks as there are during a Cup race, what’s it going to take for NASCAR fans to get the same “Side-By-Side” coverage IndyCar fans enjoy during commercial breaks?

It was far from a sellout, but there was still a pretty impressive crowd at Charlotte Sunday night. While it sounded childish at times during the week, I figure the Hamlin-Busch feud at the All-Star race as well as Kurt Busch winning in a car with its right side stoved in helped sell some tickets.

Shades of 1994. That year, Roger Penske won the Indy 500 with Al Unser Jr. and Rusty Wallace, driving for Penske, finished second in the World 600 to Jeff Gordon. Remember 1994? Hell, do you remember back when Gordon used to win races?

It was a classy gesture for McMurray to head over to congratulate Kurt Busch after the race, but I’m not so sure about this pouring a coke down the back of his uniform gesture. That stuff gets stickier than superglue when it dries.

It just seems Kyle Busch can never leave a race track with “plays well with others” checked on his report card. For the record, I don’t think there is this mythical “new” Kyle Busch. Here’s the deal. When he wins races, he’s happy and pleasant. When he loses races, he’s unhappy. When he wrecks out of a race or loses one in the pits, he’s downright furious. This is part of the maturation process of a young driver. You can’t let the victories get you too elated, and you can’t let the defeats destroy you. Learn from each, but realize over the course of a career you’re going to lose more races than you’ll win.

Speaking of the younger Busch brother, the current Nationwide Series points leader won’t be headed to that series’ next race at Nashville Saturday night. You have to wonder if after his post-victory antics there last year the fans, track management and Sam Bass don’t want him to come back. That was one of those rare occasions Busch managed to act like a buffoon even in victory, and I think it has a lot to do with his image problem.

Looking for some good news? The four-month tidal wave of aural terror that is FOX’s part of the season came to an end Sunday night. Not surprisingly, the broadcast opened with Darrell Waltrip in a self-congratulatory mood. To give credit where credit is due, like an Edwardian era child, FOX’s chief pest, Digger, was more seen than heard this year. And in the final two broadcasts, it seemed like the higher-ups at FOX were finally getting the message after another season of sagging ratings and financial losses. The final two broadcasts featured more information and less lame comedy skits. Now, if they’d drop the Hollywood Hotel entirely and get Waltrip to tone it down a bit (if DW is, in fact, “the voice of NASCAR,” I wish I was born deaf) they might be onto something. Starting next week, we go to TNT for Cup races. Last year, the TNT crew put on the most informative and respectful broadcasts our sport enjoyed all year.

I’m a little worried about the start of next week’s Pocono race. Are all the drivers going to stall out heading to the green flag without having someone holler, “Boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing boys?” Yeah, maybe I worry too much.

I write about racing, not commercials, so I’ll bury this down here. I just can’t figure out what Toyota is thinking. Do you want to get chased by a bear while hiking? Hell, no! Count me out. Do you want to get attacked by a shark while surfing? Thanks, but I’d rather not. Then again, maybe I’d prefer either to entering a tight Interstate off-ramp in a three-ton SUV seemingly designed by Mattel with the throttle stuck to the floor.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

What a strange May home-stand for Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte. The driver who once dominated here wrecked himself three times between the All-Star race and the World 600. And all of it came at a joint Johnson once confidently called “His House.” Of course, statistically speaking a fellow is most likely to have accidents around his house.

Denny Hamlin had a competitive car early, but damaged the splitter of his car driving through the grass to avoid Johnson’s spinning Chevy. The car was clearly never right afterwards.

Jeff Burton had a solid top-five car until that final restart, when Busch came to shove.

Greg Biffle ran the high line for most of the race and used it successfully, but it was perhaps inevitable he was going to eventually slam that wall rather than brush it running up there in the Harry Gant line.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

It looked like Kyle Busch’s evening was over when he ran into Brad Keselowski exiting his pits, but he rallied back to a third-place finish.

Winner Kurt Busch just barely avoided running into the back of Johnson’s stricken car as they entered pit road. All in all, Charlotte was pretty good to Busch this month.

I want Mike Conway to pick my lottery numbers this week. He led laps at Indy, sending scribes scurrying to find their programs and figure out who the guy was. More importantly, he survived a last-lap wreck at the 500 that had all the markings of one of those tragedies that cripples a driver or worse.

A gutsy call to stay out during the final caution flag paid off with a top-five finish for Mark Martin and the No. 5 team. Martin had spent most of the race running mid-pack.

Chip Ganassi has to be feeling pretty good after that Indy 500 victory and a strong second-place finish at Charlotte by McMurray. Considering the cloud of uncertainty hovering over the EGR team going into this season, it had to be sweet vindication.

David Reutimann’s strong fifth-place finish has to have some folks wondering if he might have won last year’s 600 even if it hadn’t rained.

Worth Noting

  • The top 10 at Charlotte drove the race winning Dodge, five Chevys, two Fords and two Toyotas.
  • Kurt Busch has top-five finishes in the three of the last four NASCAR events if you include the All-Star Race.
  • McMurray has finished second in three of the last five Cup races. He had just one top-five finish all of last year, his win at Talladega.
  • Kyle Busch (third) has top-10 finishes in the last seven Cup races.
  • Martin’s fourth-place finish was his first top-10 result since Talladega.
  • Paul Menard’s eighth-place finish was his best since Atlanta.
  • Ryan Newman (ninth) started the season slow, but has top-10 results in three of the last four Cup races.
  • Kevin Harvick’s 11th-place finish was his worst since Phoenix.
  • Johnson (37th) hasn’t had a top-five finish since Fort Worth in mid-April.

What’s the Points?

Harvick continues to lead the points, but second-place Kyle Busch narrowed the gap to 29. Matt Kenseth remains third in the standings, 117 points behind Harvick. Gordon rose two spots to fourth, while Hamlin rounds out the top five.

Race winner Kurt Busch advances three spots to sixth in the standings, while another tough race for Johnson drops him three more spots in the standings to seventh. Jeff Burton holds eighth, and Biffle fell two spots to ninth.

Martin and Carl Edwards swapped the 10th and 11th spots, with Martin now having the advantage. Newman rose a spot to take over the 12th-place ranking from Martin Truex Jr.

On the outside looking in, Clint Bowyer is 13th, four points behind Newman and 10 points ahead of Truex. McMurray is 15th, 12 points behind Truex, and one point ahead of 16th-place Tony Stewart.

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 four cans. The race dragged a little in the center, but featured good racing early and late, along with two drivers gunning for a win who seemed more concerned with a trophy than points or a big check.

Next Up: It’s off to the tricky triangle at Pocono. Hopefully, the remaining fans trying to exit last July’s Pocono event have made it out of the parking lot by now.

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