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Thinkin’ Out Loud

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Infineon Edition

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Infineon Edition

*The Key Moment:* Robby Gordon’s spin into Kurt Busch that not only left contenders, like Carl Edwards, trapped on the track, while Kyle Busch, David Gilliland and others pitted, but also caused Gordon to run out of fuel and never regain position. *In a Nutshell:* Kyle Busch benefited from the first caution, when David Ragan sent Joe Nemechek into one of the tire barriers. Busch and others had already pitted, meaning the early dominant car of Jimmie Johnson lost a ton of track position on pit road. Carl Edwards got burned in the same way as Johnson on a later caution, and never fully recovered. Busch never looked back, hitting his marks while the other fast horses of Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, and Robby Gordon faded from contention. Would you like some M&M’s with that wine? *Dramatic Moment:* Tony Stewart’s late race charge to the front to catch his leading teammate was foiled by Kevin Harvick’s Montoya-like decision to dive-bomb both Stewart and Jamie McMurray, eliminating all three of them, plus Ron Fellows, ending any chance of capturing the day’s trophy. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: LifeLock 400

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: LifeLock 400

*The Key Moment:* Patrick Carpentier’s last lap spin and the resultant caution sealed the win for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 88 bunch. *In a Nutshell:* His fans might have preferred Junior barreling around the Nos. 18 and 48 on the outside -- drag racing to the finish line with tires smoking and paint being swapped -- but after 76 long races, Junior and his fans will take a win anyway they can get one. *Dramatic Moment:* Waiting to see if the No. 88 car could complete that final lap, even under caution as it ran on fumes. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* On a weekend that featured *closed door machinations and serious bias allegations,* can even a win by the sport’s most popular driver restore order to the universe? Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Pocono 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Pocono 500

*The Key Moment:* It took Kasey Kahne a few laps after the final restart to get around the 88 and 83 cars, but once he got back to the lead there was no catching him. *In a Nutshell:* Since passing was all but impossible on the track, crew chiefs had to engineer various strategies to get their boys to the front in the pits. *Dramatic Moment:* The two fastest cars, those of Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin did get to battle briefly for the lead. With passing so difficult, Kahne’s run from 38th to the lead after a pit road mishap was the highlight of the race. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *What in blazes (pun intended) were the safety crew members thinking as they ambled over to the burning 42 car* (with it’s driver still aboard) as if they were heading for a post-race clambake? Truthfully, the track crews at Pocono have rarely cloaked themselves in glory. Even back in the early 80s, Tim Richmond had to pull Dale Earnhardt from his overturned race car. OK, we were told that those two indifferent individuals were responsible for the driver, not the car, but the driver was still in the car as they stood there. What does their job entail? Giving the driver a hug and a kiss to make him feel better once he gets out of the car under his own power? Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Best Buy 400 Edition

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Best Buy 400 Edition

*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? Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Coca-Cola 600

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Coca-Cola 600

*The Key Moment* – Tony Stewart cut down a tire with three laps to go allowing Kasey Kahne to streak by him for the win. *In a Nutshell* – It might sound like damning it with faint praise but the World 600 was nowhere near as awful as last week’s All Star race hinted it might be. *Dramatic Moment* – Tony Stewart looked to be cruising to the checkers when he began slowing dramatically handing the race to Kahne. With the new car making passing so difficult every restart caused an all out land rush for positions for the first five laps. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: All-Star Edition

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: All-Star Edition

*The Key Moment:* Kasey Kahne blew past Denny Hamlin’s ailing Toyota on lap nine of the final segment and drove off into the distance. *In a Nutshell:* Forget checkers or wreckers; this one was laps and naps. *Dramatic Moment:* The first ten laps of the final segment featured the only real competitive action of a long evening. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *You need any more evidence this Ugly Dog new car is ruining racing?* Time after time at Charlotte, the lead car in clean air simply drove off into the distance. Single file racing was the norm all night, and once-dominant cars couldn’t go anywhere once they got caught back in traffic. Somewhere tonight, they’re talking Humpy Wheeler down off a ledge. If there’s going to be 600 miles of this type of racing next weekend, it’s going to be a real long night. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Dodge Challenger 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Dodge Challenger 500

*The Key Moment:* On lap 285, Kyle Busch blew by Jeff Gordon and drove off into the night with the afterburners lit. *In a Nutshell:* New asphalt, same old race track; Darlington is still the meanest mother on the circuit. *Dramatic Moment:* When it became obvious nobody had anything for Busch, the leader had to manufacture his own excitement, frequently running his car into the wall or getting it sideways battling with traffic. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Well that’s odd. *A dominating win didn’t seem to endear Busch to the fans.* In fact prior to the race and after the race, Busch seemed to be enjoying taunting those fans who booed him. Give the kid this much, he still doesn’t like these new cars even though he’s winning races in them. What’s all this bizarre talk about *Kyle Busch being the reincarnation of Dale Earnhardt,* the Intimidator? Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Richmond Edition

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Richmond Edition

*The Key Moment:* Second place Kyle Busch spun Dale Earnhardt, Jr. out of the lead, but it was Clint Bowyer who drove through the carnage to eventually assume the win as the yellow flag flew. *In a Nutshell:* It ain’t over until it’s over -- and sometimes it isn’t over even when it _is_ over. *Dramatic Moment:* When Denny Hamlin’s tire started deflating, it set off a dizzying chain of events over the final twenty laps. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Kyle Busch had a pretty clever plan* for winning the race. I hope he had an equally clever plan to get out of Richmond alive. But before you toss stones (or beer bottles), ask yourself this question: if Dale Jr. had wrecked the No. 18 car with the exact same move, would you have thought it was dirty pool, or just good hard racing with three laps to go on a short track? Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Aaron’s 499

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Aaron’s 499

*The Key Moment:* A ten car wreck on the white flag lap drew a caution and sealed the win for Kyle Busch just as the outside line was mounting a challenge. *In a Nutshell:* It’s contrived excitement, but you just can’t look away. *Dramatic Moment:* The last thirty laps of the race were all nailbiters. The 20 and 88 car tangled to set off the customary Talladega smoking pig pile of a wreck on lap 173. Had Tony Stewart not been able to keep his car up against the wall after cutting down a tire on lap 143 while leading, he almost certainly would have triggered a wreck that would have eliminated most of the field. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Was Kyle Busch’s winning pass made with two tires beneath the yellow line?* If so, was he forced out of bounds? Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Subway Fresh Fit 500

*The Key Moment:* As Jimmie Johnson came off of turn four on the final lap, he had enough of a lead he could have turned off the car and pushed it across the start finish line. *In a Nutshell:* As regular unleaded approaches four bucks a gallon, superior fuel economy earned Jimmie Johnson a quarter of a million dollar paycheck. *Dramatic Moment:* While there were several, my nod goes to the protracted battle between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin, two of the sport's most popular drivers. The racing was clean but spirited and had the fans on their feet. Some more battles like that, and NASCAR might not need FM radio rock bands to tell folks racing used to be good. And it sure beat waiting to see if the leader ran out of gas. Read More »