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Thinkin’ Out Loud

Thinkin’ Out Loud Like Matt McLaughlin :  Pepsi 500

Thinkin’ Out Loud Like Matt McLaughlin : Pepsi 500

*Key Moment:* Pole Qualifying on Friday. Johnson's pole winning run set the tone for the rest of the weekend. *In a Nutshell:* I can describe the race in eight words or less: Johnson came, he saw, he kicked butt. *Dramatic Moments:* With such a dominating performance by Johnson, the biggest excitement on the track was caused by falling caution lights. Not one, but two yellows were thrown because of them. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Sharpie 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Sharpie 500

*The Key Moment:* On lap 469, Carl Edwards used his bumper to nudge the 18 car aside and do something nobody else had done all night, pass Kyle Busch. *In a Nutshell:* Kyle and Carl put on another clinic with Busch dominating, but the race is not always to the swift…. *Dramatic Moment:* Edwards “bump and run” on Busch was surgical but the two drivers saved the fireworks for the ironically named cool down lap. It wasn’t until then the massive Bristol crowd finally really got into the game. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Was Edwards brushing Busch aside fair?* Hey, if they ban that sort of move they might as well stop the sport of stock car racing. Compared to the revered Dale Earnhardt’s pass of Terry Labonte late in the 1998 race, that was a church square dance. Were Busch’s post-race antics understandable? Hell, yeah! You lead 415 laps and get brushed aside late in the race and its natural to be angry. Edwards had no choice but to retaliate to let Busch know he wasn’t going to be pushed around especially with the duo heading into the Chase as the favorites. The altercation took place at slow speed and involved two drivers belted safely in their race cars, not on pit road with innocents at risk. If either driver is fined or penalized, I might just quit the sport. We need more of this, not less. In fact I wish the two drivers had continued knocking into each other until their cars wouldn’t move anymore and then gotten out and brawled to settle things. Even if the post-race antics were subdued by the standards of the ’79 Daytona 500, the best part is the “To Be Continued” comments expressed by both combatants post-race. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 3M Performance 400

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 3M Performance 400

*The Key Moment:* Once Carl Edwards' pit crew returned him to the track with the lead after the final pit stop, it was his race to lose. *In a Nutshell:* Carl Edwards and Ford score one for the home team just outside the Motor City -- a place that could use some good news right about now. *Dramatic Moment:* I don’t care how talented a driver is or how good his car is, this year you just don’t want Kyle Busch running second behind you with a handful of laps to go; just ask Jimmie Johnson. A flurry of late race cautions gave Busch several chances to overtake Edwards. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* I think what we saw Sunday is *a foreshadowing of this year’s title run* with Busch and Edwards, the winningest pair of drivers this year, competing for the honors right up until the end of the season. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Centurion Boats at the Glen

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Centurion Boats at the Glen

*The Key Moment:* Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pitted under caution on lap 66, handing the lead to Kyle Busch -- who would never come close to relinquishing it. *In a Nutshell:* Kyle Busch once again spanks the field handily, offering fans a chance for a nice late summer nap. *Dramatic Moment:* Unfortunately, the only high drama Sunday was as a result of Michael McDowell sending David Gilliland spinning out of turn 11, triggering one of the nastiest wrecks of the season. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Over the weekend, *Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson tried playing some head games with points leader Kyle Busch,* downplaying his chances at a title given his recent “slump.” My guess is they’ll be a bit more circumspect on that topic this week. It would seem like his JGR teammate, Tony Stewart, Busch tends to drive faster when he’s angry or annoyed. It’s easy to use the media to send a message to another driver in the garage area, but it’s a lot harder to make your statement out on the race track. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500

*The Key Moment:* Carl Edwards came out of the third corner on the final lap with the engine running on fumes, but made it across the Start / Finish line to take the win at Pocono. *In a Nutshell:* Mother Nature stages a high-stakes, big dollar game of musical chairs for the Cup drivers and teams. *Dramatic Moment:* When racing resumed after the red flag period, there were a lot of fast cars on fresh tires piloted by drivers determined to get back to the front. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* You don’t have to have followed this sport long to realize that in *July and August, pop-up showers* frequently occur during late afternoon in the Poconos. So why not start the race at one o’clock local time rather than two? Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard Edition

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard Edition

*The Key Moment:* Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew got him off pit lane first during the last of a string of competition cautions, and once the No. 48 car was in clean air there was no catching it. *In a Nutshell:* A complete and total unmitigated debacle that was unacceptable and unwatchable... but presented in High Definition to fans lucky enough to be home. *Dramatic Moment:* Anytime the drivers had managed six entire laps without a caution, we could only sit and wait to see who the next victim of a blown right rear tire might be. Other than that, the nod goes to Carl Edward’s quixotic charge trying to run down Johnson in the final seven laps. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* When there’s *a very public disaster of this magnitude* blame has to be assigned. In my mind at least, NASCAR gets 60% of the blame. With the Cup cars competing at Indy for the first time in the new car, there should have been an open test during which surely this issue would have been discovered while there was time to address and correct it. If this doesn’t prove to them that the new car is a bad idea nothing will. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: LifeLock.com 400

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: LifeLock.com 400

*The Key Moment:* Second place Kyle Busch timed the final restart perfectly and ambushed leader Jimmie Johnson with two laps to go. *In a Nutshell:* When watching the sunset is more spectacular than the first three hours of a stock car race, there’s a problem. *Dramatic Moment:* Well, there’s not a lot of question here, is there? That winning pass Busch completed over the last two laps will be shown on highlight reels for a decade. Good stuff. Bad race. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Call me crazy, but *becoming a co-owner and business partner with a team owner sentenced to prison for fraud* might not be the wisest career move Tony Stewart could have made. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Coke Zero 400

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Coke Zero 400

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch had Carl Edwards by a fender when half the field finally got around to wrecking behind them. *In a Nutshell:* While some fans revel in the unpredictability of plate racing, it all seems all too predictable to me, with a flurry of late race cautions and a blizzard of bent sheetmetal always defining the closing laps. *Dramatic Moment:* The final twenty circuits resembled a hooligan’s race at a local dirt track on ten cents a mug keg night. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Maybe it’s time for a little rules alteration. *If the yellow flag flies on the final lap of the race,* NASCAR ought to give fans one more shot at a green-white-checkered finish. Of course, as wild as things got on the final lap of this year’s Firecracker, if they’d lined them up and tried again it’s likely nobody would have finished the race. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: LENOX Industrial Tools 301

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: LENOX Industrial Tools 301

*The Key Moment:* A Biblical downpour bought the sedate proceedings at New Hampshire to a mercifully quick ending, with Kurt Busch emerging as the winner in a high paying game of musical chairs. *In a Nutshell:* A wholly unsatisfying ending to a wholly unsatisfying race. *Dramatic Moment:* There was a brief period of racing between Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson for the lead as threatening weather moved in. Other than that, the race was a total and complete farce. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* When defending their home track, native *New Englanders have always been able to cite a series of sellouts for the Cup races,* dating back to the track's debut in the series. Well, that argument is off the table now. Despite the track's announced sellout, there were vast sections of vacant seats in the stands. So, let me ask again: why did we give up North Wilkesboro for this mess? Read More »

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 »