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Thinkin’ Out Loud

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Texas Race Recap

*The Key Moment* – Denny Hamlin muscled his way past Jeff Burton on the final restart and held off a hard-charging Jimmie Johnson to claim his second win in the last three races. NASCAR officials must have had their flights booked, because they didn’t even bother to throw a debris caution on the final two laps to let Johnson win. *In a Nutshell* – You know, if you only watch the final twenty minutes of these things the racing isn’t too bad this year. *Dramatic Moment* – On a restart with 17 laps to go, some cars had four fresh tires and others had two. Some major scrambling ensued; Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart got to arguing over real estate, and Carl Edwards weighed in for the same acreage when Stewart got sideways. The resulting wreck decimated some very competitive cars.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Phoenix Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Jeff Gordon had the lead on the final restart but Ryan Newman had a little more “want-to,” stuffing his car down into the first corner WFO while Gordon spun his tires. *In a Nutshell:* The race is not always to the swift or the battle to the strong. - _Ecclesiastes 9:11_ *Dramatic Moment:* When the field lined up for a green-white-checkered restart, with a mix of some drivers on four new tires and some with just new right-side tires, a race that had been merely tepid came to a slow simmer for about ten seconds.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Rainy Days and Mondays

_Editor's Note: With the Cup race rained out Sunday, Matt did a shortened version of his "recap" column for today._ *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* With all due respect to the incomparable Smokey Robinson (my second favorite “Smoky” next to Smokey Yunick) one of those things that’s sadder than the Tears of a Clown is *rain at a race track*. It’s tough on the drivers, who are mentally pumped up to compete only to wind up deflated.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Bristol Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Chad Knaus’ questionable call to outfit Johnson’s No. 48 with four tires on the final stop paid off. Miraculous holes appeared before his Chevy like nothing I’ve heard of since Moses parted the Red Sea. *In a Nutshell:* Good ol'-fashioned NASCAR racing with prolonged side-by-side battles for the lead and throughout the top 10, fenders rubbing, tires smoking, and the fans on their feet. Yeah, this is why even us cynical old son of a bitches keep watching every week. *Dramatic Moment:* If your heart wasn’t pounding for those final ten laps, you may want to make an appointment with a cardiologist.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Atlanta

*The Key Moment:* Kurt Busch held off Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya on the final restart to score his second consecutive spring Atlanta race win. *In a Nutshell:* Where were the elephants and the clowns? If you’re going to have a parade you need to have elephants and clowns. *Dramatic Moment:* You’d have thought that double wide restarts with two laps to go would have spiced things up. Not so much as it turns out.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Las Vegas Recap

*The Key Moment:* With sixteen laps left to run Jimmie Johnson, shod with four fresh tires, passed race leader Jeff Gordon, who had just two (and two worn ones) to take the lead and eventually the win. *In a Nutshell:* Man, I’ve seen more damned passing on a merry-go-round. *Dramatic Moment:* It was an afternoon totally bereft of drama, a good nap spoiled. An utterly insipid excuse of a sporting event.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Fontana Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Kevin Harvick reeled in and ran down race leader Jimmie Johnson but slapped the wall with three laps to go, breaking his momentum and handing the victory to the No. 48. *In a Nutshell:* Foul weather in the area and uncertainty as to whether the race would run its full distance ignited something fans have never seen during a Cup event at Fontana before … real racing.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2010 Daytona 500

*The Key Moment:* Greg Biffle gave his friend and former teammate Jamie McMurray a vital push down the backstretch on the final lap to propel the No. 1 car to the win. *In a Nutshell:* Daytona International: Putting the “Car” back in “Carnage.” *Dramatic Moment:* Kevin Harvick’s take no prisoners move to the inside on the restart following the eighth caution wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s headlong charge from tenth to second on the final lap had the fans on their feet. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* If the Daytona 500 is indeed the “Super Bowl” of racing, as some term it, having *the field of play come apart in the middle of the race* is completely unacceptable. So the folks that own it might be ready to repave it in 2012 after a mere 34 years? They could have saved themselves some egg on the face and done it after last year’s Firecracker 400.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Bud Shootout

*The Key Moment:* Kevin Harvick, on fresh tires, took the lead on the final restart right before mayhem occurred behind him, leading to a late caution in one of the most bizarre Green-White-Checkered finishes since… well, when Harvick won the Daytona 500 in 2007.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Homestead Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin made quick work of Kurt Busch on the final restart, and Hamlin prevailed in the battle of the JGR teammates to drive to an uncontested win. *In a Nutshell:* With a whimper, not a bang, the 2009 Cup season finished, imploding upon itself with a very unpleasant sneezing and wheezing as the calliope collapsed to the ground. *Dramatic Moment:* Unfortunately, most of them occurred at the midpoint of Saturday’s Nationwide race, but watching Juan Pablo Montoya run down Tony Stewart to deliver a little retribution off his front bumper wasn't bad.

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