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Thinkin’ Out Loud

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Michigan (2) Race Recap

_Editor's Note: Matt McLaughlin is on vacation through Michigan. While he’s off, Managing Editor Tom Bowles will fill in for his Sprint Cup race recaps._ *The Key Moment*: Jimmie Johnson’s car sputtered to a stop with two laps to go, handing Brian Vickers his first win in almost three years on fuel mileage. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping the audience sputtered awake in time to see it. *In A Nutshell*: I like using my calculator to balance my checkbook. I don’t like using my calculator to keep from snoring while cars run around in a circle for three hours single-file hoping to “save fuel.”

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Indianapolis

*The Key Moment* – Jimmie Johnson edged ahead of Mark Martin on the final restart to take the lead for good. A valid argument could be made that the entire complexion of the race changed when Juan Pablo Montoya, who flat out dominated the race, was penalized for speeding on pit road during the last round of pit stops. *In a Nutshell* – OK, I’ve seen worse races. I don’t remember enjoying them much either. *Dramatic Moment* – During the final ten laps, Mark Martin’s determined attempt to run down Johnson woke fans from the siesta Montoya had lulled them into.

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

*The Key Moment:* After a series of frantic restarts, Mark Martin on worn tires was able to hold off Jeff Gordon on fresher tires to hand Rick Hendrick an early 60th birthday gift. *In a Nutshell:* See Mark run. Run, Mark, run. Doze, fans, doze. Close, Chicago-land, close. *Dramatic Moment:* A wild series of events on the restart following the sixth caution flag saw Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Martin, and Brian Vickers battling for the lead during the only vaguely interesting portion of the race.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Firecracker 400 Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch tried blocking Tony Stewart once too often on the final lap. Stewart took the win, while Busch took a savage ride into the wall and through the pack. *In a Nutshell:* Contrived excitement but very real danger, and a tragedy narrowly averted. *Dramatic Moment:* Certainly, the carnage coming to the checkers is what everyone’s going to be talking about this week. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* One more time… before it’s too late. *End plate racing now.* Yes, the new car design probably saved Kyle Busch’s life Saturday night, but plate racing caused a wreck that didn’t have to happen. Sooner or later, our luck is going to run out; and to be frank, watching that last lap incident I was certain it already had Saturday night.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: New Hampshire Spring Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Joey Logano got the Lucky Dog not once, but twice, then caught a Lucky Break from Mother Nature to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history. *In a Nutshell:* A fine mix of, “Are you kidding? _This_ is the New Hampshire that used to put me to sleep?” combined with, “Are you kidding … this is the New Hamp … zzz.” *Dramatic Moment:* Almost every double-file restart gave us racing at New Hampshire the likes of which had never been seen … at least in the Cup Series. Watching Ryan Newman run out of fuel, then Joey Logano inherit the lead at exactly the right time was pretty breathtaking to watch – even if it was surreal.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Toyota/Save Mart 350

*The Key Moment:* Kasey Kahne held off Tony Stewart on no less than four restarts at the end of the race to claim his first victory in over a year. *In a Nutshell:* Everything some fans love and other fans hate about road course racing was featured in a single event. *Dramatic Moment:* Those final ten laps were about as exciting as it gets. Unfortunately the action was spread over so much topography it was tough to keep up with who was hitting who where. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* The *double file restarts* did in fact spice up the action at Sonoma without any of the wholesale carnage some drivers predicted. Oh, there was enough bumping and banging going on to make the typical mosh pit look like a Church Sunday social but no field decimating wrecks. But if I hear the term “Shootout Style” added after “Double File Restart” one more time I’m going to take a cordless drill to my eardrums. Even Wally Dallenbach seemed to admit just how ridiculous the term has become. With all the *left front camber* some teams were running it’s a wonder their tires would last ten laps.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Michigan Spring Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas on the final lap to hand a win to Mark Martin. *In a Nutshell:* To paraphrase Leonard Ginth-Parnell of Saturday Night Live’s “Master Bad Theater” skits: “Putrid, simply, putrid. Ultimately without any socially redeeming moments. This is about as bad as it gets.” *Dramatic Moment:* Waiting to see who would run out of gas on the final lap while trying to avoid drowning on a mouthful of one own’s spit after perhaps the most boring race in the history of mankind.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Pocono 500 Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Tony Stewart’s guys got him out on the track first after the last caution flag pit stop. Stewart nursed an incredible 41 laps out of a tank of fuel to hold onto victory. *In a Nutshell:* I guess it’s a matter of semantics. An “exciting” finish is two drivers battling door to door for the win off of turn 4. A tense finish is waiting to see who runs out of gas on the last lap. *Dramatic Moment:* Over those last final laps it appeared that most of the lead lap cars would run out of gas but few did. It was early in the race but Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle waged a hell of a battle up front there for awhile. Waiting to see if Jeff Gordon was going to get his fool head taken off by the rearview mirror of that Ford truck passing behind him in his post-race TV interview. You’d think a race car driver would have a bit better situational awareness.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Spring Dover Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Coming up on two laps left to race, Jimmie Johnson powered around the outside of Tony Stewart to retake the lead. *In a Nutshell:* Ever hear of a Cow-patty sandwich on whole wheat bread? The top and the bottom of the race weren’t bad... but everything in the middle was pretty tough to swallow. *Dramatic Moment:* Those final ten laps watching Johnson storm back to the front were about as good as it gets.

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

*The Key Moment:* With two laps left, Tony Stewart powered by Matt Kenseth to take the race lead, then drove off into the sunset. Or he would have... but it was already dark out. *In a Nutshell:* Prior to the final ten lap segment, the racing featured all the intensity and drama of a typical Brady Bunch episode. *Dramatic Moment:* I’d guess what everyone is going to be talking about is Kyle Busch forcing the three-wide situation that wrecked Jeff Gordon. Watching the No. 24 car come back up across the track in heavy traffic with the driver’s side door panel facing oncoming cars was frightening. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* OK, I’ll admit it. *I never thought Tony Stewart or Ryan Newman were going to win* a race this year after deciding to leave established teams for Stewart-Haas Racing.

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