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Thinkin’ Out Loud

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 »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Samsung 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Samsung 500

*The Key Moment:* Edwards had been slow on restarts all day, but he got a good one when it counted as the final green flag waved. *In a Nutshell:* Just another McRace. The new cars and the superspeedways just don't seem to produce very good racing. *Dramatic Moment:* A green/white/checkered flag gave the rest of the field one last shot at the No. 99 on a track that was still possibly a bit oily in the high groove... but it was all for naught. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* While the tires weren't terrible on Sunday like they had been at Atlanta, one can't help but wonder if *Goodyear and the teams could have brought better equipment* to Texas had NASCAR agreed to let the teams test there prior to the event... like Eddie Gossage offered to let them. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Goody’s Cool Orange 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Goody’s Cool Orange 500

*The Key Moment:* Denny Hamlin took the lead with seventy four laps to go, then benefited from some obstinate lapped traffic behind him to hold off Jeff Gordon for the win. *In a Nutshell:* There's nothing wrong with the new NASCAR an old race track can't fix. *Dramatic Moment:* Every restart featured the sort of fender banging, bumper beating, tire smoking action that put this sport on the map. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Where were all the fans?* Yeah, the weather was pretty bad, but the on-track action was typical Martinsville hot. I think any writer who is going to write off *Jack Roush's comments on his stolen suspension piece* ought to at least know the difference between a sway bar and a gay bar. Yeah, I know, it's easier to talk about Tony Stewart's haircut than to study the greasy bits of race cars. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Food City 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Food City 500

*The Key Moment:* Denny Hamlin's car sputtered on the final restart, allowing Jeff Burton to storm into the lead. *In a Nutshell:* Let's see what all the folks that said last year the new banking configuration ruined Bristol have to say now. Bristol is Bristol. *Dramatic Moment:* Those final five laps had fans on their feet, and featured more plot twists then a good mystery novel. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* OK, so maybe this *new track configuration at Bristol* is going to work out OK after all? Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kobalt Tools 500 Edition

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kobalt Tools 500 Edition

*The Key Moment:* As Carl Edwards coasted to the pits with his car spewing smoke, Kyle Busch reasserted himself as the leader in a race he'd dominated. Greg Biffle gave it a shot, but there was no catching the No. 18 car on this day. *In a Nutshell:* It's kind of sad when folks are going to remember more about what the second place finisher said after the race than the race itself. *Dramatic Moment:* Edwards and Busch put on an intense -- if brief -- race on the restart after the seventh caution flag. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* How will *Toyota's winning a Cup race* have an effect on interest in the Cup series, a-hem, going forward? My guess is that ratings will spike briefly, as we now have a legitimate fight between the good guys (The Big Three) and the Bad Guys (Toyota). But long-term, I think Toyota beginning to dominate an American stock car racing series is going to start eroding the fan base. I never said a Toyota winning would be the end of the world -- just the end of some folks' interest in the sport. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud : Auto Club 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud : Auto Club 500

*The Key Moment*: Carl Edwards took the green flag third on the final restart behind Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. He made quick work of Gordon, then set sail after Johnson, finally overtaking the No. 48 car with thirteen laps to go. From that point forward, Edwards took off into the sunset on cruise control. *In a Nutshell*: Waiting that long for a race that bad isn't going to improve fans' moods any. *Dramatic Moment*: When Johnson leapt out to a big lead on that final restart, there was some question as to whether Edwards had time enough to catch him. He did. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Why was the race allowed to start with water still seeping up through the track, dirt all over the place, and oil dry kicking up in thick clouds?* (Thanks, Michael Waltrip!) Yes, the network and fans wanted to get the race in -- but safety has to be an overriding priority. Read More »