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Thinkin’ Out Loud

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Daytona 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Daytona 500

*The Key Moment:* Kurt Busch stuck to Ryan Newman's rear bumper on the final lap as the Dodge boys repelled the Toyota invasion. *In a Nutshell:* Tony Stewart might have landed a cheap shot on Kurt Busch in the trailer, but Busch got the last laugh, pushing Newman to a win over the clearly faster car of Stewart. *Dramatic Moment:* You sort of knew those last ten laps were going to get ugly... and they were all of that. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* All week, *it seemed that the battle was between the Joe Gibbs Toyotas and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* in his new ride at Hendrick Motorsports. Earnhardt took the Shootout and his 150, while the Gibbs drivers took the other 150 and the Busch … er, Nationwide race. The media, myself included, thought one team or the other was sure to take the big prize. Well, I guess that's why they run races on the track -- and not in the newspapers or on the Internet. Congrats to Newman, Busch, and the whole Penske organization on the "surprise" win. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2008 Gatorade Duel 150s

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2008 Gatorade Duel 150s

*Race One* *The Key Moment* Reed Sorenson teamed up with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the final restart and the duo drove away from the field. Truthfully, as strong at the No. 88 car looked, Earnhardt probably didn't need help. *In a Nutshell* The cars might be OK, and the tires might be OK, but those tires on those cars just don't seem to be working. *Dramatic Moment* When Vickers spun out early in the race while near the head of the pack, it could have set off a field decimating wreck. There was some good heads up driving in the field to avert disaster as Vickers headed for the infield. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Ford 400

*The Key Moment* - Matt Kenseth got enough of a jump on the final restart so that Kurt Busch could never get close enough to the No. 17 to offer a serious challenge. *In a Nutshell* - Kenseth wins the race at Homestead, Jimmie Johnson clinches the championship, and the 2007 Cup season finally reaches its end. *Dramatic Moment* - Truthfully, I've seen more drama in elementary school sack races. Forced to choose, I'd guess the only real action I saw Sunday night was the final ten lap sprint. Other than that, Matt Kenseth pretty much had it on cruise control. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Checker Auto Parts 500K

*The Key Moment* - With 24 laps to go - how ironic - Jimmie Johnson on new tires muscled his way past Martin Truex, Jr. on worn tires and drove off into the sunset at Phoenix - putting himself in perfect position for a second straight title. *In a Nutshell* - Lately, races have started off slow, then gotten exciting at the end. Sunday's race started slow and then petered out all together. It's Jimmie Johnson's world ... we just live here. *Dramatic Moment* - The restart after the tenth caution period featured the only real racing of the event, with Johnson and Matt Kenseth battling to get by Truex to take the race lead. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. Or just about *almost anything _but_ the pending Chase finale*. This year's version has failed to grab the attention of the general population like few things other than that TV show Cavemen. Few people bother to acknowledge its existence, and those chosen few who have been exposed to it don't much care for it ... with the exception of some zealots you wouldn't want dating your daughter. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Dickies 500

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Dickies 500

*The Key Moment* - With two laps to go, Jimmie Johnson finally made the race-deciding pass on Matt Kenseth after a fiercely waged eight lap battle. *In a Nutshell* - Another sedate parade of a race that didn't get interesting until the final thirty laps. It's like having to eat a bucket full of manure to get a thin slice of cheesecake as dessert when you're through. *Dramatic Moment* - New England scored two late race touchdowns…oh, right, sorry. Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin put on one heck of a battle late in the race until Hamlin finally spun out and put himself in the wall. That final ten lap battle between the 48 and 17 was all a fan could ask for … other than having to endure three hours of tedium to see a good finish. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *The NFL*. Enough said. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Pep Boys Auto 500

*The Key Moment* - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. lost a left rear wheel off the No. 8 car moments after a Green/White/Checkered restart, sealing the win for race leader Jimmie Johnson. Honestly, he did - Johnson had gotten such a good jump that it was doubtful Carl Edwards would have caught him. *In a Nutshell* - Tepid processional racing for the first three quarters, with things heating up a bit towards the end. Welcome to the new brand of Cup racing. *Dramatic Moment* - When Denny Hamlin ran out of gas on a restart while leading the race, most of the drivers behind him had a sphincter-tightening moment. The last seven laps of the race were a mess, and it completely scrambled the finishing order of the race. A Green/White/Checkered flag finish at Atlanta - a track well noted for last lap passes - had the makings of a classic until Dale Jr. suffered his bizarre problem. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Subway 500

*The Key Moment* - Ryan Newman appeared ready to get around Jimmie Johnson; however, he had to back down when David Ragan's last lap spin caused the race to end under caution. *In a Nutshell* - Hand-to-hand short track combat…racing the way it ought to be. *Dramatic Moment* - A two lap shootout at Martinsville had every fan in the jam-packed grandstands on their feet. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Unlike some other race tracks recently, there *weren't any empty seats at Martinsville*. Hmm. Is there a lesson there? It seems NASCAR's three remaining short tracks are perpetual sellouts. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Bank of America 500

*The Key Moment* - When Jeff Gordon buzzed the rear tires on the final restart, Clint Bowyer ran into the back of him, propelling the No. 24 forward rather than passing him. *In a Nutshell* - More of the same tepid brew. The finish was exciting, but you had to endure a lot of spread out processional racing for several hours to see it (and stay awake). *Dramatic Moment* - Whether the drama was real or manufactured as a ploy, that final restart had fans on their feet. Waiting to see if Kyle Busch was going to flat out park his soon-to-be former teammate on the penultimate restart to steal the win. It's not like there's a lot of love lost between Busch and Hendrick Motorsports. Read More »

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

*The Key Moment* - Clint Bowyer was trying to reel in Greg Biffle when Juan Pablo Montoya slapped the wall and blew a tire, forcing the race to end under caution. *In a Nutshell* - Grand Theft Auto Race. Biffle was unable to maintain the pace car's speed, but was still awarded the win. *Dramatic Moment* - Two field-decimating wrecks badly damaged the title hopes of several championship contenders shortly after the race restarted following the second rain delay. It's been a few weeks since we've seen three drivers racing hard for the lead, but that happened several times earlier in the race. Hmmm….they run the old cars, and fans see some good ol' racing. There's got to be a correlation there. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud : Sharpie 500

*2007 Bristol Night Race Recap* *The Key Moment* - Carl Edwards used the No. 55 car as a pick to pass Kasey Kahne on lap 335, and from there, he drove off into the night. *In a Nutshell* - A kinder, gentler Bristol? How are fans going to react to that? *Dramatic Moment* - There was an extended battle between Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. just after the 300-lap mark that provided the best action of the evening. *What They'll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *OK, so it was a kinder, gentler Bristol...or maybe even Bristol Lite.* And some fans who came expecting to see the usual carnage aren't going to be happy. But as I see it, while two drivers dominated in the pack, there was some great side-by-side racing and a whole lot of passing...two things rarely seen at Bristol. Read More »