Saturday , February 6 2016
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Thinkin’ Out Loud

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

*The Key Moment:* Jeff Gordon emerged from the final round of pit stops with the lead as Carl Edwards' No. 99 team fumbled the ball badly, dropping their boy to eleventh. *In a Nutshell:* Jeff Gordon won for the first time in 47 races. You knew it was coming eventually -- just not at Texas. *Dramatic Moment:* Jimmie Johnson did his damnedest to keep Gordon honest in the final ten laps, but came up short. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *“Wide Open Spaces”* makes for better cowboy songs than races. The gaps between even drivers in the top 10 often seemed eternal at Texas. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Martinsville Spring Recap

*The Key Moment:* Jimmie Johnson ran down Denny Hamlin with fifteen laps to go. He then moved the No. 11 car aside, with both cars getting sideways and smoking the tires before Johnson pulled ahead to take the lead. *In a Nutshell:* There’s nothing so wrong with the new NASCAR racing the sport’s oldest race track can’t fix it. Cars and drivers running side by side and nose to tail? Can I get a hallelujah, brothers and sisters? *Dramatic Moment:* In addition to the key pass for the lead, mention must be made of Denny Hamlin’s kamikaze lap 455 pass on Johnson going into turn one on a restart. That was classic stuff, the likes of which we don’t see often enough in this era of points racing. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Is This the Same Bristol?

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch was able to hold off teammate Denny Hamlin in the final two lap shootout that decided the race. *In a Nutshell:* Geographically, it’s in the same place, but this joint just doesn’t seem like Bristol anymore, does it? *Dramatic Moment:* Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya actually got annoyed with each other and did a little rooting and gouging. Relatively speaking, everybody else acted like choirboys on a field trip to a basilica. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* You know, if you look at it dispassionately *the racing at Bristol* is actually way better as far as side-by-side racing and passing rather than a constant series of wrecks -- but it’s just not as much fun, is it? Read More »

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

*The Key Moment:* Kurt Busch dominated the race, but a late caution and a two tire stop put Carl Edwards at the head of the pack. Busch was able to easily retake the lead when the green flag flew with two laps left. *In a Nutshell:* It looks like this new Dodge engine is going to work out all right. *Dramatic Moment:* Kurt Busch pretty much had his way all afternoon, but that final caution flag gave the rest of the top 5 cars a final shot at him. A crew member of Marcos Ambrose’s team made an ill-advised stroll onto the quad-oval grass to retrieve a wayward tire, trapping many competitive cars a lap down during a cycle of green flag pit stops. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Shelby 427

*The Key Moment:* On lap 269, Kyle Busch nudged aside Clint Bowyer to take the lead. Busch, who had won the pole for the race, was forced to start out back after blowing an engine in practice -- so the accomplishment is much more impressive than it will appear in the record books. *In a Nutshell:* NASCAR wraps up its early season visit to the Mild, Mild West with another less than compelling race. *Dramatic Moment:* Saturday’s Nationwide race might have been the most unpredictable event in recent NASCAR history. Sunday’s race? Well, at least it wasn’t as bad as Fontana last week... and more people were on hand to catch the mediocrity. Read More »

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

*The Key Moment:* Matt Kenseth’s crew was flawless all night, getting him off pit road first on the final sequence of pit stops. Despite Kenseth’s initial Charlie Brown-like resignation over the radio, he was able to hold off the No. 24 car. *In a Nutshell:* With all due apologies to Albert Hammond, “It never rains in Southern California, but boy don’t they warn you, that it bores, that it bores…” *Dramatic Moment:* For the last twenty laps, Jeff Gordon kept Matt Kenseth honest, but he apparently licked all the red off his candy too early in the run. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Daytona 500

*The Key Moment:* Matt Kenseth took the lead just as Aric Almirola spun to bring out the seventh caution of the race. Rain began falling before green flag racing could resume. *In a Nutshell:* For better or worse the 2009 Cup season is out of the gates. Let’s see how this nag is going to run down the stretch. *Dramatic Moment:* Action heated up as the race approached the halfway mark once threatening weather moved into the area. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *What in blazes was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. thinking* when he used up the No. 83 as a chew toy on lap 125? Even Junior’s most devoted fans have got to admit that amounted to an on-track mugging. Sure, Earnhardt was frustrated after a second unforced error in the pits -- but taking out half the field was uncalled for. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Bud Shootout

*The Key Moment:* Kevin Harvick assumed the lead milliseconds before the caution flag flew, signaling the end of the race. *In a Nutshell:* With the convoluted new format and dearth of attendance and excitement Saturday night, is it time to just call this Shootout silliness off? *Dramatic Moment:* Waiting to see who was going to hit Greg Biffle next. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* The folks at Daytona said they were *lowering ticket prices* to put fans in the seats in this tough economy. Apparently, they didn’t lower them enough. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Ford 400

*The Key Moment:* Carl Edwards ran out of gas as he coasted across the finish line to take his ninth Cup win of the season. *In a Nutshell:* Carl Edwards did all he could do, but Jimmie Johnson did all he had to do; and thus, the 2008 Cup season went out with a whimper, not a bang. *Dramatic Moment:* I’ve got six words here; B-O-R-I-N-G. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* So, how many *Cup team members will actually be given pink slips on Monday,* and how many teams will show up to race at Daytona in February? There’s a lot wrong with this sport today, but one thing *you cannot fault either Carl Edwards or Jimmie Johnson* for is showing class in defeat and victory. Read More »

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

*The Key Moment:* Jimmie Johnson held off a hungry Kurt Busch four times on restarts in the final 25 laps. *In a Nutshell:* Johnson put on a clinic, showing the rest of the garage area who is going to be this year’s champion - and why. *Dramatic Moment:* There was some good racing back in the pack. At the front? Not so much. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Johnny Benson leads Ron Hornaday by three points* going into next week’s Truck Series finale, and Clint Bowyer leads Carl Edwards by 56 points going into next weekend’s Nationwide finale. Here’s what’s odd about that: both of those series use the “classic” points system. So, a suggestion for NASCAR’s senior brass: check Brian into rehab and announce the death of the Chase format at this year’s NYC banquet. Some would argue that the Chase is working just fine - it’s keeping everyone’s focus off of how the Car of Sorrow is ruining the racing in the Cup Series. You know what they say... a camel is a horse designed by committee. Read More »