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Thinkin’ Out Loud

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

*The Key Moment:* Jimmie Johnson took the lead on lap 176 and was never headed. *In a Nutshell:* Miles the Monster serves up a race with more than a modicum of mediocrity. *Dramatic Moment:* Waiting to see if Joey Logano’s car stopped rolling before it got to Wilmington. There was some decent racing back in the pack. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* When was the last time a *Cup car got up on its roof,* much less rolled seven times at Dover? You have to give Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, style points for *rolling the dice with a four-tire stop* late in the race.

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

*The Key Moment:* Mark Martin chose the outside lane and managed to hold the lead on the final three restarts to assert his claims as a legitimate title contender. *In a Nutshell:* It wasn’t as bad as the NHMS race where Jeff Burton led flag to flag… but it wasn’t much better, either. *Dramatic Moment:* The double file restarts throughout the event featured the afternoon’s only real racing. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* NASCAR trotted out the twelve Chase contenders for *media events in New York City* this week again. I scanned online coverage from major news outlets, the network sites, and major sports sites not affiliated with the sport -- and found the coverage was virtually nil. Want to know why the *Hendrick cars are dominating at the same time that the Roush cars are struggling*?

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Richmond Fall Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Denny Hamlin’s crew consistently got him off pit road first, giving their boy a huge boost towards a second career short track victory. *In a Nutshell:* If any racetrack has ever owed any driver a win, it could be argued that Richmond owed hometown hero Denny Hamlin the checkers. Hamlin, who has led the most laps in three of the last four Richmond Cup races, finally sealed the deal Saturday night. *Dramatic Moment:* During the middle stages of the race, Hamlin and Jeff Gordon swapped the lead back and forth almost lap by lap. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* The topic comes up every time they race here. In this age of cookie-cutter tracks, *why hasn’t anyone cloned Richmond yet* -- almost certainly the ideal stock car racing facility?

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2009 Bristol Night Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch prevailed in a spirited side by side duel over the final two laps. *In a Nutshell:* While there’s side by side racing and technically better racing, fans just aren’t warming up to Bristol Lite. Fans don’t seem to like the new track, the new cars and less carnage. Maybe Bristol should modify Miller’s slogan, “Race great, less feuding” *Dramatic Moment:* Business really picked up in the final 100 laps after a thoroughly mundane start to the event. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Remember those old *WWJD bracelets*? Want to improve the quality of stock car racing? Start handing the drivers WWED (What would Earnhardt Do?) bracelets. Want anymore proof *the Chase is ruining racing*?

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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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