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Thinkin’ Out Loud

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Sprint Unlimited And Daytona 500 Qualifying

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Sprint Unlimited And Daytona 500 Qualifying

*Key Moment* -- On lap 16, Tony Stewart attempted to change lanes and make a move on race leader Matt Kenseth. While he wasn’t cleared by his spotter, Stewart chose to shift down low which resulted in his left rear corner making contact with the right front of Marcos Ambrose. Stewart’s car got out of shape, made contact with the apron and sent a shower of sparks over several cars that were pursuing him. Jimmie Johnson checked up in the high line, which caused Denny Hamlin to make contact with the five-time champ, turning him down in front of the oncoming pack and ultimately taking out one-third of the field. The accident eliminated defending champion Kyle Busch, two-time Unlimited Champion Jeff Gordon, 2006 winner Denny Hamlin and 1999 winner Mark Martin. Just like that, the field was reduced by one-third, many contenders sat idle in the garage and the drafting - along with the racing - became a shell of its former self. Read More »

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Homestead Race Recap

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Homestead Race Recap

*Key Moment* - Jeff Gordon was among the drivers who pitted on a quick caution on lap 155. In the end, it resulted in the No. 24 having enough fuel to make it to the finish when Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. had to pit from the front of the field. Gordon ended the night taking the first win for Hendrick Motorsports at Homestead-Miami Speedway while his teammate Jimmie Johnson sat in his car in the garage, having lost the championship due to a faulty rear end. Read More »

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Phoenix-2 Race Recap

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Phoenix-2 Race Recap

*Key Moment* - Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer, collecting Joey Logano and Aric Almirola as the field was coming to the white flag. The result was a green-white-checkered finish, one that saw Danica Patrick wreck on the first of two laps, lay down a large amount of oil on the track, then cause a complete melee on the front straight as the cars came to the checkered flag. The final wreck tore up over half-a-dozen race cars while the incident between Gordon and Bowyer set off a rumble in the garage, one reminiscent of the Tide team vs. the Kodiak crew at the 1989 Winston. *In a Nutshell* - For Phoenix, the word "wild" doesn't do it justice. For NASCAR officials, some controversial moments that will be argued well into the coming week. For the championship? Perhaps the moment Brad Keselowski sealed the deal. Read More »

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Texas-2 Race Recap

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Texas-2 Race Recap

*Key Moment –* During the seventh caution flag of the night, Brad Keselowski took two tires on his pit stop to regain lost track position while Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch took four. That got Kes the lead, for a series of restarts but kept what was likely the fastest car from having the speed to pull away. While Busch faded into the background, that decision would ultimately result in Johnson and Keselowski finishing first and second. *In a Nutshell –* Jimmie Johnson started on the pole and dominated the first 165 laps of the race. Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski owned the next 161. But when the money was all in the center of the table, it was the two combatants for the 2012 championship who stood toe-to-toe, trading haymakers until Johnson prevailed on the green-white-checkered restart that finished the race. Read More »

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Martinsville-2 Recap

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Martinsville-2 Recap

*Key Moment -* During the pit stops for a lap 476 caution, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stayed out while Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and the rest of the lead lap cars came in for two tires. Johnson restarted behind Keselowski and worked him over for four laps before taking the lead for good. In the end, Keselowski ended up about where he would have finished with tires, while some of the other top contenders on the day ended up falling back to unsatisfying results. *In a Nutshell -* Jimmie Johnson owned Martinsville from the Fall of 2003 through 2009, but his last few races there have been less than dominating. On Sunday, he made a statement that he is the man to beat in the Chase and that Martinsville is still his house as much as anyone else’s. Read More »

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kansas-2 Race Recap

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kansas-2 Race Recap

*Key Moment* - Matt Kenseth slapped on two fresh tires, came out the leader with 49 laps left and became the de facto winner in an event where there were exactly two on-track, green-flag passes for the lead over the course of 400 miles – Lap 1 and during a mid-race wreck. *In a Nutshell* - Dorothy, Kansas changed since we left. Blown tires. Crash central. Aero crazy. Oh, my. *Dramatic Moment* - When the No. 48 hit the wall, self-induced the collective shock from 90% of fans and media who had already anointed him six-time champion was so massive, it could have fended off a lightning strike. Read More »

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Charlotte-2 Race Recap

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Charlotte-2 Race Recap

*Key Moment* - Brad Keselowski ran out of gas, down the backstretch with 58 laps left, allowing Clint Bowyer to breeze by. That left the No. 15 team virtually unencumbered as they turned on the fuel mileage jets, put a Rip Van Winkle spell over the stands, and advanced to a shocking intermediate oval victory at Charlotte. *In a Nutshell* - Welcome to “cookie-cutter” NASCAR 2012! Your template for the race is as follows: x car leads a majority of laps while cars behind run in a single-file parade behind him. X driver starts saving fuel early, leaving the rest of the field copy-catting and a bunch of drivers slowing down like there’s a hidden cop about to ticket them for speeding. X debris caution helps encourage said finish, where engineers spend more energy using their calculators than drivers pushing their cars to the ragged edge. Eventually, x driver tries to actually _race_ and runs out of gas, or doesn’t, leading to two minutes of semi-drama that determines the winner. Read More »

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Dover–2 Race Recap

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Dover–2 Race Recap

*Key Moment* - The caution flag flew for Matt Kenseth breaking a track bar mount on lap 310. The lead lap cars pitted and Brad Keselowski never visited pit road again, making his tank of fuel last 89 laps en route to his fifth win of the season and second of the Chase. *In a Nutshell* - Denny Hamlin led early, Kyle Busch led the most, Jimmie Johnson was poised to lead at the end, but Brad Keselowski made his fuel go the furthest while going the fastest at the end of the race. Read More »

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Chicagoland Race Recap

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Chicagoland Race Recap

*Key Moment* - Brad Keselowski took the lead after the final round of green flag pit stops and had a car that was simply better than everyone else for the final run to the checkered flag. *In a Nutshell* - Another insomnia curing mile-and-a-half race starts off the Chase with a handful of “title contenders” already all but out of the hunt. Jimmie Johnson dominated the race but when it came time to claim the big, fake check his car just couldn’t keep up with the blue deuce. Read More »

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Richmond-2 Race Recap

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Richmond-2 Race Recap

*The Key Moment* – On lap 313, Clint Bowyer managed to pass Ryan Newman and he never yielded that position the rest of the night. The true turning point of the race, though, occurred at lap 277 when a caution flag flew for a light rain shower. Most of the leaders, including the dominant cars of Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. decided not to pit figuring given the late hour and dismal weather radar screens the race would not resume. When it became clear the green flag was going to fly again, both the Nos. 11 and 88 ducked into the pits and out of contention. Read More »