Matt McLaughlin · Monday April 1, 2013
Though it was not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, the Winston Cup circuit was very different back in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Back then, almost all the star drivers were still Southern-born and bred, most of them having started their careers racing late models on one of those storied old bullrings south of the Mason-Dixon line. A driver who showed promise might hope one day to land a ride with one of the “Good ol’ boy” teams, like Junior Johnson’s, Bud Moore’s, or Richard Childress’. Certainly, if that driver ever expected to have a chance at running for the championship, it was thought he needed to land a ride with an established team.
Matt McLaughlin · Monday March 18, 2013
The Key Moment – Brad Keselowski, the race leader, never got up to speed on the final restart, allowing Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch to pass him before the first corner. While Keselowski and Busch battled over second, Kahne drove off to a win.
In a Nutshell – New car, new track, same old Bristol racing.
Dramatic Moment – There’s many to choose from, including that final restart, but my nod goes to the incident where Jeff Gordon blew a tire while leading and took out second-place contender Matt Kenseth. It’s rare these days you see the entire complexion of the race change in the blink of an eye. (Or during commercial break, in this case… sigh.)
Matt McLaughlin · Monday March 4, 2013
The Key Moment – Carl Edwards seemed to be cruising to an easy win when Ken Schrader wrecked with three laps to go, drawing the caution flag. On the green-white-checkered restart, Brad Keselowski in third gave Edwards a nice shove into the lead and he cruised on to win after all while Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin waged a spirited battle for second in his mirror.
In a Nutshell – The new logo for the Gen-6 car apparently ought to be “No Passing Zone.”
Matt McLaughlin · Monday February 25, 2013
The Key Moment – Jimmie Johnson made the most of his 400th career start, edging ahead of Brad Keselowski just as the final caution flag flew. That gave the No. 48 entry the preferred outside groove for the final restart, where it was all over after that. (Finally.)
In a Nutshell – Dang, I’ve seen more passes made at the local geriatric center’s Valentine’s Day party.
Was it a steep learning curve and getting acclimated to new equipment, or is this car going to earn the nickname, “Generation Sux?”
Dramatic Moment – There were damn few of them as the drivers drove lap after lap in a single-lane, processional parade.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday December 13, 2012
After Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday Monday and Tuesday have traditionally been “dark days” at the track with no cars on the track. That changes next year with NASCAR running late models and modifieds on an improvised .4 mile track, something I’m looking forward to. But this year, there was nothing going on that Tuesday.
It’s been freakishly and delightfully warm and snow free this winter in Lancaster County, but that particular Tuesday it was about eight degrees too cold to take the scoot for a scamper. Instead I decided to drop by and visit my long time friend Andrew in his new digs. Again, it was just a bit too chilly to hang out on the back porch as we usually do so we sat in his living room smoking cigars and killing a couple six packs.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday December 6, 2012
As you know I am retired, officially so I can offer the following only as anecdotal evidence. What were the two big stories in NASCAR this year? Working at an auto parts store, a place where you’d expect a fair amount of the clientele to be car guys and race fans, and in addition hanging in the classic car community near 24/7, I can tell you what folks talked to me about. First and foremost, they talked about the near disaster with the jet dryer at Daytona. Of course, their curiosity was heightened by the fact that despite having around 80 cameras at the track, FOX by and large missed the incident itself, leaving baffled boys in the booth wondering just what in the hell had happened. (But you don’t expect a wreck under caution, right? Hmm… I seem to remember Joe Cooksey in the ARCA race wrecking the pace car under caution. Or the time the pace car got its revenge and took out Bryce Carlson’s race car under caution at Texas. There’s a fundamental truism at a race track… you never turn your back on a moving race car.)
Matt McLaughlin · Tuesday December 4, 2012
So what to make of this year’s Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski? He’s 28 years of age, on the lower end of the scale as most of the star drivers in NASCAR either flirt with or have passed 40. (Let’s compare: Jeff Gordon was 24 when he won his first title in 1995 and 30 when he was last crowned in 2001. Jimmie Johnson was already 31 when he won his first of five straight titles.)
Thomas Bowles · Monday October 8, 2012
Key Moment – Matt Kenseth entered Turn 3 of the last lap a sitting duck – even though he was leading the race. Seconds later, he exited Turn 4 the only car still standing in a 500-mile event that could have easily been run as a 1-lap Demolition Derby.
In a Nutshell – A spectacular, heart-stopping final 20 minutes of side-by-side drama turned into an eyesore of an ending. Drivers left angry, owners lost millions, officials are lucky no one was killed, and the sport wound up with a virtual punch in the face.
Matt McLaughlin · Monday September 10, 2012
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.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday August 16, 2012
Regretfully, gentle readers, this will likely be my last commentary column, at least for the foreseeable future. I’ve been at this NASCAR writing gig for sixteen years now and trust me, it’s tough to walk away. For all my cynicism, bitching, and occasional panic if I’d be able to find anything interesting to write after a boring race, I’ve loved every minute of it, being able to provide many of you with a few minutes of enjoyment or making you think on various issues while reading my columns. Your comments, both positive and negative have made a better writer out of me after a near hopelessly amateurish start to my so-called career.
Matt McLaughlin · Monday August 13, 2012
It’s been over a decade now since Tim Richmond last competed in a Winston Cup race. There’s little mention of him in NASCAR’s official literature, and if you’re a new race fan, sadly, you may never even have heard his name. But for those of us privileged enough to have watched Tim Richmond drive a race car, during that all too ephemeral time that marked the peak of his career, there is no forgetting the magic. The tragic circumstances of a young man’s passing, and the way NASCAR officialdom dealt with it, is the subject for another article. Instead, my purpose here is not to mourn Tim’s passing, but to celebrate his life and talent. For if there ever was a “natural” at driving a race car, it was Tim Richmond. Lap after lap, fans watched in wonder as he hit the same mark time after time – but when it came time to get around another driver, it was like the laws of physics themselves stepped aside a few moments, content to be suspended and watch in wide-eyed wonder at what Tim could do in a race car, driving the line everyone else thought was impossible. And it was impossible, for everyone else.
Matt McLaughlin · Monday August 13, 2012
The Key Moment – This one wasn’t over until the checkered flag was thrown. Wow.
In a Nutshell – I’m still not a fan of NASCAR road course racing but I liked Sunday’s race a whole bunch. Fenders banging, tempers flaring, the old bump and run and a wholesale change in the running order… what’s not to like?
Dramatic Moment – That entire last lap was about as wild as anything I’ve seen on a race track in many a moon.
We’ll give Kyle Busch some style points for his three-wide kamikaze pass to take the lead on the final restart as well. Ambrose’s eyes were wide as saucers when he saw what Busch did.