Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2007 Fontana Spring Race

The Key Moment: Matt Kenseth‘s team got their driver out first on the final pit stop while Jimmie Johnson lost several spots on the same stop. Kevin Harvick‘s flat tire under caution helped seal the deal for the No. 17.

In a Nutshell: Race fans didn’t expect much from a race at Fontana and they got what they expected.

Dramatic Moment: Kenseth and Jeff Gordon ran hard side-by-side for a while and the action got physical on at least one occasion. Those two seem to be developing a genuine dislike for one another.

Waiting to see if David Reutimann was going to get out of his burning car all right. That was a nasty hit he took head on into the wall. Props to the rescue crews for their rapid response to a frightening incident.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Could Harvick have run down and passed Kenseth if it wasn’t for that flat tire?

Mark Martin is leading the points. Will he race at Vegas in yet another Quixotic attempt at a title, or will he stick to his game plan to run part-time this season?

See also
Voice of Vito: Salute to You III... IV... Anyone for V?

And the Oscar for the worst performance by a parade trying to present itself as a race goes to… the Auto Club 500. Sorry, there’s a NMPA rule that all writers have to make at least one bogus Oscars award joke this weekend.

Wow, even Johnson made a sarcastic comment about one of those bogus debris caution flags NASCAR threw.

Did it seem like FOX was in commercial every time there was a pass for the lead?

Did the introduction of unleaded gas have something to do with all those engine failures, particularly those early in the race? One of the primary functions of lead in gasoline is lubricating the valves, as well as boosting octane.

According to newly-minted NASCAR spokesperson Owen Kearns, NASCAR has a new rule in place for Talladega and Daytona. Not only is the yellow-line rule rescinded once the leaders come off turn 4, if drivers can see the checkered flag “anything goes.” OK. I just hope they remember to pack extra body bags.

He’s been dead quite some time, but do you think Moe Howard minds Reutimann stealing his haircut?

Well you can’t say Sammy Hagar lacks enthusiasm can you? But the drivers got bored of waiting and fired their engines before the command was given prior to the Busch Series race.

Wow, I’ve seen more folks at the volunteer fire company’s monthly mud bog contest than showed up for the Truck Series race Friday night.

Should someone point out to Darrell Waltrip and Mike Joy that State Farm is the official corn dog of NASCAR?

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Reutimann took a nasty hit into the wall off the front bumper of Greg Biffle.

Harvick‘s strong runs in both the Cup and Busch race ended by flat tires.

What’s worse than failing to qualify for a Cup race? Having your rookie team driver bump you out of the field. Ask Michael Waltrip. At least the No. 55 car was allowed to continue its substance abuse therapy.

Johnson’s crew is normally one of the fastest on pit road but they let their driver down in a big way Sunday, especially on that last stop when all the marbles were on the line.

It’s bad enough to blow an engine, but Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s team made him go back out and REALLY blow up what was left of his engine in such spectacular style Earnhardt took a bow afterwards.

A pit-road speeding penalty cost Tony Stewart a shot at the win.

Kasey Kahne led early but lost an engine.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

So much for having a crew chief suspended being any big deal. For the second time in as many years a driver (Kenseth) without his crew chief atop the box won at Fontana.

Kyle Busch overcame sloppy work in the pits to post a top-10 finish.

David Ragan overcame an early spin to post a respectable 16th-place finish.

Worth Noting

Martin is the only driver to score top-five finishes in both of this season’s Cup points races.

Ragan was the top-finishing rookie in the race, coming home 16th.

The top-10 finishers competed in a Ford, seven Chevys, a Dodge and a Toyota.

The win was the first for Kenseth since Bristol last August. In that time period, Biffle’s win at Homestead last November was the only other victory for Ford. Dodge has won two of those subsequent 14 Cup points race and Chevy won the other 12.

Johnson has top-10 finishes in seven of the last eight Cup races.

Jeff Burton had his best finish since Charlotte last fall.

Don’t look now, but Clint Bowyer has top-10 finishes in three of the last four Cup races.

Kurt Busch enjoyed his best finish since Talladega last fall.

Stewart posted his first top-10 finish since winning at Fort Worth last fall.

Ryan Newman managed his first top-10 finish since Bristol last August.

Harvick endured his first finish outside the top five in five races.

In every race since Atlanta last fall, Earnhardt Jr. has finished worse than his result in the previous race.

Roush-prepared Fords have won five of 14 races at Fontana in the Cup Series. Four different drivers have combined for those wins (Kenseth, twice, Martin, Kurt Busch and Biffle). This marks the fourth time that Roush entries have won both the Busch and Cup races at Fontana on the same weekend.

Toyota scored their first top-10 finish in just their second Cup start.

What’s the Points?

Martin moves up a spot and takes over the points lead. He is now five points ahead of second-place Burton. Gordon advanced five spots to take over third in the standings. Harvick’s flat tire drops him to fourth in the standings, 28 points in arrears of Martin. A surprising Ragan finds himself fifth in the standings.

With Bowyer posted in sixth, all three of the RCR cars are in the top six in the standings. Joe Nemechek is the second Ginn Racing driver in the top 10. JJ Yeley, Kyle Busch and David Stremme round out the top 10 at this early juncture in the season.

Kenseth’s victory catapults him ahead 28 spots in the standings to 12th.

Among the drivers digging a deep hole early in the season are Stewart (21st), Carl Edwards (26th) Earnhardt Jr. (41st) and Kahne (32nd).

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give this one two cans of lukewarm Natty Bop, the shame of Baltimore. Judging by the amount of empty seats in the grandstands, it appears the tepid racing in Fontana is being rejected by the locals.

Next Up: Next week the circuit heads to, what the blazes? Next week the Cup circuit takes a week off. No wonder NASCAR can’t get any ratings traction.

About the author

Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.

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