Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2007 Michigan Summer Race Recap

The Key Moment: Pat Tryson’s call to leave leader Kurt Busch out on the track during the final two cautions ultimately proved to the be the correct one at Michigan.

In a Nutshell: The event got off to a horrifically slow start, then petered out all together until the waning laps.

Dramatic Moment: While Martin Truex Jr. was never able to mount a serious charge on Busch, there was some good racing at the front of the pack in the closing laps. It was as if the drivers all decided, “Aw Hell, I didn’t spend six days in this one-horse town to leave without a top-10 finish.”

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

What is up with Jeff Gordon committing an unforced error for the second straight week? That’s not his style. My guess is the baby is teething and Gordon isn’t getting enough sleep.

Can you imagine having to race at Michigan in late November? I mean you could race snowmobiles, maybe. It would seem wise on NASCAR’s part to schedule a final off weekend in the weeks leading up to the Chase to allow for such contingencies.

Back when the rear bumpers were used to slow cars down, rear bumpers used to sometimes mysteriously fall off of cars. I wonder if losing some or all of the “shark fin” makes a Cup car faster on flat, high-speed tracks where teams struggle to limit aerodynamic drag?

When was the last time at least one DEI team didn’t have a major engine failure during a race weekend? Maybe DEI ought to give up the No. 8 and give up serving engine room employees bourbon for breakfast?

There is considerable debate as to what number Junior should run next year. For me it’s a no brainer, the number 83 combining the two numbers that have forged the Earnhardt legacy. Now, they just have to pull off with Red Bull what they couldn’t with Teresa.

As a long time employee of Penske Racing and a friend of the team owner, perhaps ESPN’s Rusty Wallace should try to be a bit less effusive in his praise of the organization.

Hmmm, the last time Matt Kenseth spun Gordon late in a race wasn’t there some rather dramatic retribution not far down the pike?

Yeah, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch look like they’re going to make great teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing next year.

See also
Thompson in Turn 5: Denny Hamlin Not Necessarily the 3rd Wheel Now at Joe Gibbs Racing

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

For the second time in an as many events Gordon found himself spinning out of a top-five finishing position late in a race.

An impressive amount of fans stayed on hand for Tuesday’s race but it was clear work and family commitments called a lot of ticket holders home before the race. There’s nothing worse than a rained-out race and the resultant $100-plus race ticket that’s worthless to the holder.

Greg Biffle had a solid run spoiled by a spin with two laps left to run.

An ill-timed error overshooting his pit box cost Dale Earnhardt Jr. a top-10 result, with his chances at making a title run rapidly slipping away.

After a tough season, Toyota saw two of its drivers post top-10 results Tuesday.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Truex had to start at the rear of the field after an engine failure. (Who builds DEI engines, Orville Redenbacher?) But he left Michigan with a solid second-place finish.

While they finished 15th and 16th respectively, both Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman were incredibly lucky to avoid Michael Waltrip‘s spinning Camry.

With a win Saturday and a fifth-place finish Tuesday, Denny Hamlin had a pretty fair long weekend in the Irish Hills.

Ward Burton finished 20th which isn’t going to get him on a box of Wheaties anytime soon, but he did finish a whole lot better than a whole lot of teams with a whole lot better funding.

Worth Noting

  • Kurt Busch has won two of the last three races and hasn’t finished worse than 11th in the last six. Yeah, Junior, good luck catching this cat.
  • Truex has finished first, second or third in five of the last 11 races.
  • After a rough June and July, Jimmie Johnson is finally back on his game with three straight top-five finishes.
  • Hamlin now has three straight top-five finishes.
  • Dave Blaney‘s sixth-place finish was his best of the season.
  • Bobby Labonte‘s ninth-place finish was his second best Cup finish of this season. Only an eighth-place finish at Phoenix was better.
  • Jeff Burton has gone three straight weeks without a top-10 finish; as has his teammate Harvick.
  • The top-10 finishers drove four Chevys, two Fords, two Dodges and two Toyotas. But Chevy drivers have nine of the 12 spots for the Chase right now while Ford pilots have two and Kurt Busch is the only Dodge driver who’d make the big show.
  • David Ragan in 18th was the top-finishing rookie of the race.

What’s the Points?

Gordon is still leading the points. Hamlin is still second and is now mathematically locked in the Chase.

The only change within the top-12 points positions was Johnson taking over sixth spot from Burton.

Earnhardt Jr. took over 13th place in the points pushing Newman back to 14th. Junior is 163 points out of the Chase, but he and Newman are separated by only eight points. I see a down to the wire battle between them to be an irrelevant afterthought after Richmond. Let’s face it folks, the order might get shuffled to a small degree but the current top 12 in the points are the guys who are going to be in the Chase.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): Give this one two cans of stale beer badly diluted with rain water run off.

Next Up: It might not be the sport’s greatest race but the Bristol Night Race is frequently the most exciting. Unfortunately, the current forecast for Thunder Valley is rain, rain and more rain followed by, you guessed it, yet more rain. Didn’t Bruton Smith say he wanted to add a roof to Bristol?

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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