Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2008 Texas Spring Race Recap

The Key Moment: Carl Edwards had been slow on restarts all day, but he got a good one when it counted as the final green flag waved at Texas.

In a Nutshell: Just another McRace. The new cars and the superspeedways just don’t seem to produce very good racing.

Dramatic Moment: A green/white/checkered flag gave the rest of the field one last shot at the No. 99 on a track that was still possibly a bit oily in the high groove… but it was all for naught.

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

While the tires weren’t terrible on Sunday like they had been at Atlanta, one can’t help but wonder if Goodyear and the teams could have brought better equipment to Texas had NASCAR agreed to let the teams test there prior to the event… like Eddie Gossage offered to let them.

OK, so what is NASCAR going to find illegal on the No. 99 car this time? Let me guess, an illegal sway bar.

What was Juan Pablo Montoya thinking blocking the leaders all day? He was just a well-decaled obstaculo de camino Sunday.

OK, how deep into the race did you make it before a nap sounded like more fun?

How many more boring races is it going to take before NASCAR admits these new cars need a nose job? Cue up the Bob Dylan because the answer is blowing in the wind, even if you don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

It would have seemed Jeff Gordon‘s late-race wreck at Vegas would have convinced every track GM that all walls at the track need to be protected by the SAFER barrier. Apparently, nobody at Texas got the memo, and it’s fortunate JJ Yeley wasn’t hurt after hitting that inside wall a ton and a half.

What in blazes is going on at Petty Enterprises? Kyle Petty said he didn’t take part in the decision to replace him in the seat of the No. 45 car for Texas. Who’s driving this bus, and who tossed Kyle under it? Kyle’s commitment to step out of the seat to do TV work in June and July, combined with the loss of General Mills as a sponsor for the No. 43 car at the end of the season, have obviously raised the anxiety level up a few notches over there.

There’s no doubt that it was a horrific crash, but all those neophytes watching the video of Michael McDowell‘s qualifying wreck need to understand the physics of these crashes. When the car bends up and begins rolling and shedding parts, that’s actually a good thing, because the energy of the wreck is being dissipated. Compare Friday’s wreck to the last-lap tragedy of the 2001 Daytona 500. That black No. 3 car remained relatively intact, and all the energy of the impact was passed onto its driver. The difference is, you can replace a car…

See also
Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Michael McDowell Terrifies at Texas

NASCAR had previously had an unwritten rule about drivers rising up to the Cup level of racing. So, how is it with four Nationwide/Busch starts and one CTS start, McDowell was able to get in a Cup car? McDowell had never finished better than 14th in any of those Little League races. On the other hand, a convincing argument can be made the wreck wasn’t entirely McDowell’s fault. Once again, it appeared that fluids on the track were not properly cleaned up – despite extensive down time on the track to do so – and that might have triggered Friday’s wreck.

From what I’m told, the synthetic oils the teams are using are more difficult to clean up than conventional petroleum-based fluids. The new oil-dry required for synthetics is not only less effective, but tends to produce choking dust clouds when it’s used. So, how hard would it be to just ban synthetic oils?

It looks like the unemployment rate in North Carolina is about to ratchet up a notch, courtesy of Chip Ganassi.

Anyone else still trying to pry the cat off the ceiling after Sunday’s command to start the engines?

I’m hearing rumors Michael Waltrip‘s palatial home in Sherrill’s Ford is on the market. The property includes a pool house perfect for hiding out from the police after a late-night single-car wreck. Maybe Britney Spears would be interested?

Only FOX could promote a baseball game with highlights of bench-clearing brawls.

Areas of the country struggling with lengthy droughts might want to schedule Nationwide qualifying sessions to get some much needed rain.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

It’s been a long time since Gordon looked that awful in an undamaged car. Hitting the wall just put him out of his misery and out of everyone else’s way.

Martin Truex Jr. had a solid top-10 run going before his engine expired with a handful of laps to go.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked to have a solid shot at a win at long last, before his team did what they always seem to be doing lately; they adjusted a competitive car to the point Junior would have been lucky to keep it in a 50-acre patch of briars.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

After qualifying 35th, it appeared that Burton was going to be an also ran on Sunday. Somebody forgot to tell Burton that.

Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race on Saturday, and finished third in Sunday’s Cup event. All in all, that’s a pretty fair weekend’s work.

All three Joe Gibbs Racing teams finished in the top seven on Sunday, while all three of the Richard Childress-owned Chevys finished in the top 11. Seven and 11? Is this Texas or Vegas?

Thankfully, Yeley got out of his car unhurt after a savage wreck. How many times must the white dove fly before concrete walls are forever banned?

Worth Noting

  • Edwards won for the third time in seven races this season. Even had he not been penalized those 100 points, Edwards would still be fourth in the standings, 84 behind Burton and 25 behind Kevin Harvick, who hasn’t won a race this year. That seems to be a pretty clear indication the points system needs a major tweaking.
  • Two months into the season, Busch has already won at least one race in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series.
  • Gordon endured his third DNF of the 2008 season. Last year, he failed to finish only one race.
  • Jimmie Johnson finished second for the second time this season, but what you’ll be hearing all week is none of the Hendrick teams have won yet in 2008.
  • Busch (third) managed his first top-10 finish in three races on Sunday. Busch has now led laps in six of this season’s seven Cup events.
  • Ryan Newman (fourth) drove to his first top-five finish since he won this year’s Daytona 500.
  • After a slow start to the season, Denny Hamlin (fifth) has now posted three consecutive top-10 finishes.
  • Burton (sixth) now has five consecutive top 10s.
  • Mark Martin‘s eighth-place finish was his best in the five Cup races he’s started this season.
  • Clint Bowyer (10th) has scored four straight top-10 results in the Cup series.
  • Earnhardt Jr.’s 12th-place finish was his second worst result of 2008.
  • The top-10 finishers at Texas Sunday drove two Fords, four Chevys, three Toyotas and a lone Dodge.
  • It was another tough day for the rookies at Texas. Patrick Carpentier‘s 28th-place finish was the best by any Rookie of the Year candidate.
  • I’ve already gotten two emails asking me when Gordon finished dead last in a Cup race prior to Sunday. Oddly enough, it was at Texas in 1999.

What’s the Points?

Burton maintains his points lead and increased the margin to 59 points over teammate Harvick, who remains second in the standings.

Johnson and Edwards had the best points days at Texas. They each advanced four spots in the standings to sixth and 10th place, respectively. Newman advanced three spots to eighth, while Busch advanced two spots to third in points, now 64 out of the lead. Tony Stewart, Hamlin and Bowyer also each advanced a spot in the standings; they are now fifth, seventh and 11th, respectively. Matt Kenseth moved up two spots to 13th, just outside the Chase cutoff.

Holy Unsuited Shock package, Batman! Gordon tumbled five spots to 14th, out of the top 12 for at least one week. Greg Biffle fell six spots to ninth in the standings, while Kasey Kahne fell five spots to 12th.

Any driver from seventh-place Hamlin on up could leave Phoenix with the points lead next week.

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 one can of lukewarm Lone Star, a brew so loathsome the Geneva Convention bans its use on prisoners of war.

Next Up: It’s off to Phoenix for this season’s first Saturday Night Special.

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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