Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2008 Daytona Summer Race Recap

The Key Moment: Kyle Busch had Carl Edwards by a fender when half the field finally got around to wrecking behind them.

In a Nutshell: While some fans revel in the unpredictability of plate racing, it all seems all too predictable to me, with a flurry of late-race cautions and a blizzard of bent sheetmetal always defining the closing laps.

Dramatic Moment: The final 20 circuits resembled a hooligan’s race at a local dirt track on 10 cents a mug keg night.

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

Maybe it’s time for a little rules alteration. If the yellow flag flies on the final lap of the race, NASCAR ought to give fans one more shot at a green-white-checkered finish. Of course, as wild as things got on the final lap of this year’s Firecracker, if they’d lined them up and tried again it’s likely nobody would have finished the race.

What better way to celebrate America’s birthday than watching a foreign car pull into victory lane at Daytona after a Cup race for the first time? Courtesy of the red, white and sushi, I suppose. Let’s just be glad NASCAR doesn’t race on Dec. 7.

See also
Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off: Toyota's Here... and There Goes the Neighborhood

Related to the above, with their stock price falling to its lowest level since the Eisenhower administration, General Motors announced this week they will not renew any of their track sponsorship contracts for next year. (Stuff like providing pace cars, signage at the track, etc.) Something tells me this is the start of a troubling trend that will eventually lead to one or more of the Big Three withdrawing from the sport of stock car racing.

It’s not perfect, but the limited commercial interruption coverage is simply a must for every NASCAR race going forward.

OK, it surely wasn’t boring there at the end if you’re the type that appreciates seeing the destruction of a few million dollars worth of equipment, but every time I watch this plate-race madness, I can’t help but remember the words of the most notable victim of least common denominator racing, the late Dale Earnhardt: “This ain’t real racing, I don’t care what they say.”

Yeah, Mark Martin is nearly 50 and he wants to run a full Cup schedule next year. So what? John McCain is 71 and he wants to be the leader of the world’s greatest democracy. Life doesn’t end at 50 anymore.

So Brian France thinks everything is going splendidly with NASCAR right now, and there’s no reason to correct the course. That’s the same mindset that saw Captain Edward Smith run the Titanic into an iceberg.

Look for extraordinary penalties to be issued against DEI’s No. 1 car this week. Messing with the new car is a big no-no, and messing with the aero at a plate track is another cardinal sin. Combine the two, and the penalties ought to reset the bar. Even a 100-point penalty will likely remove Martin Truex Jr. from Chase contention this deep into the season.

Will the last person to leave DEI kindly turn out the lights?

Apparently an old buddy of mine in the biz is ready to turn in his media credentials, notebooks, laptops and microphones because some folks think I’m a journalist. Best of luck in your new career, whatever it is, and I hope this time you find something you’re actually good at. You’d be an instant hit in a summer stock production of Amadeus

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Jeff Gordon went from contending for the lead to an apparent 30th-place finish on the final restart.

Jeff Burton has made a career out of being in the right place at the right time, but Saturday night, he seemed to be in all the wrong places at all the wrong times.

Michael Waltrip saw a much-needed top-10 finish go up in a cloud of tire smoke on the final lap.

Jimmie Johnson looked to be contending for a win when he got caught up in a mess not of his own making. A subsequent pit stop put Johnson in the eye of the storm when the poop hit the oscillating blades.

As much as Tony Stewart loves to race, getting out of a competitive car at a track where he traditionally runs well had to be tough for him. You have to wonder if the carbon monoxide is getting to Stewart.

At a track where his teams typically dominate, Rick Hendrick watched three of his cars post finishes outside the top 20.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Kyle Busch got crossed up and sideways in traffic, yet somehow made a miraculous save on the apron and got back onto the track with no real damage. He then went on to win the race.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: Halfway Through & Nothing's Changed - Kyle Busch Still a Man on a Mission

Kurt Busch wrecked his primary car in the weekend’s only practice session and started deep in the field. Yet at the end, he emerged out of nowhere to snag a fourth-place finish.

David Ragan overcame a questionable pit-road penalty and several fender benders en route to another top five at Daytona.

No koi were injured in Edwards‘s bumpy ride to a runner-up finish.

After the No. 40 team closed down this week, the only ride rookie Dario Franchitti has left is Ashley Judd. If only unemployment were as good for the rest of us.

Worth Noting

Editor’s Note: As with all restrictor-plate races, keep in mind some adjustments can be made between the end of the event and the posting of the final results. The official finishing order is expected to be posted by NASCAR around noon ET on Monday.

  • Kyle Busch has now won a third of this year’s Cup events (six of 18) and has improved his average finish this season to 10th.
  • Busch was the sole Toyota pilot to post a top-10 finish. The rest of the top-10 finishers drove three Fords, three Dodges and three Chevys.
  • Patrick Carpentier (14th) posted the best finish by a rookie at Daytona Saturday night. It was Carpentier’s best ever Cup finish.
  • Edwards finished second for the third time this season – all three of those times have been to Kyle Busch.
  • Matt Kenseth (third) has managed top-10 finishes in seven of the last eight Cup races.
  • Two of Kurt Busch’s (fourth) three top-five finishes this season were scored at Daytona.
  • Robby Gordon (sixth) enjoyed his best Cup finish since Watkins Glen last year.
  • Clint Bowyer (ninth) has top-10 finishes in three of the last four Cup races.
  • Jeff Gordon (30th) has just one top-10 finish in the last five races.
  • Burton (37th) endured his worst finish of the season.
  • Denny Hamlin (26th) has scored just two top-10 finishes in the last seven races.

What’s the Points?

Kyle Busch extended his lead to 182 markers over Dale Earnhardt Jr., who displaced Burton on the second rung of the championship standings. Edwards, Johnson, Gordon and Hamlin remained in positions fourth through seventh, respectively.

Kenseth had the best points night, advancing four spots to ninth. Kasey Kahne advanced two spots to eighth, while Bowyer moved up a spot to 10th.

An ailing Stewart abandoned ship and fell three spots to 12th in the standings, just two points ahead of the cutoff line for the Chase. Greg Biffle also tumbled three spots to 11th after finishing dead last; now, he’s just eight points ahead of Stewart.

Kevin Harvick fell a spot to 13th, once again becoming the odd man out. For now, Truex remains a distant 14th, but that will probably change later in the 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 four cans of icy cold brew tossed over the fence at the eventual race winner. (Seriously, y’all gotta cut that stuff out.)

Next Up: It’s 106 miles from Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it!

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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