Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Talking All-Stars, 600s & Lawnmowers

Totally unrelated to anything NASCAR (or racing in general), but if you’re in the market for a lawnmower, go with the Murray. My fiancé and I were victims of a flash flood a week ago and the lawn mower was submerged – completely submerged – for a good two hours.

Five days later, after emptying it of all fluids, changing a plug and replacing an air filter, that mother fired right up! Now, I don’t know if that’s something that’s expected of all small engine push mowers; but that 22’ Murray showed game.

Just thought you’d all like to know. After all, this column is about questions and answers, right? So if you’re questioning what type of mower to get, you’ve got my answer.

But, without any further unprompted advice from yours truly, let’s get to this week’s questions.

Q: Hi Matt. So the natural question this week would be how many guys have won the All-Star Race and the Coke 600 in the same year? Just trying to keep you on your toes! Thanks! – Ann Florence

A: Good lookin’ out, Ann. Six drivers have pulled the double and no one has done so more than once. Six times in the 24-year history of the All-Star/600 double clocks in at just about a quarter of the time, so look for 2011 to be the target date for number seven.

As for who’s done it, we’ll work our way backward, starting with Kasey Kahne’s “Fan’s Vote Special” last season. Before that, Jimmie Johnson was just starting to flex his LMS muscle in ’03 when he and Chad won both.

See also
Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2008 All-Star Race Recap

Going back into the ‘90s, we find Jeff Gordon in 1997 on the strength of the T-Rex car in The Winston, which wasn’t allowed back the following weekend. No matter; he won the 600 in a “regular” car anyway. Dale Earnhardt Sr. also pulled the double four years earlier in 1993, coming back from a lap down in the first day/night running of the 600. And in the final daytime running of The Winston, Davey Allison took both wins in 1991 – just one year prior to his “One Hot Night” spin & win.

Finally, we have to go back deep into the ‘80s when ol’ DW won the inaugural running of The Winston with an engine we’re all sure was just a tad big the day before dropping a new power plant in his Junior Johnson-owned Budweiser Chevy and taking the 600.

Q: My question is how in the hell was Kyle Busch’s passing to the outside on [Matt] Kenseth on the restart in the All-Star Race allowed? Isn’t it illegal to pass to the outside on a restart? Does the All-Star Race have its own rules on that, or was this yet another case of NASCAR making it up as they go along? – Doug Davis, Florida

A: I think “subjective” is the word you’re looking for there, Dougie. But the answer is yes, you can pass to the right on a restart. However, NASCAR mandated that because of the double-wide restarts in use during the event, drivers had to maintain their position until they reached the start/finish line. Only then could they make a move either way.

Hornaday… er, Busch, went high on the opening green of the final segment (lap 90), but did not complete the pass thanks to a wicked block thrown by Kenseth. Busch realized his error while talking to his crew chief, Steve Addington, during the caution period a couple laps of later.

Q: Ryan Newman was sunk [in the All-Star Race] without the Lucky Dog. I like the rule in an All-Star format because it keeps more cars in the running. I don’t like it so much for real races. What is your opinion, and do you think the rule would be better served just being used in exhibition races like Charlotte and the Daytona Duels? – Perry, Bridgewater, Va.

A: Honestly, it took the traditionalist in me a while to get used to the Lucky Dog rule. However, just as the three-point line revolutionized the college basketball landscape (I mean, can you imagine the sport without it now?), the Lucky Dog rule is a good inclusion, safety-wise, for the sport. It also gives the fans more of a show and let’s be honest, that’s half the turnip cart in this or any sport.

Again, many traditionalists continue to bemoan the fact a car can get its lap back on the sole virtue of being the first car not on the lead lap, and I get that. But the Sprint Cup Series is not your local Saturday night short-track feature. There are certain rules that need application in the big leagues for a variety of reasons, and I believe this is one.

I didn’t particularly like seeing Dale Jarrett sitting broadside on the frontstretch at New Hampshire back in 2003 as the field raced all but over him to the caution. It’s a different game they play in the big leagues, one that demands slightly different rules.

So to give you the short answer after the long one, Perry, I’m for the Lucky Dog staying in play all the time.

Q: A kind of fantasy question for you. The Coca-Cola 600 is known for having rookie winners. How many drivers have gotten their first win in the 600, and is there one in the field this year you would take in a fantasy league? Thanks. – Jeff Bates

A: The 600 has a rep among us new-schoolers as being a coronation of sorts for first-time winners. And when I say new-schoolers, I’m referring to those of us that do not date back into the early ‘60s. See, Before Gordon notched his first career win in the 1994 Coke 600, it had been 33 years since a driver recorded his first career victory in the Memorial Day Weekend classic.

The first to do so was none other than David Pearson in 1961. Gordon came next, followed by Bobby Labonte a year later. Kenseth grabbed his first win in the race in 2000, and then it was Casey Mears in ’07. So while the list may be an illustrious one – four of the five have won at least one Cup title – we tend to focus on the present when alluding to the race being one that has a rookie flare.

That said, if I had to draft one into service for the fantasy squad this week, I’d go with David Reutimann. He’s looked pretty racy on the mile-and-a-halfers.

That’s all for me this week. Enjoy the big day of racing on Sunday.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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