Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2014 Camping World RV Sales 301 at Loudon

Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Amy Henderson has you covered each week with the answers to six race-day questions, covering all five Ws and even the H… the Big Six.

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

He may not have had a top finish, but he deserves everybody’s respect. The sport said farewell to a driver who seemed to always be a threat to win and one who became a great spokesman for his fellow drivers this weekend. Jeff Burton‘s swan song came, fittingly, at a track where he holds the Cup Series record for wins. Burton was just about unbeatable at the Magic Mile in the late 1990s, and always seemed poised to be the next champion of the sport. He never reached that pinnacle, but instead became a champion for his fellow drivers and for race fans as one of the most respected voices within the garage area. Burton made what will most likely be his last start this weekend.

On a personal note, it really is the end of an era. Burton was the winner at the first Cup race I ever went to in person. He was the winner of the second one I went to as well. And the third. I was at NHMS for all four of Burton’s wins there, and it was a pleasure to watch him race at a time when the sport was new and exciting for me. Burton was a part of the sport I came to care about very much, and has been part of it for my entire run as a writer. It will be strange indeed to see him in the TV booth next year, but fans will be lucky to have his voice in the mix. 

What… beyond the teams’ control affected the action?

There were several good cars in the field on Sunday, but not one of them had anything for Brad Keselowski, except, maybe, just maybe, his teammate Joey Logano before Logano hit the wall in the closing laps. Whatever Team Penske has figured out, other teams had better hope they can figure out soon if they want to be on a level playing field when the Chase begins. Keselowski made child’s play of New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon, just two weeks after he made the rest of the field look bad at Kentucky. Take out the Daytona crapshoot, and it’s clear that the Penske drivers, and Keselowski in particular, have something the rest of the field doesn’t. The only question is, did they find it too early, with seven races left before the Chase. Throwing in next week’s off-weekend, that’s eight weeks the other teams have to find their own something special. Can they do it, or will Keselowski sail into the Chase with a sizeable advantage?

Where… did the polesitter and the defending race winner wind up?

Kyle Busch took a gamble late in the race, and while it didn’t pay off with a win, it did make for a good finish overall. Busch, who didn’t pit on lap 250 with most of the lead lap cars but instead made his final stop with over 80 to go, ran out of fuel coming to the line, finishing second. Busch led laps and, while he didn’t have anything for Keselowski, he was able to break the 25th-place average he’s had in the last four races, and putting an end to a slump is nothing to sneeze at.

Brian Vickers won in the Granite State a year ago, but never found that feeling this week. Vickers ran between 11th and 18th for most of the afternoon and never looked like he’d sneak in for the repeat. He’s quietly put together some strong runs this year, but this week was not one of them as he finished 21st. Overall, Michael Waltrip Racing seems to have slipped back a step from the last couple of years, and if they’re going to put a car in the Chase, they need to find a way to pull off a win.

When… did it all go sideways?

One tire issue can be chalked up to bad luck. Perhaps even the second one can be cast off as an anomaly. But when you’re derailed by tire problems five times in 19 races, maybe the tire isn’t the problem. In other words, the No. 48 team is shooting themselves in the foot. A lot. Jimmie Johnson could have had at least two more wins this year had he not experienced ill-timed tire failures.

It’s not Goodyear’s fault (though there does need to be a better tire to improve the racing; that’s just not the issue here). This falls squarely on the team, and it’s been going on for more than a year. Luckily for Johnson and Co., this week was most likely slated as more of a test session for the fall race, which is a Chase race. Still, there needs to be more concern here from Team 48, more urgency. With at least 10 tire failures in the last two seasons, there’s something afoot at the Circle K. Someone needs to figure something out, because continually putting your driver in the wall isn’t really a great way to see what works in the tire department.

Why… did Brad Keselowski win the race?

It seems too easy simply to say “because he had the best car,” but the reality is that he did, by a country mile. Even losing spots in the pits was no deterrent to Keselowski’s march to Victory Lane this weekend as the driver was able to take the spots back with ease every time. Keselowski’s car was so hooked up that it looked to be in another class this week.

How… did the little guys do?

JTG Daugherty Racing; AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Kingsford Chevy): New Hampshire proved to be a tough track for the small teams. None of these teams had what could truly be classified as a good run Sunday, but Allmendinger had what was, at least, a solid finish in 18th. He’d been running around 22nd or 23rd in the closing laps, but the late caution gave him the chance to pass a few more cars, and a couple of guys running out of fuel at the front gave Allmendinger a top-20 finish.

Front Row Motorsports; David Ragan & David Gilliland (No. 34 Taco Bell Ford & No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford): Ragan had been looking to best his teammate this week, but he had to hit the brakes for Justin Allgaier‘s spin with four to go, which allowed Gilliland to squeeze by and finish 24th, while Ragan came home 25th. Those mid-to-low 20’s finishes area decent day for this team right now,

BK Racing; Alex Bowman & Cole Whitt & Ryan Truex (No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota & No. 26 TapOut Muscle Recovery Toyota & No. 83 Burger King Toyota): Whitt continues to be the strongest member of this team, and his 28th–place finish salvaged the day for BKR. Bowman had a solid day, completing the race in 31st without drama, while Truex struggled the most, winding up five laps down in 36th.

Phil Parsons Racing; Josh Wise (No. 98 Ford): This little team has posted a surprisingly good finish here and there this year, and Loudon was one of those. Yes, they finished 29th, but they beat some better teams in their class doing it.

Tommy Baldwin Racing; Michael Annett & Reed Sorenson (No 7 Pilot Flying J Chevy & No. 36 Chevy): A week after looking strong in Daytona, TBR as a whole struggled at the track closest to Tommy Baldwin’s New England roots. Both Annett and Sorenson struggled to find grip at the Magic Mile, finishing 32nd and 33rd. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that they finished together, which could help the team because the two cars were, at least, equally difficult to get a handle on.

Circle Sport; Morgan Shepherd & Landon Cassill (No. 33 Thunder Coal Chevy & No. 40 Newtown Building Supply Chevy): Cassill had the kind of day he probably wished ended 100 laps or so sooner, as he struggled to a 34th–place finish. But at least Cassill’s day was relatively without drama. Shepherd had to avoid a fire in his pit, and that was just the beginning. The 72-year-old found himself at the center of controversy after contact with second-place Logano (while Shepherd was 14 laps down) put Logano in the wall and many fans and media cried foul on social media, saying NASCAR should have parked the slow-running No. 33 before the incident (the car was apparently meeting minimum speed for NHMS, so there was nothing NASCAR could have done to Shepherd, who finished 39th). You have to wonder, though, if a younger driver had made the same error, would the reaction have been the same?

GoFAS Racing; Eddie MacDonald (No. 32 TryAndrozene.com Ford): MacDonald may have been a stranger to many fans, but he’s no stranger to NHMS, having raced there in the old Busch North Series before it became the K&N East and later in the K&N Series. He teamed up with fellow New Englander Frank Stoddard to make his Cup debut this week, and all in all, had about the day that was to be expected from this team; he completed the race in one piece, but wasn’t competitive. But don’t blame MacDonald; he finished 35th, about where this team has been running this year.

HScott Motorsports; Allgaier (No. 51 Brandt Chevy): Allgaier was running inside the top 25 when he spun and hit the wall with four laps to go. It was unclear if the spin was caused by contact from another car, but in the end, the result was the same, as Allgaier fell to 37th.

Germain Racing; Casey Mears (No. 13 GEICO Chevy): This team struggled to figure out NHMS from day one, but a broken upper control arm really threw a wrench in the works as the No. 13 had to make a lengthy stop on pit road for repairs. The good news is that the handling improved and crew chief Bootie Barker was able to make some adjustments to make the car the best it felt for Mears all weekend. The damage was done, though, and this team was the bottom of the barrel for the small teams this week, 13 laps down in 39th… which does make you wonder why they were so far off compared to Richard Childress Racing and the other teams with ties to RCR.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’m 60 and my reflexes have slowed considerably since I was in my 20’s. That is because I live in the physical world and not the PC world where reality is just another form of predudice. Aging is a fact of life we all must accept. I loved Morgan Shepherd as a driver but if he won’t get out of the car NASCAR needs to take him out of it.


You’ll be comforted to know John that after yesterday’s incident Morgan has decided to retire from NASCAR. Morgan announced that he will now pursue his life-long dream of being a top-fuel NHRA driver.

Glen H.

Did anyone else think that Jimmie Johnson was trying to throw Goodyear under the bus when his tire exploded and he went into the wall? He said that the tire failures weren’t the team’s fault – but he was the only one that had an issue yesterday – and if it isn’t the team’s fault, must be the tire’s (Goodyear’s) fault.


No worries, I predict he’ll win the always so exciting Brickyard. Place your bets now on how many debris cautions we’ll see.


I thought it humorous that JJ implied that Goodyear tires were the issue yet no other team had tire issues. I’m starting to believe that JJ is only good with rock hard tires. Granted his tire issues were in the first 10-17 laps of the race which clearly shouldn’t be an issue of tire wear which makes JJ’s comments even funnier. I’d be curious as to what was happening in the corner of that car but whatever the case I highly doubt that JJ will offer Goodyear an apology.


It just wasn’t that interesting a race. Having 1 car dominate any race is just not that exciting although that often happens at NH. Joey Logano might want to think about the fact that he has also had his own share of screwing up other people’s day with mistakes, so sometimes it just happens. I have never been able to warm up to the kid for whatever reason and his “old guy” comments are probably not in his best interest.

A week off before ESPN takes over – glory be, that’s great. I’m not all that excited about ESPN’s coverage and less so now that they are a “lame duck” as far as broadcasting NASCAR and w/o Allen Bestick in the booth.

the summer doldrums as far as racing excitement has certainly settled in and Indy won’t fix that.

Carl D.

Pemberton seemed determined to convince us that Morgan Shepherd was okay toi be racing in Nascar’s yop series at 72. My guess is that he hasn’t convinced Joey Logano.

Mike Neff mentioned the RTA in today’s “Thinkin’ Out Loud”column but there was no comments section so I’ll say what I have to say here… When Bruton Smith comes out and blasts the RTA as strongly as he did over the weekend and says how bad the RTA is for the sport, there’s got to be some serious issues between Nascar and and the owners that will likely get pretty ugly before they ever get resolved.


carl….did you see old bruton in v/lane with brad? i read something earlier in the week about rta and how whenever something like this was tried in the past that the france famly (sr and jr) was able to control it. however, with current leadership, they weren’t too sure. LOL……current is brain fart.

Carl D.

I did see Bruton in Victory Lane. Since Smith is a track owner and not a Nascar official, I’m wondering what his problem is with the RTA. Do the owners want the number of races on the schedule reduced? If not, why is Bruton so adamant that the RTA is a bad thing?


Bruton’s problem is the same as Nascar’s. He see’s the potential for the RTA getting some of “his” money. BTW: for those who think that Nascar and Bruton hold all the cars because they own the tracks – remember that the NBA/NFL/MLB owners own all the facilities also. Didn’t stop things though did it.Thats what they are afraid of.


i could swear, that during the first caution i saw the 33 car all but stop on the track. a tow truck went to the rear of the car and push started it. remember seeing the track workers waving the car and tow truck out of the way as the field was passing them on the outside.

i though the tnt tribute at the end, seeing the old clips of broadcasts, particularly when dale sr won race after davey was killed, and the team knelt around the car and said prayer. love or hate him, sr was a class act.

off weekend then brickyard. another flat track where the taxicabs run poorly there. leader will take off and more than likely it will be a single car line until a caution that will bunch them up for a few laps.

by the way…how come we can’t comment at neff’s article?!


Well at least Johnson didn’t have a piece of tire in his hand when he basically said “it wasn’t our fault ” like he did the last time he had a tire fail. I still say if Goodyear would make tires that have to be taken care of through tire management Johnson wouldn’t have the wins that he does. On another note, right now the 2 team is the only one that stands a chance to win the championship over the 48 team. The current teams now in the running either don’t have what it takes or will buckle under the pressure in the final 10 races trying to unseat “The Knaus and Johnson Show”. Knaus won’t make the tire mistake when the championship is in play.


Completely agree Dan. Jimmie seems to have his issues with tire management and seems to want to blame everyone else when he can’t manage them correctly and has a bad day as a result. He would have had a hard time back in the day, where tire management was a weekly necessity, which is why I can’t call him as great as some other people like to call him.


I find it funny or maybe a sad commentary on our times, that a young man wronged, cannot make a snarky comment. Morgan S. was not there to race competitively but to further his agenda as Nascars old guy driving. He drifted up and smacked him, should he send him flowers? EVERY driver on the race track has been the cause of a crash, every one..that does not make them immune to being upset, especially because of a guy over 10 laps down, radio chatter had other drivers complaining about him, he was 10 seconds slower than the pole time, you can go on and on. I’m convinced if this did not happen to this young man and it happened to someone else Morgan Shepard would be in hiding right now, or still clutching a dictonary looking up all the horrible words that were spoken about and to him. Logano was actually pretty nice..but as usual he seems to be the young whipping boy. Morgan had no competitive reason to be out there, his reason was vanity. Top level series, my Aunt Marge is interested..I gave her Robert Pembertons number. Just because you can, doe not mean you should.


Maybe Joey should realize that sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug.


If Morgan couldn’t beat Danica, then I guess he should retire. By the way Ricky Stenhouse couldn’t have gotten anything Sunday night after beating Danica’s butt. LOL


Every week we have to read comments about Danica in the comments section, even when she isn’t talked about in the article. These people commenting are the same people who complain because the media talks too much about her. Simply mind boggling.

Share via