Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud – Charlotte Chase race 5 – Wrestlemania 31

Key Moment – On lap 328, Brian Vickers‘ No. 55 done blowed up. The cleanup from the oil laid down lasted until lap 332. Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, decided to leave his driver on the track. Several other cars also stayed out, so the two-lap dash to the trophy was a battle among cars with used tires. Harvick grabbed a big lead at the drop of the final green and held on to score his third win of the season and advance to the round of eight in the Chase.

2014 Charlotte II Cup Kevin HArvick pit stop credit Yvonne Leonard
A rather clean night on pit road for Kevin Harvick (Credit: Yvonne Leonard)


In a Nutshell – The final race before the elimination at Talladega had everyone on edge Saturday night. Harvick was the car to beat all night and, while it wasn’t a perfect night for the No. 4 team on pit road, they didn’t shoot themselves in the foot and a meteor did not drop from the sky to destroy their car. Harvick resumed the lead on lap 318, following a round of green flag stops, and held it for the remainder of the race. Harvick joins Joey Logano as the two drivers who are locked into the next round of the Chase.

Dramatic Moment – The action during the race was very aggressive, but things were even more aggressive afterwards. On a restart with 63 laps to go, Matt Kenseth tried to pass Brad Keselowski on the outside heading into turn one. Keselowski moved up the track and forced Kenseth into the outside wall. On the final caution Kenseth earned the Lucky Dog. As he moved to the front to take the wave by the pace car, he sideswiped Keselowski’s car. On the subsequent restart, Keselowski roughed up Kenseth’s teammate Denny Hamlin and cost both drivers multiple spots. Hamlin proceeded to brake check Keselowski on the cool down lap after the race. Keselowski tried to spin Hamlin in retaliation but failed. He then proceeded to pit lane and careened his car off the side of Kenseth’s car as the field slowed onto pit road. Keselowski’s car also rear-ended Tony Stewart, who proceeded to back up forcefully into Keselowski’s No. 2 and crumple the front end.

Keselowski and Hamlin headed to the garage area and pulled into adjacent pit stalls, trying to cut through the garage to get to their haulers. They made contact several times as they attempted to get to their transporters and that incited a donnybrook between the crews of the two cars. That incident was broken up quickly and ended with Hamlin throwing a towel at Keselowski. The 2012 champion then headed between haulers to try and get into the lounge at the front of his and was bum-rushed by Kenseth. The 2003 champion threw Keselowski into a head lock and proceeded to feed him a knuckle sandwich before Paul Wolfe, the crew chief of the No. 2, corralled Kenseth and wrested him away from the dog pile.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

Boys have at it is going to be tested this week. The sanctioning body is going to have a hard time letting the boys settle their differences without penalty when they were endangering people in the garage area. Settling differences on the track is one thing, although not smart. Bringing it onto pit lane is a poor decision at best. Smoking tires and banging fenders in the garage area with crew members, fans and media running around is simply unacceptable. We’ll find out somewhere around Tuesday if there are going to be any fines, suspensions, or pats on the back for the combatants. It will be a heck of a PR challenge if the suits in Daytona turn a blind eye to the safety of non-competitors in the garage area.

The direction and allegiance of the Ford supported teams appears to be shifting significantly with the announcement of Sam Hornish taking over the No. 9 ride. In simple terms, Hornish is a Penske man and David Ragan is a Roush man. The selection of Hornish, at least from a distance, looks like the blue oval crowd is hanging their hat on the Penske side of the locker. Throw in the fact that Trevor Bayne, who is going to be wheeling the No. 6 for Roush Fenway next season, was unable to qualify for Charlotte this weekend, and the balance of power has clearly moved over to the Penske organization.

A closer look at the failure of Bayne to qualify reveals a very real problem facing Roush for next season. While Bayne will have points to fall back on next year, he is going to need to greatly improve his efforts if he intends to stick around the series very long. Bayne has 55 career starts in the Cup series and was outrun by the likes of Cole Whitt, Michael Annett, Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill, Michael McDowell and Reed Sorenson. Not to cast aspersions on the talent of those drivers, but the equipment they are wheeling is not backed by the kind of resources that are supporting the car Bayne was running. If the efforts of RFR don’t show improvement in 2015, the implosion of the organization could be all too real.

Another curious anecdote for the Ford camp at Charlotte was the conspicuous absence of the No. 21 of the Wood Brothers. The legendary team, with their race shop just a couple of miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway, missed this race for the second year in a row. Last year was the first time in the modern era of NASCAR that the Woods had not fielded a car at Charlotte in the Fall. It is not easy being a part-time team in the sport but the folks in Detroit have long helped the Woods stay relevant. It is curious that a team so tightly aligned with Roush and Ford did not roll out a car at the home track of the sport.

The television broadcasts obviously shape the perception of the fans who tune in on a weekly basis to enjoy NASCAR races. The journalistic integrity of television is always a little more suspect than print due to the fact that they have a short period of time to vet stories. That said, the tire issues on Friday night were grossly misreported by ESPN. There were three or four cars that had a tire issue early in the race. The tires very well may have been faulty and that should have been pointed out. However, the vast majority of drivers did not have any unusual wear and did not have tire failures. Fans were left thinking that Goodyear had a major problem Friday which just wasn’t true. We are never afraid to call out Goodyear for the myriad of things that we disagree with on their tires, but they also deserve to be given credit when they do their job and are unfairly painted by poor reporting.

Speaking of the folks at ESPN, they are obviously mailing it in as their contract to cover the sport comes to a close at the end of this season. Saturday’s race was supposed to be on ABC but the college football game ran long so it was moved to ESPNNews. That idea was then squashed because there was an NBA pre-season game for the Cleveland Cavaliers being broadcast on that channel. Fans were left with no available video coverage of the race for the early part of the event. ESPN has already preempted a race for a pre-season football game and now they’ve bumped it for college football and pre-season basketball. They have certainly proven where their allegiance lies.

One final not for the folks at ESPN. The load of crap that they ran as a rebroadcast of the race early Sunday morning was an abomination. For those who forgot the race was on ABC, when it finally reached the airwaves, we missed recording it on DVR. Tuning in at 3:00 am for the replay was so far beyond a disappointment it wasn’t funny. Obviously, the folks in Bristol, CT, assigned a first week intern to the rebroadcast and they aren’t race fans. One hour and 17 minutes of broadcast was populated with 45.5 minutes (and that is generous) of actual race broadcast. That included 14 of the first 289 laps of the event, nine of the laps from 290 to 305 and then 26 of the final 29 laps. The video shared included two of the eight caution events, no mention of the Logano/Patrick incident, no hint of Clint Bowyer’s engine failure, nary a word of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s broken gear shift or any acknowledgement of Tony Stewart dropping through the field. In the early years of ESPN coverage you would be able to watch a complete re-air of race coverage, shortly after the completion of the event. Now, should you miss the original show, fuhgeddaboutit. You’ll be more frustrated about the horrendous tease they share with you rather than enjoying a satisfying abbreviated version.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Karma can be a bitch but sometimes your luck just stinks. Clint Bowyer has been struggling since the infamous intentional spin at Richmond last year. He missed the Chase this year, primarily because of a broken gear shift at Atlanta. He has finished dead last twice this year and 42nd once. Saturday was another disappointing effort when the power plant in his No. 15 went south 94 laps into the race.

2014 Kansas II CUP Clint Bowyer car CIA
Clint Bowyer’s tough year continues (Credit: CIA stock photography)

Slugger Labbe is climbing down from the pit box to take a position as the head of R&D at Richard Childress Racing after Saturday’s race. Labbe and his driver, Paul Menard, have started strong for years but have struggled sealing the deal at the end of seasons. Saturday night was another disappointment when the engine in the No. 27 gave up the ghost on lap 135. It was a hollow ending to his career as a crew chief at RCR, although never say never. Gil Martin climbed back on the box after a break and is having a good year with Austin Dillon.

Josh Wise continues to chase the dream with an underfunded team. They are very limited in their budget but they are trying to make a go of it and race full events, not start and park. Early Saturday night, Wise had a transmission issue that put him in the garage. The team thrashed on the car and got it back out on track, 40 laps down. On lap 222 the rear gear gave up and relegated the team to a 41st place finish.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Kyle Larson led the race twice for a total of five laps, but late in the race bounced his ride off of the fence running the high line. He continued on with speed but it hampered the handling just enough to prevent him from getting back to the front of the pack. Another top 10 in Larson’s stellar year continues to set him up for his first win and eventual status as a star in the sport.

Austin Dillon has been overshadowed by Larson this season but he’s having a respectable run as a rookie in the series. Saturday night he led the race twice for six laps, while they were due to green flag stops and a spit call. Dillon ran a solid race and, despite an early tire issue, came home a comfortable 13th.

Landon Cassill continues to get it done for his underfunded team. He unloaded off of the truck on Thursday with a white race car. By Saturday night, after qualifying for the race, the No. 40 had Thunder Coal on the hood and the quarter panels. Cassill ran a clean race and only lost three laps and came home with a 23rd place finish. Cassill is one of the unsung talents in the garage who does impressive things with less than impressive equipment.

Worth Noting

Kevin Harvick’s win was his 26th of his Cup series career. He has made 497 starts.

The win moves Harvick into a tie with Fred Lorenzen for 25th on the all-time wins list. Mark Martin and Bobby Isaac are the only inactive drivers ahead of Harvick on the list who are not in the Hall of Fame.

The victory is Harvick’s third of 2014 and locks him into the next round of the Chase.

This triumph is also Harvick’s third in 28 career races at Charlotte.

Jeff Gordon‘s runner-up finish on Saturday night was his 10th of the season.

Gordon has eight career top 2 runs at Charlotte in 44 starts, including a second place finish in his first ever race at the track.

Jamie McMurray rounded out the podium with his third place finish. It was McMurray’s best finish in a points race this season.

The top 3 was McMurray’s fourth of his career at Charlotte, including his first win in the Coor’s Light Dudge in 2002 in his second career start.

Kyle Larson was the rookie of the race with his sixth place finish.

Landon Cassill has finished in the top 25 in three of the last four races.

What’s the Points

The points matter now that the Chase to the Cup has begun. Up to three drivers can advance to the next round by winning races in this segment. The other drivers making up the 8 who make it to round three will do so on points. The 16 drivers in the Chase are listed below with their point total after round five of the Chase. Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, by virtue of their wins at Kansas and Charlotte are already assured of moving on to segment three of the Chase.

  1. Joey Logano 3088
  2. Kyle Busch 3082
  3. Kevin Harvick 3081
  4. Ryan Newman 3077
  5. Carl Edwards 3076
  6. Jeff Gordon 3074
  7. Denny Hamlin 3073
  8. Kasey Kahne 3057
  9. Matt Kenseth 3056
  10. Brad Keselowski 3038
  11. Jimmie Johnson 3031
  12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3031
  13. AJ Allmendinger 2142
  14. Greg Biffle 2127
  15. Kurt Busch 2109
  16. Aric Almirola 2096

Overall Rating(On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – Night racing on an Intermediate track can be more sleep inducing than Ambien. Whether it was the knowledge that Talladega is on the horizon, the nearly full moon in the sky or just the fact that the season is nearing the end and people are tired of seeing each other, Charlotte was loaded with intense racing and spilled over into the garage area with fisticuffs. Five on track passes for the lead, four and five wide racing and long green flag runs without bogus debris cautions made for a four ice cold Hop, Drop and Roll IPAs from NoDa Brewing Company. We’re going to throw in an extra shot of Jagermeister for the WWE antics in the garage area between Hamlin, Keselowski and Kenseth.

Next Up

The insanity begins next Sunday, October 19th, at 2:00 pm. The series takes to the 2.66 mile tri-oval of Talladega Superspeedway. The typical wild card aspect of plate racing will be heightened by the fact that it is the elimination race for segment two of the Chase. Four drivers title hopes will be crushed when the checkered flag flies. You can also hear the race on MRN radio affiliates and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Now that Carl Edwards is joining JGR next year, BK will be having “JGR Paranoia” in both his dreams and his rear view mirror. Four against one, not good odds for BK no matter if he chooses to fight them
or tries to avoid them.

For us who are disinterested with this Chase, Kyle Larson is so much fun
to watch. This kid is the real deal, Happy for Chip, now we really understand why he finally said goodbye to Montoya.

Bill B

I am very impressed that NASCAR let the race play out without any fake debris cautions. I will give the race an extra beer just for that so mark me down for 5 cold ones.

Still can’t stand the new chase but this race was a good as it gets for a 1.5 mile track.

No way NASCAR gives any chase guy a points penalty.

If I recall correctly the race was pre-empted last year by a late running college game. Why would any network butt two events up to each other without a buffer? Last year I think the game went into overtime but this year it ended as planned. How did the game run so late considering there was a 30 minute buffer with the pre-race show? Well, hopefully this won’t be an issue next year since ABC will be out.

Regardless of who needs a win and who just needs a good finish, I don’t see how any of the chase guys push it until the last 100 miles of next week’s race at Talladega. You need to be there at the end and if you are going to mix it up and be involved in the big one, you might as well wait until late in the race before you put your chips on the table. So, if you happen to start up front and can stay there then you race up front, but if you start to fall back and end up in “the pack” you might as well ride at the back until the last 100 miles. If you are lucky one or two other chase guys will have a problem or get caught up in the big one and allow you a cushion to make the cut by default.


The fall Charlotte race in particular has been pre-empted by football several times. I remember back in 2006 they even delayed the race by a couple of minutes to give time for the game on NBC to finish, and it did in time.

I also recall that the 2007 Phoenix spring race was pre-empted by a baseball game (Yankees vs. Red Sox, if I recall), but in that case FOX cut away from the ninth inning in time to show the start. Now THAT left the baseball fans upset!

Carl D.

Huge Keselowski fan here but very disappointed he decided to go all Kyle-Busch Saturday night. When Matt Kenseth wants to punch you, you know you’ve been an ass. The move to block Kenseth was foolish and cost BK the race and probably the championship. As it should have. There’s been quite a bit of talk about how nothing rattles the #2 team. Apparently sitting on the verge of elimination does.

Speaking of Kyle Busch, if he’s one of the four contenders heading into Homestead, and if JGR keeps inching forward in the horsepower department, I believe he could be a spoiler. You don’t have to be a nice guy to hoist the championship trophy… Tony Stewart has three of them.


I was just finally able to watch the replay of the post race antics. For the first time I am almost speechless. I hope everyone gets penalized. They ALL might as well have been 6 year olds on the playground. SHAMEFULL! On the other hand, congratulations to Mcmurray and Logano for their top five finishes.


i was shocked to see kenseth go after brad. really had kenseth fired up to do that.

i don’t get espnnews……i figured whenever football is prior to race, race will be pre-empted. but man, almost and hour?! then bestwick rambled on to let us know what happened to bring up-to-date.

all i know is i’m wondering what the idiot in daytona beach is doing being faced with the fact that johnson might be cut this time, along with earnhardt jr. hendrick has to be hoping that a lot of the top runners in the standings have trouble of get caught up in wreck at ‘dega in order for his two drivers to make it to the next round. don’t fear hendrick…twinkle-toes waltrip will be trying to make the ‘dega race, so if he succeeds, i’m sure he’ll be in one mess at ‘dega.

and not to be nasty, but when stewart put his car in reverse and ramed brad k, i instantly thought to what stewart’s legal team was thinking as well as kevin ward’s family.

for safety of all involved, i truly hope retaliation doesn’t happen til martinsville. dega is no place to “have at it”.

Bill B

JJ, Jr and Kes are so far behind that they are almost a race of points behind 7th place Hamlin (42, 42 and 35 respectively). So even if Hamlin or anyone higher than him in the points get into a wreck, if they can get the car back out and finish 30th or better none of these drivers will be able to catch them. I believe the only way any of those 3 make it in is with a win next week. A very tall order at any track but especially the crapshoot nature of Talladega.


Janice, I bet it wasn’t just Syewart’s legal team that took notice. Probably a lot of smiles and high fives in the legal community over that little stunt.


Very foolish thing for him to do, that wasn’t a love tap. To me it just shows his true colors and lack of brains given the circumstances of the past couple of months. And people defended him yet again yesterday, Tony is always justfied…blah, blah, blah. At the very least he displayed zero common sense. Makes you wonder, and the media was very quiet on that as well. Circle the wagons. That’s o.k that act made people with brains take notice, I don’t need somebody to try and tell me I didn’t see what I saw.


Maybe things would be better all around if people took the blinders off, and not just for Stewart.


Well I really don’t know how to take your comment, seems like a veiled dig, if not my apologies. But from where I sit, nobody in Nascar in recent memory has had the public scrutiny of something so serious. He this weekend calls attention to the very thing that had him at the center of attention and he is not out of the limelight yet with it.


The garbage that went on after the checkered flag was totally stupid. As a die-hard Ford guy, Brad’s actions were extremely disappointing. If NASCAR hits him with a big enough penalty to finally kill his Championship hopes, he deserves it. Oh well, there’s still Joey and Carl, although I don’t believe Carl will make the final four.

The ABC/ESPN sports show schedulers should be shot! But then, what do they care, as they are out of here after Homestead. But, at the very least, they could issue a formal apology, although it would be so phoney!

The one incident that seems to have gone un-noticed was Logano pushing the Pit-Road Witch out of the way. I was listening to the replay of the race on Sirius yesterday, and they had mentioned that the Witch has threatened to do everything she can to destroy Logano’s Championship chances. Given that she has no brains, this needs to be taken very seriously. Having Championship contending drivers (Keselowski, Hamlin, Kenseth) going after each other is one thing. Having someone who, at the best of times, is nothing but a hazard on the track threatening to derail a Championship contending driver’s chances is another. If she does anything stupid like that (not that she doesn’t do a lot of stupid stuff), she should be parked for the rest of the season. And, just for revenge, Ford should force Roush to fire her boyfriend. Stand by, Chris Buescher! Too, this little witch needs to be thankful it was only Logano who moved her. There was a day when there was this black Chevy with the number 3 on it who didn’t care who you were, if she had of got in his way, he would have pile-drove her into the wall, smirked about it, and when confronted, would have laughed it off as “one of them racing deals”.


princess does as princess wants to do. in my opinion her 15 minutes of fame has been over for atleast a year and one-half. surprised she keeps her ride. i thought her contract was up this season, but since stewart’s problems, nothing has been said about princess’ contract.


She wont lose her ride as long as she can bring in a sponsor. But, and I’m really not trying to be a sexist, once her looks start to fade, what then? Will she be able to attract the money?

Carl D.

Last year SHR booted Ryan Newman and kept Patrick. Now Newman is 4th in points and will probably be in the final eight after Talladega while Patrick is mired back in 28th place. Yeah, I know it’s all about the $$$, but I still think it sucks.


carl – think newman is happier at rcr. at least he looks that way. i would love to see ryan win the championship.


Wrong! Patrick was already in. Newman was replaced by Harvick. Try to add some facts to go with your Danica hate. You will at least have more credibility that way

Tommy T.

Read twice – reply once, Steve. Carl did not say Patrick replaced Ryan…only that he got the ‘boot’ but they kept her.


Exactly Tommy read again. He said they kept her. She was already there. Someone needs to check their own reading comprehension before discussing other peoples.


Right. Because we all know that any driver that cuts off another driver during the race needs to be parked, because it only happens when Patrick does it. At least in your world.


Drivers in and out of cars do stupid things.

Trevor Bayne ran a lap 5 mph slower than pole. He did NOT get into the race. Another car ran 10 mph slower than pole and he DID get to race. Doh!!

Tommy T.

Nice read Mike. I know he hasn’t shown enough speed to legitimately challenge for a win, but can we show a little love for Newman. Fourth in points for an organization that has pretty much become second-tier isn’t bad…not bad at all.


Great race, that was some fun. I’m still not sold on this new Chase, but no doubt the drivers and teams are on edge. I can’t believe Kenseth went Stone Cold on Brad. As a Gordon fan, I’ll be breathing into a bag the whole Talledega race. Then just wait until Martinsville, a good place to settle accounts.

Fed Up

Wanted to see a real fight, but got towel throwing, poor tackling, and a large group hug. LMAO


NASCAR won’t do anything. Since its inception it has always been special rules for special fools and Chase drivers certainly are entitled to the special fools rules exemption. When someone gets killed on pit road everyone at NASCAR can practice their this tragedy just couldn’t have been prevented faces. And speaking of entitled, what this new generation of drivers need is for Nascar to hire Jimmy Spencer (I don’t know why they don’t listen to me) to slap some man into them. Those three couldn’t win a hair pull with a cheerleader if they ganged up on her.

Funky D

The fact that the Greg Biffle will carry the flag for RFR demonstrates that this organization has been and is in a slow terminal decline for at least the last 8 seasons. After Roush peaked in 2005 with 5 Chase teams (and still losing to Tony Stewart), and landing the $72M deal with Aflac, they started having issues keeping sponsorship and their overall performance ever since. With a fresh infusion of Ford money (to keep Carl Edwards around), he came within a whisker of winning the 2011 title (losing to Tony Stewart), but that has been an aberration. After even poorer performance over the last 3 years, Kenseth and Edwards have both given up and moved on to the Gibbs Gang.

Jack Roush himself hasn’t been the same since his 2010 plane crash, and has been far less visible at the track as well. That may be accelerating the decline of the organization, but it certainly hasn’t been the cause.

Still, it is sad to see what has become of the origination that just a decade ago, was among the very elite. Now they are relegated to 2nd-tier status and I don’t see any upside for them going forward until some significant changes are made.


I’ve been a BK fan for the last couple years. I’m rethinking that now. He needs to be penalized and have it hurt. The person that made me the most disgusted is the tall guy in a black shirt that punched a bearded crew member in the side of the head from a foot away. What a piece of garbage he is … take away his credentials.


Only thing that requires (severe) penaltys here is Brads actions with the car. (pit road & esp garage) People were at (high) risk during that time with an apparent panicked crazy person driving a race car in a populated area…I Must admit cheering for this guy during his championship drive (thought Penske deserved one for all his efforts) but since then the elevated ego two years later which seems so shrub/busch like (oddly the brothers have both done the dangerous pit road incident) & when they did this nascar did very little at that time.Now we have yet another close call & I’m thinking this is due to the fact that for the previous actions there was never a 1 race suspension applied.( Guess nascar will wait till someone is actually hurt & thy lawyers can take over) Had that been done back then (esp in kurts case as had the pit crew member not been fast he probably would have been squashed) we would not have had the car careening around after the race & through the garage…As for the rest of it ..”Boys Have At It” (& you have to make Kenseth pretty mad to get that reaction..Jus an opinion..Earner


Yeah I use to think Keselowski was ok but now I wonder about that guy. Although we could very well have another bonehead as the next champion. Think back of all the stupid sh*t Harvick has done in the pits. From parking in other drivers’ pit stalls to driving a burning car among people,parking it and walking away. Yep he’ll make the ideal champ too.


Nice way to ignore both Newman and Rowdy, Mike Neff. I would LOVE to see one of them steal this championship from all the media darlings.

As for Stewart, once a punk, always a punk. He didn’t learn a thing from killing a man. Just add some more footage to the Ward family “History of a Madman” video for the wrongful death jury to view.


That’s what I thought, too. Stewart should not be doing ANYTHING that remotely resembles aggression at this point. The Ward family lawyers will be all over it

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