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Thinkin’ Out Loud

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Fontana Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Kevin Harvick reeled in and ran down race leader Jimmie Johnson but slapped the wall with three laps to go, breaking his momentum and handing the victory to the No. 48. *In a Nutshell:* Foul weather in the area and uncertainty as to whether the race would run its full distance ignited something fans have never seen during a Cup event at Fontana before … real racing.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2010 Daytona 500

*The Key Moment:* Greg Biffle gave his friend and former teammate Jamie McMurray a vital push down the backstretch on the final lap to propel the No. 1 car to the win. *In a Nutshell:* Daytona International: Putting the “Car” back in “Carnage.” *Dramatic Moment:* Kevin Harvick’s take no prisoners move to the inside on the restart following the eighth caution wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s headlong charge from tenth to second on the final lap had the fans on their feet. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* If the Daytona 500 is indeed the “Super Bowl” of racing, as some term it, having *the field of play come apart in the middle of the race* is completely unacceptable. So the folks that own it might be ready to repave it in 2012 after a mere 34 years? They could have saved themselves some egg on the face and done it after last year’s Firecracker 400.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Bud Shootout

*The Key Moment:* Kevin Harvick, on fresh tires, took the lead on the final restart right before mayhem occurred behind him, leading to a late caution in one of the most bizarre Green-White-Checkered finishes since… well, when Harvick won the Daytona 500 in 2007.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Homestead Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin made quick work of Kurt Busch on the final restart, and Hamlin prevailed in the battle of the JGR teammates to drive to an uncontested win. *In a Nutshell:* With a whimper, not a bang, the 2009 Cup season finished, imploding upon itself with a very unpleasant sneezing and wheezing as the calliope collapsed to the ground. *Dramatic Moment:* Unfortunately, most of them occurred at the midpoint of Saturday’s Nationwide race, but watching Juan Pablo Montoya run down Tony Stewart to deliver a little retribution off his front bumper wasn't bad.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Phoenix Fall Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Johnson’s crew got their driver off pit road first on the final set of pit stops. Once the No. 48 car had clean air on its snout, it was unstoppable. *In a Nutshell:* Jimmie Johnson drove another nail in his competition’s coffin with a dominating drive. *Dramatic Moment:* There weren’t many in a race that started out with some enthusiasm but quickly petered out altogether. Johnson and Kurt Busch actually waged a somewhat stirring battle early in the event. The side-by-side restarts at the narrow Phoenix track made for some physical racing and a pair of big wrecks. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Cup Racing At Phoenix.* Name that acronym!

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Texas Fall Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch ran out of gas with two laps to go, handing the lead to his brother Kurt, who used extraordinary mileage to drive to his second win of the season. *In a Nutshell:* Terrible television timing, Busch brothers battle, Jimmie Johnson in a jam, fans feel frustrated, NASCAR necessitates No-Doz. (Or, if you prefer: frustratingly unwieldy cars keep torpedoing historically interesting sport. Someone help! It‘s terrible.) *Dramatic Moment:* I dunno. I guess watching race cars run out of gas just isn’t to my liking. With the Brothers Busch leading all but 13 laps, and the leader and second place drivers often separated by a straightaway, I was nearly lulled comatose Sunday. But, like they say, your mileage may vary.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Talladega Fall Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* When the stuff hit the fan Jamie McMurray was at the front of the pack, seemingly as surprised to be there as anyone was to see him take the checkers. *In a Nutshell:* 183 laps of tedium followed by five laps of incomprehensible, stomach churning insanity posing as some facsimile of a race. Terrible, simply terrible. Utterly so, without any redeeming social value. *Dramatic Moment:* A long, long pause waiting to get word on Ryan Newman’s condition after his terrible tumble. At the plate tracks I usually sit and wait to watch to see if the rotors start turning on the Med-evac helicopter after an incident. If they don’t, everyone is OK. If they do, someone is not. If they start turning then stop, the worst possible outcome has occurred. Welcome to Talladega, future home of the “Worst Possible Outcome 500.” Your ticket to the race comes with a complimentary toe-tag.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Martinsville Fall Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Denny Hamlin held off repeated charges by Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Juan Pablo Montoya during a flurry of late race restarts to claim another win in front of his partisan, home state fans. *In a Nutshell:* There’s no problem so big with this sport that a great little short track can’t fix it... at least for a week. *Dramatic Moment:* The first 350 laps were about as close to vintage stock car racing as newer fans are likely ever to see. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* I noticed this doing my pre-race prep this week prior to Martinsville. *Under the current points system, Jimmie Johnson led second place Mark Martin by 90 points* and third place Jeff Gordon by 135 points. But under that tired old classic points system we used to use until it provided too many runaway champions...

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Charlotte Fall Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Jimmie Johnson prevailed in a spirited side-by-side battle with teammate Jeff Gordon after the final restart. *In a Nutshell:* This is getting rather formulaic. Three and a half hours of mind-numbing tedium with the driver up front running away with the race, a flurry of late cautions, and twenty minutes of excitement. *Dramatic Moment:* That final battle between Johnson and Gordon was the sort of stuff that makes the highlight reels. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* If the drivers are *only going to race wide open for the final 25 laps* why not condense all the races to 25 lap shootouts.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kansas Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Tony Stewart and his team elected to change two tires on the final stop to take the lead. Stewart held off a determined late-race challenge from Jeff Gordon to score the win. *In a Nutshell:* Another McRace on another McTrack. The status quo is Toto-ally unacceptable unless you have the brains of a scarecrow. *Dramatic Moment:* Early in the final run, Gordon was closing quickly on Stewart’s red Chevy. Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle staged a prolonged side-by-side battle for the lead during the middle stages of the race. There was some decent racing towards the back of the top 10. *Undramatic Moment*: The whole rest of the race.

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