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Thinkin’ Out Loud

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

*The Key Moment:* Jimmie Johnson took the lead on lap 176 and was never headed. *In a Nutshell:* Miles the Monster serves up a race with more than a modicum of mediocrity. *Dramatic Moment:* Waiting to see if Joey Logano’s car stopped rolling before it got to Wilmington. There was some decent racing back in the pack. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* When was the last time a *Cup car got up on its roof,* much less rolled seven times at Dover? You have to give Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, style points for *rolling the dice with a four-tire stop* late in the race.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Fall New Hampshire Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Mark Martin chose the outside lane and managed to hold the lead on the final three restarts to assert his claims as a legitimate title contender. *In a Nutshell:* It wasn’t as bad as the NHMS race where Jeff Burton led flag to flag… but it wasn’t much better, either. *Dramatic Moment:* The double file restarts throughout the event featured the afternoon’s only real racing. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* NASCAR trotted out the twelve Chase contenders for *media events in New York City* this week again. I scanned online coverage from major news outlets, the network sites, and major sports sites not affiliated with the sport -- and found the coverage was virtually nil. Want to know why the *Hendrick cars are dominating at the same time that the Roush cars are struggling*?

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

*The Key Moment:* Denny Hamlin’s crew consistently got him off pit road first, giving their boy a huge boost towards a second career short track victory. *In a Nutshell:* If any racetrack has ever owed any driver a win, it could be argued that Richmond owed hometown hero Denny Hamlin the checkers. Hamlin, who has led the most laps in three of the last four Richmond Cup races, finally sealed the deal Saturday night. *Dramatic Moment:* During the middle stages of the race, Hamlin and Jeff Gordon swapped the lead back and forth almost lap by lap. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* The topic comes up every time they race here. In this age of cookie-cutter tracks, *why hasn’t anyone cloned Richmond yet* -- almost certainly the ideal stock car racing facility?

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2009 Bristol Night Race Recap

*The Key Moment:* Kyle Busch prevailed in a spirited side by side duel over the final two laps. *In a Nutshell:* While there’s side by side racing and technically better racing, fans just aren’t warming up to Bristol Lite. Fans don’t seem to like the new track, the new cars and less carnage. Maybe Bristol should modify Miller’s slogan, “Race great, less feuding” *Dramatic Moment:* Business really picked up in the final 100 laps after a thoroughly mundane start to the event. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* Remember those old *WWJD bracelets*? Want to improve the quality of stock car racing? Start handing the drivers WWED (What would Earnhardt Do?) bracelets. Want anymore proof *the Chase is ruining racing*?

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Michigan (2) Race Recap

_Editor's Note: Matt McLaughlin is on vacation through Michigan. While he’s off, Managing Editor Tom Bowles will fill in for his Sprint Cup race recaps._ *The Key Moment*: Jimmie Johnson’s car sputtered to a stop with two laps to go, handing Brian Vickers his first win in almost three years on fuel mileage. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping the audience sputtered awake in time to see it. *In A Nutshell*: I like using my calculator to balance my checkbook. I don’t like using my calculator to keep from snoring while cars run around in a circle for three hours single-file hoping to “save fuel.”

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