The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: Where Do We Go From Here?, Judging Allmendinger, And Closing Memphis by Frontstretch Staff -- Wednesday November 4, 2009

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Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every week, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news and rumors. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

This Week’s Participants:
Beth Lunkenheimer (Tuesdays / Running Your Mouth & Various / Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays / Top Ten & Thursdays / Voices From The Heartland)
Bryan Davis Keith (Thursdays / Picks ‘N’ Pans & Sundays / Nationwide Series Breakdown)
Amy Henderson (Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel)
Kurt Allen Smith (Wednesdays / Foto Funnies & Fridays / Happy Hour)

Fans and drivers alike were disappointed with the latest Talladega offering. But realistically, is there anything NASCAR can do with the current package to make the racing better — short of removing restrictor plates?

Kurt: Other than removing restrictor plates, they have tried just about everything. And the one thing they should know by now that they can’t do is police bump drafting.
Bryan: Hmm … make the holes in the plates larger, refrain from telling drivers exactly how to drive, and get rid of the stupid yellow line rule. Outside of letting the drivers race without fear of Big Brother going 1984 on them, the key is, as Junior put it, to get some throttle response in the cars. They’ve got to open the cars up enough that handling comes into play.
Amy: They could allow the teams to work within the package – gears, springs, that kind of thing — but there’s not much than can be done because at the end of the day, the cars are still too fast without a plate. They can and should police bump drafting, but not the way they went about it this week.
Beth: For starters, they could let the drivers police themselves. I’m pretty sure they could quickly work out respecting each other on the track without NASCAR telling them how to drive.
Kurt: No, they can’t, Amy. Sooner or later, someone is going to try to win. It doesn’t matter what you do… plate racing is always going to be insane. You can’t race all at the same speed! Tony Stewart once said if they don’t want them to bump draft, they should take the plates off. There you go.
Jeff: If they took the plates off, sure they would go faster and faster; but then, they’d be forced to get off the gas in the corners, or learn that going that fast crashes!
Amy: They did it right on Friday: one driver was causing a problem, so they parked him.  Problem solved, and it didn’t punish the other 42 guys.
Bryan: Give me a break! All NASCAR did Friday was the same thing they did when they warned Brad Keselowski at Kansas — they told a second-class “untouchable” to get away from the all-precious Chasers.

Amy: He nearly wrecked another driver by being aggressive in practice. I didn’t even know who the driver was when I first learned of it, and it doesn’t matter who it was. They should have parked him if it was a start and park he was harassing.
Bryan: But they wouldn’t have, Amy, we all know that. Waltrip was harassing the guy who’s making history, and they made quick work to call off the dogs.
Amy: Anyways, I still think they need a whole new engine package at Talladega and Daytona, a smaller engine that produces less power that can be raced unrestricted.
Kurt: Maybe. Or lower the banking. It could be done. Anything but plates. I don’t know how much more we need to see.
Beth: Maybe NASCAR should ask Ryan Newman for a suggestion in how to fix it.  He does have an engineering degree, and I’d be willing to bet he could come up with something that would work for NASCAR, the drivers, and the fans. As it is, that wing on the new car is what sent Ryan flying in the first place. It completely negated the effect the roof flaps are supposed to have.
Bryan: Right, Beth – that’s the most pressing concern. They have got to get these cars back on the ground.
Kurt: But plates contribute to all of that, Bryan. They went airborne in the old car, too.
Jeff: Not as often after the flaps, Kurt. But the wing overpowers the flaps.
Kurt: Well, it hasn’t changed with the new car. If anything, it’s gotten worse.
Amy: But the new car saved Newman’s life, so …
Jeff: C’mon, Amy. Its almost like every time a new wreck comes along, you have never seen one before and the “new car saved his life.”
Bryan: Harvick’s hood saved Newman’s life, as far as we can tell. NASCAR is damned lucky they had to cut the roof off to get him out before someone snapped a picture of the crushed cockpit. That would not have been pretty.
Beth: Exactly, Bryan.
Kurt: Should that roof have gotten bashed in like that?
Beth: I’m not surprised it did with how many times he hit.
Amy: As far as it was bashed in, with the older, lower roof it would have killed him.
Kurt: It was lucky he didn’t catch fire, either. There was a guy with an extinguisher there, but still.
Amy: Newman was mad as hell inside the car. But since you can’t get rid of the pavement, the higher roof in the CoT is a huge safety improvement. As it was, it was bent to Newman’s helmet. The old one was already almost on their helmets.
Bryan: Jeff’s got a point, though — the mess we saw was nothing new. It was the circumstances that led to it. All we heard was about how the taller fence and the medicine man made things safer…
Amy: The fence was for the fans, not the drivers. And it is safer.
Beth: The height of the fence wasn’t the problem in the Spring — that was a publicity thing.
Kurt: Look, there are always new safety measures, every race, every year, and we still have horrendous crashes. The plate is always the elephant in the room to NASCAR.
Jeff: What killed most drivers before was the damn concrete wall.
Amy: Yes, and NASCAR got rid of concrete walls.
Jeff: Only after Dale died. And I get so sick of this “new car saved his life” crap! Molest me not with this pocket calculator stuff!
Kurt: It was also not smart to tell the drivers not to bump draft at all an hour before the green. That’s partly what caused that love train.
Amy: The race really wasn’t run differently than the race in April. If NASCAR hadn’t warned the drivers beforehand, nobody would be any more upset than they were then.
Bryan: That’s my point. It wasn’t that this plate race was different — the circumstances surrounding it were. NASCAR backhanded the drivers and all but guaranteed a crappy show for the fans, then the one driver who’s screaming out loud that he wants to help got wrecked in the same way in which he brought it to their attention this Spring.
Beth: And the sad thing is that we’re going to have to lose a driver before NASCAR does something about it.
Kurt: Losing a driver might not even do it, Beth. I liked what Newman said: If this is what you watch for, go home.
Beth: I agree. And I’m glad he called NASCAR out.
Bryan: It’ll take losing Junior or Smoke to get them to act. Seriously, if David Stremme or someone bit the dust, I’d bet they use the wreck for a promo.
Beth: You’re probably right.
Kurt: They will use Newman’s wreck for a promo, you can bet on that. That’s what sickens me. That is the reason the plates will never go away: the networks love the wrecks.
By the way, Mark Martin was equally pissed — that was about as mad as I’ve seen him.
Beth: I can’t remember the last time I heard such an almost standoffish interview like that.
Amy: Here’s the thing, though. We talk about letting the drivers police themselves, and that sounds great, but as every single plate race has shown, they can’t do it for a whole race. I don’t like the way NASCAR got involved, but policing themselves doesn’t work, either.
Kurt: They couldn’t do it anyway, Amy! That was one of the worst plate races I’ve seen regarding danger, and that’s saying something. You’re not going to make racing at Talladega safe. You’re just not, unless you lower the banking and get rid of the plates.
Beth: NASCAR opened themselves up to a lot of doubt in the beginning about this rule when they said, “You may get a warning and you may not.” It’s like saying if you steal a car, you may or may not be prosecuted.
Kurt: That says it all, Beth. How the heck does a driver respond to that?
Bryan: Well, they had to leave a gray area in case Junior or Jimmie bump drafted their way to a win.
Kurt: But the reason they say that is because there’s an impossible amount of gray area when it comes to bump drafting or the yellow line rule, which is what makes plate racing ridiculous.
Beth: That’s why NASCAR needs to back off and let the drivers do what they get paid for … race.
Amy: The yellow line rule is stupid, but I do understand where NASCAR is coming from. Bottom line, the drivers don’t police themselves — so someone has to.
Kurt: I would have no problem with losing Talladega from the schedule completely.
Amy: I agree. There’s really no place for that type of racing.
Bryan: Well, the drivers most certainly do police themselves. Just because they wreck doesn’t mean they aren’t policing.
Beth: Exactly, Bryan.
Amy: I disagree. The last wreck of the day was caused by overaggressive driving. Keselowski was not policing himself, and it got scary.
Kurt: I understand that it gets rough, Amy, but you’re never going to stop that. They tried Sunday and it made for a freight train for 100 laps, plus a mess for 30. Driver meetings with stern warnings don’t cut it. This is racing, and someone at some point is going to try to win!
Jeff: Amy should work for NASCAR.
Bryan: And Amy, be honest, Brian Vickers ran all over Brad to cause that wreck. Keselowski’s rear end didn’t dance out on its own on the straight like that.
Amy: No, but I think Kes hit KB first and slowed just a touch, and then BV ran into him. In real time, you’d never see the difference.
Beth: There wasn’t a whole lot Keselowski could do to avoid hitting Kurt Busch.
Jeff: Here’s my point: Why don’t they run into the turns at Bristol at 130 mph? You don’t go into the turns at Bristol at 130 because you will wreck!  When the plates come off and the speeds go up and it becomes unsafe to go in the corners at 220 at ‘Dega, the drivers won’t do it.
Bryan: That’s a point … these guys aren’t morons, they aren’t going to drive 240 mph into a turn because they can. And as a poster on my column noted, Talladega was built for real stock cars, not race cars. The track is hosting events it was never meant to host.
Kurt: The track should be hosting Big Wheel races and nothing else.
Amy: Right, Bryan. It wasn’t meant for these cars at these speeds, yet we’re still stuck with it because a bunch of people find the wrecks exciting.
Kurt: The networks find the wrecks exciting.
Jeff: When it was built, it was too much track for the cars and tires. Now, you say we have too much car?  Well, don’t go as fast as the cars can go!
Kurt: You know that won’t work, Jeff. Someone will go 210, then someone else will go 215.
Jeff: Until they wreck … then they won’t do it. A man’s got to know his limitations.
Bryan: And the sport needs to know a track’s limitations, as well.
Kurt: But even if they let them go all out, I still say that’s safer than plate racing. Nothing NASCAR tries will make restrictor plate racing safe.
Bryan: If NASCAR is going to insist running these pieces of crap race cars instead of actual stock cars, Talladega has got to come off the schedule. And since that won’t happen, try something else. Open the damned plates up, because we can’t get any more unsafe than Sunday.
Amy: Bottom line is, restrictor plate racing has become dangerous and is not entertaining, so either find a new engine package or find somewhere else to race.
Jeff: Hello people … do you hear yourselves? Get rid of the plates, not the track! There’s no such thing as a track that can’t handle the race. You have to race the track.
Amy: I don’t know, Jeff, Talladega races before the plates were just OK — not always a lot of action. Get rid of the plates and the problems go away. But to do that, you need an engine that produces less horsepower.
Kurt: It will never happen. NASCAR and the networks market the wrecks. Although they say they don’t really want it to happen … right. And as you said in your column Monday, Bryan: a lot of people like plate racing.
Bryan: Maybe the best idea for ‘Dega would be to make the track more narrow, a la Daytona, to force handling into the equation.
Kurt: Just lower the banking. It can be done.
Amy: Then you get a big Fontana. Yeah, that’d be great …
Bryan: Build… a… short… track.
Amy: Exactly.
Kurt: I’ll take Fontana over Talladega any day of the year.

NASCAR placed A.J. Allmendinger on probation until December 31 following a DUI arrest last Wednesday in North Carolina, citing “actions detrimental to stock car racing.” Is the sanctioning body overstepping its bounds by regulating drivers’ activity away from the track?

Jeff: Overstepping. Again.
Amy: In my mind, that was more over the line than telling drivers not to drive stupid at Talladega. Now if the team owner, a driver’s actual employer, has a morals clause and he violates it, that’s totally different.
Kurt: Well, it’s sure easy to pull the hypocrisy card considering the history of NASCAR’s CEO. But in truth, I think it was the right call.
Bryan: Well, I don’t see why they can’t. I mean, they’re a sanctioning body and they can pick and choose whom to let race. I don’t have a problem with that, because NASCAR does have a right to allow or not allow people to race in their events.
Kurt: Probation is not a big deal. It’s NASCAR’s way of saying watch your butt. And I think A.J. was cool with it. He manned up and admitted his mistake.
Beth: Like it or not, NASCAR drivers, even in their private lives, represent NASCAR as well as themselves. I don’t have a problem with the probation. NASCAR’s just going to keep a closer eye on him.
Jeff: Bull. They are independent contractors.
Amy: NASCAR doesn’t employ them. His team has every right to punish him as they see fit — and they did. The Iredell County judge has every right to punish him under the law, and I certainly hope one will do that, but NASCAR should be policing what happens at the track, not away from it, unless that driver comes to the track impaired.

All it took was one too many beers and one bad decision to leave A.J. Allmendinger’s future with this sport hanging in the balance.

Bryan: NASCAR can pick and choose to regulate. Hell, they had every right to do what they did at Talladega, even though it was way, way, way in the wrong.
Jeff: Oh, they can pick and choose all right — but it doesn’t make them right.
Bryan: No one makes these guys race in NASCAR; it’s like any other league. If the rules are overstepping in a driver’s eye, the driver needs to put his foot down or leave.
Kurt: I’m saving that angle for Happy Hour this week. But in the grand scheme of things, NASCAR wants to set a precedent they don’t want this image. Didn’t this happen to Scott Wimmer as well?
Amy: Yes, it did.
Jeff: That’s different.
Beth: Ah, but NASCAR does police what happens away from the track with their drug program! You don’t have to be under the influence of a drug to get suspended. A driver could smoke pot at a party in the middle of the week and test positive at the track that weekend.
Kurt: But that matters, Beth. I would rather guys weren’t driving while they’re hallucinating.
Amy: To me, that’s different. If you show up and test positive for something at the track, then you deserve whatever punishment you get.
Jeff: This is another media mountain of a mole hill we shouldn’t even be talking about.
Bryan: Every professional league out there reprimands players, even after their respective teams do the same.
Amy: Other professional leagues have players’ agreements between the league and the players. NASCAR doesn’t. So if a DWI negatively impacts his team, with whom he has a contract, they have every right to reprimand or release him.
Bryan: I don’t think there’s an issue of right or wrong here as much as that ‘Dinger acted like a fool, and he’s going to lose potential sponsors because of this thing. And after he got the No. 43 ride for 2010, too…
Beth: At least he was able to admit his mistake. If he learns from it, even better.
Amy: I agree, Beth. I respect him for admitting he screwed up. He said it was two, and he shouldn’t have been driving.
Kurt: He was just barely at the limit. For someone my weight, it would be about three drinks.
Bryan: Still, for crying out loud, when in doubt pass your keys off.
Jeff: But really, what did NASCAR do to him? How many other crew chiefs and drivers get put on probation every year?
Kurt: Right Jeff, like I said, it isn’t a big deal.
Bryan: Bottom line: There is no issue here outside of a driver doing something really stupid that will set his team back in their search for sponsor dollars in 2010.
Beth: I’m fine with what NASCAR did. They’re just reminding A.J. that they’re keeping an eye on him. Provided he’s learned from his mistake, he’ll be just fine and make it through the remainder of the season without incident.
Amy: I agree with Bryan. NASCAR should keep out of it.
Kurt: It was the right call. A.J. should just watch his behind, and I’m sure he will. How about that he drives for Richard Petty, though? Kind of ironic.

NASCAR recently won two major business awards for its work with fans on improving the sport. Their efforts are obviously a commendable business model — so why are fans not buying it?

Kurt: We freakin’ love you for that, NASCAR … Ha Ha Ha Ha!
Amy: The timing was unfortunate. But, to credit NASCAR somewhat, they have listened.
Bryan: Fans aren’t buying it because race fans didn’t give the awards out — the eggheads who gave those awards out have never been to a race in their life, I’d wager.
Kurt: I can’t type I’m still laughing! Who exactly gave out these awards?
Jeff: Two companies that are happy to have NASCAR as a client. Bogus awards… as I will write about this week.
Bryan: And the arrogance of NASCAR to release this crap the day after that joke of an event at Talladega makes me want to drive to Charlotte and slap baby Brian and his cronies.
Kurt: Who says it’s obviously a commendable business model? Wow. I never realized disregarding your entire core customer base was smart business.
Beth: That’s what I was wondering, Kurt.
Jeff: It is just a PR spin attempt.
Amy: NASCAR would be foolish to make wholesale changes based on complaints by people who, by and large, are not trained engineers.
Kurt: Which in turn helped them with … what was it again?

Amy: I think it is commendable. Not every corporation pulls in Joe Schmo off the street and asks what changes they want to see … and then implements them.
Jeff: Yeah right, Amy. The fan council is 12,000 people strong. Like they sort through all that crap …
Bryan: If they were actually listening to Joe Schmo, they wouldn’t be losing thousands of Joe Schmoes every weekend.
Amy: Look guys, you can be in denial all you want, but NASCAR did make changes based on fan response.
Jeff: They did not do that, Amy.
Amy: Double-file restarts, Jeff. Those have made a big difference in racing this year.
Jeff: That should have been done with the Lucky Dog rule. Just common sense, as I said for years, and I would have told them that for free if they could read.
Kurt: Actually Amy, I think this is part of the problem. The reason NASCAR changes things so often are that a group of people bitch, and then, there’s a rule change. That’s how we got the Chase, the four car per team rule — even the new car, with everyone wanting to blame someone for Earnhardt’s death.
Amy: Double-file restarts made a difference many people’s enjoyment of the races. Do there need to be more changes? Absolutely. But they did listen, whether people want to be deaf to that or not.
Kurt: I will say that they at least listened about start times. That was a sticking point with me, and I’m glad NASCAR fixed it.
Bryan: NASCAR has made changes and listened to fans the same way they’ve cut costs … made rules like the gear rule that saved $30,000 while mandating a new NNS car that will cost teams $1 million. While the TV coverage continues to suck, they refuse to change the cars responsible for the poor on-track product, they’ve done next to nothing to stop the fans from leaving in droves, and spend time continuing to toot their own horn while the entire sport crumbles.
Kurt: Exactly Bryan; the big issues remain.
Jeff: And the schedule change, too, I suppose had nothing to do with the ratings and the fact that maybe they should go back to what worked.
Kurt: I wonder if the Fan Council suggested getting rid of Digger?
Amy: Fans can only have so much say.  You can say NASCAR needs to make changes to the CoT, but unless you’re an automotive engineer with race car experience, you really can’t be mandating what to change.
Bryan: For God’s sake, it only took a huge downslide in attendance, start and park in the Cup ranks, and every driver and their mother saying they needed more room to make these cars race well in order for them to do something. At this pace, 50 years from now, Talladega just might get fixed.
Kurt: The whole reason NASCAR put together this Fan Council is that they were losing customers at a very fast rate.
Amy: And as misguided as it was, the Chase was a response to the fans’ unhappiness with the system.  Was it a good solution?  Hell no, it was terrible, but if they had done nothing, people would be bitching that they did nothing.
Kurt: No they wouldn’t, Amy. No one I know had a problem with how Kenseth won the title. That was BS hype that NASCAR Nation had a problem with it.
Bryan: They could have given more points for winning, but instead they threw 60 years of tradition out the window for some made-for-TV drivel. We’re supposed to applaud that?
Amy: They listened to the wrong fans, perhaps, and implemented the wrong ideas.
Kurt: That was a Brian France marketing idea and nothing more. NASCAR should listen to fans to a point, but for crying out loud, they ought to know what people want. If you have to ask, what are you doing running the company?
Bryan: Then why be so hesitant to change now, Amy? What more has to happen for them to realize that the Chase blows?
Jeff: Fans have all the say. It’s our dollars they want. We don’t like the product — we don’t buy. They are seeing that now, and are in a panic and saying, “See, we listen to our fans!”
Amy: I heard a lot of complaints by fans about the old points system when we had it (how quickly we forget). I had no problem with it, but for the video game generation, you needed more hype, more drama for the attention span-deprived. That’s what NASCAR created.
Kurt: Most of the things that NASCAR has miscalculated on have been common sense — they shouldn’t need help to point it out. And the second the video game generation gets bored they move on to something else — that’s why you don’t pervert the points system to get them. I think that’s where NASCAR went wrong — they felt like they needed to change to reach a different audience.
Bryan: Amen, Kurt. They created a system that’s going to have the champion crowned as early as two races prior to the end of the year just like what it was supposed to “fix.”
Amy: Agreed.  Again, I’m not saying the changes weren’t stupid. I’m saying that they were made in response to complaints from a segment of fans — the wrong segment, perhaps.
Kurt: I don’t think there were many fans complaining. I think it was “Let’s do something for Nextel for their coming on board.”
Jeff: So we should applaud NASCAR for listening to stupid people and thinking their idea was best! Yeah, give them an award for that.
Kurt: I would like to know who it was that decided to present this award, and whether it has about the same prestige as the Nobel Prize.
Amy: NASCAR needs to listen to the fans: the problem is, how do they weed out the knowledgeable fans to listen to?
Jeff: It’s called using common sense, Amy.
Kurt: The problem was not listening to fans — it was giving a middle finger to the core fans.
Bryan: Damn straight, Kurt.
Amy: Agreed 100 percent. But from practicality’s side, how do you weed out fans who actually know the sport from those who don’t for the panel, short of a lengthy interview process?
Jeff: Why do you need a panel?
Bryan: Amy, you realize how no other professional sport out there has this type of problem?
Amy: True Bryan, because they didn’t try to dumb down their sports.
Kurt: You know what? It looks desperate. “Tell us what you want!” They were pretty confident that their rule changes were going to work, and now they don’t look so confident.
Amy: Again, how do you choose who to listen to? Joe Old School who says the Chase is stupid or Suzie Bandwagon who just loves the “playoffs.”
Bryan: Find me a Suzie Bandwagon these days, Amy.
Jeff: As I said, all a PR ploy.
Bryan: The Chase marked, as you said Amy, NASCAR dumbing the sport down. It completely changed the sport. There’s no other league out there that’s ever done that.

Dover Motorsports, which owns four NASCAR tracks, announced late last week that they are shutting down Memphis Motorsports Park and will shuffle the Nationwide and CWTS races to Gateway and Nashville, respectively. Is this a sign of a company going under? And will it impact future Cup races at Dover?

Kurt: I dearly hope not.
Bryan: I doubt the company is about to go under. Dover is still a good draw.
Beth: Gosh, I hope not either.
Amy: From what I have heard, this is an attempt to stop the bleeding from a company that is seriously strapped for cash.
Bryan: And as for future Cup races at Dover, seriously, if NASCAR wants one of those dates for ISC it will take it — even if they sell Dover out.
Kurt: But here’s the thing. If Dover isn’t viable as a Cup venue and it had to shut down, I will accept that, but don’t replace the races there with speedways … please!
Bryan: Well, it’s hard to argue with that decision, actually. For all the good racing at Memphis, no one ever seemed to show up.
Kurt: I wonder if this is the start of a domino effect. Things are not good out there.
Amy: I can see why they chose Memphis, but honestly, I prefer the racing there to either Nashville or Gateway.
Beth: Me too, Amy. That was one of my favorite tracks to watch the Truck Series run.
Bryan: It was a short track, which made it better than most any venue out there.
Kurt: I do love Gateway though, so I suppose it’s not all bad. I really feel bad for people who lost their jobs. That was probably a cool gig.
Jeff: Don’t worry about the jobs, Kurt. They can move to KC and get a job in ISC’s new casino when KC gets another date.
Bryan: Gateway was good until they changed the gear rule and got rid of shifting. Now it has Pocono syndrome.
Kurt: What’s wrong with Pocono?
Bryan: I still like Pocono, it’s just not what it was.
Amy: The whole thing very neatly illustrates what is wrong with the Nationwide Series in a nutshell: now that the fans expect the Cup guys on a cheaper ticket, they don’t go to the standalone races, which is a shame.
Kurt: I suppose, but that problem is completely out of control.
Bryan: This is a perfect example of what happens when the fans don’t put money where their mouth is. Tons of them call for more short track races, yet Memphis had next to no one there, Martinsville can’t sell out … and now we lost it.
Kurt: I think part of the problem is the location, Bryan.
Bryan: I agree entirely, Kurt. All I can say is that I hope this ends up being the wake-up call that we finally need. Martinsville needs to sell out this March. Dover needs to sell out in May. We’ve lost the Rock, we’ve lost the Southern 500, and we’ve now lost another short track. It’s time to draw a line in the sand.
Kurt: I think the type of people that would go to those tracks are people that are walking away from NASCAR altogether, Bryan.
Bryan: They are. I know I’m pissing in the wind right now.
Kurt: And so the problem only gets worse. Sad to say.
Jeff: So why aren’t the fans going ga ga over the Cup races? Why the empty seats there?
Amy: Too expensive, not enough product.
Kurt: I mean, what if you went to both Darlington races every year? Would you still support NASCAR when they moved the Labor Day race to Fontana? I wouldn’t. They’re lucky they sell tickets there. Maybe ISC or SMI could start building unique tracks. That could solve the problem.
Amy: And if you just looooove Kyle Busch and can see him for cheap in a Nationwide race and have better odds of seeing him win, why bother to figure out that he’s bad for that series and that there are some awesome drivers in it?

Brad Keselowski won will become the final Nationwide Series event held at Memphis Motorsports Park last month.

Kurt: Do you think that people who want to see a Cup driver in the Nationwide Series care, Amy? No, they don’t, and we really shouldn’t expect them to. I don’t like it, but I don’t know what to do about it.
Amy: I’d hate to think that this is a last gasp effort for the company to stay alive.  The last thing I want is to see Dover sold to ISC.
Kurt: Well we don’t know now, but enjoy Dover while you can.
Amy: NASCAR is losing the tracks that still have good racing and that’s not going to help them keep fans or help with the bottom line.
Kurt: Toast to Memphis Speedway … we’ll miss yer.

OK, predictions for Texas?

Jeff: NASCAR wins another award, then Brian France wears the hat.
Amy: Hmmm … I’m thinking Mark Martin would look pretty funny in that hat!
Bryan: Jimmie Johnson runs amok and slaughters the field at Texas. Chad and Jimmie are going to stick a fork in the whole field, thanking Hendrick Motorsports for the opportunity.
Beth: What the heck … Carl Edwards finally does something with his season.
Kurt: Jeff Gordon. And Jimmie retains his slim points lead.
Jeff: Keselowski wrecks ‘em all and wins!
Amy: So Johnson goes postal and slaughters people with a fork?  That might make the fans notice …
Kurt: NASCAR wins an award for Smart Business Sense, and ESPN acts all snooty.

Email the Mirror Guys ‘N’ Gals!
Contact Amy Henderson
Contact Beth Lunkenheimer
Contact Bryan Davis Keith
Contact Jeff Meyer
Contact Kurt Allen Smith

Mirror Predictions 2009

Welcome to our third consecutive year of Mirror Predictions! Each week, our experts take the end of this column to tell us who the winner of each Cup race will be. But as we all know, predicting the future is difficult if not completely impossible … so how do you know which writer you can trust when you put your own reputation (or money) on the line?

That’s why we came up with our Mirror Predictions Chart. The scoring for this year is simple:

Prediction Scoring
+5 – Win
+3 – Top 5
+1 – Top 10
0 – 11th-20th
-1 – 21st-30th
-2 – 31st-40th
-3 – 41st-43rd

Through thirty-two races, the All-Star Race, and the Shootout this season, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Beth Lunkenheimer 46 33 3 14 20
Bryan Davis Keith 34 -12 27 4 11 15
Amy Henderson 29 -17 35 4 9 16
Kurt Smith 29 -17 22 4 8 12
Mike Neff 24 -22 20 2 7 12
Vito Pugliese 23 -23 17 1 6 10
Tom Bowles 22 -24 13 1 7 8
Jeff Meyer 12 -34 25 1 7 11
Tony Lumbis 0 -46 1 0 0 0
Phil Allaway 0 -46 7 0 1 3
Matt Taliaferro 0 -46 2 0 1 1

Want to be a part of Mirror Driving yourself? Frontstretch is now looking for fans to join our experts once a month as an experiment we’re toying with heading into 2010. If you’re interested, please email frontstretcheditors@googlegroups.com with your name, email address, and three short answers on the following three topics:

1) Why do you think you’d make a good Mirror Driving participant?
2) If there is one thing in NASCAR you’d like to see changed, what would it be and why?
3) What’s the one story you’d like to see Frontstretch cover in NASCAR that we haven’t yet, and why?

We’re looking forward to hearing from you! The next “Fan Mirror” will take place just before the Phoenix race in November.

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Swan Racing Announces Restructuring, No. 26 & No. 30 ‘Sold’ Off
Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
Vexing Vito: Three Drivers In Need of a Role Reversal
Going By the Numbers: Top-10 NASCAR Variety Hard To Come By In…
Truckin’ Thursdays: Lessons Learned Just Two Races In
Fantasy Insider: Team Revelations For NASCAR’s Short Tracks

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Sal
11/04/2009 06:58 AM
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As I remember, the complaints about Kenseth winning the champioship with only one win came from….the media, not the fans. Then you had Brian France determined to prove how brilliant he is by coming up with a gimmick to oust football. It was his idea that any team should field ‘only’ 4 cars. Then came the ‘lucky dog’ rule and the Nascaar designed COT. I didn’t renew my season tickets to Bristol this year, and it had nothing to do with the economy.

Gordon82Wins
11/04/2009 08:37 AM
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Damn, Kurt and Bryan, you guys are on fire. Best Mirror I’ve read in a while.

Keep up the great work all.

Bill B
11/04/2009 08:59 AM
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NASCAR’s fan council isn’t fooling anyone. It’s lip service and I think that’s how most fans see it. NASCAR only addresses the things they can change easily (start times, double file restarts.. whoop-de-f-in-doo), the big issues (the chase, the cot, restrictor plates, 1.5 cookie cutters, etc.) are never addressed.

Vic
11/04/2009 11:05 AM
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Hoping for a Texas DNF for Jimmie!!!! Of course, I’ve been hoping for that for the last 6 weeks.

Carl D.
11/04/2009 11:11 AM
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“Amy: Fans can only have so much say.”

Actually, fans have the ultimate say. They speak with the off button on their television and the money they don’t spend at the racetrack.

So you think that the implementation of double-file restarts and uniform start times means that Nascar is listening to their fans? Only if, by “fans”, you mean the broadcast network honchos. Let me put it this way… if Obama had put Nascar in charge of health care reform, the result would be free band-aids for all Americans. And Koolaid… lots of Koolaid.

ginger
11/04/2009 11:32 AM
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Amy I’m sure you are a nice person, but you are simply put, an airhead, and you really should be working for Nascar. I refer to these words, “ but I think Kes hit KB first and slowed just a touch, and then BV ran into him. In real time, you’d never see the difference.” Forty three cars were on the track, and Brad was the aggressive one. Some of you have picked that up from another writer who never watched a NNS race before, but saw the Memphis race and assigned the label “aggressive” to him. Then like a fifties party line the news was spread to the community within an hour. Another writer picked it up without watching Brad race, and soon it was common “knowledge”. Every writer was on a site announcing this bit of wisdom without “knowing” a darn thing about it. It’s called gossip and the worst kind of writing there is. The printed word has an effect on the population of readers. Be careful of what you speak or write, and the truth is you don’t know what was going on behind Kurt.

midasmicah
11/04/2009 11:39 AM
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i read this morning that toyota is leaving F-1. Is nas$car next?

Glenn
11/04/2009 12:10 PM
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as a resident of the Memphis area I take exception with a lot of your assumptions. First, the truck race routinely fill the track to 80% and the NNS race sold out until 2 years ago. The issue is that the track management completely lost focus. No more fan meet-n-greets in town, no more fireworks during the prerace, no flyovers, nothing. It is as if they started cutting corners and people noticed. It is disgraceful that a track which is a carbon copy of richmond should close just because they couldn’t manage it correctly. If there is any justice Dover will close too!

Bill B
11/04/2009 12:24 PM
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Glenn,
Dover won’t close, ISC will buy them out.

Glenn
11/04/2009 12:44 PM
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yeah, but I wish they would buy Memphis too. Besides it beign the home track, Nascar needs more short tracks..

HankZ
11/04/2009 01:10 PM
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I can’t stand the yellow line rule, and have noted it on the FS many times. It doesn’t look like its going away anytime soon. However, instead of an in or out method to this stupid rule, how about it being modified. Have the rule enforced going in, thru and out of turn one ONLY. Have a hash mark in the cross-track direction on the apron up to the current yellow line – if your left wheels touch it, you’re penalized. Open track elsewhere.
One idea anyway!

Well said Ginger!

Matt T. -- FS Staff
11/04/2009 01:15 PM
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Hank — How about this for an out of bounds rule: The grass is it.

Michael in SoCal
11/04/2009 02:36 PM
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Glenn – I agree that losing Memphis sucks big time. It’s a great track – how can it not be being so similar to Richmond? Would’ve made a great venue for the Cup series, in place of any of the cookie cutter 1.5 – 2.0 milers out there.

Bill B
11/04/2009 02:51 PM
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If I had my way no more than one-quarter of the races would be at tracks larger than 1 mile. I could watch a race at martinsville every weekend and never get tired or bored of watching.

Doug In Washington (State)
11/04/2009 02:55 PM
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Let ‘em race in the grass. If someone is skilled enough to make a pass there…

Really, there is no way to slow down the cars to make them safer at Talladega. Slower means pack racing. The cars handle well enough to race there at 220MPH lap speeds. It doesn’t matter what you use to reduce horsepower- plates, smaller engines, smaller carbs, etc- they’ll still pack up because they’re running flat out and you’re faster in a pack when running flat out than all by yourself.

The only way to get rid of the “pack” is to make it impossible to drive flat-out all the way around the track. But lowering the banking just makes it a 2.66 mile Fontana.

My solution is to change the gear rule to limit the speeds to 190MPH or so based on redline. Of course, folks will set the rev limiter so you’d still run flat out. Either ban the rev limiter, or maybe just let the teams push the rev limiter to hope the driver can push the edge of the engine without blowing it up.

I dunno.

DoninAjax
11/04/2009 09:46 PM
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Amy

I found a copy of your column last year “the top ten things i hate about nascar!” Maybe you’d like to re-read it and tell us what has changed.

As to the rear spoiler, how about having it on a pivot and it flips over when the car is going backwards?

mkrcr
11/04/2009 11:23 PM
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“I’m not surprised it did with how many times he hit”. Beth, he hit twice. Once on Harvick’s hood and once at the end. In between was the long slide into the wall and back down. That’s what I believe weakened the roof and cage. When the final roof impact happened, which was damn near vertical, it crushed. Newman would have been better off barrel rolling in any race car. No kudos to the POS COT here.

Kevin in SoCal
11/06/2009 07:40 PM
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My how you people have short memories. I wasnt even watching before the yellow line rule came about and I know what its there for. Drivers were going below the yellow line to pass, and then not getting back up onto the racetrack in time to make the turn. So, since they cant turn as well on the apron, they were coming back onto the track at the wrong angle and taking out cars. The yellow line rule keeps the racers on the racing surface. If you’re on the apron at the track, you cant make the turns at the same speed as you can on the banking. Its a safety thing, something you obviously dont understand if you think its ok for them to take off the plates and race around at 230+ MPH.

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