The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: Too Much Teamwork?, Curbing NASCAR Criticism, And A Tall Order For Townley by Frontstretch Staff -- Wednesday November 11, 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)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Vito Pugliese (Wednesdays / The Voice Of Vito)
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)

A Lap 3 crash at Texas changed the championship picture dramatically this week, as leader Jimmie Johnson lost over 100 points of the margin he carried into the race. Did Johnson lose his edge, or did Texas simply draw out what should be a foregone conclusion?

Jeff: I think we should ask this question in every Mirror, starting at Daytona! 
Beth: Oh, please! They made such a huge deal about this on TV that it was extremely annoying. Now, ask me the question again next week if Martin manages to be within 25 points of the No. 48. Otherwise, we’re wasting time talking about this thing and making a big deal over it.
Amy: If Johnson can avoid trouble at Phoenix, he’s fine. He’s very, very good there; but as Texas showed, all it takes is one idiot driver trying to put a car where it has no business going.
Beth: I hope you’re referring to David Reutimann.
Amy: I am.
Bryan: This was made for TV. Five bucks says ABC was hinting at free dinner and airtime for any driver who’d put the No. 48 in the fence. I say Johnson wins Phoenix — just watch. Wouldn’t be surprised for the team to win practice, qualifying, and the race.
Phil: I don’t think Johnson’s winning this weekend, to be honest, so I think that it will slightly change how Phoenix might turn out. But I do agree that they overkilled the wreck on the broadcast.
Amy: In a lot of fans’ eyes, it is a big deal, though Phil. If you’re a J.J. fan, you didn’t sleep as well last night as you did a week ago. If you’re on the hater bandwagon, you’re excited because this thing is wide open again. If you’re a Mark Martin fan, you’re even happier than the Johnson haters.
Beth: This is so far from wide open, Amy.
Amy: Why, Beth? All it would take is one more idiot at Phoenix or Homestead.
Bryan: OK Chad Knaus, thank you for your time. Please put Amy back on now.
Beth: He’s got a 73-point lead! They’re not going to be that deep in the field next week at Phoenix to have to worry about one idiot.
Jeff: If J.J. finishes higher than 20th in next year’s Daytona 500, he’s a cinch to win five in a row.
Vito: Seriously, it is not wide open. However, Mark Martin now at least has a chance, something that ceased to exist as he was tumbling over on his lid last week at Talladega.
Phil: Phoenix is a tough track to pass on. All it would take is a handling issue to take Johnson out of contention.
Bryan: But they’re gonna roll out the big guns, Phil. Johnson likely will sit on the pole.
Vito: It is, however, not a bad spot to be in for Mark. He and Alan can run with reckless abandon, while Jimmie and Chad will likely race it “safe,” which a lot of times ends up backfiring.
Phil: That reminds me of Tony at Homestead in 2002, Vito.
Vito: True, and Tony nearly lost it there after the No. 43 blew up in front of him going into Turn 3. So if Mark runs Phoenix like he did in April, and the No. 48 plays it safe and runs 10th, that means Homestead becomes a legitimate duel.
Beth: Like Bryan said, J.J. will sit on the pole and won’t have to worry.
Amy: If one idiot wrecks the No. 48 on Lap 3, they have plenty to worry about! I saw the starting grid for Texas and knew Johnson was in trouble.
Jeff: All part of the game, Amy! If they didn’t want it that way, then only the Chasers should race the last 10.
Amy: Of course it’s part of the game, but Reutimann’s move would have been just as stupid in the relatively meaningless Spring race.
Beth: I think Hornish would have been fine without being hit again by Johnson.
Phil: That second hit probably led to his other wreck later on.
Vito: Well no matter what, there will be an extra Pop Tart in Reuti’s stocking this year from the No. 5 team.
Bryan: This whole thing gave the broadcasters something to talk about, but it’s still Johnson’s title.
Jeff: What was BS was that the 48 was allowed to run under the minimum speed. And it’s not like he was close to it, either — he was way off.
Phil: That is true. There was a point that he was running laps in the 162 mph range.  Minimum speed was 33.27 seconds, which calculates to 163.308 mph.
Vito: And I wonder why people keep thinking NASCAR wants Jimmie to win it … hmmm …
Amy: I don’t know the answer, but does NASCAR have a window for minimum speed like they do for speeding on pit road? Like if you’re within five miles an hour on pit speed, you’re OK?
Jeff: They did Sunday.
Phil: I don’t know. I think they warn you at least once before they black flag you.
Bryan: Look for the press release on a five mph buffer tomorrow.
Amy: Well, NASCAR has gone to such lengths to screw the 48 in the past that them wanting Jimmie to win it is just silly.

NASCAR, Mark Martin, and Jeff Gordon have David Reutimann to thank for suddenly adding just a touch of drama to a championship race that Jimmie Johnson seemed to have in the bag.

Jeff: And when was that, Amy?
Amy: Sonoma, Jeff. Not to mention a points fine for a broken bolt.
Bryan: Sonoma? When he got sent to the rear of the field?! Ouch.
Vito: Seriously? NASCAR has gone to great lengths to screw the No. 48? Like what, letting them run trick shocks at Dover and an adjustable rear window during Daytona 500 qualifying?
Amy: What about a points fine for a height issue when the team proved there was a broken bolt? And he wasn’t allowed to practice or qualify after a template violation. The next week, 17 cars failed template and all were allowed to practice and qualify.
Jeff: Yeah, they are singling him out …
Amy: Seriously, I think a legit question is whether there is a tolerance below speed as well as above.
Bryan: If there is, Amy, none of us have ever heard of it.
Vito: Hah, then why have a minimum speed?
Amy: Why have a maximum pit road speed, Vito?
Vito: So people don’t get run over. Isn’t “minimum” indicating the allowed speed is anything above said stated number?
Beth: Anyways, no use arguing about that now. The bottom line is it happened … and come Phoenix, Johnson and Knaus will be on top of their game next weekend and leave with a comfortable lead going into Homestead.
Phil: The closer point standings will make Johnson race slightly different than he would have, but it doesn’t change anything for Martin at PIR.
Amy: This is the first time in what — two years — that someone has broken Johnson’s Chase momentum. Sure, they can recover, but it’s not a foregone conclusion by any means.

After Jimmie Johnson’s crash, crew members from both the Nos. 88 and 24 were in the garage helping to repair Johnson’s car — despite the fact that Jeff Gordon is still in championship contention. Is this a sign of favoritism in the Hendrick camp?

Beth: It’s not favoritism, it’s called TEAMWORK. Amazing that a team would work together to get a championship contender back out on the track. Go figure.
Amy: No, it isn’t. It is why Hendrick teams win. Had that been Junior or Jeff in the wall, there would have been crewmen from the No. 48 over there, too.
Jeff: I doubt that, Amy.
Vito: It’s like those old U.S. Army commercials during NFL Games: “Teammates … working to be the best they can be!”
Bryan: All teams work like that. There were crew guys from the No. 12 car that pushed Kurt Busch into Victory Lane, but no one from the No. 77 team. It’s all a matter of which team is in position to help. The No. 5 wasn’t exactly running well early in the race, either.
Phil: There’s definitely more cooperation between the four Hendrick teams than, say, the 11 and 12 from Junior Johnson in the mid ’80s.
Vito: Yeah, had that been the 16 or the 99, you’d see the entire staff of Roush Racing and Yates Racing over there going to town to rebuild it.
Amy: If there was just one reason that Hendrick wins more consistently then Roush or Gibbs, that is it. There are no secrets and everyone does their part, even if it’s on another car.
Vito: I think any team with more than one car would have done the same. They have in the past. How many times have we seen different Roush crewmen working on or pitting cars during a race, or RCR guys repairing wrecks?
Jeff: Where were the No. 5 guys?
Vito: High fiving, crushing Pop Tarts.
Phil: The 5 and 88 are in a separate building from the 24 and 48, right?
Vito: Besides, the 48 and the 24 are true “team” cars — they are built right next to one another.
Amy: The 48 has helped the 88 a lot this year, and it didn’t go unnoticed when they needed help back.
Jeff: But Chad would not have had anyone to spare had it been the 88 or the 24. His guy is racing towards destiny!
Amy: BS, Jeff.

Bryan: Could we possibly make a mountain out of a smaller molehill? Though Jeff has a point about the No. 48 crew.
Vito: Yeah, this is kind of a non sequitur. Teammates help teammates — not exactly front page news here.
Beth: I agree, and honestly I think we’ve spent way too much time on the No. 48 already.
Amy: So this is not favoritism. If anything, Gordon is still top dog at Hendrick and will be until he retires.
Jeff: I’m still not buying it, but it’s not favoritism — it was just to get the biggest company moneymaker back on the track.
Amy: Well, if anything Martin is getting the first choice of equipment. So it’s not favoritism in this case, it’s teamwork knowing that team would do the same.
Vito: The No. 5 gets the best stuff?! I think that might be the quote of the year.
Bryan: Actually Vito, as much as it pains me to say that, there’s some truth to that statement. Some rather credible sources say that.
Vito: The best stuff?
Bryan: Afraid so.
Amy: Yes.
Jeff: Then Mark should request the best crew chief, too.
Vito: Define “best stuff.”
Amy: First pick of chassis and engine.
Bryan: Well, when Mark Martin’s inevitable snakebite comes at Phoenix, we’ll see how many Lowe’s guys are in the No. 5 garage…

NASCAR has said that it would like the television crews to refrain from talking about the quality of racing on television. Is that a legitimate request, or a desperation move on NASCAR’s part?

Bryan: That’s what NASCAR gets for refusing to negotiate TV rates with the networks when their ratings are going down the tubes.
Beth: Sounds like desperation to me. The quality of the product is leading viewers away. I guess I’m one of those rare people that doesn’t mind hearing opinions, no matter how good or bad they are.
Phil: It’s a desperation ploy, to be honest, but after a long while, it could lead viewers away from the sport on TV.
Vito: Well, it doesn’t help matters when the drivers are radioing in, asking their guys to keep them awake. So it isn’t like it’s that big of a smokescreen. Again, when the drivers are requesting somebody to yell to prevent them from losing consciousness, that should be an indicator that what you are seeing is not competition. Pretty much everybody has had enough of it, and the ratings confirm this point.
Amy: Actually, as much as it pains me to say it, it’s a legitimate request. There are journalistic standards that broadcasters should be upholding. And whether you agree with their assessment or not, they are not upholding them.
Jeff: You’ve got to be kidding me! My journalistic standards forbid me to say that you are full of …
Phil: Amy’s right. There are Standards and Practices, and there are Knights of Standards and Practices as well.
Amy: It’s basic journalistic standards that you learn about on day two of Journalism 101.
Jeff: So they should insult the fans, and make themselves look stupid, and tell us all how good the race was?
Amy: No, they shouldn’t have an opinion on the quality of the race.
Vito: Well, it’s kind of hard to prop up the quality of racing when there is no racing of any quality to comment on.
Jeff: You mean lying, Amy?
Phil: I don’t think that it’s necessarily “lying.“ You commentate on what you see, to a point.
Amy: A good baseball or football broadcaster does not comment on the quality of the game. Nor does the color guy.
Jeff: And our second guest Mirror participant tonight … Brian France!!!!!!
Bryan: Who cares? Fans aren’t going to watch or not watch based on the opinions of the broadcasters. For God’s sake, Rusty Wallace is a commentator!
Vito: You know, I watched the 2005 Texas race this week on NASCAR Classics and … WOW. What a completely different race. I was in shock. I forgot how they could actually pass, and race, and slide around. Shocking.
Bryan: Look, NASCAR is concerned that their biggest mouthpieces are suddenly saying what the droves of people leaving the sport have been saying all along. Find me a commentator that doesn’t have a snide word or two about the Redskins or any team losing 56-0 in the 3rd quarter.
Amy: But remember when Ned Jarrett called DJ home at Daytona? It was awesome to watch, and he apologized afterward as professional ethics dictate.
Phil: Squier and Bonnett basically stepped aside and let him do it.
Bryan: How many people out there would complain about that call?
Amy: None, but on a strictly professional level, it was wrong and telling the fans that the race is boring is a bigger violation of that.
Jeff: If Frontstretch.com operated that way, we’d have to call ourselves nascar.com.
Bryan: ESPN and everyone pay for the rights to broadcast the races. It’s not NASCAR’s place to tell them how to do it, especially after the billions they charged them for the right to do so.
Amy: Not true, Bryan. It’s no different than any other sport in that regard. There are still standards. ESPN should have been all over those guys after the race for their conduct.
Bryan: What conduct? The racing they saw sucked. They commented on what they saw. What more do you want?
Vito: Yeah, they aren’t the New York Times or MSNBC. They are compelled to tell the truth, not regurgitate the talking points of what the governing body tells them to.
Jeff: So I guess it was wrong for someone like our Tony Lumbis to say anything, too.
Amy: Tony isn’t paid to broadcast races. No cheering (or booing) in the press box; it is the first thing you learn in sports journalism and the one rule you don’t bend. If you are doing play-by-play, your job is to give play-by-play, not decide whether the event is fun or not.
Beth: They weren’t cheering or booing for anyone, just talking about what they saw. It’s another case of making a mountain out of a molehill, really.
Bryan: Amy, there is no way to put a fun spin on the entire freaking field running in a straight line.
Amy: You don’t have to put a fun spin on anything — just tell what is happening on the racetrack.
Bryan: And the drivers and fans were furious about what NASCAR did with the rules that day, so why the hell can’t the broadcasters be as well?
Amy: Because their job is to report what is happening on the racetrack, not decide about the quality of the show.
Phil: They can be furious about the rule change, but the rule change is not the race.
Bryan: Should we call it unprofessional when they agree with a rule and spout off why it’s good, Amy? When they are amazed with how dominant the No. 48 is, is that unprofessional?

Jeff: Boring racing was happening … they reported that!
Amy: That’s an opinion, Jeff, like it or not.
Jeff: Oh OK, well so is yours.
Amy: My “opinion” is based on a widely accepted practice of journalistic ethics.
Vito: Sincerely, Dan Rather.
Bryan: So who are they to tell me it’s historic what Jimmie is doing? Maybe I think a cheating crew chief and a frat boy with too much money have built great cars that anyone could win in.
Beth: Honestly, the same thing goes with all the blabbing about Kyle Busch and the trifecta at Texas, Bryan.
Amy: Did they seriously not teach this rule on the first day of journalism class? In an opinion piece, you can say what you want, but not when it comes to straight event coverage.
Vito: It’s kind of a moot point. The pits could explode and Andy Petree would say, “… looks like something’s going on here on pit road … little bit of smoke and some fahre …”
Bryan: Well in that case, the next time they say “great save,” or “awesome pit stop,” or “great racing,” I expect to hear you up in arms, Amy. Because adding those adjectives to their broadcast clearly violates the established rules of journalistic ethics.
Beth: Exactly, Bryan.  But because it’s not a negative comment, no one will think twice.
Jeff: The drivers said it was boring, the fans said it was boring, and the announcers said so too. And none of the announcers probably have a degree in journalism, either.
Phil: If that many people come out and say something like that, then they are in the position to only state that it is their opinion.
Jeff: It would have been worse for the announcers at Talladega to sit there and tell us how great and exciting it was.
Amy: Yes it would have, Jeff. That’s no more their job than telling us it’s boring. Look … was the TV broadcast the problem at Talladega?  No, because the fans can form their own opinions. But it wasn’t a very professional broadcast.  I much prefer MRN to the TV guys as it is.
Jeff: That’s because you can’t see on radio!
Amy: I can see on TV while I listen to the broadcast on MRN.
Bryan: MRN is great, because those guys can make single-file sound like four-wide for the lead, and not because they’re more “professional.”
Vito: I’m sure Barney Hall wasn’t saying, “Not much goin’ on right now, pretty much the entire field is lined up single file, content to sit there until it counts.”
Bryan: Amy, I’m the last person on earth to say that ESPN has done well with NASCAR, but hey, they finally had the guts to tell it like it was. And now we’re jumping on them for it? Ridiculous.
Amy: I’m just saying that by journalistic standards, NASCAR was not wrong.
Beth: Tell me something, though. How can NASCAR complain about the broadcasters when Brian France doesn’t even watch the broadcasts?
Bryan: Yeah, and it’s funny how he comments only after the sport’s horizon wasn’t portrayed as smiles and sunshine…

Richard Childress Racing signed John Wes Townley to a Nationwide Series deal for 2010 despite Townley’s 2009 record, which includes not a single top-10 finish, six DNQs, and 10 DNFs. Does Townley’s full-time sponsorship really offset the cost of running a team for a driver who tears up race cars on a consistent basis?

Amy: Must be nice when Daddy’s the CEO
Jeff: John Wes Townley, aka Paul Menard.
Beth: As tough as it can be to secure a full-time sponsor these days, I’m not surprised to see a team grab onto that.
Vito: Call it The Johnny Benson Syndrome.
Phil: I don’t know. What is Zaxby’s bringing to the table money-wise?
Bryan: Zaxby’s is pretty legit, Phil. The RAB team they’re currently with has had good equipment all year. It’s decent sponsor dollars.
Vito: John Wes Townley. Sounds like he has a bunch of bodies hidden in a crawl space in his house somewhere.
Amy: Ten DNFs … seven of those for cars wrecked beyond repair.
Bryan: That’s not counting cars wrecked in practice or qualifying.
Jeff: And they have the hottest chassis and brake specialist!
Bryan: I mean, kudos to RCR for putting a development driver in a seat full-time, and I’m glad they’ll have people working on that car. But seriously, Townley’s got to accept sooner or later that he may well not have what it takes to race at this level.
Vito: Sincerely, Buckshot Jones.
Phil: Townley’s probably two to four years away under normal circumstances from being competitive in the Nationwide Series. They brought him up way the heck too fast.
Vito: And he’s sponsored by a company that is thiiiis close to being shut down by the Missouri Attorney General.
Amy: Townley can’t even give good feedback about a race car.  I know of at least one occasion where they had to put another driver in during practice just to figure out what was wrong.
Beth: But you and I both know money talks, Amy.
Bryan: Anyone who boasts how many top 15s they had in an ARCA season is proof positive that there’s not too much going on there.
Jeff: So why aren’t we throwing Steve Wallace under the bus? He only has a ride because of Daddy.
Amy: We’ve already thrown Wallace under the bus.
Jeff: Well, back it up!
Phil: You mean U.S. Fidelis? I’ve read about their issues with the SEC and the BBB.
Vito: US INFIDELis.
Phil: Getting those dudes to pay up is quite difficult, from what I understand.
Amy: Wallace’s numbers are at least better than Townley’s.
Jeff: It’s been going on for years. Kyle Petty, Dale Jr. …
Amy: Kyle Petty and Dale Jr. are about a million times more talented than Townley.
Jeff: Kyle Petty? Really? I mean I like him and all, but was he all that talented?
Amy: Look at the number of times that Kyle Petty finished top 10 in driver’s points, Jeff.
Vito: KP was a hell of a driver until he decided he got stuck running the company, driving cars that weren’t that great.
Amy: Was he as good as Richard? No. But so are 99 percent of drivers not named Petty.
Vito: In the early ‘90s, he had as much potential as Davey Allison. That No. 42 team could have been something if Gary Nelson stuck around.
Phil: NASCAR poached Nelson to head up Inspection.
Amy: Gary Nelson made Chad Knaus look like an angel.
Phil: And that is why NASCAR hired him.
Vito: Kyle was into other stuff besides dedicating himself 100 percent to being a stock car driver. He actually lived beyond the car and enjoyed his life doing other things besides turning left.
Bryan: Let’s get back to Townley. Part of it very well may be rushing to NNS, but when you control the sponsor, you control development. And there does come a time when any driver needs to wake up and realize that, “Wow, I keep wrecking. Maybe I need to back off some.” Townley has done better the second half of the year — he was solid at Texas. But he’s also far from the caliber of driver I associated with RCR development.
Amy: I still wonder, though, how much money a sponsor is worth when the driver that goes with it wrecks something every other week and has zero top-10 finishes.
Vito: I honestly don’t even know what a Zaxby is. Is that some sort of anti-depressant?
Amy: It’s a chicken restaurant.
Beth: Chicken … a little pricey if you ask me.
Vito: Oh. Well then, I guess that qualifies as an anti-depressant. KFC always makes me feel happy. And bacon.
Jeff: I’m just saying, “Daddy’s money” is something that has been going on in this sport for years, whether you are “talented” or not.
Bryan: And money talks in general. How else do you think Kevin Conway is going to get to attempt a Cup race? It’s hell out there right now.
Amy: True, but at least if you have talent, you’re not taking a ride from someone who deserves it more.
Bryan: I say RCR still needs to push some when it comes to the sponsor contract. They need to get some freedom to replace him if progress doesn’t show.
Vito: I wonder if one of his RCR goals for retention is to decrease wrecking by 33 percent.
Amy: So he’d only wreck in 20 races this year?
Jeff: In a perfect world Amy, in a perfect world …
Vito: Baby steps.
Bryan: If nothing else, it just shows how bad the economy is. Even RCR is having to take sponsor dollars from literally anywhere.
Phil: This testing ban is just killing guys like Townley, to be honest.
Bryan: True that, Phil. The testing ban has stunted the development of every future star in the sport, sans Logano.
Vito: At least the sponsor isn’t balking at him for not being manly enough like Bass Pro Shops.
Bryan: BPS has just cause for balking. Anytime Lee Spencer is penning columns basically chastising a sponsor for not going along with some pretty boy driver, chances are they’ve got a case.
Jeff: Hey, If Jamie can pull a rabbit out of a helmet, that’s the kind of guy I want to go fishing with!

Vito: It’s pretty bad, though, when winning a Cup race still doesn’t sway the sponsor. Who does BPS want anyway?
Bryan: They want to move to Newman’s No. 39. And Jamie is also going to do nothing for them marketing-wise. Sponsors have to get some return out of being on a car or it becomes worthless for them and they leave the sport. And Jamie McMurray will not sell at Bass Pro Shops.
Jeff: I never went to Bass Pro shops because of the driver of their race car. I go there because my little bro can get me 40 percent off!
Amy: Me either, Jeff.  I never once bought something in BPS and thought, “Cool, go Martin!”
Bryan: Maybe not Amy, but seriously, imagine going to BPS and seeing a show car with a pretty boy blonde behind it afraid to shake your hand. It’s that whole metro thing.
Vito: And why does a guy from New Jersey talk like he’s from Mooresville … hmmm …
Amy: He’s spent way too much time with Junior.
Phil: I don’t know, everyone talks the same in NASCAR these days. That’s probably why Brewer’s accent threw me so much at Watkins Glen.
Vito: Did Brewer cut those fingernails yet?
Amy: OK, back to Townley … Seriously, I can’t see how he’s worth it to RCR, especially when there are good drivers available. There was a time when the sponsors let the people who knew racing make the decisions about who would drive. That doesn’t apply to Townley, though, because family money has always bought rides.
Bryan: Townley makes sense if, and only if, RCR makes it clear that if he wrecks in four of the first five races, they can make a change and keep the sponsor dollars. And I’m sure they did that thinking, “Hey, we might get Austin Dillon in a car sooner than we hoped!”
Vito: It does open up some avenues, though. They could paint up Townley’s car like Clyde Torkel’s Chicken Shack from Stroker Ace.
Bryan: Anyone can sell chicken … except Danica. Who’d believe she eats?

How about predictions for Phoenix?

Beth: Jimmie Johnson comes in and proves all this talk about the points was a huge waste of time.
Bryan: Johnson. And he dominates.
Jeff: Hornish!!!!! Hornish gives Martin the win.
Phil: I’m going with Martin.
Vito: I’ll say Kevin Harvick. OK, wait, scratch that … I am going with Juan Pablo Montoya. He could’ve won New Hampshire, this is another fast flat track, and he needs to close the year out with a win.
Amy: I’m going to go with Jeff Burton. He’s got a 10th-place average finish in the last 10 races at PIR, and is due for something good to happen.

Email the Mirror Guys ‘N’ Gals!
Contact Amy Henderson
Contact Beth Lunkenheimer
Contact Bryan Davis Keith
Contact Jeff Meyer
Contact Phil Allaway
Contact Vito Pugliese

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-four 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 44 34 3 14 20
Bryan Davis Keith 32 -12 28 4 11 15
Amy Henderson 32 -12 36 4 10 17
Kurt Smith 29 -15 23 4 8 12
Mike Neff 24 -20 20 2 7 12
Vito Pugliese 23 -21 17 1 6 10
Tom Bowles 22 -22 13 1 7 8
Jeff Meyer 10 -34 26 1 7 11
Tony Lumbis 0 -44 1 0 0 0
Phil Allaway 0 -44 7 0 1 3
Matt Taliaferro 0 -44 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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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…
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M.B. Voelker
11/11/2009 07:37 AM
permalink

Amy is 100% right on the journalistic ethics issue. There should be a hard, bright line drawn between reporting and opinion and the racecasting is on the reporting side.

Additionally, when the opinion side comes in there’s this little principle known as “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

If you badmouth and run down the very product that you are trying to sell don’t be surprised when the customers decide not to buy.

And if you’re selling that product on behalf of the manufacturer don’t be offended when you’re chastised for driving off the customers you’re supposed to be attracting.

Think of this for a moment. This website takes advertising so there must be someone involved who is selling that advertising. How would you react if that person was telling the prospective advertisers that this is a lousy website with nothing but boring writers?

Bill B
11/11/2009 08:08 AM
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Regarding the ESPN vs NASCAR issue, this exemplifies NASCAR’s opinion of just how stupid they think we fans are. It doesn’t matter what ESPN says we will make up our own minds. It doesn’t matter if they say the racing is great (like they usually do) or if it sucks, we fans are not blind and we know when we are watching good racing. So who gives a hoot what either says about the quality of racing.

The Turnip!
11/11/2009 08:34 AM
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quote: “Amy: If Johnson can avoid trouble at Phoenix, he’s fine. He’s very, very good there; but as Texas showed, all it takes is one idiot driver trying to put a car where it has no business going.”

ONE IDIOT DRIVER”?

What the hell kind of nonsense is the statement “ONE IDIOT DRIVER”?

Quite frankly
I am not even sure what this stupid statement is supposed to be “explaining”? Is ANY driver that runs into JJ “AN IDIOT DRIVER”?

Or does it describe the 31 drivers NOT IN THEIDIOTIC CHASE”?

And yet another “intelligent” statement from Amy! “Amy: Why, Beth? All it would take is one more idiot at Phoenix or Homestead.”

Amy, maybe you should be watching the Martha Stewart show, not racing!

And yet AGAIN another “intelligent” comment by Amy! “Amy: If one idiot wrecks the No. 48 on Lap 3, they have plenty to worry about! I saw the starting grid for Texas and knew Johnson was in trouble.”

HOLY COW! Yet another “idiot” comment!

Will it never end, or is IDIOT the word of the day, Amy’s word anyway!

Dumb and dumber as the season goes on!

So my WORD OF THE DAY, is DUMB!

Guess who that would relate to?

The Turnip!
11/11/2009 08:57 AM
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AND Am I confused? (at least I am admitting it), I read the “poll” about was NA$CRAP wrong in calling our ESPN, etc. and I re-read the responses, AND BOY, AM I CONFUSED!

Are there really three choices, or did someone get the wordings mixed up?

Inquiring minds want to know, after all, I certainly don’t want to end up on Amy’s “IDIOT” list!

Check it out! Please?

The Turnip!
11/11/2009 09:04 AM
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And! re: “After Jimmie Johnson’s crash, crew members from both the Nos. 88 and 24 were in the garage helping to repair Johnson’s car — despite the fact that Jeff Gordon is still in championship contention. Is this a sign of favoritism in the Hendrick camp?”

I did not see in any of the comments that JEFF GORDON “owns” the 48 car!

Why wouldn’t his team help fix it?

Mike in Floyd Va
11/11/2009 09:35 AM
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So, it’s OK for the Fox broadcast team to cheerlead for certain drivers and makes of car. That’s acceptable journalism? It’s OK if the broadasters preach the Gosepl according to Brian but not OK for them to question or make comments? Balderdash! I remember watching Walter Cronkite saying that America had lost the Vietnam War during the Johnson administration. His comment changed America’s views. I can also remember more recently folks in the media bashing the Yankees because of the amount of money they spend on getting players. So I don’t see what ESPN’s commentators did as being wrong. They stated the obvious. Not listening to criticism is what has led NA$CAR to where it is today. Boring cars, boring races, and half empty grandstands. You can’t blame the economy for problems that started before it tanked.

DougS
11/11/2009 10:53 AM
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Okay so you guys bored me to tears starting out with a rehash of the #48’s woes at Texas and as the turnips pointed out missed a kep point about Gordon listed as owner on the #48. After that thought you guys once again come throught.

If the mirror driver writers had been on the Titantic it would have gone something like this.

Amy would be on the bow grabbing onto a railing shouting to everyone that Mr. Ismay told her the ship couldn’t sink. Jeff would have run around all criuse with a life jacket on telling people the real solid ground is 100’s of feet below them covered by 38 degree water. Beth would have been in a lifeboat. Vito would have sneaked into the machinery room. Bryan would have sat with the band trying to calm people and Phil would have been helping the women and children into the lifeboats.

In the end it’s always an instersting story.

Jeff Meyer -FS staff
11/11/2009 11:37 AM
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LOL @ Doug S! Too funny!
(and just before the Titanic’s final destruction, I would have left the ship by my own means, with my last quote being “So long, and thanks for all the fish!”)

Carl D.
11/11/2009 11:47 AM
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I’m having a really tough time deciding who Amy adores the most…. Jimmie Johnson, Rick Hendrick, or Brian France.

Voelker, ESPN paid Nascar for the right to broadcast the race. Nascar didn’t pay them. Kudos to the ESPN crew for calling the Talledega race for what it truly was… a boring parade. In my opinion, if they had towed the Nascar line, THAT would have been a serious lack of journalistic integrity.

Johnboy60
11/11/2009 11:59 AM
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Once again Amy has shown her lack of intelligence. Enough said!!

Don Mei
11/11/2009 01:44 PM
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When does Amy begin her new job in Nascar’s PR department? She seems rather unable to separate broadcasting opinion to broadcasting the truth.

Billy
11/11/2009 01:44 PM
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“And they’re racing single file down the stretch! And…around the corners! This is some of the best racing we’ve seen all year. Don’t go anywhere folks, you might miss something.”

Kevin in SoCal
11/11/2009 01:46 PM
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Frontstretch said: “We’re looking forward to hearing from you! The next “Fan Mirror” will take place just before the Phoenix race in November.”

Well, that deadline came and went. :) I’m available next week if you need me. I’d love to do it again.

Johnson didnt lose his edge, he finally got caught up in the bad luck the other Chasers have had. And Knaus and Letart have stated before that in the 24/48 shop, every employee is a member of Hendrick’s team, not a member of the 24 or 48 crew only.
And I appreciate the honesty in the TV booth. While it may violate some ethical standard, as said above, its better than them telling us this is the most exciting thing we’ve seen all year.

Gina
11/11/2009 02:08 PM
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Wow, I can’t believe I just read this whole thing. Amy is so in love with the 48 it hurts. Hey, the fans already know the racing is lousy (or at least the broadcast of the races are), so although it might not be professional for ESPN to point it out, it isn’t news. I agree, too, that if it is OK for DW to cheerlead, then its fine with me that ESPN calls out that the racing is bad. But then again, I’m just an idiot who used to be a big race fan. I barely watched the races on TV since the chase started and I probably won’t be tuning in for Phoenix or Homestead either.

Keith
11/11/2009 03:59 PM
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Its very unfair to single car teams to allow an army of guys from a 4 car team to repair one of the teams cars this should never be allowed.

Marybeth
11/11/2009 06:08 PM
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Throughout the race, the 88 was one of the first cars called to the pits. At the end for the last green pitstop, he radioed in 10 laps before he finally was that he wanted to pit then. The 5 pitted, later the 24 pitted. Finally the 88 was called to the pit. He ran out of gas on pit road before he got to his pit. He took off and the car stalled. He was left out there out alone. He radioed “Isn’t anyone going to help me?” No one did. No one showed up with a can of ether, or whatever it is they spray in the top, no one came to push him. He ended up 3 laps down and 25th. Where was this Hendrick philosophy teamwork for Junior…? On Nascar Now, Boris Said asked ‘why they ran him out of gas’? No one answered him. Marybeth

Rachel
11/11/2009 07:15 PM
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I was one of the majority who voted that the 48 crew would have helped the 24 crew if the situation had been reversed, so I also think people are making a mountain out of this molehill. And in any case, these are Rick’s teams and employees; he can utilize them any way he sees fit.

However, I did find out this year how hard it is to be fair. I have 2 fantasy teams and my intent at the beginning of the season was to treat them equally. But, with 2 races to go, the one in contention for the championship is getting all the time I have to put into this and the other one gets its picks as an afterthought. It’s just human nature. You can’t legislate that and I certainly hope NASCAR stays out of it.

Go for the win, JJ!

mkrcr
11/11/2009 11:09 PM
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“Beth: Anyways, no use arguing about that now. The bottom line is it happened … “. And that is exactly the problem. Let the 48 slide, it’s forgotten, and Knaus gets away with another…
And Amy, how can you preach “professional ethics” when your opinions drip with bias towards the 48? Good thing you’re not a broadcaster.

Deidre
11/13/2009 09:26 AM
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Amy you have no class, go do your brown nosing (48) somewhere else, calling names is soooooo elementary school.

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