The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: Bad Boys In Bristol, NASCAR In Canada, And A Lady's Future by Frontstretch Staff -- Wednesday August 18, 2010

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

This Week’s Participants:
Amy Henderson (Mondays / Holding A Pretty Wheel)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays / Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays / Top 15 & Wednesdays / Full Throttle)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Summer Dreyer (Mondays / Running Their Mouth & Frontstretch News Reporter)
Garrett Horton (Frontstretch Newsletter Contributor)
Kyle Ocker (Frontstretch News Reporter)

Kevin Harvick has led the point standings for much of the season, but he’s been overlooked by many fans and media as a true title favorite. Did his victory at Michigan elevate Harvick to the role of a championship threat in a year when no team has been able to find much consistency?

Mike N.: Well, Johnson is still the favorite until someone beats him, but Harvick has been certainly driving like a championship threat as of late. Not only does he have some wins, but he’s been finishing up front when he doesn’t win.
Kyle: I considered him as a true title favorite before the Michigan victory.
Beth: He’d be the favorite if they weren’t resetting the points in a few races.
Amy: Honestly, count me among those who counted him out. Or actually, didn’t think he could win enough in the Chase to win it all. Now? I think it’s a possibility.
Phil: I thought he was a threat anyway, but this does go a ways towards making him an all-around contender.
Summer: I think Harvick was kind of overlooked because, for the most part, he just hangs around and goes with consistency. At first I thought once the Chase started he’d lose ground to those with more bonus points and fall out of contention. I’m kind of back and forth on whether or not to back away from that.
Garrett: I think this win does a lot for him. I really thought he could only win on the plate tracks, but his consistency has been amazing this year.
Amy: The problem is, Garrett, consistency doesn’t win the Chase any more. That was my hang up with him. I think you need three Chase wins, minimum, to win the Cup.
Garrett: We have had this debate before, and I still disagree.

Amy: That could be different this year, Garrett, I concede that. I’m not sure there’s a team that can do what the No. 48 has the last four and step it up that much.
Kyle: I think you can still win the Chase without victories. Yes, with the points reset and extra bonus points it’s harder, but it is nowhere near impossible.
Beth: Well, let’s not hand Harvick the trophy just yet. Consistency isn’t going to win this championship, but I guarantee that Harvick will be there to take advantage if the No. 48 team falters at all during the Chase.
Mike N.: Consistency wins, but it has to be consistent top-5 finishes. Harvick is starting to look like he can do that. He’s got seven top-5s in the last 10 races. That will get him really close to a title.
Kyle: Exactly, Mike. I don’t think the No. 48 is going to be near as strong as the last four years, though. I guarantee there will be someone else holding the Cup this year.
Mike N.: Be very careful with guarantees, Kyle. They can come back to bite you in a big way.
Garrett: Look at Hamlin last year: Two wins and three DNFs. Imagine if it were zero wins, five top-5s, and zero DNFs.
Amy: But the last four years, the Chase has been taken by winning multiple races. If someone can do that, it will trump solid, but non-winning, performances.
Mike N.: The No. 48 can still do it. Everyone wants to count them out whenever they struggle, but they have done it every year for the last four years and, until someone proves them wrong, they’re still the one to beat.
Kyle: I think if Harvick keeps doing what he is doing now, he will be there.
Garrett: Johnson could easily win the first six races in the Chase. I think they are just playing possum.
Phil: I really don’t think that’s happening, Garrett.
Amy: Can the 48 do it? Sure, anything’s possible. But the way they ran on Sunday was an embarrassment. If they can’t fix that, they’re done.
Garrett: Harvick has really established himself as the favorite to dethrone Johnson.

Kurt Busch is trying his best to make Jimmie Johnson quiver in his boots come Chase time – blown engine at Michigan notwithstanding.

Amy: I still think Hamlin and Kurt Busch are the favorites. They have both shown that they know how to play the Chase game.
Garrett: Kurt Busch has a chance, but Hamlin has just been so up and down this year.
Mike N.: I’m still not sold on Hamlin, although making his run this weekend a second-place effort was impressive. Busch could do it – it’s just Penske has never done it before.
Beth: But Kurt Busch has, Mike.
Mike N.: Yes he has, but Rusty did it too. He couldn’t do it with Penske.
Amy: Rusty didn’t have the Chase format to work to his advantage, either. Hamlin has been inconsistent, but if they can get it together, they will contend — unless I jinxed him, anyway. Friday, I wrote about Busch as a title favorite, and he promptly screwed the pooch on Sunday. I did the same about Hamlin in the spring and he also promptly stopped doing so great.
Garrett: If Kurt Busch won the title this year, I think that would become a really good rivalry between him and Johnson.
Kyle: Hamlin is going to have an advantage, though, since right now he would enter the Chase tied for first with Johnson with five wins and 50 bonus points. That’s a 20-point lead over Harvick, who has three wins.
Mike N.: 20 points is nothing. Yes, I know Kurt won by eight and I believe Jimmie won one by 15. But 20 points is nothing over 10 races.
Garrett: Well, back to the question; I believe Harvick is most capable this year of beating Jimmie.
Beth: I’m not ready to hand Harvick the trophy just yet, but it’s time everyone quit counting him out when it comes to those final 10 races.
Kyle: Like I said earlier, based on consistent performance, I already thought Harvick was a contender for the Cup this year, pre-MIS win.

If Jimmie Johnson falters this Fall, everyone from Kevin Harvick to Jeff Gordon to even Clint Bowyer are ready to pounce in a year where consistency has proven elusive for most of the title contenders.

Summer: I’m not going to call Harvick a favorite to win the championship, and I’m not handing him the trophy. But he’s definitely been underestimated this year.
Mike N.: Harvick most certainly has a very good chance to win the title. However, we’ve seen this a multitude of times over the years, and the regular season leader doesn’t get it done in the Chase. Especially with the No. 48 team lurking.
Amy: The way Johnson has been running lately, he isn’t like a championship contender – he’s like a fifth-10th-place team.
Mike N.: I’m still sticking with Ric Flair. To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.
Garrett: Don’t count out Mr. Stewart, either.
Amy: Stewart has never been good in the Fall. Can he win it? Sure, but he’d have to buck a career trend to do it.
Phil: I picked Stewart way back in January. It would be nice to be proven correct.
Garrett: He was good in ‘05!
Mike N.: Ric Flair would slap the rest of them down. I promise Ryan Newman wouldn’t push Ric Flair like he pushed Joey.
Phil: I’m pretty sure that if he had to, Newman could properly give Ric Flair the what for.
Mike N.: Oh my. For all of the Flair fans, that is Phil.Allaway@frontstretch.com.

Ryan Newman and Joey Logano added their names to a list of rivalries that includes Kurt Busch/Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski/Carl Edwards, among others. Which of these is likely to spill over at Bristol, or will they be on their best behavior?

Summer: I’m more looking for Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson here. Logano and Newman was just racing, while Keselowski and Edwards probably aren’t going to race around each other a whole lot, most likely.
Phil: Keselowski might hold up Edwards whilst getting lapped. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some bumping between Newman and Logano. Of course, with Joey’s record, someone might dump him first.
Garrett: Busch and Johnson. They had an epic battle at Bristol earlier this year.
Kyle: I will never believe that the Keselowski/Edwards feud is over. I say that will be a hot one. I’m also interested to see where this Logano/Newman feud is going to go. It’s actually turning into Logano vs. the rest of the field lately. I say the Kurt Busch/Johnson feud is going to stay calm this week.

Joey Logano’s trying really hard to be like mentor Mark Martin; you know, except for the whole everyone in the garage hates me part.

Mike N.: I’m with the Kurt/Jimmie one, myself. Newman and Logano was a one-race deal, and that is not a rivalry. Now Logano/Harvick could most definitely blow up. But Edwards and Keselowski are on probation, so they’re not going to do anything.
Amy: I think Newman and Logano have the least to lose, so if anyone acts up, it will be them. Busch and Johnson have the most to lose, and they both know it.
Mike N.: The only thing that will possibly keep Busch/Johnson calm is that Kurt can’t afford another DNF.
Kyle: True, Amy; while Busch still has a 215-point lead over 12th, he isn’t mathematically in yet. Anything can happen, especially if you start racking up DNFs and/or any points penalties that could result from any on-track confrontation.
Phil: Something new is going to happen Saturday. I just don’t know what yet.
Garrett: Kurt owes Jimmie quite a few now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets one back on him Saturday.
Mike N.: Jeff Burton vs. his crew might blow up this weekend.
Garrett: Keselowski had one his best runs of the season at Bristol, so he should be running with leaders. But the feud is over for 2010.
Amy: Then again, if Keselowski wanted to really put an exclamation point on his feud, now is the time.
Mike N.: That is true, Amy. It could cost Carl a bunch in the standings, but it could also cost Brad a bunch with his boss and his sponsors.
Beth: Right. I imagine Penske might have something to say about that…
Kyle: Penske is going to go broke if Keselowski keeps getting caught up in this stuff. He has already compiled two completely torn up race cars this year thanks to Mr. Ed.
Amy: Since NASCAR has said it’s pretty much OK, if I was really mad at a driver, what better time to take him out than right before the Chase with two short tracks in three races?
Mike N.: True Amy, but if you’re already on double secret probation, you better be very sure of what you’re doing.
Phil: Here’s a thought: Is this “Have at it, boys” thing still going to be in play at New Hampshire?
Summer: Most likely. It’s not like NASCAR would tell drivers all of a sudden they have to act like gentlemen. If anything, they’ll want them to make it more exciting to generate more publicity.
Phil: It would go hand in hand with those “big moments” that Brian France loves so much.
Kyle: Brian France is just there to make sure the France name is still in NASCAR; he doesn’t actually do anything. But, that’s a discussion for another day. If Keselowski really wanted to make an exclamation, he would wait until the Chase actually starts and take Edwards completely out of the picture. However, I would much rather see them duke it out on pit road. I don’t like this on-track retaliation stuff; it costs too much money.
Mike N.: Me too. I hate that we haven’t had a good pit lane scuffle since Chicago a couple of years ago.
Beth: And it’s far too dangerous. I’d rather see them walk away with a black eye than what could be a career-ending injury … or worse.
Phil: At this point, I almost think that they’d get punished more for fighting like men than taking their anger out on the track.
Mike N.: The last garage scrap was Harvick/Edwards.

Amy: NASCAR has said it’s OK, so can’t really blame a driver if he’s angry and calculating. Guessing Kurt Busch will bide his time for exactly that reason. I’m not saying it’s right — it’s pretty dirty actually — but it’s the bed NASCAR has made. Fighting is specifically prohibited in the rulebook, so if it was caught on camera, yes, there would be a penalty.
Garrett: Other than Edwards, I don’t really think anyone or anything has been out of line this year.
Mike N.: From a driver standpoint, I’ll give you that. But Danica Mania has been out of line, that’s for sure.
Summer: Please, please, please don’t start talking about Danica.
Garrett: That Hot Wheels car was sharp, though! I might have to buy that diecast.
Phil: I take it that fighting is one of the many things covered under Section 12-1.
Mike N.: Everything is covered under 12-1.
Amy: Here’s an analogy for you: Imaging if Casey Mears decided to go IRL and got that much hype over there. We’d all think it was ridiculous … yet it’s OK for Danica?
Mike N.: Maybe Milka Duno can come over to NASCAR. She already sucks out loud in IRL.
Phil: Duno may be looking for an ARCA ride for next year, Mike. But back on topic, I think that Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race will be interesting. However, I’m not sure if any more feuds will erupt.
Amy: I think you’re most likely to see a rivalry between drivers with very little to lose. Chase-bound drivers won’t risk it. Even if Kurt knocks Johnson down in points, Johnson goes to P1 after Richmond, so nothing is gained, while Busch could fall out altogether.
Mike N.: Due to the fact that the bump and run is not necessary to make passes at Bristol now, there probably won’t be as many upset drivers on Saturday night. If anything blows up, I think it will be Busch/Johnson.
Garrett: I’m sure the other Busch will try to start something. But that’s a given.
Mike N.: The other Busch will either be running away or too busy griping about the car.
Amy: The other Busch was pretty funny on Sunday. In his post-race he talked about how great the car was — after spending the entire race berating his crew for how terrible is was.

Jeff Gordon has been consulting on a one-mile track to be built in Ontario, Canada. With the current state of the series, is it time for NASCAR to look there or elsewhere outside U.S. borders for more support?

Summer: I don’t really think it’s needed, but it certainly couldn’t hurt anything. There are lots of Canadian NASCAR fans.

Alright Jeff, we know having children is really supposed to mellow you out. But Canada? Are you sure?

Kyle: If that would mean we can get rid of the other event at Auto Club, I’m all for it.
Phil: This Ontario track is barely 15 miles into Canada. It might as well be Niagara Falls. There were plenty of Canadians in Watkins Glen when I was there. There are plenty of fans up there.
Kyle: I’m all for a Canadian race. I like their National Anthem.
Garrett: I thought we’ve already tried that with Mexico. Plus, we have a track. It’s in Montreal.
Mike N.: We can’t even sell out tracks in the States … so let’s go for an international audience. They’ll never have a Cup race, but sure, put a Nationwide or Truck event up there.
Amy: If it races good, hell yeah, go race there. At least it’s not a cookie cutter. They raced in Canada back in the day; I think it could be good for the sport.
Garrett: NASCAR doesn’t need to go outside the States. Going outside the Southeast hasn’t worked too great.
Kyle: Except for Iowa. That has worked so far.
Garrett: Iowa is an exception. It’s not so much “Southeast” as much as it’s a track that produces good racing and doesn’t have anything else around.
Summer: Going outside the Southeast helped grow the sport. I’m not saying NASCAR should become international, but doing it more than just a few times isn’t a terrible idea.
Amy: Summer, that theory is only going to work long-term if the racing is good, which, for the most part, it’s not because the tracks suck. That’s why the mile in Canada may be a good thing.
Mike N.: Helped grow the sport into what? We’re racing at a bunch of tracks where fans showed up because it was novel, and now, the excitement has worn off.
Summer: They don’t all suck. And it grew the sport to a national level. I don’t understand how that is a bad thing?
Mike N.: It is a bad thing because the racing takes place on a bunch of tracks that look similar, with cars that have no manufacturer identity and the sport has been homogenized to try and entice the fans that show up in those markets. When the racing was about racing and coming home first to make any money, it was awesome. Now that it is about making money everywhere but the track, it sucks.
Summer: OK, so make better racetracks. It’s still not a negative that we have racetracks outside of the Southeast.
Mike N.: It is when the fans in those other markets don’t support the sport.
Amy: Iowa and New Hampshire are good tracks but Kansas, Texas, Fontana, Michigan … not so much. Las Vegas is a bit better after the redo. If someone would build a track that’s not a mile-and-a-half or bigger, it would be very good.

Plenty of Nationwide drivers are already well aware of NASCAR’s Canadian influence; the Montreal road course has had its share of major wrecks since joining the circuit in 2007.

Summer: There’s plenty of support in the Midwest. A lot of the Northeast tracks have some good attendance, too.
Mike N.: They support the heck out of it? I haven’t seen standing room only at Chicago yet.
Amy: The location isn’t a negative unless the fans aren’t there, like Fontana, and NASCAR finally realized that. But if the racing is boring, the sport as a whole suffers. It’s not about location so much as it is the best tracks are in the Southeast.
Mike N.: The best fans are in the Southeast.
Garrett: Hell, yeah!
Amy: Build a Rockingham in Kansas, or a North Wilkesboro in California, and they deserve the races.
Summer: Kansas usually sells out their races. Indianapolis used to have fantastic attendance until the economy went downhill, and we have some good Midwestern tracks in Nationwide with some good attendance.
Mike N.: If you ran all of the races in the Southeast, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri, you’d have a heck of a sport.
Mike N.: If the fans show up. I think you could build the greatest racetrack in the history of racing in California and they wouldn’t show up.
Garrett: The thing about California is there are so many other things to do.
Mike N.: There are other things to do everywhere. The West Coast just isn’t a good place for racing.
Phil: Don’t discount how much the economy hurt attendance in Indianapolis. Unemployment is above the national average there.
Mike N.: You think that was bad? Wait until next year when there is a race two weeks before at Kentucky.
Phil: Yeah, those tracks are only three hours apart (or so) by car.
Amy: Catering to a market will only get you so far, and Fontana is a prime example. When the new wears off, if the product isn’t good, they will stop coming. I see that happening in Kansas as well, and possibly Texas.
Phil: It would help not having the California race in February. Thankfully, that’s getting fixed. Having that race at Fontana second re-created the Riverside problem that was only fixed when the 500k race was moved to November.
Summer: No, not in Kansas Amy. I was there last year and there were no empty seats. I looked. And I know of a lot of fans that really like Texas, even if it is a mile and a half.
Amy: Give it eight or nine years in Kansas.
Mike N.: They only had one race, Summer. Give them two races for three years and see how it looks.
Summer: Well, I know that. You’re not going to spend money on two races a year if you can just pick one. I’m saying there are a lot of race fans in this area that are going to show up. Not just Kansas but in the Midwest … lots of good drivers came from that part of the country, too.
Amy: Lots of good drivers come from California, too. That doesn’t mean the racing there is good — at the Cup level, I mean.
Mike N.: There are a lot of race fans in the area, but they are going to be stretched to pay that kind of money to go to races. Again, why moving out of the Southeast was bad…
Summer: Not saying the racing is always good, but there are lots of race fans in the area who will come to see their drivers. They didn’t move out of the Southeast, they just expanded. That’s not a bad thing. NASCAR still has a big presence in that area, as it should.
Mike N.: They’ve been racing Cup in California for a long time, and they have never supported it well.
Summer: There are still plenty who do.

Amy: But overall, Summer, that’s bad for the sport. Far more fans watch on TV every week than in person, and for them to tune in, the racing has to be good. It’s not a knock on the area or the fans there, but the racing has to equal the hype or the hype won’t last.
Summer: Are you speaking of in the area or the TV audience?
Amy: Both. If the racing is boring, once the novelty wears off, the attendance dwindles, especially in this economic environment. Meanwhile, fans don’t like boring races on TV.
Mike N.: And NASCAR moved out of the Southeast pretty dramatically. Zero races at North Wilkesboro and Rockingham, one at Darlington and now one only at Atlanta.
Kyle: Moving that race away from Atlanta was just plain idiotic.
Mike N.: Actually, I don’t blame them. Atlanta hasn’t supported the races for a long time. They don’t support any sports well there.
Phil: If they were going to keep both dates, they needed to move the March race a little later in the season.
Amy: Better Atlanta than New Hampshire or Sonoma.
Summer: Amy, in my opinion I’ve thought a lot of the racing has been really good. And as far as the fans in the area, people will still show up to see their drivers and support their sport. It’s not like other sports where they’re there every week. You have to take the opportunity.
Amy: Good races on a flat mile and a half are few and far between. Good races on a banked mile are a dime a dozen. Personally, I don’t care about location if the racing is good. And if it’s not, it doesn’t matter where it is, I’m not going to pay to go there.
Phil: From what I understand, Atlanta didn’t promote the race very well locally.
Mike N.: That’s surprising, because SMI is usually very good at promoting their events. Unlike ISC, which still hasn’t run a commercial for the Truck race at Darlington …
Garrett: It’s a shame with Atlanta, it really is one of the best tracks in NASCAR. It provides some of the best racing.
Summer: Well, back to the Ontario track, I think another race in Canada would be great for the sport, both in the local area and on TV. We need to try something new. Again, I really don’t think it could hurt anything.
Phil: These days, I think that location does matter to a degree. This Ontario track will hopefully be good once it’s done.
Mike N.: I do not want to see more expansion outside of the country. There are a ton of tracks in the U.S. that would love to have a Nationwide or Truck date. Sorry, Canada; support CASCAR, leave the NASCAR stuff to the States.
Amy: If the Canadian track races well, then yes, NASCAR should have touring series there. If it doesn’t, then they shouldn’t. It’s about racing and racing only.
Garrett: One thing we didn’t discuss is the weather in Canada. Does it rain a lot up there?
Phil: That part of Canada has a harsh winter, but summers are nice. I guess the Canadian Tire Series could serve as a support class once it’s done.
Mike N.: It’s Canada … of course it has a harsh winter.
Phil: Harsh by your standards, mild by theirs.

The Camping World Truck Series returned to Darlington after a five-year hiatus (replacing Milwaukee on the schedule) and produced one of the year’s closest finishes, but the crowd was a bit sparse for the standalone race. Does the Lady in Black deserve to keep the date in the future, or was the crowd simply too small to support the series?

Phil: Promotion is key for a standalone race. Mike mentioned that ISC flunked that test.
Amy: Absolutely, Darlington should keep the race. It was good racing, but, in the case of the CWTS, TV audience is a concern. Not because of Darlington or the race but because of the pathetic Truck broadcast deal.
Summer: They need to go back. It was a great race, and there were still quite a few people there. Approaching 20,000…
Mike N.: Yes, Darlington needs to keep the race, and ISC needs to pull their head out of their ass to promote the freaking thing.
Beth: From what I’ve heard, local promotion was practically non-existent. I think the track should keep the race, but they’ve got to promote it better.

In case you guys didn’t know, Darlington holds a Truck race now in the summer. People actually came to see them race. And it’s going to be EVERY summer in 2011 and beyond … right, NASCAR?

Mike N.: I drove down there and didn’t see a single billboard.
Kyle: Small crowds are nothing new to the series. Honestly, I’m shocked that it is still going. It has good racing, but for some reason the people just don’t go to Truck races, especially when the track also hosts a Cup date either on the same weekend or any other time in the year.
Garrett: I agree they should keep the date, but if no one shows up, that’s not a good sign.
Beth: For a Truck Series crowd, it wasn’t too bad. They were pretty tightly packed.
Amy: What I’d love to see is the Trucks run in conjunction with the Nationwide Series next year. Get fans in for a double dip.
Mike N.: I live in the Charlotte area, the biggest metropolitan area within two hours of the track, and never saw a commercial. That was an embarrassment that they didn’t promote it better than that.
Phil: Are you just dissatisfied with SPEED in general?
Beth: I sure am. Their coverage has been laughable this season.
Amy: Yes, because too many people don’t even have SPEED.
Beth: Agreed on that point as well, Amy.
Kyle: I personally like SPEED. They’ve stepped it up with their NASCAR coverage this year. However, as Amy just said, SPEED isn’t a highly accessible channel, which is another reason every race, be it Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Truck Series, should be online.
Phil: There are worse off networks in reach than SPEED. I think they’re in over 80 million homes now. However, in many systems, it’s digital cable only.
Summer: Most of the people I talk to have SPEED. What providers don’t give the network with basic cable?
Phil: Mine doesn’t. I have to pay extra for the Sports Package.
Summer: What provider do you guys have? I have AT&T U-verse and get it with the basic package.
Mike N.: Dish, DirecTV … I don’t think Time Warner is providing it yet as part of basic cable.

SPEED does such a good job of covering NASCAR that nobody sees… now, about getting people to actually carry it on their cable system…

Phil: They never will, Mike.
Kyle: Both of the satellite providers just revamped their channel lineups; they are trying to push sports channels to a separate package. For instance, Dish is trying to get people to get the NFL RedZone channel, so they are putting several sports networks in a sports package with it.
Amy: And many companies carry it as a premium channel only. In a crappy economy, a lot of people don’t have that luxury.
Garrett: I like SPEED because motorsports is their main focus, unlike the other networks, which couldn’t care less about racing.
Beth: As for the promotion — or lack thereof — it’s nothing new. Even when the Truck Series is here in June for their Indy companion weekend, I hear commercials for Indy but not for the Trucks.
Amy: NASCAR isn’t going to fork out for those series, especially with no Cup drivers in the race.
Beth: That’s just it, though Amy. These guys aren’t Cup drivers now, but some of them are bound to be in the future.
Mike N.: And some of the drivers used to drive in Cup. And the races are still the best that the national touring series provide.
Summer: I think the Truck Series viewership problem is less about the racing quality and more about the star power.
Beth: I think that has to do with fans being unfamiliar with the names.
Amy: I think the Truck Series is all about the racing. Without the star power, it has to be. And it provides the best racing most weeks.
Phil: For diehard race fans, most of the names are already known before they reached the Truck Series, but I can understand the need to promote the drivers better.
Mike N.: That is the problem with the whole of NASCAR these days. The fans used to watch it for the racing and gravitated to the drivers as they became familiar with them. Now, it is about the names and the racing is secondary.
Kyle: Casual fans won’t watch it for that reason (no big names). So, you are only going to have the die-hard motorheads and with the newer generation, there aren’t very many. Plus, races are usually on Friday night, and the younger crowd has a lot to do Friday nights.
Amy: I didn’t say it was right, but that’s NASCAR for you. They won’t promote something they don’t have a vested interest in. If Darlington fails, they can move the race to a more lucrative location, racing be damned.
Mike N.: What lucrative location wants it? St. Louis just begged out of hosting races.
Phil: I think that’s more of Dover Motorsports, Inc.‘s problems than the Truck Series, Mike.
Amy: I was thinking of one of ISC’s babies. Another race for Kansas or something.
Kyle: The Trucks need to sign a deal to get more races on national TV. Let SPEED have a majority, but put more on FOX and give some to TNT or ESPN or someone to at least get the series more exposure.
Beth: I never watched the series before I started writing about it, and frankly I’ll pick that over a Cup race any day now.

Summer: Beth, I’m the same way. I didn’t start watching until I started writing a little more, either, and I was kind of irritated I’d been missing all of this competition for awhile, too.
Beth: Same here. It’s a hidden gem that NASCAR doesn’t promote nearly well enough.
Summer: The Truck races are actually OK at mile-and-a-half tracks because the races are shorter.
Amy: Which is a shame. Fans should realize the racing is better than Cup in general, and then take a few minutes to learn the names. It’s their loss.
Kyle: Yeah, but with the way the world is now, potential fans/viewers don’t want to have to work to learn the names, they want to be spoon fed.
Phil: How do you “work to learn the names?” Look them up on the internet?
Amy: Yeah, takes a few minutes. Maybe?
Garrett: You have to use your brain. People hate doing that these days.
Mike N.: Watch the races. At least SPEED does show some of the lesser names during their broadcasts.
Summer: Well, no, you may hear the names but you have no idea who they are. It usually takes a few weeks to learn all the names/faces/numbers etc. But it’s worth it when you do.
Amy: And SPEED does a good job of broadcasting the races, it just doesn’t have the scope of a national network.
Phil: SPEED doesn’t really teach as much in their broadcast as the Cup Series TV partners do.
Summer: Phil, that’s because their viewers are usually diehards and already know how a lot of it works anyways. But having drivers like Kyle, Elliott Sadler, and Harvick occasionally running the series helps draw a crowd.

OK, race fans. Repeat after us … Jus-tin … Lof-ton … now, go look some stats up on the internet and follow the racing Friday.

Kyle: The Truck Series teams don’t have the sponsorship dollars, either. It’s bad when a champion isn’t sure if he can get sponsorship to race the next season. Everything with the Trucks is underfunded and doesn’t get the advertising dollars like the Cup Series.
Mike N.: And the series pays for crap, too. Their purses are horrendous.
Beth: But that’s nothing new. And the teams have dealt with it to the best of their abilities. Gotta hand it to Germain Racing for the season they’re having.
Amy: Bottom line is, Darlington deserves that race and shame on ISC for not promoting the hell out of it. If ISC can’t be bothered, offer it to Rockingham.
Kyle: Amy, I think that move would attract a lot of older fans — a lot of people want to see Rockingham again.
Phil: I’m sure you could get 20,000 for a Truck race at Rockingham (last I checked, seating capacity is 33,000 or so at The Rock).
Beth: If they’d put it on the schedule, I can guarantee I’d find a way to make that race.
Kyle: However, politics won’t allow Rockingham to get a date unless ISC and SMI buys it.
Mike N.: I think they could get a Nationwide or Truck race, Kyle. But they’ll never have a Cup date again.
Amy: The Truck Series is the closest thing in today’s NASCAR to the old-school racing of 20 or 30 years ago. NASCAR should promote that, not be ashamed.
Summer: I was thinking the same thing. That’s why most NASCAR fans love the Truck Series, because it’s usually pretty old school.
Kyle: The NASCAR media could help out, too. We don’t give the series much attention at all.

OK, how about some Bristol predictions?
Amy: I’m going with Kurt Busch bouncing back.
Summer: I’m going with the “other” Busch. Give me Kyle.
Phil: I’m going with Carl Edwards. This winless streak can’t last forever.
Garrett: Jeff Gordon snaps his winless streak.
Mike N.: OK, time to get a little crazy. I’m taking Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Kyle: A few weeks ago, I would have said Dale Jr., but after the last couple of weeks, he will be lucky to finish in the top 20. I’m thinking Jeff Gordon brakes the streak this week.
Beth: Kurt Busch. That team is going to have a fire under them after losing their engine so early at Michigan.

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:
Beyond The Cockpit: Ryan Newman Speaks Out On Logano Feud, Chase Chances
Did You Notice… NASCAR Driving Is A Day Job, Ambrose Is Saved, And Sponsor Cutbacks
What A Difference A Year Makes For Budweiser … And Kevin Harvick, Too
Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 After Michigan
Top Ten Reasons Extenze Decided To Leave Front Row Motorsports
The Frontstretch Foto Funnies! Michigan, August 2010
Carey And Coffey: Joey Log-Oh-No

Email the Mirror Guys ‘N’ Gals!
Contact Amy Henderson
Contact Beth Lunkenheimer
Contact Garrett Horton
Contact Kyle Ocker
Contact Mike Neff
Contact Phil Allaway
Contact Summer Dreyer

Mirror Predictions 2010

Welcome to our fourth 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 twenty-three races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Phil Allaway 37 19 2 10 15
Amy Henderson 33 -4 23 3 9 15
Beth Lunkenheimer 22 -15 16 1 9 10
Jeff Meyer 13 -24 15 0 5 9
Summer Dreyer 13 -24 14 0 5 8
Mike Neff 11 -26 10 1 3 5
Matt Taliaferro 4 -33 4 1 1 2
Bryan Davis Keith 4 -33 3 0 1 2
Tom Bowles 3 -34 3 0 1 1
Vito Pugliese 2 -35 3 0 1 2
Garrett Horton 0 -37 4 0 0 1
Tony Lumbis 0 -37 3 0 0 0
Kurt Smith 0 -37 5 0 1 1
Toni Montgomery 0 -37 1 0 0 0

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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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Carl D.
08/18/2010 10:42 AM
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While I realize who owns ISC, it seems to me it should fall on the track owners to promote individual races rather than Nascar. I live in SC and the only way I even knew about the CWTS race at Darlington was from the internet. (There may have been some TV spots during previous race broadcasts; with DVR I often FF thru the commercials and could have missed them).

I agree that a doubleheader with the NNS would be a better sell than a stand-alone CWTS race. Money is tight in this economy, and you have to give the fans value, especially if you want to get them out to a race track in the brutal heat of SC in August.

laxbro
08/18/2010 01:36 PM
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Tickets are expensive at Chicago. Don’t really know the price of tickets elsewhere, but I don’t have the money to fork over $160 bucks for bad seats for a race weekend.

Comcast doesn’t have speed for basic cable. Super annoying. I would love to watch the truck races, but can’t

wingcars6970
08/18/2010 06:16 PM
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There are more Nascar fans (per capita) than the US. If it is a cool, unique track – what the heck – why not? The weather there is identical to Chicago.

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