The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: Three Cars For RPM? And Three's Company For Harvick, Childress, Hamlin by Frontstretch Staff -- Wednesday September 29, 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)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays / Top 15 & Wednesdays / Full Throttle)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays / Top Ten & Thursdays / Voices From The Heartland)
Kurt Smith (Fridays/ Happy Hour)
Kyle Ocker (Frontstretch News Reporter)

The penalty issued to Clint Bowyer following a failed post-race inspection on the Loudon car also caused emotions to run high between teammates and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin. Have we seen the last of the skirmishes between these groups, and will those distractions ultimately hurt their title hopes?

Kurt: Hmmm. I don’t know how far it will go. Probably won’t last long. I don’t see Burton or Bowyer even deliberately taking Denny out. Harvick, maybe.
Jeff: It’ll hurt Denny more than RCR.
Mike N.: I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it if Denny gets close to a title. If he’s an also-ran in the Chase, it will probably die down, but if he has a shot at the championship, he’ll get taken out of a race or two.
Amy: I think they need to be careful about picking their battles. It could be a distraction if they drag it out or escalate. As it is, Hamlin isn’t that good at Dover, so the last thing he needed was his mind on what other teams were doing.
Kyle: I think Denny said it best this week: If either Harvick or himself want a shot at the title, they can’t pay any attention to a feud. From here, it’s just media hype. They are done feuding.
Kurt: Right, Kyle. Harvick has something to lose, too. They probably won’t give him any quarter on the racetrack, but I don’t see them wrecking him.

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick’s feud never played out on the racetrack Sunday, but with a distraction that large, there are no winners here: Both men’s long, disappointing days spent outside the top 5 proved that.

Phil: Yeah, that’s over. The distractions might claw at each driver privately, though.
Amy: They may not wreck each other, but they’ll race each other harder because not that’s the guy you want to beat … and if that happens, they’re taking their eye off those that are a real threat, like Kyle Busch.
Jeff: I am beginning to have as much respect for Hamlin as I do Kyle Busch.
Mike N.: Interestingly, it may cause Harvick as much grief as Hamlin. Harvick tends to let things like that get to him. It may cost Harvick and Hamlin trouble and help Burton, but it doesn’t matter because Johnson will win it anyway.

Kurt: If you’re right, Mike, it’s a good mind game on Denny’s part.
Mike N.: Oh, I am sure it was a mind game from Denny. But I think it may cost him if he’s close to winning because Harvick won’t let that happen now.
Kurt: The thing is, why would Denny open his mouth like that? Maybe he was egged on, but why give other teams a reason to go after you?
Jeff: Denny isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
Amy: No, Jeff, he’s not. If Denny’s resorting to that kind of mind game, is it a sign of desperation?
Kurt: He’s leading the points. I don’t think he’s desperate.
Amy: OK, not desperate, but scared. And worried about that lead. I think he’s afraid of the huge gain Johnson got on Sunday, and I think he knows Harvick is still a threat as well.
Mike N.: I think Denny was pissed that RCR was playing the sympathy card when they broke the rules. I think it is a smart move that he did it on purpose — just like Earnhardt messing with Martin back in the day.
Jeff: I think you are giving him too much credit, Mike.
Mike N.: I think he’s smart enough to do that. Hamlin has won championships at the local level and that is the kind of stuff you do to mess with people. But I also think he was being honest. Hamlin never pulls punches.
Kyle: Well, Harvick is a guy that I would be worried about. This could have very well been something to get him off of his game.
Kurt: I don’t think that was it. He probably had some resentment over something with RCR, but I can’t imagine what.
Amy: I still say Hamlin wins it all, but he does get wound up during Chase time and it bit him last year.
Jeff: I don’t think Denny wins the Cup.
Mike N.: I don’t think Hamlin wins it all. I still think Johnson is the one who’s going to take home the big shiny trophy again.
Kurt: Hamlin needs Jimmie to falter at Martinsville, otherwise I still think it’s Jimmie’s title.
Mike N.: Jimmie ain’t faltering at Martinsville. Talladega maybe, but not Martinsville.
Kurt: Well, that’s the thing. That’s where Denny is best in the Chase, and Jimmie’s the best everywhere else.
Phil: If this season’s anything to go on, Johnson isn’t finishing Talladega on Halloween.

Amy: I think that letting something that doesn’t affect you get you riled up in the Chase is a big mistake. That’s why the No. 48 team has four championships — they don’t get distracted. Did you see where Chad said he didn’t even notice the confrontation next door?
Kurt: Chad doesn’t get distracted. He does the distracting.
Amy: Yeah, but it was happening ten feet away!
Kyle: I really don’t think it’s a big deal at all.
Kurt: Bowyer’s car got pulled for tech again this week. I wonder if Denny will have something to say.
Mike N.: There was no question Bowyer’s would be pulled. They were told that ahead of time.
Amy: Bowyer’s should be pulled the rest of the year, but that’s another question.
Kyle: “Random” selections aren’t usually so “random.” So, I would agree with Amy; if that car isn’t in Charlotte every week, it will be most weeks.
Jeff: The thing about Bowyer is, he only won because he got lucky. Tony ran out of gas! If Tony hadn’t run out of gas, I don’t think the Bowyer thing is such a big deal.

Another question brought up with the Bowyer penalty was why all 12 Chase cars are not inspected weekly at NASCAR’s R&D Center. Should NASCAR change that policy and tear them all down? And while we’re on the subject, will Bowyer win his appeal?

Jeff: No. No. No. Forget this R&D tear down! If they pass post-race inspection at the track, it’s all good.
Kurt: Get rid of the Chase. Next question.
Phil: Is Bowyer winning tomorrow’s appeal? Heck, no. If we keep this travesty, should all 12 be torn down every week? You betcha.
Mike N.: NASCAR is expensive enough as it is. They’d have to hire 100 more people — or more — to tear down that many cars each week. There’s no way they could do that in a reasonable fashion.
Amy: No. They wouldn’t be done until Thursday or Friday, and hell, anybody knows they can be a random any time NASCAR wants, so why push it in the Chase? As for Bowyer’s appeal, if the issues were with how the body was hung, I don’t see how RCR has a case. The tow truck didn’t remount the body while it was pushing the car!
Jeff: Ever follow a Nova through fresh snow? Four sets of tracks.
Mike N.: I also don’t think they’ll win the appeal unless they can prove a piece was bent and that resulted in the car being illegal.

See this shot of Clint Bowyer and Shane Wilson cracking a smile after New Hampshire’s victory? It’s the last time we might see it until Daytona in February, both men reeling after any championship chance they had was destroyed by a 150-point penalty following the race.

Kurt: The appeals board is run by NASCAR people. They’re not going to overturn it.
Kyle: The appeals board doesn’t overturn many penalties, and I doubt this one will be overturned. It would have to be pretty conclusive evidence.
Mike N.: Exactly, Kyle. Unless they can produce a damaged piece, I don’t see how they get it overturned.
Amy: They took the Nos. 5 and 48 every week last year after they warned them for being close to tolerance, and they should take the No. 33 every week from here on out as well.
Kurt: And the No. 88. Inspect the No. 88 every week. Find out what’s really going on in the Hendrick R&D car!
Amy: Actually, I was surprised at the number of penalties the appeals board has reduced or overturned. It’s almost a third.
Mike N.: Yeah, I also got a kick out of the fact that they increased two penalties!
Phil: Anyone want to take a guess at what the two were that got increased? I know the Johnny Sauter DQ at Texas a few years back is one of them.
Mike N.: Robby Gordon had a fine increased but point penalty reduced.
Amy: I know they overturned a suspension on Chad Knaus because the height was off, but he was able to prove it was a part failure. So if Bowyer’s car was damaged and it can be proven, they do have a shot. But a small one …
Kurt: The only way I’d say to inspect the top 12 would be if they’re the only ones out there; otherwise, keep it as is.
Jeff: Win in an illegal car and then hit the wall during your burnout.

Amy: That’s been done. One of the Gibbs cars did it recently, I believe, and a lot of people were speculating about what they were hiding.
Mike N.: Wasn’t that in a Nationwide race, Amy?
Amy: I think so. Anyways, I think they should take at least one Chase car every week, even if one doesn’t win.
Kurt: Inspect Dave Blaney’s car.
Kyle: I don’t think inspecting the entire top 12 every week is practical. It takes a while to do an entire inspection.
Amy: Exactly, Kyle. They can’t be releasing penalties on Thursday or Friday. Tuesday I can live with.
Mike N.: I’m positive they’ll take a Chase car every week no matter what.
Jeff: At the track, post-race inspections is all that should be done.
Kurt: As long as Chase drivers know that there’s a chance they’ll be selected, they’ll probably stay within the line.
Amy: Now, if the championship comes down to Homestead, they should take every car that was in contention going in.
Jeff: Oh great … soon we will have the Supreme Court deciding who won the Cup.
Kurt: Jeff the racing anarchist!
Kyle: Thankfully, we have baseball to distract them, otherwise Congress would undoubtedly be involved.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced they’re still considering running a third car in 2011. While more data is always a plus, is keeping their options open without sponsorship a good move for this team right now? And if the third car does happen, who should be its driver?

Kurt: Michael Waltrip or Danica Patrick. That’ll get them a sponsor.
Amy: If they can find backing, they have the equipment. It’s a bad idea to run without a sponsor or try to string them week-to-week, though.
Kurt: How about Justin Allgaier? Why not give the kid a Cup shot?
Amy: Agreed, Kurt. They could do way worse than Allgaier.
Phil: Maybe, but if Justin underperforms, his career might be over or a spot down with the Front Row teams forever.

The only full-time Nationwide Series regular to win against the Cup guys this season, Justin Allgaier’s Bristol victory in March showed he’s ready to take his talents up to the major league level in 2011.

Jeff: I can’t believe Penske is letting him go. Big mistake on Penske’s part.
Amy: I agree, Jeff. Jeez, just ship Hornish back to the IRL and there’s a ride. I daresay that Allgaier could whip Hornish’s butt in a Cup car.
Mike N.: More is always better, but it would take the right fit. I could see Colin Braun running it if they don’t give it to Elliott Sadler. I would think Ford would want one of their guys in it, but Allgaier would be a great choice, assuming he’d want to get into it.
Kyle: I wouldn’t force a third or a fourth team, but if you get a full-time sponsor in a waiting line, don’t keep them waiting.
Kurt: How about Bobby Labonte?
Phil: Labonte’s in the 47 next year. They just did their first test today.
Kyle: Yeah, because start and park equals a ride …
Amy: JTG isn’t start and park.
Kyle: Oh yeah, forgot about that.
Amy: And frankly, start and park does equal a ride. It sucks, but it’s reality, and better to be racing every week than sitting at home where no sponsor can see you.
Kyle: In order to be considered a “racer,” you must compete. If you park after three laps, well, it’s hard to compete from the garage area. I mean, you are spending so much time trying to justify a vibration as a reason to not finish.

Amy: But families have food on the table thanks to the S&P’s. I don’t like that they have to do it, but nobody’s getting rich and a few more people are employed at a time when teams are laying off left and right. It’s not ideal, but it’s reality since the big teams drove the price of sponsorship up a decade ago.
Kyle: I’m not saying they should rather be laying people off, but I’m never going to call them “racers.”
Kurt: I don’t care about S&Ps, but it sucks to think of Bobby Labonte as one. He’s too good for that.
Amy: As for RPM, before they go for three cars, they need solid money on the two they have.
Mike N.: It would be nice to see Bobby in competitive equipment again but I think he’s past that point in his career, unfortunately.
Phil: The No. 47 will be more competitive than anything Bobby’s been in probably since he left Gibbs.
Mike N.: Yeah, I don’t know how liquid their sponsorship deals are, but they definitely need to have some solid funds to make sure they’re competitive.
Kurt: And he’s hardly start and park material, Mike. Hell, at least put him in an R&D car.
Mike N.: Oh I agree, Kurt, but the people that make the decisions about that kind of thing are not going to give him a shot again.
Amy: Yeah, times have changed. Everyone used to want a veteran winner. Now? They’d rather have a good-looking young guy who will never set foot in Victory Lane.
Phil: I like the idea of Allgaier in the No. 19. Why not? If they can get the funds to run it, more power to them.
Mike N.: I’d love to see RPM field three cars next year, but I don’t think they’re really financially ready for that.
Kurt: For an organization that seems in disarray, I like what RPM is doing. Bold in this climate. Good for them.
Amy: Only if they have full funding for two competitive cars should they even think of a third.

Following their acquisition of Braun Racing, Turner Motorsports announced that they will replace Brian Scott in the Nationwide race at Kansas with current CWTS driver James Buescher, and that CWTS driver Ricky Carmichael will eventually replace Tayler Malsam. Are these changes a smart move by the team, or will it wind up biting them in the end considering the plethora of free agent talent currently available (Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier, etc.)?

Amy: I think moving either of those guys up is a mistake. They’re not ready. And Malsam and Scott got hugely screwed.
Kyle: All of those drivers are good talents. So, it would be a win-win scenario going with any of them.
Amy: If they can land Allgaier, they’d be crazy not to do it.
Phil: Well, it’s expected, to be honest. Carmichael is quite green, Buescher should do fine, but you’re right about Tayler and Brian.
Kurt: Buescher has a future. Not necessarily a bad move.
Amy: Buescher needs to grow up and drop the sense of entitlement before he’ll be truly competitive.
Kurt: What happens to Brian Scott now?
Amy: Who knows? Add him to the growing list of actual Nationwide drivers with nowhere to go.
Kyle: Allgaier will probably be in a Cup ride before long, and it’s about time.
Kurt: Allgaier should be in Cup already. If you can win in the Nationwide Series against the Cup drivers, it’s time to move up. And NASCAR needs a good rookie.
Amy: It does, Kurt, but there’s nowhere for Allgaier to go in Cup that’s a decent ride.
Mike N.: I don’t understand if they’re going to try and run Carmichael and Buescher in both series. If they’re taking them out of the rides and putting new guys in the trucks, I think it is a mistake. Malsam and Scott have been great guys and didn’t deserve to have their rides yanked out from under them.

Brian Scott’s had some success this season, leading the Rookie of the Year race by just one point over Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. But the second Steve Turner took over the team, he decided only one top-5 finish from the youngster in 28 starts wasn’t enough.

Phil: Scott will get a ride eventually, even if he has to use the Albertson’s money to do it.
Amy: If NASCAR would limit the Cup drivers, all of those guys would have at least shared rides.
Mike N.: The thing I don’t like about the whole deal is Turner said on Friday that they were looking forward to Scott winning the Rookie of the Year title, and then kicked him out of his ride on Monday.
Kurt: Yeah, that ain’t cool. Like an owner expressing full confidence in a manager just before he fires him.
Amy: Mike nailed it. What a crappy thing to do.
Kyle: That was a hit below the belt there. Why, why would they do that?
Mike N.: They knew a while ago that this was going to happen. It wasn’t like they just decided to buy Braun Racing on Sunday.
Kyle: So, they knew when they said that he would be gone by Monday?
Phil: Articles Tuesday made it sound like there was a misunderstanding in the contract issues.
Mike N.: I am guessing they looked at the logistics of it all, the sponsorship agreements and such to figure out Scott was the least damaging to cut.
Kurt: Is Red Bull keeping Scott Speed?
Mike N.: If they get rid of Speed, that will be Kahne’s ride next year.
Kurt: Right, but I think I read somewhere that Red Bull may field a third car. How about the 77? I have to figure Hornish would be expendable.
Mike N.: If they’re going to move Hornish, I have to think they’d put Allgaier in the car.
Kyle: If Hornish isn’t gone, then I’m just not sure. Why would you keep him when you could get the ever-marketable Allgaier? And let it be known that Sprint/NASCAR basically killed Allgaier’s hopes.
Phil: I hate exclusivity clauses.
Kurt: I used to think NASCAR knew what they were doing with the exclusivity thing, but now I’m not so sure.
Kyle: In a sport almost exclusively supported on advertisements, there should be no exclusivity clauses.
Mike N.: Back in the day, the exclusive sponsors brought a lot to the table. Now they don’t bring crap and want a lot in return.
Kyle: Yes, it’s not like there is an overabundance of sponsorship out there.
Amy: I agree with Jeff in that NASCAR needs to funnel those sponsors to teams.

Kurt: A lot of the exclusive sponsors have to do with car things, too, like Sunoco and Goodyear. Their competitors would gladly fund racecars.
Mike N.: I’m still amazed at everything that RJR used to do for the sport back when they were the title sponsor. It is unbelievable.
Phil: I don’t understand exclusive deals. Wouldn’t you want to beat your competitors badly?
Jeff: You don’t have to deal with your competitors. Exclusive deals are the chicken’s way out.
Mike N.: The companies that have the exclusivity clauses want to make sure they’re getting all of the air time for their sponsorship whenever things are mentioned that involve their product.
Amy: I feel bad for the two drivers that got screwed here. And the drivers replacing them aren’t ready to race competitively at that level.
Mike N.: I feel terrible for the guys who had rides and have been running all season with one of the best Nationwide-only teams (for the most part) and now they’re out of rides.

OK, how about some predictions for Kansas?

Amy: I’m going to go with Jeff Gordon. He’s been too close too often not to win one.
Kurt: Jimmie again.
Jeff: Carl Edwards.
Mike N.: Jimmie Johnson wins again to take the points lead.
Kyle: Jimmie Johnson.
Phil: An upset pick: Greg Biffle.

Email the Mirror Guys ‘N’ Gals!
Contact Amy Henderson
Contact Jeff Meyer
Contact Kurt Smith
Contact Kyle Ocker
Contact Mike Neff
Contact Phil Allaway

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:
FREE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER! SENT RIGHT TO YOUR EMAIL INBOX! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP
Did You Notice? … Dollars Alter Dreams, Chasing Not To Lose, And NASCAR Overexposure
Why The Monster Meltdown at Dover For Chase Contenders?
Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 After Dover
Potts’ Shots: Over-Officiating And Commercialpalooza NASCAR No Nos
Carey And Coffey: Weeding Out Those Chase Pretenders
Top Ten Things Kevin Harvick Doesn’t Want To Have A Pissing Contest Against
The Frontstretch Foto Funnies! Dover, September 2010

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-eight races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Phil Allaway 41 24 3 11 17
Amy Henderson 41 28 3 11 19
Beth Lunkenheimer 23 -18 18 1 9 11
Summer Dreyer 20 -21 17 1 7 10
Jeff Meyer 16 -35 17 0 6 10
Mike Neff 12 -29 14 1 4 6
Garrett Horton 4 -37 7 1 1 2
Matt Taliaferro 4 -37 4 1 1 2
Bryan Davis Keith 4 -37 3 0 1 2
Tom Bowles 4 -37 4 0 1 2
Vito Pugliese 2 -39 3 0 1 2
Tony Lumbis 0 -41 3 0 0 0
Kurt Smith 0 -41 5 0 1 1
Kyle Ocker 0 -41 3 0 0 1
Toni Montgomery 0 -41 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.
09/29/2010 09:08 AM
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A couple of “Amens” are in order:

Jeff: Denny isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Amen!

Kurt: Get rid of the Chase. Next question. Amen!

Phil… last week you picked Truex, this week you pick Biffle. Is Denny Hamlin coaching you on how to choke when the championship is within your reach?

Jacob
09/29/2010 09:49 AM
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If RPM fields a third car next season, it would be a HUGE mistake. Especially unsponsored. It would force another season of crap-tacular results. Petty is already famous for re-using parts until they fail. _That is hardly the route to success.
Two more points on RPM:
1.) Taking a job with RPM would be worse for Algaier’s racing career than working the McDonald’s drive thru would be.
2.) RPM shouldn’t hire a rookie for their imaginary 3rd team. Rookies need to be provided input, they don’t provide input.

Roger Penske is showing his senility by releasing Algaier in favor of Hornish.

DoninAjax
09/29/2010 11:22 AM
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So RPM might have three cars next year. That’s at least five less than Hendrick.

Who says the inspection results have to be available by Thursday. All they have to say is results are pending.

As for the extra personnel required for extra testing, that means more expenses and that means less money to count for Brian. Not a chance.

Pam
09/29/2010 12:56 PM
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Couple things:

Hope Algaier ends up in a really good ride somewhere and kicks tail.

Next. Kurt made a comment about Denny maybe having some resentment over something with RCR but couldn’t think what and then later at one point Amy or someone mentioned NW with Gibbs cars and cars being legal which got me to wondering.. Didn’t Gibbs get into trouble I think in NW in ’08 before for putting illegal magnets on something in the cars? Could Kevin or RCR in general taken a holier than thou stance at the time and Clint and Richard being so adamant they NEVER cheat combined with trying to throw suspicion off on the 11 and 48 over the height sticks thing caused Denny to decide to speak his mind. And Denny said in his opinion RCR had been up to something all season… who knows but those involved but his reaction seemed a bit over the top and some of the discussion reminded me of the Gibbs NW issue. Just don’t remember if RCR or Kevin or any of that bunch made comments on it at the time or not.

Steve
09/29/2010 07:06 PM
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You could create an entire NW series race lineup on just young talented drivers that don’t have rides. This should be noticed by Nascar as a big problem.

But France and Co don’t care about the long term future of the sport. They only care about the bottom line and they think Cup guys in the NW will make them more money, so on we go.

Trouble is, the Cup series talent pool will be running dry in the next few years and the Cup series will have an even worse problem on their hands.

It astounds me that the common fan seems to know more about how to fix the sport than the powers that be. Maybe they should hire some of the posters on here. They seem to have more vision than what we have in charge right now.

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09/30/2010 06:36 AM
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