Frontstretch Staff · Wednesday October 6, 2010
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)
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)
Garrett Horton (Frontstretch Newsletter Contributor)
Controversy arose Sunday at Kansas after Kyle Busch spun David Reutimann in the early going and Reutimann later retaliated, causing damage to the rear end geometry of Busch’s car. Busch expressed frustration that NASCAR didn’t black flag or penalize for the incident because he’s in the Chase and Reutimann is not… should drivers “policing themselves” extend to the postseason, or should NASCAR step in when a contender is taken out by someone not in the running?
Beth: Leave them alone! There’s no reason to expect the top 12 to get any special treatment just because they made the precious Chase.
Jeff: Whaaaaaaah! If they don’t want that kind of thing, they need to only race the top 12.
Amy: NASCAR handled it fine. If Kyle didn’t want payback, he shouldn’t have dumped the No. 00.
Garrett: They don’t need to change the way they race in the postseason. But it didn’t look like Kyle intentionally wrecked David.
Phil: Yes, it should be extended into the postseason. Kyle Busch isn’t special.
Amy: It didn’t look like he tried to avoid dumping him, either.
Mike N.: Kyle settled down by the end of the race and said NASCAR didn’t need to do anything. Bottom line is, if you’re going to have them all on the track, you treat them all the same.
Garrett: David got loose and Kyle got into him. Admitted it was his fault he got into him, but it was a racing deal. If anything, Busch should have kept his mouth shut after Bristol.
Beth: True, Garrett, but that’s not how David saw it at the time.
Mike N.: Kyle was racing behind David and David checked up, which caused Kyle to get into him. It wasn’t like he was riding his ass for multiple laps and then dumped him.
Jeff: Anyone who spins Busch is a hero in my book. Heck, If I was racing, I’d have to fight the urge to dump him everytime I was near him, just on general principles.
Amy: Kyle has a history of running over anyone who he thinks isn’t worthy of racing him at any given moment. It looked like he had plenty of room to avoid Reutimann if he wanted to.
Beth: Exactly. Which I’m sure is why Reutimann reacted the way he did.
Phil: This isn’t 2001, either. There is another groove.
Garrett: What’s interesting is Reutimann didn’t do the same thing to Newman at Dover last week. That might have been because his car was too damaged to keep up, though.
Amy: Newman generally races clean, Garrett. Reutimann had no reason to think it was intentional.
Garrett: I don’t know if I would say Newman is the cleanest racer. Amy: I think that’s the difference, though. When someone drives like that repeatedly, people tend to take it as intentional whether or not it really is. You drive clean, you get the benefit of the doubt.
Jeff: Newman has become another whiner lately — doesn’t think anyone should race him “hard.”
Mike N.: I’m not sure about a history. Busch dumped Kes after Kes hit him at Bristol. He did dump Jennifer Jo Cobb, which was wrong, but I don’t remember too many others.
Amy: Even if it was totally accidental, how was Reutimann to know that?
Garrett: He didn’t. I think it goes back to Kyle’s history.
Mike N.: Where did Busch have room when he was half a car below him at the bottom of the track?
Phil: He could have gone to the upper lane, Mike.
Mike N.: He had just caught up to him, it wasn’t like he rode his ass for laps. I’m sure Reuti’s spotter saying Busch ran all over him didn’t help things. And Reutimann was told on the radio that he needed to start hitting people back or they’d keep doing it.
Garrett: I still think it goes back to Bristol more than anything, when Kyle was saying David didn’t know how to drive the track.
Jeff: That is why people like Dale Jarrett, and Mark Martin could intentionally dump someone every once in awhile and get away with it.
Mike N.: Busch lifted. What else was he supposed to do? You’re on someone’s bumper coming out of a corner and they slow down when you’ve gotten into the gas…
Jeff: Busch was following too closely! The guy who rear ends the other gets the ticket every time.
Mike N.: Yeah, heaven forbid you get close to someone and try and pass them out of the corner.
Amy: Reutimann said he gave Busch the whole top of the track. It wasn’t like they were in heavy traffic and Busch had nowhere to go.
Mike N.: He was running the bottom, half a car length behind Reutimann, who slowed when he should have been in the gas.
Amy: And when the car in front of you is slow, you pass them. If you have to go high to pass, you go high.
Phil: Putting it that way, you’re saying that Reutimann took himself out, Mike.
Mike N.: No, I’m saying Reutimann did something Kyle didn’t expect and ended up nudging Reutimann in the backend. It was a racing deal. And I’m still waiting to hear all of the other people Kyle has dumped.
Amy: That early in the race, it did seem like Busch should have at least tried to avoid the No. 00. If he had, he wouldn’t have gotten it back.
Phil: I’m pretty sure Reutimann was angry that he couldn’t actually get his payback when he tried. All he did was screw up his car even worse.
Amy: Well while I do think non-Chasers should be careful around the Chase drivers because of how much they have to lose, when the Chase driver starts something, he needs to be prepared to have it finished.
Beth: But we’re not debating who was right here. Bottom line is that NASCAR made the right decision not to step in on Sunday. After all, telling the drivers to police themselves applies for the whole season, and Chasers are not special cases.
Phil: It is true that NASCAR swallowed their whistle here. Good show.
Jeff: NASCAR did it right.
Beth: Something must be off … we’re agreeing with a call from NASCAR.
Mike N.: NASCAR handled it fine. It is racing, not tiddlywinks.
Amy: I don’t like to see non-Chase drivers run over the Chase guys for no reason, but when a Chase guy runs them over first, well, then they brought it on themselves.
Mike N.: I’ll remember that when JJ bumps someone at Martinsville, Amy.
Amy: Bumping isn’t running over. If JJ wrecks somebody at Martinsville, he’ll deserve whatever he gets.
Phil: Martinsville is Martinsville. Bumping is going to happen there. It’s nearly unavoidable.
Mike N.: Kyle didn’t run over Reutimann. He bumped him.
Amy: Wrecks, like Kyle did Reutimann – not bumps,
Mike N.: Kyle barely nudged him. Good grief, you act like he stood in the gas and spun him around.
Amy: He kind of did. He sure as hell didn’t back out.
Mike N.: Listen to the in-car audio. When he saw Reutimann slow, he lifted out of the gas. Plain as day, you can hear it.
Garrett: Kyle did not intentionally wreck him, but because of his reputation, David thought it would be best to take him out. Those guys are going so fast, it’s hard to back out in time.
Mike N.: Especially when it is somewhere you don’t expect the other car to slow down.
Amy: He lifted and then drove into his quarterpanel. Still dumped him, whether he meant to or not.
Beth: It was unintentional, but some guys just have a reputation that follows them… and Kyle Busch is one of those guys.
ESPN is questioning whether this year’s earlier start times are one reason for the ratings decline in the Chase races this year. Are they a factor, or is the network barking up the wrong tree?
Amy: As usual, the network is clueless. In these days of DVRs, the start times have nothing to do with it.
Beth: ESPN is barking up the wrong tree. It’s the product and the coverage. I worked 10:00-2:00 on Sunday and started up the race around 2:30 when I got home from work. No big deal.
Garrett: ESPN is stupid. It doesn’t take NASCAR seriously — maybe they should consider that.
Mike N.: The network is barking up the wrong tree for sure. There are several things at play, but the start time is not it.
Amy: Fans have been praising the start times all year. They aren’t watching because A) the Chase sucks, B) the racing sucks because of the Chase, and C) the Chase sucks.
Phil: It’s not because of the start times. ABC’s rationale for not airing the 1:00 PM races is incredibly dumb. It’s all because of the Chase.
Amy: I love how NASCAR and the networks sit there and wonder what’s turning the fans off when the fans are TELLING them!
Garrett: It doesn’t help that ESPN is constantly showing play-by-play updates for the NFL games. It makes you want to switch the channel over to CBS or FOX.
Mike N.: I agree, Garrett. That key play things lets you know when a team is close to scoring, which is probably making people jump over.
Garrett: I know it tempts me.
Phil: I had to watch the race at work on Sunday. That just bites. My shift ended with 25 to go, so I had to listen to the rest of it on MRN.
Mike N.: Bet that was some of the most exciting racing you ever heard, Phil. I wish they could do a race on TV with the MRN guys providing the audio.
Phil: However, there is quite a transition that would have to be made since viewers can see things. As for Barney and Dave, they definitely made Edwards’ wiggle with five to go seem like more than it was.
Amy: The fans tell NASCAR they hate the Chase, so NASCAR decides to make it worse with an even stupider format. They tell the networks they love the start times, and the networks blame the start times for lower ratings. Ostriches, anyone?
Beth: In one ear and right out the other, Amy.
Jeff: Remember back in the day when you had to actually get up off your ass to change the channel? Well, I guess most of you don’t!
Mike N.: Oh yeah, Jeff. I was the family remote when I was a kid. Of course, we only had five channels.
Garrett: You had to get off the couch to change the channel? I can’t imagine. Anyway, start times have nothing to do with the decline in ratings.
Beth: ESPN should just listen to the fans and hear that start times are not the issue this year.
Jeff: ESPN is a bunch of buffoons just like NASCAR.
Amy: Perhaps the network should um, I don’t know, ask the fans why they aren’t watching? So should NASCAR and then fix it, not make it worse. And stop blaming everything from Junior not winning to the alignment of the planets, own up to the problems, and fix them!
Garrett: I think NASCAR is actually pretty good about listening to the fans, which is not such a great thing. Whole other topic though.
Mike N.: I do understand their point that the race is ending at the exact same time as the 1:00 games and that might keep a few people from tuning in, but if the racing were better, they’d be watching to begin with.
Phil: NASCAR apparently does ask, through their Fan Council. I don’t know what those dudes are saying, though.
Amy: They might ask, but that doesn’t mean they pull their fingers out of their ears when the fans answer.
Mike N.: Amy said pull their fingers. Huh huh huh huh…
Amy: Nice one, Beavis.
Greg Biffle’s Kansas victory took a 55-point chunk out of his deficit, leaving him 85 back of Jimmie Johnson with seven races left. Now eighth in points, does that vault him above Carl Edwards as Ford’s top title contender, or was Sunday’s success just a freak one-week wonder?
Garrett: One-week wonder.
Jeff: Are you serious? Carl has scored more points in the last 12 races than any other driver!
Amy: I don’t think either one is much of a contender.
Mike N.: It is actually hard to argue that Biffle isn’t their best bet to begin with. He is second in career Chase race wins to Johnson, albeit a distant second.
Phil: It doesn’t vault him ahead of Edwards, but it puts him in the “let’s give this another week and see where we are” category. If they can score another good run in Fontana, then we’re talking here.
Amy: Biffle’s won this year. That might give him a small edge, but neither are real serious contenders to me.
Mike N.: Edwards may be more consistent, but Biffle could get on a roll and take it away from Johnson.
Garrett: Carl is so much more consistent than Biffle right now, and I feel like Edwards is on the verge of getting a win real soon.
Amy: You guys know who’s second to Johnson in Chase wins? Biffle.
Garrett: You know who’s third?
Amy: Biffle can win at a bunch of tracks left, but so can Hamlin, Harvick, and Johnson.
Garrett: I don’t know; after Kenseth’s strong run yesterday, I think he may be the biggest threat.
Beth: I’m not convinced one win makes him a bigger title contender then the guy who’s scored more points in the last 12 races.
Garrett: I thought Greg would be a threat after the Pocono win. That’s what a win will do for you. But after a few bad races, I wrote him off.
Amy: Right now, Edwards is an outside threat at best. Biffle is slightly less because he’s not been as consistent, but then, he’s more likely to win races based on past performance, so call it a wash.
Mike N.: Ford is still a longshot to win the title no matter how you cut it. Two total wins for the year, both for Biffle, doesn’t strike too much fear in anyone.
Amy: Biffle is also a multi-series champion, but I don’t think either of them has much of a shot. I see it coming down to Harvick and Hamlin.
Garrett: That would be really cool to see the Biff win a title in all three series.
Mike N.: Amy, you continue to discount Johnson who has four top-3 finishes in five races.
Amy: Jimmie had a great run, and for the first time since last spring, looked like he wanted it. He could be a threat, but his pit crew is still an issue.
Jeff: In the end, I’ll bet you Carl finishes ahead of Greg in the final standings.
Mike N.: I ain’t betting on any Ford drivers to do anything this year.
Beth: That makes two of us, Mike. I just haven’t been impressed all season.
Phil: I’m willing to say that either Edwards or Biffle will claim another win before the season ends (maybe Homestead). I don’t think either of them is winning the title, though.
Amy: I can definitely see Biffle winning Homestead … again.
Mike N.: Biffle could easily win Phoenix and Homestead. The only thing that I’ll say, and I’ve said it from the beginning: If Biffle can be close going into Homestead, he’ll beat Johnson.
Garrett: Biffle will finish outside the top 10 in points.
Phil: I think Biffle will finish about sixth.
Trevor Bayne’s 30th-place disappointment in his Roush Fenway debut corresponded with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.‘s sixth-place finish. Add in Colin Braun to the mix, and it’s clear Roush has a large stable of development drivers and only a limited number of rides to put them in. Who do you keep, who do you dump, and why?
Amy: Well, I’d dump Edwards and keep them all, but that’s just me …
Beth: Why not keep all three?
Mike N.: I’ll keep all of them. Nobody is getting out of a Roush ride for years, so do whatever you want to with them because they aren’t moving up for awhile.
Jeff: Keep Bayne.
Garrett: Well in my column this week, I call for the four-car rule to be lifted, so I say both of them go to Cup. And dump Ragan.
Phil: Bayne has the most upside of the three right now.
Amy: In all seriousness, no matter how you slice it, someone’s getting the royal shaft. Bayne’s already gotten it, but if he keeps the RFR ride, someone else just gets it next.
Phil: Stenhouse has steadily improved this season after being Sir Wreck-A-Lot early on. Braun is the one on the hot seat, I think.
Mike N.: Ragan might be out of a ride in another year, but that would be the only one leaving Roush. They should keep all of them and pick up Allgaier. The Nationwide Series is going to need all of the cars it can get next year.
Garrett: If we’re talking strictly Nationwide, I think it’s a no-brainer that you get rid of Braun. Four months ago, I would have said Stenhouse.
Mike N.: Colin Braun has won at Le Mans. I don’t think he should be on the hot seat.
Amy: Le Mans isn’t NASCAR. Nice feather in his cap though. He’s the youngest ever to podium at Le Mans.
Phil: Braun finished second in the GT Class at Le Mans in 2006 as a 17-year-old.
Beth: He’s won in the Truck Series, too.
Jeff: I say Keep Bayne. Hands down.
Garrett: Braun is an excellent road racer, he just isn’t getting it done in a stock car. But, just like Stenhouse, maybe he needs more time to prove himself.
Mike N.: I think Braun has the better talent, and I believe he’s wrecked fewer cars this year. I still say there’s no reason Roush can’t keep all of them, though.
Amy: I guess if you’re Roush, it’s a nice problem to have, but someone is getting screwed no matter how you slice it. While the Cup guy keeps the seat, of course.
Garrett: You have to wonder if all the wrecking Stenhouse has done has made him that much better of a driver.
Mike N.: Hell, why not have Roush field six or seven cars in Nationwide? They’ll need it for car count.
Phil: They’re already going to do five for the rest of the season with the addition of the 17.
Mike N.: I still don’t see why Roush has to let anyone go.
Amy: Because as of now, they have three cars and four drivers.
Mike N.: So field a fourth car.
Amy: Not that easy … you need a fourth sponsor first.
Mike N.: Let the Red Sox sponsor one. They throw away hundreds of millions not to make the baseball playoffs. What’s another $5 million?
Phil: That’s true. $5 million might pay for a 5th starter for the Red Sox.
Mike N.: Hell, $5 million pays for their bullpen catcher.
Phil: They were already doing four before they signed Bayne. Menard’s No. 98 is a Roush car. Of course, Paul’s gone at the end of the year…
Amy: So’s the sponsor …
Garrett: If Roush is grooming these guys for Cup, he will have to attract another sponsor at some point.
Mike N.: Trevor Bayne has been hawking doggie diapers. Throw him a bone.
Phil: I wouldn’t call them diapers, more “wee-wee pads” and bags to pick up waste.
Garrett: Bayne is the next star, so Roush needs to hold onto him tight.
Mike N.: There’s no limit on number of cars in the Nationwide Series, so let Roush field cars for all of them. There’s no reason for any of them to lose a ride, and the series needs the cars for next year.
Phil: There isn’t a limit? Really? I thought they did have one.
Mike N.: I don’t believe they do in Nationwide.
Phil: Regardless, Bayne is the best guy to keep here. Braun and Stenhouse each have talent, but Braun could be on the hot seat, set to be usurped by Darnell.
OK. Predictions for Fontana?
Amy: I’m going to go with Jimmie Johnson — it’s hard to argue with a fifth-place average.
Phil: I’m going to gamble once again with Kenseth.
Mike N.: Johnson. He’s won four of the last six there.
Garrett: I’ll go with Gordon only because everyone is going with Johnson. Jeff, not Robby.
Beth: Kyle Busch.
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:
+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|
|Bryan Davis Keith||4||-42||3||0||1||2|
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