The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: If You Were NASCAR King For A Day... And King Of The Unemployed by Frontstretch Staff -- Wednesday December 12, 2012

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Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every Wednesday, 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 / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Co-Managing Editor)
Toni Montgomery (Frontstretch IndyCar Managing Editor)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Frontstretch Co-Managing Editor / NASCAR Truck Series Insider)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Summer Bedgood (Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)
Matt Stallknecht (Frontstretch NASCAR & IndyCar Contributor)
Mike Neff (Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)

Lots of drivers are on the sidelines or in subpar equipment due to lack of sponsorship. Which one driver would you say is most deserving of full-time sponsorship in the Cup Series who doesn’t currently have it?

Toni: Brian Vickers. He’s got a Nationwide deal, but I think he should have a Cup sponsor.
Summer: It’s Vickers. Question over. Decided. Done. Next!

Brian Vickers is now paired with owner Joe Gibbs to pursue a 2013 Nationwide Series title. But did the driver deserve a full-time ride in Sprint Cup instead?

Beth: If it’s Cup, hands down Brian Vickers. NASCAR in general: Todd Bodine.
Mike N.: I’d say Vickers, although he has a sponsor, just not in Cup. Therefore, I’ll say Regan Smith.
Toni: Smith is sort of the same deal as Vickers though, isn’t he?
Matt S.: I’ll say David Ragan. Of all the guys in third-tier equipment, he is the most talented and most marketable. Vickers is another obvious choice but he has a full-time Nationwide ride with Gibbs.
Summer: David Ragan had his chance.
Matt S.: He’s still better than the other guys in third-tier rides. It’s not like David Gilliland, Travis Kvapil, and Dave Blaney are better drivers.
Phil: Regan Smith is a good choice. Technically, he never had a full-time sponsor the whole time he was in Cup (Furniture Row sponsors themselves, so they didn’t have to find one).
Amy: Definitely not Ragan; the sponsor would have to pay extra for torn up stuff.
Phil: Ragan and Gilliland at this point are about equal.
Summer: Either way, I still feel like Vickers is more deserving, though Smith is a close second.
Matt S.: Looking further down, I think Jeremy Clements deserves a full-time ride with a top team.
Summer: The way I look at it is if I were a Cup owner and looking for a driver to put in my car, even if it was a development ride who would I choose among who was available?
Amy: Ryan Blaney, Parker Kligerman come to mind.
Summer: Vickers would have to be first.
Beth: Ryan Blaney, Parker Kligerman, Kyle Larson.. though I do have a feeling Larson will end up in the Truck Series full-time next year or definitely 2014 for sure.
Phil: Ryan Blaney technically has full sponsorship in Trucks right now via Cooper Standard and Draw-Tite/Reese Towpower. Larson has enough talent to go full-time right now, but all but no sponsorship.
Toni: What about Trevor Bayne? He’s been hamstrung by sponsorship the last few years. Winning Daytona didn’t help him with that.
Amy: Bayne for sure deserves better.
Matt S.: It’s a joke that Vickers is in Nationwide next year to begin with. He is more deserving of a Cup ride than a number of guys hogging top tier equipment (Jeff Burton comes to mind…) and he has always been a Chase-caliber Cup driver.
Amy: I think Larson will get there. He needs a few years in the lower series first, though.
Mike N.: Larson will be in a sponsored car for a long time, I would think with NASCAR dying to have a Drive for Diversity driver succeed.
Beth: He’d be great full-time in trucks next year.
Matt S.: Larson is going to be a superstar once he gets to Cup.
Amy: As for drivers that have already established themselves — I agree about Vickers.
Beth: I admire Vickers’ decision to fight for a top-tier team rather than settle for a Cup team where he’ll just ride around and not compete for wins.
Toni: I think it’s better for one’s career to take that step back and compete for the title than to ride around in back in a half-assed car.
Beth: Agreed completely, Toni.
Toni: It makes people think you are a crappy driver riding around in the back.
Matt S.: But he’s liable to get stuck in Nationwide. It’s happening right now to Elliott Sadler. Once you step back it’s very hard to step forward again. Especially in this tough economy.
Toni: He won’t get stuck there, if they can just pry the wheel out of Mark Martin’s hands, he’ll have a ride with MWR.
Beth: I’d rather be “stuck” racing in Nationwide and contending for wins and championships than driving around just waiting for the race to end.
Summer: Let’s not forget Vickers was with Hendrick for awhile.
Toni: He was in Cup for years and never got much accomplished with top teams.
Amy: But Vickers was also very young…he probably should have been given more time in lower series. He isn’t yet 30.
Matt S.: With this economy, Vickers is just lucky that he has a ride waiting for him at MWR.
Beth: But he deserves that ride to be waiting for him, Matt. He proved that by his performance in his limited starts.
Matt S.: Don’t get me wrong, Beth; he made the Chase with a middle of the road Red Bull team a few years ago. Vickers should have been given the No. 55 car for 2013. He’s better than Martin is at this point.
Summer: I think Vickers is the most deserving of a Cup ride of those available. That doesn’t make him great. But yeah, I think Vickers should be next in line for the Mark Martin car. And I think he is.
Toni: With Vickers, most folks think he’s just realizing his talent now.
Summer: I agree with that assessment.
Toni: And let’s not forget, even with the sport’s top team Vickers was paired with the Hendrick car notorious for chewing up and spitting out drivers.
Amy: And won in it, Toni.
Matt S.: I see Joey Logano developing into the same kind of driver that Vickers is now.
Summer: Matt. I guess that’s not too far fetched. Logano has a helluva lot of potential.
Beth: For his sake, I certainly hope so. Sooner or later, he’s going to have to be more competitive or he’ll be another whose career ended way too soon.

If you could change just ONE thing in NASCAR to make the sport more appealing to fans, what would that be?

Summer: Anything I would do would be labeled as gimmicky.
Amy: I’d ditch the Chase, since the vast majority of fans don’t want it.
Matt S.: Make the cars so drafty that they are capable of pulling slingshot passes at 1.5-mile tracks.
Summer: That would be awesome, Matt!
Mike N.: This might sound whacky, but I’d put in a claim rule. And not a short track claim rule. I would allow anyone in the field to buy the winner’s car for $50,000, starting with the 43rd-place finisher and moving up until someone buys it.

Would selling race-winning cars to the highest bidder, among those who finished last in the same event be a way to increase parity in NASCAR?

Beth: My one thing is a combination… more Truck Series races and more exposure for it.
Amy: That would actually be pretty cool, Mike. I’d amend it to the lowest finishing car that ran the whole race gets first crack.
Mike N.: If you had teams that aren’t competitive ending up with race-winning cars, it wouldn’t take long for the true talent of the drivers to come out.
Summer: I think I would add points for qualifying and maybe make qualifying more exciting. Heat races or something. And Mike, that would confuse the hell out of fans but it would be pretty cool.
Amy: I really like Mike’s idea the more I think about it. It would also bring costs in line… the small teams could get great cars at a great price and the big ones would have to be constantly building more cars to replace them.
Mike N.: And it would actually be fun, after the race because they could hold the claims in Victory Lane.
Phil: I’m cool with adding points for qualifying. If you have heat races, they have to be worth something. This was an issue with the heat races in the Izod IndyCar Series in 2012.
Summer: I don’t know that they could get enough drivers and owners on board to follow through on it, though.
Mike N.: If they know the rules coming in, they know the rules coming in.
Summer: I’ve gone back and forth on it. Heat races would make it more exciting and points would make it more meaningful. Hell, I’d be fine with both.
Mike N.: The other option they could add would be paying points for the top five at the quarter poles of the race. That would make people race throughout the event.
Summer: Frontstretch needs to run NASCAR. Mike, I’ve been a proponent of adding points during the race for years. I hate that they are only awarded at the end of the race.
Mike N.: Yeah Summer. I’d like passing points too. But that is too confusing for fans who can’t add more than one point per car. I’d also stop paying points at 20th place.
Amy: I’d rather implement an Indy-style points system than gave random points during a race. They could keep up with the old one just fine. Don’t get me wrong… I like the new one better. But I like the cutoff point and adding points throughout the race. The cutoff would keep damaged cars from coming back on the track and becoming rolling chicanes.
Phil: I would revert back to the old points system, then make changes from there.
Matt S.: I would make it so that winning two out of the four Crown Jewel events granted you automatic entrance to the Chase. Along with a cool $5 million dollar check. Suddenly, races like the Brickyard and Coke 600 are important again. We can make them the Daytona 500, Coke 600, Brickyard 400, and either the Bristol Night Race or Darlington for the fourth one. Win two out of four and you get a ticket to the Chase and five million dollars. If you do all of that AND win the Championship, you add another five million to whatever number was on the champion’s check.
Amy: No way should the Brickyard 400 be on that list.
Matt S.: Errr… why?
Beth: I disagree, Amy.
Amy: NASCAR shouldn’t even be at the Brickyard.
Mike N.: Because Amy hates stock cars at Indy.
Summer: Oh please. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t a crown jewel. It has been since they first raced there.
Beth: Amen, Summer!
Matt S.: Not this argument again…
Summer: I think it should. It certainly is a crown jewel event and maybe having an extra incentive to win would keep it from being a borefest.
Amy: It’s the most boring race of the year, right up there with Fontana.
Summer: I hate it, too but it’s a crown jewel event.
Mike N.: It is still the second-most watched race most years and the second-highest purse every year.
Matt S.: It wasn’t always boring. The CoT just raced especially bad at Indy. The late ’90s races at the Brickyard were epic.
Beth: Agreed, Matt. Some of those races were the ones that really got me hooked.
Mike N.: And once again. I don’t understand why Fontana is considered boring when there are cars running in five different grooves around the track.
Amy: The crown jewel races should be as they were: The Most prestigious (Daytona), The fastest (Talladega, and yes, I know it technically isn’t any more), the longest (Charlotte), and the oldest (Martinsville replaces the Southern 500).
Matt S.: It would be criminal not to have the Brickyard as a crown jewel. Next to the Daytona 500, it is the race the drivers want to win the most.
Mike N.: And it pays the most next to Daytona.
Amy: It doesn’t have enough NASCAR history.
Summer: It has plenty.
Beth: How do you figure that one?
Amy: The other races on the list have been run for more than 30 years.
Beth: Indy’s got 19 years of history…
Summer: Amy, that’s completely missing the point. It’s a crown jewel because of what we were talking about earlier: the prestige of Indy.
Amy: The prestige of Indy is for Indy cars. The race everyone wanted to win was the Southern 500, before it was taken away.
Matt S.: It doesn’t necessarily need history to be a crown jewel. It just needs to be labeled a crown jewel.
Summer: Last I checked, drivers still want to win Darlington. And ask anyone in the garage area about Indy, especially those there for the inaugural race. Everyone wants to win there.
Matt S.: The Coke 600 didn’t have any “history” when it was first run. But from day one that race was considered a crown jewel because it was built up to be a big race.

Connect with Amy!

Contact Amy Henderson

Connect with Beth!

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

Connect with Matt!

Contact Matt Stallknecht

Connect with Mike!

Contact Mike Neff

Connect with Phil!

Contact Phil Allaway

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

Connect with Toni!

Contact Toni Montgomery

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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12/12/2012 09:06 AM

Award points for running position at predetermined points in the race, this would encourage drivers to fight for every position possible throughout the race and not just at the end.

Allow drivers to ‘drop’ one race of the first 26 races and allow Chase drivers to drop one of the Chase races. This would keep a single bad finish from ruining a year, it would lead to drivers taking a risk in going for a win and it would allow some drivers a little more freedom in settling disputes with other drivers on the track.

Bill B
12/13/2012 06:59 AM

Ditch the chase.

I think I misunderstood.. it sounds like Mike is suggesting that someone be able to buy a $300,000 car for $50,000. Something just doesn’t add up there. Forcing someone to sell something for less than it’s worth. That’s beyond even socialism. I don’t know what you call that… stupidity?

12/13/2012 08:05 AM

Kinda’ funny hearing the female cheering section pulling for Vickers (swooooon). Regan Smith is a good choice.

The Brickyard 400 certainly is not a crown jewel. It’s usually a snooze. No racing, just the occasional blown engine.

More points for a win and more points disparity for the top 5, maybe top 10. Also, I like the idea of paying points during the race but not sure I’d make it the same race lap percentage every time, e.g. 25%, 50%, 75%, checkers. But then if they didn’t keep it consistent, NASCAR would just have another opportunity to tweak the results like so many of their phantom cautions.

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