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:
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Summer Bedgood (Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)
Allen Bedgood (Fan Contributor)
Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch have butted heads yet again this year, this time at Darlington where a battle for the lead went south and ended up with Kahne in the wall. Kahne has now said he expects another apology from Busch, coming a week after contact at Talladega caused the Big One. Does Kahne deserve an apology, or should both drivers move on?
Phil: At this point, probably. Kyle Busch went really low entering Turn 1. If he didn’t touch him, it was close. Regardless, Kyle’s move was intentional.
Summer: Um, what is this, pre-school? No, he shouldn’t get an apology. I think Kyle should admit when he screws up, but that doesn’t mean there should be a gentlemanly shake of the hands or anything.
Allen: Kyle obviously blew that corner, as Kasey said and I think he is owed an apology. It’s the third time now. Once? Fine, whatever. Twice? Ok … chill, but three? Kasey was extremely nice about it in his post-race interview, in my opinion …
Summer: Kyle Busch should admit he screwed up, say he was just racing hard for the lead and got in over his head, express remorse if he must, and move on. He was. I will say Kyle and Kurt Busch should take note of his response, because it was classy without being accepting of what happened.
Phil: Makes me wish Busch didn’t stomp off Saturday night.
Summer: Right? Kasey was on the receiving end of what happened and Kyle was the one who stomped off. Real mature.
Allen: I knew when the incident happened he would leave the track without comment.
Summer: Which is pathetic. At least man up and talk about it.
Phil: With Kyle Busch, he’s predictable. If he doesn’t finish in the top 3, and is thus required to stick around, he probably won’t.
Summer: And I’m sick of people saying, “It’s better for him to not say anything than to get in trouble.” Um… Kasey had every right to be pissed and he responded appropriately.
Allen: I understand why Busch was mad. He dominated that race, then cut a tire.
Summer: Well, yeah. It happened right as Kenseth stated gaining on him like a freight train, though. It’s just weird that it wasn’t more noticeable. Normally you hear a driver say, “I have a flat right rear!” The way Kyle described it on the radio, it just sounded like the handling went away.
Phil: Yeah. Didn’t he say that the car got really tight all of a sudden?
Allen: Yes. I was listening to his radio transmissions during the final 30 laps.
Summer: Yeah, it was something like that. It was weird.
Summer: Yeah and they were playing it on the TV when the language was cleaned up a little. He basically said it got tight for no reason. It must have been a smaller cut because Kyle didn’t seem to even suspect it.
Phil: Without the cut tire, this conversation would be a completely different. Someone (Steve Byrnes, Bob Pockrass, Amy Henderson, Dustin Long, take your pick) would have had the opportunity to press Kyle on everything that happened because he probably would have won.
Summer: Phil, I wish Busch had at least been able to hang on for a top three. I’d love to hear his point of view. His silence is maddening sometimes.
Phil: I know. Just one of those things that makes Kyle Busch hard to figure out at times.
Summer: I don’t understand why he wouldn’t want to say something. Wouldn’t he want to defend himself? Say that it was unintentional and it was just racing? It doesn’t make sense that he’s so freaking sensitive.
Allen: When Kyle is mad, logic goes out the window.
Summer: I think Kyle should, at the very least, explain what happened. Maybe he can help end the whole “he did or didn’t make contact” debate. He, at the very least, owes Kasey and his team an explanation.
Phil: They do need to talk it out. Maybe Kyle can go to Kasey’s motorcoach sometime. Rogers claims that Kyle has all this respect for Kahne. It just doesn’t look like it.
Allen: While we’re on the subject — I don’t think Busch made contact with Kahne. Just took the air off.
Statistically speaking, much of the Chase field may already be set. In 2012, 10 of the 12 drivers in the top 10 after Darlington went on to make the Chase. However, the current top 10 has drivers like Aric Almirola and Paul Menard while drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are on the outside looking in. How much of the current Chase field is set and stone and will there be any surprises who sneak in?
Summer: I don’t think Menard and Almirola will make it. It’s not a shot at them, but Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, and Jeff Gordon are right outside of there. At least one of them will make it.
Phil: Hard to say at this point of the season. My guess is the top 5 are looking good. Beyond that, it’s really close. 6-13 are separated by 15 points.
Summer: And it’s really tight back in that area. Only about 10 points separate eighth to 11th.
Allen: I have Truex making it in when everything is said and done, but I think what we have now is close to what we’ll have at the end of the 26-week run. Some say Hamlin will make it, but I don’t see it happening. The odds are against him.
Phil: Tony Stewart is basically in the same spot that Denny Hamlin’s in. He’s gotta win races and soon.
Summer: Eh.. there is quite a bit of distance, points-wise between Stewart and Hamlin. One interesting note, though… Danica Patrick is lower in points than Hamlin and she’s run every race.
Allen: Back when the season started, at Daytona I said Newman would be a factor. Oops.
Phil: Menard’s thing is consistency. Problem with that is that he never seems to have that really great race to offset when things go wrong. Because of that, it’s unlikely he can get in the Chase unless everything is perfect. Then, he’ll swoon like Vickers in 2009.
Allen: Back to Menard … am I crazy for saying if he keeps up the consistent finishes he could make it!? Doubt he’d be a contender, but he’s consistent to say the least.
Summer: Menard does this every year for some reason. He’ll start the year off well and crap out towards the end. I don’t think he’ll make it over someone like Harvick. No way.
Phil: Usually, his great start has fizzled by now and he’s somewhere in the mid-teens. However, Menard’s still doing quite well. As for Almirola, what we’ve seen so far is a continuation of the end of last season. The team isn’t really any better. Ambrose is a little worse, actually.
Allen: Almirola definitely won’t make it. What about Joey Logano? Anyone think he’ll get it going? He was strong at the beginning of the year. Starting to slow down now, though.
Summer: I don’t think Logano will make it, no, unless they really pick it up here.
Phil: Missing those dudes until Dover is not going to help Logano’s case.
Summer: Yeah; that means Keselowski will have trouble, too.
Phil: Keselowski has had some bad luck recently. Saturday night was one of his worst races in quite awhile.
Summer: True, but they had an issue on pit road. Loose tire.
Allen: He was involved in an incident too.
Summer: Yeah, that one at the end. You can’t blame that on the suspensions. Anyways, I’d agree with Allen and say the top five will make it. I’d even feel comfortable saying the top eight. The rest, I think, is up for grabs.
Phil: We’ve only got a few locks for this Chase as of now. There’s still 15 more point races before the cutoff. Everything’s close enough that as many as six people could potentially be bumped out in the next few weeks.
Summer: Right, but if you go off their performance right now, then I’d say most of those in the Chase are going to stay there.
This weekend is the All-Star Race, and again we have another new format to learn. This year, the finishing positions of the drivers in the first four segments will determine the starting lineup in the final one. While this latest format encourages drivers to race, it’s also rather confusing. Are these kinds of gimmicks good for the race or should they simplify it?
Summer: For the love of all things racing, please simplify it. This sucks doing it this way every year.
Allen: It’s way (and I can’t stress that word enough) complicated. Fans can’t enjoy it if they can’t even figure out what is going on.
Summer: I swear, next year they’ll require some sort of complicated algorithm to determine the running order.
Phil: Mike Helton claimed recently that NASCAR makes changes to the format because they can.
Summer: I saw that, Phil. Sigh… I love that NASCAR is trying to make the drivers race more, but don’t do it in a way that is so confusing to follow. If you have to use a calculator in order to follow the race, you’re doing it wrong.
Allen: One requirement next year will be to do backflips and run 2 miles in under 15 minutes.
Summer: Well then Carl Edwards is a lock. No! Do four 25-lap segments!
Phil: It is kinda loony. Probably don’t need 5 segments for the race anyway.
Summer: If they want to do something with the pit strategy, fine, but this “x + y / 4 = running order” is ridiculous.
Allen: I like the segment portion, just don’t like the eligibility part. They make it confusing.
Summer: Yes, they did. I’m sure people would argue that that leaves room for a crappy race, which it does. I’m not saying not to add gimmicks, but this “average finish” thing is way too confusing for the average fan to follow, let alone a new person tuning in.
Phil: Eligibility for the race, Allen? That’s actually one of the simpler aspects of the event.
Allen: Maybe I’m confused easily … I can’t keep up with how you get in from year to year. NASCAR wants to help Junior and Danica get in too much.
Summer: Seriously. Though that’s not saying much. NASCAR can’t even get its own rules right. There was a rule last year that you had to finish on the lead lap to get the fan vote. Now it’s only “raceable conditions.”
Phil: The average segment finish thing was to prevent people from tooling around at the back after winning a segment. They wanted impetus for someone to race hard for 80 laps prior to the final shootout.
Summer: Hmm… I wonDer why thAt is. I caN’t thInk of why nasCAr would do that.
Allen: I see what you did there.
Phil: And yes, the whole dropping of the lead lap requirement is effectively grooving the Fan Vote into a Danica win. As far as I’m concerned, if she gets in the All-Star Race, she’ll finish like 19th. Assuming that no one gets eliminated in wrecks, of course.
Allen: 19th and a lap down (somehow … she’ll find a way).
Summer: She could wreck on the first lap and they’d allow her to take out that backup car because it’s raceable. It doesn’t matter what happens, she’ll be in this race. Hell, Mike Harmon could light her hauler on fire and burn the car… they’d let them borrow another SHR car.
Phil: I’d argue that wouldn’t be allowed. Kerry Earnhardt technically won the Fan Vote once and didn’t get the entry into the All-Star Race because he wrecked in the Showdown.
Summer: Because they wouldn’t do it for anyone else. Kerry Earnhardt isn’t Danica Patrick.
Allen: Kerry didn’t have a massive fan base.
Phil: That’s true, Kerry always was the “Underground Earnhardt.”
Summer: One way or another, Danica Patrick will race in the All-Star Race. I don’t think we should get rid of the fan vote, though. I like that the fans have a say in who runs. I just don’t like them fudging the rules around like that and then denying the reason.
Phil: And it will be a shame because she will take away a spot that could have gone to someone more competitive.
Allen: Let’s just make Danica and Junior unelectable via Fan Vote and our problems are solved.
Summer: I honestly wasn’t really big on the whole “lead lap” idea, anyway. If the fans want someone in, they should. But this one was way too obvious.
Phil: I’d like to think that she would be fast in Charlotte, but I just don’t know.
Allen: NASCAR loves Danica.
Summer: Anyway, NASCAR needs to make the rules simpler and then leave it alone. I’m sick of trying to keep up every year, and I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
Phil: I suppose the thought was, “If you can’t finish on the lead lap in a 40-lap sprint against lesser competition, then you don’t deserve to be in the All-Star Race.” There’s a certain amount of truth to that.
Summer: I guess I get that. Kenny Wallace wasn’t competitive, though and it was nice that he got in. Most fans loved it.
Johnny Sauter’s penalty after Kansas cost him the points lead in the Camping World Truck Series, giving the top spot to ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton. The series heads to Charlotte this weekend, where Sauter has had only one top 10 in four races. Will this 25 point penalty hurt Sauter in the long run and should we expect him to rebound at Charlotte?
Allen: It’s going to hurt him. For sure.
Summer: He’s only 13 points back, so I think he’ll be fine. As far as Charlotte, I think those ThorSport guys are a threat to win anywhere.
Phil: Any point penalties are going to hurt in a 22-race season. However, he’s only 13 points out of the lead. He’ll live. ThorSport will be a threat everywhere, especially at shorter tracks since they effectively have their short track they can test at whenever the deuce they want.
Allen: -13 sounds small. But with a bad race, it’s momumental. Just my two cents.
Summer: Is it just me or have there been a ton of penalties this year?
Phil: Yeah. The hammer is being swung a lot.
Allen: NASCAR is showing no mercy this year. Especially when you get caught messing with engines and the rear of the cars!
Summer: I’d argue that NASCAR is trying to make a statement. It seems like every week I get an email saying “NASCAR Levies Fines Against…” or something similar. It’s gotten to the point where I’m expecting it. “Oh, it’s Tuesday. Who got nailed THIS week?”
Allen: I was almost positive Kyle Busch was going to get some sort of punishment over his Nationwide car’s nose – but a fine was the only thing issued.
Phil: Yeah, the #54 team got a fine and probation for Adam Stevens and his car chief.
Allen: As far as the Truck Series goes … Johnny will probably win another race or two, but I really do think Kansas will come back to bite him later.
Summer: I think at the end of the season, it won’t matter. There is too much racing left.
Allen: A lot can go wrong for him though, Summer. On top of Kansas.
Summer: A lot can go wrong for Crafton.
Phil: With all these dang off-weeks the series has, we’re only four races into the Truck season.
Summer: Right, and the penalty doesn’t make him more prone to accidents. He’s just as good as before, just wish 25 fewer points. He’ll be fine.
Phil: Heck, for all I know, Kyle Busch might hijack a few races later on. Granted, he can’t score points, but he can still win races and take away the chances for a regular to score maximum points.
Summer: Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick will both probably have something to say about this championship, unfortunately.
Allen: Harvick is only running 2 races. I think Kyle being in that Series hurts more.
Allen: I picked Crafton to win the title, anyway.
Summer: I think I did too but I don’t remember. I thought ThorSport would win it, I know that much.
Phil: There really isn’t that much high-level competition in the series these days. KHI is dead, Childress is decent, I guess. ThorSport is the only organization at full strength.
Summer: I don’t know, Phil. I would argue Turner is right on par with them.
Phil: You never know with Turner Scott. This is a very small operation for the sheer number of vehicles they race (3 full-time trucks, 3 full-time Nationwide teams and 4 full-time K&N East cars).
Summer: While we’re on trucks… Has anyone noticed Jeb Burton in third? Tied for second actually? I did not see that coming.
Allen: Jeb has impressed the heck out of me. I had him way back by now. He’s holding in there strong. Glad to see it, honestly.
Phil: He’s done very well so far. We only saw some flashes of what he could do with Hillman Racing last year before the money ran out.
Allen: I felt bad for him in Kansas. When he spun out he was really, really hard on himself.
Summer: I think Sauter will be there at the end regardless. He’ll be fine.
Allen: Sauter ain’t out of it, but that penalty hurt. Can’t convince me otherwise.
Phil: It’s so early in the Truck season that the point penalty probably won’t hurt Sauter too much. I have no reason to believe that he won’t be in championship contention for the rest of the season.
Predictions for the All-Star Race?
Phil: Ok, I’ll start with the Showdown. I think that Almirola will win the Showdown with McMurray taking second. Patrick will get the Fan Vote. For the All-Star Race, I’m going with Jimmie Johnson.
Allen: Fan Vote: Truex. Matt Kenseth for the big race.
Summer: For the Showdown, Truex. For the race, Keselowski. Fan vote will go to Patrick.
Connect with Phil!
Contact Phil Allaway
Connect with Summer!
Contact Summer Bedgood
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