The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: Correcting Mistakes, Missing Charlotte And Dramatic Returns by Frontstretch Staff -- Saturday May 25, 2013

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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:

Jeff Wolfe (Frontstretch Fantasy Insider)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Mike Neff (Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)
Summer Bedgood (Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)

This past weekend, SPEED had a major blunder when they incorrectly listed Jimmie Johnson as entering pit road 11th when he instead entered fourth. The black helicopters were a-flyin as a result and Johnson “haters” were crying foul. NASCAR’s math, however, was correct and the track position helped Johnson to a victory. Should NASCAR be blamed for having a complicated format or does the blame lie solely on SPEED’s shoulders?

Summer: I don’t think NASCAR should be “blamed”. It’s not like finding the averages is difficult. That doesn’t mean they should keep it that way.
Mike: The blame lies on SPEED’s shoulders. It is a shame they couldn’t hire an intern who could do math.
Jeff W.: I saw a post from Mike Joy that it was actually SPEED’s fault. He said their people are normally very good, but messed up on that one.

The FOX broadcast crew is usually one of the most reliable broadcast teams in the business. But during the All-Star Race, one mathematical mistake caused an uproar that left fans confused… and even throwing out conspiracy theories.

Phil: I have no clue how the deuce SPEED was doing their calculations, but they were just plain wrong. You’re talking to someone that spent a night trying to determine what would have happened had there been a Chase in 1999. Yet, these guys couldn’t figure out that Johnson would have been higher than 11th. It’s like no one had a pen and pencil.
Summer: When you have to lay out a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to calculate the necessary numbers, you’re doing it wrong. They are usually pretty good. I wish I could understand what the hell happened.
Mike: Actually, it isn’t that hard. Averaging four numbers is very simple.
Jeff W.: I wouldn’t think averaging four numbers would be a big deal.
Summer: But for 22 drivers? There has to be a better way. I’m not excusing SPEED, by the way. It should be a pretty simple way of doing things for them. I’m more talking about the format in general and how much I hate it.
Jeff W.: It was probably a matter of somebody not double-checking their numbers, or not having a backup, editor type, to check them.
Summer: And I think it’s interesting fans decided to freak out about NASCAR being wrong instead of questioning the broadcast. It’s like they were looking for a conspiracy.
Jeff W.: Sort of funny in a way that Johnson gets hated on more for something he had no idea about.
Mike: Oh trust me, Johnson is getting hated on for far more than the math.
Summer: Which doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t have a very “hate-able” personality.
Jeff W.: It’s kind of like a trigger, Johnson does well, time to hate. Which is a shame because he’s really a nice guy in person.
Mike: He wins. Earnhardt was hated, Gordon was hated, Waltrip was hated. It goes with the territory.
Phil: Johnson gets “hated on” for brushing his teeth every day.
Summer: I understand it, but hating someone for dominance just seems stupid. Being annoyed with seeing the same person all the time? That makes sense. Hating on the driver who brings it to fruition? Not so much. It’s not like they aren’t paid to win or anything.
Jeff W.: Johnson didn’t come in with the traditional Southern image. Instead, he had the best equipment and Knaus doesn’t help in the likeable equation, either.
Mike: Petty is the only winner who wasn’t hated. It is just the nature of fans
Jeff W.: Yes, no doubt, winning/dominating is all it takes.
Summer: Ugh. If Johnson doesn’t have thick southern drawl, smell like alcohol or tobacco most of the time, and dares show some intelligence, he’s not welcome.
Jeff W.: Some are smarter than they show, and pretend to play a little dumb, but he doesn’t play that game.
Mike: I beg your pardon. Dick Trickle did not have a thick Southern drawl and he was quite welcome, God rest his soul.
Summer: You know what I mean, Mike.
Mike: Actually I don’t. They boo the hell out of anyone who wins. Earnhardt was as Southern as they came but when he was dominating he was booed soundly. The bottom line is fans get tired of anyone who dominates.
Summer: I just think it’s ridiculous to hate someone because of where they come from. Anyway… SPEED needs to fix their calculator. NASCAR needs to fix the format. Simple as that.
Phil: I don’t believe that there is any issue with the format. The change for this year was needed because of what Johnson did last year. If anything, they need to make it a little less complicated.
Mike: I thought the average finish idea was great and I thought it made the first four segments great. I just don’t know what they have to do to make the final segment exciting. I’m thinking 40 laps to finish would be better.
Jeff W.: I think SPEED just messed up. Simple as that.

Bruton Smith is at it again and this time he’s talking about moving the fall Charlotte race to a different venue. Rumor has it that Las Vegas Motor Speedway is in strong consideration. Good move?

Summer: NO! No no no no no. I mean… yes, the second Charlotte date should be somewhere else but not another cookie cutter.
Jeff W.: He’s always looking for the quick dollar. I don’t think he’s got long-term plans in mind. One race in Vegas is plenty.
Mike: As a person who lives down the street from Charlotte, I hate it. As a person who is not a large fan of mile and a half tracks, I could not care less. He’s unhappy with Concord not paying him the $60,000,000 they owe him for road improvements.
Summer: There would be zero improvement in racing. And yes, it will come down to money. If he can make more money with two dates in Vegas as opposed to Charlotte, he will.
Phil: I don’t think Las Vegas needs another race. Not until this car gets better. One race there is plenty. Besides, we don’t need another long haul (for everyone except Furniture Row) on the schedule.
Mike: It would probably be great for fans. Vegas is far more of a destination. It would hurt the Hall of Fame, though and I still wonder what happened to the monorail he was going to build from the Hall to the Speedway.

SMI owner Bruton Smith claims he’s a man of the people. But will moving a date from Charlotte to Las Vegas, in 2014 really give the fans what they want?

Jeff W.: Hard to imagine the town that has NASCAR Hall getting a race taken away.
Summer: Why not take the race from Charlotte and put it in Rockingham or North Wilkesboro? They can still keep it close to home.
Jeff W.: That’s a good idea. Either one of those places would be great.
Mike: I doubt that would ever happen. The folks in Daytona seem to love taking races away from North Carolina. And while North Wilkesboro would be phenomenal, Bruton would have to put about $15,000,000 into the track to make is viable.
Phil: More like someone else would have to put in $30 million. Half to buy the place from Bruton, then the $15 million in improvements.
Jeff W.: Again, you have to wonder if there’s a long-range plan in place.
Summer: Well, Rockingham is clearly race ready. And, anyway, it’s not like Bruton doesn’t know how to make an investment.
Mike: The only plan in place is Bruton trying to get his money out of Concord. The short-sightedness of some idiot council members from several years ago is still rearing its ugly head.
Summer: Is this still about that road stuff? If so, I’d actually forgotten completely about it.
Jeff W.: No doubt that Bruton has a long memory when it comes to his wallet.
Mike: Well it stems from the Drag Strip and spilled over to the roads. It just pisses me off that morons in local government could end up causing a race to move away from my local track.
Summer: Well still… If tracks are going to start losing second dates or getting second dates, it needs to stop being cookie cutters. Short tracks, road courses… fine, I don’t care. But we need MORE diversity on the schedule, not less.
Mike: Well, I guess you need to tell Bruton to buy Iowa or a road course. Because that is the only way you’re getting a race at a track like that.
Phil: I remember the drag strip spat. Ended up being nothing. I don’t think this will amount to anything either. Bruton likes to bluster.
Mike: Bruton was ready to move the track. The town offered him dough to stay put. He agreed and now they haven’t paid him. At least that’s what he says. I have no doubt he’d move it.
Summer: Anyway, I wouldn’t mind Charlotte losing a date if it went to a better track. If LVMS is really in the running, they might as well just leave it where it is.
Mike: Vegas is the only SMI track that has a single date that is looking to add a second.

This weekend is the season’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600. Judging from last Saturday night, will it be worth it for fans to tune in for the whole thing?

Summer: Probably not, but is it ever?
Mike: Of course it will. The transition from day to night always makes the race fantastic.
Summer: I thought the racing on Saturday night was great, up until the end, but it won’t be like that the entire day/night.
Jeff W.: That’s a long, long race. What might help is if one of the top teams’ drivers need an engine, start at the back then have to work their way up.
Mike: I just hope there isn’t a 10-lap dash at the end.
Summer: Yeah, what the heck is that about? We’ll get great racing for a lap or two and then it sucks.
Phil: You never know what can happen in a 600-mile race. You can’t sit idly by and ignore a race for 550 miles.
Mike: When it is dark, cool and the track has a lot of grip, the tires take a while to wear out. If they don’t get a longer run, then the car in front won’t be passed.

Casey Mears’ Coca-Cola 600 upset, in 2007 is far more unlikely to happen today due to the problems plaguing NASCAR on intermediates: track position, tires, and the early development of the Gen-6.

Phil: The 600 probably won’t look like what we had Saturday night because those cars have to last. I think it’ll still be exciting.
Summer: That’s what I hate, Mike. I wish track position wasn’t so important that you are essentially begging for a mercy caution. I don’t think it will be great, but I think it will have some good racing.
Mike: There will be some exciting racing, and one or two long green runs.
Jeff W.: Track position is still a big issue with these cars. I think passing is better than the COT, but still not great.
Summer: Fixing the car is not enough. The tire compounds need to be more race-able, too.
Mike: There was a lot of passing on Saturday night, just not at the front. Once they were back in the pack, the dueling was great.
Jeff W.: It helps if there is a lot of passing in the top 10, even if it’s not for the lead.
Mike: Goodyear doesn’t want to have the embarrassment of tires that actually blow out. If they would be willing to have tires that wore down more quickly if they were pushed hard, it would make the racing much better.
Jeff W.: Last thing they want is another Indy-type disaster that lasts five hours.
Summer: That happened once! Once!!! Seriously, they do this as a freaking company. Just fix the problem and move on. Make it harder than Indy but softer than what they have now. This is the company’s entire business. Why is this so difficult for them?
Mike: See, there is where I have a problem. At Indy, they should have told the teams – you now know what the tires will do. If you push it, you’ll blow it. It would have been more interesting than all of the forced cautions, because they build the tires to last more than a fuel run.
Summer: Which they shouldn’t.
Jeff W.: It takes a lot of the strategy away, and driver skill.
Summer: Right. It makes the pit crew more important, but that’s not fun to watch. Because you know once someone clears the other guy for the lead, it’s over.
Mike: If they built the tires so that they would wear out at the length of a fuel run, if not pushed too hard, they would be great. Drivers could conserve and have something at the end while others might push it but have to pit early.
Summer: I know, Mike, and it used to be that way even five or six years ago. I hate that now we don’t even care most of the time anymore. Heck, it’s why I get excited if I hear about fuel mileage. At least we know there is potential for some last-lap excitement.
Mike: I agree. The tires have taken so much away from the sport. It is very frustrating.
Phil: I’m pretty sure that NASCAR has a lot more say with the tires than you guys are claiming. Goodyear can build whatever kind of tire they want to, just like Pirelli in F1. I think NASCAR wants the tires to be the way they are.
Jeff W.: Where’s Hoosier Tires when we need them. Oops! That didn’t workout so well. But no competition is not good.
Summer: I think we know the Gen-6 car can pass. I think it’s shown that a few times this year. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s much better than the COT. Fix the tires, and you’ll have better racing all the time.
Mike: I think NASCAR/Goodyear are afraid of having a blemish on their image of tires blowing out and tearing up cars. You should see the Goodyear engineers swarm when they think there is a tire failure.
Summer: Anyway, I think the 600 will be a good race. I don’t think it will be popular with fans because anything short of heart-stopping just isn’t good enough anymore, but I think it will have some good racing.
Jeff W.: If somebody was doing the Indy-Charlotte double, it would be a lot more fun to watch, no matter where they finished. Too bad that doesn’t happen anymore.

*Michael Annett is set to return to his car this weekend after suffering from a broken sternum sustained from a crash in the season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona. Aside from a points standpoint, will being out of the car for that long hurt him at all?

Mike: Sure. Ask Denny Hamlin. He was worn out at Darlington. It will take several races for Annett to be back to full speed physically.
Summer: It’s not like Annett was a championship favorite. I’m glad he’s back in the car for his own sake, but I don’t think this injury will make a huge difference on how well he does.
Jeff W.: I think once he gets back in the car, then gets some practice laps in he will be fine in terms of rhythm. Endurance will depend on how much he has been able to work out while away. The other issue for him is mental. Will he be worried about getting in another wreck? Maybe take less chances because of it?
Summer: I think he might be antsy at Daytona or Talladega, Jeff, but otherwise I doubt it.

Michael Annett is back in action this weekend after a broken sternum left him out of the No. 43 RPM Ford for three months.

Phil: Annett will be out of his rhythm this weekend in Charlotte. He’ll use this weekend almost like practice. I think he really wants to be 100 percent for Iowa in a couple of weeks since that’s home for him.
Summer: I think it’s a good thing he’s in Nationwide, though, and not the 600.
Mike: True, 400 laps might be too much.
Summer: Honestly, it’s a shame that his injury was so overshadowed by the Daytona carnage that same day.
Jeff W.: A shame it took away his chance to run for a title or at least a good points finish, to help his future prospects.
Summer: Yeah, Jeff, that’s true. He may not have been a title favorite, but perhaps he could have been in the top 10. At the same time, Annett probably got more publicity from this injury than he would have otherwise.
Mike: I don’t think Annett was going to contend for the title, but he would have had a solid season.
Jeff W.: That, and just the experience factor too. Now he’s going to be behind a bit on that.
Summer: Yeah, I mean he’ll be minimally impacted by sitting out, but I don’t think it will make an enormous difference in the long run.
Mike: No, in the long run it is just a blip in his career. But it will take him a month to get back in shape.
Phil: It is true that Annett got more publicity by getting hurt than anything. Otherwise, he’s best known for getting a DWI a couple of years ago. From here on out, his goal is to run as well as possible and hopefully snag a win in the Fall.
Jeff W.: If he gets a win somewhere, that would be good comeback story.
Mike: I am sure he’ll have a good run or two for a top 5. I don’t know that he’ll contend for a win.
Summer: I think he’ll be fine. It will take a few weeks to get in a rhythm, but otherwise he’ll probably slide right under the radar again.
Phil: Annett was pretty good last season, especially in the summer months. If he’s stayed in shape during his recuperation, maybe he could surprise some people.

Predictions For Charlotte?

Summer: Jimmie Johnson, please.
Mike: Matt Kenseth for me.
Jeff W.: Going to go with a different Hendrick driver and pick Kasey Kahne
Phil: I’m going to go with Clint Bowyer.

Connect with Jeff!

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Contact Summer Bedgood

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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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05/25/2013 04:19 PM

and here’s Summer! Surprise, she’s once again harping on “I just don’t understand how the fans can HATE Jimmie Johnson?”

For heavens sakes, you’re supposed to be the senior writer at Frontstretch and you don’t get it?

Fans boo everyone they don’t like and they boo Johnson because he has won so often, races, the 10 race trophy, the allstar race, etc. that people are bored with it and that isn’t helping NASCAR hold people’s interest.

No, the wrong info at the All Star race wasn’t NASCAR’s fault, it was Speeds, however, it sure did take NASCAR a long time to come up with the order and at the end of the race, fans wanted to get on with it. NASCAR knew what the rules were, they should have been putting numbers into their spreadsheet after each of the segments, then they’d only have had to enter 1 number for each team and come up with the running order.

then again, I’m not sure that NASCAR has staff that are smarter than a 5th grader.

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