The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: Underdogs... And Undercards... Have Their Day In NASCAR by Frontstretch Staff -- Thursday July 18, 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:

Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Summer Bedgood (Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)
Allen Bedgood (Fan Contributor)

Brian Vickers win on Sunday was certainly heartfelt, and there were no negative words for the Michael Waltrip Racing driver post-race. However, his win was either one of two things: a sign of things to come or a shot in the dark. Which one was it, and why?

Summer: I think it’s somewhere in between. I don’t think Vickers will win a ton of races, but I don’t think he’ll suck, either.
Phil: Well, I’m not really surprised that Vickers won on Sunday. He’d been building to that crescendo since last season. He’s always pretty good in the No. 55.
Allen: It’s a sign of good things to come. Vickers should think of this win as a way to “rejuvenate” his career. That’s how I view it. Winning in the Cup Series is hard and is always a big deal. Not to mention MWR equipment isn’t too shabby. Vickers is a good driver regardless of what anyone else thinks. He will get the job done, every time. If Aaron’s will put the money behind him, he’s going to go far — a second chance after Red Bull Racing didn’t pan out.
Phil: Often times, a driver just has to get over the hump. Vickers got there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a bunch more. However, running part-time might make that a little harder in this case.
Summer: Not many people get as many chances as Brian Vickers. Though, in this case, he deserves it.
Phil: Once 2014 comes around, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were a candidate to make the Chase if he gets the No. 55 full-time.
Summer: I agree, Phil. He won’t be winning any championships, but I could easily see him making the Chase.
Allen: Vickers has said there are some teams you “drive” for and some teams you “work” for. Vickers works for MWR. The chemistry between them is awesome.
Phil: Vickers runs as good in the No. 55 as he did in the No. 83 back in 2009. Also, MWR seems to have more resources than Red Bull did at that time. As a result, they’re less likely to burn out just getting into the Chase.
Summer: They also have some staying power, Phil, which Red Bull obviously doesn’t have.
Allen: Nobody gives Michael Waltrip Racing enough credit. I still think of them as underdogs, even though they really are not. Once Rob Kauffman came into the picture, MWR had a fire lit under their asses. It’s so cool to see.
Phil: I don’t really consider them underdogs. They definitely were, back in 2007. Kauffman saved the team from literally drowning in red ink.
Summer: They are still underdogs. They aren’t equal to Joe Gibbs Racing or anyone like that. When they beat them, they are having to overcome. Perhaps the better term might be “dark horse” than underdog. Still, though, they aren’t a top team.
Allen: I disagree, Summer.
Summer: Yeah, well since you just said the opposite, I figured. Hahaha… I just think that they have a ways to go before they are put on the same level as everyone else. They’re above teams like RPM and EGR, but are not at the same level as the top teams.
Allen: They aren’t on par with Hendrick, but they are equal to Joe Gibbs in my opinion.
Summer: Well, I will say if they can get their sponsorship issues figured out, Vickers will be in the Chase in 2014.
Phil: With Vickers, he basically has spot starts this year. Hard to get much of a rhythm going. Rodney Childers should get a lot of credit for yesterday as well as Vickers.
Summer: Rodney Childers was highly praised by both Vickers and Norris in the press conference Sunday. It seems like a lot of people at MWR feel that way. He’s kind of been an unheralded member of the team by the public.
Phil: For next year, if Vickers gets the ride, we’ll have to see how they work together on a weekly basis. I have confidence that a Vickers-Childers pairing would be very competitive over a full season.
Allen: Rumor is Childers could go to SHR with Harvick. But you know how rumors are in NASCAR these days.
Phil: Apparently, teams have wanted Childers for years.
Summer: Yeah they talked about how Childers decided to stay with MWR than go elsewhere, and how beneficial it has been to their team.
Allen: Vickers will be a contender in 2014, granted like you said, he gets full funding.

Kyle Busch took a shot at Ryan Newman after the end of the race, calling Newman an “ogre” and saying he was glad Newman was out of a job (Newman is leaving Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the year). Newman was on SIRIUS vMonday and said Kyle Busch “isn’t very bright.” The exchange of words comes from some contact that apparently occurred on the track between Busch and Newman, as well as a wreck involving Kyle’s brother Kurt. How much should we read into this incident and are the attacks deserved on either side?

Summer: I think we should see it as one driver who is frustrated with another, and the other one being a bonafide smart-ass. As usual. As far as the attacks being necessary …. I don’t know. I know the two made contact several times and Kyle wouldn’t lash out for no reason. Busch has a short temper, but he wouldn’t lash out for no reason.
Allen: I was listening live to SIRIUS when this happened. Kyle has zero authority or right to make a comment like that. Does he forget he was almost out of a ride after making an ass move at Texas, in the Truck Series in 2011?
Phil: Yeah, I thought those comments were a little ridiculous. First time I remember a driver referring to a colleague as an “ogre.” Kyle does have a history of rage moments. There is a Kyle Busch: Rageaholic collection on YouTube. Nowhere near as long as the Kurt Busch version, though.
Summer: Or as entertaining.
Phil: I think it’s 50 minutes, while the Kurt Busch version is 75.
Summer: I didn’t have as big of a problem with the “ogre” comment as I did with the “I’m glad he’s out of a job comment.” That was unnecessary. However, it was said in the heat of the moment. I don’t think he really meant it.
Phil: You never know with Kyle. Maybe he did mean that. Also, Newman has shown that it’s not really a good idea to tick him off in the past. Kyle even referenced that.
Summer: I doubt it, Phil. It was a mean thing to say, and maybe he doesn’t like Newman being around. That doesn’t mean he wishes any genuine ill will on him.
Allen: Calling someone names? Fine. Been done for years. Being thankful someone is out of a job? Extremely low. Even for a driver/person like Kyle Busch.
Phil: I don’t think he meant outright ill will towards Newman, but I think he really might be happy that Newman’s out of a job.
Summer: Again, I doubt that. There’s a difference between wishing someone would just go away and being glad that someone got rid of them. One is much more vicious than the other. But I wouldn’t read too much into this mess. They don’t like each other, but I think most of us already knew that. They won’t race each other fairly, but that’s about it.
Allen: Kyle needs to look in the mirror before throwing out stuff like “glad he’s out of a job.” There was a time he was almost on the sidelines.

NASCAR has announced a few changes Monday, including parts approvals and making the rulebook more accessible. How much will these rules really change things and did they go far enough?

Phil: At this point, who knows? We’d have to wait to 2014 to give an honest answer. However, I’m liking the idea of the Rule Book potentially being available online; it’s good for the fans. Grand-Am’s already is.
Summer: I didn’t really see anything earth shattering. I appreciate a move towards a little more transparency and efficiency, but I don’t think it will change anything.
Allen: The only thing that really interested me was the fact NASCAR is considering opening the rulebook for all to see. Not just the media. In my opinion, if NASCAR has nothing to hide, everyone deserves to have access to it. Especially if their driver / team is affected.
Summer: Though they’ll have to release a new update every week.
Phil: The move towards CAD designs in the rulebook instead of words might actually hurt general understanding.
Summer: Maybe they want it that way?
Phil: Apparently, they only want engineers to be able to interpret things.
Summer: It’s kind of like that now anyway. Except currently you need to be able to read Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Phil: Actually, now it’s more like you have to know someone to be able to even take a look. Once there, it’s a bit abstract.
Summer: That’s what I’m saying. It’s not necessarily easy to understand and even then the rules are pretty broad based. In other words, they leave a lot of room for interpretation.
Phil: Some of them are. Others are cut and dry.
Summer: Well, regardless at least the public will be able to see it for themselves.
Allen: Hopefully. NASCAR sounded pretty undecided about a lot of stuff regarding what fans may or may not have access to, though.
Phil: NASCAR seems undecided on everything right now. They only have a primer for what they want to do at the moment. They’ll come out with a grandmaster by the Fall.
Summer: I guess it’s nice to know that NASCAR is at least considering some more transparency, but excuse me for not leaping for joy. That should have been done awhile ago.
Allen: NASCAR is trying … I’ll give them that.
Phil: The move toward non-series specific officials could be interesting. I’d argue that they’re noticing that everyone’s getting too comfortable around each other.
Summer: Interesting point, Phil.

There is an off weekend in NASCAR this coming week, with the Nationwide Series serving as the only on-track action this Sunday. Should this be a series-wide break or will it help the Nationwide Series to have the spotlight?

Summer: I like having at least one series competing. It keeps NASCAR in the conversation while still giving some folks a much-needed break.
Phil: It’s always good for the Nationwide Series to have its own spotlight. Problem is, I don’t think Chicagoland Speedway is quite the place for it.
Summer: Right? Try Iowa or Bristol … or something.
Allen: It will definitely help the Nationwide Series. Fans will have no other option but to tune in, and with limited Cup drivers (I’m assuming since most are on vacation) it will be good for the NW regulars.
Phil: That race should be somewhere else, where it could be a real showcase for the series. The trucks have Eldora next week. Nationwide needs their own Eldora. Not saying that it needs to be there, or even on dirt at all.
Allen: Right. Chicago isn’t exactly a very exciting track.
Summer: Though, you have to admit, having the Nationwide Series on dirt would be just freaking awesome. Of course, then NASCAR would be highly pressured to put the Cup Series on one and they just have never seemed open to doing that.
Allen: NASCAR needs to focus on rotating the Chase tracks every few years before they worry about dirt races for another Series, but that’s a whole different topic.
Summer: I think the biggest issue with that idea is the climate.
Phil: Pretty much the only Cup regulars entered are Landon Cassill (getting Nationwide points) and Joey Logano. Yeley’s parkin’ it.
Summer: They race at tracks that are conducive to the colder weather that happens in the last couple of months. Heck, many states start cooling down in September.
Phil: Yeah. Mid-September races here can be quite chilly at night. The April races are cold too. The second week of the season saw temperatures as low as 35 with windy conditions. Not cool.
Summer: We’ve had some cold April races. Our warm season is May to early August. Mid-May to early August.
Phil: Of course, having said that, the only NASCAR races in this part of the country are Watkins Glen (early to mid August, daytime), and New Hampshire (last weekend, and mid-September, daytime).
Summer: Kansas is about it. I think the next closest is Iowa. The rest is just stretching, though much of the Midwest tends to have the same weather.
Phil: As for breaks, I don’t really like them as far as my column is concerned. It’s a stretch to find anything to write about. However, the teams do need their rest. The breaks (at least for Cup) are front-loaded.
Summer: Well, yeah, when you center your entire life and schedule around racing, it kind of feels empty during an off week. However, from a work standpoint, I think this is a great time for an off week.
Phil: It would be a lot easier if NASCAR didn’t insist on Easter being an automatic week off every year. Of course, if they didn’t, there’d be quite the uproar.
Summer: They would do well to leave it like it is. I like that the Nationwide Series has the spotlight, but I’ll be glad when the Cup Series comes back the week after.
Phil: By that, I mean that the few breaks that teams get are front loaded. Now, ESPN needs to promote that fact and get these Nationwide drivers out there front and center.
Allen: It’s going to benefit the Nationwide guys greatly to have little to no Cup drivers & ALL the coverage on them and them alone. I’m excited for it.

Predictions for Chicagoland?

Summer: I’ll go with Austin Dillon.
Allen: Justin Allgaier.
Phil: Sam Hornish Jr.

Connect with Phil!

Contact Phil Allaway

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

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07/18/2013 07:17 AM

If Nascar is so interested in making things more ‘transparent’ for the fans, instead of telling us when our ‘favorite driver’ will go thru inspection, they could actually paint the timing lines on the track so everyone can see exactly where they are?

07/18/2013 08:30 AM

What’s the point of making the “rule” book available when the key word is “interpretation” depending on which team it is?

07/18/2013 12:43 PM

I would suggest Rockingham as a different place the Nationwide Series could go now. It stinks that Nationwide has lost a bunch of stand alone events in recent years.

07/18/2013 05:13 PM

This is usually my favorite page to read all week, I hate when it doesn’t show up until Thursday but I would have rather waited another day or two to get more then two writers and one of their husbands.

Carl D.
07/18/2013 06:07 PM

When trying to decide whether MWR is an “Underdog” or a “Dark Horse”, keep in mind that one of their drivers finished 2nd in the Championship battle last year. No, they’re not HMS or JGR, but they are every bit as potent as RFR and RCR.

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