Frontstretch Staff · Friday September 6, 2013
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)
Mike Neff (Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)
Though none of us were in the driver’s seat Sunday, at Atlanta that doesn’t mean we can’t judge the quality of the racing. Goodyear tried out a new tire on Sunday night with somewhat mixed reviews. How did the tire perform and should they use it again in the future?
Mike N.: Looking at the tires after coming off the cars, I didn’t see a single problem with any of them. If it makes it a possibility that we can have tires fall off and make tires mean something again, I’m all for it.
Phil: I think the tire worked fairly well Sunday. We had very little in the way of issues, and the ones that were thought to be tire issues really weren’t.
Summer: I think any tire that produces tire wear without a ton of blowouts is a success. I think the best race is one where you have a balance between aero dependency and tire wear. In other words, I like races that allow for strategy play.
Phil: It’s not Goodyear’s fault that Joey Logano’s tire changer didn’t get all the lug nuts tight.
Summer: Right, Phil, and the tire blowouts we had were mostly isolated incidents. It certainly wasn’t a trend.
Phil: The one thing that concerned me was Logano’s blowout Saturday night. That was weird. A “ply separation,” to use the words that Andy Petree did on ESPN’s telecast.
Mike N.: The only real problem in both races on Saturday and Sunday was the No. 22 in the Nationwide Series, and I think that was self-induced. I think they had too much camber in the right front.
Summer: I’d be more concerned about it, Phil, if it happened to more drivers. And, Mike, I agree that any race where tires mean something again is a great thing. There is very little I enjoy more than a late-race pit strategy coming into play. Fuel only, two tires, four tires. I find that fascinating.
Mike N.: I think we will always have instances where tires have “ply separation.” It isn’t a common thing, but occasionally, it will happen.
Phil: I don’t think you’ll see that much at Atlanta, given the surface’s current age. However, if they used this tire at a track with slightly newer pavement, then yes, it could result in strategy plays.
Mike N.: When you have handmade tires, there is going to be the occasional contaminant that gets into a tire and causes it to fail. Provided they don’t happen consistently, it isn’t a problem.
Summer: The only thing that I’d like to see happen, and it wasn’t a huge issue in Atlanta, is for NASCAR to work on the aero aspect of these cars. If we can fix that, and Goodyear can keep bringing in tires like Atlanta, intermediate races won’t be as terrible. In fact, they might become fun again.
Mike N.: It is going to be interesting to see it at Kansas. That is where the real test is going to occur.
Summer: While I would argue that the real test would be at Chicago, first, unless I’m missing something?
Mike N.: I didn’t think they were bringing the dual compound tire back until Kansas.
Summer: Alright, I missed that part. If that’s the case, I’m cautiously optimistic about that race because that isn’t one that is generally exciting. Not that I had to tell anyone here that.
Mike N.: Yeah, anything that can help Kansas will be a good thing. Especially since the repave. Goodyear brings the Flintstone tires for years after the tracks are repaved.
Phil: Kansas should be really interesting with the dual zone setup. Tires haven’t really worn much there since they reconfigured that place. We’ve still had blowouts, though.
Summer: And Chicago. And Texas. And Michigan. Pretty much anywhere we’re moaning and groaning every time we see where they are next on the schedule. Tire wear throughout the race usually adds a little more to watch.
Phil: Blowouts at Kansas aren’t caused by wear. They’re caused typically by something else. A cut, or some setup-related shenanigans.
Mike N.: For those of you playing at home, that is use number one of Shenanigans…
Summer: I wish Goodyear would quit bringing Flintstone tires anywhere. I’m convinced after Atlanta that every single track can put on a great race with the right tires and aero package.
Mike N.: I agree, but they are all about heat dissipation and grip. Those two items fight with each other and they won’t bring tires that won’t dissipate heat so they give up grip.
Phil: Maybe these dual zone tires will be more blister-resistant at Michigan than the current ones. That’s why they ditched what I guess could be considered “medium” compound tires last year.
Summer: I really hope Goodyear hit on something with this tire and can start bringing it to all of the tracks that are lacking in excitement. It would make the season as a whole so much better.
Mike N.: I am very happy that the tires worked well. Hopefully the Goodyear guys will take some chances, deal with some blowouts and come up with tires that give up.
Phil: If the next time Goodyear brings the dual zone tires works as well as it did Saturday, I’ll be happy. Next on the agenda: Tires for concrete tracks that allow the tracks to hold rubber. We’ve had that problem since years ago, when the COT showed up.
The slap heard round the world … Mike Skeen’s girlfriend Kelly Heaphy slapped Max Papis in the face post-race after her boyfriend and Papis had a run-in on the last lap of Camping World Truck Series race in Canada. Was NASCAR’s reaction to ban Heaphy appropriate?
Phil: The problem here is that regardless of what NASCAR decides, Heaphy (and by extension, Skeen) won’t be back for awhile regardless.
Mike N.: They needed to pull her hard card, assuming she has one. That said, the drivers need to settle things between themselves. Crew members, family members and other hangers on need to stay out of the confrontations.
Summer: I don’t know that any real reaction would have done any good since we likely won’t see Mike or Kelly at any race the rest of the year.
Summer: No, Mike, she didn’t have a hard card. She had a one-time pass. And I don’t think the team should be penalized. I think the person who did it should be held responsible, and that’s it. Maybe ban her from the track for one year or something like that. Right, Mike.
Mike N.: The good question is, will Max press charges?
Summer: I think NASCAR had to do something, because they can’t say that that’s OK. Especially when they pulled Tom Logano’s hard card for getting in his son’s business.
Phil: Tom Logano… that dude’s been a ghost since then. Anyway, I think barring her from credentials for a year or so might be appropriate. However, in that time, she might have showed up once or twice, max.
Summer: Yeah, Phil, there is no reaction that NASCAR can have that wouldn’t just be making a statement, though I still think they kind of need to do that. It’s one thing for the crews to flip out on each other, but there is no reason for family to get involved. Although if Max can talk with that dislocated jaw, I’m sure he can race with it.
Phil: Papis should be back in the car this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Summer: He’s been doing interviews. I’m sure he’s fine.
Mike N.: I would be tempted to file charges just on principle, but I think Max would rather just put it to bed.
Summer: I would if I were Max. No reason to drag this discussion on any longer than you have to.
Phil: He’s probably already sick of talking about it, but he’s a pro.
Summer: I’m almost sick of talking about it.
Mike N.: If I were Max, I’d drag it on forever because the only attention he seems to get is post-race fights. It sure isn’t his driving ability. Although he did win a school bus race at Charlotte this Summer.
Summer: His driving in NASCAR may not be great, but he’s hardly a terrible driver.
Mike N.: He’s hardly a world champion.
Phil: As far as NASCAR’s concerned, you’re more or less right. However, Papis has been focusing on the Rolex Series this year.
Summer: He’s won a handful of races in other series.
Mike N.: And, as I said, in a school bus.
Summer: I don’t think I could win a race in a school bus. Just saying.
Mike N.: I’d love to give it a shot.
Summer: Now that would be a treat.
Mike N.: One of these years, the folks at CMS are going to let us have a Frontstretch bus on Media Night.
Phil: I’ve always wanted to drive one, ever since I was four. They’re surprisingly agile.
Summer: I always hated the bus. I don’t want to go back.
Mike N.: There is nothing more fun to watch than Robby Gordon driving a school bus.
Summer: Has Montoya ever driven a school bus? I might pay real money for that.
Mike N.: Oh hey, just got word, Max’s jaw wasn’t dislocated. He just has poor command of the English language. And I have never seen Juan in a bus, although he might have run one last year.
Phil: Well, that’s good to hear that his jaw wasn’t really dislocated. Just felt like it. Heaphy slapped the tar out of him.
Summer: Yeah, I don’t think it was dislocated either. It doesn’t make sense that he’s been yakking all this time and it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. And, as of now, I haven’t heard him cite the opinion of a real doctor.
Mike N.: She lit him up, that is for sure.
Phil: As for Heaphy, don’t expect her back in the pits anytime soon. They’ll give her a longer than normal ban because of her rarity in the pits.
Before a green flag ever flew during the race weekend, Kenny Wallace and Felix Sabates found themselves in the midst of a heated debate via the media. On SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Kenny Wallace expressed concern for Kyle Larson racing at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, saying that they didn’t have a quality organization. Meanwhile, co-owner Sabates came on the air to defend his team and, in the process, took some shots at Wallace, saying he’s a terrible driver and still harbors a grudge against Sabates after Wallace was fired from that team. Does Wallace have a point? Does Sabates?
Summer: I think they’re both right. Wallace isn’t a high quality driver and Ganassi doesn’t have high quality cars.
Mike N.: How many Cup races has Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates won? Championships?
Phil: I found the following quote interesting: “I fired [Kenny Wallace] because he couldn’t drive a race car.” That’s the reasoning Sabates used for firing him. Didn’t mention the fact that Dirt Devil ditched them back then.
Mike N.: I don’t think they’re a terrible organization, but they’re at the bottom of the upper echelon teams.
Summer: By the way, Wallace said on SiriusXM that they had both talked and made up after that. So, in their mind, it’s all over. Still, though, that was quite the exchange.
Mike N.: If they can spend a whole season running like they have the last few weeks, then I’ll believe they’re a quality NASCAR organization.
Summer: Right, Mike, and I don’t think Kenny really said anything different. He didn’t say they were crap. He just said they weren’t the caliber of the best teams in racing.
Mike N.: They are great in other series, but NASCAR is not their playground.
Phil: I find it really unlikely that Kenny would hold a 20-year grudge against Sabates over that. I’d argue that Sabates was just angry and needed to vent. Also of note, wasn’t he supposed to have retired by now?
Mike N.: Felix or Kenny?
Phil: Felix. Ganassi’s owned the team longer than Sabates did solo (as SabCo Racing).
Mike N.: Felix is on the payroll to glad hand with sponsors. He doesn’t do much on the day-to-day side, but he is the one they parade out to secure the sponsorship deals. Felix is an outstanding businessman, but he’s a lousy car owner.
Summer: Which is probably why he got so irritated by Wallace’s comments. They need sponsors to get excited about their team.
Phil: As for the “quality organization” thing, I doubt Wallace was talking about the SabCo of 1993. That’s a far cry from what they have now. Back then, his teammate won a race and threw away a second one. Wallace struggled for top 10s with a team that moved up from Busch.
Mike N.: Well, it’s a different situation now. And having Montoya cranking out top 5 and top 10s in the car that Larson is going to run next year is a great way to get it done.
Summer: It’s amazing how that team has lit up in the weeks since the announcement was made.
Mike N.: I’m pretty sure there are sponsors lining up to get on the Larson bandwagon. He is going to be a star for a very, very long time. In the meantime, Montoya has been driving like a man possessed. I don’t know why because nobody else is going to want him.
Summer: Well, if they do, he won’t be with an … ahem … quality organization.
Mike N.: No doubt about that. I promise you he’s not going to be with Hendrick, Roush, Childress, or SHR.
Phil: Oh no. I don’t know where Montoya’s ending up. My guess is that he might be done in Sprint Cup for a while. Maybe not for good, though.
Mike N.: I’m betting money he ends up running Grand Am with Scott Pruett.
Summer: I still stand by my prediction that he’ll be in NASCAR at least a couple of times a year for a while. If for nothing other than the road courses. As for Felix-Kenny… both parties had some merit to them. I don’t understand what Sabates got so crumpled up over, but maybe he was just having a bad day.
Time to make some predictions. Who makes the Chase and who doesn’t?
Summer: I’m going to wind up screwing this up by either putting too few or too many in the Chase, but I’ll try my best.
Mike N.: The Chase is set, for the most part. Jeff Gordon will probably make the Chase and bump out Kurt Busch or Greg Biffle.
Summer: I could see Gordon knocking Biffle out. Geez… I’m sitting here staring at the standings and I can’t decide. After Atlanta, I’m scared to put anything in print!
Phil: OK, we have 5 open spots. Johnson, Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Edwards and Harvick are locks for points, while Kahne has clinched at least a Wild Card.
Mike N.: Top six are already locked. Earnhardt and Logano are basically in, in my mind. The question is Biffle or Busch having a bad night and Gordon sneaking in by the skin of his teeth.
Summer: I’d argue several others are just about locked, too. Earnhardt only has to finish somewhere near 32nd, and Logano is not going to lose this. Oh, gosh. I think Busch will be fine. That team is pretty solid and I expect they’ll make the Chase. The issue with Biffle is he still has that win.
Mike N.: I would not be surprised to see Kurt Busch win at Richmond to charge into the Chase.
Phil: I think Earnhardt Jr. is in as long as nothing stupid happens early.
Summer: I think he only has to finish 32nd or better to get in, if I remember right, Phil.
Mike N.: My only worry with Earnhardt is his crew chief was sounding far too cautious on XM the other day. They need to go for the win, not play it safe and hope to point their way in. If he runs around trying not to get in trouble, it could bite him big time.
Summer: That annoyed me to no end. He won’t win a championship that way. Keselowski and his team would have still gone for the win if they were in that spot.
Phil: Kahne could easily get in on points, and if that happens, it could greatly benefit someone like Newman. I think Kurt Busch could get in on points, but he wants to win badly.
Phil: As for Newman or Truex, they’re all but automatically in if they win.
Summer: Phil, you’re making my head hurt with these scenarios, but you are absolutely right. The Chase itself might look pretty well set, until you look at drivers either racing in or falling out of the top 10. It gets even trickier when you see who does and doesn’t have wins. Mike, I still have this sneaking suspicion that someone we aren’t talking about now will be a factor in the Chase. Someone like a Bowyer, Edwards, or Harvick.
Mike N.: If Newman or Truex wins, they’re a lock because Kahne is the only bubble driver with two wins.
Summer: No one has paid them any attention yet they’re all doing well in points. Edwards and Bowyer have been in the top three almost all year.
Phil: I like Clint Bowyer right now, but he’s staring at a 15-point hole at minimum after Richmond.
Mike N.: Edwards and Harvick are not a consistent threat to win right now. Bowyer could go on a tear and rip off three or four, but I’m betting against it.
Summer: Edwards has been a frontrunner and a dominant car in two of the last three races. Bristol was an engine. Last week was a crappy pit call. He stayed out under that one caution and it killed his track position. He never recovered.
Mike N.: I think Kyle Busch is finally poised to make a legit title run. Early, not late.
Summer: What about Johnson?
Mike N.: They were experimenting up until this week. This week was purely bad luck, and they still gained like nine spots due to their perseverance. I still think they’re in trouble right now, though because their mojo is destroyed.
Phil: For Brad Keselowski, it’s not impossible to get into the Chase, but very unlikely. He’d have to win and get help from Truex and Newman (currently 13 behind Truex). Unfortunately, Brad wrecked in the Spring and finished 33rd.
Summer: I think Kurt makes it. I’m sure Biffle will cruise his way in, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see something happen there with Gordon. It’s really hard to say, though, because it only takes one driver to change everything for everyone else.
Phil: For the Chase itself, I think that we’re looking at Johnson (if he can get out of this funk), Bowyer and Harvick being the primary challengers. Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth will be there as well.
Mike N.: Very true. I feel like Toyota is edging back up the horsepower ladder and that is going to help Kenseth and Busch.
Phil: The others in there will be Edwards, Earnhardt Jr., Logano, Kahne, probably Truex, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon (with a good run Saturday night).
Predictions for Richmond?
Summer: I’ll go with Denny Hamlin finally breaking this funk just in time for the Chase that he won’t be in.
Phil: For my pick, I’m going with Jeff Burton.
Mike N.: For Richmond? I think Kyle Busch makes it two in a row and heads into the Chase on top of the momentum wagon.
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