Frontstretch Staff · Saturday October 5, 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)
NASCAR has fined Nelson Piquet Jr. for using a homophobic slur against fellow driver Parker Kligerman to the tune of $10,000. In addition, he has to take some sensitivity training. Did NASCAR make the right call here?
Phil: Nelson needs to learn one of the big lessons in public life. Don’t be a moron.
Summer: I don’t think he meant the comment in spite or hatred, but that’s just one of those things you don’t say in public.
Phil: Based on what he did, I know Nelson’s intent. He wasn’t being homophobic towards Parker. It’s the kind of thing that teenagers say to each other all the time.
Summer: I don’t know that I agree with NASCAR getting involved like that. It was one of those situations where they had to react for the public’s sake.
Phil: Doesn’t make it right, though.
Summer: Right. There was no malicious intent.
Phil: They drew more attention to it by reacting. When I saw the press release come in on Tuesday, my reaction was “What? For what?”
Summer: I didn’t know about it either. I took to Twitter and was really confused.
Phil: I had no clue. Yes, I’m on Instagram, but I don’t follow Piquet or Kligerman. Those two dudes probably hang out together.
Summer: I wonder, though, why they chose to make Nelson take sensitivity training but Jeremy Clements got suspended for his racial comments.
Phil: Clements was suspended for something he did at the track, and within earshot of someone working for NASCAR. Not a good move.
Summer: And Piquet did it on a public forum. What difference does it make?
Phil: The comment that got Piquet suspended was posted as a comment on an Instagram picture that Kligerman posted.
Summer: Yeah, but it was in full view by thousands of people, including NASCAR. That’s why they reacted at all. Had the comment been made in an e-mail or text message, it wouldn’t matter. I would think that this would be more harmful of a comment because it was made in public. For Clements, he was having a private conversation.
Phil: If anything, NASCAR reacting like this puts them in line with everyone else these days. That stuff just isn’t tolerable anymore. I have no idea what this sensitivity training’s going to consist of, though. I just hope it’s not laughable.
Summer: I think it’s politically correct overreacting, but I know a lot of people disagree with me. If Nelson didn’t mean any harm, it doesn’t really matter to me.
Phil: I think he has to do it, though because if he doesn’t, good bye ride and good bye money.
Summer: Well, yeah, no one would want to support him. At least now they can say, “Well he took sensitivity training! He’s not a bad person anymore!” I wonder what Kligerman thinks of it. He joked right back with Piquet. He obviously didn’t care.
Phil: Well, the whole thing reeks of political correctness. I don’t know what most fans are going to think about this. NASCAR fans have never struck me as all that PC. Or sports fans in general.
Summer: No, they aren’t, and honestly I don’t think anyone really cared all that much when this happened. NASCAR blew it up by drawing attention to it at all. I bet you more people laughed than got angry.
Phil: Probably. It’s all about context. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to see that context when it’s just a couple of people talking on the internet.
Summer: I don’t really think NASCAR needed to do anything, but I understand why they did. I don’t think it was a necessary penalty or that Piquet needed sensitivity training. But at least he’s still allowed to race.
Michael Waltrip Racing has themselves in a pickle when it comes to running three full-time cars in 2013, with the team having to find full-time backing for Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 56 car next season. Waltrip has told Truex they won’t keep him there if he finds another ride, despite the fact that he has a contract with the team for another year. Should Truex stay?
Summer: I would say no, but the options are limited. I don’t think Truex would be well served by going to Furniture Row. And JGR has shot down the idea of a fourth car.
Phil: It’s a quandary for Truex. If Robert Kauffman steps up and funds the car himself, I’d say that he might as well stay. There isn’t really anything better out there.
Summer: He won’t fund the entire season solely with his company. They still need to find funding for a majority of the races, even if Kauffman does help out.
Phil: Despite the stupidity of recent weeks, MWR is still a strong organization. I think the team will be able to find something.
Summer: They’ve just made it that much tougher on themselves.
Phil: Maybe MWR’s ties with AF Corse in Europe could be beneficial here. They could get in touch with interested European outfits.
Summer: I think Truex should stay simply because there is nowhere else to go. MWR is the best option, and not a bad one. They just need to learn what the word “subtle” means. But I’m not sure a European company has a ton of marketing potential in NASCAR.
Phil: More like “Quit being a bunch of idiots and sore losers.”
Summer: Well they aren’t going to actually stop trying to get all three of their teams to finish as well as possible. Every team manipulates the race to some extent. They just need to not suck at it and not attempt these plans.
Phil: As for the European companies, if they’re some kind of player here in the U.S. market, they can use NASCAR to their advantage.
Summer: I guess that’s true. But they would have to have some kind of national standing or no one would care.
Phil: I have confidence that MWR will be able to find something for Truex. Not on the level of NAPA, but something. MWR is generally considered to be pretty good at finding sponsors by Cup standards.
Summer: I agree with you. But I almost feel like it will have to be someone from outside the sport and who doesn’t really understand the depth of what happened. Or a company that doesn’t mind controversy and enjoys being in the center of any publicity. Kind of the way NOS or Monster Energy had been with the Busch brothers.
Phil: Unfortunately for MWR, NOS and Monster are already taken.
Summer: Well, I was just using them as examples. Like I said, I think the sponsor will either be new or someone who has been away from the sport for a long time. Anyways, if more quality rides were available, I’d see Truex should separate himself from MWR as far as possible. But that’s not an option, so he needs to just hope this works out.
Phil: MWR will likely find some backing for Truex. It won’t be a full-season deal by any means, so they’ll have to find a way to supplement it. They’ll be around next year, though.
Marty Reid was fired as a result of calling the race early during the Nationwide Series race at Kentucky when Ryan Blaney took the win, and it wasn’t the first time he had done that this year. However, was that worth getting fired over?
Phil: Believe me. I’ve watched a lot of Marty Reid over the past 5 years. More than any rational person should. Kentucky wasn’t an isolated event.
Summer: I don’t think it was worth losing any and all employment with ESPN. But I think it’s strange he’s done that so many times. I know it’s not. In fact, if I remember right, he did that earlier this year, didn’t he?
Phil: Reid has over 30 years’ seniority in TV. However, it seems like he fell apart towards the end of 2010, when he was the full-time play-by-play man on ESPN. Since then, well, you’ve seen the fail compilations on YouTube.
Summer: For the sake of playing devil’s advocate, doesn’t every commentator have their screw-ups? It is like TV after all.
Phil: Oh yes, but rarely are they anywhere near as bad as what Reid did. I liked ESPN pairing Reid up with Ricky Craven, but it seemed like Craven was carrying Reid at times. I think he just ran out of gas. Here’s a direct quote on the issue of screwing up from Allen Bestwick: “When words come out of your mouth, there’s no backspace, and no spell check. There it is, world [whether it’s right or not].”
Summer: I guess not, though I’m sympathetic. When Marty did that, I kind of felt for him. It doesn’t get a whole lot more embarrassing than that.
Phil: You can’t take back your screw-ups. The thing is, Reid had made the same mistake in the past.
Summer: I bet you Allen Bestwick has his share of screw-ups, too.
Phil: Sure he has. Nowhere near as blatant, though.
Summer: I understand what you’re saying and I don’t fully disagree. It just bugs me because he wasn’t always terrible. I’m sure he could have done other sports just fine.
Phil: The thing is, Reid had a long line of them in a short amount of time. This is the same guy who screwed up the names of his own boothmates at Indy last year.
Summer: Maybe racing just wasn’t the best fit for him. Or, like you said, he ran out of gas. He’s past his prime. I guess that happens to commentators, too. I’m struggling with my sympathetic side and rational side here.
Phil: The thing with Reid is that I’ve never seen him on TV not covering racing. That’s what he’s done since the early 1980s. In my critique this week, I compared Reid to Bernie Kozar when he got benched by Bill Belichick for “Diminishing Skills” in 1993. That’s my general belief. Remember, in 2009, Reid was viewed as a great alternative in the broadcast booth to Dr. Jerry Punch.
Summer: I just find it disheartening that Reid has such a storied career and it goes down like this.
Phil: Yeah, I know. I never thought it was going to come to this in the middle of the season. Admittedly, I liked Reid better in the standalone Busch/Nationwide races than anything else.
Summer: I know, right? It’s not like he was blubbering in the booth all the time. I kind of wished they would have found something different for Reid to do, or something like that. It just sucks to see him go out like that.
Phil: The first I heard of the move was when your husband tweeted about it in the middle of Sunday’s AAA 400. I was shocked. Let’s be honest here. I’m not the only person that critiques Reid’s performance. ESPN critiques internally as well. They thought that he was hurting their telecast, and he had to go. It’s a shame. I think he’ll land somewhere. Maybe back doing off-road racing.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. nearly won the race at Dover last week, with a few missteps during the race that ultimately led to a second place. Will that strong run give Earnhardt momentum the rest of the year and will he win a race before the year is up?
Phil: I’m not sure if he’ll win, but getting an extra dose of “Big ‘Mo” never hurts.
Summer: No, I don’t think he will win the rest of the year. He’ll get a couple more top 5s and that’s it. Reason being is that the teams that are good are just too good, and that No. 88 team just isn’t there.
Phil: What excites me here is that Earnhardt Jr. was able to overcome all the screw-ups and still get that second.
Summer: That was good, but at the same time, the problem is that they had all those mistakes in the first place. If they hadn’t, they would have won.
Phil: But it’s a step in the right direction for the No. 88 team in general.
Summer: Yeah, and they could easily self-destruct next week.
Phil: The problem with saying that, Summer, is that we don’t know if Earnhardt Jr. would have won without the mistakes. Johnson would have been a tough out either way.
Summer: Well, we don’t “know” but I would say the chances would be much higher. It’s so strange to watch them. They are obviously a good team but they are so terrible at just maintaining. Consistency and flawless races are outside of their lexicon.
Phil: I suppose. Getting over that hump has been an issue for Earnhardt Jr. for years. We’re talking about someone that has only won three races since 2006.
Summer: They have these great races, and the next week, they finish outside of the top 15. They have zero consistency. You can’t win races like that, let alone championships. It’s what that 48 team is so good at. Even when they aren’t dominating, they are still within earshot of the leader.
Phil: With Earnhardt Jr., success and strife seems to come in bunches. They’ll have a number of good runs in a row, then a couple of races where they finish in the 20s or 30s.
Summer: Right. It’s such a mixed bag that it’s hard to take them seriously. I know Earnhardt isn’t a terrible driver, Letarte isn’t a terrible crew, and the 88 team isn’t terrible. But they just don’t have that spark to be good all the time. So, no, I don’t think they will win the rest of the year.
Phil: I think it’s possible, but I don’t know where. It could be Talladega, but anyone can win there, provided that he doesn’t get caught up in a wreck.
Summer: I really don’t think Earnhardt will win this year. I mean, yes, they could. But I don’t believe they will.
Phil: Of the remaining tracks on the schedule, Earnhardt Jr. only ran well at Phoenix back in March. The rest featured finishes outside of the top 15. I don’t think they’ll be quite as painful as they were in the Spring, but he probably won’t win.
Summer: And they could surprise us all and finish in the top five. This team is as unpredictable as Talladega.
Phil: Hard to imagine that it’s been 9 years since Earnhardt Jr. won at Talladega.
Predictions for Kansas?
Summer: I think it will be Jimmie Johnson with two in a row.
Phil: For this week, I’m going with Brad Keselowski.
Connect with Summer!
Contact Summer Bedgood
Connect with Phil!
Contact Phil Allaway
©2000 - 2008 Frontstretch Staff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!