Frontstretch Staff · Thursday October 24, 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 faced some controversy from fans for not letting the drivers race back to the checkered flag after a huge wreck on the backstretch on Talladega’s last lap. Did NASCAR make the right call, or do they need to revise their rules?
Phil: Given the circumstances, I think that NASCAR may have overreacted. I almost think that NASCAR thought Dillon might have ended up in the catchfence, or either Dillon or Mears were injured in the crash.
Summer: They had to make a split-second decision and I think they made the wrong one. However, I don’t completely fault them for it. That’s one of those “better safe than sorry” moments. Part of me wishes they would say that the cars have to finish the race under green no matter what. I know the problem with that is that we’d wind up having five or more attempts at a green-white-checkered, in some cases…
Phil: At Talladega? I wouldn’t be surprised. Anywhere other than there and Daytona? It wouldn’t take any more than two. Of course, if you’re talking 4 GWC’s at Talladega, that’s like 40 extra miles.
Summer: I agree with you, but that’s one of the few places they would need it. That’s not to say that any other tracks haven’t had three attempts at GWC and still finished under yellow. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I’m sure it’s happened. It’s just not really a practical solution. It’s more of a want for some excitement. I don’t think there is a fan in NASCAR who wouldn’t like to see every race finish under green, but that’s not always practical.
Phil: There was that Truck race at Gateway in 2004 that had four (it was, interestingly enough, the week before they instituted the one GWC-only rule).
Summer: I had forgotten why they started it. I think GWCs are a good thing because they at least try to get fans a green finish. That’s valuable, at the very least for the fans who are at the track.
Phil: The first time NASCAR tried to prevent a race from finishing under yellow that I remember was June 6, 1998 at Richmond. They threw a red flag after a late yellow. Still didn’t work, but they did it. Yeah, the GWCs can be valuable for fans at the track. However, I believe that people have become spoiled by them.
Summer: Right. Like I said, it’s certainly something that they should do. But it’s hard to make that call over and over and over again. In other words, it’s hard to put the right number on how many times they should try.
Phil: Same thing happened with the red flags in the final 10 laps. As soon as stuff didn’t go the right way, people started throwing stuff.
Summer: It’s a valid point. NASCAR can make three tries and we’d still be disappointed. Like I said, though, the screw-up here was the “the next flag ends the race” rule.
Phil: Yeah, but that’s just the result of killing racing back to cautions. That was only done because Casey Mears, among others decided to be a moron at Loudon in 2003.
Summer: Like I said, it’s a fine line between more bang for your buck and not turning it into a wrecking derby. I don’t have a solution that will please everyone.
Phil: With racing the way it is currently at plate tracks, a GWC is license to turn a race into a demolition derby. They’re wrecking on the straights, as well as the turns. At least Sunday’s race didn’t tear up too much stuff.
Todd Parrott was suspended by NASCAR and fired from Richard Petty Motorsports for violating the sport’s substance abuse policy. Even though Parrott has already applied for NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program, does he deserve to have his job back at some point?
Phil: My guess is probably not (at least, not at RPM). We’re well past the point of the “handshake deal on a napkin.” Parrott’s contract was probably full of conditions and there was likely an article in there that stated something along the lines of a drug test failure was grounds for immediate dismissal. Having said that, once he completes the Road to Recovery and is reinstated, he should be able to work again in some capacity. It probably shouldn’t be career-ending.
Summer: If he goes through the program, I think he deserves to get a job. I wouldn’t blame RPM for not hiring him back, but it’s not like he can’t right himself if he really does have a problem. I’m not saying RPM shouldn’t have fired him, either. I absolutely understand why they made that decision. I just think that everyone deserves a second chance if they take the necessary steps.
Phil: He’ll get another chance in however long it takes to right himself. Parrott’s got a pretty good track record as a crew chief. I just don’t think that the next job will be with a team as high up the ladder as RPM. Might end up with something like BK Racing, or Circle Sport. From there, he’ll have to build himself back up. Won’t be easy, though. Staying sober will be tough enough. He’ll have to regain the trust of a lot of people as well.
Summer: It’s not coming without a lot of work and effort on his part, but I’m not sure he deserves to be out of the sport forever. I think the fact that he wants to go through the program is admirable enough. He’s not taking the Jeremy Mayfield approach of fighting the system.
Phil: The Mayfield method is the way to go if you want to go down in flames.
Summer: Exactly. Parrott admits he has a problem, and he can right himself.
Phil: Parrott’s conquered Step 1 at least. He admits that he’s got problems and needs help. It takes a long time for people to get there.
Kyle Busch Motorsports just recently had to lay off 10 employees and has faced the same search for funding and financial troubles that the rest of the sport has. Is it even worth the trouble for Busch to continue running this team?
Phil: If he can find backing, sure. Finding sponsorship is troublesome for everyone these days. I was thinking about this earlier today. I think that the amount of sponsorship available is at something like 2000 level, but costs have probably doubled since then. It’s tough.
Summer: I heard Busch say that the reason he keeps doing it is essentially for the employees. Even he admitted that it’s not a profitable investment anymore.
Phil: I don’t know if any race team is a “profitable investment,” even in good times.
Summer: I hope you’re wrong about that, but I can’t argue the point. I don’t think anyone would have teams if they didn’t make money off it. But right now, it’s not trending upwards. That’s what’s tough. And that’s just in the Cup Series. The Truck and Nationwide Series are darn near impossible.
Phil: I tend to use the term “Money Pit.” Heck, this is a sport where teams that race local dirt tracks here in New York have transporters almost as lavish as Nationwide teams.
Summer: Yeah, and then you’ll look down the infield and see a little, rinky dink trailer pulled by a pick-up.
Phil: True, you’ll see that as well. Often, they’re parked right next to each other.
Summer: There are rich teams in every level of racing. I think the bigger difference is that the teams fund themselves at those levels from the money of whatever relative has it. It’s quite a divide.
Phil: Relatives, or whatever dude wants to promote his company. The statement about Busch mentioning that his team isn’t really profitable is probably the main reason why you see him driving the No. 51 in the Truck Series. By stomping everyone, he’s using himself to promote the team.
Summer: I’d say that the relative with a lot of money or a business owner that knows somebody is much more likely to fund a race team than someone who actually thinks that it’s valuable. As for Busch promoting himself, I agree, and I don’t really blame him for that. He’s the only one who can win consistently and that gets more attention from big money sponsors.
Phil: True. At this point, I think Kyle Busch doesn’t just race for money. Heck, he didn’t make a dime off winning the Nationwide race at Charlotte a while back. The dude just loves to win, and he’s an incredibly sore loser. Trophy Lust. Can’t describe it any better than that.
Summer: Well, of course he races as much as he wants to, as much as he can. I’m sure that’s part of it. But he also knows there is a benefit to it.
Phil: Having said all that, if Kyle can find a way to make it work in any way, KBM will continue. I don’t know if Parker Kligerman’s going to be back, or what’s going to happen to Chad Hackenbracht, but he’ll find a way for KBM to compete next year.
Summer: Kyle will make it work because he’s a racer at heart and he wants to make it work. He also has a heart for his employees, which I think is admirable. Eventually, I think that this race team will be a good thing for him.
Now that we’re past the “wild card” of Talladega, the championship is on. As we head into Martinsville, all eyes are on Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. The last two championship battles have been exciting, all the way up to the end. Will this one live up to some of the close races we’ve had at Homestead?
Phil: It seems like it might. However, Kenseth is not the best at Martinsville. Of course, Brian Vickers isn’t going to be around to knock the bejesus out of him this week.
Summer: Ha! Yeah, Matt Kenseth has shown to be a lot of things people didn’t think he was anymore.
Phil: This weekend might be the key for Kenseth. We know what Johnson can do at Martinsville. Having said that, I don’t think Jimmie’s taking home another clock on Sunday.
Summer: Something tells me Kenseth will be fine at Martinsville. He’s at a disadvantage considering that it’s Johnson who will be in Victory Lane, more than likely. So in Johnson vs. the field, you choose the field?
Phil: You’re dang right I’m going with the field.
Summer: I don’t think that’s necessarily going out on a limb, but I wouldn’t be surprised either way. I will be surprised if Kenseth wins on Sunday, though.
Phil: Also, just playing it safe and staying on the lead lap won’t guarantee you a good finish at the clip anymore. Used to be that staying on the lead lap got you a top 10. Now, with the Lucky Dogs and wave arounds and a closer field, you might have 22 on the lead lap at the finish. Kenseth has to be aggressive Sunday, but not crazy. Can’t run over the curbs, or tick someone off.
Summer: Those aren’t things he normally does anyway. That’s why I think he’ll be fine. He’s a smart racer. When Martinsville is your biggest obstacle and there are four races left, I’d say he’s in good standing.
Phil: Johnson will just be himself. That’s proven to be enough to get a great finish. However, we can’t discount random occurrences, like the restart where he got dumped last year.
Summer: No, you can’t discount that anywhere. But if everything goes well for both of them, they will both be top 10 if not top 5.
Phil: I feel like Johnson would be disappointed if he didn’t get a top-5 result. Fifth is average for him there. Luckily, Kenseth did lead 96 laps at Martinsville in the Spring, so he’s got that in his pocket.
Summer: I don’t think Kenseth will be disappointed if Johnson finishes anywhere ahead of him, especially if it’s by a lot. I think Kenseth partially had the Roush Martinsville curse on him for some time. It’s not like he’s a crappy short track driver.
Phil: I think he’d be pretty disappointed if Johnson destroyed him. Beyond Sunday, we’ve got two intermediates, which Kenseth has done very well at this year, and Phoenix. Kenseth’s best finish in the last four Fall races at Martinsville is 14th. He needs to punch above his weight.
Summer: I think both drivers will be fine in Martinsville and I think, if that’s the case, we’ll be in for a hell of a show in Homestead.
Phil: If he can pull down a good run Sunday, then it’s on. If something unexpected goes down, then we could drag a couple more guys into the scrum. It should be noted that among the group of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon, at least one of those three will beat both Kenseth and Johnson Sunday. I expect it.
Predictions for Martinsville?
Summer: I’m going to pick Dale Earnhardt, Jr. just because.
Phil: To win, I’m going to go with Kyle Busch. I think he can keep himself in check long enough to outduel Gordon, Johnson and the others.
Connect with Summer!
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Connect with Phil!
Contact Phil Allaway
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