Frontstretch Staff · Friday November 22, 2013
Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every Thursday, 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:
Beth Lunkenheimer (Truckin’ Thursdays & Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter & Managing Editor)
Summer Bedgood (Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)
Mike N.: (Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)
Jimmie Johnson’s media tour began Monday morning after championship weekend, and he has appeared on a variety of shows in the process. How well does Johnson represent the sport? Was Brad Keselowski a better champion when it comes to the public shows?
Beth: I can’t really speak for the stuff Brad did because I missed most of it last year, but I did see Jimmie on Kelly & Michael Tuesday morning. He’s a very well-spoken driver and doesn’t come off as a guy who perpetuates the redneck stereotype, and that’s actually a good thing.
Mike N.: Johnson is a great representative for the sport and has done a fine job so far in his appearances. As for Keselowski, he’s a different representative. He’s a more social media aware champion, but Johnson is very comfortable in broadcasting situations and is a good spokesperson for the sport.
Summer: I saw Johnson on SportsCenter and a little on David Letterman. Johnson certainly does a lot to dispel the “redneck” notion in NASCAR, but nothing about him screams “Watch more races!” Brad appealed well to a young demographic, and that’s where NASCAR is struggling. However, Johnson at least is well-spoken.
Mike N.: When it comes to an advocate for the sport, I don’t know how much Johnson does in the big yellow trailer but Keselowski is much more vocal about what he wants for the sport in public.
Beth: Mike has a great point, though, as far as comparing the two. Both are great representatives for the sport in their own way.
Beth: I did find it hilarious that Jimmie and Michael Strahan were talking about Donovan McNabb’s comments this morning too. I’m not even touching McNabb’s statement though…
Mike N.: Johnson’s training focus is becoming more prominent after Donovan McNabb’s moronic statements after the race on Sunday. One interesting point, at least from a visible standpoint in the sport, Keselowski does more to give back to the sport from a standpoint of owning race teams and putting drivers in race seats to have a chance to move up.
Beth: That’s true, Mike, however owning a team isn’t for everyone. Just ask any owner that’s failed at it… And I’d be willing to bet that Penske has a pretty substantial influence when it comes to BKR.
Summer: Exactly and I think Johnson is perfectly happy just to be a driver.
Mike N.: I’m sure there is some influence but Brad had teams racing at the local level before he went to Penske. I just appreciate drivers who have made it to the top of the mountain giving back to the sport through training up and coming drivers and crew members through racing opportunities.
Beth: And there’s no reason to believe that Johnson won’t one day somewhere in the future, but I truly believe that a good deal of his success is his focus on the single task at hand. He doesn’t really race NW or Trucks (except VERY rarely), and he doesn’t have his hand in 15 different projects. He races in the Sprint Cup Series…and guess what: he has six championships too.
Mike N.: True point, we’re just discussing right now. I think Johnson’s representation of the sport is very well spoken and a good pitch man for the sport and the sanctioning body. I think Brad is a better spokesperson for the sport and the people involved in it. Just the feeling I get looking at both of them.
Summer: I think I would prefer Brad Keselowski being the face of NASCAR to a wider audience just because he can ratchet up the enthusiasm and really engage the people we need to start paying attention. But I wouldn’t say that I cringe when I see Johnson appearing on mainstream television. I think one thing he is great at doing is explaining things.
Summer: Johnson is a great spokesperson. Keselowski was more exciting. Both have their pros and cons but I don’t think either one of them represents the sport poorly.
Mike N.: Very true Summer. I’d like to see Johnson give people a little more of a glimpse into his life away from the track. I think it would let them realize how much funnier and human he is than they see after the races.
Beth: I don’t know that I would pinpoint one or the other as far as who represents the sport better. Both are great representatives and both have their own way of reaching mainstream, but neither one gives the sport a black eye when out in public.
Mike N.: I’m with you Beth. I don’t think one or the other is better or worse. They are different but both of them have been great spokespeople for the sport.
The 2013 season has come to a close and the season was full of crazy storylines. What was the most pressing storyline of the season and what will we remember the most when we think to the 2013 Sprint Cup Series year?
Mike N.: I think the biggest storyline of the season is wrapped up in one word. Integrity. The sanctioning body threw it around very haphazardly on multiple occasions during the year. While they were busy pointing the finger at teams and people in the sport, they needed to look in their own glass house because they raised far more integrity questions themselves over the course of the season.
Beth: Knock that off, Mike! Exactly what I wanted to say
Summer: I don’t think we’ll ever forget that 2013 was the year of the 13th driver, and it didn’t have to be.
Beth: And one incident created a snowball effect that just made the sanctioning body look awful and indecisive.
Mike N.: Mysterious debris cautions, drivers being rapidly restored to driving duty while crew members who completed the same program had to wait months to be reinstated.
Beth: This statement right here from Brian France probably says all we need to know about the integrity of the sport at this point in time: “I have the authority to do that, and we are going to do that.”
Summer: Seriously, that was the most frustrating quote to hear. It still pisses me off. And the thing is, no one can do a damn thing about it.
Beth: To me, that statements is more like saying “I’m the guy in charge and I can do what I want, when I want. End of discussion.”
Mike N.: It is his ball and if you don’t like it he’ll take it and go home.
Beth: Yes..he’s like a two-year-old with the ball…
Mike N.: They threw some teams under the bus for doing something perfectly legal while other teams violated rules and merely received a slap on the wrist.
Beth: I think a lot of my issues with the season really stem from the whole Richmond debacle.
Summer: Richmond brought to light a lot of issues, and not all of them had to do with MWR.
Beth: Truex, who to my understanding was an innocent victim in the whole Richmond spin, was punished heavily; so heavily that he lost his sponsor, his crew chief and his ride, while Bowyer merely got a slap on the wrist.
Summer: I’d love there to be some sort of unofficial “election”, where NASCAR fans (or drivers, or people in the industry) vote on who would be the best leader in NASCAR.
Mike N.: The thing that really bothers me about that quote is that Big Bill and Bill Jr. used the same logic when they did things but you felt like they had the best interest of the sport in mind. With Brian you feel like he’s a petulant little punk. Big Bill routinely reminded drivers that NASCAR was his sport and that it would continue with or without them. So did Bill Jr. And don’t forget the first Talladega race or the threatened drivers’ union.
Beth: I’m sure they may have had that mentality, but I don’t remember them coming out and saying so…
Summer: Right, Beth. It was one thing for Brian to say “It was an unusual circumstances, so we had to make that call”…which they did…but to compound that by saying “Oh, and by the way, we can so we are.” That’s not even right.
Beth: That’s my point, Summer. I’m pulling the rest of the quote just to explain it more: “We believe that there were too many things that altered the event that gave an unfair disadvantage to Jeff and his team, who would have qualified. It’s just the right thing to do.” Had he stopped there, I don’t think I would have had nearly the problem, but that next sentence is what really soured me on the whole thing.
Summer: Right. I felt the same way. I’ll admit that adding a 13th driver to the Chase left a bad taste in my mouth, but I understood the reasoning behind it. But when he said “We want to and we’re going to because screw you guys”…. I can’t accept that.
Mike N.: And that is the great thing. It wasn’t the right thing to do. Outside of Bowyer’s spin, everything else was legal within the rules. If you don’t like it, change the rules, don’t change the outcome because you don’t like it. The disadvantage for Jeff’s team was they didn’t run well enough to qualify for the Chase.
Summer: Well, no, I don’t think it was the right thing to do. But I think NASCAR felt forced into it. You know what’s interesting about that, though, is that it was Carl Edwards who finished 13th?
I think Jeff Gordon finished, what, sixth or something?
Mike N.: Exactly. Without the current 24 hour news cycle in which we live, that never would have happened.
Summer: He sure as hell made the most of what he had.
Mike N.: Yes he did. Thank God he didn’t win though. That would have made the post season insane.
Summer: So… I think this whole discussion proves one thing. Richmond was the real defining moment of this season. For once, Johnson has been largely overshadowed.
Beth: Which is sad because winning six championships isn’t exactly easy to do…
Mike N.: Not to mention six in eight years…and the youngest of the three to accomplish it. NASCAR really needs to work on transparency for 2014. The sport is getting close to collapsing upon itself and the sanctioning body really needs to try and prop it up before it completely crumbles.
The Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series both crowned a champion, as well as a couple of riveting owners championships. Interestingly enough, Austin Dillon won the Nationwide Series championship without a victory. Does that de-legitimize the championship or does that make their season all the more impressive?
Summer: I see both sides of it. It kind of sucks that you don’t NEED a win to win a championship, though part of that has to do with the Cup Series regulars racing every week. However, it’s impressive that they were that consistent.
Mike N.: For those of us who feel like the Chase de-legitimizes the Championship, Dillon’s truly legitimizes the Nationwide Series. Those of us who want the champion to be a season champ appreciate he did it without winning a race. That said, it would be nice to see winning races rewarded a little more so that it might not have happened that way. But such is our new, simplified point system.
Summer: I don’t’ know, I’d argue that the old points system—even pre-Chase—didn’t require wins. Such as Kenseth’s 2003 season. I know he had that one victory, but really that’s what spurred the change in the first place.
Mike N.: No, but you received more points for finishing up front.
Beth: It’s hard for the Nationwide champ to win a race when 27 of the 33 races were won by Cup regulars… And two of the other races were from single race entries….so that left just four races for NW regulars in victory lane.
Summer: I don’t know that NASCAR can do a whole lot with the points system that doesn’t reward consistency, and I don’t know that it should. Consistency should be rewarded too.
Beth: I do feel like race wins should be a significantly higher point value, though. It takes hard work and dedication to get to victory lane in NASCAR these days, especially if you’ve got to beat Cup regulars with their larger budgets.
Mike N.: Consistency should be rewarded but I’d like to see people able to make up ground when they fall behind so there is incentive to push for better finishes.
Summer: It absolutely should and three points isn’t enough. I would love for there to be a much larger point gap between first and second.
Mike N.: Me too, but apparently, anyone who is a NASCAR fan can’t comprehend math above second grade level.
Summer: I don’t mind the simplified points system. Anyone who turns on a NASCAR race randomly can see who needs to make up however many points with just the points gap. That’s fine. But winning needs to be more important.
Beth: So let’s make it really simple. Stick mostly with the current points system, but instead of a three point bonus for the victory, make it 25. And why not throw in points for qualifying as well? Even if it’s only a single point. Rain delays? I’ve figured that one out too…no one gets a bonus point that week for qualifying.
Summer: Right. I don’t think they need to do any more than that.
Mike N.: The problem there is if you are running fifth, there’s no incentive to try for fourth. Would be nice to see points added for top 5. Although, once they put in heat races, they’ll hopefully pay points for those.
Summer: “Once” they put in heat race? Gosh, I hope that it’s an inevitability.
Beth: So what if we did 25 points more for a win and and extra five per position in the top 5? 20 for second, 15 for third, 10 for fourth and 5 for fifth?
Mike N.: I’m all for it Beth. I think that would be great.
Beth: Gap between first and second not enough? Tack on another five so the difference between first and second is worth ten points. I guarantee these drivers wouldn’t be points racing as much as they do now.
Mike N.: Probably a good idea. You get 30 for the win, 20 for second and so on. Also throw in a one-time 500 point bonus for the first win of the season to make winning a race key to winning the title.
Summer: I think what we’re all TRYING to say here, folks, is that Dillon deserved that championship, but seeing the need for wins become more of a premium would certainly not be a bad thing.
Mike N.: Dillon’s title is very legitimate. And for those folks who think the caution flags at Homestead made a difference, they didn’t. He still would have won because the people behind with tires all passed him who were going to.
Beth: Especially since NASCAR isn’t going to keep the Cup guys from taking wins away…
The offseason is upon us, but 2014 will be here soon. What are you most looking forward to next year?
Mike N.: I know this is sentimental and will get bashed by many, but I really can’t wait to see the No. 3 on the track in a Cup race again.
Summer: I’ve been thinking about the answer to that question this whole time, and I don’t know how to answer. Honestly, I think 2011 was both the best and the worst thing for this sport. I want another tie. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they were kind of fun to watch, but it felt like a “lite” version of the championship. Like, we’ll settle for it because that’s all we have.
Beth: And not an owners’ championship tie, right? It made a little more sense in trucks simply because ThorSport really deserved to have that one locked up along with the driver championship.
Summer: Ugh… No.
Beth: Honestly…Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart on the same team. Harvick/Stewart/Busch…those are three very strong personalities. Even if there isn’t a public blowup, I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that shop on Mondays.
Mike N.: That is going to be a close second Beth. I just can’t imagine they’ll make it through the whole season without a blow up.
Beth: And it’s not Cup, but I sincerely hope that Kyle Busch Motorsports can find the funding to continue in the Truck Series next year.
Summer: Why does everyone think that? Harvick and Stewart are already friends, so I don’t think they will be the problem. Busch will continue to have his meltdowns, but I don’t see why that makes his teammates targets.
Mike N.: Although, I never would have bet Harvick and Martin would make it through the whole season together, but they did. Busch and Stewart are FAR from friends. And Harvick and Stewart are buddies but have never had to work together as teammates for a season.
Beth: Honestly, Summer…because they all three have such strong personalities. Friendships or not, strong personalities will eventually butt heads.
Summer: Is Busch friends with ANYONE though? I mean really. He could come to blows with anyone, teammates or not.
Beth: I don’t think that’s as true this year as it was last year, though. You have to admit…it was impressive to see him stay out of trouble all season.
Mike N.: Yes it was.
Summer: Talk about setting the bar low. He didn’t win a race but by golly he didn’t cuss out any reporters…
Beth: No…he only helped Furniture Row make the Chase, nearly won several times, didn’t get into on-track altercations and kept his cool throughout. And for Kurt, that’s a HUGE accomplishment.
Beth: But other than that potential, you’ve got Truex in his new ride. Will he be able to perform to the level that Busch set this year?
Summer: I’m not saying what he did wasn’t impressive, but I think it’s hardly commendable that he didn’t have any major public meltdowns.
Beth: Considering his history, it absolutely is…
Mike N.: Another great one to watch will be Allgaier, Dillon and Larson running for Rookie of the Year.
Beth: That rookie battle will be the best we’ve seen in a while.
Summer: Yes, it will be nice to have a real rookie battle. Speaking of which, I’m sooooo freaking happy this one’s is over. I don’t think I need to explain why. I’d just about had it with the freaking “who’s on top THIS week” jokes.
Mike N.: I’m still bummed they didn’t have Ricky and Danica introduce each other at Charlotte.
Beth: I’m looking forward to new talent in the Truck Series. We’ve already got Tyler Reddick coming in, and I’ve heard Dylan Kwasniewski’s name mentioned.
Mike N.: Wondering if Coulter will be back in the No. 18.
Beth: I’m actually thinking it might be more likely he’ll go back to RCR.
OK guys since there is no race to make any predictions… who will have the best speech at the banquet this year?
Mike N.: I’m going with Kenseth.
Beth: I’d say either Kenseth or Johnson, though I’m leaning the same way Mike is.
Summer: I’ll say Bowyer. Richmond or not, he can still entertain the room.
Mike N.: Very true, Summer
Beth: It’s so dumb that the banquet is being broadcast on FS2 first.
Summer: I have that channel so I’ll get to see it, but I sympathize with those who don’t.
Mike N.: The whole FS thing is horrible. I can’t wait for that contract to go away.
Summer: I’m hoping someone picks it up and streams it online.
Connect with Beth!
Contact Beth Lunkenheimer
Connect with Summer!
Contact Summer Bedgood
©2000 - 2008 Frontstretch Staff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!