NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Best of Mirror Driving: Lions, Tigers & Tony Stewart

Editor’s Note: With the offseason in full swing, Mirror Driving is off this week. Look for a brand new edition to come out next week before the holidays! In its place, we bring you this classic Mirror Driving column from July… a solid reminder of how some problems remain unsolved long after the season fades away.

Welcome to Mirror Driving. Every week, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest news from the past week or race weekend. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

This week’s participants:
Ren Jonsin (Frontstretch Publisher)
Jeff Meyer (Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Cami Starr (Tuesdays/Who’s Hot, Who’s Not AND Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Race Trax AND Tuesdays/That’s History)
Mike Neff (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans AND Fridays/Full Throttle)

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards both got penalized for rough driving Sunday at Pocono. Do you think the penalties were fair in each incident and consistent with what NASCAR has been doing lately? Also, why no penalty for Dave Blaney hitting Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

Jeff: Yes, both penalties were very fair. Blaney was trying to bump-draft, not wreck Junior, and Junior knows it.
Amy: Fair? Absolutely. Consistent? Ummm… Blaney didn’t hit Junior on purpose. Both Tony and Carl’s penalties were absolutely warranted, because there was no doubt either was intentional. Especially since both drivers said so afterwards.
Ren: Yeah, both were fair. Tony’s was definitely warranted, and then Carl went and spun him on PIT ROAD. Not real cool, no matter which way he spun him.
Cami: Well, Blaney was a good non-call. I think NASCAR was consistent on penalizing both Carl and Tony. Both were good calls.
Mike: I think they were fair, I think they should have done the same thing about five times in Loudon the week before, though.
Cami: That apology on Monday really didn’t sound like it was from Tony.
Ren: I think Joe Gibbs made Tony grab his sharpest crayon and issue that apology on Monday.
Mike: Yeah, that apology sounded like it was demanded from the principal.
Jeff: You know, Carl did intentionally spin Tony to the outside at reduced speed. If anything, Tony should have had a bigger penalty because they were at race speed when he spun Bowyer out.
Amy: I don’t agree there, Jeff… on pit road, crews don’t have 3,400-pound cars to protect them, and so it’s equally dangerous.
Mike: I agree with Amy. NASCAR frowns on that kind of stuff, especially on pit road when there are “innocent bystanders” around.
Jeff: I think Carl was sending Tony a message that even though he may be a “veteran,” they ain’t gonna take his crap.
Cami: I thought it was funny to hear Edwards saying he would have liked to bloody Tony’s face on pit road. I’ll give him points for that.
Mike: Cousin Carl was pretty worked up. I think he could be pretty tough in a scrap.
Amy: I think NASCAR got it right all around. The penalties were called for and consistent with each other.
Mike: Yep, just not consistent with the rest of the year.
Amy: I disagree… NASCAR HAS penalized drivers when they are pretty sure a crash was intentional. If it looks iffy, they let it go, as they should.
Cami: One thing I found interesting was how quick NASCAR mentioned that neither driver could use the Lucky Dog to get a lap back. Didn’t we just discuss that a few weeks ago when that happened to Carl in the Busch Series?
Mike: Yeah Cami, I thought of Amy as soon as they said that.
Amy: I noticed that, too… they did give Carl his lap back at Daytona.
Cami: NASCAR must be finally listening to Amy.
Ren: Well, that was because the other penalty was for speeding on pit road, not aggressive driving.
Amy: No, they penalized Edwards at Daytona for rough driving and then gave him the Lucky Dog.
Ren: Everything is up to NASCAR’s discretion.
Mike: I didn’t think Loudon looked too iffy when Robby Gordon brake-checked Mikey and screwed Elliott Sadler and Denny Hamlin out of a good finish though.
Jeff: I looked at that again, and it looked to me more like Mikey wasn’t paying attention.
Mike: He had no chance Jeff. That was out of the blue.
Amy: I don’t know, Mike. Mikey looked like he had time to slow down and had a brain fart.
Jeff: Mikey had plenty of chances to miss him.
Amy: The whole field slowed up right in front of Robby, he didn’t have a choice.
Mike: I must be seeing something differently. The entire Robby Gordon fan club felt the same way in responding to my column this week.
Jeff: Both of them?!
Cami: Yeah, you made a lot of friends there, Mike.

After another year of what many called lackluster racing at Pocono, is it time to shorten the gracing from 500 to 400 miles? Has the new gear rule, which eliminated attrition, actually hurt the events more than help them?

Jeff: No; there are too many shortened races now. That’s what “Cup Lite”, er, Busch is for.
Mike: I’m with you, Jeff. I would like to see more 500-mile races. I miss 500 miles at Dover.
Cami: I didn’t think the racing was all that bad, what I saw of it, that is. We even got to see some two- and three-wide racing when they panned back from the leader.
Ren: How about just one Pocono race 1,000 miles long? They are so close together, it’s almost like that now.
Jeff: That would free up a date too, Ren! Genius.
Cami: Just do the 24 hours of Pocono and that’d be perfect.
Mike: I’m more for that, Ren. I’d like to see that, and give a date to North Wilkesboro or Rockingham.
Ren: At least Pocono’s not a cookie-cutter track.
Jeff: Just don’t let TNT broadcast the race, Ren.
Mike: Hell no. I’m timing the commercials next race. That seemed obscene this week to me. And after TNT caught almost every restart the week before, they missed almost every one this week.
Ren: I don’t notice the commercials.
Jeff: Longest I saw was eight laps of green, except for maybe at the end.
Ren: Here’s what happened on the restarts; Hamlin went into the lead!
Cami: Why did TNT show the Cup race when Busch got NBC?
Mike: ESPN is the best. Can’t wait for next year.
Ren: Because NBC/TNT are lame ducks, really.
Amy: As long as I don’t have to listen to Larry and Darrell, I’m OK with it. NBC doesn’t miss more cautions or restarts than FOX did, anyway.
Cami: I like this group better. Plus, they do Through the Field. Fox doesn’t do anything like that.
Mike: They at least go pretty deep in the field. They still don’t let you know how Jimmy Spencer is doing, though.
Jeff: They play sooooo many commercials, how could the network NOT be in one when the yellow comes out.
Cami: I think we notice TNT commercials more because they show the same ones all the time.
Amy: I still don’t think there are MORE commercials on TNT… they show a smaller number more often, but I’d bet the time on ads is the same or close.
Mike: I’m going to time it at Indy. Back to the question from earlier, I think all Cup races should be 500 miles. Give me 1,000 laps at Bristol, baby.
Cami: I don’t know if I’d want 500 miles at some tracks though. That would be torture.
Mike: I can’t have enough. I’d love to see 500 miles or more everywhere.
Amy: 500 at Loudon would last approximately three years.
Mike: Works for me.
Amy: Well Mike, the 500 at Dover DID take approximately three years, the drivers did not like the 500 at Dover at all…

How would you grade Stephen Leicht‘s first Cup start? With Dale Jarrett and Sadler leaving Yates, was the finish good enough to give him a full time shot in Cup?

Mike: 33rd-place finish was OK for a rookie.
Amy: Solid, uneventful day, fine for a rookie.
Jeff: Didn’t piss off King Tony, either!
Ren: He finished right behind Sadler.
Cami: It was decent; Leicht ran the whole day and didn’t run into anybody. I think he’d get that shot at Cup anyway no matter how he ran though. Yates is scrambling to find people for that ride.
Mike: I agree, Cami. I think he is going to be in a Yates Cup car next year.
Jeff: Yeah, he will get a shot. RYR needs Gilliland, too.
Cami: But does one Busch win really mean you automatically get a Cup ride
Amy: Apparently, it does… although there are plenty of guys with more than that who are still in Busch. RYR needs someone with more than a full season of Busch put together, though.
Mike: Well, they’ll have Ward if he can secure a sponsor.
Jeff: Ward is the sponsor antithesis of Waltrip.
Ren: Well, they don’t have a whole lot of options. Not too many quality drivers jumping at the Yates rides.
Mike: Jeremy Mayfield might be a good option. I think he should give Kenny Wallace a ride.
Amy: That’s a been there, done that. Kenny drove for Yates back in 1994 as a fill-in. Kenny was also top 10 in points the whole time he drove for DEI while subbing for Steve Park.
Cami: Did anyone else read what Mike Wallace and David Green said about Sadler and the RYR deal? Basically, they said it shows that a Cup guy can run his car like crap and then get out of his contract.
Ren: Yeah, I saw that. I can see their point that he weaseled his way out, but Yates says that it was because of the poorly written contract.
Cami: Yeah, Yates came down pretty hard on what’s his face that wrote the contract. And on D.W., too, when he criticized the team, I had to laugh at that one.
Mike: I don’t know about this opinion they present. Two experienced drivers running like crap for two or three years doesn’t insinuate that it’s the drivers’ fault.
Ren: True. It’s not the drivers’ fault. I’ve seen Yates fans calling Sadler and Jarrett out for leaving, but the owner has a responsibility to provide a quality ride, too.
Amy: That team has more problems than just the drivers.
Ren: Loyalty is all good, but don’t ask a guy to stick with you if you’re on a sinking ship and he’s got a lifeboat.
Mike: I’m curious to see what happens when the team adjusts to Roush chassis.
Jeff: They should have had them two years ago.
Cami: Well, as far as drivers go, Yates is going to have to take what they can get for awhile until they can show they’ve turned their team around. No offense to Mr. Leicht.
Jeff: You still got some talent out there. Johnny Benson was never that bad, and there’s Ricky Craven, Ward Burton and John Andretti.
Cami: But Yates said his sponsors want young guys. They can’t go out and get one of those guys.
Amy: Unfortunately, the sponsors are severely limiting the options here, Jeff, otherwise you might have a point.

Was Saturday’s Busch Series event at Martinsville the last we’ll see of Darrell Waltrip in a racecar? If it was, would you label it a successful comeback?

Cami: I hope it is!
Mike: Me too. I think Another For My Brother is worn out.
Amy: I hope so. Darrell was one of the best drivers ever in the sport, period. He doesn’t need to go out and be a backmarker to prove himself.
Cami: He was a backmarker that last two or three years of his career. Thankfully, this broadcast wasn’t on FOX, so they didn’t have D.W. miked up for the race.
Jeff: You know, if James Hylton can drive a Busch car at 70 whatever, then DW can, too.
Mike: I bet Ken Schrader will drive a car when he is 70. No doubt, Ren. He can still win given the right circumstances. I think Fatback is going to put him in victory lane in the next year and a half.
Ren: Schrader ages better behind the wheel though!
Amy: I agree with Mike about Fatback… the improvement was marked in just one race.
Mike: Yep. Fatback can still get results, there is no doubt about that. I think he and Schrader are going to be great together.
Jeff: They should have a senior series for the drivers though. I think I did a column on that a while back.
Ren: The Trucks are a great place for new guys to get experience running the senior tour. It’s a very flexible series.
Cami: Well, I think D.W. has been out of it too long to keep doing Busch races here and there in the “regular” series. Let him drive his own truck if he feels the need to get back out there. But I think his wife is smart to keep him out of the car.
Mike: I think D.W. is good for the casual fan, but serious fans know that he can’t be competitive.
Ren: Yeah, that’s kind of a no-brainer. D.W. proved he shouldn’t be in cars when he was running the Cup Series at the end of his career.

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