Welcome to Mirror Driving. Every week, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news and rumors. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!
This Week’s Participants:
Tony Lumbis (Mondays/Rookie Report)
Vito Pugliese (Tuesdays/Voice of Vito)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Full Throttle, Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans)
Matt Taliaferro (Thursdays/Fanning the Flames)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Bryan Davis Keith (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans & Sundays/Nationwide Series Breakdown)
Juan Pablo Montoya received a two-lap penalty during the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire for rough driving after intentionally spinning Kyle Busch under caution. Montoya said it was because Busch ran into him several times before that incident. Was the penalty fair, or was Montoya in the right?
Amy: It was fair, but what pissed me off was NASCAR’s refusal to penalize Aric Almirola for the same offense.
Bryan: The contact between Busch and Montoya on its own didn’t warrant it, but seriously, Busch deserves to be spun every race for the duration of the season. NASCAR should have left it alone.
Tony: It was fair, especially because the spin came under caution.
Mike: It’s fair. You can’t intentionally spin people out that obviously.
Vito: Yes it was fair. However, I would like to have seen what the outcome would have been had it been the No. 88 rather than the No. 18. Maybe Kasey Kahne should have thought of that before he tried to rough Aric up for no really good reason.
Matt T.: I had no problem with the penalty – and I’m typically of the opinion that NASCAR over-penalizes – and NASCAR says no further penalty will be handed down, so I’m good.
Amy: Almirola said on his radio after Kahne spun him that, “That nine is mine.” And then he wrecked him.
Bryan: Good for Aric. It was an eye for an eye. There shouldn’t have been penalties for either incident.
Amy: I agree, but why no penalty?
Matt T.: Well those two went at it under green conditions, which seems to be easier to get away with. You do it under caution and you’re begging for a penalty.
Mike: I agree, Amy. Kahne spun him by accident, and Almirola dumped him on purpose.
Tony: And there is nothing to prove Aric did it on purpose… except a cartoon!
Amy: Shouldn’t matter. Rough driving is rough driving.
Vito: Kahne spun him intentionally and basically said so in his post-race interview.
Mike: Well, it was pretty obvious that Almirola dumped him on purpose, too.
Matt T.: Come on folks, it’s stock car racing, not patty cakes. People spin others out from time to time. It’s part of the game.
Bryan: Exactly. Let the drivers sort it out themselves.
Tony: I’m actually kind of surprised that Montoya wasn’t parked. It’s been done in the past.
Vito: Would have been funny if Aric would have said, “I’m super sorry about your car.”
Bryan: The crowd gave Montoya a standing ovation for doing it. Why would you screw that up by parking the Busch whacker?
Mike: You can’t say you’re going to dump someone and then do it and expect to get away with it.
Amy: And while I do believe Busch was going to get that sooner or later with his “move over, I’m more entitled to that spot than you because I’m Kyle Busch” attitude, he didn’t rough up Montoya that bad and certainly didn’t deserve to get dumped under caution like that.
Bryan: That is true, Amy. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back because it wasn’t a big deal.
Vito: At least Juan is man enough to say, “Yeah, I spun him. So what?!” I didn’t really see where Kyle was at fault to be honest with you.
Tony: If the boys need to work something out, I’m all for it, but not under caution. There are safety workers out there during that time. And I didn’t see where Kyle did anything wrong, either.
Bryan: There were no safety workers near where Busch and Montoya spun.
Vito: Well, take your pick: get run into under caution intentionally by Montoya or get demolished attempting to make a pit stop by Jamie McMurray.
Amy: I was really disappointed that Almirola got away with dumping Kahne. Anyone remember Robby Gordon last year? He said on the radio he was going to get someone and immediately got parked for the day
Matt T.: I didn’t see the beef that warranted JPM’s reaction. And quite honestly, I don’t think Kyle is that dirty of a driver. I’ve seen a lot worse from a lot of others.
Vito: That was actually quite a nifty bit of driving by Kyle to stop his spin, and whip it back the other way to collect the No. 42.
Matt T.: David Gilliland made a nifty little move to get away clean, too
Bryan: I don’t think Kyle did what he did to catch the No. 42. JPM just didn’t clear him enough.
Mike: Busch races hard, but I don’t think he wrecks people to get where he wants to go. He just drives so aggressively.
Amy: I don’t think Kyle is dirty but I do think he is more aggressive than he needs to a lot of the time.
Tony: I think a lot of it comes down to intention, too. For some of these incidents, everybody and their brother knows it’s intentional, but there is no way to prove it. You can kind of say it about Almirola. JPM’s incident was a no-brainer.
Amy: Kyle drives like he believes the sea should part for someone as great as him.
Tony: I don’t disagree with you that he does that sometimes, Amy but I just didn’t see that here, at least not in the replays.
Amy: Kyle doesn’t wreck guys left and right, but he doesn’t race them perfectly clean, either.
Mike: Well, the dude can wheel it. There’s not doubt about that.
Matt T.: As was stated earlier, Almirola and Kahne was eye for an eye. JPM and Kyle’s incident was a matter of a driver just getting totally pissed and taking a guy out that really didn’t deserve it.
Amy: Kahne didn’t take him out on purpose. He was trying to back out, actually.
Bryan: Result was the same, Amy. Kahne screwed Almirola up and Aric called him on it. Tough luck.
Vito: These are stock cars, right? Why was Dale Earnhardt celebrated for what these guys are being maligned for?
Tony: Earnhardt was so discreet about it.
Matt T.: Earnhardt wasn’t discreet about anything! But that’s a good question, V. That’s what I’ve been asking for five years now.
Mike: Earnhardt in his younger years was as dangerous – or more so – than Kyle is now.
Vito: Hah, he looked really discreet about it at Richmond in 1986.
Matt T.: Don’t get me started on Richmond ’86.
Amy: See, with Earnhardt, he was too aggressive on the track a lot of the time but he was likable enough off it. And he was never handed a career the way Kyle was.
Matt T.: Kyle wasn’t handed anything. Where you getting that?
Vito: Kahne said, “Sometimes your not fast enough, and you get run over.”
Mike: Kyle has earned everything he’s got. He’s not from some privileged family or something.
Matt T.: His daddy ain’t rich like someone else I can think of right off the top of my head who gets to keep a Cup ride without any results.
Amy: His parents faked his birth certificate so he could race a year early. That’s being handed too much.
Matt T.: What does that have to do with being handed anything?
Mike: He knows every nut and bolt on the cars he drove to get to where he is.
Vito: The only guy who has been handed anything is Shame Hmiel and he let that go up in smoke.
Matt T.: You’d be surprised at how many drivers start at the local short track with a fake license, Amy.
Vito: That’s a bit of a stretch, Amy.
Mike: Paul Menard was handed a good bit but he’s proven himself worthy at this point.
Bryan: Menard doesn’t ask the field to part like the Red Sea for him either.
Matt T.: Menard would be canned by now were his daddy’s money not keeping that team afloat.
Amy: I have zero respect for a parent who would do that for a child and it’s no wonder Kyle has the attitude he does given that kind of upbringing.
Vito: I don’t think Paul’s that bad. He does well, keeps his mouth shut, is humble, and is still learning. And it isn’t like all of DEI is running that great. Paul’s making the most of what he has to work with.
Mike: Kyle has won at every level getting to where he is, Amy.
Amy: Yes, but he also acts like he’s more entitled to be there than the next guy.
Mike: Wow Amy, that is a real stretch.
Bryan: I agree with Amy on this one.
Matt T.: He’s a racecar driver, Amy. He’s supposed to feel entitled to a piece of real estate! That’s where his edge comes in. That equals five wins this year… and counting.
Tony: I don’t think Kyle’s attitude should overshadow his driving talent, though. Like we said last week, just look at the difference in the performance of the No. 5 car without him.
Amy: I agree Matt, but there are drivers as talented as he is who don’t drive that way.
Vito: He should have won nine races this year.
Matt T.: Then maybe they should re-examine their driving style.
Mike: Right Amy, and that’s why they don’t have as many wins as Kyle does.
Bryan: And that’s why JPM isn’t taking out other drivers under caution either, Mike.
Amy: Jimmie Johnson won 10 last year without driving like a butt.
Mike: Yeah, and he was in cars that were far superior to the rest of the field.
Bryan: Same with Kyle this year.
Matt T.: HMS was way out in front of the curve last year and you can’t overstate what Knaus does for the No. 48 team.
Bryan: His cars are good enough that he doesn’t have to drive like a 200-mph wrecking ball.
Amy: I agree Kyle is a talented driver but he’s going to be raced the way he races, and this was bound to happen eventually.
Amy: True, but no matter how good Jimmie’s cars are, he races clean.
Matt T.: I don’t think Kyle’s equipment is head & shoulders above the rest. Look at where that team was with JJ Yeley just one year ago.
Mike: Say what you want. Kyle Busch is one of the top-five drivers in Cup right now. And whether you like how he goes about his business or not, you have to admit it.
Bryan: I don’t think anyone is questioning Kyle’s talent.
Amy: Kyle’s cars are better than anyone’s and he still races more aggessively than he needs to.
Matt T.: Are they? How have they gotten light years better in one offseason?
Mike: I don’t think they’re that much better. If they were, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin would have two or three wins each this year.
Bryan: Toyota engines.
Amy: Making more horsepower than anyone else by a long shot.
Matt T.: I don’t buy the horsepower argument. Not to the extent you’re implying. Kyle is making up some major differences on that No. 18 team.
Vito: I like how he drives. He gets 100% out of it every lap, all day long. You never had to wonder if he was lying down, got tired or is stroking. And Hamlin maintains that they are actually down a little bit on the intermediate tracks on the power curves. They do make more on plate motors, however.
Tony: That’s why he has five wins. Look at Darlington: a lot of drivers would back off trying to save their car that’s falling apart. Kyle took the risk and was rewarded.
Bryan: Busch hasn’t single-handedly changed the No. 18 team. He won Darlington because the CoT and foam walls let drivers hit the wall 12 times and keep going, yet another flaw of the CoT. In the old car he never could have driven like he did and won that race.
Mike: So he is adjusting to what he’s given. Can’t fault him for that.
Matt T.: Right, it’s a level playing field… so why didn’t the other drivers bounce ’em around?
Bryan: He’s not adjusting, he’s driving over his head and because of the car he’s getting away with it.
Matt T.: And he’s winning.
Mike: Back to the original question, the penalty was fair. Almirola should have been hit but wasn’t. The story is over.
Vito: It’s the same for everyone else. Like Clint Eastwood said in Heartbreak Ridge: Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
Bryan: NASCAR, stop handing out penalties and let the drivers handle it.
Bruton Smith answered the question of New Hampshire Motor Speedway losing a date to another SMI track with an emphatic “NO” on Sunday. If he’s telling the truth, where will dates for Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas likely come from?
Amy: One’s coming from Atlanta, I believe.
Bryan: Atlanta, for sure.
Vito: Does it really matter? All three tracks suck.
Mike: Kentucky and LVMS are going to get the dates from Dover.
Amy: Not both, Mike.
Matt T.: Yeah, I’d guess Atlanta would be one. Move the Labor Day date to AMS and cut its March race. California wants to give its Labor Day date up in favor of another date. AMS gets that prime slot and gives its other to Kentucky or Vegas.
Mike: But I wouldn’t put it past Bruton to be lying through his teeth.
Bryan: Exactly, Mike.
Tony: Possible California… and that has nothing to do with the racing there, but Bruton can justify it by numbers, black and white.
Mike: Why not both, Amy?
Amy: One from Atlanta, one from Dover if they sell. Dover’s too good to take it off completely and Bruton knows it.
Vito: I wouldn’t cut an Atlanta date. Move the schedule around. Pocono desperately needs a date ripped, as does New Hampshire.
Mike: North Wilkesboro and Rockingham were too good, too. How’d that work out?
Tony: Dover is going to be a difficult purchase. It has a board it has to get past.
Vito: Did anyone notice the big shiny pieces of metal visible in turns 1 and 4 at NHMS? Lot of empty seatage.
Bryan: Story of the season.
Amy: I disagree that NHMS needs a date ripped.
Mike: I’m sure there were people who stayed away because of weather.
Vito: Clearly. That sun the first two hours must have been blinding.
Bryan: Amy’s right, NHMS has always drawn well.
Tony: Yeah, you really need to look at attendance over a long period of time. You can’t use attendance this year alone.
Amy: NHMS sells out two races a year and the track has improved light years in the last 10 years.
Bryan: It improved light years for this race from what the fans have said.
Mike: I still believe he buys Dover and takes both dates.
Mike: He told us all that once if he had full control of North Wilkesboro, he’d bring racing back there. Now he says that it’s for sale and he’ll never race there.
Tony: Dover will never loose both dates.
Matt T.: Pocono is the other option, one that track ownership denies, but I’ve heard is not out of the question still.
Amy: I think Atlanta loses a date. It’s not supporting itself the way it should be. Las Vegas is an awful racetrack and Kentucky isn’t much better.
Amy: I agree, Vito.
Mike: How can you say that Dover won’t lose both dates?
Amy: LVMS is so fan friendly though, and it does race better since the makeover.
Tony: Its market, Mike – D.C., Philly and NYC, plus that fact that there is no track like it. I also don’t see their owners going down easy, either.
Matt T.: Actually, I think the board that owns Dover is halfway in favor of a sale.
Mike: There wasn’t a track like North Wilkesboro, either.
Vito: It is a market: gambling degenerates and meth labs. Awesome.
Bryan: Dover’s drawn good numbers prior to this economic crunch. Bruton could make more money with one Dover and one Atlanta than two Atlantas if the last five years are any indication.
Amy: North Wilkes is almost to the point where it’s not viable anymore, as sad as that is. Years of inactivity cause a lot of decay that can’t be undone.
Mike: I agree Amy, but that is Bruton’s fault.
Matt T.: Look, I love Wilkesboro, but it ain’t coming back. Let’s move on.
Vito: North Wilkesboro was a great track for its era, but it was and is too outdated for what the sport has become. Had it been maintained and updated, fine, but it simply wasn’t.
Mike: And Bruton told me to my face that he’d bring racing back there.
Amy: But at the time, it was in an overloaded market.
Bryan: Andy Hillenburg, please buy Wilkesboro!
Tony: In fact, the days of new short tracks (to the schedule) seem to be over, unfortunately.
Matt T.: Until one is built by ISC or someone buys Iowa.
Mike: I’m just saying, there isn’t anything special about Dover that wasn’t special about North Wilkesboro.
Vito: I like how a 1-mile track is now considered a short track. OK….
Mike: If Bruton convinces Dover to sell the track to him, the dates will be gone.
Matt T.: So where do the dates come from? One from Atlanta the other from a track to be bought in the not-too-distant-future.
Bryan: It’s putting the cart before the horse to say that. Kentucky getting a Cup race isn’t sure fire yet. The lawsuit, whether it goes or not, has left a very sour taste in NASCAR’s mouth.
Matt T.: Bruton wouldn’t have bought Kentucky if he wasn’t going to put a Cup date there.
Mike: The only way Kentucky gets a date is if Bruton moves a date from another track.
Amy: The difference is, Mike, there were fewer 1.5-milers then than there are now. Bruton’s smart enough to know they’re overdone.
Tony: I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that NHMS may lose one date. I think both is too far, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one go.
Mike: He swears they aren’t losing any, but I don’t believe him.
Bryan: Bruton may want the Cup date, but NASCAR could have had a date there in ‘09 and they didn’t. They’re obviously not as set as Bruton on giving it a Cup race.
Amy: I believe him for the time being. He’s selling out two races a year at NHMS and Bristol now.
Tony: Agreed Mike. I don’t think he would do it for any other reason than he can. Maybe not next year, but if he has no other options in the future, it could happen.
Mike: I don’t think NHMS should lose a date. They sell out and put on a good show.
Matt T.: I don’t think NHMS loses a date in the next year or two. If, however, he needs a spare date in the future…
Amy: I agree with Matt.
Tony: Exactly Matt.
Bryan: Loudon’s guarantee of two dates expires after 2009.
Matt T.: NHMS needs more variable banking, though. In a bad, bad way.
Amy: I think they will do that, Matt.
Amy: As a businessman, you’re going to keep your most viable assets and right now that’s NHMS and Bristol.
Mike: Bruton will say whatever it takes to pacify people to keep them from getting down on him until he decides what he wants to do to make himself happy.
Vito: Considering our rich history of taking away dates from perfectly good, established, cornerstone tracks and giving them to crapholes because they have nice bathrooms and a concession area, Atlanta will probably lose a date, as will Dover.
Matt T.: Agreed.
Amy: Right now, selling 110,000 seats twice a year at NHMS is better than 80-90,000 at AMS.
Mike: If he is determined to put a race at Kentucky, it will either come from Dover or possibly Atlanta. The thing that sucks for Atlanta was they pushed to get moved earlier in the schedule and then the Chase came out.
Vito: Atlanta needs to be run in April or May. The weather sucks in both March and November. At least it hasn’t snowed there in a while.
Matt T.: Atlanta would be a fine alternative for the Labor Day event in Darlington’s absence.
Amy: There is no alternative to Darlington on Labor Day and there never will be.
Silly Season officially began this week with the announcement that Casey Mears will not return to Hendrick Motorsports in 2009. Who’s going elsewhere, who’s bluffing, and when will the dust clear?
Tony: I think Ryan Newman is going – his patience has to be wearing thin at Penske. He’ll be with Stewart next year.
Mike: Mark Martin and Brad Keselowski will split time in the No. 5 car. Newman and Stewart will be driving at Stewart/Haas CNC Racing.
Bryan: Newman to Haas CNC makes more sense to me than Newman to HMS.
Vito: Tony’s starting his own gig at Haas, Martin’s going to Hendrick and McMurray I doubt will be back.
Amy: Mears to RCR, I think. He’s good with that General Mills sponsorship.
Matt T.: Martin to the No. 5 full time. Mears to the Nos. 12 or the 33. Newman to the No. 66. Stewart to the No. 70. Joey Logano in the No 20. Menard and his daddy’s money to RFR in the No 26 (believe it or not).
Tony: Wow, that is a new one Matt.
Mike: McMurray will be driving for Petty Enterprises next year.
Vito: Driving what Mike, the transporter?
Mike: No, the No. 45. And I can see Martin Truex Jr. going to RCR.
Amy: I think Truex will go to the No. 12.
Bryan: Truex, I think, will take the No. 12.
Vito: I could see McMurray going to Penske. He was under consideration for the No. 2 before Kurt Busch took it.
Bryan: Childress said himself that Newman and Stewart were both long shots for the No. 33.
Amy: Mears gets the No. 33. I’m hearing General Mills wants him good.
Vito: Gibbs may not want to rush Logano into Cup. He needs a little more exposure to the spotlight before really throwing him out there.
Bryan: They rushed Yeley to Cup, Vito. Logano will be in the No. 20.
Mike: If Logano wins several races this year, they’ll consider putting him in the No. 20, assuming Stewart leaves.
Amy: He’s good, but there’s no way he’s ready.
Tony: Maybe one of the top free agents to the No. 20 and Logano to a new JGR team in 2010. Newman and Truex have to be good candidates for both Stewart and RCR right now.
Bryan: That’d make sense, but Gibbs has put drivers with little Nationwide experience in Cup cars with both Yeley and Hamlin. Why would that change with Logano?
Vito: You really think Mark is going to return full time, Matt?
Matt T.: Yep. Mark told DEI over All-Star weekend he wanted to up his race dates. They told him they wanted Almirola full-time and he told them he’s had talks with three other teams to go full-time and one was HMS.
Mike: I think Mark might take one last shot at a title if it’s in Hendrick equipment.
Amy: I doubt that, Mike.
Vito: I know Matt Martin has decided he doesn’t want to pursue racing as a career, so perhaps that has given Mark one last shot to make a run at it.
Mike: Mark wanted to go part-time to help Matt with his career. Now that Matt isn’t racing, Mark might very well take one more shot.
Tony: As much of a Martin fan as I am, I don’t know if I want him going full-time.
Amy: Sadly, there’s always been that one team at HMS that doesn’t perform like the others. And as much as I like Mark, who in that team are you going to put in your R&D car? The two-time champ, the four-time champ or the most popular driver in the universe?
Tony: That’s what I’m worried about Amy, I don’t want his last run to be a disappointment. As of right now, he went out (kind of) on top.
Matt T.: I was also told that HMS has talked to Truex as well, but I think they’ll go with Mark.
Bryan: I can’t see Mark suddenly choosing to go back to full-time. He hasn’t showed signs of missing the 38-race grind.
Tony: I was wondering about that Vito, we haven’t heard about Matt in a long time and I know he lost interest at one point in time.
Mike: Matt has quit racing.
Vito: I think Mark is the perfect fit for that No. 5 car.
Bryan: HMS needs to build around a driver for the No. 5, not give a swan-song.
Mike: They put Mark in it for a year, prove it can run, then put Keselowski in it in 2010.
Vito: Mark can make that car a winner – and fast – like Kyle did for three years. And Gustafson is a great crew chief who Mark has experience working with.
Amy: I still think the issue with the No. 5 isn’t the driver, though, and I’m not sure Martin will make a big difference.
Vito: Bull. Mark made Ginn Racing (MB2) a weekly contender after it ran 30th every week the year before. He can still make a difference.
Mike: I can’t see Mark in Hendrick equipment being a disappointment.
Matt T.: My concern is not Martin going to HMS – he’ll do just fine there, regardless of car. I’m worried about DEI. They’ll lose Martin, Truex and Menard’s money and be left with… Almirola and Regan Smith? Oh yeah, and they also lost the biggest prize in all of motorsports last year. That’s why Chevy wants Stewart to step in with a big team – to replace DEI.
Tony: That’s a great point Matt. DEI is officially an “also-ran” this year except for a few races here and there.
Matt T.: DEI is sinking faster than MWR.
Amy: Kyle made Gustafson look better than he is.
Bryan: Amy, you’re giving Mears too much credit. He’s a perpetual underachiever.
Vito: Mears has gotten by on name recognition for the last five years.
Amy: I agree, but there were times last year that Kyle made decisions that made that car finish better than it should have – times that Gustafson took credit for things he didn’t do.
Matt T.: Shall we dance with the Kyle subject again?
Bryan: Gustafson isn’t a bad crew chief. In fact, he’s better than his driver right now.
Amy: I’m just saying that Kyle made him look better than he is. He’s good, but he’s the third-best crew chief at HMS. Maybe fourth.
Tony: I think Mark can have a very, very good run in that car, but it might be naive to think they can run for the championship in just one year.
Vito: They did the year before.
Matt T.: Who said anything about one year?
Tony: Well, let’s take one year at a time here.
Tony: If Martin runs for a few years and the team has a chance to gel, then maybe we all will have a chance to see something special.
Matt T.: I think things can happen a lot quicker with Mark in the No. 5 car than most would imagine.
Mike: Mark will be able to run well in Hendrick equipment. You can bet on that.
Amy: I really think McMurray’s the odd man out in Silly Season this year.
Vito: The Nos. 26 and 12 are the biggest two question marks in my mind.
Bryan: The No. 12 car is the wild card here, though the No. 33 is going to end up with a driver that’s off the radar.
Mike: I really think McMurray ends up in the No. 45 next year.
Vito: For some reason, I think that incident with McMurray yesterday taking out his teammate in the Dale Earnhardt Jr. accident sealed his fate.
Bryan: McMurray may well be doing his David Stremme impression next year.
Tony: The No. 33 is going to be a big deal next year. It will have to qualify on time, something the Nos. 1, 12 and 26 (maybe) won’t have to.
Bryan: Actually, don’t count Stremme out for the No. 12.
Amy: The No. 33 is going to end up with Mears. Newman and Tony go play with Haas. Truex to the No. 12.
Matt T.: I’ve heard RCR is interested in McMurray, too. Or should I say Betty Crocker is interested.
Vito: Also, how long until Sam Hornish Jr. is not allowed to race on Sunday?
Bryan: Hornish is still better than Dario Franchitti, Vito.
Vito: I don’t know, Dario is driving pretty bad cars.
Bryan: Hornish has actually showed some hints of talent this season.
Amy: Hornish is also in better stuff than Franchitti.
Vito: Yeah, Hornish looked really talented at Michigan two weeks ago.
Tony: McMurray would look best in the Betty Crocker apron!
Mike: C’mon… can’t qualify for a road course? That is ridiculous.
Vito: Broken ankle, man.
Amy: Hornish isn’t a road-course guy.
Bryan: Franchitti had one standout season in IRL, not a long, sustained success like Hornish.
The IRL and NASCAR share some tracks and it’s been suggested that pairing more Craftsman Truck Series races with IRL races would benefit both series. But is there really enough of a crossover audience for this scenario to work?
Mike: The trucks are still the best racing in NASCAR.
Tony: I think the Truck and IRL crossover can work, especially in today’s economy where fans can benefit from getting two races in one trip.
Bryan: I’m for anything that can get more butts in the seat for Truck races.
Amy: OK, I think the IRL and trucks would be an interesting combination, actually.
Mike: I think pairing them with IndyCar races would bring a lot of fans over who are on the fence about stock car racing.
Vito: Well, right now there is no audience at the truck races. It couldn’t hurt to give it a shot.
Tony: Agreed Mike. I think you can get a lot of new fans into both series with this combination.
Matt T.: It’s worth a shot for both series, I guess. And by the way, I’ve heard UPS may step in to sponsor that series.
Vito: I heard Kobalt Tools/Lowe’s on TV.
Bryan: Agreed. The truck show would upstage anything IRL can put on the track.
Amy: You get old-school stock car racing with beating and banging, and then high-tech racing with all the bells and whistles, driving as smooth as butter.
Matt T.: The trucks would have more than 10 machines left at RIR, unlike the IRL this past weekend.
Vito: The IRL actually has been more interesting than NASCAR this year.
Mike: The Indy cars put on an awesome show, although this weekend wasn’t much, but they put on some great shows. Add that to the trucks and it could be a big weekend. I think it is a very good idea to pair them together.
Bryan: NASCAR needs the Truck Series more than it can realize, and if pairing it with IRL will get the purses and attendance up, go for it.
Amy: Offer fans a package deal on tickets and run a two-day show.
Matt T.: Honestly, I don’t see a lot of crossover, but I’m not saying it won’t work. I think the Nationwide and IRL sharing race weekends and the trucks and Cuppers sharing would be the better ticket.
Mike: Although I’d rather see the trucks with Cup and Nationwide with IndyCar.
Matt T.: Wow, I like the way you think, Mike.
Vito: I still think the ticket is to run Nationwide & trucks together back-to-back.
Tony: Here’s an interesting point: the IRL/truck combo would give some curious Indy guys an easier chance to give cars with fenders a shot.
Amy: But I think a NASCAR race and an IRL race would be a great pairing – I’d go.
Matt T.: Oh, I agree there, Amy. I just don’t know if the IRL crowd would take to trucks, you know?
Amy: I don’t know Matt, but it would be worth a shot.
Matt T.: Hey, whatever works.
Tony: It’s one of those deals where Indy fans wouldn’t go out of their way to see one, but if it was at the track while they were there, well, who knows.
Vito: Hah, trust me. I’ve been in the midst of an IRL crowd at Michigan in 2006. Felt like I was in the prison yard at the Jackson State Penitentiary. They’ll work together just fine.
Matt T.: OK, fair enough.
Bryan: Well, anything to get the Truck Series better crowds and to keep it separate from the fate of the Nationwide Series as Cup Lite is OK by me.
Vito: I say go for it. The Truck Series attendance is abysmal as it is, it’s still broadcast at a horrible hour on a small cable outlet, and your local short track probably puts just as many people in the stands as NASCAR’s third-highest ranked touring series.
Mike: I’d love to see Nationwide with IndyCar, but if they can’t do that, then the trucks would be a good idea.
OK, predictions for Daytona…
Matt T.: Smoke gets over the hump, climbs a fence.
Mike: Hamlin uses the dominant car he had at Talladega and walks away with Daytona.
Vito: Stewart. Otherwise, Zippy might go on 24-hour suicide watch.
Tony: Stewart has used this race to set off his hot summer in the past and I’ll say he does it again this year.
Bryan: Stewart is going to smoke the entire field this weekend.
Amy: How about Mears’s spotter doesn’t screw him this time and he wins it?
Matt T.: You really don’t like that guy, do you Amy?
Amy: Who, Casey’s spotter?
Matt T.: Yeah.
Amy: Casey had the best Hendrick car at the end of the Daytona 500 – had his spotter moved him up half a lap earlier, he had a very real shot at winning.
Matt T.: I’ve heard you nail Casey’s spotter’s butt to a wall before.
Tony: I think Amy is wishing he would spot for Kyle Busch.
Vito: How about NASCAR not throwing a yellow when cars are upside down, on fire, and blocking the track. Oh there I go again… dwelling on the past.
Matt T.: Hey, didn’t Kyle start that wreck?
Mike: Let’s not forget, people: this is a plate race. Earnhardt will be a factor.
Vito: Actually, Junior had the best Hendrick car in the 500, just the wrong tires and someone babbling over the radio.
Amy: At the end, Casey was faster, Vito.
Vito: Right. Tires.
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