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)
Tommy Thompson (Mondays/10 Points To Ponder & Wednesdays/Thompson In Turn 5)
Vito Pugliese (Tuesdays/Voice Of Vito)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding A Pretty Wheel)
Bryan Davis Keith (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans & Sundays/Nationwide Series Breakdown)
Kurt Allen Smith (Fridays/Happy Hour)
Did NASCAR make the right call by throwing the yellow flag and stopping the race with Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch running side-by-side on the last lap?
Kurt: No, no, no. In fact, the caution should have flown when Jeff Gordon spun. Any dangerous situation on the track should merit a caution flag. No exceptions.
Bryan: Kurt, I couldn’t disagree more. Jeff was so far removed from the action that there was no reason for a yellow. If the drivers are OK with changing this rule, I say yes.
Tony: From a competitive standpoint, this wasn’t the right call – just ask Mark Martin. But from a safety standpoint, it was. What happens when they come barreling across the finish line into the wreck site?
Tommy: That was the correct call, Tony. They blew it at Daytona last year by not throwing it. When drivers have to drive through a wreck, regardless of their position, it is time to throw the yellow.
Amy: Should a rule change be initiated for NASCAR to allow cars to race for the win on the last lap in order to ensure a quality finish for the fans? No. Because getting someone killed isn’t really a “quality finish.” I agree with Kurt. Safety has to come first… unless you think the 2001 Daytona 500 was a “quality finish.”
Kurt: Anytime a guy spins, people expect a caution and if it doesn’t come out, then chaos ensues – especially on the last lap of a race. And I think the green-white-checkered rule is idiotic to begin with. NASCAR has never had any consistency with cautions on overtime laps.
Amy: They used to have unlimited GWC finishes in the Truck Series. One race, they had like six before they got finished.
Tommy: One GWC should be enough. It’s a risky deal. and giving one has at least given the fans a shot at a finish at race speed. The Gordon spin was different, though. He was not on the track and was not in need of an emergency crew.
Amy: But what about the last-lap wreck? Those guys would still have had to race through there one more time…
Tony: That’s the thing, Amy. I’d be the first to say it’s stupid to stop a race before they cross the finish line – but then what do you do with those wrecked cars sitting in the middle of the track?
Bryan: Well, the safety argument has tons of merit for obvious reasons. Should that be the consensus of the garage, then leave it alone. But the decision should be in the hands of the drivers alone.
Kurt: If the decisions were in the hands of the drivers, there wouldn’t be restrictor plates…
Bryan: Kurt, if they want to race without plates, let them.
Amy: Racing without plates would actually be safer. Give the cars throttle response to get away from each other.
Bryan: So true, Amy. Those packs and their wrecks fling more debris than the wrecks that high speeds make possible.
Kurt: I don’t like plates either. Bryan, but the point is that decisions can’t be always in the hands of the drivers. Many times G-W-Cs end under caution, anyway, because of all the craziness going on.
Bryan: See Kurt, I disagree there… it should be in their hands. The teams and fans and sanctioning body are all there because of the drivers. And if they are willing to take the risk, then so be it.
Amy: But drivers might not always make the best decisions. I agree they need more input, but not free reign on the rules.
Tommy: Well, I for one have no beef with how NASCAR handled things Saturday night, but they have not been consistent in the past.
Amy: NASCAR hasn’t been consistent in the past on anything. Why would this surprise you?
Kurt: And Bryan, that’s not something that I could live with if I were a rule maker: “Well, I could have ruled against that, but he was OK with the risk while he was alive.” Dale Earnhardt could have worn a HANS device, but he chose not to. Now they’re mandated.
Bryan: Well, motorsports is inherently dangerous, and everyone that participates is in some sort of danger always – from the drivers in the cars to the fans 10 feet from 200-mph racecars.
Tommy: Racing is inherently dangerous; but still, they did insist that teams start welding the driver’s door shut instead of just tying a rope around it.
Amy: Eight years ago this week, we lost Kenny Irwin in a very preventable accident if NASCAR had bothered to look at a problem they knew existed.
Kurt: Well, we could go ‘round and ‘round with this, but I still say the caution should have flown for Gordon’s spin. Any other time of the race it would have.
Bryan: Kasey Kahne spun out last week at Loudon and didn’t get a yellow.
Kurt: Right, my point exactly. It happens all the time, and I don’t understand how a spin could not merit a caution and a hot dog wrapper can.
Amy: The yellow should have come out for Kahne.
Tony:I like the call with Gordon and if you go way back when, NASCAR used to hold off on flying the cautions until there was really a need for one, I think that’s the best way. If there is no debris and/or risk to the driver(s), keep ‘em going.
Tommy: A spin in itself is not justification for a yellow.
Bryan: Exactly, Tommy.
Amy: The Gordon call was different. He spun immediately out of the racing groove and shed no debris in it.
Kurt: But it is late in the race when everyone is fighting for position, and no one knows if a caution is coming or not.
Tommy: If a driver can get it back underway and it is not in a precarious position, why throw a yellow?
Tony: Yep, got to use discretion with those calls.
Amy: A spin in the racing groove is because you don’t know what caused the spin – oil, debris – and next time, the crash could be worse.
Kurt: Or Amy, someone might think a caution is coming, let up on the gas, and in a plate race – that could mean a 20-car wreck.
Bryan: Kurt, by that rationale a driver could see aluminum foil on the track, think it is substantial debris, and let up thinking there will be a caution.
Kurt: I doubt that, Bryan. Usually drivers don’t slow up for debris.
Vito: What if Clint Bowyer is upside down and on fire? Does that count?
Kurt: Well, I stand by my opinion the caution should have flown when Gordon spun.
Bryan: If the 43 drivers in the field are OK with racing through hell or high water on the final lap, then by all means, race it out. And to quote Tommy, a spin is not justification for a caution.
Vito: In this case, as much as I want to bitch about the past, where the wreck occurred, you’d have 40 cars coming back around towards it after the race was done. These things don’t slow down that fast.
Amy: I disagree. If there’s some poor guy sitting on the track stopped and they have to race back by him, that’s just stupid.
Vito: NASCAR made the right call.
Kurt: There has to be a consistent reason for the yellow flag.
Bryan: That, Kurt, I will agree with you on.
Tommy: Agree Vito, they made the right call this time.
Tony: Where I would say that NASCAR could leave the green out is if the wreck happened in turn 4 with plenty of time to tell the drivers to slow it the hell down on the cooldown lap… and they probably couldn’t even do that on a short track.
Bryan: Under the current rules, I think NASCAR’s call was right. It’s just an area I think it could look into and get more driver input on.
Chip Ganassi Racing was forced to shut down the No. 40 team, driven by Dario Franchitti, due to lack of sponsorship. As a result, over 70 employees – and possibly more – of all three teams lost their jobs as some were reshuffled to CGR’s two remaining teams. Further, DEI was listed for sale on Monday. Are these isolated incidents or will we be seeing the demise of more mid- and top-tier teams as a result of the economy?
Tommy: If some economists’ predictions come to pass, we’ll be seeing more teams going belly up.
Kurt: Can we find some way to blame the new car for this?
Bryan: I think there is an economic element there, but let’s face it – DEI and CGR’s No. 40 have been nothing short of train wrecks this season.
Kurt: Oh, I agree. Ganassi’s been on a downhill slide for awhile, Juan Pablo Montoya‘s win at Sonoma notwithstanding.
Vito: Ganassi is a victim of his own frugalness. There is a reason his nickname among his foreign-bred drivers is “Cheep,” not Chip.
Tony: I think performance has a lot to do with it, but it is compounded by the economic conditions. We really have a perfect storm of sorts… and throw in there the skyrocketing costs of the sport…
Amy: That’s true, guys, but the economy isn’t getting better, and the money to improve has to come from somewhere. In the case of DEI, it’s not coming from Taylor’s inheritance, so…
Kurt: DEI, I think, is probably a different situation though.
Vito: DEI hasn’t been that bad. There are a lot worse places to be in the points than the mid-teens. Good thing Teresa let Dale Earnhardt Jr. leave, though; that paid off well.
Bryan: And as for CGR’s No. 40, they would have a hard time finding a sponsor if the economy was fine. Franchitti was just flat not ready for Cup.
Tony: I do think Ganassi has made some questionable moves driver-wise to put him where he is.
Bryan: Exactly, Tony. Ganassi lucked out with Montoya and thought he could do whatever he wanted with open-wheelers.
Tommy: As far as DEI, they are following suit with others such as Roush, Petty, Evernham, etc. that know the sport is too expensive to operate profitably without outside funding.
Amy: I still think that’s a nasty situation. Teresa will sell to a stranger, but not to her late husband’s son.
Tommy: Again Amy, reports are that she made an offer and that Junior rejected it.
Amy: I heard Junior made an offer first, and that it was at fair market value.
Tony: Regardless, DEI is OK, but considering what they were supposed to be a few years ago, they are a disappointment and definitely do need an investor.
Bryan: DEI’s performance hasn’t been awful by any stretch, but man, are they hurting for sponsors. And they’ve thrown Regan Smith under the bus with the No. 01. He is better than that car.
Tony: Exactly Bryan, that No. 01 team is a drain right now.
Vito: The Army is a year-to-year deal for them; I doubt that’s one sponsor who’ll be coming back.
Tony: If Martin Truex Jr. bolts, Paul Menard is their senior driver and he is nowhere near ready.
Bryan: And then you’ve got Smith with a crappy car and an unproven Aric Almirola with no sponsor… what a mess.
Vito: Menard looks to be headed to Roush, and Menard is taking his money with him.
Kurt: Truex has to think this is a sinking ship at this point. But Menard to Roush? Why would Roush want him?
Bryan: Money, Kurt. Menard brings a full sponsor with him. And honestly, Menard isn’t a half bad driver.
Amy: So he’s only a half good driver, too?
Vito: Well, like Bryan said he has a sponsor and, in all reality, is no worse than Jamie McMurray.
Tony: I don’t think he is either, but he is taking a lot of time to develop, mostly because that team is behind the eight-ball.
Bryan: That’s why I’m hesitant to write Menard off… his Cup car is a mid-pack team at best.
Kurt: Menard did OK in the Busch Series, but he hasn’t done squat in Cup. Except for DEI’s first Daytona pole.
Vito: He was always competitive in the Nationwide Series, and it isn’t like the No. 15 car is the top priority of a team that is now apparently for sale.
Amy: So basically what you’re saying is Menard is McMurray with money.
Bryan: And potential.
Vito: And mutton chops.
Tony: It’s looking more and more like Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs, RCR and everyone else.
Tommy: Things just are not looking good for owners unless they have four superfunded teams to spread the costs out with.
Kurt: Maybe Teresa is just tired of the headaches.
Amy: So, maybe she should reconsider Junior’s offer.
Vito: Like Tony Stewart said last year: DEI without Dale Junior is nothing more than a museum.
Amy: True, it might not be, but I have to think this must really be a slap in the face to Junior, though.
Kurt: I wonder how Junior is handling this. He has his own quality ride now, but it was his father’s company.
Bryan: I doubt Junior is losing sleep over it. He has a winning Cup ride and JR Motorsports is on the rise. It may not be his father’s name, but Junior is living up to his father on and off the track.
Kurt: Maybe Gordon could buy DEI. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?
Vito: I wonder if Rick Hendrick would help put together a deal so he could buy it. That, merged with Haas… a 10-car team.
Tony: Holy crap Vito… kind of makes sense.
Kurt: Oh man, Earnhardt Nation would go nuts if Gordon bought DEI.
Bryan: I think it’s more likely that Chevy is phasing out DEI for Haas/Stewart or whatever it will be called.
Amy: I think the problems we’re seeing are a product of the economy, and there will be other cutbacks.
Kurt: Two individual situations, poor management in both. I don’t think it’s economic factors so much.
Vito: Yes, the economy is poor and likely to get worse, but where is the motivation for a company to sell out $22 million a year on a car that runs last every week? Hardly a sponsorship “opportunity.”
Bryan: Vito speaks wisely.
The No. 1 DEI team of Truex suffered a blow at Daytona when the primary car twice failed template inspection and was subsequently confiscated by NASCAR – later on, they suffered a bigger blow this week when penalties were announced. Did NASCAR go overboard on penalizing the No. 1 for the first true template violation on the CoT?
Vito: Kind of funny that the team cars made it to the front row and they were legal…
Tony: A very odd penalty this late in the game… I don’t blame Truex for being PO’d.
Kurt: The Chase is all but out of the question now for the No. 1 team. The question I ask is whether or not a team in the Chase will get a penalty this severe.
Tony: I think so, Kurt. NASCAR showed no discrimination last year, regardless.
Amy: This is the first true template violation. NASCAR said it would be big, and it should be if they want any credibility.
Vito: How far out of whack was it?
Amy: NASCAR gave them the chance to fix it, and it still failed the second time through. And Tony, those weren’t template violations, so this has to be worse.
Tony: Agreed Amy, we have a new precedent about to be set.
Kurt: I’m talking about in the Chase, though… a 100-point penalty is the end for any team in the Chase. Slightly off-topic, but here’s a question: If the penalties for adjusting the new car are 150 points or more, then no one is going to risk innovation, right? So how is the new car going to be a “work in progress?” My guess is that the racing is going to continue to stink on ice with this kind of enforcement.
Tony: Well, there’s innovation and there’s a stupid mistake.
Amy: Although I think it’s interesting that NASCAR allowed them to pull the backup car and make a qualifying attempt. They denied the Nos. 24 and 48 that opportunity last year and that was the most similar violation, though those cars actually fit the template.
Bryan: It’d surprise me if this penalty goes much more severe than 150 points. It sounds more than anything like the team simply messed up big in building the car.
Amy: If NASCAR was consistent, it would have not allowed the No. 1 car to qualify.
Kurt: I think 100 points is way too much for straying outside the rules, especially before the car has even raced.
Bryan: I agree entirely Kurt.
Kurt: If NASCAR was going to be so heavy-handed about the new car, it should have given the teams a better one.
Tony: It is an interesting point: how do you lose points before earning them?
Amy: I agreed before NASCAR upped it… now you can’t go back.
Bryan: The fact that they couldn’t fix it the second time around tells me this was something they screwed up more than something they tried to sneak by. Which makes Truex’s reaction all the more understandable.
Vito: Hah, his reaction was because they got caught, not that they were trying to get it through.
Tony: Exactly Amy, this is something that needs to be addressed as a rule change in the offseason, but they can’t stray during the year.
Bryan: Oh yes they can, Tony. NASCAR’s only consistency is inconsistency. It gives the Supreme Court a run for its money.
Kurt: I think NASCAR is going to seriously regret this. What if the No. 88 team crosses the line in the Chase? Hoo boy…
Amy: Don’t cross the line if you don’t want to lose points. But I do agree it should be structured by when the violation is found. If it’s in opening inspection, don’t allow the team to practice or qualify, but that’s enough. It’s silly to take points before they are earned.
Kurt: It seems like they don’t find nearly as many things after the race as they do before it. It may be that teams can “fix” whatever advantage they have before post-race inspection.
Tony: Yeah, that’s the weird thing.
Amy: If it’s after qualifying, toss the time; if it is after a race, strip the finishing position. That would be far more effective than points and money.
Bryan: If NASCAR wanted to create a rule that really bites teams for qualifying, just make a rule that says if a time is DQ’d you’re out of the field – Top 35 or not – that’ll whip teams into shape in a hurry.
Kurt: Why not just let teams innovate a little bit, and if something is unreasonable, make a rule against it? That’s the way it was done for years.
Bryan: Because that would make too much sense, Kurt.
Kurt: I don’t want all of the cars to be equal. They might as well have plates on them then.
Amy: To me, a funky car in a race is a lot worse than a funky car before qualifying. But NASCAR treats them the same.
Tony: I agree, Amy. Right now though, they carry equal weight and that, in itself, is kind of funky.
During the Nationwide Series race Friday night, NASCAR made the second scoring mistake in the last month when it incorrectly placed Edwards behind Clint Bowyer for the final restart. Is the sport relying too much on electronic scoring and too little on simple human sight? How can these problems be reduced, and is there any way to compensate Edwards as he’s battling Bowyer for the series championship?
Amy: Well, you can’t compensate after the fact, because you don’t know for a fact where he’d have finished. BUT, I think in any disputed case you need to use scoring data AND video to determine the correct order. And I don’t care if it takes five extra caution laps to do it.
Tony: There’s no way to compensate for these things, unfortunately; but I would think that a simple spot check on the video wouldn’t hold the race up all that long.
Kurt: I’ve heard suggestions that the scoring should be whatever it was the last time the car crossed the finish line. If you’ve got better technology, than go for it; but otherwise, I’m OK with the last lap suggestion. No compensation for Edwards though. That’s the breaks, just like in any other sport.
Bryan: The bottom line is there are enough cameras around the track for them to check video tape.
Amy: It’s more then the second time they’ve FUBAR’d scoring, too. They screwed Kenny Wallace out of a free pass at NHMS. I don’t care HOW many laps it takes – actually red flag it if you have to – but there is zero excuse for not getting the scoring right every time.
Vito: Aren’t they supposed to have some oversight for this?
Amy: Well, loop data was supposed to be the magic fix.
Kurt: I just think Stevie Wonder is one of the officials.
Tony: You know, I’m for having one official to track each car on the track and have them report something the second it the lineup doesn’t seem right. If they can track them in the pits, they should be able to track them on the track.
Bryan: There is no reason they can’t do that, Tony. Give them a stand right next to the spotters.
Kurt: In fairness to the officials, this is all probably not as easy as it looks. I’d say they run through the replays a few times.
Amy: If it’s obvious to the fans at home on TV, though, it can’t be THAT hard. I think it happens more often than we think… if it’s not a big name or for the lead, we just don’t hear about it.
Vito: Keep in mind this is a sport that does not tell you where the scoring loops are either.
Amy: Good point… no reason they couldn’t do a graphic of that to show everyone.
Kurt: How often does this really happen, though? I don’t think it’s often enough that a big issue needs to be made of it… it’s just racin’, I guess. I’m all for improving the system, but I don’t lose much sleep over any driver losing a position to a bad call on occasion.
Amy: Kurt, they botch a lot more than is just an “oh, well, we screwed up” kind of error.
Bryan: Look, in all the short track races I’ve been to this season, you hear the officials in those local series going out of their way to get it right and getting it right. Why shouldn’t that be the case for the sport’s top level? And if the Ace Speedways of the world can get it right constantly, Daytona darned well better be able to.
Amy: Agreed, Bryan.
Kurt: I think at a plate track, it might be harder to score though. The cars are always so close.
Bryan: Well, if they can’t score the race right, it’s time to take the plates off.
Amy: So what’s the excuse at other tracks, Bryan?
Bryan: Good question, Amy. I wish I had the answer to that.
Tony: I was baffled by the Michigan call. That should’ve been a no-brainer.
Amy: The bottom line here is, there is simply no excuse for messing up the running order with all the video and loop data we have today. None.
Bryan: This is the premier motorsports division in the United States and there are cameras everywhere. Get the damned scoring right… I don’t care if they have to put loops in every two feet on every track.
Predictions for Chicago?
Kurt: I’m going to go out on a limb with Matt Kenseth.
Bryan: The No. 17 car keeps on trucking. Here’s hoping Kenseth can spin Gordon to get the win.
Amy: I think Greg Biffle gets his groove on.
Tony: Kenseth is waaaay overdue. I say he puts Ford in victory lane at Chicago for the first time.
Vito: I’ll stick with the Roush theme and go with Edwards.