NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Johnson’s Lucky Day The End of the Lucky Dog?, Chasing Chasers & Hornaday’s Heroics

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:
Tom Bowles (Editor-In-Chief; Mondays/Bowles-Eye View & Wednesdays/Did You Notice)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Tuesdays/Running Your Mouth & Various/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Vito Pugliese (Wednesdays/Voice Of Vito)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From The Heartland)
Bryan Davis Keith (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans & Sundays/Nationwide Series Breakdown)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding A Pretty Wheel)
Kurt Allen Smith (Fridays/Happy Hour)

Denny Hamlin finally broke through on Monday, reaching victory lane after a 50-race drought. Is this the type of win that could lead to a momentum-building Chase performance… or was this just a flash in the pan at a track he’s really good at?

Tom: This was a huge, emotional win for Denny… there’s no doubt about that. But until he strings a few of these together, I’m not totally sold on him as a championship contender.
Vito: I think it was the right track at the right time, and a much-needed win for a guy who was obviously overcome with emotion after winning today. Denny excels at flat tracks, but he’s been knocking on the door for a few weeks now.
Jeff: I’d say it’s a flash.
Amy: I haven’t seen enough out of the No. 11 to say it’s more than a token win. They were going to win one or two anyway.
Phil: It’s obvious that Denny’s good at Pocono.  However, he was driving with conviction that he could win. I’ve never seen him like that before.
Bryan: Obviously he’s really good at Pocono, but he’s really good at Martinsville, Richmond, etc. Just getting over the hump is a huge step for the No. 11 team. They’ve been running really well, just hadn’t gotten the win to show it.
Tom: Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. What a moving, moving tribute to his grandmother. I know quite a few people who cried along with him.
Vito: You know, Chicago very well could have been a win had Brian Vickers not gotten into him.
Beth: Yeah, he’s been building momentum for a bit, but this may be what sets him on a course for a solid run to the Chase.
Bryan: I agree, Beth. From a timing perspective the No. 11 squad couldn’t pick a better time to get rolling.
Jeff: You know what I’ve noticed? Every time there is someone who had someone die, or like the Martinsville plane crash a few years ago, that driver wins.
Amy: Ever notice how often that happens? The death of someone close really motivates drivers to win for them.
Vito: As well as for their tire changer who lost his mother.
Phil: I remember Mark Martin after his fourth-place finish at Michigan in 1998:  “I dedicate this losing performance to my father.”
Tom: With that said, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Hamlin’s always in a different time zone in Pocono.
Phil: Yeah, I think it’ll give his season a boost, but I still don’t think he’s winning the championship.
Tom: I think the big question moving forward is whether Hamlin has learned how to close the deal again.
Bryan: I dunno, Tom. It’s not like the No. 11 team has been lost recently. They’ve been top five, top 10 pretty much all summer.
Tom: But that’s been his problem the past year or so. He puts himself in position to win, but doubts himself enough to the point something happens that keeps him from winning. And that’s if he doesn’t go through some type of bad luck thing altogether that’s completely out of his control.
Amy: There is a difference between top five or top 10 and going on a winning tear. I think they’ll stay in the top-five/top-10 range.
Jeff: I wasn’t surprised by the Hamlin win. It is a Gibbs team, after all.
Vito: The No. 11 team is far and away the top Toyota team. Kyle Busch is floundering right now, maybe because he puts so much stock in his bludgeoning of the field on Saturday.
Tom: Well, Hamlin definitely earned this one. The way he powered through on that last restart was something to see. Kasey Kahne opened the door, but Hamlin had to have the guts to burst through it.
Amy: Kahne had to let him go; I picked him to win. That’s the nail in the coffin.
Beth: But back to the question at hand, Hamlin really earned this win today, and it was clear that it meant a lot more to him than usual.
Bryan: Yeah, Hamlin took not only the win today, but he took control of his emotions and the point at JGR. Today was huge for him.
Phil: I wanted Juan Pablo Montoya to win today, to be honest.
Bryan: Montoya will be a force on Sunday.
Amy: Montoya’s got it in the bag next week. Or at least, he’s holding the bag and will wrestle it in there.
Vito: I’m still picking Marcos Ambrose to win this week.
Jeff: I picked Ambrose today and he was doing good until….
Tom: The last 50 laps at Pocono this week were like from the twilight zone. I can’t remember a race that good there in the last decade. The cars got spread out at the very end but the double-file restarts were amazing.
Phil: I watched a really good Pocono race on justin.tv from 1990 last night.  That amped me up for today.
Jeff: I could not believe Jimmie Johnson’s performance today! Unbelievable.
Vito: That was not a bad championship performance.
Phil: I really want to know what caused that. Spake skirted the issue when she interviewed Knaus.
Vito: Note how his performance has improved exponentially since shaving…
Tom: Anyways, back to Hamlin… I do think he punched his Chase ticket today no matter what. Which will help him in the overall scheme of things.
Jeff: But I don’t think Hamlin is going to go on a tear.
Bryan: Whether or not it translates to a title, today was Hamlin’s. He’ll be in the Chase for sure, and JGR for the moment has a new flagship.
Phil: I agree with both of you. He’s all but locked into fifth or sixth until Chase time.
Amy: He’s very quietly had a very solid year, but I don’t see a winning streak.
Tom: They’ll have at least a couple of weeks in late August and early September to go experiment with a few setups and if they do end up the only Gibbs car in the Chase, there’s two other cars that can run with them. Run with them = run with experimental setups to keep helping Hamlin over the long haul.
Bryan: He doesn’t need to go on a tear yet. He’s remembered how to win, so when races at Loudon, Dover, Martinsville, etc. pop up come Chase time, he’ll be a threat again.
Vito: He’s getting rolling at a good time with some good tracks coming up. Not saying he’s championship material, but top five for sure.
Jeff: Martinsville was his last win.
Phil: That was the race where it basically rained for half the distance, yet not hard enough for NASCAR to throw the yellow.
Bryan: I was at that race, and brutal it was for those in the grandstands. It was 20 degrees below the forecasted high that day. As for Hamlin, it’s bad news for the rest of the field that the No. 11 team got a W. It doesn’t make him the title favorite, but it puts them in a position they weren’t in previously to make some noise.
Phil: Hamlin won’t win the championship, but this win solidifies a good season, no matter how much Dr. Punch wanted to trash it on ESPN today.
Vito: How did he trash it?
Phil: He basically out right said that Hamlin hadn’t had a very good season, mind you that he’s sixth in points entering the race.
Tom: Well, Monday turned into a feel-good story for the sport, which hasn’t happened very often as of late. But feel-good stories don’t always turn into long-terms successes. In my mind, the jury’s still out on Hamlin.
Jeff: Out for what Tom? That he’s a Chase contender?
Tom: For whether he’s going to be a true title contender.
Amy: He’ll easily make the Chase and probably wind up somewhere from fourth to seventh when it shakes down in November.
Phil: That sounds about right.

Johnson made a miraculous comeback at Pocono, rebounding from a three-lap deficit thanks to the free pass to finish 13th. In the old days, though, a mechanical problem like Johnson’s would have left him stranded back in 36th the whole day. Does this prove the No. 48 team is super lucky, or that the Lucky Dog is an outdated rule that needs to go?

Jeff: Oh get real! Get rid of the Lucky Dog?
Beth: He just happened to be lucky that more cars weren’t a lap down.
Bryan: It proves something we all have known for years: It’s Chad Knaus’s world, we’re all just living in it.
Phil: It needs to be amended. Johnson’s run today reminded me of Kyle Busch at Watkins Glen in 2006.
Tom: I was just going to say that, Phil. While it only happens once every few years, I feel like the No. 48 got away with murder. Kudos to Johnson for doing what he did, but he found a loophole in a rule that’s somewhat troubling.
Vito: I think it’s just being in the right place at the right time Something the No. 48 team has a knack for.
Amy: Have you not watched the No. 48 for the last seven years?  Making silk purses from sows’ ears is what they do.
Jeff: They got lucky a bit, but I was just impressed at how they never gave up!
Vito: The Lucky Dog rule should seriously be for cars that are only one lap down.
Bryan: Agreed entirely Vito.
Phil: Back then (which was the last race I went to), Busch made up five laps with Lucky Dogs and finished sixth.
Bryan: It is definitely proof positive that the Lucky Dog needs to be amended. Not ended, just amended.
Tom: I think that’s an excellent suggestion, Vito. You can’t keep opening the door for people to recover from problems they shouldn’t recover from.
Amy: No, the rule is fine. They played by the same rule everyone else does.
Jeff: Man, I agree with Amy… AGAIN!
Beth: What a surprise! I agree with you too, Amy.
Vito: I’m not saying they’re cheating or exploiting, Amy, but today proved where the rule doesn’t apply to everybody equally, if that makes any sense.
Amy: If a total nontender can get a lap back six times a race, why shouldn’t a frontrunner whose had a problem?
Vito: Basically, all he did was reap the benefit of being on a big-assed track where people don’t get lapped unless they’re down to seven cylinders.
Beth: That’s because they didn’t give up and got lucky there weren’t more cars just one lap down.
Tom: Under those circumstances, making up the distance should be nearly impossible, but the Lucky Dog makes it too easy.
Bryan: I can see where Vito is coming from. The track definitely played a huge role.
Jeff: Since you can’t race back to the yellow the Lucky Dog is the way to go. Not JJ’s fault no one was only one lap down.
Tom: It wasn’t Jeff, but that’s way too many freebies.
Vito: The point of the Lucky Dog was to prevent racing like an idiot back to the yellow flag, or wrecking the leader… not just being the only car who’s been lapped.
Phil: For the longest time, Johnson was the only one a lap down.  Everyone behind him S&P’ed.
Tom: Maybe you set a rule that you can only use the Lucky Dog once the whole day.
Bryan: Yes Tom, exactly. Keep it to once a day.
Phil: Just limit it to people one lap down.
Tom: I mean, think of Joey Logano‘s victory in New Hampshire and how much everyone complained about that. He was clearly not a lead lap car… damaged and involved in multiple accidents.
Bryan: Nobody is saying it’s Jimmie’s fault. He just happened to benefit four times from that rule, and that is questionable as to whether that was the intent of the Lucky Dog.
Jeff: So what do you want to do? Go back to racing to the yellow? Lap down guys on the inside on the restart again?
Bryan: Just limit the use of it.
Beth: I can handle that limitation.
Vito: It’s not a bad rule, but with the advent of the double-file restarts, it’s that much more important. But when you start giving laps back to cars multiple laps down, just because they’re the only ones it seems to diminish the competition level significantly.
Tom: It sounds ridiculous, but what if Johnson had won? That was certainly possible if there were a few more cautions there. He shot up to 13th in no time flat before the aero push spread everybody out.
Jeff: Oh be real! It’s not that often that you get it more than once.
Amy: So what if he had, Tom? They got lucky in that they were the only car a lap down, so why change the rule for everyone because you don’t like one guy getting some laps back? He’s not the first to get multiple free passes in a race and won’t be the last.
Vito: Not “a” lap down Amy… three laps down.
Bryan: For the love of God Amy, we’re not Jimmie bashing!
Phil: Truthfully, I wouldn’t mind the racing back to the yellow if people would use some common sense.
Jeff: Me too Phil, but blame the once ‘young guns’ for that.
Phil: Curse you, Casey Mears!
Amy: The problem is they don’t use common sense. A car is sitting wrecked in the middle of the track and cars are racing by to get to the line. That was happening too much.
Tom: I wish we had racing back to the yellow too Phil, but I understand why they don’t do it. It’s a big time safety issue.
Vito: That is a bit ridiculous in what is supposed to be the most prestigious form of motorsport in our hemisphere. Well, next to F1 in Brazil.
Tom: A gentleman’s agreement just won’t hold these days, so they have no choice.
Amy: Right.
Vito: “You! You… you’re no gentleman!!!!!” Come on… somebody know the next line…
Bryan: We’re making a mountain of a molehill here, people. The Lucky Dog is doing what it’s supposed to. It got exploited at Pocono through no fault of anyone, so fix it so it can’t be used four times in one race and move on.
Beth: Sounds like a plan to me, Bryan.
Jeff: I say don’t fix it. It is rare that this happens.
Amy: But here’s the thing: last week everyone was on the “don’t change the rules because someone is doing good” bandwagon and that’s all this is… Johnson got lucky and he isn’t the first.
Tom: I just think somebody winning from three laps down because he got free passes makes us look bad as a sport. It’s a loophole but it’s been used enough times now that NASCAR should take a look at closing it.
Vito: It should apply to cars one lap down only… and that’s it.
Amy: I disagree. I have no problem with someone getting laps back who had a problem they fixed. It keeps it exciting.
Vito: There were times back in the early and mid ‘90s when guys would make up two or three laps the hard way. That is why it diminishes the level of competition and the feats already accomplished by others.
Jeff: I could maybe live with that Vito, now that I think about it. But I wouldn’t say to go changing it right now.
Phil: Agreed, Vito. Kyle Busch should not have finished sixth at the Glen in ’06. He should have been 36th.
Jeff: The rules should be set at the beginning of the year and we live with them. If they want to change it, change it next year.
Amy: That would be OK, Jeff.
Vito: And it’s not so much he used it several times, it’s that he used it to get back from three laps down. It proves the system is flawed.
Bryan: Precisely Vito, and that was not how the rule was meant to be implemented.
Phil: This is not F1. We don’t have a Concorde Agreement to abide by. We can change things on the fly.
Jeff: When you go changing stuff in the middle of the year, it looks like a knee-jerk reaction.
Bryan: Just because we can doesn’t mean we should Phil.
Amy: Right.
Bryan: Jeff’s right, its important to keep the rules steady all season long, but I want to see this fixed come Daytona in February.
Vito: Maybe we can have a town hall meeting about it.
Tom: But sometimes guys, bizarre situations call for drastic changes quickly.
Jeff: No, set your rules, live with them for that year, then review them. ‘Bizarre situations’ is self-explanatory… and should NOT be considered.
Bryan: Jeff’s got my vote.
Phil: I tend to argue that stuff that costs money should wait. This kind of stuff can get done quick.
Amy: But, with the double-file restarts and the no racing back rule, it’s pretty much the only way a driver can get a lap back anymore. Do you really want to take a good car out of a race because they had an issue they were able to fix?
Tom: Think about if Johnson used this to win the championship. Again, what would people think? So often, NASCAR fails to react until it’s too late. For once, I’d actually like to see this sport nip something in the bud before it comes back to bite it.
Amy: How often does this situation occur?
Jeff: Exactly Amy.
Tom: It’s happened twice now. And with the way double-file restarts are … more and more cars are going to end up on the lead lap.
Amy: Just suck it up and deal with it when it does, because the rule is generally fine.
Tom: It’s got potential to happen again, easily. Especially at the big tracks like the road courses, Pocono, Michigan, etc.
Bryan: And I’d like to see taxes cut Tom, but some things just aren’t gonna happen. The rule was proven flawed. When we head to Daytona next year have it amended to limit use to once per driver per race.
Jeff: It may need tweaking, but not in the middle of the year!  No other sport does that!
Vito: The slippery slope is constantly getting that much more slippery. First you have 10 Chase guys, now you have 12. Now some people want more. Now you get laps back no matter how many you’re down. How fast should you be allowed to speed on pit road… when there is already a speed limit!
Phil: With racing back to the yellow forever banned and the double-file restarts, this is necessary. However, it can be exploited.
Tom: This isn’t the lottery, this is a sport. Johnson won the lottery today. And that’s not how it’s supposed to be.
Amy: And everyone played by the rules as written. Are you going to change the rules every time someone takes advantage of a very uncommom situation?
Jeff: Live with the rules you set for the year and change it next year if you need to. NASCAR’s got enough credibility problems now, remember? I mean, whats the point of having rules if they are all negotiable?

With five races left to go, there’s now a clear separation of over 100 points between 12th-place Greg Biffle and the rest of the Chase challengers. Does that mean the 12 drivers for the playoffs are set, or are we going to see a sudden surge by Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers or someone else?

Amy: I think Vickers will get in. If he doesn’t lose ground at the Glen, he has a real shot. Consistent top finishes at just the right time.
Bryan: If we see a surge from anyone it will be Vickers. They’re knocking on the door.
Jeff: Kyle Busch will not get in. David Reutimann may.
Vito: Reutimann won’t, unless they let Schumacher drive the car this weekend. And Kyle is done. He is gripping and in the midst of a monumental meltdown. I think it’s still open. Watkins Glen is a big wildcard.
Bryan: Reutimann is gonna have to step up big this weekend if he wants in. Road racing ain’t his forte.
Tom: Yeah, I think Watkins Glen will be especially critical to the three guys on the outside looking in. Kyle Busch is the defending champ, and he needs a top three finish to jolt himself back into contention.
Phil: By no means are they “set,” but it’s going to take a little more for someone else to break in.
Tom: Meanwhile, Bowyer and Vickers aren’t true road racers by any means, and they need to simply survive with top 15s in order to stay close enough to play to their strengths in the other four races. For Bowyer, that’s going to be the short tracks. For Vickers, it’s going to be the intermediates.
Beth: I don’t know. I think we’re pretty well set on the top 12.
Tom: It was interesting to see Kyle and Scott Speed tangle today. Speed is one of the few true friends Kyle has on the circuit. It really is just one of those times for the No. 18.
Phil: Busch can put together a good run Sunday at the Glen, if he can relax a little.
Vito: I’m not sold on Matt Kenseth, either. I think he’s the most vulnerable of the Chase guys.
Tom: Vito, how can you not be sold on Kenseth? The guy’s made the Chase five years in a row. He knows how to get the job done.
Vito: You’ve been watching the races this year, right? Half of his top fives were wins six months ago.
Bryan: Kenseth is vulnerable, but Ryan Newman has concerns too. Michigan and Atlanta are two of Newman’s weakest tracks.
Phil: Kenseth’s still got a 101-point cushion to play with. But, he’s not the best road racer.
Vito: If any of those guys wrecks, blows a motor, gets two laps down because of a blown tire, and can’t take advantage of being the only car three laps down like Johnson did, then that 100 points is out the window, instantly.
Amy: Well, just because Kenseth has made it every year doesn’t make him a shoe-in. He’s not consistent like he usually is, and it’s costing him.
Bryan: True Amy, the No. 17 team used to be a top-10 fixture, and they’re far from that right now. You never know when they’ll show up.
Tom: I think Biffle and Kahne are the most vulnerable. Kahne because he can be inconsistent as all heck. And Biffle is not a road racer, nor is he a good short track driver.
Vito: Biffle is a great road racer.
Bryan: Yeah, Biffle can road race.
Tom: He’s not favored to contend at three of the next five tracks. That could open the door for someone to make a run.
Phil: Biffle ran top five at the Glen as a rookie in 2003 before issues dropped him back.
Tom: Biffle has never finished in the top five at the Glen. And at Richmond, he hasn’t had a top 10 in three years. So there you go.
Vito: He did, however, get called a big bug-eyed dummy by Sterling Marlin at the Glen.
Tom: This will be the wake-up call he needs. I think the most dangerous guy outside the top 12 is Vickers. You can’t win five poles over the course of the season and not know what you’re doing.
Bryan: Vickers will be even better once Red Bull signs his damned contract.
Tom: Right. And it looks like it’s finally coming.
Amy: No kidding, Bryan, what are they waiting for?
Vito: Carrot at the end of the stick.
Phil: For Dietrich to sign off on it.
Tom: I think at this point, the story down the stretch is going to be more about Kyle Busch imploding than anybody sneaking in. Everyone but Biffle, Kahne and Kenseth look to be close to a lock at this point. Of course, anything can happen. But the rest are running pretty well and Kahne’s only on my list because of his past history… he’s kicking butt at the moment
Bryan: Newman and Kenseth are most vulnerable. Busch is out, Vickers has the best shot to get in.
Jeff: I still say watch out for Reuty.
Beth: I may be crazy, but I think we’re pretty well set with our top 12. If anyone sneaks in, I’ll agree with everyone in saying it’ll be Vickers.
Vito: I say Kenseth falls out, Bowyer makes it in by the skin of his chin. Hah, no pun intended.
Phil: It’s an absolute dogfight just outside the top 12, with four guys within 20 points.  Kenseth can be vulnerable, and so is Biffle, but it is unclear which can muster the energy to usurp them.

Ron Hornaday, at 51, won his fifth consecutive Truck Series race this weekend to set a series record. Does this accomplishment rank higher than the Cup Series modern-era record of four wins in a row… or does the diluted state of competition in the Truck Series take away from what he’s done?

Beth: This has been no easy feat for the No. 33 team.
Tom: Hornaday’s streak is mighty impressive, no matter how many trucks wind up starting-and parking each week.
Jeff: No way! Johnny Benson aint got a ride to contend with him!!!!!!!!!!!!
Amy: Five in a row with the competition in Cup would, in my opinion, be much more impressive.
Bryan: The competition certainly is diluted from where it has been, but five straight wins is five straight wins.
Beth: The competition in the Truck Series isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. There are far more trucks being competitive each week.
Vito: While it’s impressive… it shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as Petty and Allison.
Phil: It’s a very difficult feat, but the No. 33 is probably the strongest team in the series, by far.
Tom: I agree with Bryan. Hornaday is working his way towards future Hall of Fame status, in my opinion.
Amy: But Hornaday’s streak does solidify him as the best driver in the history if that series so far.
Phil: The Trucks aren’t Sprint Cup, though, so it’s not equal status.
Beth: He holds nearly every record in the Truck Series right now.
Tom: Five in a row is just incredible when you think about the diversity of tracks he’s done it on.
Bryan: That’s a great point, Tom.
Amy: Absolutely he should be Hall of Fame someday… just like Richie Evans ahould go in first ballot.
Jeff: But the trucks drive more like the Cup cars than anything else.
Vito: It’s the Truck Series, though. So what if some ARCA guy wins five in a row… does that make him the next Petty or Allison?
Beth: The Truck Series doesn’t need gimmicks. The racing speaks for itself.
Vito: I’m not saying it’s insignificant… just don’t tell me its in the same league as Petty and Allison, or even the Cup guys who have all won four straight – it isn’t.
Bryan: Hornaday’s running like wildfire to score a title that he lost literally in the waning miles of last season. Good stuff.
Tom: The Truck Series is one of NASCAR’s top-three divisions… filled with a bunch of up and comers and former Cup drivers. That’s some pretty formidable competition.
Phil: True, but not as much competition as in recent years. Hopefully, this changes soon.
Bryan: And it’s not like Ron’s doing it with a giant like Roush or Hendrick behind him. KHI obviously is a deep organization, but they are a Truck Series team.
Phil: It’s still quite an accomplishment.
Amy: I agree with Beth. The wins are legit. The competition keeps them from being on the same level as Cup wins, but it’s impressive in its own right, in the series where it happened. Comparing them is silly anyway… apples to oranges.
Jeff: The problem with the Truck Series that will NOT go away… the defending champ DON’T have a ride!
Beth: Exactly, Amy.
Bryan: Valid point as well Amy.
Amy: Why should the world’s best apple be punished because it isn’t an orange?
Beth: That problem will go away Jeff. Don’t worry.
Phil: Benson would be out on the sidelines with his injury right now if he did have a ride. He’ll get something when he recovers.
Jeff: Still boggles my mind though.
Beth: Me too.
Vito: It’s a big deal for the Truck Series, but don’t mistake 150- and 200-lap races for Winston or Sprint Cup races.
Jeff: But still.
Amy: Again, Jeff… that may be true, but it doesn’t matter, because the fact is, even if he had a ride, he’s hurt. And Hornaday beat the best who are racing right now.
Tom: Right. You can’t say Jeff Gordon‘s win streak didn’t matter because he wasn’t facing Richard Petty in his prime.
Jeff: Oh, I’m not taking anything away from Ron. That is not what I meant, but if JB had been racing, it might not have happened.
Vito: No, but they were racing 400- and 500-mile races.
Tom: You have to go by the competition you have on the track… and Hornaday successfully beat everyone he faced.
Phil: Or Harry Gant, Martin or Bill Elliott‘s four in a row streaks.
Amy: Might not, Jeff, but there are a lot of “might nots” in racing.
Vito: Look at the names you just rattled off.
Tom: When you think about it… back in 1991, Martin’s win streak was against maybe 25-30 competitive cars.
Vito: How are these even being considered the same as Hornaday’s win streak?
Tom: Right now, we’ve got maybe 20-25 competitive trucks. It’s not that far off.
Beth: That’s because NASCAR doesn’t do nearly enough to promote the series, but that’s another discussion.
Phil: Yeah. I went to one of Gordon’s wins in that 1998 streak.
Tom: You’d like to think publicity surrounding the win streak will help… but as we always say, one car dominating the series hurts the rest of the competition in the long run.
Vito: Timothy PetersColin BraunTayler Malsam…. these sound like guys in porno movies. Not drivers you win five consecutive races over and brag about it.
Phil: Porno names? I don’t know about that.
Jeff: I bet they sell out in Iowa in a month!
Amy: Hornaday is the best driver in the history of the series, and just because these weren’t Cup wins doesn’t change that.
Vito: Benson is the best driver in the history of the series.
Beth: Winning five in a row is a great accomplishment, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that streak continue. Hornaday is arguably one of the best drivers in the history of the series.
Bryan: Congrats to Ron on a significant accomplishment. Now someone break the streak and make the points race in the CWTS exciting again… it’s the only series we get to see a legit points chase in.
Phil: He’s undoubtedly the best in the series. I’m not arguing that.
Vito: That is not my opinion… that is fact.
Jeff: What porno movies you watching Vito… and better yet, why you got the sound on?
Beth: Amen, Bryan!
Amy: Thanks a lot Vito, I have to interview Braun next week. Not that’s all I’m going to be able to think about…

Predictions for Watkins Glen?

Beth: Stewart.
Amy: Montoya. He’s good on a road course AND pissed.
Tom: I’m completely baffled at this point with road courses. I would have never expected Kahne to come anywhere close to the lead at Infineon.
Vito: I’ve been blabbing it all year, so I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Speed on the pole, Ambrose for the win.
Jeff: Kevin Harvick.
Bryan: Ambrose for me too.
Phil: I’ll go with Jeff Gordon. Maybe he can get No. 5 on Sunday. And I’ll grill him about it in the press conference afterwards.
Tom: I’m going to go with Montoya, I think. He’s been knocking on the door too many times lately to not come away with one.

Mirror Predictions 2009

Welcome to our third consecutive year of Mirror Predictions! Each week, our experts take the end of this column to tell us who the winner of each Cup race will be. But as we all know, predicting the future is difficult if not completely impossible… so how do you know which writer you can trust when you put your own reputation (or money) on the line?

That’s why we came up with our Mirror Predictions Chart. The scoring for this year is simple:

Prediction Scoring
+5 – Win
+3 – Top 5
+1 – Top 10
0 – 11th-20th
-1 – 21st-30th
-2 – 31st-40th
-3 – 41st-43rd

Through 21 races, the All-Star Race, and the Shootout this season, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Beth Lunkenheimer 29 22 1 9 13
Bryan Davis Keith 24 -5 19 3 8 10
Amy Henderson 23 -6 23 3 8 11
Kurt Smith 22 -7 17 3 6 10
Tom Bowles 14 -15 6 1 4 4
Vito Pugliese 14 -15 12 1 3 7
Mike Neff 10 -19 16 0 4 8
Jeff Meyer 9 -20 15 0 4 7
Tony Lumbis 0 -29 1 0 0 0
Phil Allaway 0 -29 1 0 0 0
Matt Taliaferro -3 -32 1 0 0 0

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