Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Fuel-Injection Firestorm, Tackling Team Orders & Why Bash Bristol?

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:
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
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)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)

Saturday’s race at Bristol featured green-flag passing as well as several on-track run-ins, although many fans still said afterward that the race was boring. So was it boring, or are fans’ expectations out of line?

Phil: It wasn’t boring. I just think the fans are still used to constant bump and running at Bristol.
Jeff: 99% of the fans that say that are watching it on TV.
Bryan: The fans that didn’t enjoy what we saw this weekend need to go check out a demolition derby. Freaking three-wide racing on a half-mile! How is that not good enough?!

See also
Brisdull?!

Vito: Compared to the Bristol night races of old, yes it was boring. It was a good finish though, but you had two cars that were just checking out on everyone.
Amy: Apparently too many fans are confusing “NASCAR race” and “demolition derby” if they thought it was boring. There were 826 quality passes – how is that boring?
Vito: Again, a lot of the passing stats can be attributed to the double-file restarts.
Mike: True Vito, but I don’t think, with the old configuration, you’d have had half of those passes with double-file restarts. And any fans calling that boring are looking for wrecks and nothing else. The new configuration at Bristol is awesome, with racing everywhere, unlike the old follow-the-leader stuff they used to have.
Phil: I think some of the fans that don’t like the new Bristol should find footage of Bristol races before Aug. 1992. That stuff was actually relatively similar to what we’re seeing now. People weren’t limited to the bottom.
Vito: True, and eight cars on the lead lap.
Phil: You barely had that many on the lead lap during the infamous 1999 night race.
Bryan: There was plenty of passing under green though, Vito – just ask Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Marcos Ambrose.
Phil: Ambrose was quite aggressive Saturday night. He deserved that third-place finish.
Mike: Denny Hamlin passed a truck load of cars too.
Phil: 41st to fifth at Bristol is pretty rare.
Jeff: I still say, when you’d sometimes have a full quarter of the race run under caution on the old track – that is boring.
Bryan: Couldn’t agree more Jeff. Green-flag racing is what we come to see… or so I thought.
Mike: And when the only way to pass was by forcibly moving the guy in front of you was boring.
Amy: I will say that one element that was missing was any type of passion from the drivers. No anger, no real aggression and from that aspect, it was a little bland. I’m not saying they needed to go out and wreck each other, but at least look mad in the interview.
Bryan: The reason there wasn’t as much in terms of anger was because the majority of the Chase contenders ran well. Clint Bowyer didn’t and he was steamed.
Vito: Probably not. But nobody was throwing helmets, heel shields or punching ambulances, either.
Phil: Mainly because nobody blatantly took anyone out.
Amy: Nobody even called anybody an idiot on TV. That, to me, was the only thing missing.
Vito: Or a big bug-eyed dummy.
Amy: I’m not a fan of dirty driving but a little emotion is a good thing. Remember the time Jimmie Johnson flipped Robby Gordon the bird?
Jeff: But see, Bristol just does not lend itself to be a good televised race, old track or new. It is just too small. Bristol and Martinsville are about the only two tracks where you can see more at the track than on TV.
Vito: I would rather watch Bristol on TV than see it live.
Mike: Not me. There is so much going on that you don’t see on TV at those tracks.
Phil: I’d want to see Bristol live, so that I could say that I’d been there.
Jeff: I hate seeing it on TV. When you’re there, you can see all the racing all the time.
Vito: It’s too damned loud, you have no idea what’s going on or what lap everybody is on.
Mike: There is racing and passing every lap all over the place and they can’t show it all on TV.
Vito: Certain tracks, yes. But Bristol isn’t one of them for me. I think everybody should go there sometime to see it live and to walk into the track, but it’s hard to follow the race.
Jeff: And if racing is too loud, then you’re too old!
Bryan: That’s what scanners are for.
Vito: Hah, I just said it’s hard to follow. It’s cars going around in a circle every 15 seconds. All I have to do is wait a moment and they’re back where they were.
Amy: I will add that I wished it had been anyone but Mark Martin in second.
Phil: Scanners and/or earplugs.
Vito: Like you can hear a scanner there if you have it.
Jeff: You can.
Phil: Brief note: Earplugs cost only $1 in the garage but $2 at the souvenir trailers.
Vito: I wore ear plugs and my Smith & Wesson shooting muffs. Guy next to me had a scanner. He was screaming at me telling me what was going on and I had no idea what he was saying.
Bryan: If you can’t get excited about hearing that din of noise there’s something wrong with you.
Phil: At places like Infineon, Watkins Glen and Pocono you don’t even need ear protection.
Amy: You don’t just hear it, you feel it.
Mike N.: Feeling it constantly thumping against your chest.
Vito: I must be getting old. Early 30s.
Amy: Geezer.
Vito: Off topic, I’d really like to go to Talladega.
Bryan: Back to the race that took place – seriously, we got the best of both worlds on Saturday. Side-by-side racing with plenty of banged-up sheetmetal. Life was good for race fans this weekend.
Amy: All in all, a great race. What was lacking, if anything, was the human factor, not racing.
Vito: I think a lot of the reason the racing has suffered in recent years has been because it’s so close to the Chase. Guys are afraid to take chances and don’t want to mess it up for those who are in.
Jeff: The experience of hearing 43 800-horsepower cars racing in a “bowl” is what makes Bristol what it is. It’s a sound that I can only describe as “having to shout into your own ear to hear yourself when you have a thought” which, oddly enough, can be achieved with the proper amount of beverages and a bit of practice.
Phil: Saturday was a good race, but I’d almost argue that Friday night was more interesting.
Mike: The racing was great. There were cars running side-by-side with two legitimate grooves.

Many fans will agree that team orders – such as were seen between Mark Martin and Johnson at Bristol – have no place in racing. Is that true, and if so, what can be done about it?

Bryan: They have no place in racing but there’s nothing to be done about it, so just gotta take it and move on.
Vito: There’s nothing wrong with it… just trying to help a bubble teammate get a few extra points for leading the most laps.
Phil: I’ve watched more than enough Formula 1 to know that it shouldn’t play a role.
Mike: This came up a few years ago when Roush was kicking the crap out of everybody and they were orchestrating leading races. I don’t really have a problem with them working to get points for leading, but the day someone pulls over to allow a driver to get a better finish, I’ll be upset.
Phil: I’ve actually never seen that happen before in a race, Mike. I saw it happen in a BTCC race at Knockhill a couple of weeks ago, though.
Amy: OK, I don’t have a problem with teammates letting one another lead for a five-point bonus, but that wasn’t what happened between Johnson and Martin, and what did happen was flat wrong.
Phil: It came off as kinda blatant on Saturday.
Jeff: And Johnson had no need to even ask Mark for it! That is what is stupid.
Amy: He didn’t, Jeff. He raced by Mark, running his own race and was immediately told to give it back.
Bryan: That is terrible if that’s what happened Amy, and shame on Jimmie for being spineless enough to give it back.
Amy: Johnson passed Martin – Martin was never asked to move over – but Jimmie was immediately told to give it back so Martin could lead the most laps.
Vito: Those two cars – the Nos. 5 and 48 – were so much faster than everybody else, it wasn’t even funny. You get your car working that good and you’ve earned the right to do whatever the hell you want with it.
Jeff: And you know this how, Amy?
Amy: Radio transmissions.
Mike: Well, I wasn’t privy to that conversation, but if he pulled over after legitimately passing Mark, I am stunned. I also refuse to believe Mark would accept that.
Amy: It’s not the first time it’s happened at Hendrick, either. It was made clear to Johnson that Martin was to get the five extra points.
Vito: Roush does it, RCR does it, they all do it. Look, this isn’t Rubens Barrichello swerving out of the way and slamming on the brakes so Michael Schumacher can win, it’s the team car who is in the Chase assisting a teammate who is on the brink of falling out.
Phil: It’s bush league.
Bryan: It’s laughable. Who cares if everyone else does it, that doesn’t make it right or acceptable.
Vito: Why does everything have to be a teammate-smashing-into-each-other-BS-Days of Thunder undertaking with everybody?
Amy: Swapping lead for five points is one thing, being told to give a spot back that you raced for is totally different. Mark was in the lead, Jimmie passed him, and was chastised for it.
Jeff: Well, I can definitely see them letting Mark lead the most laps, the No. 5 team did need the points as they were sitting 12th.
Vito: Like Mark ever races that hard during the middle of a race anyway. He usually swings down to the apron on the backstretch and lets them go by.
Mike: Wait, Mark had the lead right?
Phil: At the beginning of the sequence under discussion here, yes Mike. They’re referring to the five extra points for leading the most laps.
Mike N.: So he already had five bonus points? I’m missing something.
Amy: Here’s how it went down, Mike.
Jeff: Listen up!
Bryan: We should have gotten this briefing before the first discussion.
Amy: Martin is leading the race, Johnson passes Martin on his own with no agreement from the No. 5 – he just passes him. Knaus comes on the radio almost immediately and tells Jimmie to give the spot back, as the No. 5 was trying to lead the most laps.
Mike: It was the middle of the race, right? So they couldn’t tell if Mark was actually going to lead the most at that point.
Jeff: Oh now look, you pissed him off!
Vito: So how is that any different than just pacing yourself and hanging around until the end?
Amy: I just thought it was cheap.
Vito: As it was, he didn’t get back up to the front anyway and Mark had the better car at the end… and got the most points. No harm, no foul.
Amy: He led after that, Vito. A pit mistake cost him the race.
Vito: I know. He didn’t get back up there at the end.
Phil: It was still a great run for Mark.
Amy: I don’t think NASCAR can really police it, but beyond the agreed-upon lead swap, it’s poor sportsmanship.
Bryan: Perfect summary.
Vito: That’s why you have teammates and that’s why everybody wants four cars on their team. Mark would’ve got another 10 points had he “helped” Kyle Busch out of the way at the end, which any other driver would have done to Kyle. So in that regard, I don’t see what the big deal is.
Amy: He should have done it, Vito. It’s his job to do it.
Mike: Mark would have bumped him if he could have gotten to him.
Vito: Mark and Kyle get along and race clean. I’ve only seen him intentionally light somebody up one time.
Mike: He was inside him and would have taken both of them out if he had tried to hit him.
Phil: Mark talked about potentially doing that, but he saw that Kyle gave him the room. So he decided to race him clean.
Bryan: Valid point there Phil. Kyle did give him enough room on the bottom to make the pass. Mark is, after all, one of the few drivers out there Kyle shows some respect towards.
Amy: I disagree, Mike. A properly done bump-and-run doesn’t wreck anyone.
Jeff: Mark couldn’t take the risk of a bump-and-run.
Mike: Kyle gave him a ton of room.
Vito: You can’t do it in this car. It’s just “bump-drafting.” You need to really turn somebody to get them out of the way.
Amy: You can still shove a car up the track.
Phil: Sure you can Amy, if you get him in the left-rear corner.
Mike: I didn’t think Mark was in a position to do that at the end of either straightaway in the last few laps.
Jeff: I knew Mark wouldn’t do it even if he did catch him – there was too much to lose. Mark already will be the top seed as of now. He just needed to make sure he’s in the Chase.
Bryan: And again, that’s not his style. Mark respects Kyle too much to do that.

It’s been reported recently that NASCAR is entertaining the thought of a fuel-injected engine in at least some of the top series, possibly as soon as 2010. Is this update long overdue or is the extra cost of around $20,000 per engine too much right now?

Bryan: $20,000 per engine extra is way too much right now. And think about how much that’ll add up for an NNS or Truck team.
Amy: I agree, Bryan, that’s almost a million a year. Fuel injection also gives teams a whole new place to cheat where it’s hard to catch and could give a huge advantage.
Vito: I don’t like it for two reasons: 1. Cost. 2. Another avenue in which to play with traction control.
Bryan: The traction control element can’t be stressed enough, Vito.
Phil: If NASCAR were to institute fuel injection, they’d also have to institute something else, like sealing or multiple races per engine.
Mike: Will it really be that much per engine? I can’t think it’d be that expensive. That said, it will be incredibly hard to police, which is why they have never been introduced it to this point.
Vito: Two reasons I do like it: 1. Makes them look responsible to the current communist regime and every other racing series on the planet outside of Monster Jam runs fuel injection. 2. Robert Yates whole-heartedly endorsed this two years ago.
Jeff: Fuel injection is just another nail in NASCAR’s coffin if they do it.
Vito: I wouldn’t be so scared of it, Jeff – every street car since ’88 or ‘89 has had it I think it will precipitate a move to a smaller engine to get horsepower down, while maintaining throttle response and control.
Phil: I think the last cars with carbs sold here in the U.S. were base Yugos in 1990.
Mike: What happens with plate races? Will they reduce the size of the throttle body or something?
Phil: Who knows what happens with those plate races. The plates wouldn’t exist, though. It would be electronically limited.
Vito: Same thing – smaller engines with fuel injection. Limit horsepower, no restrictor plates, smaller injectors.
Amy: I’m all for bringing the cars up to date, but when the little teams are already struggling to stay afloat, another million a year might kill them. And how is NASCAR going to police it? Tear down every engine every week?
Jeff: Why do we have to have it? NASCAR has always been about big V8 power, carburetor style.
Mike: It is just going to be very iffy when so much starts depending on computers or electronics….
Bryan: It’s just another way for NASCAR to justify even more rules. They’re like the federal government, always looking for another cookie jar to put their hands in.
Vito: The stock cars in NASCAR already do have electronics in the ignition boxes – and traction control was a concern eight years ago.
Mike: And there are people that still scream that traction control is in some boxes. You add fuel injection and the potential just doubled.
Jeff: Racing a carbureted engine makes NASCAR unique. Why do we have to update?
Bryan: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Phil: Why not give out the ignition boxes like what the ARCA Re/Max Series does?
Vito: It’s a concern, but I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Besides, NASCAR put out the word on traction control a few years ago – get caught with it and you’re done.
Amy: But nobody has driven a carbureted street car in 20 years at least.
Bryan: Nobody drives today’s “stock cars” anywhere but the racetrack, so who cares?
Jeff: Let’s get off the street car comparison. NASCAR is nowhere near stock.
Mike: My F150 is carbureted.
Amy: Fuel injection is more fuel efficient and has the potential to cut down on mileage racing.
Mike: It will just increase the distance they run on fuel, it won’t cut down fuel-mileage races.
Vito: There is one comparison where it is legitimate. In the 1980s, everbody was freaking out, thinking that EFI meant the end of modifying and tuning performance cars… quite the contrary.
Bryan: The benefits do not outweigh the costs, financially and in terms of all the freaking rules and regulation needed to implement it.
Amy: I agree, Bryan. It needs to be developed and implemented five years from now when things improve financially across the board.
Phil: Five years sounds about right.
Jeff: I see no need at all to go to FI.
Bryan: Me either. There is no need for it to happen now when there is no money for anyone outside of the big boys.
Vito: I think it’s good for the evolution of racing. The carburetor is about tapped out as far as development goes.
Mike: If you’re going to be implementing a new car in Nationwide, why not put in a new engine in at the same time? They’re already trying to kill the series.
Vito: Yeah, but think about it, who supplies the engines to all of these teams? The aforementioned Big Boys: Hendrick, Roush, TRD and RCR/EGR. There aren’t any smaller teams.
Mike: You’re already pricing out the little guy, so why not make them eat the whole enchilada at one time.
Amy: Not everyone is on a leasing deal.
Vito: They are in Cup.
Phil: I’m generally not a fan of lease deals. You just end up paying more.
Bryan: In NNS not everyone does for sure. Jeremy Clements‘s dad builds his motors, for example.
Amy: I know JRR builds their own as well because they can’t afford to lease.
Phil: Some of the smaller teams buy engines, instead of lease. Doug Taylor talked about buying engines instead of leasing in an interview with us last year.
Vito: It will be the trickle down effect if it does happen.
Jeff: When are we gonna just call it what it is and just race kit cars. Have NASCAR supply the engines and the teams buy them from NASCAR.
Vito: So are they talking about doing it in Nationwide only, Cup only or all divisions?
Bryan: When it first surfaced it was coming to the Trucks first, now it’s apparently Cup.
Mike: The quotes I saw suggested Trucks or Nationwide in the near future.
Vito: I think the Cup teams have endured enough change for a while.
Bryan: Yeah, the time is not now. There is no money for teams to do this nor a need for it to happen next year. I’m not supporting anything that will require more rules.
Phil: They need to plan out the Fuel Injection transition better. 2014-2016 would be fine to introduce it.
Amy: Yeah, a good idea a few years down the road, rushing it in won’t help anyone.
Vito: I just don’t think it’s as frightening as everybody makes it out to be. I think it would actually level the playing field a little bit.
Mike: We all know that it takes forever for something to get implemented. It wouldn’t hurt to start talking about it now and see where it ends up.
Amy: Sure it would, Vito, because it would force out more small teams leaving only the big ones to duke it out.
Jeff: But Goodyear will be behind and not have a tire capable… yada yada yada.

With Brad Keselowski reportedly heading to Penske Racing for 2010, it will likely leave an open seat at JR Motorsports for next season. Kelly Bires looks to be the frontrunner, but team president Kelley Earnhardt Elledge said that the team is still looking at options. Who should get what is arguably the best open seat in the series next year?

Bryan: If they wanted to do the right thing, they’d bring back Landon Cassill.
Jeff: Bires is my choice.
Vito: Danny O’Quinn.
Bryan: If they want the best in terms of talent out there, either Bires or Clements would be the way to go.
Mike: O’Quinn or Matt DiBenedetto.
Amy: DiBenedetto is under development with Gibbs. As much as I’d like to see a veteran in it, I think Hendrick needs a development driver. They will have two Cup rides, if not three, open up in the next five years.
Phil: Cassill wouldn’t be bad, but Bires has done more in the series over the past couple of years. I’d be interested in what O’Quinn could do in the No. 88.
Bryan: Let’s not forget that Cassill got shafted this year so that Keselowski’s car had full sponsorship.
Amy: I’d like to see Sean Caisse get a good ride.
Mike: Keselowski is leaving JRM. Proves that you don’t have to stick with your team.
Vito: O’Quinn in a decent car would be fun to watch and we’d have a throwback driver in a throwback car. Assuming Chevrolet pulls their head out of their ass and fields a Camaro instead of a stupid Impala.

[irp posts=”23108″ name=”What’s Vexing Vito: Chevrolet Dropping New Camaro and the Ball for Nationwide Series in 2010″

Phil: I personally thought their Nationwide CoT was going to be a Malibu until they announced that it would be an Impala.
Jeff: Every race that Bires has run the full race in this year he has been at least top 10.
Vito: O’Quinn won Rookie of the Year in the also-ran No. 50 Roush car a couple of years ago.
Mike: Whoever they put in there I can promise won’t be as much of an idiot as Keselowski is.
Vito: Not a fan Mike?
Bryan: Amen to that Mike. I really like the guy, but man moving to Penske is a stupid move.
Mike: I like BK as a driver, he just needs to know his role and realize he’s not that good. And where are the Penske cars running this year besides Kurt Busch?
Bryan: That No. 12 car is gonna be so far behind the 8-ball come Daytona.
Vito: If Kurt and David Stremme swapped cars next week, I doubt the No. 12 would run a whole lot better.
Amy: Of course not, it takes time to build communication.
Vito: When David got in the Navy car, it was up front every week.
Phil: I’m confused. I think the No. 12’s in a funk. The team isn’t horrible.
Vito: Don’t let the font fool you. That isn’t Ryan Newman‘s team from four years ago.
Jeff: What about Justin Allgaier?
Bryan: Allgaier’s not ready.
Vito: Just put Travis Kvapil back in it or Brendan Gaughan for God’s sake. The result is still going to be the same.
Bryan: Well, kudos to Penske at least for not throwing Allgaier into the No. 12 Cup car next year.
Mike: That is true Bryan. I’m glad they didn’t hang him out. He’ll be good in time. And maybe he can go over and take Keselowski’s ride at Hendrick that he was too impatient to wait for.
Vito: Brad was wise in leaving and looking around. I don’t think the No. 5 is going to be open anytime soon.
Amy: The one that Martin shows no inclination to ever get out of?
Vito: Yup. Or reason. I think Rick likes his line up now, too.
Mike: SHR is going to add a car. JRM is going to go Cup racing. There are Hendrick rides coming and Keselowski needs another year in NNS.
Amy: Seriously though, look ahead at HMS and you see the real need for development drivers.
Bryan: See, personally I think that Hendrick is really being short-sighted letting Brad go. Martin is not the future of HMS. Keselowski could be, especially when the No. 24 will also soon be vacant.
Amy: Keselowski has almost three years in NNS… that’s plenty.
Mike: I agree Amy. They’re going to have two or three rides come open in short order in three or four years.
Vito: I don’t think Brad needs another year in NNS at all. Every time he gets in the No. 25 (or the No. 09) he has strong runs in the Cup races.
Amy: Five years out, my money’s on only the No. 48 having the same driver it does today.
Bryan: And I don’t buy this stupid argument that there’s no room at HMS. If Hendrick wanted there would be a third seat at SHR ready for either Keselowski or Martin at Daytona in 2010.
Vito: What BK needs is a car to drive with a team that will be there for a few years. If EGR wasn’t such a question mark, that would be a good fit for him, replacing Truex.
Amy: EGR is a mess. I wouldn’t wish that deal on anyone.
Mike: A mess? Juan Pablo Montoya is going to be in the Chase.
Bryan: Casey Mears can go to EGR. Or Jamie McMurray. Let them inhabit the elephant graveyard over there.
Amy: And the No. 1 is where in points? 23rd?
Mike: Well, where are the RCR cars?
Amy: Back to JRM, I really like the idea of Bires in that car. Second choice would be Caisse. And follow Gibbs’s example: start a couple of others in the East or West series now.
Bryan: If they sign Bires, which they will, they’re gonna get a great prospect for the No. 88. But man, I really hope that this upcoming move doesn’t screw up Keselowski’s career. He deserves to make it at the Cup level, but this move has me concerned.
Phil: Bires would be great. So would O’Quinn. Caisse will probably end up with Childress eventually.
Vito: O’Quinn. Two good ol’ boys running a race team, shades of Childress and Earnhardt. Guys who sound like they actually own and drive stock cars. We need more of it.
Amy: I don’t get the O’Quinn love.
Mike: And just to set the record straight, Keselowski’s Cup finishes this year: 38, 23, 1, 7, 6, 24, 32, 24.
Bryan: Mike, compare Keselowski’s Cup runs this year to when Kyle Busch drove the No. 84.
Mike: Kyle Busch in the 84: 41, 32, 24, 37, 34, 43. With three crashes and an engine failure. O’Quinn is a good driver who doesn’t fit the McMurray/Mears mold, so he is not given good rides.
Amy: He’s had good equipment and not done much with it.
Vito: When?!?!
Bryan: What good equipment? That Roush No. 50 car was thrown together week to week.
Vito: And its crew chief was Martin’s rear tire changer at the time. Danny’s didn’t half the time and he still won ROTY.
Amy: Roush could afford as much as JRM.
Vito: Rookie Driver. Rookie crew chief. Limited funding. Not getting same stuff as Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth or Carl Edwards. Not hardly.
Bryan: Look at all the Cup drivers out there who ran limited Cup races before going full-time. Kes has done as well, if not better, than all of them.
Amy: Kes has more Nationwide wins than some guys with solid Cup rides.
Vito: I’d say so. Dude has actually won a race!
Phil: Keselowski has done about as well as Newman did before he went full time.
Mike: Don’t go there with a plate race, Vito.
Vito: Hey, he put himself in a position to win and didn’t hit the flying car.
Amy: He’s done better than either Tony Stewart or Johnson on the NNS level, in fact.
Mike: I just think he is crazy going to another team instead of waiting for a Hendrick ride.
Amy: How long should he have to wait? He’s ready for Cup now.
Vito: What if they choose some other kid or hire away Joey Logano? Then he’s all kinds of screwed. This isn’t like Tommy Gun in Rocky V… if I had a chance to drive for the Captain knowing Kurt might not be back, hell I’d jump first.
Vito: Hey, he might be the lead driver for Saturn here in a couple of years. Sincerely, Helio Castroneves.
Amy: You’d wait 3-4 years if a ride was offered?
Phil: I couldn’t imagine waiting that long if people wanted me for a decent Cup ride.
Amy: Three years from now, Hendrick will have cars a-plenty to think about filling. Now, not so much.
Mike N.: A decent Cup ride. Penske is not a decent Cup ride.
Bryan: No it is not. The No. 12 is a third-tier ride now.
Vito: If someone was going to show me $5 million in salary, 40% of my winnings and t-shirt sales to drive a Penske racecar, I wouldn’t keep messing around in the Nationwide Series, especially if it meant having to drive a stupid Impala next to a Challenger.
Bryan: With an uncertain manufacturer future and only one teammate to pull a lot from?
Mike: I’d wait. If I were driving for Rick Hendrick and knew I was going to end up in Hendrick stuff, I’d wait.
Vito: How do you know they won’t have Brad drive the No. 2?
Bryan: For crying out loud, if he stayed a year or two, Kes may well have gotten to take over the No. 24!
Vito: I don’t think Kurt is a lock to stay there forever like Rusty Wallace did. I think it’s a smart move. Have a chance for being a top driver for Penske or get lost in the shuffle in a garage full of legends at Hendrick Motorsports.
Amy: So back to the original question… who should get JRM’s No. 88 ride?
Bryan: Cassill, Clements, O’Quinn should all be in the conversation.
Vito: O’Quinn, I thought we covered this.

OK, predictions for Montreal?

Phil: I’m going to go with Ron Fellows to repeat.
Vito: Ambrose.
Mike: Yeah, I’ll take Ambrose too.
Bryan: Kyle Busch wins.
Amy: Patrick Carpentier, but only if he’ll run naked down pit road if he wins.

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 24 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 32 24 2 10 14
Bryan Davis Keith 24 -8 22 3 9 11
Amy Henderson 23 -9 26 3 8 13
Kurt Smith 22 -10 18 3 6 10
Vito Pugliese 20 -12 14 1 5 9
Tom Bowles 15 -17 7 1 4 5
Mike Neff 15 -17 17 1 5 9
Jeff Meyer 10 -22 17 0 5 8
Tony Lumbis 0 -32 1 0 0 0
Phil Allaway -3 -35 3 0 0 0
Matt Taliaferro -3 -35 1 0 0 0

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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