Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Montoya or Martin Driving Dirty? A Cautionary Tale & As The Tryson Turns

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)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
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)

Juan Pablo Montoya says Mark Martin played dirty at the end of the Cup race at New Hampshire. Is he a sore loser, or did Mark’s reputation let him get away with one?

Bryan: Montoya is a sore loser. The Raisin did nothing that he hasn’t done before. He raced hard and clean, JPM couldn’t take the position. The end.
Kurt: Post-race tempers – he’ll get over it. It’s about winning in the end, not politeness, and Martin is a competitor too.
Jeff: What a sore loser.
Beth: I agree. He’ll be fine by next week.
Tom: Montoya’s just mad the race didn’t play out in his favor, because he probably did have the fastest car. Martin did one heck of a job to hold on through those final three restarts, and he definitely earned this win.
Mike N.: The car in front can go where they want. You have to get around him. Mark pinched Montoya down… it was fair and square.
Kurt: He spoke about maybe moving him next time, Mike… that’ll make him really popular.
Mike N.: Maybe Juan can talk to Matt Crafton about how to do that subtly.
Jeff: Yeah, I am getting real sick of this notion that you cant touch anyone while racing.
Mike N.: I was hoping he’d dump him…
Bryan: Before JPM was moaning in post-race like a baby, I was going to commend him for showing Mark some respect. But listening to him speak… man, get over it.
Kurt: With all that though, give JPM some for restraining himself and not hitting him, and in that light maybe Martin’s reputation helped. Anyone else might have gotten moved.
Beth: You’ve got a point there, Kurt. JPM even mentioned how much he respects Mark. I don’t know what the big deal is, personally. It’s not like it’s something we haven’t seen hundreds of times in the past.
Bryan: It was the perfect example of what I was talking about last week: drivers policing themselves. Martin has a sterling clean rep, and Montoya raced him accordingly. Had that been Kyle Busch, the story would have played out differently – just like it should.
Jeff: A week ago, Martin wouldn’t have raced as hard and settled for second like he did at Bristol. But now, the gloves are off.
Mike N.: He wasn’t in front at Bristol.
Jeff: I know that Mike, but he could have moved Busch.
Kurt: Busch and Martin were both racing clean at Bristol because both of them were on the cusp. Without the Chase, it would have been game on for both of them. But whatever.
Tom: Moving on, I think everyone respects Mark to the point he’ll never get bumped intentionally anymore. And that actually could be a good thing if Mark ever uses it to his advantage.
Bryan: I agree, Tom. Martin has built 20 years of goodwill on the track, and it played a role in getting him the W Sunday. That’s not a bad thing, that’s part of the sport.
Kurt: And I noticed Mark learned after Daytona in 2007 to keep the hammer down even when a wreck is going on.
Tom: He said in the media center Sunday that he would never do what the media wanted him to do – be overaggressive for the win. But can you imagine if he started beating and banging people all over the place? No one would retaliate… because he’s freaking taught them everything they know.
Kurt: It would be great. Dr. Martin and Mr. Hyde.
Mike N.: Oh, I think they’d return the favor if it became a habit.
Bryan: If Martin started beating and banging, he’d lose that cred that kept Montoya off his bumper on Sunday.
Kurt: There isn’t going to be any animosity between Mark and Juan.
Mike N.: We’ll see, Kurt. If the situation comes up again, I don’t know that Juan will give him as much slack.
Tom: I think there’s going to be animosity between Montoya and a lot of people before the end of the Chase.
Bryan: That I’ll agree with, Tom. And JPM has to be careful, because outside the flat tracks that No. 42 car hasn’t set the world on fire this year.
Tom: He was not afraid to rough anyone up, and my impression after talking to him last week is that he’s really coming into this with a carefree, nothing-to-lose attitude. He thinks he’s got the whole Chase thing figured out.
Kurt: I think anyone who finished second in that race would have had the same reaction. They might not have said anything afterward, but they’d be a little upset.
Tom: I’m actually really excited. People thought we lost the aggressor when Kyle Busch didn’t make it. Oh no. Mr. Montoya is going to shake things up… it’s just a matter of when.
Mike N.: If he’s in contention after six or seven races, it’ll be on.
Bryan: It won’t matter when JPM starts running 10th-15th like usual. They won’t be that hooked up all Chase long.
Jeff: Yeah and I’d bet, if he does, you don’t see NASCAR giving him a black flag like Crafton!
Bryan: Hell no, Jeff. A foreigner winning the Cup? Brian France dreams of such things happening.
Mike N.: If Montoya wins the Cup, NASCAR will go nuts. They’ll be selling TV rights to ESPN Deportes.
Kurt: Now what if he does, Tom? Then the secret for the first 26 races will become points racing.
Tom: I’ll let you in on a secret Kurt: the secret for the first 26 races IS points racing. That’s what everybody does.
Bryan: True that Tom. Signed, the four winless drivers in the Chase.
Kurt: Even the Jimmies and Jeffs who know to points race try to win once in awhile, though. But back to the question, the post-race was a reaction by a guy who doesn’t like to finish second. Give him credit for giving us something to talk about and not moving Martin out of the way when he could have.
Tom: Well, I will say this much before we move on: Martin did cut down a bit. But on a scale of 1 to 10, that was like a two.
Mike N.: Oh I’d call it a five, but them’s the brakes.
Kurt: It’s what you do on the final laps if you want to win. If he didn’t, he’s not a racer.
Tom: It’s about the most aggressive move you’ll get out of Martin. Montoya just let the frustration get to his head about the race not playing in his favor.
Jeff: Montoya spoke before he thought.
Tom: I think Kurt Busch had an outside shot to win, too… and did anyone notice him and Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps?
Mike N.: Nope.
Tom: The No. 48 and the No. 2 spent more time together than Tryson and Busch these days. Zing!
Kurt: Jimmie’s probably even allowed in the garage.
Mike N.: That’s a good one, Kurt. Johnson can go to Penske’s shop, but not Tryson.
Amy: Yeah, because there’s nothing there worth Johnson stealing….
Bryan: He’s making sure Brad Keselowski won’t have better stuff than he will next year.

On the last lap of the race Sunday, AJ Allmendinger spun and came to rest by the start/finish line. However, NASCAR waited until the leader was coming off turn 4 to pull out the caution flag. Was that too late, or were they doing the right thing to try and have a green flag finish for the fans?

Kurt: Oh for crying out loud, this made me nuts. What is it with NASCAR’s breaking out in hives at the thought of ending a race under caution?
Beth: That caution flew way too late.
Mike N.: Really? I was so glad they did that. They still throw cautions way too fast, and for once they got it right.
Bryan: The caution flew when it needed to. They actually let the race for the win unfold. Good for them.
Kurt: It’s like some Mafia guy goes into Helton’s office and says “Louie says the race is gonna end under green today or something’s gonna happen to your knees, OK?”
Tom: Here’s what I find so funny. NASCAR pulls the trigger for a hot dog wrapper during a long green-flag run causing these “debris” cautions in the name of safety. But when there’s a car stopped coming out of turn 4, they decide to let things end under green. In their world, every time you say “safety” it means “entertainment.”
Beth: And that’s why I had such a problem with it.
Mike N.: David Stremme brushed the wall and kept going and they threw a caution. They need to keep it in their pocket a lot more.
Bryan: It sure as hell was not consistent, Mike, but it was the right call.
Mike N.: They were hoping he could freaking start his car instead of reloading the CD player before he tried to crank it.
Tom: Yeah, in all seriousness they were waiting for the ‘Dinger. But that caution needed to be called going into turn 3. You need to give the leaders at least 10 seconds to slow down and react.
Kurt: I don’t care if they throw a yellow for debris, but if a guy is stopped on the racetrack that should get a yellow too. Especially on the last lap!
Mike N.: They threw it at the point the drivers pick up the throttle. It was the right time. It’s like football. Play until you hear the whistle. Race until you see the caution.
Kurt: Here’s the thing. Everyone on the track knew to keep racing… but if one guy checks up with the spin, there’s a multi-car wreck and the standings get skewed.
Tom: I understand your point, Kurt. I think NASCAR’s intentions were good, but there’s such subjectivity in throwing cautions at this point you’re allowed to question them pretty much every time. Just look at the poll on my column… a full 78% of fans at last check didn’t think there was any debris to cause the caution with 23 laps to go that bunched up the field. So NASCAR’s damned when they do and damned when they don’t.
Kurt: Have you noticed that they haven’t bothered showing us the debris these days?
Tom: I think they need to come up with a more reasonable set of rules. When there’s debris in the groove, how big does it have to be? Do we have to have a caution every time there’s a blown engine?
Mike N.: Blown engine is fine. But if a car spins and keeps going, don’t throw a caution.
Bryan: If they can’t show it on screen, it ain’t that bad. And considering Goodyear’s solution to everything is to bring rock-hard tires, who cares about the debris?
Tom: Good call, Bryan! The seeing-eye test.
Beth: Same goes if a car bounces off the wall – as long as they don’t leave debris behind.
Kurt: I don’t think NASCAR is trying to manipulate the outcome, but they do seem to try to stop long runs. And a debris caution is always going to benefit someone.
Bryan: I don’t get that either, Kurt. The opening long green-flag run was great.
Kurt: I 100% agree, Bryan. Long green runs are exciting. You’re waiting to see who craps out first. It’s more nerve-wracking than it seems when it’s broken up by commercials.
Mike N.: Plus you get strategy like we saw that ended up putting Martin out front.
Bryan: Exactly, Mike. The strategy was a big deal all race long.
Tom: Yeah, I mean you can make the argument the debris cautions shaped the entire outcome of that race. I don’t want to do that, because it was a damned good race. What’s troubling to me is the number of drivers who questioned the final debris caution as NASCAR was setting up an exciting finish. When even the drivers are questioning the sanctioning body… that’s laughable.
Kurt: Why not, Tom? Isn’t the Chase a debris caution?
Mike N.: I think there should be no non-wreck caution flags unless there is some sort of fluid or a piece bigger than a leg on the track.
Kurt: I’m OK with debris cautions so long as there is debris. But throw it when someone is stopped on the track, for Pete’s sake.
Tom: Well NASCAR needed to call the caution sooner on that one. Too close to a horrific incident… the whole deal reminded me of Dale Jarrett‘s car sitting in the exact same spot six years ago, which is the reason we don’t race back to the yellow in the first place.
Kurt: It definitely warrants a caution.
Tom: If the leader is within 10 seconds of a stopped car on the racetrack, that’s too close.
Beth: That caution should have been thrown a lot sooner.  There is no reason for the field to come out of turn 4 at full speed when there’s a car stopped on the track.

In a little tidbit picked up this weekend by our own S.D. Grady, Kurt Busch’s crew chief-to-be has to be approved by all the crew chiefs in the Penske shop. Is this move the latest sign team racing has gotten out of control in an individual sport, or a necessary one to make sure the new guy fits in?

Amy: Yes. If you want to know the difference between Hendrick and Roush, that’s why: teamwork vs. five teams who don’t work together and actually guard things from each other.
Bryan: Actually, Penske Racing is making a mistake here. Pat Tryson is the guy that led the turnaround in that camp and he was an outside hire.
Tom: I think it’s a little strange. Last I checked, it’s not Penske Racing that scores all the points of the No. 2 car. It’s the No. 2 itself.
Kurt: Maybe they all know what Kurt is like to work with. Or it could just be their way of doing things.
Jeff: It’s BS.
Bryan: Meanwhile, the inside promotions haven’t exactly set the No. 12 car on fire.
Beth: It’s more likely a thing of whether the new guy fits in. What workplace is going to be productive if the people working there can’t get along?
Jeff: Roger is the boss, he can hire who he wants.
Tom: Again – and I’ve made this point before – all the teams in the AFC East don’t work together in the NFL. I know all three cars are owned by the same guy, but at some point, don’t you want these people competing against each other?
Kurt: They’re not going to compete against Hendrick if they don’t cooperate, Tom.
Amy: If you’re going to emulate a model, that’s the one you want to emulate.
Tom: And therein lies the problem. Hendrick has changed the name of the game. It’s all about peace and love and why run side-by-side when we can run 1-2-3-4-5 and pocket that cash!
Kurt: But other teams have multiple cars Tom, and they’re not doing as well. Hendrick’s success is more than just collaborating.
Bryan: Penske needs to branch out and bring in a big-time name that has been exposed to other ways of thinking, keep them pushing the edge.
Mike N.: I thought everyone always got along at Penske since Rusty left.
Bryan: I don’t like the idea personally. The No. 77 has been better, but the No. 12 car has sucked this year. They need to bring in another outside hire, a la Tryson, that’ll kick the organization in the ass – not who the No. 77 and No. 12 think they can work with.
Beth: Well the problems with the No. 12 could have alot to do with the driver, too.
Amy: Well, yeah, the No. 12 needs a better driver.
Bryan: Ryan Newman couldn’t do anything with it last year either, Beth.
Tom: I agree with Bryan. What the No. 12 and No. 77 want is irrelevant. It’s all about who works the best with Busch, nothing more, nothing less. And Kurt doesn’t owe it to the other two teams to carry them on their back. Again, this is a team sport for individual cars. That’s what I signed up for when I first started watching this sport in ’89… if I want to watch team orders, I go turn on Formula 1.
Bryan: Valid point, Tom. HMS may cooperate, but Jimmie doesn’t have any drivers there he has to carry on his back.
Mike N.: But the better your organization runs, the more sponsor money you bring in. And sharing information will make everyone better.
Bryan: Kurt can share… for crying out loud, he’s the guy that broke the barrier between the No. 2 and No. 12 after Rusty Wallace retired!
Amy: Rusty was the barrier, Kurt didn’t break anything.
Mike N.: Except the law in Arizona.
Jeff: But like I asked, does anyone know if Roger does the same with his open wheel teams? Has Penske always used this method of hiring and only now someone gets wind of it?
Kurt: I’m sure he does, Jeff.
Jeff: Then it is a non-question.
Bryan: The problem is not Kurt Busch here. The problem at Penske has been they get stale because they keep to themselves as an organization. Hiring Pat Tryson was out of character, but it worked. On the other hand, as nice a guy as he is, Roy McCauley hasn’t done much on the box.
Tom: Well Penske also was with the worst manufacturer of the four… remember how awful Dodge was in ’08?
Kurt: And probably will be in ‘09. Penske is going to be very isolated out there.
Mike N.: But remember, they’re going to have all of Dodge’s support in 2010.
Amy: For what that’s worth….
Kurt: I don’t know. I think it works better with more cars than less. Toyota got much better when they began supplying for Gibbs.
Amy: But remember, TRD doesn’t supply for Gibbs. Gibbs is in-house.
Mike N.: Toyota does, they just don’t do the full engines.
Kurt: I expect Gibbs can still give info to them though.
Amy: But I bet Gibbs doesn’t – not on engines.
Bryan: Penske still has to have the right people. If SHR taught us one thing this year, that’s it. And Penske doesn’t have that right now.
Tom: Exactly Amy. I think Dodge got distracted this year with both the bankruptcy and the RPM problem. Getting that off their back is like a sigh of relief. And remember, Penske is responsible for the new engine that debuted late last year.
Bryan: Horsepower has never been the problem at Penske, though.
Tom: They work well with the company, and even though Saturn may be in the long-term plans, their short-term rebuilding with Dodge is secure. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a Robby Gordon go back to Dodge in the offseason.
Bryan: Since ’06 they have struggled with chassis and aero, not horsepower.
Jeff: Questioning Penske’s hiring process and debating if “team” racing has gotten out of control are two completely different issues.
Bryan: Not really, Jeff.
Mike N.: They’re actually kind of interrelated.
Bryan: If the team at Penske isn’t sound, then relying on them to pick crew chief No. 3 is out of control.
Amy: How has team racing gotten out of control? I hate team orders on the racetrack, but info sharing… a problem? Not.
Kurt: It makes sense to have a guy everyone approves of, but that limits your choices.
Mike N.: Not to mention, how do they know they’ll get along with him after an interview? I’ve seen a lot of interviewees who sounded good and then got in the office and were whacked out of their minds.
Jeff: Bottom line: The pick of crew chief should be between driver and owner, no one else, no matter how many cars that guy owns.
Amy: I think Penske has a valid point in going this route. Nobody said that Busch has no say.
Kurt: Whatever works for Penske, I suppose. I’m not sure I’d do it that way.
Beth: I don’t really see a problem with the entire team approving of the crew chief, but if it comes down to passing on a great crew chief just to make sure everyone likes him… Penske would be wise to think twice.

In the Truck race on Saturday, the most shocking of team orders came down: Kevin Harvick, team owner, wanted championship-contending teammate Ron Hornaday to just move out of the way, costing him valuable points while Harvick was given a shot at the win. Hornaday was confused, Harvick was angry, all sides denied it to the press, and there’s a team meeting to address the issue this week. What a mess… your take?

Bryan: Harvick messed up big. Very big.
Kurt: Didn’t Hornaday lose a title to team orders once?
Jeff: Harvick was being a jerk.
Tom: The whole thing was disgusting. And the best part is, it makes no freaking sense!
Beth: I can understand where Harvick was coming from in wanting his team to get the win, but he’s got to remember his driver is racing for the championship.
Amy: I don’t think it was so much team orders as a frustrated driver with a faster truck wanting by.
Mike N.: Hornaday has the thing locked up. He should have let Harvick go.
Tom: You’d think it would be the owner pulling over for the driver running his truck for a title. I don’t like either scenario, but what Harvick did was doubly wrong.
Bryan: You don’t pass trucks over the radio. That’s BS, especially in the closing laps in the top five.
Amy: I think if Harvick hadn’t have been in the heat of the moment, he’d have realized that what he was asking was stupid.
Tom: I would hope Harvick came to his senses; but then again, he had a big team meeting with everyone at the haulers after the race.
Kurt: The team meeting is probably to develop code words for the radio. “The bath water is hot this Thursday” means “let me by.”
Mike N.: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” means “dump Mike Skinner.”
Kurt: “He or she smells like a bus” means “block Todd Bodine.”
Tom: Seriously, what’ll happen the next time the No. 2 car is entered? I’m real curious to see, and no matter what, Harvick will now be questioned for any move near his trucks – and deservedly so.
Kurt: Did Harvick hire Hornaday to get the best possible finish each week? There you go.
Tom: I’m so proud of Hornaday for not moving over. Good for him standing his ground and realizing the owner was being a nitwit.
Beth: Honestly, if Harvick really had that great of a truck, he wouldn’t have been screaming into the radio for Hornaday to let him pass. And I’m sure Harvick will figure it out, but when you’re in the middle of a race and are faster than the guy holding you up, you might not see so clearly. Unless he fires Hornaday, this is no big deal at all.
Bryan: Amy, the thought of telling your team truck to move over should never enter your mind, period.
Kurt: I don’t understand what Harvick was thinking in the first place. He’s a veteran of the sport, for crying out loud!
Bryan: Not all of us embrace the HMS school of bending over to cooperate on the track.
Mike N.: Hey, don’t forget the Roush lead swapping dance a couple of years ago.
Kurt: In the closing laps of the race, I’m amazed that some guys think teammates should let them by.
Tom: I think we’re going to see Harvick be contrite about it this weekend at Dover. What goes around comes around though… he had an awful time in the Cup race the following day.
Amy: How many guys have their spotter tell another driver during the course of a race to move his slow ass out of the way?
Bryan: Slow ass, second place. Slight difference.
Tom: In the meantime, this is the first year in a long time I remember the Truck title being in the bag this early. Rare that anyone runs away with it like Hornaday is. The funny thing is, the Hornaday-Harvick battle on-track was some of the more exciting racing I’ve seen all year.
Bryan: Well it helps when NASCAR black flags the second-place driver for being aggressive, Tom.
Mike N.: When the second-place car is driving like a total tool, they have to.
Bryan: If “tool” is the standard, NASCAR should have black-flagged Harvick on Saturday.
Kurt: To try to understand Harvick, he has nothing to race for but a win, and it wouldn’t have cost Hornaday many points. Still, it doesn’t make sense.
Beth: I’m not surprised Hornaday is running away with the championship. He’s only finished outside the top 10 four times in 19 races.
Kurt: If your guy is racing for a championship, let him race.
Beth: Exactly, Kurt. That’s why I can understand where Harvick is coming from, but he was completely out of line Saturday.
Jeff: Or if Harvick had said, “let me pass and try and pull you up there…” then that would be different, but Harvick simply wanted Ron to move over so he could try and win, and that is what confuses me.
Kurt: Maybe this just reveals more of the team orders thing. I’ll bet there’s more of it than we know.
Amy: I don’t think Harvick was seeing that Hornaday was racing for the championship as much as he saw that he thought he had a chance at Busch. I think it will blow over, Harvick will figure out he was being a tool, and Hornaday will win the championship by way more than five points anyway.
Kurt: It’s not the points so much as the idea of being asked to let your owner pass you. Doesn’t generate a good feeling.
Tom: The troubling thing is two cars on the same team can’t race side-by-side anymore without any of this stuff coming up. And not to divert back to Question 3, but this is the problem in the sport today. If you’re on the same team, everyone is required to work together. As if you all get the same amount of points no matter where one car finishes. That’s fine if that’s how the rules work… but they don’t. You know, I hate to pull the back in the ’80s card, but Junior Johnson’s two teams used to go at it tooth and nail.
Mike N.: They hated each other, Tom.
Amy: I think you still see that to an extent.
Kurt: But what do you want to do, Tom? NASCAR has tried to limit the number of teams and it’s ridiculous.
Tom: Kurt, the only people that have the answer are the guys slowly buying and supplying every team in the garage, but that’s another topic for another day.
Jeff: But remember, I could see if Harvick were just a teammate, but he is the truck’s owner as well.
Amy: Any of the Roush drivers would wreck any other RFR driver for the win.
Kurt: Jamie McMurray may be out of a job… and for what?
Bryan: It happens occasionally now. The Rusty v. Newman incident at Martinsville in 2005 was a classic.
Amy: What about Jeff Gordon and Jimmie at Martinsville? Jeff would have happily wrecked Jimmie, but he couldn’t turn him.
Bryan: Woulda coulda shouldas don’t count, Amy.
Mike N.: He tried to dump him Bryan, he just couldn’t.
Kurt: But Amy’s right. There weren’t any team orders there. All Rick Hendrick cares about is not wrecking.
Amy: The Number 1 rule for Penske’s Indy cars is “Don’t wreck each other.” Other than that, bring it.
Mike N.: The Number 2 rule is piss off Danica Patrick. Just to see her stomp.
Kurt: I think Roush is more or less hands off too, but I don’t know that for sure.
Jeff: Should be the same for crew chiefs too, Amy. Don’t beat each other up.
Amy: Or drivers.
Tom: Anyway, we got off topic there. Sorry about that. But it used to be things like the Harvick – Hornaday incident wouldn’t even be a thought in people’s heads a decade ago in this sport. Now, sadly, it’s commonplace.
Mike N.: I don’t think it is commonplace, Tom. There’s not a lot of owners driving around the track.
Kurt: Is it, Tom? We’re talking about one incident, I don’t know that it happens all that often, at least this obviously.
Amy: And Harvick wrecking Hornaday for that spot wouldn’t have gotten a second thought either, Tom.
Bryan: Right on. The mere fact that a driver can think of that shows just how wrong things are in the sport.
Kurt: Harvick wrecking Hornaday would have been even more foolish – maybe that’s why he was so fired up.
Mike N.: Drivers think that all of the time. The fact it’s the owner is what is messed up.
Kurt: But when you’re behind that wheel at 150 mph, logic doesn’t play as a factor. I stop thinking at 30 mph….

Perhaps it’s time for Dover predictions.

Beth: I’m going with Johnson for the sweep.
Kurt: Denny Hamlin.
Tom: I have to go look at who I put in NASCARmedia.com’s Chase Tracker, since somebody from our site should be playing that game.
Amy: I’m going outside the Chase and taking Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Mike N.: Wow, that’s a stretch.
Kurt: Ooooh, look at Tom all documented and stuff …
Tom: Yes, I actually entered that ridiculous game for us. I’m not sure I get it, but I want to beat celebrities.
Kurt: Celebrities like Jarrett?
Bryan: Going out on a limb and taking Newman. Gibson and Co. were racing to win on Sunday, Chase be damned, and Newman’s at his best track. They’re gonna shock the Chase for at least one week.
Jeff: I pick Bobby Labonte!
Mike N.: I’m going to take Stewart.
Tom: I picked Martin and I’m going to stick with that. Hey, Greg Biffle went two for two last year. Here’s the kicker, though; Carl Edwards in second. Gets back in the Chase. Johnson third, Kurt Busch wrecks and becomes the second driver to fall out of contention.

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 27 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 31 27 2 10 15
Bryan Davis Keith 28 -3 25 3 10 13
Amy Henderson 24 -7 29 3 8 14
Kurt Smith 22 -9 18 3 6 10
Vito Pugliese 20 -11 14 1 5 9
Tom Bowles 18 -13 8 1 5 6
Mike Neff 15 -16 17 1 5 9
Jeff Meyer 11 -20 20 0 6 9
Tony Lumbis 0 -31 1 0 0 0
Matt Taliaferro -3 -34 1 0 0 0
Phil Allaway -4 -35 5 0 0 1

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share this article

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bryan Davis Keith

The NA$CRAP definition of “debris”:

“DEBRIS” is NOT 3500# of metal sitting dead still in the middle of the track!

“DEBRIS” is defined as a HOT DOG WRAPPER, laying on said track!

Just to clarify the rules!

Bryan Davis Keith

_”Mike N.: I think there should be no non-wreck caution flags unless there is some sort of fluid or a piece bigger than a leg on the track.”_

Not only was that funny, it was succinct.

On another note, Jeff picked Labonte to win at Dover, while Amy picked Dale Junior. Does Frontstretch not have a drug testing policy?

Bryan Davis Keith

Beth was right. They threw the caution to late. It should have been brought out going into turn 3. Even if Dinger got it started, he would of been sideways on the track when the pack got there.

And..agreed that there are too many ‘debris’ cautions. Many a Cup race has been won by lapping the field. Didn’t hurt the sport then, won’t hurt it now.

Bryan Davis Keith

I can live witht the race ending under caution if they stop throwing all the bogus debris cautions during the race to bunch up the field.
They aren’t fooling anyone. The drivers, teams and fans all know they just do it to keep the race from being boring.
I tell you what, I’d love to see one race a year where a guy that had his car dialed in above and beyond everyone elses lapped the entire field.

Bryan Davis Keith

Kurt, Hornaday didn’t lose last years title to team orders. Quite the contrary, he actually would have won last years title on team orders had the team told Ryan Newman to not race for the win. They didn’t, Newman had a faster truck and won the race. What are you saying Kurt, it’s ok to order a teammate not to win a race to help win a championship for another teammate but its not ok to tell a teammate to pullover to allow a faster truck to go by? I’m not sure it was as much Harvick flexing his muscle as owner and give a team order to move over as much as it was Harvick clearly had a fast truck and because it was so hard to pass was hoping to get by him for a shot at a win.

Furthermore, I find it interesting that a person like Mark Martin get’s praised as a clean and respectful driver when he let’s(not only teammates go by that our faster) but any competitor go by on the track when he feels they have the better car. But because Harvick has the audacity to ask a teammate that he is faster than on the track(and yes he was clearly faster), for a pass, he’s a jerk? In my opinion it happens on the track more often then not, most teammates just don’t have to ask over the radio.

Everybody expect them to just race and no team orders. Everybody expects Harvick to take into account the championship battle. I think Harvick was taking in to account the championship battle and was racing hard. Harvick obviously could have put both his truck and a precarious situation by trying to race hard for that place(2nd), he was able to get up along side the 33 numerous times but backed off taking into account the chance of wreak two trucks and hurting Hornaday championship run. So instead of dive bombing the corners and putting his championship truck at risk he clearly thought maybe the better way to do it was ask for a little help by, Hornaday admitted Harvick had a faster truck. And let’s be honest the 5 points isn’t going to come into play(if it does I will be the first to come back in apologize!)

Bryan Davis Keith

First; Todays question…if Brian France was lying in the track, would he constitute debris or merely effluvia? Would his presence require a yellow flag or perhaps a new flag design would be in order. Im open to suggestions here.

Second; stop whining about JPM…he bitched and moaned after the race..so what? would you rather he had pushed MM out of the way as the sainted Dale would most assuredly have done? Spare us the sanctimonius BS.

Bryan Davis Keith

Gee, Bryan: It’s not ok to hit Mark Martin, but it IS ok to hit Kyle Busch? What a jerk comment. Montoya’s a whiner, and you apparently go by a double standard.

Bryan Davis Keith

If Martin wins the race and Johnson comes in third, I don’t see how that Edwards gets back in the Chase with a second. Pretty much just loses ground to the two best teams. He’s still about a 100 points out.

Bryan Davis Keith

Nascar made two calls on cautions but not wrong ones. Debris cautions are getting ridiculous, but their call on AJ was right on. If/whenever possible they should let it finish under green. everyone whines about snoozfests, but when the y try to let it end with action, then they whine about safety. Whatever. Also, Tryson should have been fired and sued for the remainder of his pay when he disclosed he was leaving at the worst possible time! That was totally selfish and any garbage about how dedicated he is to winning with Kurt is BS. He can go where he wants but he didn’t have to sabotage the entire team just to make his announcement. I have no respect for him.

Bryan Davis Keith


First of all, if the race is a snoozefest (which this race wasn’t), throwing a caution on the last lap isn’t going to save it. Nascar has to do what’s safe. That means when there’s a car sitting sideways on track, you throw a caution while the field still has a chance to slow down.

As for Tryson, there’s no way he could have kept the fact that he was leaving a secret from his crew or from his driver. These guys work closely together and travel with each other. It would be impossible to keep his leaving under wraps for the rest of the season.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com