Welcome to Mirror Driving. On select Wednesdays during the offseason, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news and rumors. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!
This Week’s Participants
Tony Lumbis (Frontstretch Marketing Director)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Bryan Davis Keith (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans & Sundays/Nationwide Series Breakdown)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From The Heartland)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding A Pretty Wheel)
Summer Dreyer (Mondays/Running Their Mouth & Frontstretch News Reporter)
NASCAR made several rules changes in the offseason to improve the racing at Daytona and Talladega – allowing bump drafting anywhere on track, adding more attempts at a green-flag finish and pushing out a larger restrictor plate. Did the new rules do enough to provide great racing?
Summer: Could they have done anymore? The racing was amazing!
Bryan: Yes. The 500 was a great race. Take away the pothole and we had a classic on our hands.
Amy: For the plate tracks, absolutely, that was a great race. Best 500 I’ve seen in a long time.
Tony: For superspeedway racing, absolutely. We’ll see about the other tracks.
Phil: The racing was pretty good, I’ll admit that. Hadn’t seen a Daytona 500 like that in years. It was old school. You had beak-a-ways for a while and then side-by-side, and a ton of lead changes.
Jeff: We only have four plate races a year. The majority of the rules they changed will help the rest of the races more than just those four. The plate rule is basically the least one we should be talking about.
Amy: The intermediates are still intermediates. The plate package won’t help there. The new green-white-checkered deal might prove to be really good.
Tony: Agreed Amy. At some of the intermediates, the racing will get strung out no matter what packages they run.
Summer: I can’t wait to see GWC rule play out at places like Bristol and Martinsville.
Bryan: The throttle response made a huge difference. It was great to see drivers able to recover so quickly.
Phil: However, it brings up another question. I’ve read that some people are wondering whether or not to keep the wing on the car for the remaining plate races. What do you guys and gals think about that?
Amy: From what I’ve heard, the car with the spoiler doesn’t handle much different than the car with the wing, so it may not make much difference.
Bryan: Personally Phil, I’d love to see them keep the wing for the plate tracks if it means more races like we saw on Sunday.
Tony: I think the wing should stay and they should continue to build on what they’ve learned on Sunday.
Amy: I’m not sure what could really be done to improve the racing at some intermediate tracks, except to not race there.
Bryan: You have to understand that the field will get strung out, but that can be compensated for if you have a package that lets people pass more than three laps after a restart. The problem those tracks have is that there’s more passing in the pits than on the track.
Tony: I think we accept the intermediates for what they are and the different type of skills they require from the drivers. Can’t have a Bristol or Daytona every week.
Amy: I’m not sure the spoiler will be the savior, though, Bryan. It could just cause more aero push depending on the size and angle.
Bryan: Let’s at least give it a shot.
Jeff: I still say people are missing the point. Leave the wing on at plate tracks – who cares! Give them a bigger plate – who cares! There are 32 other races that the changes to the car and the rules will help.
Bryan: So far, the rule changes for 2010 have been golden. And let’s also remember there’s a good chance that come 2011 we’ll see the manufacturers able to build their own noses again.
Amy: I think that if NASCAR wants to get back to its roots like it says, it’s time to put their money where their mouth is and fix the schedule and add more short tracks – especially for the Truck and Nationwide series.
Phil: The problem with adding more short tracks is that the Nationwide Series, and to a lesser extent the trucks, have priced themselves out of a lot of short tracks.
Amy: They have failed to address the schedule at all and that’s a way to improve racing immediately.
Jeff: Like I said before, maybe a big spoiler and the front splitter is the combo we’ve been looking for! We don’t know yet.
Amy: Again, Jeff, we won’t know if those changes will be an improvement until we see them in action.
Jeff: Hence my last four words… “We don’t know yet!”
Tony: The good news long term here is that NASCAR is listening. Maybe it took them a while, but they are making the changes to try to help the racing. If it’s still bad, I’m cautiously optimistic that they will continue to adjust.
Amy: I agree with Tony. NASCAR has done a lot right, but they still have a long way to go.
Summer: We saw how quickly they implemented the GWC rule. I’m confident that if an issue arises, NASCAR will react to fix it. That’s not something a lot of people could have said the last few years.
Jeff: NASCAR is only listening to their accountants, not the fans. They had to do something or they’d lose it all.
Bryan: But give the fans credit. They spoke with their wallets, and if they keep doing so, the racing will continue to change.
Tony: You can make an argument that they are more concerned about the money than the fans, but regardless of the true reason, they are addressing our concerns and I like it.
Amy: That is true, but the accountants aren’t as blind to the fans as NASCAR. Accountants know that you have to sell the product to the consumer, and will advise as such.
Jeff: Yes, finally Bryan! We made them listen!
Bryan: Yes we did, Jeff. And every fan should realize that: The fans are turning the tide.
Summer: It’s better than them not listening at all – no matter how we got to that point.
Bryan: If the fans keep doing what they’re doing, this sport will be great again.
Amy: I wouldn’t go that far until some of the bigger issues are addressed, Bryan. These changes are great, but they’re small potatoes.
Jeff: How do you figure, Amy? You think the schedule is the biggest fix?
Bryan: Amy, in the last 12 months we’ve gotten Labor Day back to the South (still in the wrong state though), we got officiating toned down, we got bigger restrictor plates… that’s far from small potatoes.
Amy: What needs to be addressed are the schedule, qualifying and the Chase – and NASCAR hasn’t even begun to look there.
Summer: I don’t know. That’s a lot of changes in a short amount of time, and all of them were changes that fans had been screaming for for a while. We’re seeing a trend here and if people want changes on the schedule and become as vocal about that as anything else, they might address it.
Jeff: Amen, Summer.
Tony: I’d like to see the Top-35 qualifying rule thrown out next and I think there is a shot we could see it, or at the very least, see it amended.
Amy: The Top-35 rule and the Chase are the worst things to happen to this sport, and NASCAR continues to press those.
Bryan: Amy, this war is far from over, but for the first time in a long time the fans are winning battles. There’s nothing wrong with calling attention to that.
Phil: I’ll admit that the changes we’ve already had are the most at once that I think I’ve seen in NASCAR since I’ve been following the sport.
Amy: I agree with Phil, and they’re great, but they are still more things to be done. But if NASCAR listens to what the fans were saying after Daytona, they could head in the right direction. Paint me cautiously optimistic.
Summer: We won’t see either rule go away anytime soon, but maybe NASCAR will change them if that’s really want people want. I personally don’t mind either one of them, but a lot of fans do. Just because they’re not saying anything about it, doesn’t mean they aren’t looking at it.
Jeff: The Chase will be the last to go. That is Brian’s personal legacy to the sport.
Tony: I’m not sure the Chase will ever be thrown out. I think NASCAR is enjoying having a championship story down to the last race rather than two months before, which is sometimes the case.
Phil: If you want an estimate, I guess that the rest of the stuff that needs to be addressed will probably be within the next two years. The Chase, misguided as it is, will probably never go.
Amy: The Chase impacts too much of the rest of the year with poor racing.
Bryan: The Chase will go if the fans speak with their wallets. If that many fans hate the Chase that much, they need to stop showing up for those races.
Tony: I picture cautiously optimistic as a lime greenish of sorts.
Summer: This will probably be a year of change in NASCAR. It’s a very exciting time to be a fan.
Jeff: If the Chase goes away, there would be no record of Brian France. We would wonder if he really existed at all….
Bryan: Jeff’s right. NASCAR thinks with their accountants. Hit them and they will react. We saw that this weekend and got a kickass Daytona 500 for it.
Tony: This Daytona 500 was great and I say don’t touch a thing for the three other plate tracks.
Jeff: Summer approaches it with the innocence of youth! Good for you Summer! Wish I could do the same….
Nearly three hours of delays hampered the Daytona 500 as crews worked to repair a hole in the track. So, who’s to blame – and does the incident outweigh the positives of the race?
Amy: Who’s to blame? Mother Nature. There was no way to predict that. They inspected the track several times during Speedweeks and there was no sign of trouble.
Tony: It certainly cast a shadow on the race, but I agree with Amy, this thing could not have been predicted — there was really nothing to do to prepare.
Phil: Ratings wise, yes, it does hurt the race. But most people that did watch the whole race found it exciting. And it’s not the first time that a Cup race has been interrupted by the track opening up.
Summer: Neither NASCAR nor Daytona could really have predicted this.
Bryan: It happened at a really bad time, but hey, you’ve gotta move on. And yes, the ratings slid as a result, but check out another TV stat: more people tuned in to at least some of the 500 this year compared to last year.
Jeff: I got drunker because of the hole, I know that.
Amy: If they had repaved like everyone is screaming about, those same people would be bitching that it hurt the racing.
Bryan: And make no mistake Amy, a repave would impact the racing.
Summer: I’m pretty sure most fans watched the “hole” race, even with the delays. It’s the casuals that tuned out.
Tony: In fact, it’s yet another reason to praise the decision to move the start time early, leave time for the unexpected. That race would’ve gone until 9:00 ET otherwise.
Amy: It was such an awesome race, I just switched to the Olympics for a bit and kept the scanner on my computer.
Summer: Did the pothole ever call Jimmie a wrecker?
Bryan: Nobody’s to blame here. This happens from time to time.
Phil: The telecast pointed to Martinsville as the last time it happened. However, they forgot the travesty known as the 2005 Coca-Cola 600.
Bryan: Precisely Phil… that’s what repaving does!
Summer: This was much different than the Indy debacle. We actually had good racing here with a couple of delays.
Jeff: But a lot of those woes are to be blamed as much on Goodyear as the track.
Bryan: Exactly. NASCAR officials didn’t turn the race into a set of 10-lap heats this time.
Amy: I agree, and I hope that most fans see that, and look past the delays. It’s been a brutal winter in the South, and Daytona is already on top of the water table.
Tony: I hope so too Amy, and from what I hear so far, a lot have.
Bryan: Amy, I feel pretty confident that the fans will take some of that away from the race. I mean, for all the negative around the pothole I haven’t read a bad review of the racing itself yet.
Tony: I spoke to a casual fan at work today and all he talked about was how great it was and nothing about the holes ruining it.
Jeff: As for the pothole, hey, stuff happens. See what happens when women start driving!
Phil: Last year was just brutal in Daytona. Remember the flooding? I know it didn’t really cover any of the track, but that stuff doesn’t just go away.
Jeff: I heard ISC is trying to sell the track to the Florida Department of Transportation.
Summer: It made for some good TV time. I don’t know how many of you stayed tuned in during the red flags, but there were some funny moments.
Amy: The scanner chatter while they were fixing it was entertaining.
Summer: I missed the part where DW woke Kyle up from a nap in the car. Did anyone see that?
Tony: Yeah, and Kyle played right into it.
Amy: That was great… “You woke me up!”
Summer: Yeah, FOX did a good job carrying over the excitement when they weren’t schmoozing over Danica Patrick.
Amy: And on the subject of Kyle: I’d pay to make him driver the car with the kittens, ponies and baby seals while wearing the matching uniform.
Tony: The issue I had with DW actually wasn’t during the delay but at the end when he was blatantly rooting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Unless its a relative, you need stay unbiased in the booth
Amy: Agreed. And a little off subject, but that was one of the best victory lane celebrations I have ever seen!
Bryan: It was really cool to see Jamie McMurray react the way he did. He was so choked up in the media center. That man knew how big a win that was.
Summer: I didn’t hear Waltrip pulling for Junior until I watched the replay, but as far as McMurray’s celebration, it was so refreshing to see emotion like that.
Tony: At home, we were talking how Bass Pro Shops probably didn’t have an issue with driver image anymore – until victory lane. But yeah, it was nice to see.
Amy: Jamie’s just a nice guy. You had to like seeing him so happy.
Phil: Agreed. Nice to see something good happen to Jamie.
Tony: It will be interesting to see if Bass Pro Shops reconsider sponsorship if Jamie pulls off a few more of those victories.
Bryan: Well, back to the pothole topic so we can wrap this up, I don’t think there was anyone to blame. It was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that turned a classic race into a classic for the wrong reasons.
Tony: Well, I think it says something when the question was about the potholes, yet we are all still talking about different aspects of the race.
Summer: One day we’ll look back on this and laugh… well, maybe not.
Amy: It was still a classic race and years from now, ESPN Classic will cut out the delays
McMurray, Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick all started their seasons off with resurgent runs that clearly energized themselves and their teams, while perpetual frontrunners such as Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson had dismal finishes. While Daytona’s a different animal than most, was that an indicator of a change for any of these teams?
Jeff: Well, except for Jamie didn’t we see this last year too?
Bryan: It’s too early to tell. It probably meant most in Junior’s case because we saw a fire in him that we hadn’t seen in a while, but seriously, plate racing means nothing if a team can’t throw an intermediate setup together.
Amy: I think the real answer to that will come after Las Vegas. A couple of races on the intermediates will sort it out.
Tony: Maybe Harvick, as all RCR cars ran well. McMurray has traditionally run well on plate tracks, so too early to tell. And I think Junior benefited a lot from fresh tires at the end. So again, too early.
Summer: The Daytona 500 is a race in and of itself. We need to wait a few races before we determine anything about the championship.
Tony: Agreed Summer. The season really starts this weekend.
Phil: I’m not really sure about this. In McMurray’s and Harvick’s case, their teams were strong all through Speedweeks. However, maybe it shows that they’ve turned the page. I do need to see more, though.
Amy: Yeah, Harvick and RCR were already improving, and McMurray had a hell of a car all Speedweeks.
Amy: Johnson had crap happen late in the race, or he’d have had a better finish, and he’s likely to contend for the win at Fontana
Tony: I will say this about McMurray, that car was wicked loose all of Speedweeks and he handled it like a champ. If the handling is really going back to the drivers, he may benefit. I was impressed.
Jeff: Yeah, this is a question that is best asked in a few weeks, not now.
Bryan: They have to show it on a downforce track. Mastering four races a year does not a Chase berth make.
Summer: What about the Daytona curse? Winning the Daytona 500 never seems to bode well for the rest of the season. That’s the only thing it ever seems to determine.
Tony: To prove that point, look at the Daytona champs over the past three years: Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Harvick. All went on to have subpar seasons.
Jeff: And what did Kenseth do after the winning the first two last year?
Bryan: Well let’s not forget he had a solid car at Vegas – the motor just had other plans.
Phil: Bryan, didn’t Kenseth’s engine blow six or so laps into the race in Las Vegas last year?
Jeff: That’s probably why I don’t remember him being strong!
Summer: I was going to say the same thing. How did you know Kenseth was strong in Las Vegas? We never got to see!
Tony: Could have been a great six laps!
Bryan: The fact that the No. 17 wasn’t junk in practice.
Summer: Maybe. But practice doesn’t always translate well into the race.
Amy: I will say this though: momentum does help, and those three have it. In Harvick’s case, it’s carried over, so that’s a good sign.
Bryan: Maybe Amy, but Harvick’s always good at Daytona. All this does is provide momentum, and in the case of all three of those drivers they definitely needed it. But that’s got to be followed with cars that can handle the longer ovals we’ve got coming up. The buzz of a great 500 run will die in a hurry when a car starts aero pushing at Fontana.
Amy: True, Bryan, and that’s why I hesitate with Junior and Jamie Mac. They’re both really good at plate tracks and not as strong elsewhere, where Stewart and Johnson excel at the intermediates that make up so much of the schedule.
Tony: I am very interested in watching the Fords. They ran well at a plate track, where the traditionally don’t perform well. That may mean good things at tracks where they normally excel – the intermediates.
Phil: The Fords struggled a little at the intermediates last year, but they were really strong on them in 2008.
Tony: Exactly Phil, and I think they struggled because Roush struggled as a whole. These RPM cars may be somewhat of a force.
Bryan: It will be a huge weekend for Ford, and especially Carl Edwards. If they’ve got their stuff together. Edwards will win this weekend, mark my words. He’s hungry.
Amy: Daytona is a really cool race because its place on the schedule means the drivers can race for it, because it has so little bearing on the Chase. And everyone wants the Harley Earl trophy.
Amy: Harley Earl invented E-Z Cheese, incidentally.
Jeff: Teams that suck win the Early Hurl trophy.
Tony: Daytona has never been and never will be a predictor of the entire season. It is its own animal.
Jeff: I’d give the Cup to Johnson so far!
Bryan: Tony said it best and Jeff’s right: Jimmie’s drive for five is right on target.
Phil: Slow down on the Johnson picks. It’s only February. Come back with that in a few months.
Jeff: Just getting a jump….
Bryan: Hey Amy, you called the 500, I just called the champ – nine months early. What now?
The Camping World Truck Series made its 2010 debut at Daytona amid wrecks and spins. Should NASCAR revise the drafting rules for this series or leave it the same as the other national series?
Jeff: Leave it the same. They need to learn.
Bryan: Let… the… drivers… police… themselves.
Tony: I say leave it the same. If you are going to learn how to bump-draft, you should do it early and often.
Summer: Leave it the same. Let them police themselves. It kind of made it exciting with all the wrecks. We still got a green-flag finish, probably because all the inexperienced drivers had wrecked out.
Phil: I think that NASCAR needs to stress the facts about how the bumpers line up in the drivers’ meeting, but they shouldn’t institute no bumping rules.
Amy: I agree, but here’s a thought: design bumpers that line up.
Jeff: Good point Amy!
Bryan: No way, don’t touch the Trucks, they race far too well. Having drivers screw up is a far better way to learn than having big brother make subjective calls about what is and isn’t clean.
Tony: I agree Bryan. Once a driver has pissed off half the field, he or she will police him or herself a lot better going forward.
Amy: If the bumpers line up, as they do on the Cup cars, the bumping worked out, but it was a disaster on the trucks. There were only like 12 trucks left at the end. The tow truck drivers started charging by the job.
Jeff: But that’s OK, Amy. It’s all part of racing and Daytona.
Bryan: There were a lot of wrecks in every race, that’s just a product of plate racing.
Summer: Was anyone else a little annoyed with Kyle Busch racing around like that 18 laps down? He could have really affected the outcome of the race.
Amy: Yeah, that was just stupid. Racing to get laps back is one thing, but shoving Dennis Setzer out of the way was just classless.
Bryan: Everyone was annoyed with Kyle Busch, and for good reason.
That was ridiculous, and I give kudos to Mike Skinner for calling him out on it.
Summer: If anyone else had done that, Kyle wouldn’t have liked it either.
Jeff: Kyle has never been accused of having class.
Phil: I don’t really understand why Busch was up there. He wasn’t even helping out Tayler Malsam. He was just up there for himself. Don’t get it.
Amy: “He was just up there for himself.” That about sums it up right there.
Summer: People tried to defend him by saying he was trying to get his sponsors out there…. I don’t really buy that. It could be true to a point, but I don’t think Heluva! Good sat down and told Kyle to get in the way of everyone after he wrecked.
Tony: Good or bad, Kyle likes people talking about him.
Bryan: Well hey, now that the drivers are free to police themselves, maybe Skinner will give him the bumper in the ass he needs so badly.
Amy: Teachers in July have more class than Kyle on most days (yes, I know that’s a bad pun).
Tony: I still kind of chuckled, Amy.
Phil: I could halfway understand the sponsor thing since Heluva Good! was only a one-race deal.
Summer: I still think Kyle would have done that had he been without a sponsor. That’s just how he is.
Jeff: They are still gonna get the air time just because its Kyle Busch.
Bryan: I guarantee you that Heluva Good! was not the reason Kyle did what he did.
Amy: But sponsors don’t like bad press as a rule, and that’s what this has earned.
Bryan: Kyle got a crappy finish, we got a great race. So leave the trucks alone, let the drivers police themselves, and see you in Atlanta.
Tony: I think Bryan summed this up well.
Amy: I thought the wrecking made for a mediocre race.
Phil: Well, the race was pretty good when they weren’t wrecking. I’d say that they should stress that you should be lined up correctly in order to bump-draft, but not ban it. It’s only an issue two races a year.
Fontana predictions, anyone?
Bryan: I’m going with Edwards. Fresh off his first child, Carl’s gonna sweep the weekend.
Amy: I’ll go with Johnson this week.
Jeff: Surprise! Baby or no, I’m picking Carl until he wins.
Amy: Pot, meet kettle… his name is Jeff.
Tony: Baby or not, Edwards looked strong this week and he’s going to his bread and butter-type of track.
Phil: I think I’ll go with Greg Biffle.
Summer: Jeff Gordon. Don’t know why, just a feeling. If he wrecks this weekend, I’ll know that gut feeling is a bad thing.
Jeff: It was gas, Summer.
Summer: Maybe. I’ll probably change that pick six or seven times before the green flag – and that’s just on race day.