NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Caution-Happy, The Next Future Star & That Other NASCAR Feud

Welcome to Mirror Driving. Every week, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news, rumors and controversy. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

This Week’s Participants
Amy Henderson (Mondays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)

Pocono’s green-white-checkered finish occurred with race leader Denny Hamlin within 100 yards of the start/finish line and the white flag. Should NASCAR have thrown that caution, and was Hamlin really even short of the line when it flew?

Jeff: He said he was. And yes, NASCAR did the right thing.
Phil: Denny Hamlin claims he was, but we don’t know for sure because TNT dropped the ball. NASCAR basically had to throw the yellow, though, since Joey Logano put up a giant smokescreen.
Amy: There was no need for that caution. Logano didn’t hit anything. Any other series, it would have stayed green. It seems backwards to me. NASCAR goes all caution happy in Cup races, but is less inclined in lower series.
Phil: Not really, Amy. ARCA is less inclined, but NASCAR seems pretty uniform in their policies. The only time they’re not like that is if a race isn’t televised live.
Jeff: There’s not as much money to be made in the lower series.
Amy: What does money have to do with it?
Jeff: Less attendance, whether there are three GWCs or not. Less TV audience to worry about keeping happy, too.
Amy: Maybe that’s it — another chance for 27 commercials. But the difference remains. There are a lot of times in Nationwide on down to K&N when I wonder why they don’t throw the yellow, or wait to throw it. In Cup, they throw it for hot dog wrappers. Anyways, I just think when a car spins without hitting anything, I’m not sure it’s necessary for safety.
Beth: I never have understood NASCAR’s method for when they choose to throw the caution. More than once, I’ve seen a spin just like Logano’s on a shorter track that didn’t result in a caution in the Truck Series, so I get what you’re saying, Amy.
Jeff: What is really backwards is how in ‘04, NASCAR said that the GWC was just too dangerous for the Cup cars, especially at big plate tracks like ‘Dega. Now, it is A-OK to have up to three!
Beth: Is there a full moon or something? Because I agree with Amy on this one. No caution flag was needed there, and the ensuing chaos on the GWC would not have happened. Denny had that race won, anyway.
Amy: Exactly. The GWC didn’t change anything, and contributed to the much worse wreck on the final lap. Had NASCAR waited five seconds to see if the No. 20 could continue, the race was over and that much worse wreck wouldn’t have happened.
Beth: I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if NASCAR was trying to generate some drama over whether everyone would have enough fuel to go the distance, but I don’t know that anyone was really that close.
Jeff: They will use the GWC as much as they can. In fact, they even bragged about how, what, seven or so races this year have used at least one?
Beth: TNT dropped the ball by not showing when the yellow flew versus where Hamlin was on the track, but either way, I don’t really see that the caution was necessary.
Jeff: It was basically a boring race, and they had to manufacture the best finish they could for the show.
Beth: Agreed. NASCAR was just trying to create something they didn’t have throughout most of the race: excitement. I don’t want a wreckfest, but it would have been nice to have a bit more side-by-side racing… I almost fell asleep.
Jeff: I did take a nap, and usually do during the race. It’s like the ultimate mute button.

People are talking about the Kevin Harvick/Joey Logano ruckus, but nobody is mentioning AJ Allmendinger and Kesey Kahne’s brushup on the last lap. Was that just hard racing, or a serious mistake on Allmendinger’s part? And what will be the long-term ramifications of yet another teammate spat?

Jeff: Why is it a mistake on AJ Allmendinger’s part? He was just racing for a good finish, too. There shouldn’t be teammates on the last lap.
Beth: Agreed. Allmendinger didn’t do anything another driver wouldn’t have done.
Phil: If you take Kasey Kahne‘s quote at face value, the ramifications are just about nil. Of course, that’s because he doesn’t talk to him anyway.
Beth: Kasey has been gone from RPM for awhile now, and I’m sure he’s just trying to get through this season to move on.
Amy: From a team standpoint, Allmendinger is their premier driver next year, so he has more to gain from winning. From an owner’s standpoint, I wouldn’t have a problem with Allmendinger’s racing unless he wrecked him blatantly and on purpose.
Phil: As for the move, Kahne should have tried something along the lines of a crossover if AJ was going to take him to the grass like that.
Amy: Exactly. It was just racing. But it never would have happened if NASCAR hadn’t thrown an unnecessary caution.
Beth: Well, whether you want to call it a mistake on Allmendinger’s part or just racing, I was pleased to see him take responsibility for it post-race.
Jeff: And if Kahne isn’t riled, why should anyone else be? He’s a lame-duck teammate, so there are no ramifications. If RPM is even around in the future, Allmendinger is their main guy.
Phil: I’d say that Kahne wasn’t exactly pleased with what happened. He looked angry on TNT, but he really couldn’t do anything about AJ.

NASCAR announced this week that it will open up the restrictor plate at Daytona to 1-1/32” — the biggest it has been since its inception. Is this a move by NASCAR that will improve the racing, or will it even last long enough to make it to the race before NASCAR scraps it?

Jeff: I see it as just the latest gimmick by NASCAR.
Amy: I’m not sure this will see the track after practice, and if it does, I don’t see it making a huge difference other than the huge pack of cars will be going 200 instead of 192. But if someone hit 200-205, will NASCAR immediately revert to the smaller plate like they always have in the past?
Beth: I agree with you, Amy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they saw practice speeds and adjusted it.
Jeff: When was the last time NASCAR didn’t change something about the plate before an upcoming plate race? They are just too damn stubborn to do away with it altogether. Remember how the plate, way back when, was to be a temporary fix?
Beth: Good point.
Amy: Besides, bigger or not, it’s still restricting airflow to the carburetor, and that means the cars lack throttle response, which is what they really need to make the racing better and safer.
Phil: It’ll probably make it to the race. It’s just for Daytona, though. Of course, I said the 63/64 plate, or whatever it was in February, wouldn’t make it to the Gatorade Duels and it made it all the way through….
Amy: If they do race it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it at Talladega.
Jeff: All these years, and the mighty engineers still haven’t come up with anything to kill the plate.
Amy: NASCAR won’t reduce horsepower any other way, Jeff, and so the plate it is. They need a different engine package.
Phil: Bobby Allison said that, Amy… back in 1988.
Amy: I wonder if, with fuel injection upcoming, they will be able to restrict them differently?
Jeff: They can do that electronically.
Amy: They’ll have to, to some extent, so the plate is now temporary.
Phil: I have no clue what they’re going to do with fuel injection to slow the cars. There are many different types of fuel injection, and not all of them are fully electronic.
Amy: Perhaps that will be a plus of going to injected engines.
Phil: I think NASCAR will end up adopting the cheapest solution for fuel injection when they make the switch.
Jeff: Gee, that’s harsh, Phil! Whatever gives you that idea? (Heavy sarcasm.)
Phil: They’ll probably still have something along the lines of the plates after the switch. Ideally, a switch to 302 ci engines for Daytona and Talladega might work out fine.
Jeff: Smaller injectors, bigger injectors, small injectors, etc., etc.
Amy: Anyways, I don’t see a bigger plate doing what the drivers need it to: give them the throttle response to open up distance and avoid trouble.
Jeff: But I thought a lot of the problems at the plate tracks were the closing distance, being so fast and all. I guess they’ll just get to the trouble faster.
Amy: And then have no way to get out of it!
Jeff: Avoiding trouble when it’s behind you is easy! Go forward!
Phil: I just don’t know anymore. Every time they try to fix these issues, it doesn’t do anything.
Amy: Without throttle response, if you back out to avoid trouble, you get run over from behind before you can get back in it.
Jeff: Bigger plates are not needed — they need bigger brakes!

On to the Truck Series. Some of the faces in the top 15 at Texas included Austin Dillon, Nelson Piquet, Jr., Narain Karthikeyan, James Buescher, Jason White, and Jennifer Jo Cobb. Which of these drivers has the talent and star quality to be the next CWTS star?

Amy: Of these, I think Austin Dillon. He drives a black No. 3 for RCR – seems like a good kid.
Jeff: Stop it, Amy. I was just going to say Dillon.
Beth: I disagree. He’s another one of those drivers that’s just going to be rushed out of the Truck Series. I’d be more likely to say Jennifer Jo Cobb if she could just get some darn financial support. How about James Buescher? He’s been phenomenal since he joined Turner Motorsports full-time. There’s been little talk about that team itself, but man, am I impressed.
Phil: I’d go with Buescher and Dillon. They’ve done quite well this season, and Buescher’s doing a lot better in the No. 31 than I thought he would.
Amy: Buescher doesn’t exactly have a winning personality, though. I think that Timothy Peters has quite a future, should he stay in the series.
Phil: Nelson Piquet Jr. and Narain Karthikeyan are works in progress. However, they’re adjusting to full-bodied racers fairly well.
Beth: Karthikeyan has had some seriously awesome luck in dodging wrecks the last few races.
Phil: That is true. He always seems to be close to them.
Beth: But that’s got to say something about his ability to maneuver those trucks, even with the little amount of time he’s had in them.
Jeff: Karthikeyan’s name is way too long for us media types to be a star. Where is he from again?
Beth: India.
Jeff: They’ll dub him “The Flying Carpet” or something ridiculous like that.
Amy: He still needs to prove himself to be good as well as lucky. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, though.
Beth: I’ve been impressed so far, but it’s hard to call someone an upcoming star with only a handful of NASCAR races under their belt.
Phil: Stacy Compton is serving as a driver coach for Karthikeyan when he’s racing the No. 60. I think he’s done well so far in his few starts.
Amy: I think it’s great to see so much new talent in the series. I hope some of them stick around long enough to make a name for themselves.
Beth: Buescher may actually do just that, Amy. He’s already tried to move out of the Truck Series once and now finds himself back in there. He oughta just stick around for awhile.
Amy: But part of that is because nobody in Nationwide wanted to deal with his personality. That doesn’t bode well for star power.
Phil: Piquet Jr. is another story. He came to NASCAR to rebuild his tarnished image after “Fix-Gate” last year in Formula 1, and he’s doing very well so far. He just might be a little overaggressive.
Beth: I’m surprised no one mentioned Aric Almirola. He had his chance in Cup and was screwed with that Nationwide win running Gibbs equipment, but I’ve been quite pleased with him and BBM this season.
Jeff: Speaking of trucks, Beth, Todd Bodine should stick to there. I like him as a truck driver — he’s a nobody in a Cup car, always has been.
Amy: Yes, he’s perfect for trucks.
Beth: He, Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner and Johnny Benson are the first names I think of when I think truck racing.
Jeff: Benson was decent in a Cup car. Still could be, I think.
Phil: As for Cobb, her team is underfunded, but they’re trying their best. The team is planning on doing the Nationwide CoT races in a No. 13 Ford.
Amy: I was impressed with her finish this week, all things considered. I think she is better than her results always show.
Beth: I agree, Phil. I’d love to see her in KHI stuff for a season to see what potential she’s got as a driver.
Phil: They do need some more backing. Most of what’s on that truck is Cobb’s personal stuff, including that “Driven” clothing line.
Beth: And she’s got the personality, for sure.
Amy: There are so many young, talented drivers with so much to offer who are stuck without the money.
Jeff: Like me! Except for the young part.
Amy: There are guys in K&N Pro who could contend at the Nationwide level next week if they had JGR or Roush stuff.

OK, how about some predictions for Michigan?

Amy: I think this could be Logano’s week — he’s fired up.
Jeff: I’m gonna go with Burton. Jeff, not Ward.
Beth: Hmm… Gimme Kurt Busch.
Phil: I’m taking Jeff Gordon. He’s long since due.

Mirror Predictions 2010

Welcome to our fourth 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 14 races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top Fives Top 10s
Amy Henderson 22 14 2 6 10
Phil Allaway 22 12 1 5 10
Beth Lunkenheimer 13 -9 9 1 5 6
Mike Neff 9 -13 5 1 2 3
Summer Dreyer 9 -13 9 0 3 5
Bryan Davis Keith 4 -18 3 0 1 2
Vito Pugliese 4 -18 2 0 1 2
Matt Taliaferro 3 -19 3 1 1 1
Jeff Meyer 3 -19 8 0 1 4
Tom Bowles 3 -19 2 0 1 1
Kurt Smith 1 -21 4 0 1 1
Tony Lumbis 0 -22 3 0 0 0
Toni Montgomery 0 -22 1 0 0 0

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