NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Bumper Cars or Exciting Endings?, Chase Choices & Judging Dale

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)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
Summer Dreyer (Mondays/Running Their Mouth & Frontstretch News Reporter)

NASCAR’s policy of allowing unlimited bump drafting and letting drivers police themselves was put to the test at Daytona. Did it pass or fail based on the racing it produced?

Summer: It passed right up until the end. But that’s normal for Daytona. I don’t want NASCAR regulating the racing that way. Drivers are going to get excitable at the end, and it’s going to cause some issues.
Amy: At Daytona, it was a fail. It’s OK everywhere else.
Beth: There were some issues at the end, but I thought it was all right. The biggest problem wasn’t the bump drafting, but the slipping and sliding all over the track.
Mike N.: It appeared to me that it went just fine. I didn’t see anyone bump draft in a corner. The track is a bit bumpy, which probably kept them from doing it in the corners, but I thought it went about as normal for Daytona.
Amy: The second half of the Daytona race was a joke. I’m all for self-policing, but if they don’t do it, NASCAR should consider stepping in.
Summer: Repaving the track is going to help with some of those issues.
Beth: I just hope they get the repave right.
Mike N.: What was a joke, Amy? The racing was fantastic, especially in the second half when they actually ran side-by-side even though the cars were a handful.
Beth: Agreed, Mike.
Amy: The repave is a huge question mark right now. And Mike, the second half was a wreck fest. It was the perfect illustration of everything wrong with plate racing in 19 easy pieces.
Summer: I wish they didn’t have to repave. The bumpiness is what gives the track personality, and repaving didn’t really help Darlington or Bristol. Exciting racing is going to cause wrecking.
Mike N.: I would have rather seen them leave it as it is; I think repaving is going to make it much tighter racing. And Amy, that is not is what is wrong with plate racing, that is what is wrong with the points system. If they don’t pay points below 20th place, those cars won’t be out there. They wrecked with 20-some laps to go — it wasn’t a “second half of the race” thing. I thought the racing was outstanding. I thought the bigger plate made for more passing without having to have help.
Beth: When you’ve got drivers actually racing side-by-side and going for the win, the craziness is bound to happen, Amy. I loved seeing multiple drivers battling for the lead instead of the leader running away from the field.
Mike N.: Agreed. Thank God there was no single-file parade for most of the fuel run.
Amy: I’m sure that the fans who like watching for the wrecks were satisfied. Yes, most of the race was fine, but watching 19 cars in various states of disrepair all at once leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Beth: Are you implying I like watching for the wrecks? I was perfectly happy with the race throughout.
Amy: I’m not implying anything, I’m just saying that it was the perfect example of why I hate plate racing. I want to see the best cars battling for the win at the end, not wasted by someone else’s stupid move.
Summer: The racing was good, and NASCAR shouldn’t regulate the racing just because someone ran out of talent.
Mike N.: I don’t think the wreck was as much a product of plate racing. I think that pileup would have happened at any track shortly after a restart.
Beth: Exactly, Mike. Something like that could happen at any track when these guys are all fighting for position.
Amy: 20 cars… most of them destroyed?  Haven’t seen that at a non-plate track very much.
Mike N.: Well, the best cars weren’t battling because of one guy’s stupid move well before the big pileup. And at least half of the top 10 at the end was strong most of the night.
Summer: When it’s “go time,” it doesn’t matter if it’s Daytona, Bristol or Fontana… there’s potential there for a nasty wreck with a bunch of guys racing that late in the race so close together.
Beth: I guess I just watched a different race. There was once, maybe twice I saw a bump draft where maybe it shouldn’t have been used, but other than that they used it correctly.

NASCAR is considering changes to the Chase system, which might possibly include a larger Chase field, eliminations, and/or a road course. Are changes needed? And if so, which ones make the most sense?

Amy: NASCAR has not and will not address the real problem here, so they need to address the drivers. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to do anything, but there might be some incentive to not run out of talent.
Mike N.: What incentive would that be? Most of the time you’re saying that NASCAR doesn’t properly apply the rules, so now you want them to have more?
Summer: There is incentive, Amy: Winning.
Amy: For most of the night, the racing was great, but I hate to see contenders taken out because of someone else’s bad driving.
Summer: Well, that’s racing. That happens everywhere. No one likes to see it happen, but it’s going to.
Amy: It’s mostly plate racing.
Summer: I still think that wrecks like that are a product of double-file restarts, not plate racing. The Sonoma wreck, where pretty much anyone worse than 30th wrecked out, is my case in point. It can happen anywhere.
Mike N.: I didn’t think someone’s bad driving was part of the big wreck. Busch was obviously out of shape, some people checked up, and then others ran into them. It was one of those racing deals.
Amy: I think NASCAR should be on top of over-aggressive driving and park the offenders. I’m not saying that’s what happened on Saturday, but it still needs to be monitored. I wasn’t at the Daytona drivers’ meeting, but I can say that there was not one single mention of not running over the field at Loudon, even after the fiasco at Sonoma. At least warn them….
Summer: They usually do warn them at Daytona, but they don’t enforce it. Nor should they. Most of the drivers know what they’re doing. NASCAR pretty much lets the driver’s “penalty” be a wrecked racecar.
Amy: Most do, yes.
Mike N.: What?! Look, this is RACING, not figure skating. You race to win, and you get there however you can. You choose to drive how you choose to drive and if you are a complete ass, it will come back to bite you. The sanctioning body cannot possibly regulate how they race! If they are going to do that, you might as well give up on the sport because you are worse than the WWE, which many people say is what it is now.
Amy: I think that overall, the rules have been good for the sport, but I’m still not sure allowing anyone to bump draft at any time on plate tracks is a good thing. Some of them don’t know how to do it right — and that’s a bad wreck waiting to happen.
Beth: You can’t put rules in place for every “what if” circumstance, Amy.
Summer: I don’t care how many wrecks there are, I am not going to be in favor of NASCAR telling the drivers how they should race. And I know a lot of fans feel the same way.
Mike N.: Amen, sister.
Beth: Make that two of us that agree with you, Summer.
Amy: So someone should be able to put someone in the fence as hard as they want, whenever they want? No thanks.
Summer: I thought this was about bump drafting? NASCAR usually steps in when they see someone intentionally taking each other out, and they warn the drivers when things get out of hand. But actually setting a precedent before the race isn’t necessary.
Amy: There’s a big difference between warning drivers and actually penalizing them, telling them how to drive.
Beth: And they probably did warn them, Amy. What more do you want?
Mike N.: If someone does that, the payback will be swift and justified. If not, then the person probably had it coming (see: Brad Keselowski at Atlanta — and in case you haven’t noticed, Keselowski has not paid Carl Edwards back, and there has been no call for Edwards to be dumped).
Summer: NASCAR penalized Carl that day, too.
Amy: Beth, if they did warn them, then that’s cool. But there are 19 teams with wrecked racecars to fix now. I enjoyed the race until that point, but that wreck made me sick.
Summer: I think it made everyone sick, but that’s not a reason for NASCAR to tell the drivers how to race. It just happens.
Amy: No, it came from plate racing. As I said before, the rule is mostly good, but it might need a tweak at Daytona. And Mike, nobody deserves to be wrecked the way BK was. Nobody.
Summer: Carl wasn’t trying to flip him, he was trying to wreck him. Carl didn’t think he deserved that, either.
Mike N.: I’m not saying BK should have been dumped at Atlanta, but I haven’t seen anyone come to his defense. Anyway, that wreck at Daytona was huge. It made a big difference in the results of the race, but it happens in plate racing, and it was the first truly Big One in several years. AND it still didn’t come from over-aggressive driving.
Amy: There are ways to make the same point without wrecking him.
Summer: Well, I don’t think anyone disagrees that Carl shouldn’t have done it, but Brad had it coming. And I don’t think any of us liked to see that Daytona wreck happen. It certainly would have been best without it, but there’s not much you can do. Even if NASCAR does put a rule in place, there’s still going to be some big wrecks, like at Talladega last season.
Mike N.: Well with the repave, it is going to be a whole new animal next year. There will be a 40-car pack all day long.
Beth: But getting back to the point of bump drafting, I’d say it passed. We saw some great racing and your typical late-race wrecking as the drivers realized they were in the closing laps.
Summer: As far as the race itself, I thought it was fine. Big wrecks are going to happen at plate tracks and anywhere that tight racing is the norm. Let the drivers race, NASCAR! Please!
Beth: Amen, Summer!
Mike N.: I didn’t see anyone bump drafting in a corner and very little in the tri-oval. I think all of the drivers realized how tough it was to drive all night and they drove with great respect. Unfortunately, Kurt Busch got turned and was heading back up the track, some people checked up, and we had a Big One. Hey, that happens during plate races.
Amy: I think the rules have worked for the most part, but NASCAR needs to be careful at Daytona, in particular. Drivers that don’t know how to bump draft are still a problem, and NASCAR should monitor over-aggressive driving. That’s different than telling them how to race everywhere, all the time.
Mike N.: I honestly didn’t see a single problem with bump drafting on Saturday night, but I may have missed something.
Amy: I saw more issues during the Nationwide race, but there were a few moves that made me gasp. Luckily nothing happened.
Summer: I saw a lot of things that made me gasp in both races. I love that about Daytona! Maybe that’s just me.
Amy: I think that’s why I hate plate racing: There’s too much can go wrong too fast. I would love nothing more than a caution-free plate race. I don’t like to feel completely exhausted after watching a race.
Summer: I think you worry too much, Amy.
Mike N.: Are you kidding? I love feeling completely exhausted after a race. Those are the best ones.
Beth: That’s the reason I started watching NASCAR in the first place… being on the edge of my seat wondering what the next lap would bring.
Amy: See, I get that feeling at Martinsville and Richmond, not Daytona and Talladega.
Summer: I get them at all four. And at other tracks, as well.
Beth: Ditto.

Are changes needed to the Chase?

Beth: Yes, changes are needed: put it back the way it was to make the whole season count.
Amy: Exactly. Get rid of it altogether.
Mike N.: Well, the change to get rid of it is obvious, but since that isn’t going to happen, I think they need to have a road course in the Chase.
Beth: Agreed, Mike.
Amy: I agree with that 100%. And as much as I hate plate racing, I’d like to see Daytona in the Chase instead of Talladega.
Summer: I think the things they are suggesting are kind of over the top; at the same time, it would make things exciting! But getting rid of it isn’t happening. Although I do like the idea of a road course in there.
Mike N.: I hate the idea of eliminations. That is even more contrived than the Chase is to begin with.
Beth: What’s the point in having a larger Chase field? Guys that are back in 13th-19th are mostly there for a reason.
Summer: I think, if anything, they should make the Chase field smaller.
Mike N.: The thought is making the field larger, and then dropping people as the Chase moves along.
Summer: 10 was OK, but even then, what are the chances of a guy in eighth to win? Make it a five-man shootout or something.
Mike N.: I say make the whole season count.
Amy: They’re thinking of going to 15, but then eliminating some after races until there are three left.
Mike N.: Drop a person after each race, then the winner of the last race of the eight or so people left wins it all.
Summer: I still think 15 or so is stupid. If you’re going to eliminate after the race, just do a 10-person field and drop one each week.
Amy: That, I don’t like. If there are six guys mathematically in it, those six guys all deserve a chance. Why even reset the points? Just let them race for it. It’s bad enough the way it is now, but eliminating guys who have a chance is wrong.
Mike N.: Resetting the points is to make it more like football, which is what Brian France is still focused on.
Summer: Allowing people to race in the Chase that hardly even contend for wins, let alone the championship, is annoying.
Mike N.: That is why it should be the whole season, Summer, and more points should be awarded for winning.
Amy: I also think there needs to be some kind of bonus to the point leader at the end of 26 races. I think to be eligible, you should have to be in the top 12 and have a points win. If that makes the Chase six guys, fine.
Mike N.: I agree with that, Amy. It is bogus that a driver can be in the lead of the points and start the Chase in eighth or something.
Summer: I’m perfectly fine with the Chase field changing each year. Having a set number doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes a two-car race for the championship is more exciting than having five eligible.
Beth: You know, requiring a win locks out the guy sitting second in the standings this season if the Chase were to start today. And that’s not right in my book.
Mike N.: I think that would add some incentive to run for wins, Beth.
Amy: Well, by making a win necessary to be eligible, it would also eliminate some of the points racing earlier in the year. Then he’d better race for wins instead of points, Beth.
Beth: I’m pretty sure Jeff Gordon has, to be honest. Didn’t you see the way he was racing at Sonoma? And for that matter, I’m pretty sure he tried pretty hard for the win Saturday night.
Amy: That doesn’t mean, though, that if you’re 25th in points and win one race, you should make the Chase. It should be points standings and wins.
Summer: I don’t care how bad their circumstances were; if you don’t have a win, you probably shouldn’t be in the Chase.
Amy: I agree, but I still think that if the Chase is set up to reward winning, you should need one to get in.
Mike N.: I’m pretty sure the No. 24 will win one before the Chase, but if they don’t, I think that would be reason enough for them to be on the outside looking in.
Summer: Sure, Jeff wants to win, but it’s not vital to his season. He wants a win – he doesn’t need one.
Mike N.: And that would also make winning a weapon for people who are already in. If Jimmie Johnson is in the Chase with three races to go and Jeff hasn’t won one yet, Jimmie wins those three and prevents Jeff from making the Chase.
Summer: There are exceptions, but we can’t really give out points and Chase positions for sentimental reasons.
Amy: Sure we can, Summer. That’s how we got the 12 in the first place.
Summer: OK, well then we shouldn’t. 10 was an OK number. 12 is too many.
Amy: Right. I agree. And it should be vital to someone’s season.
Summer: Yeah, I don’t mind the idea of a Chase, as long as it’s fair. But there’s some things that I wouldn’t mind them changing.
Amy: I hate the Chase, but if we have to have it, make it be about winning – which is the reason NASCAR gave when they instituted it in the first place.
Mike N.: I still think they need to quit giving points for people who are lower than 20th in the final race standings.
Amy: If NASCAR awarded enough bonus points for winning, we wouldn’t need a Chase to make winning more important.
Beth: Bingo, Amy.
Mike N.: I think it is a good thing, not a bad thing. True, if they changed the points around and rewarded winning far more there would not need to be a Chase, although JJ would probably have them wrapped up earlier than he has the last few years.
Summer: I think that’s the point of the Chase, so that someone hasn’t completely run away with it long before Homestead.
Amy: I do think there needs to be a greater variety of tracks in the Chase — there are too many cookie cutters in it now.
Summer: Anyway, I don’t mind the changes, but I’m not huge on an elimination format. Just emphasize wins… it shouldn’t be more than that.
Beth: I don’t like the Chase, but unless they’re going to get rid of it, I’d like to see them leave the Chase the hell alone for once. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing the tracks included in the 10 Chase race weekends changed around to include a road course.
Mike N.: If France wants to change the Chase, then get rid of it and revamp the points so that rolling wrecks don’t come back out on the track and winners get far more points than losers. If they don’t want to do that, at least put a road course in the Chase.
Amy: Emphasize wins to get in, fix the schedule (I’d replace Kansas and Fontana with Sonoma and Richmond or Darlington) and NHMS should not lose its date. NASCAR shouldn’t allow that.
Mike N.: It would be cool if they could rotate the races in the Chase every year, but that isn’t practical for most of the racetracks.
Amy: No more drivers, and no eliminations. If they can mathematically win it, they deserve that chance until Homestead.

With an emotional win in the No. 3 in the Nationwide Series race in Daytona followed up by a fourth in the Coke Zero 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. found himself in victory lane and Chase contention. Is this the turnaround Earnhardt needs to regain his winning ways?

Summer: This is Daytona. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is normally pretty good here. I might be convinced if he does the same thing next week.
Beth: Plate tracks have been kind to Dale Jr. for quite a bit of his career, but momentum is everything in NASCAR. The key is whether that momentum follows him to Chicagoland and beyond.
Mike N.: It was certainly a shot in the arm for his confidence, but the Cup team needs to put a lot better car on the track than they did Saturday night. Their car was a tub of junk for that whole race.
Amy: He’s been slowly turning it around lately, although I wouldn’t say that one NNS win means Junior is “back,” whatever that means. But I don’t think a Cup win before the season is out is out of the question, either.
Summer: I think he’ll get a win, and he might make the Chase, but I’m not convinced he’s going to start lighting the world on fire just because he did well this weekend.
Mike N.: I think the last four races have been a real boost to them, and finally visiting victory lane in something besides a late model against Shaq was a great kick in the pants.
Beth: We’ve said it before: one race does not make a season.
Mike N.: One race doesn’t make a season, but four top 11s is a great step in the right direction.
Summer: I guess he has been running a lot better as of late, and that’s a good thing. If he makes the Chase, great. But I’m not convinced he’ll contend for the championship… or more than a few wins.
Mike N.: It is hard to say, Summer. If they continue to get better, and he can win a race before the Chase, he just might make a run at the title.
Amy: Beth is right, but there have been signs of better days for the No. 88 for a few weeks now.
Beth: Signs don’t win races, though.
Amy: I don’t think he’s a title contender, but he is better than the mid-20s driver he was last year.
Beth: They’re headed in the right direction, and this weekend was surely a confidence booster, but it’s certainly no guarantee he’s going to turn it around.
Mike N.: Getting into victory lane in the Cup Series before September would be a sign that they’re really getting their act together.
Summer: He’s not even contending for wins yet, Mike. Let’s get to that point first.
Mike N.: Exactly, Summer. I watched the 2000 Brickyard on Classic and he was running up front most of the day. It would be a great sign to see him up there again when they get back there in a few weeks.
Beth: They’ve been slowly getting better, yes, but the question was. “is this turnaround what he needs to regain his winning ways?” And I’m saying absolutely not.
Mike N.: I won’t say this weekend was actually a good sign when you look at the results and realize Junior didn’t lead a single lap in the Cup race at Daytona. When he gets back to leading half of the race on a plate track, I’ll think he’s “back.”
Amy: I agree, Beth, but I do think it gives them some needed momentum to continue on their upswing.
Beth: However, they need to contend for wins week after week before we can talk about getting back to his winning ways.
Mike N.: I think we’re all on the same page. When he starts leading bunches of laps and is within passing distance of the leader when the white flag drops, we’ll think he’s back to his winning ways.
Beth: That pretty much sums it up for me.
Summer: And it’s not going to take one week of that happening for me to be convinced, either. But if he can start doing that week to week to week — well of course, everyone will agree on that. But right now, they just need to keep doing what they’re doing.
Mike N.: They’re running better the last month and if they continue to get better, then he’ll be living up to what people have expected since he went to Hendrick.
Amy: I think the championship is a huge stretch given the caliber of other teams and drivers, but a year or two down the road, yes. It all has to start with a change in performance, then contending for top 10s and top fives, then wins, and then for a championship. That formula served Junior’s teammate Gordon well in the 1990s. So is this the turnaround? No. Could it be momentum in a shift that’s already begun? Yes.
Mike N.: This is just an indication that the turnaround is continuing. It was positive to see that they turned a bad run into a good one instead of a good run into a bad one, which is what they’ve been doing for the last year.
Amy: But the shift has to start somewhere. It’s like the pirate ship ride: you start off slow and not very high, but without that momentum, you can’t get to the top.

The Nationwide Series debuted its new car in Daytona.  This car was designed to be more affordable in order to level the playing field in the series, but is it doing its intended job?

Summer: Wow. Way too early to tell. Can we give it some more races and a full-time implementation before we determine all this?
Amy: No it’s not, Summer. It’s not doing its job when a ton of teams could barely scrape up the money to show up at Daytona with one of them. And not when there were teams whose first ever laps in the car were in practice on Thursday.
Mike N.: I will say that the cars look a lot better than the Cup cars. It was great to see some actual brand identification.
Beth: Well, considering there were teams that were unable to scrape up the money to even race at Daytona, I’d say it failed in that respect.
Mike N.: As far as the cars being more affordable, in the long run they will be. You can’t judge it on one weekend. It will probably end up being like the Cup Series. They were supposed to reduce the fleets that teams were building but it hasn’t, in actual practice.
Summer: I didn’t expect much to change at all, though. And once it goes full-time, it should become more of a normal thing. It was new — of course, some teams won’t be able to show up initially.
Amy: The question isn’t about the racing, because that remains to be seen. But it gets a huge “F” on the affordability exercise. NASCAR needed to wait a year, maybe more. Too many teams couldn’t afford to switch cars for four races.
Summer: I agree with Mike. In the short-term, it’s going to be really expensive, but in the long run it’s going to be the standard anyways.
Beth: Too many teams were already struggling to get by, and adding another expense to their budget could be the death of them.
Mike N.: When you have to build a new car, there is obviously an expenditure that teams are going to have to lay out, and it is going to be hard for the lower-budget teams. Going forward, it should be a more affordable deal.
Amy: All doing it now did was make the gap even wider. The teams that could afford to go to extra test sessions are exactly the ones that don’t need that kind of help.
Summer: But it was like this with the CoT, too. You need to run it sometime.
Mike N.: No matter how long NASCAR waited, they were going to have to scrape the money together to do it. No matter when they started with the new car, there were going to be teams struggling to put it on the track.
Amy: Disagree. They should do it when the economy isn’t already killing off teams. That bounces back, more teams have sponsors, the whole thing goes better.
Summer: The economy may not get better for a while.
Mike N.: So NASCAR should wait to implement improved safety for their drivers until all of the teams can afford it?
Amy: The only thing that needed to be changed was the safety of the new car, and that could have been done on its own. They didn’t need to go to a new car at all. They could have incorporated safety features into existing cars.
Mike N.: You think making a longer wheelbase and a bigger greenhouse could have been done without rebuilding new cars?
Summer: It’s going to hurt underfunded teams even when the economy is good. They needed to implement it sometime.
Beth: Those underfunded teams have more of a chance for funding if the economy is better and more potential sponsors have room in their budget.
Mike N.: Exactly, and they’ve known for quite some time when it was coming. Teams aren’t going to make expenditures until they’re forced. This was just the line in the sand that forced them to do it.
Amy: I don’t know. All I know is, that race was a miserable experience for some of the teams because they got less than 10 laps in the car before qualifying. That, to me, is also pretty dangerous. Beth is right – that’s why NASCAR should have waited.
Mike N.: I do agree that they needed to be a little less stringent on the inspection process so that teams could get on the track and get some laps. It was crazy that some cars took over five hours to get through tech. And I do give NASCAR kudos for giving Morgan Shepherd a pass for being late to the track because of his hauler difficulties. If they couldn’t afford tires, would they have been able to afford them without the new car?
Amy: Nope. But at least they would have had some idea how the car would react. They couldn’t afford the test sessions. Many other teams couldn’t either. I talked to Kenny Wallace on Thursday, and he had exactly two laps in the new car before he had to go qualify it. They couldn’t afford the tires for more than that. That’s wrong and dangerous.
Mike N.: Well, the teams have known all year that this was coming. If they couldn’t get the money together in six months, then maybe they shouldn’t be racing in the Nationwide Series.
Amy: Or maybe NASCAR should realize that they should have waited. Lots of teams don’t have sponsors. Could you build a $250,000 racecar in six months, even if you knew about it? I couldn’t. Yet, they have three perfectly good cars to race under the old package.
Mike N.: If NASCAR had told me two years ago that they were going to a new car, and had already put off the debut, then yes, I probably would have been able to put together a car in time for the test.
Amy: In the No. 28’s case, they actually HAD the car anyway. It was the testing they couldn’t afford.
Summer: Exactly how long should they wait for the economy to improve?
Amy: Until it does.
Summer: That could take a very, very long time.
Mike N.: Five years ago, when the economy was good, there were still teams struggling to make it to the track. No matter when NASCAR chose to implement it, there would be teams who didn’t have the spare cash flow to accommodate building new cars.
Amy: True, but it’s worse than ever now. Bad timing all around. At least have an open test at Charlotte so they can afford to go to that before Michigan. Pay for tires for the test… something.
Mike N.: I agree that if tires were the issue, NASCAR could have done something to help the teams get on the track.
Summer: NASCAR could have helped the teams more, sure. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have run the car.

OK, how about some predictions for Chicago?

Amy: I’m going to go with Johnson marking another one off the bucket list. (Unless Aric Almirola is in the No. 48, in which case I’m going with Gordon.)
Summer: I’m going with Johnson, too.
Mike N.: Well damn, I was going to go with Johnson, but if everyone else is jumping on that bandwagon, I’ll go with Kyle Busch.
Beth: Give me Gordon.

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 18 races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top Fives Top 10s
Amy Henderson 31 18 3 8 13
Phil Allaway 26 -5 15 1 7 12
Beth Lunkenheimer 18 -13 12 1 7 8
Summer Dreyer 10 -21 11 0 4 6
Mike Neff 10 -21 7 1 2 4
Matt Taliaferro 4 -27 4 1 1 2
Jeff Meyer 4 -27 12 0 2 6
Bryan Davis Keith 4 -27 3 0 1 2
Vito Pugliese 4 -27 2 0 1 2
Tom Bowles 3 -28 2 0 1 1
Kurt Smith 1 -30 4 0 1 1
Garrett Horton 1 -30 3 0 0 1
Tony Lumbis 0 -31 3 0 0 0
Toni Montgomery 0 -31 1 0 0 0

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