NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Elliott Sadler Survived… But Can Richard Petty Motorsports?

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)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Vito Pugliese (Wednesdays/Voice of Vito)
Summer Dreyer (Mondays/Running Their Mouth & Frontstretch News Reporter)

Following a nasty wreck for Elliott Sadler at Pocono, there was an outcry about the lack of a SAFER barrier at the point where Sadler hit. Is it time for NASCAR to mandate set safety standards for all its tracks, or should the tracks themselves bear full responsibility considering the cost involved?

Jeff: The tracks are up to NASCAR’s standards. If NASCAR needs more, that is their problem.
Amy: I think it should be a combination, but there should be some leeway on different types of tracks.
Summer: I’m not usually in favor of the sport instituting any more rules, but in this case it needs to happen. NASCAR should not race at a track that isn’t up to certain safety standards.
Beth: To be fair to Pocono, they had previously announced safety upgrades coming to the track.
Phil: For the most part, the tracks have already made the improvements themselves. We don’t need a Hermann Tilke-like character in charge of forcing changes.
Mike N.: NASCAR already mandates some safety standards. Like Beth said, they are already gearing up for substantial safety changes to the track at Pocono so, if it wasn’t on there already, I’m sure that wall is on the list now.
Vito: A 90-degree wall built into an earthen embankment at the end of a 200 mph straightaway might not be such a good idea. The same sort of stupid track construction taco-ed Jeff Fuller‘s car at Kentucky a few years ago.
Phil: That out-jutting will be first on the list of things to go. Same thing with Kurt Busch hitting the boilerplate. By the way, I didn’t realize they still had some boilerplate on the inside of the track. I thought it was all ARMCO guardrails.
Amy: This is coming from the safety queen here, but I’d like to see a comparison between the dirt barriers they have at Pocono and the SAFER barrier. When Elliott Sadler hit that bank, the dirt flew, meaning it absorbed a hell of an impact.
Vito: Not really. The car still went from 170 mph to 0 in two feet. That’s why the engine was ripped out of the car.
Amy: The angle of the wall was an accident waiting to happen, but I’m not sold on the construction being that terrible.
Mike N.: That wall has been there for ages, and I believe that is the first time it has been impacted like that. I am sure they will change it for next year, but you can’t blame them for not having a SAFER barrier there.
Vito: That same type of wall used to kill guys at Daytona on the backstretch. It is an UNsafe barrier.
Summer: Yeah, the engines don’t fly out of the cars when they hit the SAFER barriers.
Amy: The SAFER barrier doesn’t move a whole lot more than that wall did.
Vito: That wall is a 90-degree angle. It isn’t the inside wall, it’s the one that runs perpendicular to it.
Amy: But if you hit the SAFER head on at that speed, what could happen? Nobody has hit one at that angle that I can recall.
Phil: Probably a somewhat similar result, to be honest, Amy.
Mike N.: Michael McDowell hit the wall at a very similar angle compared to Sadler, from what limited video we have. The SAFER barrier moves more than that wall did. It also spreads the G-load over a greater area. If you look at the dirt that shot out, it was very concentrated in a small area.
Vito: That’s why you get out there with a Caterpillar D9, knock that dumb bank down, smooth it out, pave over the grass, paint some sponsor logos on it and line it with a SAFER barrier.
Phil: They’re arguing that they really can’t do that due to environmental concerns, Vito.
Mike N.: Environmental concerns? What, they need the deer to have better traction before they run back across the track?
Vito: Let others worry about saving the environment; I’d like to save some of our racecar drivers.
Mike N.: I’m thinking the huge solar farm should buy them a little leeway in the environmental arena.
Phil: They mentioned something about having to dig a giant pond in the Infield to offset the loss of grass. Not really sure how that would work.
Vito: Daytona made it happen with the superstretch and they have still preserved their infield road course. There is an infield track at Pocono, but no series of any importance really runs there. Pave over the grass. It doesn’t need to be mirror smooth. I’m surprised they still had that bank there after Davey Allison barrel rolled over it in 1992.
Phil: I think it may be a little too expensive for them; but at the very least, a small paved apron on the Long Pond and North straights wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Beth: If I remember correctly, it’s not so much an environmental thing, but rather a flood thing.
Amy: Bottom line, the dirt wall did its job. I’m glad Pocono is putting in SAFER barriers, but I’m not going to be so quick to jump on the “OMG, Pocono is going to kill someone” bandwagon, either. The car also did its job. You may not like how it races, but you can’t argue with the safety aspect.
Jeff: OK, who are you and what have you done with Amy?
Vito: The dirt wall did not do a good job. It ripped an engine out of the car! The last time that happened, Geoff Bodine was in the process of entering the stands along the short chute at Daytona in 2000.
Mike N.: The car did an amazing job. No doubt Sadler doesn’t walk away from that in 2001.
Amy: I’d still like to see numbers. How much impact did the dirt absorb vs. the SAFER barrier? Because that berm moved a ton.
Vito: That berm didn’t move, it spit some rocks because 3,500 lbs hit it going 170 mph. Solid, impacted dirt does not have as much give as styrofoam and aluminum. Maybe they should just go Monza and put some trees alongside the track while they’re at it.
Jeff: Maybe they know that they will not be having two races a year in the future.
Mike N.: Pocono isn’t losing a race, brother.
Amy: I’m not saying the SAFER isn’t, well, safer… but Sadler walked away because something besides his brain took the worst of that hit.
Beth: I’m sure that HANS device did quite the number to help out, too.
Jeff: Yeah, I’d say the mandated HANS had more to do with him walking away.
Mike N.: The HANS certainly was a huge part of it, but the reinforced greenhouse was a big part of it too.
Vito: And the seat construction.
Amy: It was all of it together. If he’d hit concrete, I daresay it would have been worse.
Jeff: OK, so if that is the worst hit there ever and the driver is OK, the miraculous new car did its job… then why bother to move the berm?
Mike N.: Primarily because having an engine rolling across the track is not a good idea.
Amy: Are there better ways? Sure. But earth barriers, styrofoam blocks and old guardrails have all saved lives. Sure they can be fixed, but it could have been worse – that could have been a concrete retaining wall.
Vito: Dirt walls take lives. They have a history of it. They do not absorb impacts any better than concrete walls do.
Beth: But we’ve gotten way off subject. There have definitely got to be some standards for all tracks across the board if they’re going to continue hosting Cup races. And I’m not just talking about Pocono. No track should lack SAFER barriers on the inside and outside walls.
Amy: I agree, Beth, but tracks have to bear the cost, meaning if they can provide research to show the safety of something else, they should have the leeway to use that. I’m happy they’re putting in SAFER barriers, but Pocono wasn’t out to kill anyone.
Mike N.: NASCAR does have mandated safety requirements. They just might need to review them and make sure they’re a little more stringent. I don’t understand why there aren’t SAFER barriers completely around all tracks.
Jeff: Well then, as I said, it’s NASCAR that has to step up to the plate.
Beth: I wouldn’t be against NASCAR helping out tracks a little in getting those safety features implemented, so tracks won’t have to pass on as much of those costs to the fans. That would be a decent compromise for an across the board improvement to all tracks.
Jeff: Like that will happen, Beth….
Beth: Well, we know nothing that makes sense will actually happen with NASCAR, but it’s worth throwing the idea out there.
Amy: If a track wants to use styrofoam blocks like Watkins Glen did (and still might, for all I know) and can back that up with hard numbers, they should be able to.
Jeff: Or SOFT numbers, as the case may be.
Summer: I don’t think we should wait until we see if something works or not to make an improvement.
Mike N.: If a track can prove their solution is as safe as the SAFER barrier, then there shouldn’t be a problem with them using it. They just need to have some sort of solution on all walls. Not just in the corners and doglegs on the straights.
Jeff: How about a gravel pit in that area?
Amy: I’d love to see gravel pits at Pocono.
Mike N.: I think tracks are trying to get away from gravel pits just because they can cause extended delays getting cars out of them.
Summer: It would work better than grass.
Jeff: Well, as I’ve said a million times before, it’s racing, and you are never going to make it risk-free.
Mike N.: I just think they should pave it like they’ve done with the backstretch at Daytona.
Phil: Keep in mind that Pocono is effectively in a marsh. Paving all the grass is just not in the cards.
Mike N.: They paved the track, didn’t they?
Phil: Yeah, 41 years ago, before environmental concerns were an issue.
Summer: It may not ever be risk-free, but leaving some of the safety hazards there are at Pocono is taking an unnecessary risk.
Mike N.: I guess I’m just not understanding what environmental concerns there are with paving an area inside of a racetrack.
Phil: The idea is that they would have to replace the greenspace that would be paved over.
Jeff: OK, paint the pavement green!
Amy: Bottom line: there need to be standards, and the cost should be shared. But there should be more than one option, provided they’re safe options.
Mike N.: I’m sure they’ll have it all fixed up by next year. And I’m thinking the solar farm has gained them enough environmental credits that paving the areas inside the straights will not exceed their previous carbon footprint.

Speaking of Elliott Sadler, the Cup wreck overshadowed his accomplishment on Saturday, when a Truck Series win made him the 21st driver to win in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions. Should he be pursuing a full-time Truck ride in 2011, or should he try to stay in Cup, even if it means a lesser ride?

Beth: I actually wrote about this in Tracking the Trucks this weekend. I’m definitely in favor of Elliott pursuing a ride in the Truck Series.
Mike N.: I’m thinking a Cup ride is still where any driver wants to be, even if it is a lesser ride – as long as it isn’t a start-and-park ride.
Amy: I’d love to see him in Trucks. There are several drivers I’d rather watch race a good Truck or Nationwide car than suffer through the terrible Cup rides they’re in.
Beth: There’s no sense in taking a crappy ride where he’ll never even compete for the win in the Cup Series, though.
Summer: The Trucks are kind of a step backwards. I wouldn’t think he’d want to do that even if it means he won’t run as strong.
Vito: I’d stay in Cup. He is a Cup-level driver, and it wasn’t that long ago he was pretty successful; he just needs to find a ride that works. RPM really isn’t that far off from being a decent, consistent organization.
Phil: I don’t think that Sadler will have many prospects at all in Sprint Cup next season. If he can get something good, go for it. Otherwise, the Trucks aren’t the end of the world.
Vito: He keeps going back and forth with RPM… he says he’s gone, then a representative from RPM says they’re working to keep him. It’s almost like they’re airing the negotiations in public.
Jeff: Yeah, who are we to suggest he ”pursue” a full-time Truck ride?! Are y’all saying he’s washed up? He still makes tons more than you or me.
Amy: What’s better… a car like the No. 36 Cup car where 35th is a great finish, or the No. 2 truck, where a driver could contend for a championship?
Beth: Agreed, Amy. And can you imagine what a combination he and Ron Hornaday would make? Remember, this win was his first since 2004 with Yates, and there aren’t exactly any high-caliber teams with openings coming up.
Mike N.: But you’re contending for a championship where you win $20,000 for winning a race as opposed to winning $60,000 for the 35th-place finish in Cup.
Jeff: Perhaps he should go for a full-time broadcasting gig like his brother.
Phil: You know, some would argue that Trackside might be his full-time ride next year.
Beth: Ultimately, I’d say a driver wants to win rather than make money.
Amy: And if you win five races a year, that’s a pretty nice salary.
Mike N.: Win five races or make the Daytona 500 and get more money? If he has no ride at all, that is a different story. But if he has a shot at a Cup ride, I think he’d be silly not to take it. The purses in Truck are ridiculously low, and the salaries are commensurate.
Beth: The purses are a different problem entirely….
Mike N.: Very true, Beth. But the driver salaries are that much of a notch down in the Trucks, too.
Beth: It’s not like he couldn’t run a few select Cup races just for the fun of it if he were running full-time in the Trucks.
Phil: What do the drivers get paid to race in the series: 40% of the purse plus $800 a week?
Mike N.: I’m sure it depends on the driver Phil, but I doubt there are that many drivers getting $800 to run a Truck Series race.
Beth: There’s fewer races… of course it’s lower.
Amy: But if rides are slim pickings, why go to a car that might not even make the Daytona 500?
Mike N.: Because it is Cup racing. No matter what you say, Cup is far higher on the pecking order than Trucks.
If he steps down to Trucks, he’s all but ensuring he’ll never drive a Cup car again.
Jeff: There are a lot of people in Cup that suck worse than Sadler. Get rid of some of them!
Amy: Sure it is, but if I had the chance at a car like the No. 36 Cup car or the No. 88 NNS car or the No. 2 Truck, I’m not 100% sold on the Cup car.
Mike N.: I’m taking the No. 36 as long as they’re running full races. Tommy Baldwin is a racer, and he’ll keep getting better.
Jeff: I’ll take the Cup ride, thank you.
Summer: Same here. You can always run select Nationwide and Truck races with a full-time Cup ride.
Amy: True, but there has to be some appeal to running for a championship.
Jeff: Yet if Sadler were running the Nationwide Series full-time, Amy would have none of that!
Beth: Personally, I’d jump in that No. 2 truck in a heartbeat. They’ve shown they can compete for wins.
Amy: The KHI trucks have sponsors… unlike the No. 36 Cup car. Yet, they’re in a lesser series because they run well and get on TV. I don’t think they showed Casey Mears all day on Sunday.
Mike N.: When’s the last time they showed Sadler on Sunday when he wasn’t being wrecked?
Vito: Unless he’s going to start his own Truck Series team, I think he has no business dropping down to Trucks. The guy isn’t even 40 years old!
Mike N.: Right. A driver who is Elliott’s age is ending his Cup career by going to Trucks.
Jeff: The bottom line is this: if a guy like Sadler can get someone to give him a full Cup contract, he’s gonna take it.
Amy: Well, Todd Bodine was never going to win a Cup title. Ever. But he has a Truck title and is working on another.
Mike N.: And he’s Todd Bodine. Aside from us and the members of the Todd Bodine fan club, can anyone tell you who he is? Oh wait, all the members of the Austin Dillon fan club can, because Bodine tried to run over him Saturday.
Jeff: He’s Onionhead!
Phil: Todd Bodine’s had a long career essentially moving in and out of different NASCAR series. It’s hard to imagine he’s been around 20-plus years.
Mike N.: Has it only been 20 years? It seems like he used to race on the beach.
Amy: I don’t think a Truck or NNS career is the end of the world. Sure, you want a Cup ride, but if a decent one isn’t offered, a driver could do a lot worse than stepping into a winning ride elsewhere.
Phil: The Truck ride thing should be used as a trump card – something to try if he can’t find something worthwhile in Cup.
Jeff: I say, let Elliott make that decision. I don’t know why we are even speculating.
Beth: I’d rather see Sadler behind the wheel of something he can win in rather than something he can just log laps in. If that means dropping to the Truck Series, then so be it.
Vito: Sadler would do well to stay in Cup, and either stick it out with RPM or be ready when a ride comes along.
Mike N.: The Truck Series is still a lesser series, and the drivers in that series who are over 25 years old are not going to be advancing their careers by running there. If Sadler can get a Cup ride, he should take it because he’s good enough to drive in the series. Keeping himself in the series increases his chances at getting another quality ride. If he goes to the Trucks, he’s done for in the Cup Series.
Amy: Be ready when a ride came along? That worked out great for Ward Burton….
Vito: Well, Ward went and hid in the woods – that is why Elliott needs to be in the Cup garage area.
Phil: Ward was all but forced to retire a couple of years ago since no one would give him a ride. Elliott needs to stay visible at all costs.
Mike N.: Yeah, because if he’s not, he’ll probably be in the woods too.
Phil: Of course, these would be hypothetical woods instead of real woods, like Ward.
Mike N.: Oh no, Phil. Elliott loves the woods as much as Ward. He’d be out hunting his brains out.
Amy: But Ward was screwed because he held out for a top Cup ride and there were none. Nobody “forced” him out; he did it himself by not taking anything.
Jeff: Yeah, and Ward is still living comfortably….

With Sadler and Kasey Kahne leaving in 2011, while AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard are rumored to be in talks with other teams, is 2010 the end of the road for Richard Petty Motorsports?

Amy: I think RPM is in real trouble.
Jeff: RPM was on the way out when Gillett bought it.
Phil: We still need to wait and see on RPM. I don’t think the team’s going to disappear overnight, but it’s not in the best situation at the moment.
Mike N.: RPM is still going to be around, but they are not going to have a three- or four-car stable. They very well could be a one-car operation next year.
Vito: Marcos Ambrose – if he does end up there – can attract sponsorship. AJ Allmendinger would do well to stay put and not jump around. He needs consistency and familiarity; however, what RPM needs is money.
Mike N.: I don’t think Allmendinger is gone just yet. He’s done some good racing for them and could do a good job again if he comes back.
Vito: He just needs to not cock off to The King.
Beth: Allmendinger has seen some improvements this season – he’s better off where he is at this point.
Mike N.: The King admitted that he should have left him alone on that one. I thought it showed a lot of passion from AJ.
Vito: I thought it was kind of funny. He was gentle with him, but then grabbed a fist full of uniform.
Beth: And if I were an owner, I’d expect that kind of passion from my driver.
Amy: Mike, AJ. has done well… and that’s why he’s talked to other teams.
Summer: He gets pretty rowdy on the radio too. He’s definitely passionate.
Jeff: But the King is not the owner. They are just using his name.
Mike N.: Ambrose and Allmendinger will be good for RPM and I think they’ll keep the company relevant for a couple more years.
Amy: If someone offers him a comparable ride for more money, he should take it. Ambrose to the No. 9 would be great, but that sponsor is defecting to RCR, possibly right along with Menards.
Jeff: Maybe AJ should take a full-time Truck ride….
Vito: Menard is kind of a hired gun at this point, but he has shown worlds of improvement this year, that’s why I’d like to see these guys stay put and follow through on what they’re building. They kind of remind me of the Red Bull team a couple of years ago.
Mike N.: I’m just trying to figure out where AJ is going to go. He’s not going to Hendrick. He’s not going to Roush. He’s not going to SHR. He’s not going to Childress. Where is he going to get a ride?
Vito: He could go back to Red Bull.
Phil: No, I don’t think Allmendinger’s going back to Red Bull.
Mike N.: That’s true, Vito. He might be able to take Scott Speed‘s seat.
Vito: I think Speed is coming back – the ownership loves him. The big question mark is what Brian Vickers will be able to do.
Summer: Brian will get his ride back. It’s not like any of the drivers that have replaced him have really been that impressive.
Vito: Brian may not be physically able to go, and it would be absolutely heartbreaking if he can’t.
Mike N.: Well said, Vito. It’s just a matter of whether he’ll be cleared to race.
Amy: I agree. Vickers made that team. If Speed gets fired, I won’t be sorry.
Phil: If Vickers is done, then everything’s thrown in the air.
Mike N.: I think he’ll be back. My girlfriend had the same problem two weeks before he did and she’s doing much better. There’ve actually been rumors that Vickers might be back yet this year.
Vito: Red Bull still is not the operation that some think it is – it’s a comparatively small team.
Amy: It is, Vito, but it’s probably the best small team out there.
Mike N.: MWR is the best small team out there.
Vito: Red Bull is suffering without their main wheelman in that seat. Being that small of a team, they have a lot of their eggs in that one basket, and they were struggling to get it back up to speed this year as it was.
Phil: Vickers really hasn’t been at the track much since he stepped out of the car. Maybe he should go for moral support.
Mike N.: He’s made a couple of appearances. He’s actually taking the time to do some things he hasn’t been able to do. Plus he’s training to get back in the car.
Summer: He was going to do some things he didn’t have the opportunity to do before. I don’t blame him. Being a racecar driver and watching someone else drive your car must hurt.
Amy: As far as RPM is concerned, being a one-car team is the kiss of death in Cup. Two cars is tough, and they could well be a two-car team at best.
Vito: Maybe this is Kyle Petty‘s chance to get back in a car!
Mike N.: RPM will be a two-car team for the start of the year. But if they can’t land more sponsorship, it will be tough.
Amy: Best Buy isn’t going to pay two cars’ worth of bills.
Mike N.: I’m surprised you don’t see Gillett on the hood of an RPM car sometimes.
Summer: Well, if Ambrose goes over there, he’ll bring sponsorship I’m assuming.
Phil: He’ll be able to get something, but I couldn’t tell you what it would be. Maybe something associated with Pirtek.
Mike N.: I don’t know if he’ll be able to bring them or not. You’d like to think he would. And Kroger certainly likes him. I can’t believe Foster’s doesn’t sponsor him.
Amy: Foster’s isn’t that big of a company.
Mike N.: But they’re one of the few Australian things people know in the U.S.
Amy: I do think RPM is in serious trouble. Maybe one driver, one sponsor next year… if they stick around.
Mike N.: RPM will be back next year. They’ll most likely be a two-car team. The question will be whether they can they sell two cars for the entire season. It will be interesting if they can have Marcos and AJ in sponsored rides for the entire season. Ambrose should have a better year next year. His luck can’t get any worse.

It was announced last week that Gateway will give up its one Truck Series and two Nationwide races next year. Where should those dates go?

Amy: The Trucks should go to Rockingham. For the Nationwide Series, give Iowa a second date and the other one to Martinsville.
Summer: Give Iowa a second date.
Beth: Definitely.
Phil: I have no clue, but I wouldn’t mind Rockingham getting one of them. With only 33,000 seats now, maybe a Nationwide race could go there.
Jeff: Fontana!
Vito: Rockingham or Portland. I always liked that road course.
Amy: I’d like to see another road course, but don’t think it will happen.
Mike N.: Well, since you’re taking my idea for Full Throttle, which will be in the Newsletter today, I think they should move a Nationwide race and Truck race to Rockingham and then move the other Nationwide race to North Wilkesboro. The owners are pissing and moaning about costs. Well, it is a lot less expensive to have the teams go to tracks near Charlotte than going to Iowa.
Jeff: No less to Iowa than Gateway.
Mike N.: Right, Jeff. And they want to cut costs. They can do North Wilkesboro in a day and everyone can sleep in their own bed.
Phil: I’d like to see a road course on the Truck calendar.
Summer: A road course in Truck or another in Nationwide? I think we have more than enough road courses in Nationwide as it is.
Amy: The only problem with the Rock (and North Wilkes) is they are not NASCAR-sanctioned any longer. But what about South Boston?
Phil: South Boston is doable, but the networks might complain. Remember, whining from FOX or TNT killed South Boston’s Busch race.
Summer: Why did the networks complain about South Boston?
Phil: Too small, I guess.
Vito: Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan — my backyard. They run ARCA there, so why not Trucks? Myrtle Beach was always a fun Nationwide (i.e., Busch) track.
Mike N.: South Boston, Motor Mile, Hickory… any one of them would work. And Martinsville already has a Truck race. Move them to a track that doesn’t currently have one.
Amy: Hickory doesn’t have the facilities to host a race of that size any more.
Jeff: But locale is not the point of the series now, is it? If that is the thinking, then have all the Nationwide and Truck races in the Southeast.
Mike N.: Hickory is no different than ORP. And Hickory used to host the Nationwide Series.
Amy: ORP doesn’t have permanent seats?
Mike N.: ORP doesn’t have garages. Hickory has permanent seats.
Amy: No, it doesn’t; it has a concrete grandstand, and you bring your own chair.
Mike N.: Concrete seems pretty permanent to me.
Amy: But there are no actual seats.
Phil: Yeah, but your buttocks might be pretty sore after that. Pretty much nothing smaller than Martinsville has garages.
Mike N.: ORP is bigger than Martinsville.
Amy: The concrete is too wide to sit comfortably on. Bring a lawn chair and you have prime seats, though.
Mike N.: And while we’re mentioning ORP, if they give a Nationwide race to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they’re nuts.
Summer: Yeah, I agree. Leave it at ORP. It’s fine there.
Phil: Yeah, that wouldn’t be a good move. However, at $52 a pop, those seats are a little pricey.
Mike N.: I can’t even fathom what 20,000 people in 275,000-seat grandstands will look like.
Amy: Yeah, that would be one boring NNS race, where ORP is a great one every time out.
Jeff: Indy will be lucky to keep a Cup race for long.
Mike N.: Indy needs to black out the race like they do with the 500. If they do that, they’ll fill the stands again.
Amy: I just hope NASCAR puts those dates somewhere where the racing won’t suck.
Mike N.: I just hope they’ll give them to a short track that doesn’t currently have a race.
Phil: Can’t guarantee that. Midsummer is a tough time to race during the day.
Amy: True, but the schedule could be shuffled… dates don’t have to be the same day. I think of the unsanctioned facilities, Rockingham and North Wilkes are the most viable.
Mike N.: Come to think of it, Greenville-Pickens would be an awesome idea, too. Although the racing wouldn’t be as good.
Phil: All these short tracks with local racing schedules are not the best safety-wise and probably can’t afford SAFER barriers and stuff like that either.
Summer: If they aren’t NASCAR-sanctioned, is there a way they can be?
Amy: They have to pay a sanctioning fee. Note to NASCAR: this does not mean Fontana should get its Truck date back.
Phil: Oh no. The Truck Series does not need to haul 3,000 miles for a race with 30 starters in front of 8,000 people.
Amy: That never stopped them before, Phil.
Jeff: I think Iowa will get one, because they still need to think of the Midwest fans that are losing out with the closing of Gateway.
Mike N.: One other idea that would not give good racing but would hail back to the roots of the series would be Bowman-Gray.
Phil: Too small. I don’t think that would work.
Mike N.: They’d put 30,000 people in the place. They used to race Cup cars at that track.
Jeff: Whatever happened to the TV series about Bowman-Gray?
Summer: The season ended. It’ll be on SPEED this year. There’s a similar series on Discovery Channel about Lakeside Speedway. It’s on Monday nights.
Amy: If we’re looking at strictly current NASCAR tracks, I say the NNS dates should go to Iowa and Martinsville, Trucks to Watkins Glen. If a track would be willing to pay a sanctioning fee (and give up test money in the process), then Trucks to Rockingham.
Summer: I think that’d be great!
Mike N.: I would rather see them at Rockingham, but that would require Andy Hillenburg to give up a lot of testing revenue, so I don’t know if he’d do it.
Beth: Watkins Glen would definitely give a different perspective of Truck Series racing… that would be nice to see.
Amy: They used to run there.
Beth: Not while I’ve been watching them, though.
Amy: I think NASCAR needs to really choose wisely and choose tracks that will provode good racing, especially if they do limit Cup drivers in NNS.
Mike N.: The owners are complaining about the cost of running in these series. They need to move the races to tracks that are close to Charlotte so that the teams can make it a one-day trip. That will save the owners some money and will bring racing back to some tracks that have lost NASCAR.
Jeff: Maybe someone will buy Gateway, and they can get their dates back.
Phil: Well, Rockingham would be nice, but I’m sure Brian France has all but decreed NASCAR will never race there again. North Wilkesboro would be great for a race too, but I don’t know what their facilities look like.
Mike N.: I don’t know about that. He decreed Cup would never race there again. But the other touring series are still a possibility, I think…

OK, how about predictions for Watkins Glen?

Amy: I think I’ll go with Tony Stewart this week.
Mike N.: I’m going to go with Ambrose.
Jeff: Ambrose.
Mike N.: He’s going to make up for his gaff at Sonoma.
Jeff: Or do it again….
Summer: I’ll go with Stewart as well.
Beth: Sooner or later, the No. 24 team is going to stop shooting themselves in the foot… I’ll take Jeff Gordon.
Vito: Robby Gordon. He took a week off for a reason.
Phil: Well, I’m going with Jeff Gordon, too.
Mike N.: Dang, no one giving Juan Pablo Montoya any love?

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

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top Fives Top 10s
Phil Allaway 34 17 2 9 14
Amy Henderson 32 -2 21 3 9 14
Beth Lunkenheimer 22 -12 15 1 9 10
Mike Neff 10 -24 8 1 2 4
Summer Dreyer 9 -25 12 0 4 6
Jeff Meyer 7 -27 13 0 3 7
Matt Taliaferro 4 -30 4 1 1 2
Bryan Davis Keith 4 -30 3 0 1 2
Vito Pugliese 4 -30 2 0 1 2
Tom Bowles 3 -31 3 0 1 1
Garrett Horton 0 -34 4 0 0 1
Tony Lumbis 0 -34 3 0 0 0
Kurt Smith 0 -34 5 0 1 1
Toni Montgomery 0 -34 1 0 0 0

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