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)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/
Beth Lunkenheimer “(Fridays / Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)”:www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/3362/
Phil Allaway “(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/
Mike Neff “(Wednesdays / Top 15 & Wednesdays / Full Throttle)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/1744/
Jeff Meyer “(Wednesdays / Top Ten & Thursdays / Voices From The Heartland)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/356/
Kyle Ocker (Frontstretch News Reporter)
*There was a lot of hype leading into Sunday’s Ford 400, with the closest Chase in history. The Chase aside, did the race live up to expectations, or was the bar set too high to ever realistically be cleared?*
Jeff: The race was fine.
Phil: No, it didn’t live up to the hype. There was way too much to begin with.
Amy: I alternated between thinking that stupid points ticker was really cool and wanting to shoot my TV.
Mike N.: The race for the championship was very entertaining with lots of drama throughout. The race itself — I have no idea because they only showed the leaders about six times all day.
Jeff: Carl was so far ahead they couldn’t find him.
Amy: Mike, Edwards made that piece of it a total yawner. If it hadn’t been the final race with the points so close, it would have been a yawner for much of the day.
It was a decent race, though, and the points lead did swap a few times.
Kyle: It was worth some hype but it was over-hyped. Tracking the points throughout the race was exciting, as was watching the Chasers all have their share of troubles and having to rebound.
Beth: They could have talked about someone else not named Jimmie, Kevin or Denny a lot more than they did. I swear you’d think there were just three drivers on the track unless someone wrecked. That said, the hype wasn’t so much about the race as it was the close battle three drivers were in. Who cares about the race when we can talk about the point leaders all day.
Kyle: Yeah, some guys put some really good runs together but none of them really received any air time at all.
Mike N.: There have been a lot of yawners all year, but they showed the eventual winner more than three times. ESPN should be taken to task vehemently for such an over-the-top focus on three cars all day.
Phil: I talk a bit about the on-screen live point graphic in the critique. It’s only good if you cover the rest of the race as well.
Kyle: Yeah, if you keep referring to it you might as well not have it.
Beth: I thought that was the point of a ticker like that. The announcers can talk about other things and fans can still get the information they need / want.
Mike N.: I believe you’re right Beth, but unfortunately, they didn’t talk about anyone else all day.
Kyle: TV can be held responsible for some of the sponsorship issues. When a driver like Bill Elliott puts up a top 15, he needs to be mentioned. If you want to ignore those 30th and back that’s one thing, but a top 20 in the Sprint Cup Series is a feat that deserves a little recognition.
Amy: Yeah, that was an issue. It’s a problem all the time, but it was worse this week. There are 43 guys every week.
Beth: Even the fans of drivers running 30th on back want to know why their driver is back there, Kyle.
Phil: FOX acknowledged it when Shelmerdine finished 20th in the Daytona 500 in 2006.
Mike N.: It was like the green flag flew and a Nationwide race broke out.
Beth: I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Amy: Now you know how the real Nationwide fans feel …
Mike N.: Thanks for completely dismissing my love for all forms of auto racing.
Kyle: I still think there needs to be a ticker at the bottom of the screen that updates every driver — what their car is doing, pit stop information, etc. It doesn’t have to be in depth, just something people can glance at.
Mike N.: Kind of like the F1 ticker Kyle?
Kyle: I don’t watch F1, but sure!
Phil: That wouldn’t be a bad idea, but it cannot be too intrusive.
Mike N.: True, it would be a little more difficult with 43 cars instead of 22 but it could still be done.
Amy: That would be cool, actually. At least when they’re off or out, show a note as to why, or if they crash, that they were released from infield care or transported.
Kyle: Well, they have pit reporters, maybe just add a couple. Or, bring 43 interns in.
Mike N.: I would have liked to have heard what happened to the pit crew member that went to the hospital. Even if they didn’t know anything, just to give us an update.
Phil: Maybe not put them on air, but have a couple of people doing Jim Noble-esque work.
Kyle: Just tell me what the driver thinks, and maybe his last pit stop time. NASCAR keeps track of all of the pit stops. Also, any penalties. Most of the information could be from NASCAR because ESPN sucks at updating penalties.
Amy: But I do think if you were into the championship, and I know lots had mixed feelings since it didn’t turn out the way it might have under real points, that it was a decent race. The point lead swapped three or four times at least, and that is good for the sport.
Jeff: I have to say I was thinking of Amy during the whole race and smiling!
Amy: Ha ha. So I was wrong.
Kyle: Yeah, I was following the points on the live blog this week. There was a time where the points standings flipped three times in less than a minute. ESPN seems to be too afraid to go to a battle for 20th. If that’s the best battle, show it.
Mike N.: The race for the championship was quite enjoyable. The rest of the race I have no idea, because it was almost completely ignored by ESPN. ESPN used to be the best at that. Then they lost NASCAR and forgot all about it when they got the sport back.
Amy: On one hand, NASCAR got something they really needed — a compelling points battle. On the other hand, all that will do is make Brian France think the Chase is a good thing … and that’s not a good thing.
Phil: Brian didn’t do himself any favors this weekend.
Mike N.: France already thinks that, Amy. I could not believe he was literally shocked that a reporter told him there were people who do not like the Chase.
Jeff: Yeah Mike, I found that hilarious.
Amy: I know … what rock is he living under?
Kyle: A rock made of money.
Phil: Maybe it’s all an act with him. I would have liked to see him answer that question. You know, see if he was being sarcastic or not.
Amy: I don’t think he understands sarcasm
Mike N.: If that is true, and he really doesn’t know what people think, then the people working for him should all be fired before he is because someone has to have the stones to tell him to his face.
Phil: Our readership is roughly 97 percent in favor of Chase dumping, for the record.
Amy: NASCAR.com’s poll showed like 75 percent say they will never like it.
Mike N.: I think 95 percent of all NASCAR fans are in favor of dumping it.
Kyle: I’m glad our readers aren’t going to let one Chase change their mind.
Mike N.: Except for Dansmom.
Jeff: I’ll say it again: The first thing to do to regain fans in NASCAR is to get rid of Brian France.
Amy: I think Dansmom is Brian France. It’s like his version of a prank call.
Jeff: No, Dansmom is too eloquent.
*On that note, Jimmie Johnson and his team became just the fourth team in any major sport to win five consecutive championships. However, many fans are unhappy with Johnson’s dominance; how can he be stopped from continuing?*
Amy: That’s both easy and really, really hard: the other teams have to get better. And that onus is on them.
Phil: For the competition to quit screwing up. He’s beatable and they shot themselves in the foot.
Jeff: Get rid of the Chase. Without the Chase, JJ has only two.\
Amy: As was pointed out a couple of weeks ago, you can’t say that for sure, Jeff. They would have raced differently.
Jeff: Did you know that if the Chase had been around in ‘92, Kyle Petty would be a Cup champion?
Amy: Jeff, wasn’t it you telling me how everyone would have raced differently if the Chase wasn’t in place?
Jeff: I don’t believe so.
Mike N.: Well, if they went back to the old points I don’t believe he could make a run like this. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening, so the only other thing they can do is switch up the races in the Chase.
Phil: He’d have to be stronger in the middle of the season and that might take a little out of the team.
Mike N.: Exactly Phil. They would have to focus to maintain the points lead which would let other teams test and get better for the following season.
Amy: Earnhardt would only have five if it went the whole modern era.
Phil: Yeah, the epic 1992 Hooters 500 would have been complete anticlimax.
Kyle: All Johnson has to do is show up for the first 26, win a couple, then actually try in the last 10. The old system, while it wasn’t always exciting or close at the end, made drivers fight for points all the time. I think the Chase takes a lot away from the first 26 races. I will consider Harvick the champion. He led the standings for how many races this year?
Amy: The Chase is really beside the point here, because NASCAR isn’t getting rid of it. So that aside, what do you do to beat this guy?
Mike N.: They need to change the tracks in the Chase. Obviously Chad, Jimmie and the No. 48 team have these 10 tracks figured out.
Beth: You know some of the tracks would fight it, but I’d love to see them swapped around a little.
Mike N.: If they switch up the tracks it will at least even the field a little bit. But the bottom line is the other teams have to beat Johnson and it shouldn’t be up to NASCAR to make that happen.
Amy: I agree with that, Mike. That would be a nightmare for the tracks, but it wouldn’t be impossible.
Mike N.: It wouldn’t be impossible if NASCAR actually let them know more than nine months ahead that they were going to have races and when they would be. If they let them know a year and a half ahead of time the tracks would be able to work it out. If they couldn’t then hey, you lose your date altogether.
Beth: Works for me, Mike, but I doubt NASCAR would do that since it actually makes sense.
Phil: That Chase is probably tied into the TV contract. It’ll be here for the next four years.
Amy: I think the points are part of the problem, though. The average fan’s perception is that Harvick would have won no matter what. But that’s not changing. Really, the only solution here is for someone to step up and beat Johnson, and so far, nobody can.
Jeff: Personally, I think you will see attendance, and overall interest drop even further now that Jimmie has won five in a row. And I actually hope it does. NASCAR — someone there — needs a serious wake up call. Hopefully, losing even more money will wake them up.
Amy: I suppose they could resort to dirty driving every week, but I think we’d find out quick that “have at it” might have limits.
Mike N.: What would be great, but they’ll never do this, is have a lottery at Daytona the week before the season starts to see which 10 tracks would be in the Chase.
Jeff: I wouldnt say the Chase is here to stay, Amy. Remember, Hamlin did have it in the bag two weeks ago!
Mike N.: I’m sure we’re going to lose more fans but that isn’t Jimmie’s or NASCAR’s fault from a competition standpoint. Jimmie has won the championship based on the rules in play. Mind you, NASCAR is at fault for the Chase, but we’ve already established that that isn’t going away.
Amy: Regardless of the point system, because teams can only work with what they have, I do wish people would realize just how impressive what Johnson has done is. Five in a row in any sport is pretty remarkable.
Jeff: Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love the way JJ and Chad won this one. There is no denying they have this figured out.
Amy: I do to, Jeff. I don’t mind that I was wrong because the No 48 team did something pretty remarkable.
Mike N.: I appreciate that they actually won it from behind this time. I think that makes it even more impressive. And you can’t deny that five in a row is amazing no matter what the rules are that are in place. Kind of like the weekend trifecta that Kyle did at Bristol.
Amy: I also think it’s time to seriously talk about seven. Not in a row, but eventually.
Mike N.: I’ve said for the last two years that I think Chad is going to win eight in a row and then retire.
Jeff: Hell, I hope they do 10 in a row. Make a complete farce out of Brian France’s Chase.
Kyle: It’s a given, unless he goes to F1, that he will have seven in no time.
Amy: I wouldn’t go that far, Kyle. Time was, we thought it was a given for Jeff Gordon.
Jeff: Yeah, and Jeff would have six if they hadn’t changed the scoring.
Amy: But they did. I hate the Chase as much as anyone, but Jimmie won under the system in place. You can’t accurately say that he wouldn’t have won five under the old system.
Mike N.: Yeah, well, Dale Earnhardt would have eight if he didn’t die.
Jeff: How can you say that?
Mike N.: Simple. 2001 was the best he had felt physically in years. Look at the fact that Harvick finished top 10 in points without running all of the races. Earnhardt would have won it all that year and then ridden off into the sunset.
Kyle: But back in Jeff Gordon’s hey day he didn’t have the Chase, where as someone said earlier, Kyle Petty would have had a title under the Chase system. So, with the Chase, Johnson will have seven championships in two years. No one has showed me they can stop him.
Amy: If if’s and but’s were candy and nuts …
Kyle: The five titles for Johnson is among the most impressive feats every accomplished, but if a 20 percent drop in ratings during the Chase isn’t a big enough signal to NASCAR, then I’m going to start covering IndyCar. Also, switching those races from ABC to ESPN this year appears to have not worked either.
Mike N.: They switched them to ESPN because they didn’t have a big enough crowd on ABC.
Phil: The general opinion is that it didn’t help, although Sunday’s race rated higher than the Charlotte race on ABC.
Mike N.: And it still rated more than 10 points lower than any NFL game on ESPN.
*It was announced that Richard Petty Motorsports will remain open and race in 2011, although they’ll scale back to just two cars. Having the team to fill fields is undoubtedly important to NASCAR, but what about Petty himself? How important is it to keep the King as a central figure in today’s NASCAR … even if only as a figurehead?*
Amy: I think it’s very important, actually.
Phil: It is. It’s great to see that the team will survive.
Amy: NASCAR is one of the few sports where the its history is still an everyday part of the sport.
Beth: I’m happy to see they’re going to survive. It would have been a shame to see the Petty name leave NASCAR.
Phil: It’s not so good for those who were given pink slips earlier this week, but a smaller team cannot function with the same number of employees as a mega team.
Mike N.: I don’t know how important it is to have him around as a team owner. It is important to have him around, just like they should have Cale and David and several of the other older drivers around more often than they are.
Phil: Cale apparently wants to be paid to do anything.
Mike N.: Cale wants to be paid because anything they’ve ever asked him to do had something to do with NASCAR making money.
Amy: With all the changes in the sport, I think it is important to have that anchor to the past. I wish more fans actually got that there are some incredible pieces of the sport’s history in the garage every single week.
Mike N.: Richard Petty has more to do with the success of this sport than any man alive and should be around, but I don’t think his being involved in a race team makes a difference one way or the other.
Kyle: I’m just glad we will have a Petty presence next season — even though they don’t have a chance at competing.
Mike N.: I wouldn’t say that Kyle. They had two cars in the top 10 this weekend.
Kyle: Wow, congrats on not being horrible one time. One race doesn’t mean they will be successful. A top-20 or a top-10 three or four times a year won’t pay the bills or win a championship.
Phil: Who knows what the team will be capable of next season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could keep up some of the strong runs from the end of this season.
Mike N.: I don’t know about winning a championship but they are getting closer to contending for wins, especially with Carl Edwards winning the last two races of the year.
Amy: Maybe if they actually got decent equipment from RFR instead of R&D stuff, and the same level of support from Ford, they would get somewhere.
Kyle: Well, maybe they should switch to Chevy. Stewart Haas seems to get good equipment from HMS. That would take out all of the excuses.
Mike N.: Yeah, that’s why Stewart was so competitive in the Chase. By the way, RPM has two wins, 20 top 5s and 51 top 10s in two years existence.
Phil: No one ever mentioned Petty Enterprises being in dire straits a couple of years ago when Boston Ventures bought in.
Mike N.: That is why Boston Ventures bought in.
Amy: Were they really, Phil? Or were they simply looking to back off a little and make some money?
Jeff: And there is an ironic thing too: Y’all want “Petty” to be in NASCAR, but yet it would be considered sacrilege if the went to Toyota!
Amy: I have no problems if they went to Toyota. If it makes them more competitive, cool.
Mike N.: I hope they lead the charge to bring Volkswagon in.
Jeff: Me either, Amy. That would be cool.
Kyle: I don’t really pay attention to car manufactures. Actually, I think it would add more of a global audience to NASCAR.
Phil: I have no clue how the Volkswagen thing would work. What would they use in the series?
Jeff: A kit car like everyone else, Phil.
Mike N.: Beetles. Imagine a Beetle with a splitter.
Jeff: Look, Petty was/is great. But hey, like everyone, the guy is gonna die some day, so I don’t see the big deal if a “Petty” isn’t in NASCAR. Sure, it’s sentimental, but things change. I’d rather see the name go in dignity than the way it’s been the last few years. And who knows, it may just get worse. I mean, why was Petty in dire straights to begin with when he sold the team the first time?
Mike N.: I love having Richard Petty around and involved in the sport but I don’t care if he’s involved with a team or not.
Phil: Let’s hope that RPM (or whatever it’ll be called) will operate more efficiently as a two-car team.
Amy: I think you need guys like Petty in the garage every week. As much as I don’t like Darrell Waltrip on TV, that goes for him too. The links to the past are fading, and they need to be kept alive
Jeff: Petty in or out is not going to change NASCAR’s current status of failing.
Kyle: True that, Jeff.
Jeff: I’m not saying they cant be in the garage, of course.
Phil: It’s not good to turn on CNBC and see the headline “NASCAR: Out of Gas?”
Amy: The few links to the past left are probably the only reason some fans still stick around. Not so much even Petty himself, but what he represents, are more vital than ever.
Mike N.: Has Richard Petty had to show a hard card in the last 30 years?
Phil: He is a Hard Card.
Jeff: He has a Hat Card. Same for Jack Roush.
Mike N.: I asked Richard Childress in May. He said the only time he’s shown a hard card in the last few years is at Indy. They are ridiculous about security up there.
*Many fans complain that Jimmie Johnson is not a good champion for the sport. Let’s look at this year’s other champions: Brad Keselowski and Todd Bodine. Are they good for NASCAR, and what will their legacies be?*
Amy: Keselowski did nothing but illustrate what is wrong with the Nationwide Series … but he was fun to watch. Todd Bodine is great for that series.
Kyle: Both are guys who can only win in little league, but not the big leagues.
Phil: Bodine’s legacy will probably be that of someone who couldn’t get it done in Cup, but found a home in the trucks. He’s an expert at intermediates.
Mike N.: Brad Keselowski will be the next in a long line of Nationwide champions to never win a Cup title. Bodine’s legacy will be that he’s a good 1.5-mile truck racer and the predominance of them on the schedule means he won two titles.
Jeff: That series is great for Todd Bodine.
Amy: Bodine is making himself one of the finest the series has seen.
Kyle: Yeah, he could walk faster than some of those people can drive. And he is a big guy, in case you haven’t noticed.
Mike N.: Danny O’Quinn is a big guy. Bodine is a round guy.
Jeff: He should be in the HoF!
Kyle: First ballot Hall of Fmmer for winning a few pick-up races.
Amy: His driving style is tailor made for the Truck Series. It didn’t work with the aero-sensitive Cup or NNS cars, but goes great with trucks.
Mike N.: Bodine better win a few more Truck titles to make the HoF.
Amy: I don’t know, Mike, he’s third all-time with Truck titles.
Kyle: How many Cup titles/wins does he have Amy?
Amy: That doesn’t matter, because he isn’t a Cup driver. He’s one of the best in his series.
Mike N.: Right, but that isn’t gonna get him in the Hall. If he can win five or six, then we’ll talk.
Phil: I only remember Todd getting a couple of top 5s in Cup. However, one of those came in the No. 91 for LJ Racing at Atlanta. You should get an award for that.
Amy: Richie Evans is the winningest NASCAR driver ever. He’s not a Cup driver, but he still has the most wins.
Kyle: Yeah, but Bodine can’t race worth a damn in Cup. I can beat a six-year-old in basketball, but I haven’t got a chance against LeBron James. Now, should I be considered a good basketball player? No.
Jeff: Kevin Costner had the most home runs in the minor leagues in Bull Durham.
Amy: Cup is not the be all end all of NASCAR. The great thing about NASCAR is it has several different series with their own criteria and their own stars. One is not better than the other
Mike N.: I wouldn’t go so far as to say one is not better than the other, but there are different series.
Kyle: These series are designed to be stepping ladders that lead to Cup.
Amy: No, they aren’t. They really weren’t designed that way. They became that.
Beth: They haven’t been that way for a long time.
Jeff: NASCAR even touts the lower series as “their college football,” Amy!
Beth: The Truck Series is its own beast, and what Bodine did this season is great.
Mike N.: If you’re going to try and make some ridiculous argument that Nationwide, Trucks or Modifieds are equal to Cup then I’m going to take issue.
Amy: They’re different than Cup, Mike. Some of the drivers are just as good in their series as the Cup guys are in theirs.
Kyle: OK, sorry, these series are stepping stones to get to Cup, they weren’t designed that way but that’s the way it is. It all leads to the same thing: Cup is the best, Nationwide is second best, and the Truck Series is for whoever can’t win in the other two.
Jeff: Ergo Beth, you cant compare legacies of Cup drivers, NNS drivers and Truck Champs!
Mike N.: Right, and some pitchers are good in AAA but they suck in the Majors. You aren’t going to tell me AAA and the Majors are the same.
Jeff: So it’s the question that is flawed.
Amy: I don’t know. Anyone seen Jimmie Johnson drive a truck? Or a Nationwide car? And he’s the best there is in Cup. Does that make him less great? No.
Mike N.: Yeah, and he ended up standing on top of it in the foam at Watkins Glen.
Amy: That was awesome.
Mike N.: And yes, it does make him less great. The best of the best can win in any series. Check AJ Foyt’s career statistics — he won in everything.
Jeff: I remember Johnson crashing all the way down the backstretch at Bristol in a truck.
Amy: As for Keselowski, he was entertaining at times, but a great champion, no. He did make a mockery of the series he raced in.
Phil: Johnson was kinda middling in the Busch Series. Like, maybe the Williams of today in F1. Then again, he drove for a small team.
Mike N.: JJ can’t hang in a truck.
Phil: I don’t think Johnson ever started a truck race.
Beth: He’s made one start in a truck, at Bristol. Hardly enough to say he can’t hang in a truck.
Amy: Right, but he’s the best there is in Cup. The series are different.
Mike N.: Kes made a mockery of it because Kyle Busch didn’t race every week.
Amy: Would Richard Petty have 200 wins in a Modified? Maybe not.
Mike N.: Jimmie is the best there is right now. He’s a long way from the best ever. And Richard Petty would have 200 wins in a Modified if he were competing against 15-20 pathetic cars every week like he did for 75 percent of his Cup wins.
Jeff: OK, so Kes goes on to win seven NNS titles … Is he great now?
Mike N.: He’d be great then. He’s not great now.
Kyle: Okay, until further notice I agree with anything that Mike says.
Phil: I don’t think Keselowski will be around in the Nationwide Series to win seven titles. I’m sure he doesn’t want to, either.
Mike N.: Kes probably won’t be in NASCAR that long.
Kyle: Keselowski won the NNS championship and finished, what, 25th in Cup points? Pretty much proves my point. Even Dale Jr. finished better.
Mike N.: Hey, easy on Brad. He landed two top 10s this year.
Phil: It took until Race 32 to get the first one.
Amy: A Cup driver winning NNS titles on Cup money will never be a great anything. But if Kes chose the NNS over Cup and put all his effort there and won titles? Different story.
Jeff: So what will you think of Elliott Sadler if he starts stinking up the NNS show the next few years in Harvick’s equipment, Amy?
Amy: I’ll think that at that time, he’ll be an NNS driver, Jeff.
Mike N.: It is all good Jeff because KHI isn’t a Cup team.
Jeff: I don’t care what anyone says, I still want to win the lotto, start my own Truck team and have Johnny Benson as my driver! He’ll give Onion a run for his money.
Phil: I wouldn’t mind a 47-year old Benson driving my car or truck.
Mike N.: If I start a team I’m driving myself.
Amy: I’d go in on that team with you, Jeff.
*Email the Mirror Guys ‘N’ Gals!*
“Contact Amy Henderson”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14352/
“Contact Beth Lunkenheimer”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14353/
“Contact Jeff Meyer”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14350/
“Contact Kyle Ocker”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/30117/
“Contact Mike Neff”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14354/
“Contact Phil Allaway”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/18440/
*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:
+5 – Win
+3 – Top 5
+1 – Top 10
0 – 11th-20th
-1 – 21st-30th
-2 – 31st-40th
-3 – 41st-43rd
Through thirty-two races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:
|Writer||Points||Behind||Predictions (Starts)||Wins||Top 5s||Top 10s|
|Bryan Davis Keith||4||-56||3||0||1||2|
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