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 / The Big Six & Wednesdays / The Frontstretch Five & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Managing Editor)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Couch Potato Tuesday & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Mike Neff (Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud & Thursdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short Track Editor)
Seven races remain until the Chase field is set. Who else stands the best chance to race their way in, and which big names are most likely to be left out of the playoffs?
Mike: I think Matt Kenseth will be in one way or the other. I feel like he’ll have a win but if he doesn’t he’ll make it in on points.
Amy: I think the wild card is Watkins Glen. There are a couple of guys who I think could race in there, like AJ Allmendinger or Marcos Ambrose. If Ambrose gets in, all of Richard Petty Motorsports will be in. Who could have predicted that? RPM gets everyone in, Michael Waltrip Racing could miss completely. Someone could move up in points between now and then even if there isn’t another winner.
Mike: Right now I feel like Tony Stewart doesn’t have what it takes to win a race. We all know that summer time is Tony time, but he hasn’t looked to be in contention this year for wins.
Amy: I don’t see more than maybe two more race winners. And I do agree with Neff on Kenseth, I think he gets in either way.
Mike: Not only do I think Michael Waltrip misses out if Bowyer doesn’t win a race, but Richard Childress Racing is in the same boat. I know Newman and Menard are up there in points but they aren’t really contending for wins and time is running short.
Phil: My best guess is that someone like Kyle Larson claims a win later this year, maybe at Bristol in August. Kenseth will snag one as well, although he’d get in on points anyway.
Mike: That’s where I was going Phil. I think Larson just might step up and snag a win at one of the remaining seven races. Don’t forget that Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates does a pretty good job of setting up cars for Indianapolis.
Amy: I think Vickers is closer to a win than Bowyer. Mike, I think McMurray could also claim Indy, actually.
Mike: Yes he could. Also, can you imagine if Montoya wins at Indy? That would be a great storyline. A winner not making it to the Chase.
Phil: Not even that, but someone who just showed up came in and won. It’s only going to be Montoya’s 2nd race of the year.
Mike: Exactly, and that’s why I don’t think it will happen, but he could certainly do it and it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Amy: It would be interesting for sure.
Phil: He’s been strong there for years.
Mike: Yes he has, and Penske is one of the two best teams in the sport right now.
Amy: I agree with Mike; I don’t think Stewart gets in. I also think Kasey Kahne misses out.
Mike: I believe we’ll have two or three more winners. Depending on whether Ambrose or Allmendinger win at the Glen. If they don’t, then it will be two at the most.I agree with Amy. Kahne is just not competitive for wins this year.
Amy: I think it’s two at the most regardless. While someone else could win at Indy, I think it will be someone like Keselowski or Johnson. Junior could win his third at Michigan. I just don’t see any more surprises other than maybe the Glen. I do think Larson will get a win, but not until after the Chase starts. Now, if Larson gets in on points, that could make it interesting.
Phil: Stewart probably won’t get in unless he wins. I don’t really see that happening, but he’s got the dirt momentum again. Being back where he’s happy will more than likely help him.
Mike: And we’re headed to Indy. That place has been magical for Tony in the past. Although not of late. He’s been around the Top 5 but hasn’t been seriously in contention for a win for years.
Phil: I don’t know if anything from a dirt track would realistically transfer to Indianapolis. Just being in a good mood would help, though.
Amy: True, but he needs a lot of magic right now. The sprint car win will give him a good mindset, but he just hasn’t looked like he can win races this year.
Mike: Tony is also catching up to the rest of the pack from a feel for the new car standpoint. Don’t forget, his first seat time in the new car configuration was Daytona. Everyone else got to test them during the offseason.
Phil: Greg Biffle probably needs to make a run, or he may not be in the Chase come September. He’s been really mediocre for the last month or so.
Mike: Very true. And there hasn’t been any announcement on his contract. I’m sure that has to be weighing on his mind too.
Amy: True, Phil. There are a few in that same boat, too. Newman, Menard, Bowyer, Vickers…
Phil: I’d argue that Menard and Newman have been quite a bit stronger recently than Biffle.
Mike: There will be some people on the outside looking in when this thing winds down, just like there have been every year. This year it is likely going to be Vickers, Biffle and Stewart among others.
This season marks the 20th season for NASCAR racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What moments from Indy stand out the most…and are they enough to keep NASCAR racing there for another 20 years?
Amy: The wins I remember most are Jeff Gordon’s first Indy win, and Earnhardt’s. And the Bodines’ famous sibling rivalry.
Mike: I won’t deny, most of the big moments were from the early years. Gordon winning the first, Earnhardt winning the second. Rudd winning as an owner/driver. Dale Jarrett running out of gas trying to get the halfway money. Then there’s AJ Foyt running out of gas the first year trying to stretch it so he could say he led a lap. The Bodines was big. Then there’s always the tire debacle. A couple years ago Jimmie Johnson holding off Mark Martin. That was some fantastic racing. Bill Elliott’s win…
Phil: Yes, the early years did have some competitive races. The first one still has the 3rd most lead changes (21).
Mike: Kevin Harvick with the biggest burnout in history followed by the longest wait ever for the winner’s post-race press conference.
Amy: Yeah that was a good one. Also, not good, but Johnson’s had a couple of scary crashes there.
Phil: NBC loved Elliott’s win in 2002. It became the standby race for rain delays for the rest of the year. The 1997 race had a rousing finish.
Mike: The back-to-back years of Menard and McMurray winning were some pretty intriguing races too. Stewart’s first win was a really big one too, stopping in turn two to celebrate with his friends.
Phil: Unfortunately, the most memorable one will be 2008. Not just because it has the most lead changes (26), but for what happened with the tires.
Mike: That’s about a dozen of the 19 races, so I’d call that worthy of going back.
Amy: There have been some memorable moments, for sure. But overall, the racing at Indy isn’t very good. There’s little passing and it’s typical for a big, flat track: great for Indy cars, terrible for stock cars. Moving Nationwide there from ORP was the worst decision NASCAR has made for that series, and that’s saying a lot.
Phil: That tire debacle was a travesty that I believe still resonates with anyone who was there that day.
Mike: That’s a hell of a lot more memorable moments than I remember from Chicago, Kansas and Kentucky combined.
Phil: The Nationwide move was bad. Probably the most notable thing in the first two Indiana 250’s has been Marty Reid forgetting who his boothmates were.
Mike: The Nationwide race movement is the worst race move decision in 40 years. Absolutely moronic and yet still doesn’t seem wrong to the people who made the decision.
Amy: The three people who showed up didn’t even look that enthused…
Mike: I’m as pissed as anyone about the move but I’m not going to deny it, there have been a lot more people there the last two years than I ever thought there would be. There have been as many people at that race as any other Nationwide race I’ve seen in those two years.
Amy: That said, I still don’t like NASCAR racing at Indy at all. Not only is the racing pretty bad, it took away from what was once one of the most prestigious races to the point where NASCAR no longer felt the need to even have that race. Pretty sad.
Mike: I will always love the Cup series at Indy. Not for the racing but for the place in racing history. I will always despise the Nationwide series there and will never speak highly of it.
Amy: It’s place in racing history isn’t a place in NASCAR history. It’s like if IndyCar raced Daytona or Darlington…not THEIR history.
Mike: IRP was not given an option. They were told thank you for 30 years of support, the race is moving to the big track. They weren’t given a warning or told to sell more tickets or anything. It was thanks, see ya.
Amy: Which is a total shame, Mike. That was always one of the races I looked forward to for Nationwide.
Phil: I don’t really understand who benefits from the move. It probably makes the series and the track look bad.
Mike: It was the best Nationwide race every year for 30 years. Supposedly the move was made to make the Brickyard Weekend a “destination” weekend. Someone, somewhere, decided that thousands more fans would make a pilgrimage to Indianapolis for the NASCAR weekend if the races were all at the big track with the sports cars thrown in too. In case you haven’t noticed, that idea hasn’t helped with attendance.
Phil: I guess they might have more fans collectively between the three race days than they did in 2011, but it’s still less than the Brickyard 400 drew by itself in 2007.
Amy: Honestly, I don’t think NASCAR belongs at Indy. Not only is the racing bad, but they used it as a way to diminish an historic NASCAR race to the point where it’s no longer important enough to exist. I’d love to see them race somewhere else. That kind of thing hasn’t helped anyone’s attendance, Mike.
Mike: Nope Amy, but they sure keep doing it. I have maintained for years, and will until my final breath, that the only way the Brickyard rebounds to the old attendance days is blacking it out in Indianapolis. That’s the only reason the 500 draws like it does and that is the only thing that will push the Brickyard back to 200,000 fans.
Phil: Have they ever blacked out the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis?
Mike: Yes, in the first few years. Indianapolis will always hold a very special place in my heart and I love that NASCAR races there. It isn’t about the racing, it is about the history and the aura of the place. I will always hate the Nationwide race there just as I hate the new road race for the Indy cars, the Indy Lights and the sports cars. We have had a ton of memorable moments and I’m sure we’ll have more.
Jimmie Johnson said last week that he’d like to see NASCAR scale back to a 25-race Sprint Cup season. Would cutting races help the sport, though, or just the drivers?
Amy: Yes, the schedule is too long. 25 is too extreme, but I’d like to see 30-32 races a year.
Phil: I don’t want a 25-race schedule in Cup. It hasn’t been that short since the early 1950’s. It would signal that the sport isn’t healthy.
Mike: Just the drivers and teams. The sport needs more, not less.
Mike: I still want to see six or eight mid-week races.
Amy: 25 is way too short, and the only people who benefit is the drivers, who already get more time off than their crews do.
Mike: I will tell Mr. Johnson as I will tell anyone else whining about the schedule. If you don’t like it, get out. There are 25,000 drivers across the country who would gladly take your spot.
Phil: NASCAR could make the Wednesday after the MLB All-Star Game their’s without any problem. It’s the most boring sports day of the year. There’s bupkis.
Amy: I think less is more and if a few tracks lost a race, attendance would improve at the remaining one. As much as we make fun of Fontana, cutting a race did help their cause.
Mike: The World of Outlaws guys run three or four times a week, drive their stuff around and work on their own stuff some of the time. The Cup guys are getting soft.
Amy: The problem is, the market is oversaturated with races that aren’t that great. If there were a few more off-weeks, it would leave fans wanting more.
Phil: I don’t think the Cup series could legitmately do 3 races in a week. Stuff’s so different today between the types of tracks that it wouldn’t work well.
Mike: The DIRTCar Summer Nationals just wrapped up this past week. The Late Model guys ran 28 races in 39 days and were supposed to run five more but lost them to rain. That’s a whole Cup schedule almost in a month and a week. And those guys aren’t flying around and staying in fancy motor homes. Suck it up and give the fans what they want.
Phil: Do the fans want 28 Cup races in 39 days? I’ve never anyone espouse that opinion.
Mike: This car came out and you were supposed to be able to run it anywhere. We still have purpose built race cars and we shouldn’t . They talk about cutting down on costs and they could do it if they used the same cars at more tracks.
Amy: I don’t think they do want that, Phil. I think the market is oversaturated right now. NASCAR would do better with fans to drop five races.
Phil: It’s not happening. I think NASCAR’s locked into 36 a year through 2024. However, I don’t think there’s any language in the TV contracts that prohibits mid-week races.
Amy: Still, the Cup market is overdone. They did really well in ratings and attendance at 31-32 races, then got greedy and added too many. The best way to make people want something is to have less of it available.
Mike: Or become irrelevant because you’re forgotten. We have less of the Trucks. How is that working out? We are having fewer laps in Cup races. How’s that going?
Phil: I’d feel that I wasn’t getting my money’s worth if they’re going to go around shortening races.
Mike: That’s what we are doing now Phil. Everyone is cutting laps.
Phil: I don’t approve of cutting laps.
Mike: People bitch that the races are too long but they aren’t going to want to pay the same amount for the ticket when you get 20% fewer laps. Pocono cut their races to 400; Dover cut theirs back.
Amy: If you cut a race from Texas, Kansas, Michigan and drop Homestead and/or Indy, you’d have a perfect schedule without losing much good racing, if any.
Mike: Everyone talks about fewer races with fewer laps. Guess what? You aren’t going to sell the television rights and get the same ticket prices for less product.
Amy: I don’t agree with cutting laps, though I do think if a track has two races, they should not be the same length. With the exception of Bristol and Martinsville, maybe. Though you could make an argument for one race at each to be 550 laps.
Mike: I’ve said for years that every track on the schedule should have one race. But we should go to 10 or 12 other tracks.
500 miles at Martinsville would be fantastic.
Amy: I thought the schedule at 32 races was perfect. It left me wanting more. Now, it just feels overhyped and oversaturated to me.
Mike: 36 races leaves me wanting more. But I can never get enough.
Amy: 500 miles at Martinsville would take all day. It’s not the 24 Hours of Martinsville…
Mike: It would be 7.5 hours and that would include time to change the rotors during the race. Which would be tremendous.
Phil: Rotor changes during the race, eh? Sounds like Bathurst. I’m in.
Amy: It would be interesting, and I’d go.
This week marked the return of the Camping World Truck Series to Eldora Speedway. Should this event remain trucks-only, or should all three national touring series pay a visit to the dirt track?
Mike: They shouldn’t pay a visit to Eldora but I’d love to see them on dirt.
Amy: Nationwide, maybe, but NOT the same week. Cup, no. It’s too big an expense for one race for too many teams.
Phil: I couldn’t imagine a tripleheader weekend at Eldora. It would be nearly 24 hours of on-track activity.
Mike: Whether it was Knoxville or Indiana State Fairgrounds or Illinois State Fairgrounds, It would be awesome to see the Cup guys on a mile dirt track.
Amy: They need to be stand-alone NNS and CWTS events, far from any Cup track on any given weekend, or midweek of an off-week like this one.
Mike: As I said earlier. The cars are supposed to be able to race on every kind of track. Put them on the track and see who is the best.
Amy: Yes, Mike, but there are a lot of teams who can’t afford to tear up a car, and there would be a lot of them torn up.
Mike: Again, part of the RTA thing. If teams didn’t do purpose built cars then they could afford to have more. The car is supposed to be universal. Make it that way.
Amy: I love watching Eldora.
Mike: The teams go to Daytona and Talladega and tear up cars every time.
Amy: Doesn’t matter if it’s universal, though. A torn up car is a torn up car, purpose built or not.
Mike: The Eldora race was fantastic.
Amy: Yeah, it was. The teams do tear up cars on the plate tracks, and they can’t afford to tear up any more. I think a Nationwide race on dirt could work, but again with the money. Some of those teams only have one car.
Mike: True, but if you have four cars that you can run the whole season with then losing a car isn’t as big of a deal than losing one of the two speedway cars you have because you have money tied up in a road course car and two short track cars and two plate cars.
Amy: Yes, but if you only have four cars and tear up two of them, you’re hurting.
Mike: So why go to Daytona and Talledega when you KNOW you’re going to tear them up?
Amy: I’d rather not, Mike, but they’re already on the schedule.
Mike: And if they went to a dirt track it would be on the schedule. I don’t know what the answer is. I know ARCA runs on dirt and it is amazing to me that a lesser series has the most diverse schedule in racing vs. the supposed premier stock car racing series in all of the land.
Amy: In any case, I do think there could be some benefit from a stand-alone dirt race in NNS. Is there even a dirt facility that could legit handle a Cup race and seat enough people to make it worth it?
Phil: At this point, no. Knoxville probably has the most seats for a dirt track, unless you want Bristol to bring the temporary dirt back in.
Amy: I’d love to see Daytona and Talladega off the schedule, but the fans who like them would have a fit.
Mike: I promise you, if Knoxville, or Lucas Oil Speedway or DuQuoin was given eight months’ notice, they could put in all of the necessary seats and infrastucture to make it happen. I don’t know what the seating capacity is as Lucas Oil. I am sure it is less than Knoxville, but I bet they could make it happen.
Amy: I don’t know…seats, maybe, but restrooms? Concessions? Not so easy.
Phil: True, that’s a lot of infrastructure. DuQuoin could easily add backstretch seats (it’s a field back there).
Mike: Like I said, if you have eight months, I bet you could make it work. Even if you had some temporary solutions while the permanent seats, concessions, restrooms and catering were put in place.
Anyway, predictions for Indy?
Amy: I’ll take Keselowski; he’s on a roll.
Mike: I’ll take Jimmie Johnson.
Phil: I’m pressing my luck on Paul Menard getting #2. I know you’ll probably think I’m nuts, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Mike: Not at all Phil. I could certainly see Menard doing it again.
Mirror Predictions 2014
Welcome to our seventh 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
|Writer||Points||Behind||Starts||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|