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 & Frontstretch Short Track Coordinator)
Let’s talk the weekend in racing: which fans were treated to the best racing this week, and why?
Mike: If I had to say the best racing it was in the Camping World Truck Series. As always, the trucks put on the best racing. The Nationwide series was hardly compelling and the Cup race wasn’t much better, although the end certainly spiced it up.
Phil: Well, it’s actually kinda tough. If you love strategy, it was probably the trucks at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. The finish was excellent, but it was all about pitting at the right time.
Amy: Honestly, it was a pretty good weekend of racing, except for the Nationwide race. The Cup race was good, the trucks were a good show, the IndyCar finale was great, and the NHRA U.S. Nationals were also excellent with four first time Indy winners. That’s a lot of great shows to choose from.
Mike: Ah, if we’re going to go beyond the NASCAR National Tours then you can throw in Grant Enfinger grabbing the victory at DuQuoin in the ARCA series.
Phil: I wish that ARCA race was televised. Oh, well. Hopefully having the series on there this season brought new eyeballs to the CBS Sports Network.
Mike: It is a shame that CBS doesn’t show the Springfield or DuQuoin shows live.
Amy: I heard DuQuoin was quite a show. The funny car final from Indy was great. One cool thing about NHRA is that women winning is a matter of course. Nobody really bats an eye.
Mike: Yeah, Shirley Muldowney took care of that a long time ago.
Phil: True. If anything, NASCAR had a history of women racing before drag racing, then it just stopped for a couple of decades until Janet Guthrie showed up in 1976.
Mike: True, Phil, but they didn’t win. Muldowney won routinely in the NHRA
Amy: Muldowney was a multi-time champion in the top division. Anyway, all in all, I think it was a good weekend of racing. Anyone who only tuned in for one race or series really missed out.
Phil: None of the early female racers in what is now Sprint Cup stuck around long enough to ever get to that level.
Phil: Danica Patrick‘s already started more races than Guthrie ever did (I think she started 33). Just being able to run full-time is an accomplishment for a woman in Cup.
Amy: There were too many tire failures at Atlanta, but I do like the challenge the worn track surface presents.
Phil: Yes, the tire unraveling came into play again. Although, it seemed like there was a lot of debris around in general.
Mike: And squirrels.
Phil: Of course, it’s not like ESPN showed any of the debris unless someone hit it. That whole squirrel thing was weird. Apparently, it was running around before the race started and they couldn’t catch it?
Amy: If that was a squirrel that ran in front of Kevin Harvick, it was some kind of mutant….
Mike: Yeah, can’t believe, in the south, someone didn’t have a shotgun to rectify that situation quickly. Georgia has some fox squirrels that are large and dark. I’m thinking it was the regular squirrel. It is hard to tell at 170 mph.
Amy: It was a pretty good weekend of racing. Nationwide was a bore, but the rest of the racing was quite good.
Mike: It was a great weekend of racing. I never heard anything about the USCS Sprints that ran at Atlanta on Friday. I assume it was a great show.
Kasey Kahne squeezed into the Chase Sunday with his win in Atlanta. Can Kahne, who has had some terrible luck in 2014, compete for the title?
Phil: Just getting into the Chase should make Kahne’s season. I think he can get into the second round, but beyond that, probably no.
Amy: I don’t think he can. He can make it past the first elimination, maybe, if he can rustle us some luck.
Mike: Anyone who is in the Chase can compete. The first two eliminations have plenty of room for points. Then if he wins in the last round he’s in the finale. I’m sure he can make a run. Don’t forget, the majority of Kahne’s success is on 1.5-mile tracks. I still say we’re going to see a four car HMS showdown at Homestead. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins Texas, Jimmie Johnson wins Martinsville, Jeff Gordon wins Phoenix and Kahne makes it in on points.
Amy: True, Mike, about the 1.5-milers. I just haven’t seen anything out of him that says he’s championship caliber.
Phil: Possible, but unlikely, Mike. Two Hendrick cars are a near guarantee, beyond that is just gravy.
Amy: If he wins a title, it just shows how much the new format cheapens the whole thing.
Mike: That’s the thing about the new format, Amy, you don’t have to be Chase caliber. You just have to have four good races.
Amy: With the Chase format period, you don’t have to be championship caliber all year. That’s the whole problem with it. Anyway, back to the question at hand: I don’t think Kahne and co. can go the distance this year. They’ll beat a couple of guys, but their own teammates are steps ahead, let alone the rest of the field.
Phil: That stuff isn’t exactly cheap. I don’t have $8,000 or whatever the deuce it is for a Gold License.
Amy: I’m not even sure we’d be having this conversation if Kyle Busch hadn’t decided Martin Truex, Jr. needed a face-to-face with the wall.
Phil: I don’t know about that, Amy. Kahne looked like he had Harvick covered before the yellow flew.
Mike: I still think Kahne makes the eliminator round, if not the championship round.
Amy: Harvick was closing before the yellow. I’m not sure if he could have passed Kahne, but he’d have made it a race.
Mike: Amen Amy . Harvick was closing in a hurry. I think it was going to be a very exciting finish.
Amy: Anyone else think there might have been more to that caution? After all, look who was leading when the dust cleared….
Mike: I’m not that much of a conspiracy theorist. I think it was Kyle being Kyle.
Phil: No. They wrecked. It’s a caution.
Mike: I can’t imagine Kyle thought it out enough that he was trying to get the win for his teammate.
Phil: At that point of the race, I really don’t think Kyle Busch was thinking about Matt Kenseth at all. He just wanted to get by Truex.
Amy: No, but someone else might have thought it out for him. Not saying that’s what happened, because I’m not sure Kyle would listen to orders to help a teammate. Just gave a little pause is all.
Mike: My tin foil hat is broken. I can’t even imagine that would happen.
Amy: You don’t think team orders happen?
Mike: Not that blatantly. Not after Richmond last year. And I don’t think they ever involve wrecking a competitor
Phil: I really don’t think Kyle Busch would care enough to do it. He was already in a fairly miserable mood since he wasn’t running all that well.
Amy: I think they have in the past involved wrecking a competitor (hello, Roush Fenway Racing). And if you were smart about the signal, unlike Michael Waltrip Racing, NASCAR would never know if you did it now. Again, not saying that happened on Sunday, but it has and it could happen. I think it will happen in the Chase.
Mike: I choose to believe the sport is more pure than that. I may be naive but that’s my mindset. I know Amy’s convinced that there will be total pandemonium with teammates destroying the opportunities of everyone involved.
Amy: I wish I could find the video from the Dover Truck Series race in 2000. If you don’t think team orders were at play, I have this really nice bridge for sale….
Phil: When Kurt Busch wrecked Mike Wallace? He probably did it because he wanted to beat Mike Wallace.
Amy: I think he did it to help Greg Biffle win the title. I have always thought that.
NASCAR announced last weekend that should Tony Stewart win this week at Richmond and be inside the top 30 in points, it will grant him a waiver to compete in the Chase. Was that the right move by NASCAR, and can Stewart win in the 11th hour?
Phil: While Stewart has won at Richmond in the past (his first Cup win was there in 1999), his chances are not exactly great.
Amy: Yes, it was the right call, but while if anyone can grab that last-minute win, and Stewart can, I don’t think he will.
Phil: Also, if he were to win, NASCAR would have someone who is 26th in points make the Chase. That might not come off right.
Amy: He’s been behind all year, and missing races didn’t help. As for coming off right, 22nd and 23rd in points are in, Phil. Why is 26th any different?
Phil: They’re clearly trying to replicate the NFL with Chase 4.0, and you can make the playoffs in the NFL with a sub-.500 record if the circumstances are right.
Mike: They already have guys in 17th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd. What difference does it make?
Phil: Yes, AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola are in, but that’s because they won a race and didn’t miss any. Stewart has done neither at this point.
Mike: That’s the point of the exception, Phil. I think it was the right call. I don’t think he’s going to win it but you never know.
Phil: This is just one more reason why I don’t want this Chase stupidity.
Amy: Stewart hasn’t won at Richmond in like 12 years, and I don’t see him doing it now. If anyone races in Saturday night, I’m thinking Clint Bowyer.
Phil: That’s a little more likely. However, I think Bowyer’s going to need help.
Mike: I’m thinking the Clint Bowyer Cinderella story is going to happen. Or Kyle Larson rebounds from being booted from the pole in the spring.
Mike: If someone who doesn’t have a win is going to do it, the odds are Bowyer or Larson. In reality, I think Kyle Busch is the one who’ll probably do it.
Amy: Kyle Busch is already in.
Mike: I know. Bowyer and Larson of the non-winners but I think Busch is going to actually win.
Phil: Yes, he won at Fontana. He just needs another win to give himself some momentum. His last month has been horrific.
Amy: I do think giving Stewart a waiver if he does win was a good call. That type of circumstance was exactly why the rule was added.
Mike: I don’t know that is exactly why it was added. His situation is unprecedented. However, it is a great use of the exemption provision.
Amy: It keeps a road-course ringer or someone like that from making the Chase, it ensures that everyone shows up for Watkins Glen, but at the same time, it allows a driver who is sick or has some kind of personal crisis to take time to focus on that. I’ve always said they need some kind of exemption for illness/injury/personal stuff because there are times when they should not be racing.
Phil: It didn’t allow for a personal crisis (unless you had qualified your car) until this exemption.
Amy: Not specifically, but it was the right call for sure. A death in the family or something would be the same.
Phil: I think they shouldn’t have done it. At least publicly, Stewart’s team had already said that it didn’t care about whether the No. 14 was in the Chase. NASCAR happened to give the team a gift.
Mike: It’ll be a great story if Stewart can race his way in. And it would showcase the beauty, if there is any, of the new format. You can overcome a bad race or situation and still win the title.
Phil: In the general scheme of things, it’s just not that important right now for Stewart to be in the Chase.
Mike: NASCAR just wanted to get ahead of it so that, if Stewart won on Sunday night, they didn’t have to answer a bunch of questions after the fact. I agree, Phil. But if he can race his way into it, it is nice that he can contend for the title.
Amy: I agree with that, Phil, but that doesn’t mean giving them that chance wasn’t important. It sets a good precedent.
Phil: Well, that’s true, Mike. The sanctioning body should never be the big story in a situation like that. Had Stewart won Sunday and they hadn’t made an announcement, it would have been pandemonium.
Mike: Yes, it would.
Amy: In that respect, Mike, they did the right thing. Overall, NASCAR handled the situation the best it could.
Phil: If they came out and said he’s no longer eligible, then, oh well, he’s not eligible.
Mike: I agree. They were already thinking of the possible situation and cleared it up before it ever became an issue/story.
Amy: As for Stewart, I don’t think he will win on Saturday night, because he’s been behind almost all year and missing three weeks didn’t help.
Mike: Nope, it sure didn’t. He was finally starting to run better when the accident happened. Missing three races certainly didn’t help that situation. I still think Kyle Busch wins the race. Of the non-winners with a shot, I think Bowyer and Larson are the two most likely to do it.
Phil: Momentum counts a bunch in NASCAR. Because of that, Stewart isn’t winning Saturday, and will not make the Chase.
With Comcast Xfinity poised to take over the Nationwide Series in 2015, should fans expect any major changes, and will Comcast get its money’s worth?
Phil: Other than how the races are broadcast with the new deal, maybe not anything fans at home will notice.
Mike: Nope, nothing new to see here. Same ol’, same ol’. Whether it gets its money’s worth depends on how much it’s paying. If it is more than $49.95, they’re probably getting ripped off.
Amy: I don’t think you’ll see a lot of changes unless Comcast decides it wants a Chase format, which I really hope doesn’t happen.
Phil: However, the news I’ve seen indicates a cut in the naming rights fees by 10-25 percent.
Amy: I do think that the series was probably not an easy sell, and a cut in price would not surprise me at all.
Phil: $9 million a year is the number I’ve seen thrown around for the rights itself, plus the activation. Nationwide Insurance was paying at least $10 million, maybe $12 million. Speaking of that, remember when they were looking for a replacement for Busch and wanted $30 million a year?
Mike: Yep. Back when they ran all of those annoying short track races at great places like Hickory and South Boston. I hope the folks at Comcast will make some infrastucture investments at the race tracks to provide more WiFi access.
Amy: That would be a definite plus, Mike. The series is struggling, but I would guess that the title sponsor is limited in what it can do… it might convince NASCAR to implement a playoff system or other such nonsense, but it won’t get a change to limit Cup drivers or anything like that.
Mike: I’ll be curious what they get for $9 million. Hopefully someone can tell us that this week.
Amy: That is an interesting question, Mike. How much choice do people really have re: cable companies? We can’t get any cable here where I live, so I don’t know, but can customers choose, or do they have to use whatever company owns the lines in their area?
Mike: There are some areas where there are multiple cable options. For the most part it is one provider per area.
Amy: So, that limits what they get out of it in terms of advertising, no?
Mike: It would seem that way.
Phil: Most towns signed long-term contracts for cable exclusivity years ago, mostly with companies that no longer exist because they’ve been swallowed up by larger companies.
Amy: Overall, I don’t foresee any huge changes here. Perhaps some perks for Comcast subscribers, like extra in-car cameras (the way DirecTV used to do) or apps, but I don’t think there will be changes to the racing.
Phil: Amy just described what Verizon ultimately did. The IndyCar app has raceday content that’s only available to Verizon subscribers. It’s not bad.
How about those Richmond predictions?
Amy: I think I’ll go with Joey Logano this week.
Mike: As if my earlier statements were not obvious, please allow me to have Kyle Busch.
Phil: Believe it or not, I’m going to go into left field and take Jamie McMurray. If he wins, it’ll ruffle some feathers (and knock Greg Biffle out of the Chase).
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
Oral-B USA 500
|Amy Henderson||Jeff Gordon||17th||0|
|Mike Neff||Matt Kenseth||2nd||3|
|Phil Allaway||Kasey Kahne||1st||5|
|Writer||Points||Behind||Starts||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|