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Mirror Driving

Mirror Driving: The Gambles Drivers Take… On And Off The Track

Welcome to \"Mirror Driving.\" Every Wednesday, 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*: <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy Henderson</span> \"(Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Co-Managing Editor)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/ <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff Wolfe</span> (Frontstretch Fantasy Insider) <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil Allaway</span> \"(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/ <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike Neff</span> \"(Mondays / Thinkin' Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/1744/ <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer Bedgood</span> \"(Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/32577/ *Matt Kenseth’s win in Las Vegas was an emotional one, considering that it was only his third start with the organization plus the fact that it was his … er … “29th” birthday. Is this victory going to be a testament to the rest of his season or is it too soon to tell?* <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> I think it will be a testament to the rest of his _career._ This pairing will be a great matchup, and he'll make the organization as a whole that much better. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Well, I had always figured that Kenseth was going to win at some point this season. Didn't think it was going to happen before St. Patrick's Day, though. Kenseth and his team out-foxed everyone on Sunday. He was up in the order most of the day, but very quiet. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Considering the majority of the schedule is on intermediate tracks, I think it is saying a lot about the ability the No. 20 team will have to win races all year. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> I believe Kenseth thinks he has something to prove. After being with Roush his whole career, when you go to someplace new, you want to show them that you were a good choice. Kenseth is not Mr. Emotional, so him being that into it afterward really showed what it meant. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Kenseth may also have felt a little guilty about putting the team behind the eight ball by blowing an engine in testing and wrecking in practice at Daytona. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> 41 isn't old in Sprint Cup, by the way. People have won titles at an older age than that. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Only six drivers have won titles in seasons they have turned 40 or more. Just so you know. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> I agree with you, Jeff. It's not like we see that all the time from him. I felt like Kenseth thought he was taking a risk by jumping ship; he’s relieved and excited that it paid off. I can't help but think of this in terms of the whole organization, though, that Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin will have similar success on similar tracks. Something tells me Joe Gibbs Racing will be the team to beat this year. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> I think Kenseth will win a bunch of races, but a title is a stretch. Not so much because of his age but because the Chase doesn't suit his style. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> I don't think he'll win the title, either, but I think he'll finish somewhere in the top seven in the standings by the end of the year. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> He could very easily win the title. Kenseth is usually there once the money is on the line. No need to “be there before.” Although the way Johnson and Keselowski are running right now, I think everyone else is running for third. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> If the Toyotas can get their durability issues straightened out, and they might have already done that, Gibbs could be a force. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Kind of hard to claim that someone's the dude to beat three weeks into the year. Unless they won all three… <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Yeah, I'm trying not to read too much into the whole Keselowski/Johnson run. How often do we see the people strong at the beginning of the season still there at the end? <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Quite a few times over the last seven years, Summer; outside of Stewart's run in 2011. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Right now, Johnson and Keselowski have to be the favorites. They've been the most consistent. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Not only consistent, but up front consistent. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Keselowski's mad that he's not winning. That's a good sign for that team. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Well I expect Kenseth to win multiple races this year, make the Chase, and at least be a contender. I'm not sure I'd go as far as champion, but JGR will be a good move for him. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> Kenseth is a stud driver. There is no question about that. And being in equipment as good as Gibbs, he could go on a heck of a run. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> The No. 20 will be a lot better than 19th in owner points, that's for sure. Kenseth will probably finish somewhere between fourth and eighth. And… he’ll win a couple more races. Where those wins come from are anyone's guess, though. *How long will it take, if ever for NASCAR drivers to stop thinking twice about what they say in the wake of the Denny Hamlin fine? Is there any chance, based on fan reaction you think the appeal will cause the fine to be overturned?* <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> That fine isn't getting overturned. And I don't think drivers will ever know when it's safe to speak because NASCAR has been anything but consistent on this point. There have been much more disparaging comments made by drivers and they were hit with… nothing. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> It is going to take an apology by the suits in Daytona, which will never happen. So they'll be thinking twice, for the most part, for now. There will be the occasional blowup where a driver goes off, but NASCAR has set the bar pretty low for what they'll tolerate. Which is terrible. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> It was pathetic watching the drivers fall all over themselves complimenting the car last week. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> The fine should be overturned because Hamlin didn't say anything disparaging about NASCAR. But I'm with Summer. I doubt it will be. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> NASCAR said constructive criticism was OK, and that's what Denny gave. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Sure, Denny gave constructive criticism. However, NASCAR's move says that they don't tolerate that either… at least not publicly. Maybe if he said it privately, to Mike Helton, we wouldn't be talking about this right now. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> I'd be shocked if the fine gets changed, too. It's one of the worst fines I can ever remember for NASCAR. They are so image conscious, because of lack of fans in the seats they can't roll with it. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> I wouldn't be surprised if the appeal results in an increased fine. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> I don't know, Phil. If he loses the appeal, I hope he'll take it to Middlebrook. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Unfortunately, we'll probably see more of the same old problems. The race could have five green-flag passes and the drivers would still be like, \"The car drives _great!\"_ <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Yeah, the drivers are in a tough spot here. Apparently, \"Boys, Have At It\" is dead now. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span> Drivers, especially the younger ones, are going to be a little more careful with what they say. Maybe Stewart or Gordon could get away with complaining more than the real young guys. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Which is weird, since Stewart has more negative things to say about NASCAR than Hamlin ever has. He was talking about \"entertainment cautions\" during the race yesterday. How is that not detrimental, but Hamlin's comment was? <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> What did he criticize, anyways? All Hamlin said was it was a work in progress and that it drove similar to the previous car. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> Right, Mike. He didn't even say the car sucked or didn't drive well. He just said it drove like the last one. I don't think anyone actually took that as criticism, constructive or not. In fact, no one even noticed it until they fined him. <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike N.:</span> NASCAR didn't fine Kyle Busch when he got out of the old car in Victory Lane and called the car a piece of crap. How can they fine Hamlin for this one? <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> NASCAR was in a different place in March 2007. They didn't feel the need to go after Kyle Busch that day. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Going forward, if fans wonder why guys like Jimmie Johnson are so careful with what they say, this tells us why. Of course you're going to be labeled vanilla if you can't say anything for fear of someone not liking it. NASCAR should be begging drivers for feedback. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span> They really should. The drivers _need_ to be offering feedback. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Or do they only want feedback from certain people? They don't think Denny's is valuable for some reason? I don't know. The whole thing was just weird. …

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Mirror Driving: What Will Label Sin City A Gen-6 Success Story

Welcome to \"Mirror Driving.\" Every Wednesday, 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*: <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy Henderson</span> \"(Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Co-Managing Editor)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/ <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff Wolfe</span> (Frontstretch Fantasy Insider) <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil Allaway</span> \"(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/ <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer Bedgood</span> \"(Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)\":http://www.frontstretch.com/staffinfo/32577/ *The Gen-6 car has received mixed reviews so far in 2013, but we’re only two races into the season. The “real test” is going to be this weekend in Las Vegas, one of the many intermediate racetracks that are currently on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. What would a successful race be for you and do you think expectations are too high?* <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: I would like to at least six or eight passes for the lead. But really, when it comes down to the end, it would be nice to say any one of four or five drivers could win. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Like I said a couple of weeks ago, teams are still learning this car, as is NASCAR. Any time before the second race at tracks is too soon to know what it's really capable of. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: I do think expectations are too high because of all the hype. Still, though, a successful race would be a variety of passing throughout. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: Yes, even a lot of passing in the top 10 would be good, too. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Agreed. A successful race at Las Vegas would be one where drivers don’t just pass… they can race each other _hard_ for position. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: I don't think that will happen simply because it's a long race and drivers won't race too hard regardless. But I'd like to get through one weekend without hearing the drivers say, \"You just can't pass in traffic.\" Phoenix wasn't a terrible race, but drivers were _still_ saying that. I understand that some of that is the tires and track configuration, but the car plays a role too. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> At this point, I'm confident that almost any type of car at Phoenix would create a similar race to what we saw on Sunday. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: I thought Phoenix was a decent race. There was a respectable amount of passing late in the event. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> I think expectations are too high from fans. And one thing hasn’t changed…there are passes for position, under green, all race long…but you never see most of them because the cameras are only showing a few select cars. When FOX used the stationary cams during the Crank It Up segments at Phoenix, you could see several cars racing side-by-side. The rest of the time, not so much. I was listening to team audio, so I know there was passing going on. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Like I said, it wasn't a terrible race, but I still heard drivers talking about how the car reacted in traffic. It sounded the same as the old car. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> It will be interesting to see what the cars do at Vegas. Based on what I saw during the tests at Charlotte over the winter, there was passing when they raced in small groups. However, they never raced in groups bigger than about four or five. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Yeah, but we don't see \"big packs\" at intermediates anyway. Four or five _is_ a big pack at those tracks. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Let's be honest. There were crew chiefs that talked to us and stated that they didn't really believe the Gen-6 car would race all that differently from the CoT. Seems like they might have been right. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Here's the other problem. Yes, the cars look like the street version. But manufacturers have worked so hard to make new cars more aerodynamic for better fuel mileage that if the race cars look like them, they're going to be aero dependent. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Which basically means that we have to pick our poison. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Right. Do you want a car that looks as close to stock as possible, or one that is race-specific but looks even less like the street version than the CoT? <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Basically, that means either have aero dependent cars or don't exist, considering the manufacturers would pull out. Not that tough a decision, to be honest. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: I'm sure this race, like some others coming up will be a learning process. And I don't want to judge too heavily until we're at least halfway through the season. But it's hard to keep everyone happy in terms of seeing stock cars or good racing. I'm not convinced that’s at all possible. I know, I know… everyone saying, \"But racing used to be _soooo_ good back in the day.\" That's right. There's nothing I long for more than seeing cars win by laps over other drivers. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: I think they will get better as time goes on. That's always been the case, no matter what kind of cars they have. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Even if they raced stock cars off the showroom floor, they'd be aero dependent. What NASCAR needs to do is slow them down significantly… that's what would get rid of the aero dependency to some degree. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: It would also make things less dangerous. I would be totally fine with decreasing the horsepower on these cars. In a sense, wouldn't that also help some of the smaller teams? <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> How do they do that? New, smaller engines? <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> EFI. They could control speed through fuel mixture. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Or just put restrictor plates on any car at any track over a mile. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: You know, I think new fans see two minutes of highlights, then expect whole races to be like that. That’ll never happen. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: I'm trying to manage by expectations for this weekend. Honestly, though, I just want to see a good race regardless of the car. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> I think we'll see an interesting race, maybe a little faster than normal. *Jimmie Johnson made a fuss about Carl Edwards’ late race restart that eventually helped Edwards win the race. Did he have a case to make and, if so, did NASCAR need to react?* <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: No and No. The leader always gets the jump on the restart, that's part of his reward. It's been that way for years at all different levels and types of racing. Jimmie would've and has done the same thing. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> Personally, I don't think Jimmie's got a point here. Carl led them down slow. Keselowski might have jumped the start, if anything. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Jimmie's a whiner. Carl Edwards didn't do anything wrong. I agree with Jeff. He was the leader, he gets the advantage. I think Johnson got bamboozled and he didn't like it. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: Exactly. The leader always sets the pace on restarts. I've seen a lot worse than what Carl did. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> Edwards didn't do anything wrong. He had a huge shove from Keselowski from behind. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: And as far as if NASCAR should have done anything, absolutely not. The more NASCAR can let these guys just freaking race, the better. It wasn't obvious enough for them to react. <span style=\"color:blue; font-weight:bold\">Phil:</span> I have no problem with what happened here. In fact, it wasn't even really noticeable to me. <span style=\"color:indigo; font-weight:bold\">Jeff:</span>: Me neither during the race. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> The green flag was out when Edwards went. If anyone jumped, it was Keselowski, but since he didn't pass anyone, it's all good. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: Edwards said he thought Johnson was trying to out-do _him,_ which - if you watch the restart - he was. <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> As he should have, Summer. As they _both_ should have. <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer:</span>: That's what they should do. It's nothing but completely irritating when a driver bitches about another driver trying to beat him. What the hell do you think you're there for??? <span style=\"color:dodgerblue; font-weight:bold\">Amy:</span> That's why it's called racing. …

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Mirror Driving: Picking Up The Plate Pieces, Drivers In Trouble And Gen-6, The Next Step

*Obviously, the Daytona 500 was the big race of the weekend, but most of our thoughts are still with the injured fans from Saturday’s Nationwide Series race after Kyle Larson’s car flew into the catchfence. What can NASCAR and Daytona learn from the incident and what can be done to make sure it never happens again?* Mike N.: You can never be sure it will never happen again. It is cars travelling at high rates of speed. Accidents will happen. That said, I hope they've learned that they need to get rid of crossover gates at all racetracks. Summer: Or at least find a way to make them safer. I usually advocate for a second look before a total elimination. I think it should be an evolving process, like the cars. But it will never be perfect.

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Mirror Driving: Dueling Towards The 500 And Qualifying Quandaries

*Danica Patrick made history last Sunday, becoming the first female to win a pole in the Sprint Cup Series. What impact, if any, will it have on her season and NASCAR as a whole?* Phil: Somewhere between bukpis and bupkis. While it is nice to win the pole at Daytona, it doesn't really help her case for the rest of the season. There have been drivers who have had terrible years win the pole for the 500. Loy Allen, Jr. won the pole in 1994, then DNQ'd 12 times. Kevin: That's the exact stat I was actually going to point to, Phil! In terms of the season, it's definitely a nice boost of confidence, but it's still just one pole position at the beginning of the year. She's still gotta perform in the actual race(s). Jeff: I think it gives her a big boost of confidence that she can drive a fast car. How much impact she has will depend on her ability to stay consistent. I think she will have some good races, top 15s even, and some 30-something finishes.

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Mirror Driving: Offseason Reflections, NASCAR Diversity And Unlimited Rule Changes

*Saturday night was the induction ceremony for this year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame class… but only two of the five being honored were alive to receive their award. With so much history to catch up on, this sport seems to be in a pickle to induct many of their living legends before they, too pass away. Is it important for inductees to still be living when they receive this honor and, if so, how do the powers that be solve this problem? * Summer: I've heard several people say induct as many as ten per year, but that would take away from the prestige, I think. Amy: It's more important for the most deserving people to be inducted. I think ten would have been the way to go the first year, maybe even the second, but not anymore.

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Mirror Driving: Daytona 500 Or Indy 500… Which Is Bigger Now?

*Which is bigger in America today: the Daytona 500 or the Indy 500?* Amy: Indy. It has more prestige, more history, more mystique. Summer: I'm with Amy. It's the history and prestige that makes it bigger. More non-race watching Americans know the Indy 500 better than the Daytona 500.

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Mirror Driving: The Best Of The Best And Make Your Own NASCAR Schedule

*It's hard to compare drivers across different eras of the sport. But 20 or 30 years from now, which active drivers are we going to look back at as the best of this current generation?* Summer: I think you have to look at Jimmie Johnson by default. Tom: Jimmie Johnson is a given. Mike: Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson. Amy: Johnson is an incredibly smooth, intuitive driver. Jeff Gordon has been winning for 20 years now and is a certain Hall of Famer. But I still think the best pure talent in the sport today is Stewart.

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Mirror Driving: Overrated And Underrated, The Best Of Both NASCAR Extremes

*Who is the most overrated driver in NASCAR today?* Matt S.: Oh, this ought to be good... Summer: Is that a serious question? Beth: This one's opening a can of worms... Phil: Probably someone like Kyle Busch. Yes, he's won 50+ races in the Nationwide Series, but he's prone to choking in Cup.

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Mirror Driving: Attacking 2013 Concerns And Enticing A NASCAR Fan Base

*With 2013 on the horizon, what was the biggest issue in NASCAR that has, thus far, gone unresolved?* Matt S.: Aero push. Mike N.: Aero dependency. Amy: Aero dependency and late season ratings. Summer: The way these cars race (even with the new ones coming). No one likes them. Not the drivers, not the crews, not the fans.

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Mirror Driving: Champions, Challenges, And NASCAR’s Memorable Moments

*Brad Keselowski is the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, and is a bit polarizing with his "Bad Brad" moniker. How do you think Keselowski will be remembered as champion...and how many more will he win?* Phil: Especially since Brad's only 28, it's a little early to say how many he'll win. But I wouldn't be surprised if he snags a couple of more. Mike N.: Keselowski is going to be a great spokesperson for the sport. I believe he'll be able to effect change, unlike some other champs because he is extremely smart and very introspective. I believe he'll be remembered for changing the social media aspect of the sport, making it mainstream and speaking his mind. That, and drinking out of the biggest Miller Lite glass he could find after winning.

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