Wednesday , February 10 2016
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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)\": <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)\": <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike Neff</span> \"(Mondays / Thinkin' Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)\": <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer Bedgood</span> \"(Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)\": *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. ... Read More »

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)\": <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)\": <span style=\"color:magenta; font-weight:bold\">Summer Bedgood</span> \"(Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)\": *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> ... Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »