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 Coordinator)
After Sunday’s race at Talladega ended under caution for a crash as the leaders took the white flag, many fans said that they’d like to see races end under green no matter what. Should NASCAR consider that?
Mike: No. We have the three attempt rule. I don’t believe we have ever had a caution on a third attempt. It works fine just the way it is. What NASCAR needs to consider is being consistent when throwing caution flags. While watching it on tape it looked like there was less time for them to throw a caution than it felt like there was in person, I still think they would have normally thrown a caution when they see someone spinning in the tri-oval.
Phil: It was a perfect storm of bad. Had that bumper ended up below the yellow line, I think NASCAR wouldn’t have thrown it, and we’d be talking about something else.
Amy: I don’t think unlimited green-white-checkered attempts is a good idea. There would be races where the winner was the only guy who either didn’t crash or run out of gas after a dozen attempts. Incidentally,NASCAR did absolutely the right thing throwing the yellow last Sunday.
Mike: I think they should have thrown it before they threw the white, but that’s me. I completely agree that the only other option would have been to have an official run out and grab the bumper, but they wouldn’t do that.
Phil: Unfortunately, had it stayed green, that bumper could have been punted into the crowd at the finish. That won’t work.
Mike: Oh if they threw the caution before the white it would have GREATLY impacted the finish. 3/4 of the field would have had to pit for gas.
Amy: I do agree with that, Mike. Had they thrown it immediately, they could have restarted and kept the fans happy. Or not happy, depending on how many times they had to do it.
Mike: I was actually amazed that NASCARdidn’t clean up the debris field that Logano’s car left on pit road. They towed it off and picked up the big pieces of foam but there was foam and rubber and metal all over pit road when they threw the final green.
Phil: Yes, there were a number of dudes that weren’t far from fumes. Also, with aGWC, all heck could have broken loose again.
Mike: I know Amy. I saw the spin and thought “here goes a GWC” and then they didn’t throw it. That was odd.
Amy: There were guys who would have been in trouble on fuel if that last yellow hadn’t flown.
Mike: I was surprised how far so many people were stretching fuel. I really can’t believe that no one ran out on the final two laps.
Amy: There’s already a feeling among some fans that plate wins are somehow not worth as much as another win because of the nature of the racing, and the way this one went down didn’t really do anything to dispel that.
Phil: I would have preferred to pit when Earnhardt Jr. did. I know it didn’t work out for him, but with all those opportunities, it would have just been a good thing to do, especially with the chance of GWC’s coming into play.
Mike: I laughed because some people said they were just cruising around until 50 to go. They were three-wide multiple rows deep for most of the race. It was insane.
Amy: There was a good bit of talk on social media that Hamlin just got lucky. Not sure I agree with that but I do think he’d have had to work a lot harder for it if it had stayed green. Earnhardt’s problem wasn’t because he pitted, though.
Mike: I don’t know. The bottom line was the place to be. There were all sorts of people who tried to make moves on the high side but not many succeeded.
Phil: I’d argue that people like Jeff Gordon, Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears were definitely cruising for much of the race. Most of the others weren’t.
Amy: Do they just cruise around? No. They don’t take big risks, but they don’t do nothing in the cars all day. That said, I find it hard to call plate racing real racing. Way too much depends on nothing but blind luck.
Phil: It’s more than luck. Lots of manipulation is at play in a plate race. Gotta out think your competitors.
Mike: I don’t think blind luck has anything to do with it. I think proper positioning and strategy behind the wheel is a big influence. As for the back of the packers, there were a dozen of them Phil. Stewart ran around in nearly last place all day and still had his car totaled.
Amy: There is, but there is a lot of luck too. Ask any of the 20 cars who got wrecked who didn’t make a mistake. You can say they should have been ahead of the wreck, but reality is that they can’t all be in front.
Mike: Including the 8 that were cruising at the back and drove into a wreck because they weren’t trying hard?
Amy: The only one that really worked out for was Casey Mears, and he’d have had a better finish if he’d stayed in line at the end instead of jumping to the middle.
Phil: You can get wrecked anywhere just because you were at a certain spot when heck broke loose.
Amy: You can, Phil, but it’s unlikely to be 20 cars involved like it can be on a plate track. The one thing I can actually stomach about plate “racing” is that the little teams actually have a fighting chance for a decent finish.
Mike: Back to the original question, NASCAR should have thrown the yellow before the white but they did the right thing not letting them race back.
Phil: I doubt we’ll see unlimited GWC’s anytime soon. I wouldn’t be surprised to see outrage from fans cause NASCAR to ditch the caution after white ends the race rule.
Many fans were also displeased with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for hanging at the back late in the race on Sunday for fear of getting caught in a multi-car chrash. Did Earnhardt’s strategy fly in the face of NASCAR’s “100 percent” rule, and shouldNASCAR have warned him and other drivers who ran at the back?
Amy: No, it was a strategy to try to be there at the end, even if it didn’t work out.
Phil: NASCAR has stated in the past that hanging in the back during a plate race does not violate the 100 percent rule. Having said that, the whole 100 percent rule is ridiculous.
Mike: I don’t have a problem with drivers hanging at the back. I have a problem with them giving up and not trying to run to the front because they already have a win and don’t want to get in a wreck, like Junior did. That was complete crap and I promise his Daddy rolled over in his grave when he saw it happen.
Amy: A lot of fans think it should violate the rule, though, Phil.
Mike: Like I said, hanging back is fine. The fact that his run to the front failed on lap 186 and he just gave up was crap.
Amy: I agree, Mike. I don’t like the way Junior raced on Sunday purely because you can’t tell me he’d have run the same way at the end if he didn’t have a win already.
Phil: Fans think hanging in the back would constitute not trying hard enough? I’m pretty sure he’s trying.
Mike: He didn’t try at the end of the race Phil. Even said it in his post race interviews. When the 98 stopped his attempted run he threw in the towel so that he wouldn’t get into a wreck.
Phil: I don’t think I can say that Earnhardt Jr. “gave up” when Josh Wise’s Shiba Inu pulled in front of him. He just didn’t have the momentum.
Amy: A lot of fans feel that way, though. They think if you hang back, you aren’t racing hard. They don’t necessarily think about the strategy involved, they want to see 43 drivers going at it like it’s the last lap for 500 miles. That’s unrealistic, of course, but there it is.
Phil: I’d argue that he just couldn’t get to the front because of Wise killing his momentum.
Mike: He still had a lap and a half to try something else Phil. He folded up his tent. I refuse to believe that a car that led the race and held off advances couldn’t have driven further forward than 26th or wherever he finished.
Amy: Right, Phil, but after that he didn’t try again.
Mike: What Amy said. Could he have won the race, probably not. Could he have thrown it in there and gotten a top 10 or better and maybe driven through a wreck for a win if the front runners caused one? Maybe. Dropping to last on the lead lap sure as hell wasn’t going to make that happen. Justin Allgaier is the only driver that finished behind him on the lead lap and he limped around the track with a mangled car after driving through the infield. This is the second time I’ve seen Junior try the ‘hang at the back strategy’ at Talladega and it has failed miserably both times.
Phil: I doubt he could have gotten a top-10 given the circumstances that we had. Generally, I would never hang around back there. The strategy fails 80 percent of the time.
Amy: I don’t have a problem with running in back for the first half of the race. That’s just strategy, and if you don’t like it, blame the nature of plate racing, not the drivers trying to avoid an inevitable pileup. True, it doesn’t always work out, but if that’s what they think will win the race, then fine. Junior handled the end of the race badly, yes. In general, though, teams have different strategies to try and win races. Hanging back early is just one of them.
Mike: I don’t doubt it, Phil. He had a car that drove to the lead. They came through the tri-oval two-wide. If he’d used his tremendous plate skills he could have gotten there. Earnhardt even said on his radio that if he wasn’t top 5 he would bail out because he didn’t want to get in a wreck. Hanging back is fine. Quitting isn’t. If I was on that 88 team I’d be pissed off today.
Michael Waltrip Racing announced a contract extension for Clint Bowyer and crew chief Brian Pattie, and 5-hour Energy. That leaves several potential free agents on the table, among them Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose, Casey Mears, David Ragan, and crew chief Chad Knaus. Is this shaping up to be one of the silliest silly seasons in recent memory?
Mike: I don’t know about silliest. It will be interesting. I think the Roush story could be very interesting. If Edwards and Biffle both leave, and Stenhouse doesn’t have sponsorship, I could see Jack deciding to go fly airplanes and close up shop.
Amy: I think it depends. If Edwards moves on, it could create an interesting situation with an opening at Roush Fenway. I think, though, that Biffle will stay put, along with McMurray at Ganassi.
Phil: It could be, but I don’t think it’s going to be anywhere near as crazy as you think.
Mike: That said, I think Biffle stays at Roush but I don’t think Edwards is sticking around.
Amy: Knaus isn’t going anywhere, and I think the guys with the smaller teams are likely to stay. Ambrose could enter the conversation at RFR if a young guy isn’t ready, but I really don’t see a lot of movement this year unless a couple of teams add a fourth car.
Mike: Yeah, Knaus and Johnson are at Hendrick until they want to leave.
Phil: Roush Fenway Racing may need to clean house in the marketing department, though. There is no reason why they can’t get a decent amount of sponsorship there.
Mike: From what I hear they aren’t flexible on their deals. I don’t know what that really means or what they could do differently but they have some marketable dudes and should be able to sell races.
Amy: That’s the issue, I think, Mike. They won’t negotiate, and that’s hurting them because other teams will.
Mike: I could see McMurray leaving Ganassi if Chip has a shot at Edwards or Biffle. The rest of them are staying put I think.
Phil: Carl Edwards is very marketable. I feel like Subway should be sponsoring at least half the season on the No. 99. Edwards is Subway’s second biggest spokesperson after Jared.
Amy: If I had to guess, I’d say Edwards goes to Gibbs and Biffle stays put.
Mike: I think Apolo Ohno is a bigger spokesperson than Edwards. Don’t forget Michael Phelps is on their payroll too. And crap, I forgot about RG-III. He is WAYbigger than Edwards.
Amy: I think if you’re a Mears or Ragan, you re-sign if it’s an option. Not worth the risk to test the waters, especially as both will be seen as damaged goods as they were let go by bigger teams. You can’t deny that Edwards is sponsor-friendly, though, Mike. He’ll shill anything they ask him to.
Mike: Edwards is one of the three or four most marketable drivers in the sport and they have trouble finding sponsors. That is just silly.
Phil: Biffle’s going to be 45 in December. This will likely be his last big contract. My guess is that he’ll stay. There is a philosophy issue with Roush Fenway Racing when it comes to sponsorship. Simple as that. There is no reason why they have problems getting backing for Edwards and Stenhouse.
Mike: Edwards is gone. Biffle is probably staying. If Biffle and Edwards both leave, Roush just might close down. The rest of them are staying put if the teams want them, although McMurray may look a little bit elsewhere.
Phil: Luckily, Biffle’s got a good relationship with 3M. I feel like if he left, they might go with him.
Amy: I think Edwards will move, but I don’t see anything crazy beyond that. RFR will fill his spot with a young guy is my guess.
Mike: Oh they would definitely go with him, Phil.
Phil: Knaus can name his price to Hendrick and Rick will pay it.
Mike: Yep. Knaus isn’t going anywhere.
Amy: I do think if Kasey Kahne doesn’t pick it up, he could be in jeopardy if Hendrick gets antsy with Chase Elliott.
Mike: Not happening. Chase will be in Nationwide, or whatever it is called next year, and then in the 5 in 2016.
Phil: That’s a good move. 19 year olds typically don’t have the best track record in Cup. Getting that extra year in the “Insert Name Here” Series will make a pretty big difference.
Amy: I agree, Mike…unless another big team makes a play at Elliott for next year. If that happens, it might prompt an early promotion. I hope it doesn’t, because he’ll only be better for the experience. I agree on Knaus. I heard a little speculation on social media that HMS would make him Junior’s crew chief, but I can’t see that happening. Mainly because they’d kill each other.
Mike: Yeah, Junior is thriving with a cheerleader like Letarte. Knaus is not a cheerleader.
Phil: Knaus is some sort of perfectionist. Sounds like he could make anyone go nuts. Makes me wonder what Stacy Compton thought of him as his crew chief in 2001.
Amy: You mean when Chad got his brilliant idea to drive Compton’s car in a test and promptly stuffed it in the wall?
Mike: The rumor that I heard, which I find very hard to believe, is that Mr. H. wants Larson and is going to put the screws to Ganassi to get him to replace Gordon. I don’t picture Chip taking that kind of crap from anybody.
Amy: I don’t either. Then again, what Hendrick could pay him would buy a lot of nice stuff for his IndyCar teams…
Phil: Yeah, he’d probably be pretty ticked off. Hendrick would have to make a Godfather offer to get Larson away from Ganassi.
Mike: Very true. I just think Larson is poised for an incredibly long career and Chip would be insane to let him walk at any price.
News broke Sunday that Cup driver Kyle Busch was cited for speeding in Denver, NC, after being clocked at 60 in a 45 MPH zone. It’s his third ticket since 2006, including a reckless driving citation in Virginia in 2006 and reckless driving and speeding charges in North Carolina in 2011. Is it NASCAR’s place to step in as this is Busch’s third citation?
Amy: No, absolutely not. Unless it happens at the track, it’s none of NASCAR’s business.
Mike: Hell no. It is a speeding ticket. He’s not dealing meth (insert Jeremy Mayfield joke here). I won’t deny that NASCAR might want to have a talk with him but definitely not intervene. I’m curious if it was on Perth Road in Mooresville again.
Phil: They’ve never done anything substantial in the past for anything unless booze was involved.
Amy: That said, it might behoove Joe Gibbs and/or M&M’s/Monster to lay down the law. Chronic traffic violations don’t really uphold a great image. It was in Denver, Mike.
Mike: Whatever the case, the boys in the Moorseville area like to enforce the law. When you are 15 over you are going to get pulled. I’m surprised he couldn’t offer up some tickets or M&Ms to get it dropped to a warning.
Amy: 15 over is quite a bit. I will say that it is easy to speed on some of those roads in that area and not even realize it, but that’s not an excuse. And I do think that because young people look up to these guys, they do have an added responsibility to drive safely.
Mike: I’m trying to remember. Didn’t he have to do some defensive driving stuff with the last conviction?
Amy: Probably, Mike. That time he was doing 128 in a 45 zone. Um, oops?
Phil: I’d hate to have Kyle Busch’s car insurance bill, that’s for sure.
Mike: I’m sure he can afford it. His life insurance bill is a lot more though I promise.
Phil: With the 128 in the 45? I’m shocked that dude didn’t spend time in jail for that.
Amy: Anyone else probably would have, Phil…
Mike: I agree. I am pretty sure he had to do some community service which included some defensive driving lectures.
Phil: Also, the fact that he actually has a driver’s license after that is quite shocking.
Amy: Not really, phil. It was three years ago, and I think the loss of license would have been like 60 days or some such ridiculous thing.
Phil: Also, we should state for the benefit of fans that don’t live in North Carolina that Denver, NC is just west of Lake Norman, approximately 30 miles Northwest of Charlotte.
Amy: In any case, it’s not NASCAR’s place to punish him. His car owner and sponsor, though, should be reading him the riot act. He’s not a kid anymore; he should know better.
Mike: It was 45 days. Which is bogus. But if you pay a pricey enough lawyer you can get off of most anything. (insert O.J. Simpson joke here).
Amy: If I was Joe Gibbs, he’d be doing lectures at schools and the like weekly for a year or more.
Mike: I’m not going to read him the riot act for 60 in a 45. I would like to see the scenario. I’m betting it dropped from 55 to 45 and he didn’t notice. If I’m him, I’m hiring a driver or making Samantha drive for a while, though.
Amy: Yeah, this is definitely not as severe as the last one, but it’s becoming a chronic thing. The officer also said he was disrespectful, which definitely deserves the riot act from the boss. Again, like it or not, these guys are role models for kids, and should be triple-careful to be following traffic laws. Gibbs has a let a lot of bad behavior slide from his teams, though, so not sure what goes down there.
Mike: Oh yeah. If you start talking junk to the officers then I think you need to spend some time sucking up. That is unacceptable.
OK, how about those Kansas predictions?
Amy: I’m going with Jimmie Johnson. At least he won’t give up with two to go like my ‘Dega pick…
Phil: I’m going with Carl Edwards to snag his second of the year.
Mike: I’ll jump on the Joey Logano bandwagon. The Penske cars are fast at intermediates and Joey is hot right now.
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
|Amy Henderson||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||26th||-1|
|Phil Allaway||Landon Cassill||11th||0|
|Mike Neff||Jimmie Johnson||23rd||-1|
|Tom Bowles||Paul Menard||6th||1|
|Beth Lunkenheimer||AJ Allmendinger||5th||3|
|Aaron Creed||Jeff Gordon||39th||-2|
|Writer||Points||Behind||Predictions (Starts)||Wins||Top 5s||Top 10s|