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Mirror Driving: Rain, Teams Teaming Up, and Who Got Pushed?

Mirror Driving: Rain, Teams Teaming Up, and Who Got Pushed?

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)

The rain-delayed Coke Zero 400 still ended early for weather. Did NASCAR make the right call to cancel as early as they did, and was the 11 AM start time the way to go in the first place, knowing there was rain in the afternoon forecast?

Phil: They needed to start at 10:00 in the morning, which is what I said on our Twitter feed.
Amy: In retrospect, because it kept raining, it was probably the right move, though I’d have liked to see them treat it like they did the earlier races this year and into the evening if necessary.
Phil: And yes, calling it was the right call. Otherwise, a 7+ hour delay could have been in the cards.
Mike: With the threat for weather I think the early start was a good call. As for throwing in the towel that early, I completely disagreed with it. In the end they were right to do it but the radar had a huge hole to the west when they gave up.
Amy: I do agree they should have started at ten. It wasn’t like they didn’t know there was a strong probability of rain.
Mike: I am curious, just hypothetically, if they’d have called it that quickly if the 41 or the 55 was in the lead?
Phil: They called the race 15 minutes after the real nasty stuff came in. You probably saw it moving down the backstretch on TNT. When it reached pit road, they called it pretty quick after that.

Rainy weather stole the headlines this past weekend in Daytona.(Credit: Phil Allaway)

Rainy weather stole the headlines this past weekend in Daytona.(Credit: Phil Allaway)

Amy: That was my thought too, Mike. I think perhaps they saw the storyline rather than the big picture.
Mike: In hindsight yes Phil, but when they called it there was a large window directly west. It just filled in after they called it.
Amy: I agree with Mike on the hole. Based on that, they were too quick to call. When that hole closed, it would have been time to make that decision. What if they had had a huge window?
Phil: They could already see that the window was closing before they called it.
Mike: I don’t buy that, Phil. Call me cynical but I really think they just wanted to go home.
Amy: I don’t think a 10 AM start time would have been unreasonable for fans or teams, though. In that hour, they could have run the 48 laps they didn’t get in. Well, maybe the could have. If there were any cars left.
Phil: That wrecking was unreal.
Amy: I think they wanted to go home but I also think they thought a Petty car winning was a good story to end on and get NASCAR some brownie points with fans. It was a good story, but I do wonder if someone else was in the lead if they’d have been so hasty. And no, I don’t think they fix races. I just think they saw a good story and ran with it.
Mike: Unfortunately we’ll never know. At least until the rain delay this weekend.
Phil: Well, the weekend was incredibly exhausting in Daytona. I feel for the fans who had to put up with all of the bad weather. Also of note, there was definitely lightning around when the race was called.
Amy: In the end, the 11 o’clock start time was at least an hour too late. 10:00 or even 9:30 would have been a smarter move, considering they knew rain was coming and even if it hadn’t, it would have gotten fans and teams on the road home sooner.
Mike: On the plus side, Almirola was running up front all day and it wasn’t a cheap win. I just wish they’d have tried a little harder before waving the white flag. By the way, I still hate night racing in the Cup series and think they got what they deserved. The racing was fantastic during the day.
Phil: It was downright pleasant at 9:30am at the track. 78 degrees. Didn’t even feel humid.
Amy: No, it wasn’t a cheap win; he could have contended no matter what.
Mike: I wish they would just come up with tires that won’t last 90 laps.
Amy: Agreed on the tires, Mike. The race itself was terrible. But it was a restrictor plate race, so I didn’t expect much better.
Mike: I thought the racing was great. They were three-wide for most of the race.
Amy: 42 cars were involved in two wrecks. That’s not good racing, no matter what else happens.

There were some complaints about the knockout qualifying procedure at Daytona, with some fans and insiders questioning the procedure at restrictor-plate tracks. Should NASCAR return to single car runs at Daytona and Talladega, or stay the course—or is there another solution?

Phil: The qualifying setup in Daytona was completely ridiculous. It was everything that I feared would go down the minute NASCAR made the change.
Mike: No. The qualifying is fine. Everyone bitches that it takes 3.5 hours to do single car qualifying. It was fine. What was wrong with it?
Amy: I’m not sure knockout qualifying works the way NASCAR, teams, or fans want it to on the plate tracks. Not sure if the answer is single-car runs or something else, but as a whole, it didn’t work. Though it was cool to see Gilliland and Sorenson on the front row.
Mike: Seemed fine to me. Guys have to have good strategy and it takes some good driving ability. Although, when it comes down to it, qualifying doesn’t matter at plate tracks.
Phil: As far as I’m concerned, you cannot have group qualifying in a scenario where you can’t put up a decent lap without someone pushing you.
Mike: Why didn’t it work?
Amy: Exactly, Phil.
Phil: The whole thing’s broken. We cannot have groups of people trundling around the track at 46 mph and trying to block the track.
Amy: Reliance on the draft and nobody willing to take the lead put a damper on it.
Phil: It’s terrible to watch for the fans, and it makes qualifying way more dangerous than it needs to be.
Mike: I didn’t think people were blocking the track. It is how it is. Once you lay down a lap you slow down and pull off.
Phil: Then what about the blatant posturing? That’s the term I was using Friday for all the slow running. That stuff grinds my gears.
Mike: The fact that people won’t work together to help each other out is their own fault.
Phil: People would go out on the track, then never even attempt to get up to speed. Others that were already at speed would have to slalom around them. It’s the cool down lap issues times 3.
Amy: Yeah, Phil is right. It was just stupid. Not working together is one thing. Actively trying to slow others down was just a cluster.
Mike: Well, as Clint Bowyer told me at Richmond. You don’t intentionally try and screw people over out there because it will come back around to bite you in the ass.
Phil: Both the Cup and Nationwide qualifying sessions were incredibly frustrating to watch.
Mike: But if they did it on purpose, they’ll probably be paid back soon.
Phil: But, what do you do when it’s a dozen guys trying to stick it to you?
Mike: Wreck ‘em all.
Phil: That might take a while.

David Gilliland led the field early in Sunday's race courtesy of his unusual pole winning performance in an unusual Friday qualifying session.

David Gilliland led the field early in Sunday’s race courtesy of his unusual pole winning performance in an unusual Friday qualifying session.

Mike: And exactly how did those dozen guys set their fast time?
Phil: By actually going fast at some point.
Amy: I’m not sure what the solution is. There’s nothing wrong with single-car runs. If fans are complaining about how long they take, they don’t really understand the sport. Qualifying isn’t supposed to be entertaining, it’s supposed to set up the race in the best way possible.
Mike: And why were the other guys not going fast with them at the same time?
Phil: It depends. But in this scenario, the reason wasn’t necessarily “they just finished their laps and were slowing down.” If they were actually doing that, they could have used the apron.
Amy: Or, instead of the knock-out format, perhaps a timed format like some series use on road courses, where the lineup is set on speed but cars run in groups.
Mike: I don’t really care how they set the field outside of a random draw. But the fans wanted to see more exciting and faster qualifying and that is what they got.
Amy: Which again, Mike, is silly. Qualifications aren’t supposed to entertain fans.
Mike: Well when promoters are trying to sell tickets it isn’t supposed to bore them to death. And promoters are trying to sell tickets for qualifying.

Several of the sport’s biggest teams formed an alliance this week “to create an open forum for the teams to explore areas of common interest and to work collaboratively on initiatives to help preserve, promote, and grow the sport of stock car racing.” Is this a good thing for NASCAR and what could come of it?

Amy: Smells like a union to me…
Mike: I promise you it isn’t a union. It is basically a buyers’ consortium.
Phil: It does look like a union at a glance. It’s probably more along the lines of an oligarchy or a cartel.
Mike: They can negotiate better hotel rates, better raw material rates, cheaper air fares.
Phil: Most of the examples given in their press release would be good for the teams. Who wouldn’t want to pay less for airfare, hotel rooms, rental vehicles and such?
Amy: I don’t know. I’d like to think they could have some leverage with NASCAR on some things. But I really don’t like how only the big teams are included.
Mike: The thing that could get sticky is if they realize the power they can muster and they go after NASCAR to force changes that will benefit the owners. It might sound good in the short run but could bet ugly.
Amy: If, Mike? More like when.
Mike: They say they want to include all of the teams. We’ll see if they follow through with that.
Phil: It will get ugly. Probably relatively soon. I give it six months before they’re actively butting heads with NASCAR.
Amy: They already realize they have power, I’m sure.
Mike: I think it will be six months before anything starts to happen. Perhaps before the 2016 schedule and rules come out they might try and push for change in the sport.

Are major NASCAR team owners, such as Jack Roush, pictured above, be colluding against NASCAR?

Are major NASCAR team owners, such as Jack Roush, pictured above, colluding against NASCAR with the formation of the RTA?

Amy: And I think it definitely has the potential to get ugly. I’m not willing to say–yet–that it will change the face of the sport as we know it but the potential is definitely there.
Phil: That’s definitely worth looking forward to. Anyone who joins up would likely make a big deal of it.
Mike: And is that a bad thing? Maybe. Everyone has been screaming for changes that will make the racing better. NASCAR hasn’t seemed to be able to make some of those things happen. Maybe this is the kick in the ass they need.
Amy: I disagree with excluding the smaller teams at the start. If anything, those are the ones who need a voice the most.
Mike: When you get down to it, who is left? H Scott, Front Row, Furniture Row and Germain?
Amy: Tommy Baldwin, Frankie Stoddard, Phil Parsons, Xxxtreme, Wood Brothers, Jay Robinson, BK Racing … It’s a bad thing if it becomes about the car owners and not about the fans, Mike.
Phil: I’d argue that most fans know who the owners are, but don’t particularly care much about them.
Mike: Yes it is. And that is a big fear if the owners start trying to control everything to benefit their bottom line. Those of us who were open wheel fans when CART ruined the sport know how that goes.
Amy: That’s exactly it, Mike. That’s not a road the sport can go down and survive.
Phil: Well, they could never get decent leadership in CART. They were dumping top men every 18 months.
Amy: That said, I do think the teams need a voice, and a united front gives them a chance of being heard. Who cares how many cars it is, Mike? The big teams already control everything in the sport. The small ones just try to hang on.
Mike: No it can’t, Amy. Hopefully the guys in the RTA will have learned from their mistakes.
Amy: The IRL/CART split was the first thing I thought of when I read about the RTA.
Mike: Me too Amy.
Phil: Let’s just hope that doesn’t go down. No one benefits from a split.
Mike: You never know. I hope it doesn’t get to that point but there are a lot of things that we’d like to see change about the sport and hopefully the RTA can make some of those things happen.
Amy: I think the RTA could bring about positive change, but I fear that it will not do anything for race fans at all.
Phil: On paper, the aims of the RTA from the start are not that bad. Who wouldn’t want to save money on the costs of doing business? However, it’s going to eventually be more than that. As for fans, unless this leads to discontent and teams leaving, they might not see much on the surface.
Mike: I’m not passing judgement on this thing the first day it is announced. As it develops we’ll see what transpires. I hope that the owners use it to focus on their businesses and don’t dabble in the running of the sport.
Phil: I think that would be the ideal scenario, Mike.
Amy: I agree with Phil on both counts. And with Mike on that last one. It could go either way, and one of those ways isn’t good for race fans, who, in the end, pay the bills.
Mike: Yep, and if it doesn’t, the sport goes away. I don’t envision the owners being so short sighted as to make something happen that ends their income stream.

In last week’s Nationwide Series race, Kasey Kahne won in a controversial finish where Kahne was pushed to the win by Ryan Sieg. NASCAR doesn’t allow cars in that series to push each other and penalized others during the race. Should NASCAR have taken the win away from Kahne, or do they need to dump the rule?

Amy: Yes, on both counts.
Mike: Well the rule is dumb but, with that said, I don’t see how you can penalize the pushee. It isn’t like he can go faster and get away from the pusher.
Phil: It’s a very hard rule to judge in that kind of a setup. The one time they actually used the ruling was far easier.
Amy: They had no problem punishing Landon Cassill, a NNS regular, for being pushed, Mike
Phil: Say what you want about it affecting Cassill and Wise, but that was a much, much easier call to make. It was obvious. They weren’t in the middle of a quagmire.

Kasey Kahne may have grabbed a victory on Friday night, but the win came amidst a storm of controversy.

Kasey Kahne may have grabbed a victory on Friday night, but the win came amidst a storm of controversy.

Amy: Either you’re pushed or you’re not. NASCAR made all kinds of excuses for why they let the win stand. Almost like if they had enough of them, people might buy one.
Mike: That and the pack was coming to the checkered flag. Hadn’t Cassill and Wise been warned? I thought race control warned them about it.
Amy: Their penalty should have served as warning to everyone else. And I was unaware that the rules don’t count coming to the checkers.
Phil: I don’t know. I did not hear a warning. There was no mention of a warning in the drivers’ meeting. In fact, they didn’t reference the rule in the meeting. And I would know. I was in the room.
Mike: The rules only count when NASCAR wants them to count, Amy. Is this your first race?
Phil: By now, I’d figure that NASCAR would have added it to the video they show. They still talk about the yellow line rule there and it’s been years since anyone got busted for it.
Amy: Again, while I don’t believe that NASCAR fixes races (that would be impossible), they do glom onto things. They saw a popular Cup driver winning and made all kinds of excuses as to why he got to break the rules. I wonder if they’d have made all those excuses if Regan Smith had been the one pushed for half a mile?
Mike: Believe what you want Amy. I didn’t see anything wrong with the situation and felt like it was a good call to let it stand. It might have been different if it was Smith doing the pushing instead of Ryan Seig.
Phil: Maybe, but we don’t know.
Mike: Nope, and we never will.
Amy: What Sieg did was not bump drafting, no matter how NASCAR tried to spin it. He admitted that himself.
Mike: The rule is nebulous and needs to go away. They’re big boys, let them push. Would you be this wound up if it had been Chase Elliott scoring the win?
Amy: In any case, NASCAR needs to stop ignoring the fact that the Nationwide Series is losing fans because of the Cup drivers winning all the time. Letting one break the rules to win isn’t exactly a good way to do that.
Phil: Yet, NASCAR doesn’t seem concerned about it. Brian France basically said so himself on Saturday.
Amy: I agree that the rule is stupid, and there was nothing wrong with tandem drafting. But since it is, in fact, a rule, it needs to be enforced every lap, to every driver, the same.
Phil: I feel like that rule’s going to get the once over before February.
Mike: You are probably right on that Phil.
Amy: I hope it does. Like I said, there was nothing wrong with tandem racing, and this is just one more way NASCAR takes the racing out of the drivers’ and teams’ hands.
Mike: Seemed to me the racing was in the drivers’ hands and you’re complaining about it.
Amy: But until it does change, it needs to be enforced correctly. Not that I think it will; NASCAR hasn’t made a correct yellow line call since the rule was invoked, so why would this one be any different? Mike, I’m complaining because NASCAR ignored the rule that was in place when a popular driver broke that rule to win a race.
Phil: I’m anti-yellow line rule, and have been for years.
Amy: I won’t lie, I lost all interest in that race the second Kahne crossed the line first.
Mike: Again, I don’t think Kasey broke a rule. He can’t control what someone behind him does. I thought the rule was directed at the pusher, not the pushee. I usually lose interest when a race is over. It tends to not be a race anymore once the checkered flag flies.
Phil: Technically, it’s both. Although, I think only James Buescher got busted in February.
Amy: I understand the yellow line rule because it’s for safety. I don’t like it, but at least there’s a reason behind it. Right, it’s both who can be panalized. Just ask Landon Cassill.
Mike: I will have to. Right after I find out how you run 90 laps on a set of tires.
Mike: Jason Ratcliff told me in Tech Talk that he thought you could run all 160 laps on the same set of tires and not see much difference. That is stupid.
Amy: Basically, the way I see it is NASCAR busted a real NNS driver and failed to make a call against a popular Cup driver running in the series. That’s not good for a series that’s already losing fans because of the Cup drivers dominating it.
Mike: I must be out of the loop. I thought the bloom was off of Kasey’s rose.
Amy: The best way to get rid of these calls would be to get rid of restrictor-plate wrecking…er, racing.
Mike: Once you figure out how to do that, Amy, you let everyone know and then we won’t have to hear people complain about it anymore. They’ve been using this band-aid for 27 years because they can’t come up with a better way to keep cars out of the grandstands.
Phil: Random aside: Thoughts on Brad Keselowski’s idea of taking the plates off for single-lap qualifying?
Mike: Great idea. Just bring a good supply of body bags.

Anyway, predictions for Loudon?

Amy: I think I like Jimmie Johnson this week.
Mike: I’m going to go with Kenseth finally breaking into the win column.
Phil: As much as I’d like a ridiculous upset, I’m going to go with Kyle Busch.

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:
Prediction Scoring
+5 – Win
+3 – Top 5
+1 – Top 10
0 – 11th-20th
-1 – 21st-30th
-2 – 31st-40th
-3 – 41st-43rd

Coke Zero 400

Writer Pick Finishing Position Points
Amy Henderson Casey Mears  4th  +3
Summer Bedgood  Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  14th 0
Phil Allaway  Kurt Busch  3rd +3

Standings

 Writer Points Behind Starts Wins Top 5 Top 10
Amy Henderson 23 18 1 6 9
Tom Bowles 9 -14 5 2 2 4
Mike Neff 9 -14 9 0 3 5
Phil Allaway 6 -17 17 1 2 7
Aaron Creed 4 -19 5 0 1 4
Beth Lunkenheimer 3 -20 1 0 1 1
Jeff Meyer 3 -20 1 0 1 1
Summer Bedgood 2 -21 2 0 0 1
Jeff Wolfe 2 -21 3 0 1 1
Brad Morgan 0 -23 3 1 1 2

About Frontstretch Staff

13 comments

  1. Big Bill France essentially got to write his own history. So while he may have been a visionary gets covered many things do not. A greedy bully that never put NASCAR ahead of his own interests is portrayed as some sort of saint. Safety, fair and honest competition, sensible distribution of costs and profits all took a back seat to Big Bill’s greed. None of the France apples have fallen far from the tree. NASCAR is run now about as it always was. The difference is that information is harder to bottle up these days, thus the RTA. The RTA effort may succeed or it may fail. If it fails the next challenge will not. Baseball and football both broke dictatorial my way or the highway systems, NASCAR’s time either has or will come.

    • Good points. One difference, in addition to information, is who Nascar is dealing with. Its no longer just a bunch of talented mechanics (thats not meant as a slight but couldnt figure another way to characterize them) but a bunch of people as wealthy, if not more so than they are. These people wont starve if Nascar tries to shut them out. SO it will be a battle of wills,

    • You have that right John. Once again all anyone has to do is read Smokey’s book and you’ll soon realize that Big Bill didn’t build NASCAR using “What’s best for NASCAR” as its mission statement. Read books from any of the guys from the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s and you’ll quickly see that its always been about the money first and racing second. Normally businesses actually put their energy into the product that brings in the revenue but France & Co. reversed that basic business principle and have been running with it ever since.

      • What is the title of Yunick’s book? It sounds like something I would enjoy.

        • “Best Damn Garage in Town”. There is a single book, (652 pgs!) and then a three volume series. The three volume series is a condensed version of the three book series. The three book series covers three areas; His life outside of racing, (growing up and all that), Stock car racing, Indy Racing and his inventions. I picked up the single volume book which I find is hard to put down. Sometimes you can find it on Amazon, I ended up ordering it right off the Smokey Yunick website.

  2. Hate the new qualifying format, it doesn’t allow for the fastest car to be on the pole and is just plain stupid most of the time, I don’t even bother watching qualifying since the change and I used to at least follow along on the internet. No point to it now IMO.

    I’m quite sure NASCAR figured they’d get the biggest bang out of it being the 43 car as the winner of the race. Yes, I am that cynical. Observation of the way NASCAR does things on and off the track has made me feel that way.

    RTA – if they can use their collective $$ value to PUSH NASCAR into making decisions that are smarter about the racing, more power to them. NASCAR’s current management is inept as far as the racing goes. BZF is a great moneymaker for the France family but he makes bad decisions in relation to running the sport.

  3. You replace Kasey with Kyle and the win probably would have been taken away. The cries from the media and fans would have demanded it.

    Nascar only has itself to blame for whatever happens between it and the teams. IF the teams stand together then they can make a difference. IF not, then watch out. We are going to find out soon enough.

  4. Why be the “Inside Man” when you can be “The Man”?

  5. Mirror Driving is one of my favorite Fronstretch columns. I enjoy the spirited discussion between the writers, all of whom are pretty opinionated and that’s a good thing.

    “Qualifying isn’t supposed to be entertaining, it’s supposed to set up the race in the best way possible.” Thank you Amy. This whole new process for qualifying is a convoluted mess, especially at RP tracks. I can think of a lot of ways to entertain the fans… shoot Tony Stewart out of a cannon.. have the Hendrick drivers dress like Kiss and sing karaoke.. anything but this ridiculous qualifying format. It has GOT to go!

    We can speculate all we want to about the RTA, but I’m eager to see how this actually plays out over the next few years. If I were Beezee France, I’d make sure my legal team was well-compensated.

    I’ll take Logano this week.

  6. I think this RTA will either be a really big deal that changes the sport, or the announcement is all we ever hear about it. Like Ken, I was surprised that Hendrick was part of RTA. But as the straw who not only stirs the drink but gets carte blanche to set the menu, maybe Hendrick is NASCARISC’s inside man on all this.

  7. Quit worrying about the small teams. They will be included. It just took the power of the deep pockets to get the RTA off the ground. Can you imagine if some of the small teams had initiated this
    concept. They would be toast! Maybe Brain Farce and Helton will start to recognize how pitiful
    the sport is and is being ruined by their own marketing “geniusry”.

  8. As far this Race Team Alliance goes, we will just have to wait and see where it goes. But, with NASCAR making so many rule changes since the dreaded C.O.T. was conceived, who can blame these guys for joining together to try to save some money when it comes to buying parts and equipment? And maybe the time has come for these guys to band together to go after NASCAR about how these changes have cost them millions of dollars to develop and refine the race car. Now, there is a major engine change coming down the line. The one member that surprized me is Hendrick. Did he agree to join to save face and quell the thought that he really controls NASCAR?.

    Also, this development has generated some interest in a dying sport. And since the guy in charge, The Brainless Wonder named Brian, refuses to see what he has done to the sport, these guys hopefully will wake the idiot up! Maybe now, Larry McReynolds will finally realize that his famous mantra “You need NASCAR more than NASCAR needs you” will go away! Brian France, Mike Helton, and Robin Pemberton are not the stars of the show. The drivers are, as are their crew chiefs, and to some extent, their owners, and the manufacturers. At races, you see Ford and Chevrolet tee shirts. You will see Roush-Fenway, Hendrick, and Penske tee shirts, and you see driver tee shirts. When was the last time you ever saw someone wearing a Mike Helton or Brian France tee shirt?

  9. Would using a 4 lap average speed at plate track help solve the problem? That way getting one good run from behind a pack wouldn’t be the payoff.