Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Is RCR for Real? & Who Actually Deserves to Drive the No. 6?

Welcome to Mirror Driving. Every week, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest news from the past week or race weekend. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

This week’s participants:
Kim DeHaven (Tuesdays/Numbers Game)
Jeff Meyer (Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Toni Heffelfinger (Fridays/Second Fiddle)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Race Trax AND Tuesdays/That’s History)
Mike Neff (Fridays/Full Throttle)

After their performance the first two races, is Richard Childress Racing now the team to beat in this Chase? If that’s true, who’s got the upper hand – Jeff Burton or Kevin Harvick?

Toni: RCR is making a statement but I don’t know that I’d toss Matt Kenseth or Jeff Gordon out the window just yet. Hamlin either for that matter.
Jeff: Yes, they may be the ones to beat, but as far as an upper hand, that will/would change after any given week.
Amy: I wouldn’t count out Hendrick and Roush just yet. But of those two, I’d say Burton.
Kim: This week, sure. Who knows what will happen next week.
Jeff: This week, yes, I’d say Jeff Burton too.
Toni: Burton probably has the temperament more suited to this thing but can they continue to be consistent or will they fade again like they have in many races this year? That’s the only thing I’d have to wonder.
Amy: Burton is more levelheaded than Kevin Harvick. That can reap huge dividends under they type of pressure the Chasers are under.
Jeff: That consistency may be enough though.
Amy: If they don’t have a bad race, consistency will be enough.
Kim: I still think Kenseth will prevail in the end though.
Jeff: So far my pick for the 10th spot is panning out nicely.
Toni: Yeah I’d say Kyle Busch has 10th about locked up.
Amy: Kyle still has bragging rights at the family Thanksgiving gathering.
Jeff: I don’t know about that. At least Kurt Busch WON the CUP the first time he was in it.
Amy: Yeah Jeff, won, stole, who’s counting?
Mike: No matter what happens, Kyle can finish last in the next eight races and he’ll finish ahead of Kurt this year. Love the Chase. Love it.
Jeff: Well gee, that’s a pretty safe prediction! But this thing is totally up in the air this year, I’d say. Ought to make Homestead REALLY interesting.
Toni: I’d have to agree. Of the two teams that we thought were locks this year, Jimmie Johnson has had a meltdown and Kenseth hasn’t been brilliant so far either.
Amy: I wouldn’t call Johnson’s Chase so far a meltdown.
Kim: A “bad” race for Kenseth is still better than a lot of the other drivers’ better runs.
Mike: Kenseth was in second place when he ran out of gas. That team is still on fire.
Jeff: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still in this thing too.
Mike: Harvick is still the man to beat. They had an engine problem this weekend. He’ll be back up front next week.
Amy: Out of all the Chasers, Harvick is the most likely to have a meltdown if a non-Chaser should hurt his chances.
Toni: I kind of think this thing will separate itself down the middle. There looks to be five or so teams falling out of it already, some more than others, but I think the other five are going to fight it out, probably right down to the end.
Mike: We’ll see what happens at Talladega. There could be three teams left after that. Of course, when Kasey Kahne wins the six cookie-cutter races, he’ll be right in this thing. Love the Chase.
Kim: I have to say, it is ironic that of the 10 “best” teams, half saved their problems for the Chase.
Toni: Seems like the best time to have them if you ask me. Since you can tank all 10 and still get on the stage. Yup, love the Chase.
Mike: If you are going to totally suck for 10 races, now is the time to do it. Once the money is secured.
Amy: Everyone will have one bad race and at least one mediocre race in the last 10. The trick is to be stellar in the other eight.
Kim: I doubt this year will be the ratings builder the France’s hope for.
Mike: If Junior is in contention coming down to the last couple of races, the ratings may be up. Otherwise, forget it.
Jeff: You’re right Kim, the ratings will continue to dive! (hopefully) But back to the original question, I picked Kenseth to win it all, but at the moment Burton is the man to beat.
Mike: I don’t think Burton is the man to beat. Yes, they won this weekend and they are leading. But you’re coming off of Loudon and Dover, two tracks where he has some history of running well. Let’s see what the intermediate tracks do to him.
Jeff: But Burton has been SO close to winning all year. I was ecstatic to see him finally get a win.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: Jeff Burton Living Out Dale Earnhardt's Dream

Kim: And someone has picked him for races all year. No one is willing to go for the whole enchilada?
Jeff: Who picked him last week?
Toni: Tom picked him last week. I had to look it up because I knew someone must have.
Jeff: And he’s not here to gloat….
Amy: One of us had to be right eventually. Meanwhile, lurking just out of the spotlight for some reason is Gordon, who has the highest average finish at Kansas of all those guys.
Toni: I see him lurking out there Amy. And everyone else would be wise to see him too.

Does Tony Stewart have anything to be sorry about after wrecking Kahne? And is it still too early to eliminate anyone from Chase contention or can we say that one or more of the drivers at the back, like Kahne, is officially done after Sunday?

Toni: Well Tony Stewart didn’t exactly do it on purpose. He didn’t even technically wreck Kahne. He wrecked himself and Kahne drove into him.
Mike: Accidents happen. If Stewart had wrecked him racing him hard, then yes. Stewart lost it and slid up in front of him from half a turn away. I don’t think he has anything to feel bad about.
Kim: He can feel bad, but he is not to blame.
Amy: Tony spun out, not like he took out Kasey on purpose.
Jeff: Tony has nothing to be sorry about, and yes Kyle Busch is DONE.
Toni: Tony just happened to be the unfortunate guy to realize one of his fears and wreck in a bad spot for a Chaser. But yes, Kyle Busch is done.
Kim: I need the “I agree with Jeff and Toni” tee… Kyle Busch is done.

See also
Frontstretch Breakdown: 2006 Dover 400

Jeff: Unless Kahne really kicks it up, he may have a fork in him too.
Toni: I think Kahne has it figured that he has to win most of the next eight to do it. He might get hot at the intermediates where he excels but I’m not sure he can get that hot.
Mike: Nah, Kasey will win all of the cookie-cutter races and win the Chase. Love the Chase.
Jeff: Someone nudge that record player….
Mike: Love the Chase.
Jeff: Nudge.
Mike: Love, Love, Love, Love, Love, Love, Love.
Jeff: Get the hammer….
Amy: Theoretically nobody is “done.” Johnson made up 247 points in four weeks in 2004. Do I think Busch’s team is quite that caliber? No. But it’s not impossible. All the Hendrick cars are good at Kansas. That said, Busch is the worst of the HMS Chasers there.
Toni: Not impossible. But improbable. Definitely for Busch and most likely for Kahne improbable. Despite what Mike says.
Mike: Highly improbable. Although if they have many more races with four Chasers in the top 10 it isn’t even that improbable.
Jeff: Personally, I want to say that Jimmie also has the proverbial fork in him too.
Toni: It’s harder to say it for Jimmie because we did see him do the huge comeback in 2004.
Jeff: I know, but I’d like to.
Kim: And Johnson has learned to survive and excel on plate tracks.
Mike: Johnson wrecks everyone else at plate tracks.
Amy: And he’s almost a lock for a top five at Charlotte.
Jeff: Jimmie will be known as the “rabbit” after this year, losing it three years in a row now. This has got to be playing seriously buggars with the No. 48’s team morale though.
Toni: After three years of this? I’d sure think so. Although to be fair, under old points, Johnson wouldn’t have won the last two either. And he was behind Kenseth going in to the Chase this year.
Mike: When Johnson wrecks out at Talladega, then they’ll be done.
Jeff: Love the Chase!
Amy: Or, when Johnson WINS Talladega, the others will suddenly feel a little heat.
Mike: Yeah, there is always that possibility. But hey, the Chase is over. Give it to Kahne. He’ll dominate the intermediate tracks.

With Mark Martin officially out of the running, which driver is now the frontrunner to take over the No. 6 car in 2007 – David Ragan, Todd Kluever, Erik Darnell, Danny O’Quinn… or none of the above?

Toni: Do we have any better options?
Amy: Hmmm, Kluever wrecks everything but the ambulance weekly.
Mike: Ragan is probably the frontrunner, although I think they should put Ward Burton in it for a year and let those guys get some more seasoning.
Jeff: Of those choices I’d say Ragan.
Mike: Ragan is probably the best qualifier. After the first five races that is going to be important.
Amy: None of them is close to ready. Roush needs to reevaluate that program and what he really wants.
Toni: No offense, but they are all probably about as ready for Cup as David Gilliland. I hate to keep picking on the guy, but he’s like the poster child for what happens when you bring a guy up too soon.
Kim: Gilliland is a perfect example of why they should keep those guys in the lower ranks for another year or two and find a veteran for next season, but of the four, I would say Ragan as well.
Amy: Between Gilliland and David Stremme, Ragan may want to consider changing his first name if he wants to be considered “ready” for Cup.
Toni: Yeah, I think I’d have to concur with the majority. Ragan is probably the best option. Mostly because Ragan seemed to be fine in trucks once he got his feet under him. He crashed into everything the first few races and then he got it in his head that they don’t expect him to be Martin and he did fine after that.
Amy: Cup is a HUGE step from trucks, though. Trucks are more aero stable, they don’t spin nearly as easily.
Toni: Honestly, I don’t think any of them are Carl Edwards, which was what Roush was hoping for.
Mike: No one is Edwards, except Denny Hamlin and Stewart.
Amy: Compared to last year, even Edwards isn’t Edwards.

With Busch Series championship hopes fading for Hamlin and Harvick set to clinch the title as early as this Saturday, should they pull out of some of the remaining races to concentrate on their Cup teams?

Kim: And miss out on the weekly test session? No way!
Amy: Depends on their owners’ wishes. If the owner thinks that would be best, then they should make that decision.
Jeff: Who cares what Harvick does in Busch, but as for Hamlin he needs to keep racing.
Mike: For people besides Harvick maybe. When he runs both series, he runs better in Cup. He needs to keep doing what he is doing. The last time he ran both series full-time was 2001. He ended up top 10 with one fewer race than his competitors on the Cup side and won the Busch title.
Toni: Yeah, I agree. Harvick actually seems to do better when he runs all those races. I think he’d actually hurt his chances by pulling out.
Mike: Harvick wants to set the record for biggest points margin too.
Toni: I would also have an issue with a Busch Series champion that skipped races when it wasn’t unavoidable. Not that that means anything, but still, it doesn’t seem right.
Amy: I would too, Toni. Missing a race because of a rainout/Cup conflict or a DNQ is one thing.
Toni: Exactly. I could live with that and good for him for having the margin to be able to withstand a schedule conflict or something like that. But not racing because he wants to help his Cup effort seems like a slap to the Busch championship in my opinion. And its status.
Amy: Even if it was already locked up, skipping those races would be a slap in the face to the teams who raced every week for that title.
Mike: Well, they should have run better then.
Toni: Oh no.
Mike: Oh yeah.
Toni: No, I mean, I think you just pushed one of Amy’s buttons there.
Mike: I know.
Toni: I’d duck if I were you.
Kim: Mike opens cans of worms, Amy opens cans of whoop ass.
Amy: Hell yeah. Bring it!
Mike: Hey, if someone else could be as consistent as Harvick has been, they’d be a lot closer than 699 points. Even when he isn’t winning, he finishes top 10. Nobody else is doing that. Not even close. Harvick can do what he pleases, but I still say he runs better in Cup when he runs the Busch races too.
Toni: This is off the subject, but can I just say my Busch highlight of the week is watching Clint Bowyer‘s car roll off without him? Or with him actually.

See also
Busch Series Breakdown: 2006 Dover 200

Mike: Yeah, that was a hoot.
Amy: That was great.
Kim: Woooo- UT OH!
Toni: Even his team got a good laugh on that one.
Jeff: This whole weekend was just a “feel good” weekend for winners. Glad to see those that won actually win.
Mike: Yeah, it was a good weekend.
Toni: Yeah, it was a weekend for some drivers that really needed one.

Predictions for Kansas?

Mike: God this hurts, Gordon.
Amy: Gordon takes the trophy and the points lead.
Toni: Kenseth. I was close with Kenseth last week.
Jeff: Dale Jarrett. I’m kidding. Burton for two in a row.
Kim: I don’t want to say Gordon ’cause two of you already did.
Mike: Pick a random Roush driver Kim.
Toni: Yeah, that’s what I did. Because I probably would have picked Gordon too.
Kim: OK, then I will go with Martin.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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