Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: The Kansas Debacle, Dale Junior’s Bobble, & Was Biffle’s Wobble to the Finish Legit?

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

This Week’s Participants:
Nikki Krone (Fridays/David Starr Driver Diary)
Tony Lumbis (Mondays/Rookie Report)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Tuesdays/Running Your Mouth & Various/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Mike Neff (Tuesdays/Full Throttle & Thursdays/Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans)
Matt Taliaferro (Thursdays/Fanning the Flames)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Vito Pugliese (Wednesdays/Voice of Vito & Fridays/That’s History)

How should the race at Kansas have been completed on Sunday? Should they have called the race at 148 laps, run the race on Monday… or done something in between?

Amy: I think they did it right, under the circumstances.
Beth: But they probably should have specified a time for the race to end, not a lap number.
Tony: It ended the way it should have. NASCAR made every effort to finish as much as possible on Sunday; it was the best thing for the teams, drivers and especially the fans.
Beth: They definitely had to restart that race.
Mike: But I’m of the belief that if you are trying to compete with the stick and ball sports with this sham of a playoff system, then I think you finish it on Monday.
Matt T.: For a Chase race, I’d say complete it on Monday. Of course, NASCAR has to think of TV and fans, but it’s an awfully important event to cut in half.
Mike: I’m with you, Matt. If you are going to buy into this Chase mentality, they need to run it to the end.
Amy: However, I think they need to look at the schedule and either require Chase tracks to install lights or reschedule them out of the playoffs.
Beth: I do agree with that, Amy.
Amy: Wait, I did not say I was buying into the Chase. But if we have to have it, do it right.
Tony: If you’re going to do that, you have to set that rule before the season. Otherwise, you’re being inconsistent!
Mike: You’re so funny, Tony. Thanks for the laugh, Consistent with the rules… pishaw!
Tony: I do what I can. As consistent as possible I guess would be better… let’s not be inconsistent about ANOTHER thing.
Matt T.: What upset me was that it seemed NASCAR was making the rules up as they went along.
Beth: Well, Matt, they pretty much had to. The cautions were making it virtually impossible to guess how many laps they would run before they lost their daylight.
Tony: Yeah, you can’t fight darkness. That was a crapshoot, and NASCAR did the best they could.
Matt T.: I know… finish it on Monday! That’s a great idea! But whittling it down: 225, no 210, is insane.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: Weird, Wacky, Wild... & Perhaps NASCAR's Latest Mistake

Tony: Ended up to be the right call though, at least according to some drivers who said they couldn’t go much further.
Beth: That’s why I think they should do it based on an ending time when they KNOW it’s not going to the end.
Nikki: I was kind of surprised by that, but I guess they didn’t anticipate all the cleanups they would have with those big wrecks.
Amy: But anyway, had the speedway had lights, there wouldn’t have been any issue.
Nikki: They were already cutting it on daylight by going 210. We left when they declared it official – before any car cross the start/finish line – but by the time we made it to our car it was very, very dark. Keep in mind, the parking lots don’t have lights either. Fans were already going to have a hard time getting to their cars. Can you imagine all those drunk race fans trying to find their cars in the dark?
Mike: Maybe they could pass out flashlights and have all of the fans hold them up.
Amy: But I do agree with restarting after the last rain delay since they did have time to run a good number of laps.
Beth: NASCAR was in a lose-lose situation here. Had they not restarted, fans would have been complaining. They did restart, and fans are complaining. There’s no happy medium.
Amy: I guess it’s all who you’re a fan of. Tony Stewart fans were pissed, Jeff Gordon fans loved it.
Mike: I don’t blame them for restarting, but I think they should make Chase races run the full distance.
Tony: It was a very similar situation to the race I was at in Pocono, and as a fan, I’m really glad they did everything possible to get that race in on Sunday. Think about this though, if they implement that rule, what does that do to the engines, cooling them down and then running them again on Monday. You get unintended consequences that way as well.
Mike: It is a factor that has to be taken into account. Start building more durable engines. I personally feel all races should run full length, whether they finish on Wednesday or Sunday.
Beth: I would have loved to have seen them run the full length of the race, but running more Sunday was the best decision.
Nikki: NASCAR made the right call. We hear the drivers say all the time that they do it for the fans… by ending with the second red flag, they were doing the fans a disservice.
Tony: Exactly. They had to stick to the rules, halfway is official, that’s whay they’ve always stuck to and that’s what they needed to do.
Vito: They need to start the race at a decent hour, forego this frivolously self-absorbed hype of guys giving the same canned answer every week, and maybe, just maybe… they can get these things done with in reasonable amount of time.

Besides the fact the race distance was swirled in a boatload of controversy, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer maintain they were the true first- and second-place finishers. But are they right?

Vito: No.
Mike: No, Greg Biffle was rolling as he crossed the line. Get over it.
Tony: No, Biffle won. DONE. I want to know who even put that thought in their mind?
Vito: Exactly. That is bringing whining to a WHOLE new level. I’m sure driving for Hendrick and Childress they are accustomed to receiving preferential treatment come championship time… but give me a break. Unless the car that wins is being pushed… it doesn’t matter.
Beth: No. Biffle won the race, and NASCAR isn’t going to take the win away from him.
Nikki: Biffle won the race.
Matt T.: That’s a tough one, but it’s hard for me to consider Biffle the winner when he couldn’t maintain caution speed.
Amy: Absolutely they are. Coasting is not “reasonable” speed.
Beth: It all depends on your interpretation Amy.
Tony: Exactly. “Reasonable” leaves so much room for interpretation.
Beth: And according to NASCAR’s interpretation, he DID maintain a reasonable speed.
Matt T.: Did he? Then why was the pace car sprinting away? And JJ and Bowyer passing him?
Mike: He was rolling at a decent pace. He wasn’t being pushed. I don’t get the whole flap.
Amy: If you can’t maintain 45 mph then you are not maintaining a “reasonable” speed. Last fall, Talladega, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets spun, spins across the line and is NOT scored and he was going a HELL OF A LOT FASTER THAN BIFFLE!
Beth: Apparently, that’s not how NASCAR looked at it this time Amy.
Mike: The cars at Talladega were stopped and had to get back up to pace. Junior was scored, it was just 26th where he got back up to speed.
Amy: NASCAR’s reasoning for busting the Nos. 8 and 48 down a lap was they were going too slow. They crossed the line under caution faster than Biffle.
Mike: According to NASCAR Junior finished on the lead lap at Talladega last fall.
Amy: Last on it, though. And he didn’t cross the line in that position.
Mike: Yes, but he was on the lead lap because he was able to get rolling again.
Vito: Stewart wasn’t exactly maintaining a “cautious pace” last year under green when he won.
Matt T.: That’s under green, Vito. Totally different.
Nikki: I was always led to believe that as long as he crossed the line under his own power, he still wins under caution.
Tony: NASCAR will have to look at clarifying that rule for ’08, but under they current rule, there was no reason to disqualify him.
Vito: The bottom line is this: NASCAR determines who the winner of the race is. I thought we’d be used to this by now.
Matt T.: You have to maintain caution speed. I don’t necessarily like it, but that’s the rules set down. Biffle could not.
Vito: The rule reads “CautIOUS speed”… not “Caution Speed”
Amy: The rule reads “reasonable” speed, actually.
Vito: Sorry, that’s what I meant.
Tony: It’s like replay in the NFL, if there isn’t irrefutable evidence, then there is no reason not to make Biffle the winner.
Beth: That’s a perfect comparison, Tony.
Matt T.: But you can be passed and lose spots under caution; we’ve seen that happen. Biffle could not keep up and got passed.
Beth: Reasonable is just way too vague of a word for something that determines the outcome of a race. They definitely need to clarify that.
Vito: NASCAR words things ambiguously for a reason – for situations like these. There’s a reason why the field is frozen and you can’t pass under yellow as well.
Tony: In fact, if they really wanted to be picky, couldn’t they penalize the Nos. 07 and 48 for passing under caution?
Beth: That’s my understanding.
Mike: They certainly could have penalized them.
Matt T.: You can’t penalize the Nos. 07 and 48 for passing a car that was slowing past the pace speed, Tony. Biffle was off the pace. He can lose spots.
Amy: If they had all slammed on the brakes there would have been about a 30-car pileup.
Tony: But we can’t say that Biffle was off the pace until we define what the “pace” was. And as it stands that is unclear.
Matt T.: The pace was the pace car speed. The pace car was loooong gone.
Beth: Until NASCAR clarifies, that’s a rule left to interpretation. And not necessarily an interpretation everyone agrees with.
Amy: NASCAR isn’t going to clarify, but you’re right. If the rule read as it should, pit road speed under caution, this would not even be a question.
Mike: I just can’t believe we’re wasting all of this breath over this. Biffle won, it’s a done deal.
Vito: The thing I’m confused about is what would Biffle had done if the race didn’t finish under caution? Under green he’d probably have ran out after one more lap after the yellow came out. They didn’t really seem to concerned about fuel at all.
Mike: And Biffle didn’t run on the apron until the very end, so I don’t think he was worried either.
Nikki: Biffle was just stupid for worrying too much about the celebration and not enough about the actual win. But he has had a pretty miserable season, so I kind of forgive him.
Tony: That’s a good point Nikki. I think he made that more interesting than it had to be. Yeah, let this be a lesson for all competitors in this situation, just cross the damn finish line, don’t do anything fancy if you don’t need to.
Matt T.: I think he was out of gas. He said it was sputtering. I mean why would anyone drop off the pace as the leader and allow anyone else by coming to checkers???
Tony: Then afterwards said he had plenty to do a burnout. One of those deals where we’ll never get the truth I think.
Amy: If he’d run out on the backstretch, would the others still have been expected to crawl around after him?
Tony: I don’t think so Amy, but it does go back to translating the rule, at what point does the pace become “crawling?”
Amy: Right. Knowing the rule is open to NASCAR’s interpretation, why risk it if you’re telling the truth and had the fuel?
Beth: Like it or not, Biffle won and that’s not going to change. Until NASCAR defines “reasonable” it’s ultimately left up to them.
Tony: Yepp, it’s done. The Nos. 07 and 48 have bigger fish to fry, so don’t worry about it.
Vito: I think the only people who are really bent about this are Bowyer, Johnson and people who don’t like Jack Roush.
Amy: Your average baby could have outstripped that car. The cynic in me wonders if the call would be the same with a different leader…

Kyle Busch and Earnhardt Jr. had their own set of on-track issues over the weekend, an incident which Busch claimed would upset the future relationship of Junior with his No. 5 group. Was he just blowing smoke to the media, or would Junior actually do himself well to go over to Hendrick and apologize?

Tony: It would be good thing for Jr. or any driver to do, regardless of the team, and I think Jr. will.
Beth: It wouldn’t hurt to apologize. He admitted fault and said he felt bad for the team.
Mike: Junior apologized when he got out of the car. He said Tony Jr. is the one who’s going to have to rebuild the car. I don’t think it is going to cause any ill will.
Nikki: When the wreck happened, I thought to myself those guys must be real happy that their future driver just took all their hard work and dumped it.
Amy: Junior isn’t driving for that group next year, Casey Mears is.
Beth: That didn’t even cross my mind Amy.
Nikki: It’s still Hendrick and those guys are all going to work together.
Amy: He has to work with him, but most teams recognize a mistake when they see one.
Matt T.: Gimme a break. Kyle was stirring the pot about Junior upsetting the No. 5 team. Sure, they are disappointed and upset now, but it won’t be an issue next week much less next year.

See also
Did You Notice? The 2007 Lifelock 400 at Kansas and Beyond

Tony: I think Busch was taken FULL advantage of the one time this year where he wasn’t the bad guy.
Amy: Kyle SAID he was leaving Junior a line, but then he came up in front of him. That’s not leaving Junior the outside line, Kyle.
Beth: Right Amy, especially since he almost instantly admitted fault during his interview.
Tony: Yeah Amy, I didn’t get that one either.
Nikki: I think Junior should apologize.
Matt T.: Kyle came off like the baby he is.
Vito: Think it was just letting off some frustration. There is some irony because of who he wrecked, but it was a legitmate racing incident – Jr. doesn’t make a habit of wrecking people for no reason.
Mike: It was a racing deal. Junior made a mistake, admitted he did on national TV. I think it is a dead issue.
Matt T.: And Kyle made it out to be that way, Vito.
Beth: And Kyle was wrong.
Matt T.: Then he tried to turn the team against Junior, I’m over Kyle, as you can tell.
Amy: Junior is a class act, and the team knows it, because it’s a hell of a contrast from what they have now.
Vito: With how crazy the Chase is with everyone wrecking weekly, I think it, along with the Biffle deal, is being blown out of proportion to generate some excitement about the championship.
Beth: That’s for sure.
Matt T.: The Kyle/Junior deal is being blown out, the finish is up for discussion.
Tony: The question is, what will Kyle do if/when he gets around the No. 8 at a place like Martinsville.
Beth: He’d be smart not to retaliate.
Mike: I don’t think it is an issue at all. It’s not like they were battling each other and Kyle did something that Junior retaliated for. It was a mistake.
Tony: That would be the smart move.
Amy: NASCAR might let it slide if Kyle ran into Junior. They let Stewart and Denny Hamlin run all over Paul Menard.

Speaking of Kyle Busch, he was busted for an illegal intake manifold in the Busch Series, putting a taint on his win with Matt Kenseth. Which raises the question… should a Cup driver get caught with a violation in a lower series, should he – and his team – receive a more serious penalty as a result?

Matt T.: His Cup team?
Beth: Not in Cup.
Amy: No, penalties should not carry across series.
Nikki: Except for possibly a driver being suspended for doing something dangerous or something. He should lose the victory.
Beth: That should be the case over all of the series Nikki.
Tony: No, the rules need to be applied to everyone evenly, and if possible, consistently.
Amy: I heavily question the penalty. That team raced that same manifold a number of times and it was legal every time. Why is it suddenly not legal?
Matt T.: At some point (are you listening Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman?) NASCAR has to drop the hammer, and I don’t mean 25/$25,000.
Amy: If it WAS illegal, then he should lose the win, no question.
Beth: Absolutely, and that’s not because he’s a Buschwhacker either.
Amy: ANY driver with a funky engine should lose a win in ANY series, period.
Matt T.: That’s the problem: NASCAR won’t take wins away. They start doing that and we’ll see some people straighten up and fly right.
Beth: And that’s what needs to happen.
Nikki: You would hope they would.
Beth: Until they do, teams will continue to push the envelope and hope to get away with it.
Mike: I would like to see them take a win away, it would be interesting to see how people would react.
Amy: BUT, why on Earth is a manifold suddenly illegal after it’s passed numerous inspections.
Mike: I am curious how it was legal for several races and is now illegal, unless it was machined again.
Tony: Another good question.
Mike: Like I said, they must have machined it again is the only way I think it could happen.
Amy: Kyle’s had been deemed legal for over a year.
Tony: That actually opens a can of worms for a lot of post-race infractions.
Vito: An inspector physically put his hand on it three times during race weekend.
Amy: It was not re-machined according to the engineer who installed it.
Mike: Perhaps the metal shrank due to the cooler weather conditions.
Amy: Still sounds fishy.
Beth: Agreed.
Matt T.: The thing is, if Buschwhackers jimmy up the engine, body, etc. and win then get slapped with a money and points fine, it’s no big deal. So what do they have to lose by going illegal?
Amy: And why did it pass opening tech AND post-qualifying tech? It wasn’t re-machined right before the race?
Beth: That’s something to ask the officials.
Amy: Yes, it’s a Hendrick car, so NASCAR will nail them for a hair out of place… not the issue here.
Vito: Well, here’s the difference – if you can prove that it would improve.
Tony: That’s a good point. That’s what NASCAR has to start doing with these infractions that are somehow missed or don’t exist before the race but are there after.
Vito: In this case, I’m not so sure that five horsepower is going to really make much of a difference. Re-machining a manifold used on a different engine could be used simply to help it seal up better, not gain an “unfair advantage.”
Amy: But anyway, IF the part was illegal, NASCAR should have taken the win if it wasn’t, there is no issue at all, except that NASCAR nailed a team for nothing.
Matt T.: Exactly Amy. That’s the problem. As long as NASCAR won’t take wins, they will continue to get too creative. There no reason for them not to.
Amy: I agree, really give the teams a reason to make sure cars finish a race legal, unless a team can PROVE a part broke, then take the win.
Mike: It is just interesting that parts can make it through pre-race and then be illegal in post-race. As much time as they spend teching cars I don’t see how that happens.

Predictions for Talladega?

Mike: JUNIOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Beth: Whoever stays outta trouble.
Mike: JUNIOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Vito: I’ll roll the dice on this one. Martin Truex Jr.
Mike: JUNIOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Amy: I say Jeff Gordon.
Mike: JUNIOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Matt T.: Roll of the dice this week. I’m going with Jeffy but I’d love to see Bowyer make this even more interesting.
Mike: That’s for all of the peeps in Alabama.
Tony: Kyle Busch, based on his strong Daytona performance.
Matt T.: Suck up.
Mike: Yes I am.
Nikki: Stewart.
Beth: Bowyer and team have it in them.
Mike: You know who would actually have a real shot this weekend is Sterling Marlin.
Vito: Driving what?
Mike: With this car, drafting is going to be the key and Sterling can draft as well as anyone.
Tony: Yeah, that No. 09 and Sterling could be a lethal combination.
Mike: Is Mike Wallace running this weekend?
Amy: Yes.
Mike: Cool. He’ll be another one to watch. Wallace can plate race with the best of them.
Matt T.: Mike Wallace had a good finish at Daytona a year or two back in the No. 09. He’s a decent darkhorse.

Want to see which Frontstretch staff member is on board with your Chase picks? Click here to see what all your favorite staff members decided upon.

Not sure which Frontstretch writer to trust with predictions this week? Check out their success – or failure – with the current season standings listed below.

Writer Predictions Wins Top 5s Top 10s Average Finish
Tom Bowles 22 3 11 15 10.1
Tony Lumbis 22 1 10 14 10.3
Tommy Thompson 22 3 7 13 11.2
*Vito Pugliese* 27 2 12 18 11.3
Amy Henderson 29 4 13 21 11.4
Matt Taliaferro 19 2 7 11 12.1
Cami Starr 7 0 2 4 12.7
Mike Neff 24 1 7 12 15.3
Beth Lunkenheimer 10 1 2 7 15.6
Toni Montgomery 19 2 6 7 17.3
Kim DeHaven 2 0 0 1 23.0

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via