Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Playing It Unsafe, Saving NASCAR’s Small-Time Teams & the Cookie-Cutter Conundrum

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:
Tom Bowles (Editor-in-Chief; Mondays/Bowles-Eye View & Wednesdays/Did You Notice?)
Doug Turnbull (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV)
Bryan Davis Keith (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans & Sundays/Nationwide Series Breakdown)
Vito Pugliese (Tuesdays/Voice of Vito)
Matt Taliaferro (Thursdays/Fanning the Flames)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)

This weekend at Dover produced some great racing at the finish. But now, two of the next three tracks are at mile-and-a-half cookie-cutters. Was success at the Monster Mile a sign NASCAR should have a better variety of tracks in the playoffs, or are five 1.5-milers in 10 races a fair representation of what the entire circuit runs?

Amy: Of course they need better tracks – ones that test drivers’ skills.
Matt T.: Definitely need more diversity in the Chase. 17 of the races are run throughout the season on the 1.5 and 2-milers, but give us more spice.
Bryan: The Chase was meant to create more excitement, to create a better product to compete with the NFL during the fall. So, you want a better product, NASCAR? Stay off the intermediate ovals.
Doug: Kansas needs to be taken out, for sure. But Atlanta and Charlotte are tracks with a lot of history and the drivers love them. Texas and Homestead are also pretty exciting, but we should replace Kansas with a road course… or an off week.
Bryan: Atlanta and Lowe’s put on better races than Kansas. Atlanta’s got multiple grooves – and Lowe’s is Lowe’s.
Vito: I don’t see many of the 1.5 mile-tracks producing much in the way of racing. These cars just don’t work on high-speed banked tracks.
Tom: I think it’s not accurate to assume all 1.5-mile tracks are the same, though. However, I do agree we need a better balance.
Vito: We definitely need more variety – including a road-course event. How neat would a fall race at Watkins Glen look?
Tom: I agree. Vito. You put a road course in there, another short track, and then I think you’ve got a much better representation. And for goodness sake, take California out of the Chase! I can’t believe it’s a friggin’ Chase race now. We already have Loudon. We don’t need two boring races in the Chase.
Matt T.: But at least Loudon adds some diversity. I don’t think it belongs first, but that’s another topic. I’d be in favor of another short track, that’s for sure.
Bryan: The Chase was created for TV ratings. Screw variety and representation – pick the 10 tracks that are going to put on the best show and make them the Chase.
Amy: I would think that good races would produce better ratings than snoozefests at Kansas and California. Switch out ‘Dega for Daytona and add a road course for starters. Then add Richmond and Bristol for laughs.
Doug: Bristol and/or Richmond need to be in the Chase, for sure.
Vito: But Bristol isn’t the wildcard it used to be when it was a one-lane wreckfest. Come to think of it, Talladega seems a bit tame by comparison these days, as well. I’m not saying every race has to be a nail-biter, but there should be some variety beyond Atlanta/Texas/Charlotte/Homestead-type tracks.
Matt T.: Yeah, the 1.5-mile quad ovals all start to look the same after a while, Vito.
Amy: Daytona is a harder track to deal with than ‘Dega, anyway – so it should be the Chase plate track.
Bryan: The season should end at Daytona. Give Homestead the first Chase race, but hold another 500-miler at Daytona to close the season. You want ratings? Boom.
Amy: I agree! Darlington at Labor Day to set the field, then the Chase to Daytona would almost make the whole silly thing bearable.
Matt T.: No. No way.
Vito: Yeah, that’s kind of pointless, guys. I could see ending it in Charlotte, but if you take away the July 4th race at Daytona, that’s one more piece of the sport gone by the wayside.
Tom: I don’t agree the season should end at Daytona, either – but it needs to end at a nail-biter. One of the things I haven’t liked about Homestead is while the racing there is good, you aren’t guaranteed that knee-buckling, fans-on-your-feet last lap finish with the championship on the line. I think it should end at Talladega – or a short track.
Vito: I don’t know, Tom. 2005 was a race that produced both at Homestead.
Matt T.: Homestead is the ultimate anti-climax.
Bryan: Exactly, Matt. If it’s not going to be Daytona, it’s got to be some track that means something.
Doug: I like the idea of a ‘Dega ending, Tom. The finishes at plate races are always at least close, if not absolutely thrilling.
Matt T.: I can’t get on board with having the season end – and possibly the championship decided – at a plate track, though. I just can’t do it. There’s too much on the line for it to be decided on a plate track.
Vito: I don’t know that ending the season in the middle of nowhere in Alabama is what NASCAR is looking for, either. No offense to Alabamans, of course.
Bryan: Plate racing is a different style of racing, just like road-course racing and short tracking. Plate racing is part of the circuit. There’s no reason Talladega couldn’t host the final race.
Amy: Yeah, but it shouldn’t end with a higher-than-likely chance of a would-be champion getting taken out by a wreck caused by someone who doesn’t even belong in a Cup car.
Vito: The fact that there is a plate race at all in the final 10 races is more than enough drama.
Doug: Placing the final race at a plate track would bring the whole team orders scenario into full view though, for sure.
Bryan: Very good point, Doug.
Tom: What about ending the season at Richmond?
Doug: That’s a good idea, too. Races there are always pretty good.
Tom: How crazy would that be? The last race before the Chase at Richmond… and the last race for all the marbles at Richmond. Push their two races towards the fall, but make them so important fans will be dying to come.
Bryan: Or if we can’t have Darlington on Labor Day… how about the season finale there?
Matt T.: I’m with you, Bryan. The ultimate finale would be at Darlington because it tests every driver’s mettle, and NASCAR obviously isn’t going to put it where it belongs.
Vito: I think ending the season at Lowe’s is appropriate; it starts and ends at the two sites that represent the sport better than all others. The champion should be crowned at a premier venue that will get the coverage and the press. That’s why I think Charlotte is ideal.
Matt T.: I could live with Charlotte.
Tom: Well, the bottom line is that Dover was one of the top-three races of the year, if not the best. So no matter what they do with the Chase in the future, I hope we can always get some playoff races like that one.
Amy: It was the best race in months, Tom.
Doug: As boring as Dover can sometimes be, those final 30 or so laps were what NASCAR is all about.
Vito: I think what we had at Dover were three team cars that matched almost perfectly at the end.
Matt T.: I think we had four before Robby Gordon went all Robby Gordon on us, Vito.
Vito: Yeah, that was a little bit frustrating. I love Robby; but come on, is the racing-at-all-expenses thing really necessary all the time?
Matt T.: A lap down and wrecking a leader… again. I had this conversation with a bunch of readers this week.

Kyle Busch ran 31 laps Sunday with a smoking engine, knowing it could blow and dump oil onto the racing surface at any time – while Denny Hamlin ran 70 laps with rear-end gear lubricant leaking from his car and onto the windshields of others. Should NASCAR have allowed this, or should the Nos. 18 and 11 been black flagged to prevent the possibility of a dangerous crash?

Bryan: NASCAR? Penalize Toyotas? Never.
Vito: Eh, whatever. Nobody wrecked, and if somebody was going to wreck, it likely would have been them spinning in their own fluid.
Tom: Honestly, I didn’t think it was a big deal. It harkened back to the old days of not throwing a yellow flag for a hot dog wrapper every five seconds.
Amy: What? Absolutely, they should have been black flagged. Safety must come first. As it was, the No. 18 spilled oil all over a bunch of pit boxes.
Vito: Well, that’s why they have kitty litter and brake cleaner on hand, Amy.
Bryan: I agree with Tom. I have no problem with them holding off the black flag.
Doug: But these Chasers should be treated the same as they would treat other drivers, regardless of their status or place in the points. I sure hope that NASCAR was ignorant and not biased – but that’s a longshot.
Matt T.: They should have black flagged those guys, at the very least. I couldn’t believe they were left to run around that long, smoking the way they were. At least make them come in and take a look under the hood.
Tom: But Matt, here’s the deal: these guys are going for the title. What if Busch was capable of making it to the finish?
Matt T.: He wasn’t. He told the crew he was blowing up, that it was terminal.
Bryan: But as long as NASCAR’s points system rewards every position differently, you’ve got to allow drivers every chance to complete every lap.
Vito: And the fact is, Matt, they could still make laps. Back in the day, starters would be laying on the track and they wouldn’t throw a yellow flag. That’s just part of racing.
Matt T.: We saw Kasey Kahne lose a race at Dover a couple years ago because NASCAR didn’t throw a yellow for oil in turn 3. Could have been the same deal here. NASCAR came under fire for that.
Doug: And if another Chaser, or anyone else for that matter, slides and crashes in spilled oil, someone would want Busch or Hamlin’s heads on a stick!
Amy: I agree 100% with Matt. And what if he’d blown up on track, spun it out and killed himself?
Vito: What if the track exploded? An equally likely scenario.
Tom: Oy. We all need to get off our safety high horse and stop ignoring the fact this thing is inherently dangerous.
Amy: It is inherently dangerous, which is why the last thing NASCAR needs to do is make it more so when it can help it.
Bryan: Careful Amy. That kind of thinking got us the CoT.
Amy: Nothing wrong with the CoT this week, Bryan. Doug is also right. One of the pits that got oiled down was the No. 99’s, and he didn’t deserve to be taken out that way.
Matt T.: Again, at the very least they should have been called to pit road to check and see what exactly the issue was. Especially if they’re laying down fluid.
Vito: Oh whatever. You’re in the safest car in the planet and there’s styrofoam everywhere. If they’re worried about a little oil, then park it. It wasn’t like Joe Hazlewood was out there in the Exxon Valdez. It was a little bit of smoke.
Amy: The No. 11 was also spraying oil all over everyone’s windshield. Guys behind him couldn’t see.
Tom: Here’s the ugly truth: the call was inconsistent because the Chase isn’t about safety – it’s about both competition and entertainment. Kyle’s engine on life support was high drama, and it had the fans booing and into the race like crazy. Why have Busch pull off the track when you’ve got fans on the edge of their seats seeing if he could make it? I support Busch staying out there for other reasons, but I think that was NASCAR’s perspective.
Vito: And things like this have a habit of policing themselves. You guys must have not watched racing in the early 1990s. Back then, guys would be puffing smoke all race long on seven cylinders and the engine would last 300 laps.
Matt T.: But to have two cars running for what, 40 laps, smoking and throwing out fluid was just a little much, I thought. And I thought had it been non-Chasers, they would’ve been called to the pits for it. It was the length of time that they were allowed to run that I had a problem with, not the fact the teams themselves were trying to stretch it.
Vito: But nobody was even getting loose out there. Sometimes oil tanks get over filled a little bit, too, and some oil seeps out.
Bryan: There’s always fluids and stuff on the racetrack.
Vito: Rear ends burn up pretty quick if they run out of oil, and Kyle’s engine was digesting itself under caution.
Tom: Right, Vito. Half the time, I feel like NASCAR throws the caution for engine failure when they don’t even need to.
Amy: But Matt’s right, when a car is smoking out the tailpipe, it is not going to fix itself by running more laps.
Matt T.: And in the past we’ve seen NASCAR throw the flag for much, much, much less. It’s all about the situation for the sanctioning body, not so much the safety. I do tend to have a slight problem with that.
Tom: I have a slight problem with the whole “conservative caution” in general. What are we coming to… oh, no!!! It’s the last 25 laps and Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are running really close. Let’s throw the caution! OH… MY… GOD. Those two cars just touched. They could have crashed and hurt themselves. Vito, it’s getting like the old NASCAR video games in the ’90s where you touched someone and the caution came out.
Vito: Bill Elliott’s NASCAR Challenge did not have this feature, Tom.
Bryan: It’s that way in the new game too, Tom. It’s very easy to get black flagged for rough driving in NASCAR ’09.
Tom: Let’s be real – those guys on the X-Games… crowds of thousands come out and we watch them risk their lives to do things we’ve never seen before. It’s the element of danger that’s attractive. You take that away from NASCAR and what do you have?
Amy: Wrecking out because you are racing hard and wrecking out because someone doesn’t give a rat’s ass and spills oil on the track even though he knows he’s blowing up are two entirely different things.
Tom: Well, when did we stop acknowledging that we know what these racecar drivers are signing up for? Oh wait, when sponsors signed them for their marketing contracts and not for their driving prowess.
Vito: If you want danger, look at Formula 1. Cars sitting on the side of the track, they just leave them there. The race never stops unless the friggin’ track is blocked.
Tom: Well, the bottom line for me is that things could have happened… but they didn’t happen.
Amy: Have any of you been at the track when a driver died from something preventable? I have, and it’s not a nice day.
Vito: I think we’re all getting a little bent out of shape over nothing. Two cars were smoking and dripping some stuff. It wasn’t like they were out there throwing nails on the track or creating a 007-type smoke screen. You will see even less stringent rules enforcement at your vaunted local short track.
Tom: And if I’m Busch going for a title, I give NASCAR the middle finger and go until that thing doesn’t go anymore if they do give me the black flag.
Matt T.: I do too, Tom, but that doesn’t mean I agree NASCAR shouldn’t have black flagged the boy to begin with.
Amy: I think this speaks to a bigger issue, too. Apparently, NASCAR would do anything not to cost a JGR Toyota a spot on the track.
Doug: Amen to that.
Matt T.: I can’t get behind you there, Amy.
Vito: I think that’s a little blown out of proportion.
Bryan: The inconsistency of NASCAR’s ruling based on who the driver was is more concerning than their choice not to throw the yellow.
Vito: It isn’t like NASCAR hasn’t ever thrown a questionable Hendrick yellow.
Amy: They haven’t risked a driver’s safety to do it, Vito.
Matt T.: I’ve seen NASCAR throw cautions or black flags for much less. That’s what bothered me. It seemed to be favoring the Chasers. The product of a playoff, I suppose.
Tom: Right, Matt. I’m not totally on board with that either, but I guarantee you that’s where NASCAR was coming from.
Vito: They typically don’t penalize championship contenders. Look at Dale Earnhardt in 1990. They let his pit crew put tires on the car at the apron of the racetrack at Charlotte.
Doug: Well, NASCAR should officiate the race the same for all drivers, not just the beloved Chasers.
Tom: I think they need to calm down on throwing the caution flag for every engine failure and rear end problem greasing down the track.
Matt T.: A little smoke is one thing. Kyle coming over the radio for all to hear and saying, “She’s blowing up. Woooo!” should’ve told NASCAR that the inevitable was coming. Go ahead and get him off the track before the thing grenades and don’t risk it.
Bryan: But we’ve seen drivers think they’re blowing up only to have it be misdiagnosed. You can’t park someone because they think they’re blowing up.
Matt T.: Kyle lined up at the back of the pack on that restart to avoid taking anyone out because he knew it was going to go. He said so himself. That’s all you need to know. It was terminal.
Vito: Like I said, those things will take care of themselves.
Amy: I’m not convinced that it was only Chase politics. What if the No. 07 had been the one smoking, or the No. 17? Toyota is pouring money into the sport at the same time the others are eyeing cuts.
Doug: True that.
Matt T.: You all are seriously buying into the Toyota-favoring crap?
Vito: I remember at the spring Bristol race in 2005 Mark Martin was blowing up as the race was ending and puffing smoke like Kyle’s was. He limped home to finish the race and not DNF (and that was not a veiled Viagra pun). Jeff Burton‘s car in 1998 or ‘99 at Talladega was smoking more than a tire fire. He finished the race. It didn’t fix itself, but they didn’t park him either.
Tom: I think that if you’re smoking to the point that the driver behind you can’t see, that’s a problem. And if you’re spewing tons of oil, throw the caution flag. But a lot of these drivers are running off the pace when things are happening and any fluids coming out are out of the groove.
Bryan: If you’re going to throw a flag for fluids, I want to see footage of the puddles. Period.
Amy: The problem is, Bryan, you can’t always see the oil to throw a flag before someone wrecks in it. Someone blows up, you throw a caution, period.
Vito: Well if he did blow up, the first cars through it would have been three Chase contenders, so everybody is all in this together as far as I can see.
Doug: I can’t say agree that every blow-up deserves a caution. If there is oil spotted on the track, that’s a different story.
Amy: Again, I’ve seen a driver die from something preventable that NASCAR failed to address. Never want to see it again.
Tom: Look Amy, no one wants to see anyone die. No question about that. But you need to make the car safe. The minute they turn 43 cars loose, wrecks can happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. And whether we like ’em or not, the ugly truth is they’re part of what brings people back each week. The element of chance.
Amy: I disagree, Tom. You can’t prevent them all, but you can take measures to lessen the possibility.

NASCAR released a revised substance testing policy for 2009 and beyond that includes mandatory once-a-year testing for all drivers, crew members and officials – as well as random tests for all of these throughout the year. Is this a good policy, or was the old one enough?

Vito: It’s laughable that this policy hadn’t been in place for the past 30 years.
Bryan: No reason at all not to have it.
Matt T.: The old policy was, well, not really even a policy – and the new one has loopholes and gray areas, just like all of NASCAR’s rules.
Vito: NASCAR isn’t the only series that has been lax about substance abuse, though.
Amy: Perhaps knowing they could be randomly tested any or every week would have prevented the end of a few promising careers.
Vito: Stories abound about how Al Unser Jr. getting loaded on race weekends was part of his undoing. Those were followed by more public incidents of his behavior. And of course, who can forget Shane Hmiel?
Doug: How do drivers know what substances not to take under this policy? There’s not even a list. They know not to take heroin, but what if there is a similar situation to Ron Hornaday‘s?
Matt T.: My question exactly. Why won’t NASCAR release an official list of banned substances? This is soooo NASCAR.
Amy: Typical, isn’t it, Matt. Although they have come a long way from the days when it was OK to carry beer as an in-car refreshment.
Vito: Yeah. “I should take a protein shake. I should NOT take heroin.”
Doug: This obviously had to be done, though. If Aaron Fike got away for a while racing on heroin, that is enough reason right there.

See also
Tearing Apart the Trucks: Aaron Fike's Fall From Grace

Matt T.: NASCAR will rule at its discretion, which leads conspiracy theorists to speak of favoritism, etc. Just make it black and white for once, NASCAR, so there are no questions. How about antihistamines? I mean, can a driver get busted for racing after taking a cold remedy on race day? Nobody knows for sure and that’s the way NASCAR likes it.
Vito: And if Ward Burton comes back, how can you tell he’s not on something? Just kidding – I love Wode.
Doug: If he starts talking clearly, we know he is on something.
Amy: Yeah, that should be pretty self-explanatory. There are a few who may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier… but even they should be able to figure it out.
Vito: If you snort it, smoke it, or it makes you go outside and hug a tree, it’s banned.
Doug: Do you all think that there are any drivers that fall into danger of failing these tests?
Vito: And I wonder how many NASCAR greats would have been bounced out of the track had such a policy been in place? Let’s face it, this is a sport that was built on the distribution of illicit substances.
Bryan: Honestly, I can’t think of too many, Doug. A lot of drivers have been vocally supportive of this move.
Amy: Doug, I do think drivers are in danger with these tests. There have been too many over the last few years to make me think otherwise.
Doug: According to someone with Nicorette I talked to, there aren’t even any drivers who smoke really anymore.
Matt T.: There are drivers who like to smoke… just not Winstons or Marlboros.
Vito: Which is why we need Dick Trickle back in the series, ASAP.
Matt T.: Hell yeah.
Doug: I love a pic from 2000 I saw of Trickle in his No. 14 Conseco Pontiac in the garage with a nice cancer stick in his mouth. Classic.
Vito: ESPN used to catch him lighting up all the time under caution in his Phillips 66 car.
Bryan: Getting back on topic, I think drivers in the lower series would be more vulnerable to failures than the Cup drivers.
Tom: I think it’s going to be interesting to see how NASCAR handles it if one of the more popular drivers tests positive. Because you’re right – a whole lot of people are getting tested for the first time. Call me a skeptic, but I just don’t see NASCAR following through if one of their most popular drivers has a test result they don’t like. And I agree there are Cup drivers in jeopardy of failing, but will they get called on it?
Doug: I think you are right, Tom. Which, going back to the black-flagging Busch discussion… NASCAR has to handle this fairly or it is a joke. (Fill in the blank) star can race on drugs, but Scott Riggs can’t…
Bryan: This is a good step forward, but very, very gray. NASCAR’s not going to silence a lot of critics with this new policy.
Vito: In that regard, NASCAR is no different than any other sport. Look at baseball and their steroid policy. The only guy of any stature to get busted was Giambi, and he’s the only one that kind of half-heartedly admitted it.
Amy: About time NASCAR got into this century, though. Good move if it’s enforced uniformly.
Tom: Well, I’m glad NASCAR did something to keep their reputation from taking a hit. I don’t think we have a big problem, but we need to show due diligence in making sure one never pops up.
Doug: NASCAR, as you said, will probably make sure that we don’t know if anyone does.
Matt T.: I say stiffen it up a bit. Tell us what the parameters are and what is and is not allowed. Still way too much gray area here.
Vito: NASCAR has been taking too much of a public hit lately for a number of things, including that Mauricia Grant lawsuit. They have a big-time credibility issue, so in any event this is a positive move for them.

With the economy in turmoil, many smaller Nationwide Series teams are finding themselves without sponsors and putting their ability to race each week in jeopardy. Given that short fields are a possibility, what can NASCAR do – if anything – to help the little guy stay in the series?

Bryan: I said it back in the spring: cut the fields to 36 cars, and put that additional money into the purse for those 36 starters. They should also drop the CoT program for the Nationwide Series.
Doug: Well, the CoT in the Cup Series was supposed to reduce the racing costs for smaller teams, but that seems to be a farce – so I don’t know. I don’t like the idea of limiting Cup drivers. And Bryan, they can’t even get a solid 36-car field. The Truck Series had 31 trucks at LVMS, and if you delete all of the field fillers, there are barely 33 or 35 teams left in Nationwide.
Amy: I think Cup drivers should be allowed to race if they own the car and finance it.
Vito: Limit Cup Drivers to five appearances a year and state your affiliation at the start of the year. Are you a Cup driver or a Nationwide driver?
Tom: I think you need to keep the field at 43, because the second you trim it down it’ll never come back. Just look at the Truck Series. It got trimmed to 36, and all of a sudden, they need to trim it again because they’ve only got about 30 full-time teams.
Bryan: And now is NOT the time to be forcing teams to prepare for a total changeover of racecar.
Amy: I agree to a point, Bryan… if they implement the safety into the current car.
Doug: I sure wish sponsors of RCR and Roush were more understanding of the need to develop talent – but money doesn’t just talk, it swears.
Matt T.: I honestly don’t think there’s much that can be done by NASCAR at this point. The car owners can fix this, but they won’t because of the sponsor draw of having a top-tier Cup guy in the car.
Vito: The new CoT Nationwide cars look pretty cool – the Challenger, at least. Now, if Ford would actually put a Mustang front end on theirs instead of a Fusion nose, it’ll look awesome. It might not help the little guy, but it helps me.

See also
Voice of Vito: Nationwide Series Hails Return of American Muscle With New Car of Tomorrow

Tom: What I find so weird though is that teams that could be bankrupted by the new CoT were actually talking positive about it – like Johnny Davis Motorsports.
Matt T.: Cough – directive – cough.
Bryan: Exactly. There’s tons of teams out there that might not make it to 2009, much less to the CoT testing phase.
Vito: And the horse has been out of the barn since about 2005 with this “save the little guy” thing in NASCAR. It’s too late and technology has run amok to the point where to save it, you have to take it apart and start all over again.
Matt T.: Where is the line drawn between the “little guy” and the “big boys,” anyway?
Amy: Most of the small teams are trying to compete on a quarter of the budget of JGR’s out there… and barely if at all covering costs with the prize money for 20th place.
Tom: Here’s what I was going to say before – with Cup costs skyrocketing, you have companies like Subway signing on to be a sponsor for like three Cup races. It used to be with the amount of money they’re spending, they could sponsor a Nationwide Series team for 35.
Bryan: But Tom, is that a product of the economy or more sponsors getting smarter and recognizing that a three-race deal lands them all the benefits of 36?
Tom: That’s true, Bryan. Very good point, I’ve argued that as well. So NASCAR has kind of a double-edged sword on its hands.
Matt T.: And if the start-and-parks stop, the little guy is dead for sure. That’s how “little guy” stays in business.
Bryan: Matt, there’s numerous little guys out there that aren’t starting and parking to stay in business.
Matt T.: Are there?
Amy: Yes, Matt.
Bryan: Specialty Racing, Morgan Shepherd‘s team…
Tom: The problem with this whole thing started when NASCAR let all the Cup drivers run for the title.
Bryan: True, but they’ve at least put the effort forth when possible. MSRP Motorsports on the other hand is a disgrace.
Doug: And I find it nauseating that a proven driver like Johnny Sauter is running a start and park No. 08 car every week. Burney Lamar was young talent – now, he runs a lousy No. 05 car every week. Casey Atwood can’t find a ride.
Tom: I mean, who does the Nationwide Series have to market? Who? Joey Logano staying in the series next year would have been huge.
Amy: Amen, Tom.
Vito: The Nationwide Series should be sponsored by Amtrak because it is a complete train wreck.
Doug: How about all of the drivers that run practice cars for Roush on non-companion weekends? They need to be honing their talent. It is a real debacle. They keep marketing Brad Coleman in the No. 27 even though he left the team.
Bryan: There are plenty of guys ready to run Nationwide. It drives me nuts not getting to see them out there.
Tom: The development drivers are now all out of rides, and the superteams don’t feel any need to develop because they have their Cup drivers in place. They just want to get their young guys more practice.
Amy: And there are the guys who have made the series a career, too, who have won multiple races and now can barely stay afloat running 20th.
Tom: The only good thing about the CoT for the Nationwide Series is that it forces everyone to start over.
Vito: I know. I get tired of it. The racing sucks in that series, too, so let it die a slow death and then resurrect it into something viable again. I think the advent of these new cars will help a bunch to give it an identity.
Tom: I think if the new car is introduced, NASCAR should do like the IRL and offer a $1 million guarantee to every team that attempts every race of the 2009 season.
Matt T.: Here’s a thought: Put the NNS on SPEED and the Trucks on ESPN and ESPN2.
Vito: They should also focus on marketing the cars as well as the driver. That was the key to the success of the Trans Am series in the late ’60s and early 1970s. They didn’t have a drivers’ title – it was a manufacturers’ crown, and that was it. With the platoon of drivers the bigger teams use to run their seasons, the championship in the Nationwide Series has become a bit of a farce anyway. It’s whatever Cup guy runs more races wins the title.
Bryan: Well, NASCAR has absolutely, positively got to do something to save its few remaining independent teams. And they’ve got to curb Cup influence in some capacity.
Matt T.: I really don’t think it’s possible to save the small teams at this point. Costs are only going to continue to go up, and the big teams have all the sponsors and their dollars.
Tom: If they don’t save the small teams, Matt, I fear the series is dead.
Vito: At least the teams they have in the Truck Series are competitive, entertaining and come with a points battle that is genuinely compelling.
Amy: NASCAR needs to spend a lot of time thinking about what to do with the series.
Tom: The Nationwide Series… where to start. They need drivers. They need sponsors. They need direction. Geez.
Vito: They need to stop thinking and start acting.

OK, predictions for Kansas?

Vito: I am going to go out on a limb and say Jimmie Johnson.
Doug: I think Edwards has his day – with a close challenge from Clint Bowyer at his home track.
Amy: I’m going to say Kenseth gets a win – but doesn’t make a dent in the points, as the top three all get top fives.
Bryan: Biffle is going to make it three in a row. Man, are they hot.
Vito: Where in the hell did Biffle come from this year, anyway?! And do not tell me Vancouver, Wash.
Bryan: Three words: Fantasy. Racing. Savior.
Matt T.: Shoot, why not Biffle again? Those boys are feeling it. Yeah, I’ll jump on that bandwagon. Gimme Biffle.
Tom: I’m going to change pace and go with Johnson. Remember, at California Johnson struck back and won at an intermediate track. He’ll be strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if Edwards is second, though.
Matt T.: Don’t count out Roushian No. 3, either: Mr. Kenseth.

2008 Mirror Prediction Chart

The Monster Mile revved up a monster duel in our season-long championship predictions Chase. While Amy Henderson went the safe route by picking points leader Edwards, Bryan Davis Keith went out on a limb with Biffle – and the faith paid off with his season-high fifth correct prediction of the season. As a result, with eight races left he’s moved into the lead by just one point over Henderson in a battle that couldn’t be any closer. This week, we’ll see if Keith’s blind faith in the Biff continues to get rewarded; he’s chosen him to go three-for-three at Kansas this weekend, while Amy’s putting all her marbles in Roush Fenway teammate Kenseth.

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Bryan Davis Keith 3,912 -0 25 5 14 21
Amy Henderson 3,911 -1 29 2 11 16
Tony Lumbis 3,520 -392 26 4 9 16
Vito Pugliese 2,704 -1,208 21 1 8 11
Mike Neff 2,418 -1,494 19 1 6 9
Matt Taliaferro 1,940 -1,972 15 0 4 8
Tom Bowles 1,667 -2,245 15 0 3 6
Kurt Smith 1,562 -2,350 14 0 4 6
Tommy Thompson 710 -3,202 6 0 2 3
Beth Lunkenheimer 341 -3,571 3 0 1 1
Danny Peters 190 -3,722 1 1 1 1
Ren Jonsin 155 -3,757 1 0 0 1
Jeff Meyer 94 -3,818 1 0 0 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.

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