Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Changing Plate-Racing Rules, Mayfield’s Murky Future & Truex’s Future Potential

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
Beth Lunkenheimer (Tuesdays/Running Your Mouth & Various/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Vito Pugliese (Wednesdays/Voice of Vito)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)

Saturday night’s race at Daytona was the second restrictor-plate race in a row in which the leader was bumped and sent airborne as the field came to the checkers. Should NASCAR rethink its plate-racing rules with the new car?

Vito: No. Drivers should think twice about turning right on a track where all of the turns are left.
Jeff: Agreed.
Beth: Yeah, Kyle Busch maybe should have thought twice before he drove down to block.
Mike N.: They certainly need to rethink the package a little, but I would not say Busch got airborne. There are probably 30 wrecks a year where a car gets that far off the ground and they aren’t only on plate tracks.
Vito: No different than Ricky Rudd in 2000’s Bud Shootout when he got on his roof.
Mike N.: Imagine 2001, before the SAFER barriers.
Vito: That part of the wall was not a SAFER portion, actually. He hit it about 50 feet before it goes to SAFER barriers again. So, Kyle got lucky his car rolled a bit and turned some more before clobbering it.
Amy: I will say the same thing I said after Talladega: the yellow-line rule needs to go. While it didn’t cause this week’s wreck, getting rid of it would have avoided that one. This one was two guys doing what they needed to do to win.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: 2 Scary Wrecks, 1 Busch-League Maneuver and a Lesson in Handling Adversity

Vito: Don’t block and swerve all over the track and this won’t happen either, Amy. It kind of polices itself. This had nothing to do with restrictor plates. I mean, just imagine what that would have looked like in 1985.
Jeff: The “down” block was OK. It was the “up” one that was one too many.
Amy: Kyle obviously didn’t learn from Carl Edwards that you only get one shot at the block. It was messy and avoidable, but NASCAR can’t do anything about it unless they make blocking completely illegal – and nobody wants to see that.
Mike N.: They can’t police blocking, so there is no sense in making it illegal.
Jeff: And making blocking illegal ain’t gonna stop it from happening….
Amy: They can’t police the yellow-line rule, either, Mike. But since when has that stopped them?
Jeff: They could if they wanted to, Amy. The two are totally different.
Amy: I think, if anything, they need to work on the cars to keep them on the ground better.
Vito: Nah, that was just physics. Turn right at 185 mph and it’s going to do weird things.
Jeff: Airborne was not a problem here, Amy.
Mike N.: Right, it wasn’t really airborne. That was just the result of the impact.
Amy: Edwards got airborne, though.
Mike N.: Edwards was Big Air Borne.
Vito: Yes. He was legitimately in a low earth orbit.
Beth: And Edwards had some help getting there, too, let’s not forget.
Jeff: But he was on the way down when Ryan Newman hit him.
Vito: Speaking of hits, did anyone ever hear from Kasey Kahne?
Mike N.: He’s still scrubbing rubber off his visor, I think.
Jeff: And changing his shorts!
Vito: He had a face full of center section there. That was just about as bad as Ryan getting a tire in the head.
Beth: Kasey didn’t have a whole lot to say after the race.
Vito: Neither did Kyle. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even know where he was walking to.
Beth: Kasey pretty much played it by the book: “It was a decent day for our Budweiser Dodge tonight. We just struggled a bit with speed on the straightaway, but fast in the corners which made it tough to race all night. We finished the race, but it was an awful hard hit for a stock car that I took when I got caught up in that wreck [at the end]. To get a 15th-place finish and gain in the driver points standings is pretty cool [though]. It could have been a lot worse.”
Vito: Those post-race quotes are so cheesy. They are the same for everybody, just insert sponsor name and finishing position.
Mike N.: Well anyways, Kyle wasn’t really airborne, but NASCAR still needs to look at keeping these cars on the ground when they get backwards. Kyle was definitely at fault, though; Tony Stewart moved closer to him, but Kyle definitely moved into the No. 14 and caused the wreck.
Amy: NASCAR doesn’t need to do anything with the rules in this case. This was a case of two guys hungry for a win and one got stupid and threw a block when he shouldn’t have.
Vito: It wasn’t even a stupid move. Busch was trying to block the same outside side-draft that beat him in 2007. He just got a little too far up. Had he waited for Tony to get farther along, it would have worked.
Beth: Definitely tough luck for Kyle – but I’m glad everyone walked away from this one.
Amy: Amen to that.

Jeremy Mayfield‘s victory in court – winning an injunction that will allow him to race (at least temporarily) – shed new light on NASCAR’s drug policy and testing procedures. Does the policy need changes?

Amy: Obviously, it does. It has got to be able to hold up in court. Otherwise, any driver who gets suspended will be able to race under the precedent that was just set.
Vito: Maybe, since we don’t know what drugs are legal and which ones are not. I have a feeling this is going to end badly for NASCAR.
Beth: Well, they really ought to come out with a list of banned substances – but they’ve already said that isn’t going to happen.
Mike N.: There is a list, guys – it’s just generic. And they’re never going to put out a specific list, because then people will just take other things and say they aren’t on the list. I just can’t believe Mayfield found a judge that thinks it’s OK for him to go to the track after testing positive for meth, but this is America. Maybe Charles Manson can get that judge to listen to his probation hearing next time.
Vito: I have a hard time believing Mayfield is a meth head. Octane 93, maybe, but not High Speed Chicken Feed. This isn’t Aaron Fike getting busted with a truck full of needles, spoons and smack at a fun park.
Amy: I’m still not convinced it wasn’t a false positive too, Vito. Of course, if it wasn’t, Mayfield shouldn’t be racing – period.  But if it was, NASCAR needs to figure out their testing procedure.
Beth: Agreed, Amy.
Mike N.: I’m not saying it isn’t a false positive… it probably is. But if Mayfield would have let NASCAR know going into the test what he was on, I might have a little more tolerance for the man.
Beth: He called the doctor right after the test because that’s what he was told to do by the tech that administered it. From what I’ve read of this case, it seems NASCAR made some mistakes in getting the second sample tested – that’s the key.
Vito: Well, there is way too much hearsay and innuendo in this case. They will end up settling out of court and dropping it.
Amy: In the meantime, NASCAR needs to look long and hard at other sports’ drug policies, see how they test and what works. They need to at least be at federal workplace standards.

See also
Jeremy Mayfield Injunction a No-Win Situation for NASCAR Racing, Drug Testing

Beth: The main thing that needs to be changed is that NASCAR needs to lay out in black and white exactly how it will test both samples, so there is no question about it in the future.
Mike N.: I have no clue how the whole testing thing works, but it would seem like they need to have a little better test to figure out Claritin-D vs. meth.
Vito: One more point on this case: Mayfield’s been a little too vociferous and adamant about his innocence for me to believe that he’s guilty. I doubt the guy would be shooting his mouth off and acting as aggressively as he has been in his defense if he was lying and trying to cover it up.
Amy: That’s a good point, Vito.  And I’d think it would be fairly easy to produce the prescriptions from the doctors who wrote them.
Beth: Besides, if Jeremy weren’t telling the truth, don’t you think there would be some inconsistencies in his stories? He has never once strayed from saying it was the two meds combined.
Mike N.: The thing about that, Beth, is it took him a while to do it. And it seemed like he lawyered up first before he started talking.
Vito: Mayfield’s an owner now with sponsor obligations, Mike. He can’t go off like a maniac. Then it will look like he’s on speed.
Amy: Didn’t someone take both drugs as a controlled experiment and test positive for meth as well? So, despite what the lab said, it was proven possible to produce a false reading?
Vito: Yeah, Bubba the Love Sponge.
Amy: If that’s the case, NASCAR has to fix their procedure. And it works both ways: they need to make sure that someone who does race high cannot get an injunction to keep racing.
Vito: This case is a clear-cut example of NASCAR’s arrogance and “we know better” philosophy blowing up in their face. This isn’t 1988 with Tim Richmond; it’s 2009 and they are subject to as much scrutiny as any other professional sport now.
Beth: Honestly, Jeremy just doesn’t look like a meth head usually does.
Vito: It isn’t like the rest of the drivers are throwing him under the bus, either. They all backed away from Shane Hmiel and Kevin Grubb when they had their run-ins.
Mike N.: No, because they all know they could be next – with a false positive or not. I don’t know any methheads, so I don’t know what one looks like, but I hear they have crappy teeth and sores all over.
Vito: Check out “Facesofmeth.com.” Flat tops are not a side effect.
Amy: What is flat top a side effect of? Besides bad fashion sense?
Jeff: Low ceiling fans.
Vito: A buddy of mine always used to get flat tops. I told him, “Girls want to run their fingers through hair… not balance stuff on it.”
Mike N.: Anyways, I don’t know if Jeremy is innocent or guilty. I hope he’s innocent. But I think that the judge has undermined the integrity of NASCAR’s testing and all other pro sports. And I won’t be surprised to see other athletes suing to be reinstated.
Jeff: They have not undermined all of the other sports though, Mike – because all other sports have a defined policy.

Michael Waltrip will retire in 2010, putting Martin Truex Jr. in the newly-renumbered No. 56 NAPA Camry full-time. Is this a good move for MWR? Is it a good move for Truex?

Amy: I’ve thought on this one, and I go back and forth.
Mike N.: Great move for MWR, but don’t think it is a good move for Truex. Seems pretty lateral on his part.
Beth: It certainly can’t hurt to put someone else in that car, but I think it’s a better move for MWR more than for Truex.
Amy: Michael retiring is great in many ways. I agree, though, that MWR seems to be getting a better deal than Truex is – it’s a lateral move for him at best. One crazy boss to another.
Jeff: Truex ain’t all that good anyway.
Mike N.: No, he’s not, but he’s an upgrade from Mikey. He is a two-time Busch champion.
Jeff: And that proves?
Mike N.: That he’s been a champion on some level in the upper echelon of NASCAR.
Amy: So is Dale Earnhardt Jr.… and…?
Mike N.: Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears are not, yet they get better rides than Truex.
Jeff: They ain’t that good, either. Maybe they have a better agent.
Amy: Only one champion in the Busch/Nationwide series has gone on to win a Cup title, so it’s impressive but not a tell-all. As for staying at DEI that extra year, I think part of that was loyalty. Truex was loyal to the organization that gave him his start, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If anything, it’s admirable.
Mike N.: Oh, I completely agree about sticking with DEI, but now that he’s moving on, he should hold out for something better. I just think Truex has the potential to be a title contender for a top-flight organization and I think he’s selling himself short. Then again, his teammate is in the Chase right now… never mind. Maybe he does suck.
Amy: I don’t think Truex is that good, Mike, but I do wonder what he’d do in better stuff. He’s not Jeff Gordon, but I don’t think he’s a bad driver, either.
Jeff: He’s done nothing in his career to impress me.
Mike N.: I’d rather have seen him in the third Stewart-Haas car. Or the RCR car when Richard comes to his senses and dumps Mears.
Beth: Well, one thing’s for sure: maybe the problem with the No. 55 is more the driver than the car. David Reutimann isn’t doing half bad in the No. 00.
Mike N.: Yeah, Reutimann runs about mid-pack every week.
Amy: I do agree with that, Beth, but the No. 00 lucked into one win so far. Not exactly great numbers.
Jeff: How about Marcos Ambrose? Someone needs to snap him up.
Mike N.: Ambrose is a stud in waiting.
Beth: I can’t wait to see Ambrose in a better car.
Amy: Agreed… heck, the man prospects for gold in his spare time. That’s just cool.
Mike N.: He needs to go to my old house in Mint Hill. I always wondered if there was gold in my creek.
Jeff: Why didn’t you look?
Mike N.: Didn’t have the cool equipment.
Jeff: A bowl?
Mike N.: You need a specially-designed pan, a pickaxe and a funny hat. I walked the creek, but I didn’t see any large nuggets.
Jeff: Get ‘em all on eBay.
Mike N.: I’m just going to wait for Marcos to invite me instead.

The Milwaukee Mile closed its gates after June’s Nationwide Series and CWTS races, and it looks unlikely that it will host those races next year. So where should they race instead… and where will they?

Amy: They should race at Rockingham, but they will probably race somewhere way less cool.
Jeff: I’d say Iowa, but we already got a full complement up there.
Mike N.: They should continue to race at the oldest track in North America.
Amy: Agreed, Mike; but NASCAR isn’t going to waive sanctioning fees for that to happen.
Mike N.: Nor should they. But Milwaukee makes enough money that they should pay them. Since they appear to not be racing there, though, then they should go back to Rockingham and North Wilkesboro.
Beth: I’m sure Rockingham would be happy to host them.
Amy: Not only that, but the Rock is about ready for that level of racing again.
Mike N.: Eh, the Rock needs SAFER barriers still. That is a substantial investment I don’t know Andy Hillenburg is ready to make.
Amy: The downside for the track is that it also loses money from teams for testing if they’re awarded a race (as long as the testing ban stays next year).
Mike N.: I think you’re going to see some testing next year.
Amy: I don’t know, Mike. They seem to be doing OK without, and if the economy doesn’t improve drastically, I wouldn’t count on it.
Mike N.: If they are going to make changes to the car over the winter, I think they’re going to have to allow some testing.
Beth: I’m actually OK with the testing ban. I thought it would be a huge hit to the teams, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact, most of the teams seem to be catching up to those that were ahead a bit.
Amy: Back on topic, the other place I wouldn’t mind seeing those series run is Pocono.
Mike N.: I don’t know why they don’t run at Pocono.
Beth: Maybe it’s just me, but I’d honestly love to see the Trucks at Infineon just once.
Amy: I agree with that, too, Beth: I’d love to see a couple of road courses for the Trucks. What about a road-course race for just those two series instead of Infineon, though. Road America, maybe? I like them away from the Cup Series as much as possible.
Beth: That would be fine with me.
Mike N.: I think they should run a bunch of the Truck and Nationwide races as companion events to one another, but they just don’t make enough money on their own.
Beth: I’ve been saying that for almost two years, Mike.
Amy: I do think if you have road courses, you need at least two, because they build special chassis for that, and to build cars for one race would be prohibitive.
Mike N.: Definitely. But if they aren’t going back to Milwaukee, which is a true shame, then they should try and make it doable for the Rock as their first priority. If not there, then an old-school track like South Boston or Hickory.
Beth: I agree, Mike. Just please don’t give us another cookie-cutter track!
Mike N.: I don’t know if any of the cookie cutters want them.

OK, predictions for Chicago?

Mike N.: Jimmie Johnson.
Jeff: Stewart.
Amy: I think Greg Biffle will finally grab one.
Vito: Mark Martin… for Mike.
Mike N.: Thanks brother.
Beth: Gordon. No, scratch that… I’m going with Stewart.

Mirror Predictions 2009

Welcome to our third consecutive 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

Through 18 races, the All-Star Race, and the Shootout this season, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Beth Lunkenheimer 22 19 1 7 10
Bryan Davis Keith 20 -2 17 3 7 8
Amy Henderson 19 -3 20 3 6 9
Kurt Smith 17 -5 17 2 5 9
Tom Bowles 14 -8 6 1 4 4
Mike Neff 9 -13 14 0 4 7
Jeff Meyer 8 -14 13 0 3 6
Vito Pugliese 6 -16 10 0 1 5
Tony Lumbis 0 -22 1 0 0 0
Phil Allaway 0 -22 1 0 0 0
Matt Taliaferro -3 -25 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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