Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: How to Beat Hendrick, Parking Double Duty & Dreamin’ of a Better California

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!

NEW THIS WEEK: We have a race fan joining our panel of journalists! We’re pleased to welcome our first monthly participant, Kevin, who frequently comments on our articles with the nickname “Kevin In SoCal.”

This Week’s Participants:
Tom Bowles (Editor-In-Chief; Mondays/Bowles-Eye View & Wednesdays/Did You Notice?)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Tuesdays/Running Your Mouth & Various/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Bryan Davis Keith (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans & Sundays/Nationwide Series Breakdown)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Kurt Allen Smith (Wednesdays/Foto Funnies & Fridays/Happy Hour)
Kevin In SoCal (Fan Participant)

Jimmie Johnson‘s win at Auto Club Speedway was the fourth win of his career at the track and moved Johnson into the points lead, with Hendrick-supported cars 1-2-4-5 in the standings. Is this Hendrick’s Chase to lose, or does “independent” Juan Pablo Montoya still have a chance to wreak havoc on their dreams of a 1-2-3 Chase finish?

Bryan: Johnson’s already won the title. It doesn’t matter what anyone – Hendrick or not – does.
Kurt: I said it was Jimmie’s Chase to lose two weeks ago, and a bunch of people chewed me out. I think the only way Jimmie loses is if he gets taken out at Talladega. Look where the schedule goes next: Charlotte and Martinsville.

See also
Happy Hour: Is Anyone Even Willing to Challenge the No. 48 Team?

Mike N.: Johnson hasn’t been that dominant at Charlotte the last few years, Kurt.
Bryan: Johnson’s not a top-two guarantee at Lowe’s anymore, but he’s still got top five in the bank.
Kevin: Of course Juan Pablo has a chance, too, same as the other guys who are within 100 points. About a snowball’s chance in hell… but a chance nonetheless.
Jeff: Juan can win it, actually. I think I might even have to start rooting for him.
Tom: Six weeks from now, when Johnson is celebrating down in Homestead, we’ll look back at this race as the one where the tide turned.
Beth: Yeah, I think at this point Johnson has taken the lead for the final time this season.
Mike N.: I’ve always maintained that Johnson will win, but Montoya could definitely pull the upset. He’s got the aggressiveness and their equipment is good.
Kurt: The equipment isn’t good enough at EGR. But Hendrick is great at the plate tracks, so Jimmie could well win at ‘Dega.
Bryan: I was surprised to see JPM run as well as he did – they had new cars each of the first three weeks of the Chase for him – but they didn’t drop any in performance this week.
Tom: I love Juan Pablo’s Cinderella story, but he doesn’t have a chance in hell to beat the Hendrick juggernaut unless he bumps them out of the way.
Amy: Here’s what I noticed on Sunday, for what it’s worth: Every pit stop under yellow, Montoya’s crew gained him spots or held steady. Johnson lost spots every time. If that trend continues and it all comes down to Homestead, Montoya may well beat Johnson.
Beth: I don’t think so, Amy. Despite problems on pit road, that team is strong enough to get up front when it counts.
Tom: Here’s the thing with Montoya: At every single track we go to in this Chase, it seems like he’s never finished in the top five before. And at some point, you’re not going to have your career-best finish every single week.
Amy: I do think Montoya is going to show a weakness at some point. His record on all of the Chase tracks is just not as good as the others. As for Johnson, the driver can only make up for mistakes so many times. I think right now, I’d still bet Mark Martin for the title for that reason.
Mike N.: Martin will choke like he always does.
Bryan: Plus, Martin doesn’t know how to play the Lotto.
Tom: I think Johnson will have a 100-110 point lead over both Martin and Montoya heading to ‘Dega. Montoya’s going to have to cause the wreck that knocks out the No. 48 for him to have a shot.
Beth: And I wouldn’t put it past him, Tom.
Amy: It could all go away with one turn of the wheel.
Kurt: Montoya’s not going to do that. He’ll race hard, but he isn’t going to intentionally wreck someone to win.
Bryan: Um Kurt, remember that race in Mexico City in 2007 where JPM ran over his teammate to win? Of all the guys in the Chase, JPM would wreck someone.
Jeff: NASCAR better think about what they are doing if they let JJ win four in a row.
Kurt: What can they do, Jeff? It’s not like Jimmie drives a Ford. NASCAR can’t go after him.
Kevin: People turned on the Patriots once they started a dynasty and now they’re turning on Johnson.
Jeff: Exactly, Kevin.
Tom: Yeah, but the difference is people still tuned in to see if the Patriots could make history. People are tuning out for the same reason this year.
Amy: Let them turn – Jimmie’s out to win championships, not fans. And I still love the Patriots, for whatever that’s worth.
Bryan: Bill Belichick is to the NFL what Chad Knaus is to racing.
Kurt: The No. 48 team is doing what they should do – they’re stinking up the show. Chad Knaus: Best Crew Chief Ever.
Mike N.: I hope he does it. I appreciate Knaus more every week. In my opinion, Belichick can’t hold Knaus’s jockstrap.
Jeff: Crew chiefs wear jockstraps?
Kevin: I wonder if we’d be having this same conversation if it were Jeff Gordon, Martin or Dale Earnhardt Jr. that could win four in a row?
Beth: Sure we would, Kevin. I, for one, would rather see a change up top and I’ve talked to plenty of people that agree.
Kurt: I think any driver winning four in a row would bore people, Kevin. Except maybe Junior.
Tom: Back to Montoya: here’s his Charlotte track record. 28th, 37th, 30th, 34th and eighth in the rain-delayed race in the spring. At some point, he’s going to run into a track with that type of history and just not be able to get over the hump.
Kurt: Like I was saying at the top, it’s Jimmie’s championship to lose – as anyone could have said when the Chase started.
Bryan: Jimmie’s to lose? Jimmie’s got it won.
Tom: Kansas opened the door a little bit for everyone. The No. 48 team made a mistake, but then they bounced up and shut the door before anyone could push against it. That’s what they do and that’s why they’re going to make history. It’s just that most fans hate it.
Kevin: Plus Johnson is from California and 99% of NASCAR fans hate California!
Tom: Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports could have the most dominant finish to a season since Carl Kiekhaefer in the ’50s. 1-2-3-4 in the points? I could see it. See it real easy.
Kurt: Tony Stewart isn’t Hendrick, Tom. Close… but….
Amy: I still think Martin’s the favorite – better pit stops, same equipment as Johnson and HMS giving him the very best car and motor every week.
Mike N.: Good God Amy, let it go. Mark doesn’t get any better stuff than anyone else.
Tom: Actually Mike, a very highly-placed source told me at the beginning of this year Hendrick was sending the new, best equipment to Martin. The bigger problem is he’s in awe of his own teammate. It’s almost like he feels Johnson is unstoppable. So while the No. 5 team is good, I just don’t see him overtaking the No. 48 at this point. Yet another runner-up finish in the cards.
Bryan: Johnson doesn’t need new equipment, Tom. Chad’s got the older cars figured out just fine.
Tom: By the way, think about how perfect this could work for HMS? Jimmie wins four in ’09, Martin gets his first in ’10, Junior gets one in ’11 before it looks like he’s ready to retire. If they stay on top, they’re headed for a storybook next few years.

Gillian Zucker claimed Sunday there was a plan in place to change the banking at Auto Club Speedway to 23 degrees, but it was shot down by ISC due to “safety concerns.” Should NASCAR reconsider that in the wake of another race where both competition and attendance struggle to meet expectations, or is this track capable of delivering an exciting Cup race as is – on par with the Nationwide Series event Saturday afternoon?

Jeff: ISC has new buildings and logos to worry about instead.
Amy: OK, here’s why Zucker is nuts: banking that place up and putting restrictor plates on the cars is the last thing we need.
Beth: Wow, Amy. It’s rare we agree on anything here.
Kevin: I agree too. Only if you’re willing to front the $250 million to blow up the track and rebuild it as Richmond or Iowa.
Kurt: I think you’re right, Amy, but I’m not sure they’d be opposed to that idea. Fontana isn’t my favorite, but it’s better than plate racing.

See also
Happy Hour: It Isn't Auto Club Speedway's Fault

Bryan: I’ll take plates over the current configuration.
Tom: You know, I have to admit my opinion on this topic changed after the Nationwide race. Up until Saturday, I was for redoing the track. Now? I’m not 100% sure.
Kevin: I’d like to see them do progressive banking with 14-16-18 degrees of banking. And go from 75 feet of racing room to 60 feet.
Bryan: Progressive would be good, Kevin, but it needs to be more than that.
Amy: I actually agree with Kevin. Fontana isn’t going to produce a good race as a 2-mile oval. If you want good racing, you need a track of a mile or less.
Tom: Screw the track, I feel like the car should be the major focus. We can spend far less money fixing this stupid car so it can pass at an intermediate track again. Because the Nationwide race was a good race. It may be the first good one we’ve seen at California, ever.
Bryan: The Nationwide race had plenty of fireworks, though that had nothing to do with the track.
Mike N.: But there were 29 lead changes Sunday. 29!! That’s more than a lead change every 10 laps. What the hell do you people want?
Jeff: Maybe they will give Fontana a new logo. That would help right there!
Kurt: Like Kevin says frequently, it’s no different from Michigan and he’s right.
Bryan: It is different from Michigan. Michigan actually produces two- and three-wide racing more than 10 laps after a restart. Though I will say the Junior/Kurt Busch battle on Sunday was awesome.
Kevin: And how does Michigan accomplish that with only four degrees more banking? Nobody knows.
Amy: Michigan doesn’t need two races a year. And Bryan is right: on paper they’re the same, but in practice, Michigan races better and always has.
Kurt: I don’t know how that works, Amy. I haven’t seen a great finish at Michigan yet.
Amy: Watch the races closely. There’s a difference.
Tom: You know why on paper they’re not the same? Because we remember races back at Michigan in the mid-’90s. The cars were too aero sensitive by the time California came on the scene in 1997.
Bryan: That’s not entirely true, Tom. I didn’t start watching ‘till 2003 and I’ll go against anyone to say MIS races better than ACS.
Beth: This week was by far some of the best racing I’ve ever seen at California.
Kurt: The last few laps were interesting, but the debris caution had a little to do with that, so I’m torn. The problem is the same problem at most all of the speedways: the leader pulls away. At shorter tracks, they don’t have clean air for very long.
Tom: Right, Kurt. Fix the clean air issue. Don’t spend $250 million to rebuild each and every intermediate track.
Amy: Here’s the other thing: If you want different winners in the Chase to stop all the people whining about Johnson, why add a track where he has a fifth-place average finish and has never finished lower than 16th?
Bryan: Because ISC needed a carrot to make up for losing Labor Day, Amy… Duh!
Tom: The bottom line is the same problem we have at Cali is what we have at Charlotte and Atlanta. It’s the car! The only reason we focus so much on California is no one ever goes to the freaking races. I’d say about 50,000 were there on Sunday, max.
Kevin: There were more than 50,000 at California… at least 60,000… and I still claim 65,000.
Kurt: Attendance is down everywhere, not just Fontana. Fontana should lose a race, but I still say it’s no worse than Michigan or Kansas. The attendance at Fontana looked the same as the attendance at all the tracks this year.
Jeff: But we can get 65,000 in Iowa and we aren’t anywhere near the second biggest market.
Kevin: I still don’t know where you guys were seeing holes in the stands. Maybe your eyes are better than mine. I only saw empty seats in the edges of turns 1 and 4.
Tom: Bottom line here, I think the main focus should be on the car and how that can be fixed to lead to better racing. ISC doesn’t have the money to fix the track. Did you see their profit margin?
Kevin: Sure Tom, I agree, but if you let the teams work on the car more than they do now, isn’t that going to lead to more Hendrick dominance, as they have the most money for engineering?
Tom: Ah Kevin, see that’s the million-dollar question. We can set up these cars so they’re able to pass more easily again. But true parity will never be achieved until the seven owners left with multi-car teams sit down and agree to cut back for the betterment of the sport.
Kevin: The crew chiefs have said over and over that giving them another inch of front suspension travel would do wonders.
Mike N.: I think Fontana is a great track. But I’ve always been in the minority because I like Michigan, too.
Amy: NASCAR needs to schedule races at tracks that produce good racing – that’s my bottom line.
Bryan: Tom’s right though: fix the car and this all becomes moot. Though progressive banking would be nice – it did wonders for Homestead.
Beth: I agree that Tom is on the right track. It would be much more cost efficient to work on the car than to reconfigure the several tracks that would need it.
Bryan: You can definitely get the car to be more responsive to the caliber of talent behind the wheel than they are right now.
Amy: And let’s not forget that tires are a huge part of the deal too. The racing at Atlanta, for example, was much improved with a better tire.
Mike N.: The problem is, the drivers pissed and moaned when the thing first came out that it was too hard to drive. If they’re such great drivers, shut up and drive!

Kyle Busch‘s flu this weekend made for an interesting scenario: Busch had part-time Joe Gibbs Racing teammate David Gilliland lined up to relieve him in the car on Sunday, despite the fact that Gilliland qualified for the race in the No. 71 TRG Chevy. Should NASCAR allow this type of arrangement, or is advertising teams’ start-and-park status detrimental to the sport overall?

Kurt: Does that mean Gilliland finishes 18th and 42nd?
Kevin: I think NASCAR should not get involved.
Jeff: I don’t have a problem with it.
Beth: Advertising start-and-park status isn’t detrimental to the sport, but doing it in the first place can be. But it’s really none of NASCAR’s business what the teams do so long as it’s not against the rules.
Tom: I’ll be honest: taking the journalist part of me out of it, this whole thing made me absolutely sick to my stomach.
Bryan: Relief drivers should be outlawed, period, regardless of whether or not they started and parked.
Amy: It was funny watching the ticker, but I didn’t like it. And how soon until the big teams pay the little ones to start-and-park if they need a driver?
Mike N.: They’ve done that for years, Amy. I promise you there were little teams in the ‘70’s that parked to help a bigger team running for points with a relief driver.
Tom: Well, I understand why Joe Gibbs Racing did it and TRG would have start-and-parked anyway, but it sounds wrong. Like you’re cheating on your wife with the hot 22-year-old neighbor across the street.
Kurt: The way the rulebook is set up, this is bound to happen. Sometimes guys get sick and someone who DNF’d takes over… I don’t see this as any different.
Beth: Exactly, Kurt.
Bryan: As long as you have the stupid rule that a driver can get credit for a finish he doesn’t drive to, stuff like this will come up.
Jeff: How many times does a relief driver really get used, anyway?
Amy: I don’t have as big a problem as some people do with start-and-park, but it’s not something NASCAR needs to encourage, either. It just feels wrong because it was prearranged.
Mike N.: I don’t like that it was prearranged beforehand, either, but there has to be a place for relief drivers. Otherwise, you’ll have people try and tough it out and get someone seriously injured.
Bryan: If it’s not an S&P driver, it’ll be like the ARCA deal last year where Colin Braun drove all but four laps of the race to keep Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the points chase. That wasn’t fair. But if you get rid of relief drivers, that all goes away. The driver has to either finish the race or take a DNF.
Beth: It was a smart decision on JGR’s part to have someone on standby, no matter who it was. I, for one, was glad Kyle Busch got out of his car. He looked awful and couldn’t have been terribly safe out there on the track. And we all knew Gilliland was going to start-and-park anyway.
Amy: See, it’s one thing to go find a guy who wrecked out, another to say, “Hey, this guy is going to park, let’s get him lined up before the race.”
Kurt: If there’s a problem, then it’s a fundamental start-and-park problem, and I don’t see what the problem with that is either. They qualified and earned the spot.
Beth: And until NASCAR puts a stop to start-and-park teams, we’re going to have teams entering with no intention of finishing.
Kurt: Remember when Martin Truex Jr. sat in for Junior or Ricky Rudd for Stewart when he had a broken shoulder – if these guys had been in start and parks, would it have been a big deal?
Tom: Yes, because we’re acknowledging NASCAR is allowing cars in the race with no intention of competing the full 500 miles. You don’t see baseball players go three innings and stop.
Kurt: So what should NASCAR do, Tom? Shrink the field?
Tom: I think you don’t shrink the field, but you make it impossible for these start-and-parks to do what they’re doing. Take the purse money away for anyone who doesn’t complete more than half the race. Severe, yes, but at this point the teams competing with full funding don’t need the purse money.
Mike N.: And make teams buy enough tires for a full race.
Kurt: How can you, though? What if they really do have a vibration? Or no crew?
Amy: I have a problem with that, Tom.
Tom: You also have to get the engine costs under control. I used to be livid about the possibility of a spec engine. Now, I totally get it. These teams are charging the S&Pers $75,000 for a full engine rebuild. But only $10-$12K if they run just a handful of laps.
Jeff: This, to me, is like the “tolerances” thing – a non issue.
Amy: Until NASCAR controls costs, some of those start and park teams are doing all they can. One of our own columnists would not be racing if not for a start-and-park teammate, but they don’t need to advertise it, either.
Bryan: Or in Phil Parsons’s case, carpetbagging millions out of racing. There’s a difference between that and teams who exist to park, Amy.
Kurt: Obviously, there’s a reason to do it. I’m actually OK with smaller fields. I think 43 is too many, anyway. Should be 33.
Tom: Which would knock out all the small teams and put us in perfect position for franchising.
Jeff: I wanna be a start-and-park columnist.
Bryan: It’s not hard, Jeff, by lap 20 your work is done.
Tom: “Stay off the…”
Mike N.: Just write an intro and submit it. Anyways, I say let ‘em all race. Whoever shows up, forget about qualifying.
Bryan: Back to Gilliland and Busch. I don’t see this as an S&P issue. I have a problem with a driver not completing a full race and getting points for laps he didn’t run.
Tom: It’s a do-or-die situation with Joe Gibbs Racing… I totally get it. But how could he not even mention TRG in his interview?
Kevin: Yeah, they put Gilliland in the car as a trial run for next week, right?
Bryan: Get rid of relief driving. Get rid of this issue.
Mike N.: I’m telling you, let anyone who enters the race in and you’ll have a lot more fun on race weekends.
Kurt: 50 cars at Martinsville!
Bryan: 82 at Darlington.
Tom: For qualifying, what’s dictating all that stuff are the sponsors. Remember back in the late ’80s? Even Richard Petty missed a race. If you weren’t fast enough, you weren’t fast enough. That’s when the champion’s provisional came about. And now, all of a sudden, that “champion’s provisional” has been extended to include everyone that has or gives money to the sport.
Amy: It’s a complete sham when a Top-35 car can qualify an illegal car and still start the race while a legal car goes home.
Kurt: The problem is that missing a race would be too severe. Zero points? You’d be out of the hunt because of some oil on the track.
Tom: That’s why the old provisional system worked fine. Everyone had, what, six provisionals?
Kevin: Why not the fastest 43? Gordon hit the wall at Dover and would not have made the field. Gordon or Earnhardt would have a problem maybe one time.
Bryan: Good question, Kevin, why is that such a huge deal if Gordon misses one race? It’s not like 100,000 people buy race tickets on Saturday and Sunday after they know Junior is in the field.
Kevin: Well, Gordon and Earnhardt have the most fans. If they’re not racing, who’s going to show up to watch the rest?
Amy: Why have provisionals? Just go to two rounds of qualifying. If Gordon can’t qualify after two attempts, he doesn’t deserve to race that week.
Mike N.: As long as they have two rounds of qualifying, they could do away with the Top 35 – but they’ll never go back to that.
Tom: I just remember Indy 500 qualifying in 1995 or some year where Bobby Rahal and Al Unser Jr. missed the race. How dramatic was that? How amazing was it to see a champion fall short?
Kurt: How about heat races?
Amy: Heat races would be awesome.
Mike N.: I’d love to see a last chance qualifying race.
Tom: Bottom line: There’s tons of popular drivers in this sport. Somebody misses a race? The drama and pain surrounding that would drive coverage while the other stars would still cause fans to attend.
Amy: People buy tickets weeks, if not months, in advance. So a DNQ is hardly going to hurt ticket sales.
Mike N.: I beg to differ, Amy. I think it would hurt them because people would wait to see if their driver made it and then buy tickets instead of buying them in advance.
Tom: Mike, you’re telling me you would turn around and go home if you flew 1,000 miles and Gordon didn’t qualify? Especially if he still did his hospitality stuff on Sunday, hung around the garage and you got to meet him and get his autograph.
Mike N.: I’m telling you I wouldn’t go in the first place.
Tom: You would suck it up and go.
Jeff: I don’t believe it either Tom.
Mike N.: I’d go to races close to home and only after he qualified.
Kurt: Anyways, I don’t have a problem with Gilliland being available to take over for Busch. I don’t understand why people would get annoyed about it.
Beth: I agree, Kurt.
Bryan: For those of us that find the idea of relief drivers stupid, it’s easy to get annoyed by that, Kurt.
Kurt: Well, NASCAR has bigger problems to solve.
Amy: It’s the spirit of it, Kurt. But I have no problem with relief drivers.
Kevin: I don’t have a problem with it, either.
Kurt: The rule is, the guy starting the race gets the points, so if a guy is sick, why shouldn’t he be able to be relieved? Now when Aric Almirola was pulled out of his car, that annoyed me.
Kevin: Yes, when Aric was pulled out of the car, that stunk, but it was sponsor-driven too.
Bryan: It’s like saying Tim Tebow is going to miss out on the Heisman this year because he didn’t get to pad his stats the second half against Kentucky. Well that’s not fair, maybe we should credit Tebow with the numbers the second-string QB put up to keep the playing field level.
Sound ridiculous? It is.
Amy: I go to see racing, and the best cars are the ones who create racing, not the slow ones who couldn’t qualify.
Tom: You give everyone six provisionals, that’s more than enough to cover top drivers without holding a second round of qualifying.
Amy: And for the love of all that is good and holy, please, please don’t let anyone use the rule if their time gets DQ’d for cheating.

Joey Logano won the Nationwide Series race in Fontana, but it was another Logano who grabbed the headlines. Joey’s father, Tom, had his hard card revoked after reportedly making an obscene gesture and making threatening comments to Greg Biffle on pit road after the No. 16 made contact with the No. 20 during the race. Was NASCAR in the right on this one, or should Tom Logano be treated no differently than two drivers who have a little spat after some heated competition?

Amy: I think NASCAR was right.
Beth: NASCAR made the right decision on this one.
Kurt: I think NASCAR was right. You set a bad precedent if you allow parents and such to behave that way, however justified.
Bryan: Something is way wrong when a guy who didn’t build or work on the car goes after another competitor he wasn’t on track with… when the other driver doesn’t get that hot and wins the race.
Jeff: I’d be embarrassed if I was Joey.
Kevin: Did NASCAR take away Kurt Busch’s and Biffle’s girlfriends hard cards after their fight at Texas a couple years ago?
Tom: It seems like his Dad’s a little overprotective. But with that said, I find this no different than the Busch/Biffle girlfriend fight a couple of years ago. And Kevin’s right, their hard cards weren’t taken away. Why break precedent in this case?
Bryan: The girlfriends went after each other, not competitors.
Kurt: Kevin, I think they were hoping Biffle and Busch’s girlfriends might start wrestling.
Amy: Tom Logano is also the guest of a team, not a driver, not a team member, and the guest of a team has no call to be over the wall at any time. It’s not right when teams do it, but when guests start doing it, it makes anyone who is the guest of a team look bad.
Beth: Dad has to let his kid fight his own fights.
Bryan: Exactly. Joey needs to fight his own battles and have the chance to do so as he sees fit.
Beth: Besides, Joey went on to win anyway, so that should have been enough to calm him down.
Tom: I would be upset if I was Joey, and I think it would be a good time to speak out and start becoming my own man if I were him.
Kurt: That’s not really the issue though. How far can NASCAR let it go? Can fans of a driver hop the catchfence and go after a rival?
Jeff: Yeah!  Lets make NASCAR like soccer.
Beth: That was hardly a fight, though.
Kurt: I understand where his dad was coming from after Dover.
Amy: Taking away a hard card is nothing but an inconvenience. But it makes you wonder what he was like when Joey was in Little League.
Tom: I totally understand where Tom’s coming from. It was just out of line for him to do it. Where I’m confused is people have done things much more out of line and never gotten their hard cards confiscated.
Bryan: Again, Tom Logano is not a competitor. If competitors want to fight it out, that’s their prerogative. Onlookers, supporters, etc. have no place doing that.
Kevin: I’m fine with what NASCAR did this time.
Jeff: Now if Logano’s dad went after Biff’s mom or something, that’s different. Just entertainment.
Amy: Any fan who went over the wall on pit road to confront a driver should lose their credential immediately.
Beth: The bottom line is he acted like a child. He should not have gone after Biffle at all.
Mike N.: I’ll remember that when someone punts your kid at 200 mph.
Amy: Joey’s a grown-up. He doesn’t need Daddy to fight his battles for him. You never saw Dale Earnhardt go threaten someone who punted Junior.
Kevin: Dale Senior wouldn’t threaten, he’d just put you in the wall next time he could.
Beth: Exactly.
Kurt: Here’s another thought. How is Tom going to handle someone racing Joey hard in the future? Is this going to be his reaction?
Bryan: I’ll just say if my parents went after someone bullying me, I’d be embarrassed.
Beth: If Joey was that upset about it, then he was the one that needed to have a “discussion” with Biffle… not his dad.
Mike N.: But your kid is 19 and he’s still his son.
Tom: At the same time, though, Mike, he’s a national phenomenon and about to win the Rookie of the Year title. When do you let go? I think it’s a decision every parent faces. I wonder if this will be Tom Logano’s wakeup call. And Joey. For the parent to let go, the kid also has to step up and want his dad to let go.
Mike N.: When Tom threatened, it wasn’t just words. He’ll grab a hold of you and make his point very clear.
Beth: For his sake, it better be. I don’t know if NASCAR will tolerate another incident like this one.
Jeff: It better wake them up.
Tom: Tom’s not the first overprotective parent in the garage, by the way. A lot of dads have interfered in drivers’ careers in recent years. Reed Sorenson‘s dad was notorious for that early in his career.
Kurt: I wonder what Joe Gibbs thought about the whole thing.
Bryan: I wonder where Joe Gibbs is. His team is just making a mess everywhere these days.
Tom: But again, with that said he’s immediate family. I find it no different than the girlfriends’ fight.
Jeff: I’m sure the whole Gibbs camp is embarrassed by it.
Bryan: Busch is still struggling in Cup, Logano’s dad is on the warpath, Hamlin is all over the place, JGR is a mess.
Kevin: Busch is struggling because he’s more concerned with Nationwide right now.
Tom: Kevin, you are right about Joe Gibbs Racing. Dominant in Nationwide, but on the Cup side they don’t know which way is up right now.
Kurt: They’re not doing that bad. Denny was good yesterday until that bonehead move.
Beth: His “rookie mistake.”
Bryan: Hamlin wrecked two cars this weekend.
Amy: Yes he did, Bryan.
Kurt: He tends to have weekends like that for some reason.
Kevin: Since everyone accuses NASCAR of being like the WWE, then it should be Tom Logano vs. Greg Biffle in a tables, ladders and chairs match next weekend.

Predictions For Charlotte?

Kevin: Stewart.
Amy: Martin’s pit crew outperforms Johnson’s, Martin wins and retakes the points lead.
Kurt: Jimmie at Charlotte, and Martinsville, and what’s the other one?
Kevin: Texas and Phoenix.
Kurt: Right. Jimmie at those too.
Tom: I’m going to go upset and say Ryan Newman. He’s finished second in this race with Penske.
Bryan: Johnson puts the nail in this Chase’s coffin… flat dominates.
Mike N.: I’m lazy, put me down for Kasey Kahne.
Jeff: Montoya.
Tom: This one usually goes to a random winner. Jimmie will be top five though and keep the points lead.
Beth: Put me down for Gordon again this week.

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 30 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 40 30 3 12 18
Bryan Davis Keith 29 -11 26 3 10 14
Amy Henderson 28 -12 32 4 9 15
Vito Pugliese 23 -17 16 1 6 10
Tom Bowles 21 -19 10 1 6 7
Kurt Smith 21 -19 19 3 6 10
Mike Neff 21 -19 19 2 6 11
Jeff Meyer 16 -24 23 1 7 11
Tony Lumbis 0 -40 1 0 0 0
Phil Allaway 0 -40 7 0 1 3
Matt Taliaferro -3 -43 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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