Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Fontana Follies, NASCAR Sends a Message & Danica’s Nationwide Impact… On TV?

Welcome to Mirror Driving. On select Wednesdays during the offseason, 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 (Fridays/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Tony Lumbis (Frontstretch Marketing Director)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Bryan Davis Keith (Thursdays/Picks ‘N’ Pans & Sundays/Nationwide Series Breakdown)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Summer Dreyer (Mondays/Running Their Mouth & Frontstretch News Reporter)
Kurt Allen Smith (Fridays/Happy Hour)

The racing at Fontana was somewhat improved over recent races, with the 1.5-second margin of victory in the Cup race, which was .4 seconds under the average. Is this a sign of a turnaround for the track? And what can it be attributed to?

Bryan: Softer tires are never a bad thing, for one. Goodyear hit the nail on the head with their new tires. Let’s see them do it again. It also helped that someone was actually capable of running down the No. 48 car.
Phil: Yeah, a lot of the talk on the broadcast was about the tires. That definitely helps.
Tony: Agreed, that was a big contributor. And kudos to Goodyear – they were able to achieve a competitive race without having a flurry of blowouts.
Amy: I didn’t think it was that improved. Four-tenths isn’t exactly a huge difference from same old, same old.
Beth: But it would have been quite a bit closer had Kevin Harvick not bounced off the wall. I can’t remember the last time I was actually excited in the closing laps of a race at Fontana.
Tony: Exactly, that difference should have been less. The double-file restarts from last year paid off in the end, as well.

See also
Quality Racing at Auto Club Speedway May Not Be Such a Good Thing

Summer: I thought it was good, but I thought they were exaggerating a bit as to how good it was… unless the broadcast wasn’t showing us something.
Amy: I agree with Summer. The end was almost good, but overall… let’s just say I didn’t miss anything during that nap. The restarts were the only exciting part of the race. I really wish they would shorten the spring race as they did the fall.
Tony: I think fall may be an experiment, Amy. If that goes well, let’s keep an eye on what they do for the spring next year. We also have to remember that it is still an intermediate track, so you’re never going to get 250 laps of excitement.
Bryan: On the Nationwide side, I’d also add that the TV coverage was better. We saw more of the side-by-side racing going on all day.
Amy: True.
Phil: Better compared to what, Bryan? Last season or last week?
Kurt: I think the impending rain had something to do with it, too. Guys were going for it because they didn’t know when the race was going to end.
Phil: Good point, Kurt. I’ll agree with you on the year-to-year difference. However, I thought the coverage was a slight downgrade from last week.
Kurt: But I never did think the racing at Fontana was that bad as cookie cutters go. It’s just that it’s a cookie cutter.
Amy: If Harvick hadn’t hit the wall, the end would have been more exciting, but I don’t think 10 laps can make up for the other 240. And I thought the stands for the Cup race looked even barer than last year on the broadcast.
Kurt: I didn’t think Harvick was going to pass Johnson, he was having a tough enough time catching up to him.
Beth: Maybe the leader ran away in the other 240 laps, but there was a good amount of side-by-side racing further back in the field.
Amy: But the networks rarely show “back in the field,” which is a problem.
Kurt: They do when Danica Patrick is there – which is all the time.
Summer: Actually, the TV did a nice job of showing some good battles going on throughout the race.
Bryan: Jeff Burton and Harvick put on a whale of a show for a while there. So did Harvick and Jimmie Johnson earlier on.
Kurt: I agree Amy, I like watching teammates battle and wonder if they’re going to wreck each other. I thought Mark Martin was going to have something for them too.
Tony: Agreed Kurt. I was surprised that he couldn’t close when Kevin and Jeff were battling. And I thought Harvick and Johnson were going to battle it out and let Jeff sneak through.
Kurt: Does anyone think Burton backed off to give Harvick a shot at Johnson? I think he might have, but for the right reasons.
Bryan: Nah, Burton got loose, remember?
Tony: I don’t think so Kurt. I think it had more to do with the fact that Harvick took his line away.
Phil: According to the track, they had flat sales, but “butt in seat” attendance was affected by the weather. Official estimates were 72,000 at the race. Visual evidence suggests something in the 50s.
Amy: Those California fans must really like shopping at the haulers if there were 72,000 of them there.
Bryan: There were not 72,000 people there, period.
Kurt: I wouldn’t sit in metal grandstands if a big storm was coming, either. At least not for a cookie cutter, for Martinsville maybe.
Amy: What about three hours before the storm was coming?
Phil: Nationwide attendance was up significantly, according to the track. However, 36,000 isn’t a lot.
Amy: It’s not like they all stayed home because there was a storm forecast and they were afraid of getting struck by lightning.
Kurt: The Danica Factor.
Bryan: Considering they had maybe 5,000 there last year, it’s not like it was a huge accomplishment to do better.
Amy: They should send Danica a thank-you card.
Kurt: ACS should lose a race, but I think we should see how well they do with just one.
Phil: I’d agree, but with the added caveat that the race gets moved out of February. This is the same reason Riverside got moved to November in the early ’80s.
Amy: Where the heck is good for racing in February, though?
Bryan: Rockingham.
Amy: The complaint there was that it was too cold. They would have done just fine with a decent date.
Kurt: Then Atlanta, Texas and Las Vegas.
Kurt: I’m in the camp that there should be a week off after Daytona.
Bryan: After suffering through seven years of Auto Club, I bet more people would brave the cold at The Rock.
Amy: I’d brave the cold at the Rock in a second – and I’ll point out that it was as warm in North Carolina as it was in Fontana this year.
Kurt: I don’t understand why we would have to have a race in February at the Rock. Why not just move the Atlanta date and put the Rockingham race there?
Bryan: That works too, Kurt, let’s do that.
Phil: I’d go to Rockingham early in the season if it wasn’t 950 miles from here. The problem is that temperatures can be down as low as 30 in February during the race. Atlanta in that slot would have similar problems.
Kurt: If the race at The Rock is in February, then no wonder no one was going.
Bryan: Fine, give the second date to Texas.
Tony: Speaking of the Rock, I’d love for Andy to get that back in the schedule if we’re looking to replace a second California date.
Amy: Realistically, Rockingham isn’t nearly ready to host a Cup race, but if they could get the revenue from a couple of Nationwide and Truck races, it could be in a couple of years – which would be great. Move the Trucks and Nationwide back toward the “roots” tracks of Rockingham, North Wilkes, South Boston, etc., and make them their own show more often.
Bryan: Look, as long as the TV crew does its job, the races aren’t going to be snore-inducing all the time. Auto Club didn’t put on a half bad show this time around, but that’s because we actually saw it.
Kurt: How about Talladega for week two? Get the plate races out of the way early.
Beth: That wouldn’t bother me at all.
Summer: Kansas might get a second date, and it might come from California. But they couldn’t race there in February. They’d have to drive snowplows.
Tony: That would give new meaning to when they say a tight car is “plowing” in the corners.
Kurt: That’s a good point Summer, they’re going to have to move the schedule around anyway.
Phil: There will be significant schedule realignment for next season, especially if they want to get races at certain tracks when people will show up.
Amy: I’m sure there will be major changes next year, but I’d bet good money they won’t be good changes. The bottom line is that the racing this week wasn’t good enough to make this track deserve both its dates.
Phil: The last time NASCAR talked major schedule changes, Darlington lost a date, Rockingham was dropped and Texas got its second date. All we know is that Kansas will get another date right now.
Kurt: And Kentucky.
Amy: The racing at Kansas is about as exciting as Fontana. The last thing needed is two dates there.
Summer: Kansas always sells out its Cup dates. There wasn’t an empty seat there last year. I was there and looked. It made for a hot day.
Kurt: But Kansas only has one date right now Summer. Can it sell out two dates?
Summer: I’m wondering the same thing. But at the same time, will Fontana sell out with just one?
Phil: Does Kansas still require those odious season passes?
Summer: No. The racing at Kansas is better in person than it is on TV. But most of the viewers are on TV anyways, so that’s something that needs to be worked on. I left the track thinking it was a good race, and came home and listened to everyone tell me how boring it was. I’m wondering if it’s like that at Fontana – at least to a point.
Kurt: Summer, Fontana is the whipping boy of a lot of fans. It’s not the racing so much. People are mad (justifiably) about losing the Labor Day race from Darlington. Well, Darlington didn’t lose to Fontana directly, but you are correct in the gist of it.
Phil: Fontana’s second date is technically the old fall race from Rockingham.
Bryan: Look, they’ve had seven years to get the crowds out in California for two races and they didn’t get it done. Mexico didn’t get but a few years before it got a date yanked and that trip’s about as expensive as hauling out to Fontana.
Kurt: I sincerely hope that the new cookie cutters take races from existing cookie cutters… and not Martinsville.
Phil: If SoCal has to have two Nationwide races, can we move one to Toyota Speedway and bring in some temporary grandstands?
Bryan: Amen Phil.
Summer: That’s a move I’d definitely be in favor of.

After the race, the No. 66 car of Dave Blaney was confiscated for further inspection despite no word of a post-race inspection failure. Further, the car will not be returned until “sometime next Saturday” according to NASCAR. Is this a sign that NASCAR is going to crack down on start and park teams, or was it simply what NASCAR said: a random inspection?

Amy: Come on, that was no random inspection! Since when does NASCAR take a car for a week if it passes template after the race?
Kurt: Why would NASCAR pick a car that lasted two laps for an inspection?
Summer: I highly doubt it was random. You just don’t see them doing that every week. Cracking down on start and park teams isn’t really random, either. They’re singling out a team for doing it.
Bryan: This is a random inspection, pure and simple. NASCAR last year threatened that they were going to crack down on start-and-parks at Atlanta in March. What happened? Blaney and Mike Bliss knocked Jeremy Mayfield and Scott Riggs out of the field, start-and-parked and walked off with the check.
Kurt: I don’t get the whole outrage over start-and-park cars. They have to fill fields and some teams simply can’t afford to run the race. It’s not like the whole field is going to become start-and-park, and if it does, NASCAR needs to seriously look at its business model.
Bryan: NASCAR’s not going to slam the door on Phil Parsons, anyway.
Tony: I think it was a message. As the economy slowly but surely makes a turn for the better, I think NASCAR is going to be more strict about having these start-and-parkers.
Summer: I don’t understand the big issue with it either.
Amy: NASCAR confiscates cars for a week if there is a major issue, i.e. cheating – so either the No. 66 was way illegal or NASCAR is bullying Prism Motorsports.
Phil: The idea is that the No. 66 apparently was picked for a random teardown, like what Johnson’s car seems to get on a weekly basis these days. The good thing is that NASCAR is doing the teardown in Las Vegas to try to help the team out.
Tony: I do agree that it is odd for the car to be gone for a week, though.
Amy: The other “random” cars, the Nos. 48 and 29, were completed at the track as usual.
Bryan: They’re checking the No. 66 car because if they’re anything like MSRP’s NNS cars, they’re so built into qualifying setups that they literally can’t run the distance. Those cars are built to start-and-park, they’re probably checking just to make sure that Blaney isn’t going to be a top-five dropout every weekend.
Kurt: I thought NASCAR was interested in helping the little guy. Why not let them gather some cash that might give the team a chance to actually race in the future?
Bryan: NASCAR has never done anything to crack down on start-and-parkers and they’re not going to pick Phil Parsons’s team to be the one to make an example of.
Kurt: If NASCAR wants to put a stop to this, they can stop giving prizes to cars that finish lower than 35th, but they’re not going to do that.
Tony: That’s a great point Kurt, probably the better way to go about addressing this concern
Kurt: I’m all about addressing concerns.
Amy: Right. The only way, in my opinion, to avoid start-and-park is to not award points to them if they complete less than X-number of laps. If they can’t get locked into races, they’ll go away.
Phil: If they wanted to make an example of Parsons, you could argue his team would be the best to pick. His Cup team and the MSRP team that is now allied with D’Hondt Motorsports in the Nationwide Series are the poster child for this mess.
Bryan: I agree with that Phil, but NASCAR doesn’t go after its own and Phil Parsons fits that ilk.
Kurt: But all the same, I don’t see the problem with it. Is NASCAR going to shrink the fields? No, so some teams aren’t going to race for long in times like these. Besides, does anyone pay attention to the guys that are a lap down in 10 laps anyway? NASCAR has always had that.
Bryan: Kurt, some people do care about this because it makes the sport look ridiculous. You ever try explaining start-and-park to an outsider? I have, and you better believe they laugh at the sport as a result.
Kurt: I think there are other things that bring about more laughter in NASCAR.
Summer: I don’t that keeps people from watching though. People will find any way to tear down the sport of NASCAR.
Phil: I think that the general public is just finishing their guffaws over that pothole.
Amy: I don’t have a problem with S&P if one team is used to fund another racing the whole race – if that’s the only way the team can afford to race. I do have issues with S&P as a business model.
Summer: I feel the same way Amy, but how do you regulate one without the other?
Bryan: And let’s be clear, regardless of what they say, the No. 55 and No. 66 are not going to be paying for each other to run the distance from time to time. They are here to park.
Amy: When teams that intend to race all day go home so Blaney can park on lap 40, that’s not right.
Tony: Agreed Amy. That’s the biggest issue I have. They put bonzai setups in to get in and aren’t even worried about long-term handling, knocking out those teams trying to prepare for the entire race. The equivalent would be if when Temple played Penn State and Temple went home at halftime because they got the money they needed.
Kurt: I think that’s apples and oranges, Tony. It costs money to race.
Tony: It also costs money to travel to games.
Summer: You can’t compare NASCAR with other ball sports. There are 43 cars on the track in a race – there are two teams in any other game.
Bryan: All I know is that start-and-parkers last year took over 90 starting positions and $3 million in purse money from teams intending to run a full race distance. Tell me that’s not an issue and I’ll call you a moron to your face.
Tony: I want to turn on a sport where every team is going to compete to the best of their ability.
Beth: But the problem is if they want to crack down on one start-and-park team, they’ve got to crack down on all of them. None of this selective nonsense.
Kurt: It’s not an issue in the sense that NASCAR needs to crack down on it now. Shrink the fields or don’t give prize money if you have a problem with it, but there are always going to be backmarkers.
Phil: In just Sprint Cup or all three series, Bryan?
Bryan: All three.
Summer: If they “crack down” on some start-and-park teams, then some of them will never get anywhere. They say they’re trying to help the smaller teams.
Bryan: They’re not cracking down. They took Blaney’s car because he took a top-five qualifying slot and they’re going to want to be sure that start-and-parkers aren’t going to be dotting the top 10 in Cup quals all season. They’ll call Phil Parsons, tell them to tone down their qualifying setups a tick and let them go on their way.
Amy: The issue I have with S&P is the teams who do it and never put a penny of the money back into the team.
Tony: That’s a good point Amy. With what they are paying out, I wonder how these teams don’t eventually make enough to compete for the full race at some point in the season.
Amy: If they’re doing it to race another team, or to someday race full races, then more power to them for trying to make it in the sport. If they’re just pocketing the purse, shame on them for poor sportsmanship.
Tony: As a fan, I want to get excited when an underdog team like the No. 66 qualifies well. It takes away from the excitement when you know these teams are just going to drop out.
Phil: Parsons’ quote on going the distance is, “We’ll go the distance only when we have a sponsor.”
Bryan: And that’s a lie anyway Phil, Cajun Industries sponsored MSRP cars several times last year and they parked anyway. Besides, Parsons will never run the while distance because, mechanically, their cars can’t.
Amy: I hope the sponsors go to teams trying to do the right thing, like the No. 90.
Kurt: The bottom line is that the Top 35 are in, then the last seven spots are open to who can make them. If that is a team that intends to park the car then so be it. If someone else wants to get in, then beat them on the track in qualifying.
Tony: True. If I’m a sponsor, I want to see what you can do. If I know what the heck is going on, I won’t expect top-20 runs, but I’m looking for an effort from those type of teams.
Kurt: How about this: we persuade FOX to do a piece on start-and-parkers, then the sponsor knows his car will be on TV.
Amy: Unless there was an actual issue with the technical inspection of the No. 66, though, NASCAR had no right to confiscate it for an entire week.
Bryan: There’s nothing going on here. Blaney qualified a little too far up to be unnoticed, NASCAR will tell them they need to shoot to start 25th instead of fifth and let them keep carpetbagging hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the sport.
Phil: Anyone notice that Blaney voluntarily dropped to the rear at the beginning of the race?
Kurt: If the start-and-parkers all decide to stop showing up, what happens? Do we have enough cars to fill the field? Do we have more backmarkers?
Summer: Nope.
Kurt: That’s the point. They’re making the race.
Bryan: Who cares if the field is full? Why not watch 38 cars go the whole way than 43 cars with five quitting by lap 20?
Tony: Then I think it is a different story. But for now, we have more than enough.
Kurt: I don’t, but television and NASCAR do.
Summer: What’s the difference?
Bryan: TV money. NASCAR loses TV money without full fields. NASCAR officially denies that clause is in their TV contracts, but they lie a lot.

NASCAR cracked down hard on speeding this weekend, with Carl Edwards (Nationwide), Harvick and Burton among those affected. But with a grace period of five mph still in effect and no public system to view speeds, does this penalty seem more subjective than anything else NASCAR does on the circuit?

Phil: It does seem a little subjective, but I think that NASCAR may have been unclear as to where the pit-road speed limit ends. This was screwed up multiple times on the broadcast. The yellow line ends the restricted zone, not the white line.
Kurt: A lot of penalties are subjective. Regarding the speeding, if you’re busted with it, you were probably going well over 55.
Amy: I agree. Several cars got nailed. Junior said he was going 100 RPM UNDER the tach reading he got from the pace car, though.
Bryan: It will always be subjective. I mean, NASCAR does need to have a way to fix a race here and there.
Kurt: Wow, Bryan, we’ve caught you in a down mood. I think it should be 55, period, no grace zone.
Amy: Here’s the thing… if the pace car is just a couple of mph off when they set speed, it will cause issues.
Tony: I think they are doing the best they can. A five-mph grace period should make up for technical inefficiencies. Perhaps posting it publically would help, like showing debris for each debris caution. But I’m not sure they can do much more.
Bryan: It’s early in the season and the teams are still adjusting to the new gear. They missed the tachometer setups – nothing more going on here.
Summer: Tony, the five-mph grace period doesn’t help because the drivers all push it as far as they can.
Amy: The network has to take some blame as well. They monitor NASCAR, so why no graphic of the telemetry when a penalty comes down? Just a simple bar showing the telemetry and the speed the car was going when busted.
Bryan: Gotta keep a gray area somewhere, Amy.
Kurt: I would think that would risk some embarrassment on NASCAR’s part. But I would think their scoring system is accurate.
Summer: Well if the speed limit is 50 and the five-mph grace period is 55, they’re going to go 55. If the pace car was just going a few mph over the actual limit, it’s going to screw that all up.
Amy: The scoring system is accurate, what might NOT be is the pace car, or the tach readings. NASCAR is using a much more exact method of monitoring speed than the teams.
Kurt: Only thing is what if NASCAR makes the call and then turns out to be wrong? Not saying they wouldn’t deserve a credibility hit, but that would hurt them.
Amy: It’s happened before, Kurt.
Summer: I think fans and drivers would appreciate it a whole lot more if NASCAR admitted they were wrong than if they denied it altogether.
Kurt: Hell yeah! Whatever instrument NASCAR uses to measure it should also be in the racecars, too.
Tony: Given all of the pit stops completed in a year, I really don’t think there is that much of an issue to warrant further action.
Beth: It’s the driver’s problem if he chooses to push that extra five mph.
Kurt: They should have one of those signs on pit road like they do on the highway in construction zones. “YOUR SPEED IS”….
Beth: I don’t have a problem when the drivers push it, but I do have a problem when they do and then complain about being penalized. It’s a risk you take.
Amy: Kurt nailed it… they need the SAME measuring device in the tower and in the cars.
Kurt: I like those things. I always go for the high score.
Phil: I know other series have done something like that before, Kurt. Back in the 1990s.
Beth: I wouldn’t be against that.
Tony: That could actually work. But again, I just don’t think the amount of speeding violations warrant it.
Beth: I agree, Tony. Sometimes there are just races like this where quite a few drivers are busted. It didn’t seem to hurt Harvick or Burton in the long run.
Phil: NASCAR is the only racing series that I can think of that actually requires drivers to set their own pit-road speed in this fashion. Almost everyone else has electronic pit-road speed limiters.
Amy: Teams use the timing lines as part of their strategy these days, choosing pits at a certain distance from the timing lines.
Kurt: If I were a driver, I would always err on the side of caution. If you lose a second in the pits, it’s worth it to not worry about what you lose when you get busted.
Bryan: Weeks from now, this will be a non-issue. It’s early in the year, they’re still figuring their cars out. By Bristol this will be forgotten.

40% of the Nationwide field got no mention on Saturday’s broadcast but what can be done to change this trend?

Kurt: Gee… I wonder why that was.
Tony: Send one driver home? =)
Beth: That’s because ESPN is focused on one thing… Danica.
Summer: Well that’s because Danica took up 75% of the coverage.
Bryan: Probably because even if they showed those cars at the back, they wouldn’t have anything to say about them.
Kurt: I was watching ESPN the morning following the race, they barely even mentioned who won.
Amy: Listening to ESPN, I thought there were only three cars in the field most of the race
Beth: Even a headline on FOX Sports made mention of Danica rather than the runner-up in the race.
Tony: I think that is actually something that can be worked out between NASCAR and the networks. I’m not sure how else to fix it.
Bryan: They did tone Danica down some this time around, though a large part of that was because she was about as far off the pace as Norm Benning was at Daytona.
Summer: They cut away from the finish, to show Danica cross the finish line… was it 36th? 34th?
Kurt: They made a big deal out of Patrick finishing 31st.
Amy: So you do through the field every 40 laps or so, at least MENTION them.
Phil: They would have some stuff to say, but no significant stories to add to the coverage. They only have additional, non-setup information on 24 cars a week.
Kurt: I wonder how well Janet Guthrie or Shawna Robinson would have done in Hendrick stuff.
Amy: That is exactly why teams can’t get sponsors, they know there is no return on investment
Phil: Those Up to Speed segments tend to only cover the top teams.
Tony: I think NBC’s concept of “through the field” might help
Amy: I wonder how Alli Owens or Chrissy Wallace would do in Hendrick stuff?
Kurt: I like the through the field bit.
Kurt: Exactly. Or Kelly Bires.
Summer: Jennifer Jo Cobb is another one while we’re naming female drivers.
Bryan: Those little boxes in the left-hand corner of the screen are perfect for showing the back of the field. They just need to show more than one driver.
Phil: Kurt, I don’t know about Robinson, but I think Guthrie in her prime could have easily won in Hendrick equipment.
Bryan: Cobb didn’t exactly give herself a good name after doing her best Larry Gunselman impression at Daytona.
Kurt: Robinson never really had good equipment.
Beth: Robinson was never given a chance to show what she could have done. BAM Racing wasn’t exactly the top of the bunch.
Kurt: I don’t know how good she was, but I think she might have done a little better.
Phil: That’s true. She was a pretty good qualifier when she was full-time in Busch. Then, she got dumped at Atlanta.
Amy: Look at the No. 28. They had a very small company come on to sponsor just for the cost of tires and got not one second of TV time. Not a lot of people going to line up to sponsor them now. And P.S. the driver of that car has more Most Popular Driver awards than anyone else in series history. Oh, and the No. 28 beat Danica on Saturday.
Bryan: It’s not just the little guy either. Colin Braun of the Roush camp got no TV time as well.
Tony: Unfortunately, while this all makes a ton of sense, it’s going to be hard to get the networks off Danica-mania until the ratings boost stops, if it ever does. Still trying to go after the casual fan while us diehards want to see the rest of the development drivers.
Summer: We’ll see if it improves once she leaves after Las Vegas.
Phil: It already stopped, Tony. Fontana ratings were only up one tenth of a point.
Kurt: I doubt the hype will continue if she finishes 30th every week. People will tire of that.
Bryan: They’re already tired of it. The number of columns written about her was down considerably on Monday.
Phil: I was tired of it in 2006.
Summer: Why does the broadcast only seem to focus on one driver? We all seem to be in agreement that that’s usually how they handle things. If it’s not Danica, it’s Kyle… and on and on.
Bryan: Kyle and Carl will still be there. There will be plenty of chances after Danica for them to ask “how good is Kyle Busch” and be dazzled by Edwards running for another minor league title.
Amy: Because the “casual” fan doesn’t know enough about racing to follow the entire field.
Kurt: Cup races can sometimes be the Junior show Summer, but I have NEVER seen it this bad in any series. It’s beyond ridiculous. She should have her own channel, for heaven’s sake.
Summer: I never see the Jr. show, at least not to the extent we’ve seen with Danica and Kyle in the NW series. The Cup broadcasts usually leave Jr. alone for the most part if he’s running badly.
Kurt: It’s almost like the networks are so desperate to get what they paid for in NASCAR that they’ll jump all over any ratings boost.
Bryan: Well, fortunately for all of us sick of Danica-mania, she has flat sucked driving these cars. Sooner or later, even she’s got to produce some kind of results.
Amy: I wonder if Chrissy and Alli took off half their clothes if they could get some coverage. Or the male racers for that matter… Carl’s buff.
Beth: Hasn’t Carl already done that Amy?
Summer: Carl’s never posted naked. Just shirtless.
Phil: My thoughts on that is that by showing the whole field instead of focusing on one or two drivers, even the casual fans will learn a little about everyone.
Tony: Apparently Mark Martin may be taking off his shirt so ladies, get ready!
Bryan: I say there are so many great stories in the back of the garage, they’ll sell themselves.
Phil: They might get some that way, but I’d imagine they’re more like Sarah Fisher. They don’t want to do that.
Amy: I talked to Kenny Wallace after Daytona and he said his sponsor was excited. Why, because for the four laps of practice the team could afford to make, he happened to be in the TV frame with Danica. If not for that, nothing last week either.
Phil: They need to treat the Nationwide Series a little more like SPEED treats the Truck Series teams in their broadcasts. Features to introduce fans to some of the lesser-known drivers should be in the cards.
Kurt: I knew there would be hype with Danica, but it’s at an absurd level. You take away the swimsuit shots and poses and stripping in commercials and you have Casey Mears.
Bryan: ESPN’s got hours and tons of graphics and presentation options to show 43 cars at least once. It can be done. It should be done. And hopefully fans keep tuning out until they make it happen.
Beth: Simply put, ESPN needs to place less focus on a single driver and remember the Nationwide field has 43 cars. Sadly, they’re delusional and think everyone is tuning in for the same 3-5 drivers every week.
Amy: Except Mears is a better open-wheel driver than Danica.
Phil: Ouch, that’s brutal, Kurt.
Bryan: That’s not true. Mears finishes on the lead lap occasionally.
Phil: I never saw much out of Mears when he was still in the IRL.

OK, how about predictions for Vegas?

Kurt: Burton. He might have won last week without the penalty.
Amy: I’m going to go with a Roush car this week… Greg Biffle. I need to keep my streak alive.
Tony: Burton looks awfully good of late and he knows how to get around Vegas. I’m going with him, too.
Bryan: I’m going with Martin.
Summer: I’ll take Martin too.
Phil: I’m going with Matt Kenseth.
Beth: Well since Kyle got the victory at the home track last year, I’m going with Kurt Busch to take it this time around. A noted improvement with the No. 2 team this season is adjustability in their cars throughout the last two races. That can only work to their advantage as the season progresses.

Mirror Predictions 2010

Welcome to our fourth 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 two races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Amy Henderson 10 2 2 2 2
Beth Lunkenheimer 3 -7 1 0 1 1
Phil Allaway 2 -8 2 0 0 2
Summer Dreyer 0 -10 2 0 0 0
Bryan Davis Keith 0 -10 1 0 0 0
Jeff Meyer 0 -10 1 0 0 0
Tony Lumbis 0 -10 1 0 0 0
Matt Taliaferro 0 -10 1 0 0 0
Kurt Smith 0 -10 0 0 0 0
Tom Bowles 0 -10 0 0 0 0
Mike Neff 0 -10 0 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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