Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Gibbs vs. Hendrick, Spicy Sponsor Deals & Hall Not Hauling $$

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

This Week’s Participants
Amy Henderson (Mondays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Kurt Allen Smith (Fridays/Happy Hour)

While Denny Hamlin is on fire after winning at Darlington for his third win this year (and taking the first weekend sweep at the Lady in Black in 17 years), reigning champion Jimmie Johnson has posted two DNFs in the last three races. Have the tables finally turned?

Kurt: No, the tables haven’t turned. Two races do not a season make. Let’s talk when the Chase starts. DNFs at Darlington and Talladega are hardly the mark of a driver losing his edge.
Phil: No, I don’t think so. That was a freak incident.
Amy: The tables turned a while ago. I said Hamlin would win it all in January and I stand by that now.

See also
The Yellow Stripe: The Odd Couple, Busch and Hamlin Ready to End HMS Dominance

Jeff: Well, there’s the problem! JJ is so dismayed that you turned against him!
Beth: We wouldn’t even be talking about this if AJ Allmendinger hadn’t slid up the track and taken Jimmie out.
Mike: I don’t know that the tables have turned. We all know that the No. 48 uses the regular season as a testing ground. They are solidly in the Chase and are going to turn it on when the time comes.
Kurt: I will say this though, anyone who sits out because of a torn ACL in the future is a wuss.
Mike: No kidding, Kurt. That excuse is out the window.
Amy: Allmendinger is another issue entirely. He shouldn’t have been out there for 50 laps with no brakes. He was going to take someone out eventually, and that was a vicious hit.
Phil: It was a vicious hit, I’ll give you that.
Kurt: He thought his brakes were going, but as I remember, he didn’t know they were gone.
Mike: So what? He was supposed to just pack it in? He’s a racer. You run until you can’t run anymore.
Kurt: And didn’t he say he was trying to slow down? I think he was trying to do that, Amy. That he went straight into Johnson was a freak accident. Man, I hate getting calipers replaced.
Beth: Yeah, I don’t want to start about Ford and their calipers. We’re never buying one again.
Phil: Johnson just happened to be there. Allmendinger could have hit anyone, or just the wall.
Amy: To finish first, first you must finish. He should have brought it in and fixed it.
Beth: You can’t really blame him for staying out there.  He wasn’t sure his brakes were out. He said something broke right before the wreck. Can’t really blame him for mechanical problems. He did what any other driver would have done in his situation. Stuff just breaks sometimes.
Kurt: Amy, sometimes brakes just go without warning. Happened to Gordon at Pocono, too.
Amy: He could have hurt himself, let alone anyone else, and if I was a car owner I’d rather he finished 50 laps down for fixing a problem than on a tow truck.
Mike: He was racing it trying to make it to the end with brakes that were fading. Happens all of the time at tracks that are hard on brakes.
Beth: Exactly, Mike.
Amy: Allmendinger said he knew the brakes were going for 50 laps.
Jeff: I’m just shaking my head here.
Kurt: You can’t just go to the garage because you think your brakes MIGHT be gone.
Phil: There’s a difference between the pedal being soft and something breaking.
Mike: Exactly. Brakes fade all of the time and guys nurse it to the finish, altering their driving style. Hell, Sebastian Vettel had brakes that were shot for 20-plus laps this weekend and finished third in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Amy: Just saying… if I was the one paying for that car, I’d have wanted him to finish the race, not race ‘til he wrecked with a known problem.
Jeff: I doubt he got into trouble from his owner over it!
Kurt: At short tracks, especially, brakes go. Martinsville, Richmond, you always have to watch your brakes there. Jimmie got taken out because of dumb luck, that’s racin’. It’s tough, but it happens to everyone.
Amy: Lots of guys got taken out by dumb luck. Drivers don’t need to add to it.
Mike: There are 10-12 guys who were out there at the end of that race whose brakes felt very similar to Allmendinger’s.
Phil: Of course, in Allmendinger’s case, he made it just short of halfway before they failed. It was something I discussed yesterday. Brake problems at Darlington have increased significantly since the CoT came in. Teams need to run more venting.
Beth: But getting back to the question at hand, I’m not even close to ready to count Hamlin as the one that will stop Jimmie’s streak any time soon. Remember how many races Kyle Busch won in the first part of 2008 before flopping when the Chase came?
Phil: Hamlin could take it to Johnson. So could Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and about six other dudes.
Amy: Hamlin came on very, very strong in the second half of the Chase last year. If he can put that together for 10 races, he’ll take it all.
Mike: Hamlin is on a good roll. I really think Kyle Busch is the one who’s going to have the best shot at knocking Johnson off in the Chase, although I still say Johnson wins it.
Kurt: Being good in five races isn’t going to cut it. Not when Jimmie is consistently good for 10.
Jeff: You’ve got to be good in the last 10. The whole season depends on the last 10. Pathetic, really.
Amy: And yet nobody sees the problem with that. As for Kyle, I don’t see him winning until he decides what series he really wants to race in.
Jeff: Who’s nobody? I’ve said all along that the chase was a farce.
Amy: Nobody who can change it, Jeff.
Kurt: You’d think the Fan Council would have brought it up by now.
Jeff: I’m sure they have, but NASCAR will not listen because the Chase is Brian’s legacy.
Kurt: Here is a question: Has Kyle Busch ever won a Chase race?
Amy: Yes he has. Phoenix, 2005. Hamlin, incidentally, only has two Chase wins, but I still think that will change drastically this year.
Kurt: Hamlin has been very inconsistent in Chases, sometimes challenging, but most times not. Like the Chase or not, consistency is going to be the key to Hamlin or anyone else beating Johnson.
Mike: Kyle is maturing quite a bit and I think this year he could have dramatically better luck in the Chase. His team seems to be heating up at the right time.
Kurt: I agree with that, Mike. Kyle had a lot of bad luck last year.
Amy: Agreed. But if he can run then like he is now, and if Johnson does as well, it’s a whole new ballgame.
Phil: Kyle is Kyle. It’s still early to tell if he’s matured. He definitely has more priorities now.
Kurt: This is off topic a little bit, but does anyone know why Jason Leffler was the first pick for the No. 11?
Amy: Because he’s a good driver. Not a Cup driver, but they didn’t know that at the time, and he’s a very good NNS driver. Not that you can tell with all the Cup guys in NNS.
Phil: Probably because he was a known quantity to Gibbs?
Mike: He has a very stylish hair-do.
Kurt: I can’t answer the question. I don’t know. I do know that Gibbs struggled with the new spoiler height in 2005 and that didn’t help him.
Amy: Anyways, whatever “it” is, that team has it this year. Hamlin is the one to beat.
Mike: Johnson is the man in the Chase. He could have 10 DNFs in the regular season, but he’ll still be the man to beat in the last 10.
Kurt: Denny has been very impressive this year so far, but the first 26 doesn’t mean anything. Denny may be cursing Brian France at the end of the year.
Amy: Maybe. That’s the game. But Hamlin has it figured out — he has the winner’s mindset now and that’s huge.

Old Spice announced that the company will not return as co-primary sponsor for Tony Stewart in 2011. What happens with SHR now? And while this move is obviously a setback for Stewart-Haas Racing, does it put Hendrick Motorsports’ deal with Kasey Kahne on shaky ground, as Kahne has been widely expected to drive for SHR in 2011 while waiting for the No. 5 to open up at HMS?

Kurt: Kahne will have no problem getting a sponsor. Although, Tony hasn’t been running great, I wonder if that will be a problem.
Beth: I’m sure Stewart has plenty of options when it comes to finding a replacement sponsor.
Mike: While it is certainly a setback, I’m sure SHR will have someone else step up.
Amy: I think Tony will find sponsorship, especially if he makes the Chase and finishes in the top five in points. But then, it’s easy to say that. Gordon is having trouble landing a sponsor with twice the championships and wins.
Jeff: Yeah, I don’t think Tony will have any problems getting another sponsor.
Beth: And Kahne is just as likable.
Phil: I don’t think this is going to affect Kahne’s deal for next year. How do we know that Kahne’s even going to Stewart-Haas?
Jeff: We don’t.
Phil: Hendrick might try to plop him somewhere else.
Mike: While Kahne may be at SHR, he may just as easily be at Phoenix, so I don’t think it really hurts him, either. Wherever Kahne goes, he’ll have a sponsor.
Kurt: It would be great if Schick sponsored him.
Amy: Kahne’s options are limited. If he’s meant to land at SHR, that’s one more sponsor to be found. I’d love to see him go to a small team for a year with Hendrick backing to help grow that team, but I don’t see it happening.
Mike: I think Kahne is going to end up at Phoenix with Martin as the owner and Hendrick “lending” engineering support.
Kurt: I think it’s harder to get full sponsorship these days, everything is much more expensive. There might be another “phantom” team set up by Hendrick to stay under the cap. I really don’t understand how Hendrick gets away with that. I don’t blame him, but Roush has to be shaking his head.
Amy: Why? Roush does it too.
Kurt: They should lift the four-car rule. It’s stupid.
Mike: No, they should lift the testing ban. That is stupid.
Kurt: I don’t think Roush is supplying the same amount of support to the other teams. I don’t hear Paul Menard calling Carl Edwards a “teammate.”
Mike: That’s ‘cause nobody likes Menard.
Amy: The testing ban is not stupid, Mike. The teams that could benefit the most from open testing can’t afford to go. So it would just be the rich getting richer again.
Kurt: No Amy, teams that could test could find a way to beat Hendrick teams.
Amy: I think you run an open test only if a track gets repaved (as Daytona will) or there is a drastic change to the car.
Mike: The teams that are trying to make it from behind need more track time. And they’ll figure out a way to get to the track. Hendrick has more resources that let them virtually test and figure things out that the small teams have no chance of doing without testing being allowed.
Kurt: NASCAR ought to have realized by now that the more they try to legislate parity, the more Hendrick and Johnson run away with it.
Amy: Do you really think Front Row Motorsports can afford open tests for three race teams on one full-time sponsor? Or Keyed-Up? Or Tommy Baldwin?
Phil: They can’t test at any track that hosts a Cup, Nationwide, Truck or K&N Pro Series race.
Mike: I think they can take a car, have all three drivers run it on an actual track they race on and have all three teams gain some practical knowledge.
Kurt: Hendrick didn’t become the powerhouse it is by demanding that NASCAR change the rules for them, Amy.
Amy: Those teams would get left in the dust even worse if they could test all the time.
Kurt: As opposed to starting and parking every week? If they fall off the pace, someone will come along and replace them.
Mike: If they don’t have the option, then Hendrick runs simulations and figures out more things while Front Row sits there pouring over three-year old notes and tries to “innovate.”
Amy: NASCAR didn’t change the rules for Hendrick regarding testing. Why should they lift the test ban to help them?
Kurt: Lifting the test ban will help Roush and RCR find the speed to beat Hendrick.
Amy: Maybe. Though in years past it also made Hendrick even faster.
Mike: It will also help the little teams be a little more competitive.
Amy: Johnson tested 24 times in 2007. The cost of two or three open tests will buy a seven post.
Mike: Really? I thought a seven post was around $30 million.
Amy: Not the number I heard, Mike. I heard around $8 million. An open test costs over a million.
Kurt: If you have a spec car with so little adjustability and no testing to figure it out, who is going to dominate?
Mike: The teams with the most resources to run unlimited simulations on their seven-post and pull-down rigs.
Kurt: I think there should be as few limitations on teams as possible, and make it easier for other teams to catch up. Look at Roush. NASCAR has completely put an end to their success in the name of parity. What good has it done?
Amy: Here’s the thing — you can’t do any of this without sponsors. And that’s where the problem is. If Cup champions can’t get them, what does that mean for anyone else?
Kurt: Put Danica Patrick in the car.
Amy: I’d like to see them be able to test sanctioned tracks again, but open testing like they had a few years back, where you had a set number, is too expensive for the little teams.
Phil: How about only six tests a year, period, regardless of where they take place?
Mike: How about unlimited tests at Non-Cup/Nationwide/Truck tracks? That way they can get plenty of seat time for younger drivers and figure out ways to make the cars adjust without a real advantage on the Cup tracks.
Amy: They have that, Mike.
Mike: No, they can’t test at any NASCAR track. Even if it doesn’t host one of the top three. So places like Greenville-Pickens and Caraway and Hickory are out.
Amy: Same basic idea, though. They can test Rockingham and Little Rock all they want.
Mike: Yeah, and Orange County, but it would be nice if they could test at Concord and Hickory instead of driving three hours.
Kurt: Why even allow them to test at the Rock then?
Amy: Because you can’t control what teams do outside of NASCAR.
Kurt: Iron Fist NASCAR can’t control it? Drivers are going to start having to take pay cuts soon, because sponsorship is getting too hard to come by.
Beth: Well, I doubt Tony’s going to have any trouble finding another sponsor. It’s all a matter of time.
Amy: If multiple-time Cup champions are having sponsor problems (in Stewart’s case) I don’t think it will be easy to start a third team.
Mike: I think Kahne is going to end up somewhere and he’ll have a sponsor. Stewart will find another sponsor and be fine.
Kurt: I agree with Mike. Tony and Kasey will be OK. But I don’t know about some other guys.
Beth: We still have six months until the end of this season and nine months until the Daytona 500. I’m not worried about Stewart or Kahne at all.

NASCAR’s Hall of Fame opened this week in Charlotte with high expectations, but it’s already lagging in corporate sponsorship and sales in the commemorative brick program. Does the Hall reflect a disturbing loss of interest in the sport or is it simply another sign of the times and the economic downturn?

Kurt: A little bit of both, probably. Who buys bricks, anyways?
Phil: I think it’s the economy. That stuff isn’t cheap, you know. I’d still want to go, though.
Kurt: Yeah I’d like to see it, but it’s not on my bucket list.
Amy: I don’t think it says anything about fan interest. I think there will be plenty of fans that go. It’s a part of racing a lot of fans want to see.

See also
Holding a Pretty Wheel: NASCAR Hall of Fame Highlights the Sport's Heart and Soul - Its Roots

Beth: I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a little bit of both, but I imagine it’s more about the economy at this point.
Amy: Incidentally, ratings were up for Darlington.
Kurt: I’d rather NASCAR went back to North Wilkesboro than build a museum.
Mike: I’d rather they build a museum at North Wilkesboro. This is just a reflection of the economy. It is going to be a big deal and draw a ton of people for a few years, then slow down. But it will always be a draw.
Kurt: Yes, it is something people will be able to enjoy for a long time and it will be updated and people can check in for that.
Mike: It was funny that half of the great finishes they showed at the Hall took place at Rockingham and Darlington.
Amy: I disagree, Kurt. I think any sport that wants to sustain itself needs a Hall of Fame; it needs those links to its history. Despite what NASCAR thinks, many fans do care about history.
Kurt: I understand that, Amy. I’m just making a point.
Amy: If you’re a baseball fan, Cooperstown is a must see.  This one should be the same.
Kurt: True that, Amy. And NASCAR probably has even more rabid history buffs than baseball does, if that’s possible.
Amy: Cooperstown is absolutely amazing. The Basketball HoF is pretty cool too. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Canton.
Phil: Righto. Haven’t been to Cooperstown since high school, even though it’s only 70 miles from here.
Kurt: Rock and Roll Hall sucks. How does Rush get passed over for friggin’ Grandmaster Flash?
Mike: Canton is pretty cool. Rock and Roll was good, not great.
Jeff: I’ve been a bball and football fan all my life, but I ain’t gonna die if I never make it to Cooperstown or Canton. Same for NASCAR’s HoF. There are other things in my life I’d like to see before that.
Kurt: It will be cool to see drivers get inducted each year. Does Junior make it in? (The match is lit.)
Amy: I can’t imagine being a real diehard fan and never making it to Cooperstown. And as for Junior, he’s not getting in unless you get a buy for Most Popular Driver awards.
Kurt: I had a chance to go to the Hockey Hall in Toronto and I blew it. So the next time I’m in Charlotte I will go to NASCAR’s. The cool thing is that there will always be debates on who deserves to be there and who doesn’t. There will be a “Rizzuto Line” in the NASCAR Hall someday.
Amy: I think lack of sponsorship is a reflection of the economy and the sport. The rest of the sport is in a downturn, thanks mainly to a downturn in the quality of competition.
Kurt: The Hall is new. Give it some time, if it’s a good enough attraction people will go. Is it open Sunday?
Phil: Yes, it is.
Mike: I don’t think the Hall of Fame should have sponsorship. I think that is ridiculous. The Hall should stand on its own.
Phil: Do they have Blue Laws in Charlotte?
Kurt: The Budweiser NASCAR Hall of Fame! The Chase for the Hall of Fame!
Mike: I don’t think so, Phil. I believe we can buy cars on Sunday. And you can buy beer after noon.
Amy: Those displays would look mighty funny without sponsorship. A blank hauler isn’t exactly what you want to see at the track… another bad sign of the times.

Reportedly, several NASCAR Nationwide Series teams have told the sanctioning body that they will pull out of any races that run the next-generation car, as well as any tests due to the cost of building new cars. Should NASCAR go ahead with the rollout as planned or back off for a year to allow teams more time?

Kurt: Too bad the Cup guys didn’t think of that.
Amy: Absolutely, they should push the rollout back. It was stupid to roll out a new car when many teams can’t even buy tires every week.
Jeff: NASCAR should back off and give them more time — but they won’t. It will be another nail in the coffin.
Mike: No matter how long NASCAR holds it off, people are going to say they can’t afford it, and yet when the time comes they find cars. If they delay it for two more years, they’ll still say they can’t afford it.
Kurt: I don’t think NASCAR is in a position to be hard-nosed about this like they were in Cup. They need to fill fields.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: For NASCAR's Underdogs, Car of Tomorrow Not the Right Decision Today

Amy: I agree, and they won’t if they push forward. Several teams have already said they won’t be at Daytona with the new car.
Mike: They’ve known this was coming for years and should have been ready for it. They’ll make it happen when the time comes.
Jeff: Why do they even need a new car?
Kurt: Yeah Jeff, good question.
Mike: Because the new car is safer than the current car.
Jeff: You can make the current cars just as safe.
Phil: It’s probably got the same collapsing issues as the Cup CoT.
Kurt: The teams will be hurting themselves, though, if they go through with it a boycott. NASCAR can sit down and negotiate in good faith with these teams.
Phil: Maybe they should have just left it for 2011. I’m not sure how many teams are having issues getting cars done.
Beth: NASCAR’s got a choice and they need a full field. If the owners are serious about pulling out of races, they’ll leave NASCAR with no choice.
Amy: The teams are pretty serious, from what I hear.
Kurt: If the Nationwide teams sit out, they’ll just have to run a full field of Cup guys. Wait, they already do that.
Amy: Exactly, Kurt… how? Is NASCAR going to give them racecars?
Mike: I am sure NASCAR will help some teams make it to the grid with the new car.
Kurt: I wonder if NASCAR is considering shrinking the field. They might have to.
Amy: Great, and screw the little teams even more.
Mike: Nah, they’ll leave it at 43 and there will be teams there to fill the field. You can bet on it.
Kurt: I’m not sure about that. You have a lot of start and parkers now, and the prize money is smaller.
Mike: I’m still waiting to hear how they can make the current car safer.
Jeff: What super new technology has been invented that couldn’t be put to use in the current car?
Kurt: The higher roof!
Mike: Bigger greenhouse, driver nearer the center of the car.
Kurt: Don’t need a splitter though. That’s just ugly.
Jeff: You don’t need a whole new car for that. Just make adjustments.
Amy: That’s true. I’m always on the side of safety, but teams can’t afford it.
Mike: How will you make the adjustments, Jeff? You have to build a new car and if you’re going to do that, build the Nationwide CoT.
Phil: You do what the V8 Supercars are doing for their Car of the Future. It’s got a lot of the same ideas, but they don’t involve a totally new car.
Kurt: I am with Jeff on that. But what is the teams’ real issue? Is it the cost?
Amy: Yes.
Kurt: If it’s the cost, then NASCAR would do well to back off. That isn’t their style, but it may be a necessity.
Amy: There are a lot of teams racing on used tires in outdated chassis because it’s the best they can do. This will kill those teams, because missing the CoT races will drop them from locked-in spots.
Kurt: But now here’s a question: What if NASCAR does back off, and then a driver is seriously injured in a crash where he would have likely walked away in the new car? It’s a tough question. That’s why I think they should get together and hammer out a compromise.
Amy: It is a tough question, and there’s no good answer, unfortunately.
Jeff: There will always be a danger in racing. A new car does not guarantee “no deaths or injuries.”
Mike: Look, it has to be implemented at some point. Moving the line over and over just delays the inevitable.
Kurt: Maybe let Hendrick build all of their cars. If not now then when, Mike?
Mike: No matter when they do it, the little teams won’t be able to afford it and the big teams will. What they need to do is make the purses a lot bigger in the Nationwide and Truck series. That is where the joke is.
Amy: Mike is right, and they also need to stop paying the lion’s share of those purses to Cup drivers. But perhaps in a couple of years, the economy will improve and the teams will be better able to absorb the cost.
Kurt: The economy could get worse, for all we know.
Amy: It could, and then those teams will die off completely and there will be nothing left except Cup guys anyway.
Kurt: NASCAR has to have limits on how much they can save struggling teams, Amy. The start and park situation is partly a result of that. If a team is inefficient and can’t get the job done, they need to be replaced with a team that can.
Amy: I totally disagree, Kurt. Some of those teams have great drivers. Jason Keller is not “inefficient.”
Kurt: Amy, there’s Jeff Gordons all over the country. Some of them don’t get breaks.
Amy: And fewer of them will get breaks if teams get killed off.
Kurt: But NASCAR can’t reward bad performance. Hendrick and Roush and Childress all started somewhere.
Phil: Childress was an independent, Hendrick pressed his luck and Roush was already successful long before entering NASCAR.
Amy: But they can help the teams to improve the performance. There’s a difference between bad performance because you drive like John Wes Townley and bad performance because you’re racing on used tires that a Cup team took pity on you and gave you.
Kurt: My point is that NASCAR does enough to establish parity, and it isn’t helping. The new car is about parity. The Chase is about parity. Maybe not fully, but it’s designed with it in mind.
Jeff: Racing socialism.
Kurt: I wasn’t going to use that word Jeff, but it’s the same concept.
Phil: They need to finally institute rules stating that Cup drivers can’t run the full season of Nationwide, or anymore than eight or so races a year.
Kurt: I would like that, but there’s no way that’s happening now.
Phil: Maybe a free set or two of tires a week? In 1982, NASCAR had to give teams a free set or two of tires to entice them to haul to IRP.
Mike: I would understand if NASCAR gave all of the teams three chassis to make the transition. That would ensure that everyone had a fair chance to get started.
Amy: Maybe just stop letting the Cup guys come in and run roughshod all over them. Why should NASCAR give Roush and Gibbs free equipment?
Mike: Because you can’t give it to some teams and not all teams. If you’re going to give away equipment, you have to give it to everyone.
Amy: They should give them to real Nationwide teams only. Cup owners are on their own.
Phil: Then, they’ll whine and cry about it.
Kurt: And that means someone looking to make a buck will bring a car just good enough to qualify and collect the check.
Amy: Why? Any team with a full-time Cup owner could be exempt, no problem.
Kurt: Start and park, I thought we all hated that.
Mike: So you won’t give it to Harvick’s Nationwide program?
Amy: Harvick doesn’t own a full-time Cup team.
Mike: No, but his owner does.
Amy: Harvick owns his own stuff in NNS. He’s not a Cup owner. The true RCR cars would not get chassis, nor would Roush, Gibbs or Penske.
Kurt: The Nationwide Series will thrive when another budding superstar comes along. Unfortunately, Cup guys are preventing it from happening. But sponsors only want the known quantities. It’s a vicious circle.
Mike: And promoters want the Cup guys because it sells more tickets than when they aren’t there.
Phil: No one’s willing to take a chance anymore.
Kurt: I would be more interested in Nationwide if there were no Cup drivers and we were looking at the possible next Stewart. I’ll admit that.
Amy: Amen, Kurt. Toss in a mix of NNS veterans like Keller, and you’d have what the series once was.
Kurt: When you’re forking over $5 million to get your name on a car, you don’t have to get it. Unfortunately.
Mike: I will say one thing; there was a heck of a crowd for the Nationwide race at Darlington.
Kurt: There was a good crowd, wasn’t there? I think that place is making a comeback.

OK, how about predictions for Dover?

Beth: Put me down for Stewart. That team is due for a turnaround sometime soon.
Jeff: Edwards.
Kurt: Clint Bowyer. Gotta hunch.
Mike: Gordon finally gets it right all the way to the end.
Phil: I’m going to go with Matt Kenseth. Pressing my luck once again.
Amy: I’m going to go out on a limb and take Jamie McMurray. He’s got some momentum and is pretty good at Dover.
Kurt: Jamie at Darlington… wow… that was good. I got more respect for him now.
Amy: I picked him for the Daytona 500. Best darkhorse pick I’ve ever made. Possibly ever.

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 10 races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top Fives Top 10s
Amy Henderson 25 11 2 6 9
Phil Allaway 19 -6 10 1 4 9
Beth Lunkenheimer 12 -13 8 1 5 5
Summer Dreyer 8 -17 8 0 3 4
Bryan Davis Keith 4 -21 3 0 1 2
Vito Pugliese 4 -21 2 0 1 2
Jeff Meyer 3 -22 6 0 1 3
Kurt Smith 3 -22 2 0 1 1
Tom Bowles 3 -22 2 0 1 1
Mike Neff 1 -24 2 0 0 1
Tony Lumbis 0 -25 3 0 0 0
Toni Montgomery 0 -25 1 0 0 0
Matt Taliaferro -2 -27 2 0 0 0

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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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