Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: 2011 Hall Candidates, Who Loses a Date & Respect, Baby

Welcome to Mirror Driving. Every week, 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)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Matt Taliaferro (Thursdays/Fanning the Flames)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Garrett Horton (Frontstretch Newsletter Contributor)

Sunday’s race was won with a bump and run from series champion Jimmie Johnson to Kurt Busch in a classic short track battle. But on Friday, Mark Martin and Jeff Burton both commented that lack of respect on the racetrack is becoming a huge problem in NASCAR, changing how the game is played in a bad way. Are they correct, or were the comments just leftover frustration from a wreck-filled race at Sonoma?

Garrett: I don’t agree with Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin. Nowadays, we have factors such as double-file restarts and GWCs that cause harder racing.
Jeff: I don’t agree with Jeff and Mark, either, but I’m gonna puke if people keep blaming double-file restarts.
Amy: Overall, the veterans are absolutely right. There are so many drivers now, most of them young, who know how to take but not when to give.
Matt T.: Well, NASCAR laid down the “have at it” mandate prior to the season, so yeah, there’s going to be a little less “respect.” Whatever that really means on a racetrack….
Beth: Not to mention you’ve got these young guys that feel the need to prove themselves.
Matt T.: As for Jimmie Johnson & Kurt Busch, that was just good ol’ fashioned stock car racing. No problems there.
Beth: Yeah, that was just a good example of the bump ‘n’ run. Kurt just did it too soon to help himself to the win.
Jeff: Jimmie is a prima donna.
Beth: I don’t see why double-file restarts should change anything.
Garrett: They do.
Beth: These guys were still starting two-by-two before. This time, they’re just racing against others for position.
Garrett: NASCAR brought double-file restarts along to tighten up the field and there are more wrecks because of it.
Jeff: There are no more wrecks now than the double-file restarts from before! It’s just not the lapped guys that are wrecking.
Amy: It’s not just this year, I think it’s the last five years or so. Young guys used to respect veterans, give them room; now, too often they run guys over. Jimmie said Friday they don’t race each other the way they ware raced, meaning there is no way to know what someone will do — that basically, there is no trust, and to race hard at 200 mph, there has to be trust.
Matt T.: There is so much on the line now — so much money, sponsorship opportunities, etc. You can’t give an inch. If that is perceived as lack of respect, well, too bad. And I think it’s pretty obvious that the racing today is different than when Martin and Burton came up through the ranks. It’s night & day. Drivers break into Cup at 22, not 32. There’s a difference.
Jeff: Most of the blame can actually be put on the owners and sponsors. It used to be, you had to earn a Cup ride.
Amy: Well, moving on what Jimmie and Kurt did was textbook perfect short track racing with respect. What happened to Juan Pablo Montoya was the opposite.
Beth: Montoya has pissed off enough people on the track that he probably deserved it.
Amy: Not from a lapped car who was racing him while he was racing for position, Beth. And total props to Busch. There was a time when he’d have just dumped Johnson and driven away.
Matt T.: I think everyone’s hit list includes just about everyone out there!
Amy: That’s the problem, Matt. There is no give and take. Wrecking guys left and right is not racing. What Busch and Johnson did was.
Beth: I don’t know if the two (Montoya and Reed Sorenson) got together earlier in the day, but it wouldn’t surprise me. In that case, payback is going to come when it’s convenient for the driver who was wronged, not the other way around.
Matt T.: Reed doesn’t have much time left to get his licks in.
Amy: There is never an excuse for a lapped car to take out a leader. Ever. And I would like to take this moment to point out that until pit crews came into play, Casey Mears beat the snot out of Sorenson all weekend.
Matt T.: Point recognized, Amy.
Amy: Thank you, Matt.
Garrett: As for the leaders, Kurt doesn’t want to see Jimmie win. I knew he was going hit him on the final restart. You remember what he said after Bristol?
Beth: Kurt owes Jimmie at least one good one.
Matt T.: And he did it the right way, Garrett. That was the great thing about that duel.
Jeff: If Jimmie can’t take what Kurt did — and call it good racing — then he needs to go play soccer or something. I lost all respect for JJ after his post-race press conference.
Beth: You and me both, Jeff.
Amy: Then you all took it the wrong way.
Matt T.: Awww, c’mon. I thought Jimmie handled it well.
Garrett: Jimmie handled it well because he won.
Jeff: I didn’t take it the wrong way. I read it over and over.
Amy: I was there. He didn’t mean it the way people who only read the quote think. Had you seen it in person, it would have come across differently — the way he meant it to.
Matt T.: Sure he said he was pissed — wouldn’t you be? — but he calmed himself down enough to retake the lead by repaying the favor without trashing the Deuce. That’s a professional’s way of handling it.
Jeff: He was totally astounded that someone, Kurt Busch even, would so much as touch him.
Amy: That wasn’t what he said or meant, Jeff. You took it out of context.
Matt T.: I gotta be honest, I didn’t take it that way, Jeff.
Jeff: The transcript was taken out of context?
Amy: He said that in the years he’s raced Kurt, he hadn’t seen him do that to him — not that he never expected anyone to hit him because he’s the champion.
Jeff: Whatever. You read your meaning into his words and I’ll read mine. It’s all subjective.
Amy: It was meant that Kurt hadn’t raced him like that before, not that nobody should go after him. Although it does go back to racing others like you’re raced. Johnson races hard, but he doesn’t wreck anyone intentionally.
Beth: I get what you’re saying, Jeff.
Garrett: There should be more people after Jimmie than Jeff because he’s the guy to beat.
Amy: This goes back to the beginning of this question: drivers can’t trust others to race them the same way all the time anymore.
Garrett: Then we are in trouble if Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ever makes it to Cup.
Amy: Again, I was there. I could read his inflection and expression as well as his words.
Jeff: Ahhhhh well… that explains that.
Beth: Still subjective Amy, so agree to disagree, please.
Garrett: I watched the press conference, and I will say I was a bit surprised by Johnson’s words after the race.
Matt T.: I think the amazing thing about Johnson and that team is that not only do they put themselves in position to win and then capitalize (unlike Burton, Martin and Gordon), but he can control his emotions so that he doesn’t do something stupid to take himself out of a win.
Amy: I do think there is a lot of truth to Martin’s and Burton’s comments. Used to be, you raced others the way they raced you. Now, too many drivers just take and have no clue how to give. And seriously, people complain that Jimmie is too vanilla, then crucify him for getting mad? No wonder he’s afraid to say anything.
Garrett: I don’t think Jimmie is vanilla. I never understood why people say he is.
Matt T.: Because he doesn’t have a bushy mustache and drive a black car. As for the way everyone races one another, they’re all driving for their jobs. I really don’t know that they have another choice on how to drive. It’s cutthroat, man.
Beth: There’s quite a bit less give and take on the track now than when I first started watching NASCAR, but that’s not so much a lack of respect as it is a need to win the race. Period.
Jeff: Here’s a novel concept: How about, race like hell to win! There are no friends in racecars.
Matt T.: There ya go, Jeff.
Amy: But you can race like hell to win and do it right, like JJ and Busch did on Sunday, or you can be a prick and put a guy in the wall for it.
Jeff: The only reason JJ wasn’t a prick is because he couldn’t catch him right away. If Johnson had caught him the next lap, he would have wrecked him.

Last week, we talked about Bruton Smith’s statements concerning moving a date from NHMS. One week later, with an IndyCar date on its calendar, his comments did nothing to deny the possibility exists. Based on what we saw this weekend, does the date deserve to go?

Jeff: No.
Amy: Absolutely not. The race was a great race and very well attended.
Garrett: Attendance looked to be great and the racing was very good. So no.
Amy: Percentage of butts to seats, it was one of the best attended of the year.
Jeff: What are those numbers, Amy?
Amy: Attendance? 90,000, according to NASCAR – who I understand can overestimate. But I’m going by what I saw from pit road.
Garrett: It seemed like the entire race, the top 10 was separated by less than 10 seconds.
Matt T.: I don’t know what qualifies as deserving to go, but if he’s bringing an IndyCar race in, I’d look at it as a supplement to make up for lost revenue from a Cup race gone bye-bye.
Amy: It may have been the best race this year. Not one manipulation by NASCAR to make it good.
Matt T.: No manipulation, which was good, but that’s not the question.
Garrett: New Hampshire deserves two dates, but it’s starting to look like one is going away.
Beth: Leave the race alone. It was one of the more enjoyable ones I’ve seen in a while.
Matt T.: I thought it got a little pedestrian at times. I was watching with family, and they were kinda bored.
Amy: See, Matt, I’d rather have those long green flag runs of real racing and not fake cautions to tighten up the field and cause wrecks.
Garrett: Unless NASCAR told Kasey Kahne to blow his motor?
Matt T.: I don’t want fake cautions, but I thought there was some lap logging going on at times. Of course, I was pretty hungover.
Jeff: Atta boy, Matt.
Matt T.: Sister’s wedding the night before… sheeeesh.
Beth: I liked the long green-flag runs. Drivers were actually able to catch and pass the leader here and there.
Garrett: That was a race we saw — bump ‘n’ runs, long green-flag runs, comers and goers.
Jeff: Sorry to say, but long green runs are a part of racing. If not, then they’d have a 10-gallon tank.
Beth: And I’d rather see that any day over phantom cautions.
Amy: Since they widened the groove, NHMS has had some very good races.
Matt T.: Well, I’m not saying NHMS deserves to lose a date, because I like the unique quality it brings to the schedule. All I’m saying is with a new Indy race on the way, don’t be surprised if it happens.
Amy: Shhh! Don’t give them any ideas! I don’t know, the Indy race has been in the works for three years at least, while the security thing is new. They aren’t necessarily related, but….
Matt T.: And he’s owned Kentucky for two or three years, right? It’s all part of Bruton’s crazy master plan!
Garrett: While I like the Cup racing at New Hampshire, it’s a terrible track for IndyCar.
Amy: Garrett, have you seen the IndyCar races there?
Garrett: No, I haven’t. It seems like it would be similar to the Richmond IndyCar races.
Amy: Look on Youtube. I can’t remember if it was ‘93 or ‘94, but possibly one of the best open-wheel races that ever happened was at New Hampshire. Back to the question, though; Bruton shouldn’t be thinking about moving a date, and NASCAR shouldn’t approve such a move.
Matt T.: I’m probably repeating what others have already said, but if Bruton is going to give a date to a 1.5-miler, he should take a date from an existing 1.5-miler.

On Thursday, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will announce its next group of 25 candidates for five spots in the Hall next year. Who are the leading nominees, and why?

Matt T.: Oh wow, that’s tough. David Pearson is a no-brainer, that much I know.
Garrett: Yeah, Pearson is the obvious choice. Then Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Red Byron and Tim Flock.
Jeff: Brian France! The biggest violator of NASCAR’s section 12-4-1 in the rulebook!
Amy: I think Pearson, Allison, Yarborough, Richie Evans, Lee Petty.
Jeff: How do we know who is the leading five if we don’t know the 25 candidates yet?
Amy: NASCAR announced Evans and Jerry Cook on the list already.
Matt T.: This isn’t my definitive list, but I’m thinking Pearson, Cale, Lee Petty, Ray Parks and maybe Darrell Waltrip.
Jeff: Any Waltrip is far in the future.
Matt T.: I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Jeff. DW will be in within the first five years, easy.
Garrett: I think DW will get in for 2012.
Jeff: Just because they will be running out of picks by then.
Matt T.: Regardless of what you think of DW as a personality today, he was a helluva driver in his day.
Jeff: Oh, I know Matt, I like DW as a driver.
Amy: Evans should already be in.
Jeff: Ray Parks will get in because he recently died — not saying he doesn’t deserve to, but just sayin’.
Matt T.: I can’t get behind that, Amy. Evans, that is.
Amy: He’s the winningest driver in NASCAR history, Matt.
Matt T.: Modifieds, not the big show.
Amy: And mods are not a development series, they are their own show.
Beth: With that logic, would you bypass Ron Hornaday Jr. if he were retired since his major success has been in the Truck Series and not in the “big show”?
Matt T.: Yes, Beth. Evans and Hornaday both belong, but not in the second class.
Beth: Fair enough.
Matt T.: We had this same discussion last year about Evans, Amy, and neither of us gave an inch, so we’ll just move on.
Amy: Evans should have been in the first class, so second shouldn’t be a question. But since most fans have no idea how great he was, he probably won’t get in.
Matt T.: I don’t think it’s the fans call, Amy. Anyway, I’d like to see crew chiefs or owners inducted as well as drivers. Inman won seven titles as a crew chief. That’s pretty deserving, as well.
Amy: The first NASCAR race was a modified race. It’s too bad they only show mods live on Versus. Their finish Saturday put the Cup boys to shame.
Matt T.: Again, we’ll agree to disagree. There are so many that are deserving. I think the five will come from the 20 carry-overs and the new five (whoever they are besides Cook) will have to wait.
Garrett: I’ll be scratching my head if Darrell makes it this year. I think it’s too soon for him.
Amy: Dale Earnhardt and Waltrip raced at the same time. If Evans doesn’t make it, DW should. And by that logic, Garrett, it was too soon for Earnhardt to go in, too.
Garrett: How so?
Matt T.: Here we go….
Jeff: Dale was a seven-time champ like the King.
Garrett: Darrell can make it in two years. I just think there are more deserving drivers than DW right now.
Jeff: I’m with Garrett on this one.
Amy: And DW is one of the winningest drivers in the history of the sport. I do think Evans should go in first, as his nine championships dictate, but DW has the numbers.
Jeff: But not the agent.
Matt T.: I think DW also had a lot to do with bringing NASCAR into a mass-audience age. His achievements off the track are notable. (Here comes the caning.)
Garrett: I just think Darrell is a third-ballot Hall of Famer, not a second. Plus, I never said anything about Dale. And I’m not going to.
Jeff: Caning is so uncool, PC-wise….
Amy: Darrell’s achievements off the track are negligible, in my opinion, but the wins are there.
Matt T.: Whether you like him or not, he was the voice of NASCAR to a new generation of fans when the big TV contracts hit.
Garrett: The funny thing is, unlike many people, I think Darrell is a great announcer.
Amy: What’s too bad, Matt, is that far, far too many fans know him only as the shill in the booth and not as one of the finest racecar drivers ever to sit in a car.
Matt T.: Be that as it may, those that vote know the real story.
Amy: I’d like to see the voting system change, but that’s another story. Baseball does it right. Speaking of, I’d love NASCAR to take a cue from baseball and include a “writer’s wing.”
Matt T.: I’d imagine they’ll do something like that one day.
Jeff: Oh, I’m in for sure if they do!
Matt T.: You’re the best, Jeff. Ever. Man of the People!
Jeff: I was a “citizen journalist” before being one was cool! I only do this because of a drunken bet. Well, that and it saves me money on tickets when I want to go to a race….

This Friday marks the debut of the Nationwide Series’ long-awaited new car. With enough teams able to create a 43-car field, what type of racing will we see at Daytona? And over the long-term, is this change the type that’ll save the series and turn the tide of declining ratings, attendance, and driver talent?

Jeff: Impossible to answer. And a car cannot save “declining talent.”
Amy: The talent level in NNS would be just fine if the Cup guys would get out. The racing won’t change with the new car, though. The Cup guys with the money will still be at the front, and the real NNS teams who don’t will be fighting for crumbs.
Matt T.: Jeff’s right; It’s hard to answer, but I don’t think we’ll see too much difference this weekend.
Garrett: I am starting to think the Nationwide series should just end and merge with Cup.
Beth: I don’t see it as much more than extra work for teams that are already struggling to keep their heads above water.
Garrett: Cars are going to be the same, drivers are the same.
Amy: Several NNS drivers haven’t even driven the car yet. They opened Daytona early, but the teams who need to go can’t afford to go.
Matt T.: As for long-term effects, I doubt this will pull new fans in to the Nationwide Series — particularly if the pony cars go to Cup in a couple years.
Garrett: It’s a giant test session to see if it would be good for Cup.
Matt T.: Development series, right Garrett?
Matt T.: I just really can’t imagine the actual on-track product changing that much. However, I’m glad to see some real hot rods out there… Chevy and Toyota excluded.
Amy: I hate the idea of pony cars in Cup. It goes against everything NASCAR has been since it began.
Jeff: I’m gonna have to get a new crystal ball if we are gonna keep asking questions about the future.
Matt T.: Relax. Feel nothing, hear nothing and be the ball.
Jeff: Caddyshack?
Matt T.: You’re not being the ball, Jeff.
Jeff: I’m starting to feel it.
Amy: Anyways, rolling out the new car now does nothing for the series and hurts the teams that can’t afford to be hurt. The ones who can afford it are the same ones already buying trophies.
Jeff: I think it will totally save the series, keep the second date in New Hampshire and eventually, the new pony car will be voted in the Hall of Fame by 2012!
Matt T.: You’re being the ball, Jeff!!!!!
Amy: Do the Challenger and ‘Stang look badass? Sure. Will it make a whit of change to the racing. Nope.
Matt T.: I think the new Ford and Dodge models are Bad-A. Bad-A decals and noses.

Predictions for Daytona?

Amy: I think Kevin Harvick grabs another 10 bonus points for the Chase.
Beth: Put me down for Tony Stewart this weekend. I know victory lane isn’t very far away for that team this year.
Matt T.: How about Kurt Busch getting his first plate win?
Jeff: Jeff Burton.
Garrett: I pick Bobby Labonte.
Jeff: At least Bobby won’t shut off the engine.
Garrett: The No. 09 got lucky last year at a restrictor-plate race. I’m feeling lucky.

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

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top Fives Top 10s
Amy Henderson 26 17 2 7 12
Phil Allaway 26 15 1 7 12
Beth Lunkenheimer 19 -7 11 1 7 8
Summer Dreyer 10 -16 11 0 4 6
Mike Neff 10 -16 7 1 2 4
Bryan Davis Keith 4 -22 3 0 1 2
Vito Pugliese 4 -22 2 0 1 2
Matt Taliaferro 3 -23 3 1 1 1
Tom Bowles 3 -23 2 0 1 1
Jeff Meyer 1 -25 11 0 1 5
Kurt Smith 1 -25 4 0 1 1
Garrett Horton 1 -25 2 0 0 1
Tony Lumbis 0 -26 3 0 0 0
Toni Montgomery 0 -26 1 0 0 0

About the author

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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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Bryan Davis Keith

Here is why the double file restarts have increased the willingness of drivers to drive like idiots:
In the old days when lapped cars were in one line no matter how reckless you were on restarts the chances of you gaining 5 or 6 positions by driving like an idiot were slim and none because you really would have to pass 10 cars (the 5 lapped cars and the 5 lead lap cars in front of you). Now, that might be possible once in a while by driving like an idiot but it is highly improbable. You might gain a couple of positions at best, so is it really worth taking a chance and driving like an idiot for two spots vs the chance of wrecking and walking away with a 30th place finish or wrceking someone else and walking away with a lot of enemies (two positions just isn’t worth it).

Now with the double file restarts you can gain 5 spots fairly easily on a restart if you pick the right line and things work out your way. It’s still not a guarentee but the probability is much higher. Thus the probability of being rewarded by gaining 5-6-7-8 positions on a restart for driving like an idiot is higher so the risk vs reward has a better ratio.

Think of another scenario. Your area has been hit by a hurricane and there is no water. Someone is handing out bottled water but they only have 100 bottles. If you are the 101st person in line you might be willing to be an asshole and push someone out of line but if you are 1000th in line what the point. There is no way you are going to mover 900 people in front of you out of the way so why bother. It’s the same type of psychology.

Bryan Davis Keith

Regarding NHMS and SecurityGate: There was an interesting article in the Manchester Union-Leader Sunday (“The Boss Is In Town”, 6/27, sadly only available online for $2.50). Bruton has been saying to all who will listen that NHMS is the only place that he has to pay the local cops for security.

It turns out, that is a flat out lie. The U-L talked to chiefs in Bristol, Sonoma, and other places and found out that not only do they also get paid by SMI for security, some of them are in fact getting paid MORE than what SMI pays at NHMS. These other departments all have a stake in whether NH gives in to Smith’s bullying, because if it works at NHMS, you know he’ll go to other tracks to try the same thing.

The article goes on to demonstrate Smith’s style. Basically, he feels he should ALWAYS get his way, period. And he’ll do it whether it make economic sense or not (don’t forget his famiily owns most of SMI’s stock so it’s not like he has to answer to stockholders who may call him on this habit). He’s not had anyone stand up to him, and he’s never learned you can’t always have things your way.

So, this is all just a smokescreen. He’s making something up to justify pulling the race. NASCAR should call him on the carpet for it, but I doubt they have the balls to do so.

It’s a shame, I suppose, but frankly, I’ve grown to become, ironically, like Smith: to hell with the economic benefits, stand up to Smith, and if he takes the race, or all the races, fine, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Like many NH folks, I don’t take kindly to out of town bullies, and I have confidence that some new event will come along to make up the economic benefits over time – there are always new events coming along. Not to mention I know a lot of folks who avoid the area during race weeks that would then be more likely to visit and spend their money.

Bryan Davis Keith

Presumably the Cup drivers constitute a group of “highly paid professionals.” If we assume that to be true, is it too much to ask that they deal with double file restarts the same way that drivers in every other form of motorsports do? (IRL, Formula 1, etc) One’s brain does control the position of one’s right foot in a race car. Use it and stop complaining!!!

Bryan Davis Keith

Who is this Garrett Horton guy who picks Labonte to win the race this weekend? Has he been drug tested? On second thought, it’s a restrictor plate race… you can’t rule any driver out. By the way, Garrett, thanks for being the only contributer to suggest Tim Flock for the next HOF. For that, I can almost excuse you for calling DW a great announcer. Almost.

Bryan Davis Keith

Jeff you had the best line of the article. JJ is a prima donna. How dare someone drive him hard? Bump him? Egotistical, self-serving, lump of plastic.

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