Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Funding Jeff Gordon, Driver vs. Team & Steve Park, Please Come Back!

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)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Summer Dreyer (Mondays/Running Their Mouth & Frontstretch News Reporter)

Jeff Gordon, a four-time champion and one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers is currently without a full-time sponsor for 2011. Just how troubling is that in the context of the sport as a whole? And who will end up on the side of his car next year?

Phil: Very troubling. Jeff Gordon‘s a marketable person. He should be able to get something.
Summer: Well it sounds like Wal-Mart won’t be. I don’t know, though, and I find that kind of scary. You hear people calling Gordon and Jimmie Johnson “corporate robots” all the time. You’d think someone would want him!
Amy: I think it’s an indication of a huge problem looming on the horizon. Junior can’t find sponsors for his NNS cars, Gordon can’t attract a backer. Scary times.
Mike: It’s the state of the sport these days, but it is also probably saying something about the expectations of Hendrick Motorsports. I’m willing to bet that HMS wants a lot more to be on Gordon’s hood than RPM charges Stanley Tools to be on Elliott Sadler‘s hood.
Amy: With good reason, Mike.
Mike: Actually Amy, not with good reason. It should cost roughly the same amount of money to run a team no matter who is wheeling it. But Hendrick has far more overhead and ridiculously high budgets to run their teams so they are asking for too much money from a sponsor.
Jeff: This may be the shakeup that this sport needs. Get it back to the racing and away from the corporate dollar.
Amy: Maybe Jeff, but the Cup Series isn’t really where that needs to come about.
Jeff: The heck you say! That is where the problem is the worst! Start at the top.
Amy: I do think that the cost is a little out of hand, but it seems to me that an almost automatic championship bid in your first year is also a decent return on investment. And it depends on what return on that investment you want. If you want a couple of TV commercials and a backmarker finish, well, you get what you pay for.
Summer: I agree that it could really be a good thing, but it could also hurt some of these up-and-comers and smaller teams if someone like Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports can’t attract sponsors.
Amy: A good driver is worth more money. If I was a sponsor I’d be a lot more willing to fund a driver and team that might actually win once in a while.
Mike: If that is the case then I’ll sponsor David Reutimann. He has more wins in the last two years than Gordon.
Summer: I don’t know that it’s so much the marketability as the cost. Sponsors don’t want to put out that kind of money.
Phil: In addition, there’s only so much exposure you can get from being a sponsor. Just ask anyone associated with the Izod IndyCar Series.
Summer: Well, if teams are asking for more than what the sponsors are willing to give, that’s obviously not going to work.
Amy: The problem is, Summer, that in the boom times, the sponsors were willing to put it out and costs grew exponentially. Now you’re stuck with a $25-million team and no money.
Jeff: The nature of the marketing of the sport has changed. NASCAR alienated the longtime fan, the ones that are more apt to be brand loyal. It is not necessarily a good thing to be associated with NASCAR anymore. Yet, it seems that NASCAR is gearing up to ram the marketing thing down our throats again, telling everyone how good everything is.
Amy: I think Jeff has an excellent point. You have a breed of fan that doesn’t put their money where their mouth is.
Mike: That is a very true statement. I was just reading that the NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte, which is the office tower attached to the Hall of Fame, is 60% vacant and some of the potential clients are balking at being associated with the NASCAR brand.
Phil: If true, that’s a real shame about not wanting to be associated with NASCAR.
Jeff: Why Phil? I know I don’t have the fervor that I once had. Sometimes I don’t know why I even keep doing this.
Summer: Even with a somewhat alienated fanbase, NASCAR is still the most brand loyal fan base you could ask for. It’s not like Gordon fans wouldn’t completely back a name on his car. Or several other drivers, for that matter.
Jeff: But greed has killed it, Summer.
Mike: The teams are the ones that have driven up the prices of competition. They want to employ all of the cool technology, so they have to pay for it. Eventually they are going to have to learn to make do without all of the high-dollar bells and whistles.
Jeff: Amen Mike. And the teams are not loyal to the drivers and vice versa. It has become all about the dollar. True fans are sick of that.
Summer: Well, greed has made it more difficult for sponsors to shell out the money too. The fans will still back the sport but there needs to be more to it than that.
Phil: Did you guys see those Doosan CNC machines on — I think it was NASCAR Performance — those things are huge and incredibly expensive. Those things, along with post rigs and shaker rigs are really jacking up the price.
Mike: But those things should be paid for at some point, Phil. The problem is they keep buying more and more technology because they have the budgets.
Summer: If everyone is forced to do that, eventually it won’t matter. It’d be more of a long term thing, though.
Amy: So, what if a team decides to cut costs and forego the fancy stuff? Where does that team wind up on Sunday… if they even make the race? It’s an awfully slippery slope.
Jeff: NASCAR is mostly to blame for this. They banned testing to “save teams money,” but now the teams just “test” with their fancy gizmos.
Amy: Right. NASCAR did them no favors in that aspect, eliminating testing.
Phil: The general thought seems to be that testing will be back next year.
Mike: The teams have to spend a lot of money taking testing teams to tracks and burning through tires and fuel and equipment at a test. But the bottom line is, they will spend whatever money they have and, until sponsors tell them no, they’ll keep burning through it. Teams are wasteful on a race weekend as well. Have y’all ever seen how much food is thrown away in the garage area on a race weekend? It is obscene how much waste there is after an event by the teams.
Jeff: The “tire leasing” is a problem, too. They used to stockpile unused tires to use in testing. So, if you bring back testing, you need to get rid of tire leasing.
Mike: I think in the long run, it will make racing better if more practice can take place on actual tracks where they race.
Amy: Could that be done without the huge cost of a separate test? Let them go one day early and run telemetry.
Summer: No, don’t regulate it. Just let them test like they used to. Then it’s their choice how much money they spend on it.
Mike: I think it would be better if they allow them to test weeks in advance. If you figure out something on Thursday that requires a major change to the chassis you won’t be able to do it at the track.
Amy: Look, as long as one sponsor is willing to pony up $30 million, the rest can’t compete on $5 million, and they know it.
Jeff: But now we are seeing that the sponsor is no longer willing to shell out $30 mill! I think it is great!
Mike: Right Amy, but now they can’t find someone to pony up $30 million for Gordon, so they’re going to have to make do with 20 or 15. Eventually things will reign back in.
Jeff: I think it is great that superstars are having trouble finding sponsors. It’s a sign of things getting back to some sort reality in the long run. I have a hard time feeling sorry for Gordon.
Mike: It is pretty simple: The boom is over and the big teams are going to have to figure out creative ways to bring in the money to feed their massive high-tech appetites, or they’re going to have to cut back on the fancy stuff or the armies of people running it. There also needs to be more done from a sponsorship aspect. Reading and hearing stories of everything that RJR did back in the day and now seeing that Sprint hardly hands out anything free at races speaks volumes about how the sponsors are marketing their sponsorship.
Amy: I think that while the teams have driven the price to ridiculous points, the other reasons for lack of sponsors are scarier in regards to the sport’s health — lack of fan loyalty, fear of even being associated with NASCAR — those are far worse than free enterprise.
Phil: It’s like we’re at where CART was about 1998, minus that nasty split.
Mike: The lack of fan loyalty is NASCAR’s fault and NASCAR’s alone. They were the ones that turned their back on the hardcore fans and the fans are speaking with their wallets on multiple fronts.

One subject that often comes up in NASCAR is driver vs. equipment and which is more important to a winning team. On the other end of the spectrum, many small teams made driver changes in recent weeks with little change in results. So, for a low-budget team, does the driver matter or is the equipment so far behind technologically that it makes no difference who is behind the wheel?

Amy: I think this fits right in with the last question. If you don’t have the equipment, it wouldn’t matter if you had Gordon in the driver’s seat, you aren’t gonna win races.
Phil: With a lot of those teams S&Ping, it’s really kind of debatable. However, a good driver can only do so much in inferior equipment. The Nationwide Series has an example I can use: R3 Motorsports. This team has struggled much of the year, but they ran very well with Coleman Pressley, if you guys remember.
Summer: It’s a combination, though I think equipment has more to do with it. There are some cars even Kyle Busch couldn’t make go fast.
Mike: The driver most certainly makes a difference on several levels. A better driver can give better feedback about what the car is doing and help make it better. A driver can also overcome deficiencies in equipment to some extent, although in the Cup Series the driver makes very little difference anymore.
Amy: To a point, Mike, but if the car is junk, the crew is inexperienced and there’s no money for better parts, etc., all the feedback in the world can’t fix it.
Mike: True. If they are completely out to lunch it won’t matter who is in the car. But if the equipment has the potential, a good driver can make it work.
Jeff: You have no coherency if you keep changing quarterbacks every game. Gets back to instant gratification. Teams are less willing to stick it out in tough times to see the good times.
Phil: Sponsors are less willing, too.
Amy: Because they can’t, Jeff. When it costs so much just to race, nobody will sponsor you, the money is going to run out before you can grow.
Summer: If you can find a good enough combination, you can make the team better. I just still think with inferior equipment, you can’t necessarily make it good.
Mike: Look at Billy Ballew’s No. 51 truck. Aric Almirola has done pretty well this year, but the truck doesn’t win as often as it did with Busch behind the wheel.
Summer: That’s not a crappy team, though. They actually have some good equipment that any good driver can win with.
Amy: I agree with that Mike, but for some teams, no driver could make them a contender. At the top it takes both to win. At the bottom it takes a miracle to survive.
Jeff: Maybe today’s young drivers don’t know how to make the car go fast. They’ve grown up with this “new” car and have no experience in what a race car used to be like.
Amy: I disagree. An ARCA car is an old Cup car, a K&N car or a NNS is similar to the old car as well. Hell, a late model is similar to the old car. And I don’t buy that drivers who were getting wins and top 10s a few years ago suddenly forgot how to drive a racecar.
Summer: I don’t either. You can usually tell which teams just plain suck and which just need a better driver in the cockpit.
Mike: If a team is a backmarker, no driver is going to make them a winner. But the right driver could make them a top-15 car instead of a 25th-place car. Again, not so much in the Cup Series, but in other series.
Amy: I don’t know about top 15. Maybe a top 25, which for most of those teams would be a huge improvement.
Mike: The Cup car is so temperamental that even the best driver can’t do much if it is off more than just a fraction. And some of the cars never get close during an entire race weekend.
Jeff: And look how fast these kids are coming up now, Amy. They spend very little time in those series for the most part, before they get brought up, do bad and get sent packing.
Amy: Some of them, Jeff, but that doesn’t explain the veterans. I will not believe that Bobby Labonte suddenly cannot drive a Cup car or Kenny Wallace a NNS car.
Phil: Oh, Bobby can. We’ll see how he does in the No. 47 next year. And remember Hendrick’s development guys? Boston Reid, Kyle Krisiloff and Blake Feese? Where’d they go?
Jeff: I find it pretty amusing that Zaxby’s finally got a win after John Wes Townley tore up so many racecars.
Mike: Bobby has been in very poor equipment over the last few years.
Amy: Exactly my point, Mike. It doesn’t matter how good Labonte is if the equipment is that poor.
Mike: Same with Wallace and guys like Dennis Setzer. They’re in equipment that is not capable of winning.
Phil: It even applies back to the ’90s. Remember when Darrell Waltrip did Motegi in substitution for Dale Jarrett? He was competitive in the No. 88.
Summer: That’s the point. They’re good drivers in bad equipment.
Mike: Right, so you can’t expect them to win, but if a driver is in poor equipment and it isn’t getting any better, then it is time to change because he’s not helping make it better.
Amy: And that equation is different than great drivers in good equipment. Those guys can get more out of the stuff. Heck, maybe those guys driving for the crappy teams do too, we just don’t see it because the results are still so bad.
Mike: Look at guys like Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Since the new car was introduced they’ve both been struggling to win races.
Summer: Something isn’t clicking with Junior even though he’s in good equipment. Jamie McMurray was in good equipment, too, but did nothing with it.
Mike: McMurray still isn’t consistently good, though. And that is where his problem lies.
Amy: McMurray is consistently better than 30 other drivers, Mike. I’d argue that some equipment isn’t going to get better with any driver. Or maybe with one like Tony Stewart or Gordon, but those teams can’t land that caliber of driver.
Mike: Thirty other drivers? I don’t think he’s consistently better than that many. 20 maybe. Look, the chassis is pretty much the same for everyone. The body is the same for everyone. The only thing they can play with is geometry. If the team doesn’t have the smarts to figure out the geometry, then the driver won’t matter.
Amy: He’s 13th in points, Mike. There are 43 drivers. Do the math. He’s consistently better than everyone behind him in points, or he wouldn’t be where he is.
Summer: McMurray is not consistent, but he’s winning races and finishing up front, something he very rarely did at RFR. In fact, pretty much never aside from restrictor plate tracks.
Jeff: I’d say McMurray and Junior are about the same caliber of driver.
Summer: I’m not one to disagree, really.
Amy: I’d agree, but I’d add that right now, McMurray wants it a heck of a lot more and that counts for something. And the thing is, at the level McMurray is at, you can’t point at the equipment. RFR has better cars than EGR, so some of that is driver.
Summer: That was my point. McMurray was in a team that was supposed to be better but he did nothing, then goes to a “lesser” team and is mathematically eligible to make the Chase. So I think calling McMurray or Junior a bad driver is unfair.
Mike: Yeah, and McMurray has more wins than half of the top 12. That’s the problem. He is great one week and then blows the next.
Jeff: Well I never meant “bad” per se, more “overrated.”
Summer: I don’t think anyone disagrees that he’s overrated.
Mike: At this point in his career I’d agree with that. Earlier in his career I would not have called him overrated.
Phil: The wrecks that McMurray has been in haven’t helped his cause.
Mike: I disagree because you get more points for finishing up front than you do in the back. So his wins have ballooned his points position more than the people who are behind him in points with no wins.
Amy: Disagree with that too, Mike. Gordon hasn’t won. In any case, I do think that the driver factor is different among the top teams than among the bottom. Some of those teams wouldn’t fare any better no matter who drove.
Summer: Several drivers in the top 12 haven’t won.
Mike: Gordon has more top fives than anyone but Kevin Harvick. Again, getting a bonus from finishing near the front. McMurray has a lot of poor finishes where he was behind a lot of the drivers he’s ahead of in points. The teams that are near the back and struggling certainly might benefit from a change of driver, but sometimes they just need to wait it out and give the team time to gel.
Phil: You could argue that Mike’s given quite the argument against raising the amount of points per win by too much.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Montreal was one of the most exciting races in that series this year, producing one of the closest NNS finishes ever. Is that a sign that Sprint Cup should look at running Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, or was the great racing a product of something else?

Amy: The track raced well, but that’s not the reason the race was great. Should there be a Cup race there? Maybe. There should be another road course or two on the Cup circuit, but there are other worthy tracks.
Summer: I don’t think we should jump on the moving Cup to Montreal right now. People are jumping on going to this track due to the photo finish. Let’s give it a few more years to sort it out, because at first everyone was complaining about all the cautions.
Phil: Like Road Atlanta? It hosted a couple of Busch Grand National races in the 1980s. A Cup race at Montreal would be interesting, but I’m not sure how it would work. This race would be shortened if the Cup Series came to town.
Jeff: I didn’t see it. I was out in the woods scouting for deer season.
Mike: The track is pretty racy and puts on a good show. However, there’s no need to have a Cup race in Montreal. There are plenty of places in the U.S. to run and we’ve already seen how well expanding the series has worked so far.
Amy: The reason the Montreal race was great was actually fairly simple: you got a glimpse of what that series would look like without the Cup guys and all their money running away at the front of the pack.
Jeff: Amy had to get that in somewhere!
Summer: Marcos Ambrose and Carl Edwards were in it for a long time, Amy.
Amy: But as soon as they no longer were — presto — a race among equals.
Summer: The racing was still good when they were in it.
Mike: Yeah, it was a battle between two road-course guys who are far from competitive on oval tracks. Equal road-course ringers who can’t run up front anywhere else.
Amy: But it was also among smaller teams, and face it, if Edwards had not broke, it would not have been so compelling. He’d have run away with it and the rest would have been an afterthought.
Jeff: Good grief! I almost wish they would ban Cup drivers completely from the NNS just so Amy wouldn’t go on about it anymore.
Summer: Again, the racing was good long before Edwards or Ambrose fell out of it.
Amy: But the finish would not have been.
Summer: Who’s to say if they hadn’t we wouldn’t have gotten another Edwards and Ambrose battle like last year?
Amy: Would the fans care as much if the battle had been among the rich teams? All I know is, I was more interested in that finish than I have been in a NNS race for years.
Jeff: Are you saying if Edwards had been battling Boris Said, it would not have been as good a finish?
Amy: Had Edwards been in it at the end there would not have been a battle at all, Jeff.
Summer: How do you know that? There very well could have been.
Jeff: A finish is a finish, exciting or not, no matter who is in the car.
Amy: If the battle had been two Cup guys, no, it would not have been particularly compelling.
Jeff: How you figure?
Amy: Edwards clearly had the best car and was able to put a considerable distance on the field in a short time. No reason to believe he wouldn’t have done the same on the late restarts.
Mike: Boris has been known to make things exciting on a late-race restart. Or maybe we could have gotten a Ned Jarrett Southern 500 battle. You never know what you’ll get which is why they run the races. I just don’t have any desire to expand the footprint of NASCAR anymore. I want it to shrink and get back to where it started.
Jeff: Maybe to you, Amy, but a race is a race.
Mike: The ORP Nationwide races the last two years have been awesome. I’ve enjoyed them far more than the wreck-fest that happens whenever they put the Nationwide Series on a road course.
Jeff: In St. Louis, the finish was exciting, too. It didn’t matter that it was Carl vs. Brad.
Amy: I disagree, Jeff. St Louis was same old, same old, just with a crash.
Phil: Yesterday’s race still took just over three hours to complete, even with the long 42-lap green-flag run.
Amy: But people were watching at the end, Phil. That says something.
Phil: Oh yes, they were.
Amy: I think a lot of that race was the product of the closest thing we’ve seen to parity in that series in a long, long time. It would be cool to see that more.
Summer: The good racing was good racing throughout, I don’t care who the drivers are. I’m not going to jump on the Cup Series going there, though.
Mike: Just wait until the new car is on the track full time. There’ll be plenty of parity.
Phil: I don’t know about that, Mike. Maybe between the non-Cup affiliated teams.
Mike: Dude, there won’t be non-Cup affiliated teams. No independent teams are going to build a fleet of cars to run for a 28% lower purse than two years ago.
Amy: I think the Cup Series would be better served going to Road America, but Montreal is a beautiful course and there aren’t many tracks that pack in 70,000 for a Nationwide race. There is some merit in considering a Cup date.
Mike: Kentucky puts a butt in every seat for the Nationwide Series and it took them forever to get a Cup date.
Amy: That’s probably true, Mike. They might as well just market the series as Cup Lite with all the second-place Cup guys going for the championship and send the real NNS guys back to ASA.
Mike: Although I do look forward to seeing French subtitles for a Montreal race if the Cup Series goes there. That would be awesome.
Jeff: Iowa would sell out if they had the seats for Cup, just because of the track and the racing it produces.
Amy: Montreal deserves a Cup date before Kentucky, but that’s a whole other story, as does Iowa. No cookie cutter deserves a new Cup date, period.
Mike: I can hear Bill France rolling over in his grave as we speak.
Phil: I don’t think Bill France would be against a Cup race in Montreal.
Mike: True Phil. If it would make him a buck I’m sure he’d have been for it.
Jeff: And I’ve even become quite partial to Canadians over the last couple years.
Amy: It wouldn’t be the first Cup race in Canada, and the xenophobes need to remember it’s about the racing.
Mike: Us xenophobes like our racing in the Southeast and are already pissed off that we have to drive all over hell’s half acre to attend half of the freaking races now.
Summer: It wouldn’t bother me, and I think Canadian fans have been supporting NASCAR long enough that they deserve a Cup race. I just think we really need to make sure it’s the best thing to do.
Mike: We’ll give Canada the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers and we’ll keep NASCAR.
Amy: But I do think the question is really two separate issues. Cup might consider at date in Montreal, but not because the NNS race was great. The NNS race was great because the Cup guys were out of the equation and the real NNS teams just raced it out. It could be that way every week.
Summer: The racing was great the entire race when they were under green. It’s a good track to race on.
Mike: Cup doesn’t need to go to Canada or Mexico or France or anywhere else. The race was great because there were a couple of competitive cars running close at the end. It didn’t have a damn thing to do with whether they were Cup drivers or not.
Summer: I agree.
Jeff: I’m with Mike like peas and carrots!
Amy: I think a real NNS team winning is more exciting than a Cup guy running off with his superior stuff any week. But this was a great race once Edwards fell out.
Summer: That’s pretty much because it’s appealing to you, Amy. There are plenty of people that will just settle for a good race, it doesn’t matter who is racing.
Mike: I think seeing a team win a race is cool, no matter who owns the thing. As long as the racing is competitive, even if it isn’t at the front of the pack.

Former Cup driver Steve Park made his return to the Camping World Truck Series at the same time David Starr was simply trying to survive, released from Randy Moss Motorsports after the team suspended operations. Who deserves the better shot at a full-time ride: the longtime Truck Series veteran who’s been good but not great, or the one-time Cup Series winner simply trying to keep his career afloat?

Phil: Ideally, they both deserve rides. However, at this point, I think that David Starr deserves it more since he’s run all season.
Summer: Everyone deserves it, but not everyone can get it.
Amy: Who deserves it more? Starr. Or better yet, Rick Crawford — drivers that have put their heart and soul into that series.
Mike: I would not say Steve Park is trying to keep his career afloat. He’s trying to reestablish his career after a horrific wreck almost killed him. He’s paying his dues and it was great to see him get another shot.
Amy: Park deserves a shot, but he’s looking at the series as a last resort. Starr and Crawford made it their home.
Jeff: Oh no, here comes the “old Cup veterans should not be in the Truck Series” mantra!
Summer: Both have good reason to get a ride.
Phil: Park’s been racing K&N East for the past couple of years. Aside from Daytona, it’s been something like seven years since he’s run Cup full time. You could argue he isn’t a Cup driver anymore.
Mike: I don’t know about “deserving” a ride more. Starr took the money from Moss when it was offered. I don’t remember the circumstances around him leaving his previous team. Had they let him go when he went to Randy Moss Motorsports or did he jump for more cash?
Phil: Red Horse? I think he left them, citing dissatisfaction with the team.
Mike: Right. Or he got a bigger offer from Randy Moss and now it has bit him in the ass.
Amy: I have no problem with the former Cup guys in trucks who want to race trucks as their primary series.
Mike: I have no problem with a guy trying to make it to the Cup Series whether he used to race there or not. Park is just trying to prove he can still get it done.
Amy: But I think in this case, the guys that have shown their loyalty deserve something in return.
Summer: Park just wants to race, and I think that’s awesome. He should.
Amy: Steve Park is a hell of a nice guy, incidentally. I’d love to see him in a decent modified.
Phil: Isn’t he a former Whelen Modified champion?
Amy: Yes.
Mike: I’d love to see him in the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet driving around Rockingham after a victory. Unfortunately, we can’t have that anymore.
Amy: They all deserve a ride. I’d just have an easier time giving it to someone who has thrown their passion into that series.
Jeff: How can you say one guy is throwing more passion into it than another?
Summer: Sounds like Park is just passionate about racing, period.
Amy: Maybe passion isn’t the right word, but Starr and Crawford have been loyal to the series for a long, long time. That’s kind of hard to overlook, even with a great guy like Park.
Jeff: Well, maybe they (Starr and Crawford) simply need better agents.
Mike: I’d like to see the guy who has the best chance to win drive the truck. Doesn’t matter how long he’s been driving or who he’s driven for.
Summer: I agree, Mike.
Amy: In a truck, based on that then, I’d have to go with Crawford over Starr or Park.
Summer: I guess that would probably be Starr but I have a hard time placing the word “deserving” in front of either of those drivers names, as far as one over the other.
Phil: Park is actually quite inexperienced in the Trucks if you think about it. Before Saturday, the most recent time he drove one ended very quickly.
Jeff: Well, if Kyle Busch wasn’t taking away a seat….
Phil: You mean half a seat, right? He’s not running full time.
Jeff: And Elliott Sadler.
Summer: Please. Jeff. Really?
Jeff: Summer, you need to work on your recognition of sarcasm.
Summer: I was saying don’t give anyone any ideas to start bitching!
Amy: Fourteen years devoted to a series is hard to look past.
Mike: Well hell, based on that, Ken Schrader should still be in a Cup car.
Phil: Based on what Schrader told me 10 days ago, I think he’s cool not doing Cup anymore.
Jeff: That may be saying something about his skill. If he was that good, he should be a no brainer.
Amy: Or he made a career there of his own volition. Not everyone wants to race Cup.
Mike: Actually, I’d take Steve Park. He has six career wins in the three national touring series. Crawford has five and Starr has four.
Amy: How many of Park’s wins are post injury?
Phil: None.
Jeff: Well, rides are not based or dolled on seniority.
Mike: He hasn’t been given a ride worth a crap since his injury, which is why he’s fighting his way back through the development series. Like everyone should.
Amy: No, but loyalty goes a long way in racing… or it used to anyway.
Mike: Wow, loyalty goes a long way, but you don’t want to give Steve Park a ride because his steering wheel fell off at Darlington?
Jeff: Loyalty hasn’t been around for quite a while in racing.
Summer: It shouldn’t be a topic of who deserves it more. Loyalty does nothing if you aren’t going to give results.
Amy: He had his ride back — he’s not the same driver as he was. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. I’d still pick Crawford. If I was banking on results, especially.
Mike: I’d pick Crawford if I didn’t have to work with him.
Jeff: I’d take Johnny Benson any day.
Summer: I’m with Jeff! Get Benson back in a ride before any of these guys.
Mike: Technically he has a ride, KBM just doesn’t have sponsorship for it.
Amy: Loyalty is important for me. And if I were an owner with unlimited funds, I’d build a mod team for Park and run for a title.
Jeff: We’ve been loyal to Frontstretch all these years, Amy. What’d that get us? Heartache and misery and tears!
Mike: Our loyalty to NASCAR has yielded more of the same, Jeff.
Jeff: Amen brother!

How about some predictions for Atlanta?

Amy: I think I’ll go with Edwards. RFR has improved and nobody else has shown they want one recently.
Jeff: I was gonna say Edwards, too.
Mike: I’m going with Kasey Kahne.
Summer: Johnson.
Phil: I’m going with Kurt Busch.
Mike: I hope y’all have a wonderful Saturday. I’ll be thinking of you while I’m at North Wilkesboro watching racing for the first time in 14 years.

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

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top Fives Top 10s
Phil Allaway 37 20 2 *10* 15
Amy Henderson 34 -3 24 *3* 9 *16*
Beth Lunkenheimer 23 -14 17 1 9 11
Summer Dreyer 18 -19 15 0 5 9
Jeff Meyer 13 -24 15 0 5 9
Mike Neff 11 -26 11 1 3 5
Matt Taliaferro 4 -33 4 1 1 2
Bryan Davis Keith 4 -33 3 0 1 2
Tom Bowles 3 -34 3 0 1 1
Vito Pugliese 2 -35 3 0 1 2
Garrett Horton 0 -37 5 0 0 1
Tony Lumbis 0 -37 3 0 0 0
Kurt Smith 0 -37 5 0 1 1
Toni Montgomery 0 -37 1 0 0 0
Kyle Ocker 0 -37 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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