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
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Summer Dreyer (Tuesdays/Who’s Hot & Who’s Not in NASCAR)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
Jeff Meyer (Wednesdays/Top 10 & Thursdays/Voices From the Heartland)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Regan Smith got his first career win on Saturday night (May 7). Could this victory be the springboard towards a ride with a team that has better resources, or is Smith better served by staying at Furniture Row, trying to develop that program into a yearly Chase contender?
Summer: I don’t really see that team turning into a yearly Chase contender anytime soon. Let’s remember, that win wasn’t because they necessarily had a good car. It was the strategy that won them the race.
Mike: Furniture Row has the resources. They can get whatever they want because their owner wants to win. He can succeed with them it would just help if they got another car.
Amy: Furniture Row has the resources to some extent. They have a seven-post shaker rig. But they have an owner who wants to win but doesn’t want to do things like test.
Jeff: Maybe, but he’s best off staying where he is at until someone else gives him an offer. And Brad Keselowski did give him a huge push going into the turn and that helped A LOT!
Amy: I think if a ride became available with a bigger team, he’d be crazy not to take it. He flat outdrove Carl Edwards on Saturday and that’s no small feat. I’d like to see what he could do in better stuff.
Beth: Where would he go at this point? There’s nothing really open, and it’s unlikely a ride that’ll be worth the switch will pop up any time soon.
Phil: The No. 78 wasn’t exactly a slouch before the stops. Just didn’t have track position.
Mike: Smith was running up front most of the night. While he didn’t get to the top 10 until the second half, he was up there. He’s a good driver who always brings his stuff home. I believe he went almost two years before he had his first DNF.
Summer: I don’t know that this one win will be enough to land him a better ride. He’ll need to keep up the momentum.
Phil: Smith definitely has potential. The Denver location will create a ceiling for the team, unfortunately. They’re not there yet, though. And he also has the respect of his fellow drivers.
Amy: He has a ton of respect in the garage, Phil, and that goes a long way.
Summer: I’m not saying he’s a bad driver. He most certainly is not. Like Amy said, he outdrove Edwards, though I do think clean air had something to do with that.
Mike: Clean air made a difference but he stayed in the gas off turn 2 when some others might have backed out.
Beth: Sure clean air had something to do with that, but that restart is key. He could have easily slipped up, cost himself the win and we wouldn’t be talking about him. But the point is that he did nail that restart.
Jeff: That and Brad giving him a big push. And I’m not taking anything away from Regan. He did an awesome job and I’m quite proud.
Mike: He slipped up on the next to last restart, made the last one pretty good and Brad helped him finish that off.
Amy: He drove the crap out of that car in the final laps with no tires at Darlington. One of the finest peices of driving I’ve seen this year.
Mike: It was cool in the post-race press conference when Carl talked about working on Mittler’s truck to set it up for Regan to run it so that Carl wouldn’t exceed the number of starts to run for rookie of the year.
Amy: He and Trevor Bayne have made NASCAR fun this year. It used to be fun because you actually believed an underdog could win. Then for a long time you knew there was zero chance of that. Now it’s not only a possibility, it’s happening. The race also showed that there’s parity between manufacturers. All four had a car in the top four on Saturday.
Summer: It’s been a fun year so far. It’s nice to see so many fresh faces in victory lane.
Phil: Back to the initial question. Could Regan get a better ride for next year on the strength of Saturday’s win? Possibly. Maybe one of the Red Bull rides.
Jeff: But why would he?
Mike: I think Furniture Row is getting better and better and I don’t think he should leave unless it is for a top-four team.
Amy: Why would he take a ride in better equipment? I don’t know, maybe he LIKES winning?
Beth: But would it really be a good idea at this point? The No. 78 has run alright this season, but sadly Regan hasn’t had the finishes to back it up. They’re headed in the right direction and this win is sure to boost their confidence. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
Jeff: He’d be better off staying with one team where he is the top dog (only dog) and let them give him better stuff! Like it was said, Furniture Row has the money.
Phil: I think there’s a ceiling for Furniture Row for however long the team stays in Denver and continues as a single-car team. However, they definitely earned the right to run around on their sides and celebrate.
Amy: FRR isn’t going to be a Chase team any time soon, unless Smith gets in on a wildcard spot. Red Bull is already a Chase team and if UPS leaves Roush and they drop David Ragan, there could be that. UPS dictates that, though.
Summer: Again, I’m not trying to take anything away from Regan or Trevor. They did their jobs right and won because of it. Good for them! However, I don’t think Saturday night’s win will be enough to move Regan to a better team though. If he keeps it up, absolutely.
Amy: I think Smith has shown the talent to get a better ride and he certainly has the respect of the competition. The problem is, there aren’t a lot of better rides available right now.
Mike: I think Regan needs to stay right where he is and help Furniture Row continue to develop, hopefully eventually going to a multi-car team.
Phil: Yeah, he’ll probably stay in the No. 78. They’ve got something there. It’s a nice environment.
Everybody’s seen the altercations on Saturday between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. So who’s at fault, who should be punished (if anyone) and how?
Summer: I wasn’t convinced anyone should be punished until Kyle Busch pulled that move on pit road when he put the 29 in the wall. I think he should at least get a fine for that.
Beth: Kyle should be penalized for pit road, but the rest falls under the “Have at it, Boys” mantra from NASCAR.
Mike: I think both of them should be punished. I think Kevin Harvick should get it for stopping on pit road and getting out of his car and Kyle for hitting Harvick’s car with people on the pit lane.
Amy: Busch was at fault. He sideswiped Harvick first. Then he dumped him. Then he realized Harvick could hand him his own ass, so he ran over an empty car. The only thing Harvick really did was give Busch a shot in the bumper and not to wreck him, just to send a message.
Phil: Not quite as bush league as Andrew Bynum’s shot on JJ Barea yesterday, but still pretty bad.
Mike: Harvick wasn’t going to hand him anything until he realized his pit crew was there and Kyle’s wasn’t.
Jeff: Busch did the classic Monty Python retreat… “Run away! Run Away!!!!!” Why did he even sit there and bait Harvick if he had no intention of getting out of the car and handling it like a man???!!!
Amy: I think at some point Busch realized that Harvick could snap him like a twig, and realized staying in was the healthier option.
Summer: Yeah. Kyle intentinoally dumped him in front of other cars and then endangered anyone on pit road once Harvick was out of the car. Both of which are dangerous.
Amy: I’d rather see them out of the cars on pit road than using a 3,400-pound missile.
Phil: Amy, I don’t agree with your opinion that Kyle should have been parked for the night. However, he should have been penalized. He was at fault.
Mike: He was waiting on Harvick to get going. His reverse was broken so he couldn’t back up and go around.
Amy: My ass his reverse was broken.
Summer: I didn’t buy that either when I heard it. I’d heard it and had heard it was proven, but that excuse was still awfully convenient.
Mike: He proved it to NASCAR Amy. His PR rep had a picture of the broken transmission.
Beth: I don’t care if his reverse was broken. There was absolutely no reason to drive through Harvick’s empty car.
Amy: I think NASCAR should have parked Busch after he dumped Harvick, at least for several laps. They’ve done it in the past for the same kind of driving.
Mike: That’s why he didn’t back all of the way up to pit lane. The reverse broke on the track. Not saying it wasn’t convenient but it happened
Summer: But at the force he turned it, it really looked intentional. Plus, instead of plowing the car into the wall, get out of the car and deal with the problem.
Amy: That’s zero excuse for what he did. He could have gotten out and let the team push it back. It was absolutely intentional, Summer. He gunned the shit out of his car to do it
Jeff: I have to agree with Amy.
Mike: Why would he get out and fight when Harvick’s whole pit crew was going to be there and none of his team was there? His team wasn’t there and Harvick’s was. Would you seriously get out of your car when seven guys are standing there ready to kick your ass?
Beth: That’s fine, he didn’t have to get out of his car. But being “trapped” there is no excuse for punting an unmanned car, especially when there is such a potential for serious injury to people walking on pit road.
Jeff: Did you notice how during his interview, he described everything just fine up to the part about turning Harvick? He didn’t say a word about that part of the film.
Summer: He didn’t say a word about turning Harvick on the track or on pit road. I found that revealing. Welcome back, Old Kyle!
Mike: Amy, I’d like to see you try and stand up to Harvick’s whole team. I guarantee you’d run too.
Amy: Unfortunately, there’s a written rule about fighting and none about the chickenshit move he made with his car on pit road.
Beth: True, Amy, but I’ll be pretty upset with NASCAR if Kyle isn’t penalized for that.
Phil: I’d argue there is a rule about what Kyle did on pit road. Safety violation. Like when Jeff Gordon got spun out at Bristol that one time.
Mike: Oh Kyle is going to get penalized, and he should be. I bet the gets $50,000 and probation.
Amy: I bet he won’t be or he’ll get a pansy fine like $5,000 and probation.
Summer: I’m not so sure. At least a couple of those crew members looked ready to kick some ass. Hell, they went after Kyle’s crew.
Mike: They could have jumped him there’s no way to know they wouldn’t because they were hot. You bet they were Summer. I was in the garage when all of that was going down. Kevin has a couple of large boys on his crew.
Amy: Did Harvick break a rule? Yes; the rulebook specifically cites fighting as a violation. But what he did was nothing compared to Busch. Probation is a pansy penalty. It’s not even a penalty
Mike: They’re not going to park him when he was being threatened and had no where else to go.
Phil: It’s equal to censuring a politician. I couldn’t tell you if that actually does anything.
Amy: They should park him for what he said on the radio… as they once did Harvick.
Mike: Harvick had already been warned when he had his issue at Martinsville.
Summer: No. They shouldn’t. Even if they did, that doesn’t mean they should. I agree they should be consistent with their calls, but not when those calls make no sense. Don’t penalize for what they say over the scanners. That’s completely asinine.
Amy: If NASCAR had done the right thing and parked Busch to begin with after he dumped Harvick, the rest would have never happened. Must be nice to be the golden boy.
Phil: What’s the point of monitoring that stuff if they’re not going to use it for penalization?
Summer: OK, if Kyle admitted on there he was going to spin Kevin out and then proceeded to do it, that’s one thing. And if that’s the point Amy was trying to make, then I misunderstood.
Jeff: I don’t think Kyle should have been parked. Too late in the race.
Summer: I don’t think he should have either. Maybe held a lap or something like that, but like I said, NASCAR wants to give the impression they are allowing the drivers to self-police.
Mike: It might have made more excitement at the end if he ended up back there with Kevin.
Amy: Harvick should get $5,000 and probation, Busch already should have been parked, but it’s too late for that now because NASCAR won’t park him for Dover (and they could just park him for five laps or so), so he’ll get away with it scot-free except for a small fine and probation as well.
Phil: Could they give him a points penalty?
Summer: I don’t think they will, nor should they. Warn him that if he does it again the penalty will be worse, but let’s not impact the Chase/championship/whatever because of it.
Mike: Kyle has two wins so he’ll be in the Chase anyway Summer.
Summer: Well in that case a points penalty wouldn’t really hurt him right now because they would just get reset once the Chase starts.
Amy: Honestly, NASCAR should allow fighting and not the stupid and dangerous crap with racecars that could injure someone badly. Clint Bowyer took a wicked hit as a result of the spat.
Mike: Bowyer brought that on himself. Kyle had nothing to do with Harvick hitting Bowyer. Bowyer was making a bonzai move and it ended up biting him.
Phil: I don’t know if you can claim that the bumping that caused Bowyer’s wreck was intentional. The stuff afterwards was.
Summer: Well Bowyer was trying to take advantage of the situation and I can’t fault him for that.
Amy: True, Bowyer should have known better than to drive into that. But it looked like Busch drove Harvick into him from the angle I saw.
Summer: I’m not saying Bowyer’s move was smart, but I don’t think anything there was intentional. A fine and probation will be fine for Busch. I don’t really think Harvick deserves a penalty, but most likely he’ll get something like probation too.
Mike: Kyle and Kevin should both be fined. I don’t care about probation because it means nothing.
Amy: Someone needs to tell Kyle Busch once and for all that he’s not all that and a bag of chips, and he can’t just expect the waters to part for the Great and Wonderful Kyle Busch or else he’ll part them. He’s run over too many drivers.
Mike: By the way, I’d have respected Harvick more on pit lane if he’d have taken his helmet off.
Jeff: France wants storylines. Put ’em in the ring. Let the winner take on the winner of Ryan Newman/Juan Pablo Montoya.
NASCAR announced that teams will be allowed to use fuel-injected engines at upcoming Goodyear tire tests as well as other NASCAR-approved test sessions in preparation for its full-time introduction in 2012. Is it the right time to add this technology, or should the sport hold off until the economy improves before mandating a drastic engine change?
Amy: They should wait, but as we saw with the Nationwide CoT, they won’t.
Beth: Just what the smaller teams need right now, another cost.
Mike: I don’t know that is it that drastic of a change. If anything it will probably save money for teams in the long run. Most of the small teams lease their engines so it isn’t a bigger expense for them.
Phil: We’ve talked about this before. They should wait another couple of years, but I’m sure the manufacturers are pressuring NASCAR on this.
Amy: Part of me is sad to see the carburetors go, but there hasn’t been a carb on a stock car in like 40 years, so it’s time.
Phil: I think it’s closer to 22, but yeah, it’s been a while.
Summer: I don’t think this will really matter. NASCAR isn’t quite mandating them, just allowing them to get used to them. No problem with that.
Mike: It will be mandated next season.
Amy: Except, like the NNS cars last year, not all the teams can afford to test with them. And not all are invited to tire tests.
Mike: I don’t think this is going to be an added expense for small teams and in the long run it is probably going to make things cheaper for engine builders because they can control the flow more precisely.
Amy: I just wonder if it’s too much with a new body coming in 2013.
Mike: I don’t think they’re going to have anything to do with each other. The new car design is only going to impact air flow into the engine. And as far as I know the 2013 change is going to be sheetmetal changes but the chassis is going to be the same.
Phil: How much do these bodies cost? They’re still sheetmetal. There isn’t any carbon fiber involved.
Amy: Except this new car was a HUGE expense. How will the 2013 model be any different?
Phil: I think the 2013 cars are simply new bodies. They’re not necessarily completely new cars that’ll render anything run in 2012 illegal.
Amy: I know with the NNS teams, some skipped the testing altogether because they only had one car and couldn’t afford another one if they wrecked it.
Mike: Yeah, Amy, but that was a whole new chassis, not just body panels.
Phil: Of course, the specs are still being decided on the new 2013 cars. We don’t know what anyone’s even going to be running yet.
Amy: I don’t know. I just think NASCAR should keep major changes to a minimum unless they can guarantee equal test time.
Mike: I think the people that need to be testing fuel injection will be testing the engines.
Summer: I think the concern is more for the smaller teams. Obviously not HMS, JGR, etc.
Mike: Fuel injection is going to really be fun when it comes in because there will be all sorts of claims of cheating when one team figures it out better than the others.
Jeff: Well fuel injection is not going to price anyone out who really wants to race.
Phil: The fuel injection thing is likely going to increase engine costs by a slight percentage.
Plenty of rivalries have reared their heads in the Sprint Cup ranks, but how about the Nationwide Series? Does that division need a true rivalry to turn the corner… and if so, who are the leading candidates?
Mike: Kyle Busch and anyone
Amy: A rivalry between true NNS drivers would be great for the series. A rivalry between a Cup guy and a NNS guy is just Goliath bullying David some more.
Jeff: Sorta like, who would you like to see on Dancing With the Stars.
Summer: Well if you don’t want Cup drivers in there, I’m not really sure. A lot of the Nationwide Series championship contenders almost seem too nice for that.
Beth: I guess I just don’t get the obsession with rivalries.
Jeff: Me neither. Cant we all just get along? ~ Rodney King
Phil: It wouldn’t be bad, but I can’t remember a long-lasting rivalry in the series. Maybe Buckshot Jones–Randy LaJoie? Mark Green–Jeff Purvis?
Summer: I love rivalries and I get how they would bring attention to a series. I’m just not sure of any drivers that would be good candidates in the Nationwide Series. Rubbin’ is racin’.
Amy: Maybe that’s the problem, Summer. NNS needs a NNS bad boy and there isn’t really one.
Summer: Keselowski was but he isn’t anymore.
Mike: Jack Ingram and Sam Ard.
Jeff: Well there is Steve Wallace, but I guess you aren’t counting bad driving.
Amy: That was my thought, Jeff. He isn’t so much a villain as a bad driver.
Mike: Hey, Steve has gotten better. Other people are wrecking him these days instead of him wrecking himself.
Jeff: JJCobb and Danica.
Summer: I’ll vote for that.
Mike: I could see Aric Almirola getting into it with some other drivers. And Brian Scott seems to be able to piss people off
Phil: But let’s see. I always thought if James Buescher ran full-time, he could end up in a rivalry with Jason Leffler. But, they’re teammates. You guys might remember their coming together at Nashville last year.
Amy: I think you need a mix of characters to keep things interesing. Look at Cup. Jimmie Johnson is a great guy, but if the series had 43 of him? Fans would lose interest. You need a Montoya or a Harvick to balance that out.
Mike: If the Turner guys wreck each other many more times we could have a Darrell Waltrip/Cale Yarborough kind of thing.
Summer: I agree about Almirola. He was fired up on Friday. And teammates aren’t out of the question.
Mike: Yes he was Summer. I could see him getting feisty with people.
Summer: There just aren’t a lot of really aggressive hotheads in NASCAR. Even Almirola is normally somewhat mild mannered.
Amy: Yes, Almirola has a temper… but I wouldn’t call him a bad boy. And there are plenty of bad boys, Summer, but they’re all Cup drivers. NNS needs someone like a Harvick.
Summer: And a Kyle Busch.
Mike: Once Max Gresham gets there we’ll have some excitement.
Phil: How about a Danica Patrick–James Buescher feud? Buescher’s already on “permanent probation” with Danica.
Summer: They don’t just need a hothead. They need someone for them to butt heads with, and a lot of the Nationwide Series guys will back down.
Jeff: Well there was the idiot Johnny Sauter for a while. I probably dislike him more than Kyle Busch (on a personal level).
Summer: I was just about to mention Sauter in the Truck Series. We need someone like that.
Amy: They need someone like Sauter or Todd Bodine.
Summer: And the fact is, Sauter can completely lose all sense of calm when he’s pushed the wrong way.
Amy: The NNS series just needs a variety of strong personalities in general.
Summer: I love the nice guys, but I agree. We need a little more variety for people to truly find some interest in tuning in.
Phil: For the Nationwide Series, they do need a marque rivalry. Keselowski/Hamlin a couple of years was the closest the series has had in years. However, nothing is really presenting itself at the moment due to lack of equipment.
Amy: Anything that would put them in the spotlight away from the Cup interlopers is important and there are a lot of nice guys and not a lot of outspoken guys. Mike Bliss comes to mind, but he’s not running well enough to run his mouth.
How about some predictions for Dover?
Amy: I think I’ll go with Johnson. He’s been so bad lately he has to be due.
Beth: Put me down for Stewart this week. He’s been so close so many times this season and it’s time for the No. 14 team to shake off the funk that’s been haunting them all season.
Summer: I’ll go with Greg Biffle.
Jeff: Carl Edwards!!!
Phil: Cripes. Johnson seems to always win in Dover. In that case, I’m going with Kasey Kahne. He showed me a bunch Saturday night.
Jeff: Bunch of what Phil?
Amy: Kahne sounded awful after the race on Saturday.
Phil: He showed that on a good day (or night), the No. 4 can be right up at the front. Crush panel got him on Saturday. He’s fine now.
Jeff: He did seem to be out of it during that interview.
Mirror Predictions 2011
Welcome to our fifth 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:
+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 5s||Top 10s|
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.