Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: All-Star Disappointment, Kyle’s Ticket & Raikkonen’s Future

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)
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)

Saturday night’s All-Star Race (May 21) was decidedly tame compared to what fans have come to expect from a non-points race for $1 million. What was the reason for that, and what can be done about it?

Amy: The All-Star deal has gone downhill ever since spring came on, truth be told. Bring back the invert, eliminate drivers each segment and only let one guy race in.
Phil: Well, sometimes races get spread out. Big deal. It happens. It’s not the end of the world.
Mike: There needs to be desperation involved and I don’t know for sure how you get it. They need to bring the invert back for sure. They need to get the Showdown back to one driver transferring, not two. I’d really like to see them go to heat races.

See also
Full Throttle: All-Star Stinker - What Can Be Done to Bring Excitement Back to Charlotte

Phil: I don’t know if an invert would do much good. Yes, it might change the outcome, but the racing would be the same. And I hated the “Survival of the Fastest” gimmick. Don’t want it.
Amy: Do one segment on the quarter mile.
Jeff: Move it to a dirt track.
Mike: I think, if drivers like Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were restarting the last segment in seventh and eighth it would have made things more exciting.
Phil: I’m fine with two drivers coming out of the Showdown. Wouldn’t mind it going back to five in lean years.
Amy: Five is way too many. One is plenty with the fan vote.
Mike: I promise you, if there was only one coming out of the Showdown, Brad Keselowski would have raced David Ragan a hell of a lot harder.
Amy: I agree. The prerace show pretty well sucks now, too. They should go back to the crew chief race and choose pits based on that.
Mike: That’s a good idea. I also think they should only pay the winners of the races. A million or nothing would make some people drive a little harder.
Amy: I agree with the million or nothing. Shorten the segments to two 20s and two 10s and eliminate three after each.
Mike: Now if you want to make things REALLY interesting, have them go clockwise for the All-Star Race. But I’d rather see heat races and have the main event be two 35-lap segments with no caution-flag laps counting.
Phil: I don’t think that would work. The track isn’t designed for that. If you’ve ever seen stuff on YouTube from the Calder Park Thunderdome in Australia, that place was designed for racing in both directions. It was quirky as all heck.
Amy: The track is the same either way, but the cars aren’t made for that. Honestly, the best option is to either do eliminations every three to five laps, last guy out, or go across the street and race on the dirt track.
Mike: They could make cars for it without much effort. The only negative is the driver would be closer to the wall if the car hit. But they’re not going to race at the dirt track. It’s too small for full-size stock cars.
Amy: So put them in dirt cars. Paint a bunch of dirt late models or modifieds in their colors.
Mike: You’ve eliminated the whole premise of the event that way.
Phil: The quarter-mile? Yea, it is tight. They did do that Legends race to christen it in 1991. That was a root fest that Elmo Langley won.
Amy: I think the point here is, the All-Star Race was more boring than several points races have been this year and that’s not good for marketing.
Mike: That is going to happen in racing sometimes, but the last three of them haven’t been very good which is what really is the disturbing part.
Amy: Sprint ruined it when they got rid of the inversions. Or Bruton ruined it when he got rid of Humpy… or both.
Jeff: So, are we gonna see the same thing for the 600?
Phil: The same style of racing. Possibly. I don’t know. The truck race was pretty good when they weren’t wrecking Friday night.
Mike: The 600 could be interesting or it could stink too. The change from day to night always makes things interesting. And the Truck race was pretty bad thanks to the crappy tires.
Phil: The tires weren’t bad. Then again, I wasn’t there. I just noticed a lot of people getting loose.
Mike: People were breaking loose at random times. When Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday both loop on their own something is going on.

Championship contender Kyle Busch was cited Tuesday for driving 128 mph on a North Carolina road where the speed limit is 45 and was cited for reckless and careless driving. Do NASCAR drivers like Busch have an ethical obligation to be extra careful on the road or do we scrutinize them too much when they get a violation because of their profession?

Phil: We probably do scrutinize them more than normal, but what Kyle Busch did is ridiclous.
Amy: Whether they like it or not, they’re held up as the best drivers in the world. Yes, they have an obligation to drive responsibly. And as far as scrutiny? Sure, it’s plastered all over Facebook, but Mr. Average Joe would have been arrested, not just issued a ticket.
Jeff: NO Way!!!! They should be held to the same standards as us all. If I did that, I’d lose my license. Busch should too.
Mike: I agree with that Amy. I’d like to know why he didn’t get hauled off, but he’s 26 years old. I promise most of the men reading this ran like that at some point in time. He certainly deserves to lose his license. But I don’t think it is anything major.
Phil: They would have made a show of arresting him too, like that dude that stole the pace car at Talladega in 1986.
Jeff: I have a friend cited for 109 in a 60 zone… lost his license for a year.
Amy: Being young is NO excuse for being stupid. That’s a narrow two-lane road. N.C. law says you can lose your license for a year
Mike: You shouldn’t be able to sweet talk out of being arrested for 80 mph over.
Amy: People in the area have been arrested for less. Blowing smoke there. It’s true it’s the cop’s discretion, but folks have been arrested for less. I wonder what the cost of the ticket is? I got like $125 for a California stop (California stop=rolled through).
Mike: I’m just amazed he was doing that on Perth Road. There is a police officer who lives on that road that pulls people over all the time for far less.
Amy: Perth Road is dangerous to speed on, regardless of where the cop lives. There is ZERO excuse for what Busch did. NONE.
Phil: Some drivers do believe in an ethical standard for regular driving on the road. The late Australian Touring car racer Peter Brock is an example. While racing, he plugged Victoria’s .05 drinking law (you blow over that, you’re drunk) and other road safety laws.
Mike: Perth Road is just a road. It’s not like it is winding down some mountain. It isn’t any different than any other country road.
Amy: It’s pretty windy. And I don’t care HOW good you think you are, speed limits are there for a reason. That one is 45 because it IS windy with a lot of hidden drives.
Jeff: I’ve done 126 on gravel… in a ’74 Plymouth Grand Fury III.
Mike: No, it is 45 because the tools that live on that road had it knocked down because they suck. That road would be 45 anywhere besides Lake Norman.
Amy: No, it’s 45 because it’s UNSAFE to go faster. Period. I drive that road all the time.
Mike: Whatever you say Amy.
Amy: My road is 55 and it’s narrow and curvy, but less populated.
Phil: They don’t sign roads like that around here. I think there’s a set protocol for what limit is set where. My road is 35, but it’s a county road and a somewhat main route. It used to be 45 when it was still a state road.
Amy: Lots of kids getting on and off school buses on that road, lots of hidden drives, lots of bikers.
Mike: You can’t pass a school bus, no matter what the speed limit, and bicycle riders are a menace to society.
Amy: But if you’re coming around a corner at 128 and one’s stopped in the other lane with kids crossing the street?
Mike: True, but I doubt kids are getting off of them when they aren’t stopped.
Amy: Age, profession are NO excuse for being a stupid asshole.
Mike: Amy, 128 is stupid. I’m not advocating setting the speed limit at 120. But 45 is too low for that road and it is only because the rich snobs on that road had it changed.
Amy: So if it were 55 he’d have been 70 over instead of 80. That would be less stupid how?
Mike: I didn’t say it wasn’t stupid. Did I justify him doing it anywhere in this discussion? One hundred twenty-eight is stupid anywhere but on a racetrack or the Autobahn.
Amy: The speed limit is what it is, for a reason. Parts of that road are safe for 55, but others aren’t. there are a couple of nasty curves. Drivers are looked up to for that skillset. Like it or not, they have an obligation to set a good example to society, especially young kids. The last thing we need is for little Bobby to decide he wants to be a NASCAR driver and well, if Kyle Busch can drive like that….
Mike: To paraphrase Charles Barkley – Kyle Busch is not a role model.
Phil: Yes, he is not a role model. He’ll probably have to do some PSAs.
Amy: They should make him sign autographs at his hauler EVERY week and make safe driving videos on his own dime.
Mike: I am pretty sure you’re right about that Phil.
Jeff: NASCAR is about speed on the track. To have one of their highest-profile drivers doing stupid shit like that on the street is NOT good for the sport.
Amy: Make him make up hero cards with safe driving message and sign for an hour every race he runs. Three races in a weekend? Three hours.
Mike: Note to Kyle – That was REALLY, REALLY dumb.
Phil: Agreed, Mike. If he wanted to stretch the legs of his LF-A, he could find a place where he could do it. Here’s a legitimate question: How is Kyle Busch with fans? Is he generally friendly, or does he have surly attributes there?
Mike: As far as I know he’s nice most of the time. However, I’m sure there will be people who cite an incident where he was surly. All drivers have them.
Amy: Bottom line, whether he WANTS to be a role model or not, he is one. And he’s more obligated to set an example on the road than anyone not in his chosen career. Again, dangerous choice of location
Mike: I’m just not throwing him under the bus. People in auto racing did a lot worse before the sport became so popular.
Amy: If I was JD Gibbs, Kyle would be doing some hefty community service.
Mike: Oh I don’t think JD is going to have to do that Amy. I’m pretty sure there will be quite a few hours of community service from the local magistrate.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted its second class on Monday (car owner Bud Moore, drivers Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, and David Pearson). Some of the inductees say that the next few classes to make the Hall should consist of men from the early days who are still alive to enjoy the honor-is this the way voters should be thinking, or should they look only at the careers of the men and their contributions to the sport?

Jeff: Please tell me we are not gonna hash this over year after year!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mike: Honestly, I’ve changed my stance on this. I was on the merit bandwagon and thinking let them get in when the time comes. However, I’m now more about getting the guys in who’ll be able to enjoy it before they pass away.
Phil: It is one way to look at it. It’s an extension of last year’s voting that smited people because of past transgressions against the voters.
Amy: While I see the sentimental argument, I don’t think deserving people should not be inducted posthumously in their favor.
Mike: We’re not going to hash this over year after year.
Phil: Other sports have had similar arguments. For example, the Basketball Hall of Fame and Dennis Johnson.
Phil: Probably last fall when Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough got snubbed.
Mike: I just look at it and I feel bad that Raymond Parks didn’t get to be inducted when he was alive. Waltrip and Yarborough did not get snubbed. And I would like to see Cotton Owens get in before he dies.
Amy: I feel bad about that too, Mike, but would I have replaced one of last year’s inductees with him? No. Waltrip and Yarborough will get in in due time
Mike: I would have replaced Bill Jr. with him.
Jeff: Waltrip? Darrell Waltrip??? He’s a long way from getting in.
Mike: I think Parks did enough in the first years of the sport to justify putting him in before Bill Jr. Waltrip will get in next year.
Amy: I would have waited on Bill Jr. as well and put David Pearson in with Petty, or Richie Evans. Waltrip has as many wins as Bobby Allison and more titles. I can’t stand the guy on TV, but he deserves it someday.
Phil: I wish they would make the total vote count public for all 25 candidates.
Mike: Me too Phil. Technically Waltrip has one less, but that’s another discussion.
Jeff: I don’t doubt DW will get in, but not for a while. Plenty of more deserving folks ahead of him.
Phil: I would have put Darrell in class two, but I don’t have a vote.
Mike: Waltrip and Yarborough will be in next year. I hope Dale Inman gets in next year and I’d like to see Evans and Herb Thomas, but I don’t think the last two will get in for a few years yet.
Phil: How long do you think Darrell should wait, Jeff?
Jeff: A good five years at least. But I’m all for not letting DW in until he agrees to stop saying Boogity boogity boogity.
Phil: Not happening. He owns the copyright.
Amy: How do you define more deserving? Once Yarborough goes in, are there any three-time champions left not in?
Mike: No way Jeff. He’s tied for third on the all time wins list.
Phil: Yeah, but they’re still active. Not going to be eligible for a long time.
Amy: Exactly. So if Cale gets in next year, Darrell should, too
Mike: Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. That’s why Waltrip and Yarborough will go in next year.
Amy: Right, but Gordon and Johnson aren’t eligible and nobody will argue they should wait five years when they are. But if the argument is for the older guys, then should two three-time champions sit? I don’t think that’s right.
Mike: Not when a one-time and two-time champ are in.
Phil: They just have this unusual setup because they steadfastly refused to put 10 or more in the first year like they should have. Dumb move in retrospect.
Mike: I don’t think so at all. I like the number because it keeps people talking about it. Ten might have been nice for the first year but they didn’t. They don’t need to change that now.
Phil: This five per year thing isn’t going to last that long. Maybe another couple of years before a new voting format shows up that looks more like the Baseball Hall of Fame’s. Remember, Bud Moore got in with just 45% of the vote.
Mike: I think the voting format is here for a long time to come. I just wish they’d change the nomination format. It is stupid that the same people on the nominating committee are also voting.
Phil: They have a group of 20 or so that pitch names. It has the same possibility of bias that the voting has.
Amy: Why nominate at all? They have set criteria, make everyone who meets those criteria eligible.
Phil: I agree. That wouldn’t be a bad idea., but Mike is right. There wouldn’t be a list to show the general public. Also, should the voting be done on the voter’s own time with a deadline, or should they continue their group deliberations?
Amy: Voting should be by ballot, absolutely, but the group thing I do not like. Each voter should vote for he or she thinks is most deserving
Phil: True, they already vote by ballot, but they do it after a multiple-hour private forum. That discussion may or may not sway voters.
Mike: I actually do like it. I wish they’d do that with baseball so the morons with their agendas would have to make it known. They vote for who they worked for or who they were buddies with.
Phil: Dr. Punch has talked in the past about how passionate the pleas have been behind the closed doors. It’s nothing short of politics. Thus, it is bush league.
Amy: While I think it’s great to honor guys while they’re alive, it’s also important to honor accomplishments. A three-time champion should not have to wait.
Mike: The Hall of Fame is always going to stir discussion and controversy. It is fun to listen to the debates. When it is all said and done, the people who will get in will get in. Hopefully they’ll still be alive.
Phil: True. Someone who has won three titles has earned their spot. That person being a little surly towards people unless they pay him, or running their mouth really shouldn’t matter.
Amy: Nobody should be made to feel guilty for choosing the guys they think are most deserving, and don’t insult their intelligence if they don’t happen to agree with you

Kimi Raikkonen had a solid, if not spectacular, CWTS debut at Charlotte Friday, and will make his Nationwide debut this week, also at CMS, with speculation that his Cup debut will be at the road course at Infineon. Based on Raikkonen’s start, is that too ambitious a timetable for the former Formula 1 champ?

Phil: A little ambitious, but isn’t the Infineon thing still a rumor?
Amy: If it was an oval it would be way, WAY too soon to talk Cup, but plenty of guys who have no business in a Cup car elsewhere do fine on road courses.
Mike: I think he can race whenever he wants, wherever he wants. He’s an F1 champ. I’m holding off judgment on Infineon after hearing he tore up Robby Gordon’s car at VIR.
Phil: I don’t really see a problem with Kimi Raikkonen debuting at Infineon. It would be like Jan Magnussen and Mattias Ekstrom last year.

See also
Tracking the Trucks: 2011 North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte

Jeff: He’ll get taken out early. Seems to be coming in with a bit of a ‘tude if you ask me. That never works.
Phil: How can you tell, Jeff?
Mike: A ‘tude? I think he’s been the same as he was everywhere else he’s been. He’s a hoot. He’s an F1 champ for goodness sake. There aren’t many of them running around that want to race a stock car/truck.
Amy: He drove pretty well for most of the truck race, but one race doesn’t mean he’s ready. He sounds like he’s one good sentence away from a good nap.
Phil: That’s just the way Kimi is. He’s introverted. Like me.
Mike: Said he can drive wherever he wants to, whenever he wants to.
Amy: And Scott Speed was a flop coming from F1.
Phil: Oh, to have complete financial independence.
Mike: No, but he wasn’t a champ. My point is, to be an F1 champ you have to be the best and that is why he can drive whenever or wherever he wants to.
Amy: You don’t have to be the best to be an F1 champ, you have to have the most influential team with the most money. Or be told to move over so the preferred guy can win.
Phil: Speed wasn’t exactly with a top team. Scuderia Toro Rosso wasn’t all that strong and Speed didn’t really get a lot of support there.
Mike: You have to be the best with the best equipment. If you aren’t the best you’ll fail.
Phil: Also note that Speed was there before Red Bull really got on fire.
Amy: Red Bull made the Chase last year; Speed could barely make the Top 35.
Mike: Yeah, because there are guys who’d be F1 champs if they didn’t have to pull over hundreds of times.
Phil: Yeah, there was too much of a drop off between Brian Vickers and Speed in 2009.
Amy: Can Kimi come over and drive? Sure. But to be successful, he’d be better off learning to understand NASCAR racing strategy and communication in trucks or NNS first. For example, Raikkonen had NO clue what Rick Ren meant when told to save fuel.
Jeff: Amy and I agree. The world DID end Saturday.
Mike: Raikkonen is not going to be Juan Pablo Montoya, but he can be competitive, which I think you’ll see this weekend when he’s on a better tire. That said, he certainly would be better served staying in the lower series, but he’s an F1 champ and I don’t begrudge him moving right into Cup.
Phil: Raikkonen will do fine if he makes his Cup debut at Infineon Raceway. However, your guess is as good as mine as to what team he would drive for. In F1, saving fuel (up until this year) didn’t exist. He didn’t have to. The feeder series races in Europe are too short to require fuel conservation. It was legitimately a new thing for Kimi.
Amy: I’m guessing Robby’s if he’s testing (and apparently destroying) his cars.
Mike: I think he’ll be in a third Red Bull car if I had to make a guess.
Amy: Right, Phil, but he needs to learn those kinds of things before he’s ready to be competitive.
Mike: There were tons of new things for Kimi this weekend. He had no idea what to do during driver introductions. He’d never been to a drivers’ meeting.
Amy: I get that, Phil, but the fact is he doesn’t know that kind of thing and needs to learn it before he’s ready.
Jeff: But if you can drive anything anywhere, Phil, saving fuel should be something you know how to do if you have to.
Mike: I disagree. If you’ve never had to do it, you wouldn’t know how. That said, I guarantee he can figure it out in short order.

OK, predictions for Charlotte?

Amy: I’m going to go with Kasey Kahne. He’s been fast enough on several occasions, he just needs the luck, and he usually finds it at Charlotte
Jeff: Carl.
Mike: Put me down for Kyle Busch. He’s due to win a 500-plus mile race.
Amy: At least if Carl wins, he knows where the manhole is now.
Phil: I’m going with a surprise. I’m going to take David Reutimann. Won two years ago, legitimately quick Saturday night. It’s looking pretty good.

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:

Prediction Scoring
+5 – Win
+3 – Top 5
+1 – Top 10
0 – 11th-20th
-1 – 21st-30th
-2 – 31st-40th
-3 – 41st-43rd

Through 11 races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Amy Henderson 13 11 1 3 7
Mike Neff 13 10 1 3 6
Phil Allaway 10 -3 11 0 4 6
Jeff Meyer 9 -4 11 1 3 6
Tom Bowles 1 -12 1 0 0 1
Summer Dreyer 0 -13 7 0 1 1
Beth Lunkenheimer -6 -19 5 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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