Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Jeff Gordon’s Win, NASCAR’s Warning & the Truck Series Gone Wild

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
Brody Jones (Mondays/Running Their Mouth & Thursdays/Shakedown Session)
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)

Jeff Gordon’s win Sunday (June 12) was his fifth at Pocono and the 84th of his career, tying Gordon with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for third on the all-time list. How do Gordon’s numbers stack up against history?

Phil: That’s a disputed third. However, I’d say that Jeff Gordon‘s 84 came against tougher competition than Darrell Waltrip‘s and he took just about as long to get there as Waltrip did.
Brody: Gordon’s numbers, I believe, stack up just as well against Bobby Allison or Waltrip, if not better considering his competition.
Mike: He’s third on the all-time list. That’s about how he stacks up, although he’s really tied for fourth with Waltrip but that’s a whole other question.
Phil: Allison took even longer since he wasn’t full time for a number of years.
Amy: I think that the competition is closer in the top tier today. There are more cars capable of winning every week than there were in the 1970s and 1980s. And Gordon has one more titles than either of the others too.
Jeff: OK, if you are going say for some reason, that Gordon’s numbers aren’t on par with the rest in history, (for whatever reason) then JJ’s five in a row is bogus too.
Brody: True, there were maybe 6-8 elite teams in the ’70s & ’80s, now there’s close to 20-25.
Mike: I don’t know that I’d say his was against tougher competition. Allison and Waltrip were against Richard Petty when he was still winning, not to mention Cale Yarborough and David Pearson. I don’t think Gordon was against competition that tough.
Amy: I’m not saying he’s better, because I’m not sure how he’d have fared in those cars. Then again, not sure how Allison or DW would have fared in today’s machines either. That’s why comparisons are so tricky.
Mike: Gordon is a certain Hall of Fame driver once he retires. That’s about all there is to say.
Phil: The top might not be as tough, but there are more people that can win today than really ever before. It’s not every day that someone wins 33 races in three years.
Brody: Still, 84 wins in the modern era? That’s nothing to sneeze at. Got to give Gordon his due, at an age where guys fall off a bit in this sport, he’s had a bit of career revival this year.
Jeff: I don’t think there is any question as to how Gordon rates with ANY drivers ever. He’s earned it. Hell, even Dale Earnhardt wondered once how Gordon spun him out without even touching him.
Mike: Bottom line, Gordon was the dominant driver in the sport in the late ’90s. In comparision to the other two, they were just a couple of the good drivers of their time. He’s having a decent year and he’ll end up in third by the time he retires, although he won’t hold it for long.
Amy: That’s true, Mike. But then you had maybe six or seven cars capable of winning most weeks. Now you can at least double that. Who’s going to pass him, Mike? Jimmie Johnson is 30 behind him and not THAT much younger.
Mike: Yes, but the three or four of those cars were driven by the best drivers ever in stock cars. Johnson is going to end up with 100 wins. In fact, Johnson is among the best ever. I don’t know that anyone else driving today falls into that category.
Amy: I’d say that at least two of Gordon’s competition are also among the best ever in stock cars, Mike. Tony Stewart, Mike. Stewart is one of the finest drivers to wheel a car, period. Any kind.
Brody: Stewart is the AJ Foyt of the modern era. He can drive ANYTHING and be competitive. He could race a Yugo & win.
Mike: No doubt about that Brody. He’s one of the top-10 drivers all time if you consider all disciplines I think. Although some people think he’s more like top 15.
Brody: I don’t see how he could be top 15. Top 10, yes. By far.
Mike: Waltrip and Allison drove against three of the greatest ever. Gordon drove against one.
Jeff: As for the question, I just say that Gordon’s numbers speak for themselves.
Amy: I agree. He’s among the best ever in the sport, period. Still, Mike, when were there 12 cars capable of winning every week back then? Not often!
Brody: My big question is can Jeff get to Pearson’s record?
Mike: I don’t think Gordon has a shot at Pearson. Johnson does and Kyle Busch could. I just don’t think Gordon has enough time to get to it before he quits.
Phil: I debated it with my dad once. He thinks its possible, but that was before he went two years without winning. Now, who knows. He needs 21 more. That’s a bunch for someone who likely will only drive 6-7 more years.
Brody: I think he’ll get close, but he’ll likely retire before then.
Mike: Yeah, and he’s not winning five a year. So he’d have to drive for 10 more years
Amy: At his current pace, Johnson would have to race about 10 more years to pass Pearson. Kyle would have to race about 30 more years.
Brody: Who’s to say he wouldn’t, Amy? Given Kyle’s ego, he very well could. Now Johnson MIGHT have a shot.

Speaking of Jeff Gordon, it was well-noted at Pocono that he will turn 40 before the year is out and that historically, win totals drop off age. Will Gordon buck the trend and make a run at David Pearson or a fifth Cup title?

Amy: I think he will at least make a run at it. Interestingly enough, the number of titles won after 40 doesn’t drop off quite as steeply as the number of wins.
Brody: I think he’ll buck the trend and make a run at Pearson. Whether he’ll get there or not depends on how much longer he wants to keep racing.
Phil: Well, Earnhardt won four of his titles after 40, but he’s just about the only recent example. There’s also Allison, who won his only title at 45.
Mike: I think the question is will Gordon get 105 wins or a fifth championship. If that is the question then yeah, he has a shot at number five. He won’t get to 105 wins, but he’ll certainly have a shot at another title before he retires.
Amy: One hundred and five wins? That’s less likely. One, the wins do, historically, taper off. Two, 20 wins in five years is tough even without age in the mix.
Brody: I think he’ll at least get close to the century mark in wins, probably in the 90-95 neighborhood. Plus, Gordon has a capable crew chief to get him a few more wins in Alan Gustafson. For whatever reason, he and Steve Letarte just never clicked.
Amy: Ten more sounds about right, Brody.
Jeff: Age isn’t so much of a factor now what with power steering and all, and a good crew chief and equipment.
Amy: The thing with Jeff is, he hasn’t adapted all that well to the Chase format and that hurts his game. He’s got to reel off a string of top fives in the fall along with some wins. That’s tough, especially against guys like Johnson, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin, who have the Chase figured out better
Mike: He has three wins in four years. I don’t think he gets to 90.
Phil: No one’s adjusted well to the Chase format except Johnson. Everyone else just seems to get lucky.
Mike: I don’t think there’s anything to figure out in the Chase. Figuring out how to have your stuff together when you get to the Chase is the key. They all run for points all year long anyway, it is just a matter of having the cars to run near the front for the final 10.
Jeff: Amen Mike!
Amy: Gordon hasn’t shown he can do that and sustain it, Mike. He had a HUGE lead a few years back, which should have meant he’d come in hot even with the reset, yet he couldn’t get it done.
Brody: You can run in the top 10 every week in the Chase and have a decent shot at the title.
Mike: No one has besides Johnson Amy. Nobody else has done it more than one year in a row. Because he didn’t have the cars to run up front for the entire 10 races. Knaus is the only crew chief who has done that every year.
Amy: While the choke last year says something, Hamlin has also put together two great Chases in a row. And if the No. 48 pit crew keeps up their performance, they’re going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory anyway.
Mike: Oh come on Amy. They’re in SECOND place. Will you give it a rest?
Phil: Just watch them pick up their game in October and render those comments completely obsolete.
Amy: The point is, they should have three, maybe four wins, easily. And they barely have one.
Phil: You make it sound like Johnson’s missing the Chase this year. That’s not happening unless he finds a way to get hurt.
Mike: Yep, and they’re still in second place. Everyone else in the garage would like to suck that badly.
Brody: Give Johnson and company credit, they know exactly what the have to do to win the Chase and in the last half-decade, they’ve got it done. Amy, the wheels just don’t fall off the No. 48 team’s wagon. They’re consistent and they know that will be what wins them the Chase.
Mike: They have almost a completely new over the wall crew. It is going to take some time for all of the kinks to get worked out.
Amy: He won’t miss the Chase. But he won’t win it with 20-second pit stops either. The kinks should be gone and they were awful again Sunday
Phil: That was a little painful to watch. They’ll get their act together, though.
Mike: Whatever. They’re second in points. Call me when they’re sitting 20th. Gordon certainly can win a fifth title. No way he’s getting 106 wins, though.
Amy: Here’s the thing. I don’t think that Johnson is fundamentally a better driver than Gordon. I think he’s had a better team than Gordon. Now that’s changed and Gordon may have an edge if he can find the consistency that his teammates have.
Phil: Gordon just might get championship number five, but 106 wins would be a tough one unless he has a change of heart and decides to stay longer.
Brody: Gordon could get a fifth title. One hundred wins? I highly doubt that.
Mike: Stay longer and start winning four or five races a season. He hasn’t done that but once in seven years.

NASCAR issued a warning and a penalty at Pocono: Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were warned early in the race for racing each other harder than NASCAR deemed necessary at that juncture and Kyle Busch was later penalized for an unrelated infraction after the No. 18 car failed post-race tech for being too low. Busch and owner Joe Gibbs each lost six points while crew chief Dave Rogers was fined $25,000. Were the warning and the penalty on track?

Amy: I think the No. 18’s penalty was consistent with similar infractions. Six points is a slightly smaller penalty, percentage wise, than 25. However, the warning was totally stupid.
Brody: The warning, yes, since both drivers were warned. The fine? I think he got off a tad light on that deal.
Jeff: Warning is about as bogus of a thing that NASCAR has ever done and I was thinking of writing on that this week. Unless one car is a lap down or something, there is NO excuse for warning anyone about racing each other too hard.
Mike: The warning was unnecessary for Busch. He was just racing. Kevin Harvick was being a complete jerk and deserved to be scolded. The penalty I’m assuming was justified. If it is too low it is too low.
Amy: Neither driver touched the other on track and neither was a danger to anyone. If NASCAR really wants them to have at it and police themselves, they should have stayed out of it as long as there was no contact.

See also
Fact or Fiction: NASCAR Chase Clinching, Shifting Gears & Point, Kyle

Mike: Harvick drove Kyle Busch completely down to the inside wall on the front straight for no reason. That had the potential to be dangerous if Busch had decided to hold his line.
Amy: Harvick never touched Busch, Darrell…er, Mike. Busch never touched Harvick. NASCAR should have left it alone.
Phil: The warning was pretty stupid, though. It’s Pocono, dude. No one’s going to be an idiot and intentionally wreck someone there. I guess they successfully proved that something broke on Busch’s car. Otherwise, it would have been a bigger points penalty.
Mike: If something broke it shouldn’t be a penalty at all.
Amy: Mike, it always has been a penalty whether something broke or not and to change that now would be wrong.
Mike: I don’t believe that is the case Amy. I remember a certain driver’s spoiler at Daytona in the truck race this year being broken and no penalty was issued.
Amy: I also remember a crew chief being suspended when they proved a part failure. The suspension was overturned on appeal, I think.
Brody: Harvick getting warned was deserved. I think NASCAR just warned Kyle so he didn’t retaliate. Though Kyle’s post-race comment I thought was slightly childish.
Mike: That was totally ridiculous that Harvick drove him down like that on the front straight.
Brody: That was borderline idiotic.
Amy: Harvick left Busch plenty of room. Not like he bumped him or even came close to putting him in the wall. NASCAR should never have told him anything.
Mike: He drove him 60 feet away from the racing groove for no reason other than being a total prick. It was being childish and needed to stop.
Amy: If a driver can’t handle another driver intimidating him for a few laps to make a point, maybe he should consider a different career.
Mike: Intimidating? That wasn’t intimidating. The drafting on the straight was intimidating. If I’d have been Kyle I’d have dumped Harvick, which is one of many reasons I am not allowed in a Cup car. The tailing on the straight was fine but driving out of the groove that far was dumb and if they hadn’t stopped it it would open a huge can of worms.
Amy: Neither driver was going to touch the other. They knew they were on probation. Don’t say have at it and then stop them when they aren’t even doing anything.
Mike: OK Amy. When Kyle rides your driver to the grass at Michigan when your man is clearly faster just because he’s intimidating him I don’t want to hear a peep.
Phil: The move was pretty silly for lap 2, but not completely out of the ordinary for Pocono. That said, NASCAR didn’t need to throw their weight around.
Amy: I have no problem with a driver using a little intimidation on a driver he feels is in the wrong, as long as he doesn’t do anything to endanger him. People used to cheer the hell out of a certain driver when he did that and he did it often.
Brody: At least he didn’t try attempted vehicular manslaughter like Edwards pulled on Brad Keselowski at Atlanta last year.
Jeff: Oh don’t start that Brody.
Amy: Good point, Brody. Carl went back on the track with the sole intent of wrecking Keselowski. That’s a whole league above (or maybe below!) what Harvick did Sunday.

There were many storylines in Friday night’s Truck Series race, including a black flag for the leader at the checkers, yet another DNF for the reigning champ and several rookies putting an exclamation point on the night with top finishes. Which of these is most likely to have a lasting impact this year, and what with the long-term outcome likely be?

Phil: Well, if you ask Ray Dunlap, Todd Bodine failing once again. He thought Bodine was as good as fired, although that’s been disproven.
Mike: If the mood at Germain doesn’t change soon the continued struggles of Bodine will probably linger for a while.
Brody: Probably the black flag for Johnny Sauter although it was a great day for a rookie. Even Johanna Long had a solid run.
Amy: Germain has way too many trucks and cars and way too few sponsors.
Mike: The black flag was a non-issue. That is one rule that NASCAR consistently calls.
Amy: Yes, the black flag was correct. However, it could have a lasting impact if Sauter ends up losing the title by 21 points or less.

See also
Tracking the Trucks: 2011 WinStar World Casino 400K at Texas

Brody: My question on the black flag is I thought with less than three laps to go it was obsolete because of the four-lap grace period to obey the flag?
Mike: It is a judgement call Brody and the four-lap grace is a courtesy. They still invoke the penalty when it happens. The only lasting impact is Sauter is dumb enough to do that.
Phil: NASCAR was consistent with Sauter. He screwed up and got busted for it.
Phil: I really think Parker Kligerman can claim a victory sometime soon. That would be really something especially since BKR is going it alone (the only full-time Dodge team).
Mike: I don’t know about young drivers making statements. That comes and goes in cycles. If they start winning we’ll talk.
Amy: I was really impressed with David Mayhew. And the series does need some young stars as guys like Bodine and Ron Hornaday get older.
Phil: Yes. Mayhew should be doing more than just a couple of races in the No. 2. However, I feel that he might end up being another Burney Lamar, if you know what I mean.
Mike: The series has a boat load of young kids. They don’t really need to be adding tons more.
Phil: I was really impressed with Nelson Piquet Jr. on Friday night.
Amy: The kids need to be running up front though. This week they showed they could. Brian Ickler should have a full-time ride, the kid is good. And I’d like to see Mayhew run a full year too.
Mike: Yeah, Piquet is consistently getting better. He’s going about his transition the right way. He would probably flame out if he had jumped right to Sprint Cup after leaving Formula 1. He’s got potential. I think Mayhew is a little more level-headed than Lamar. Although I’ve only heard him speak a couple of times.
Brody: The Truck Series this year has one of the most loaded rookie classes I’ve ever seen in any level of NASCAR. And all of them have the resume to be mainstays in NASCAR for years to come.
Phil: What is it, 10 rookies in the Trucks? That’s pretty sweet.
Amy: I think the Truck Series is in good shape, talent-wise, and Friday night showcased that perfectly.
Brody: Agreed, Amy. Talent-wise, the Truck Series is miles better than the Nationwide Series.
Amy: I think Germain Racing is in some trouble, such a far cry from last year
Mike: Germain has something going on over there. Not sure what the deal is. I know the employees are just trucking along. But it sure seems like they’ve lost it from last year.

OK how about some predictions for Michigan?

Amy: I’m going to go with Dale Junior. Guy’s flat due.
Brody: I’m gonna second your pick, Amy.
Jeff: Harvick.
Mike: I’ll take Carl since Meyer is going to leave him out there for me.
Phil: I’m going with Hamlin. Why not?

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

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Mike Neff 14 12 1 4 7
Amy Henderson 13 -1 14 1 3 8
Jeff Meyer 10 -4 14 1 4 7
Phil Allaway 10 -4 14 0 4 7
Summer Dreyer 3 -11 8 0 2 2
Tom Bowles 1 -13 1 0 0 1
Brody Jones 0 -14 2 0 0 1
Beth Lunkenheimer -6 -20 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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