Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Stripping a NASCAR Win, Drawing a Crowd & Sponsor’s New Direction

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)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)

NASCAR stripped a win from Ryan Newman in the Modified division after inspection revealed an illegal spacer. NASCAR has long said they would not strip wins as it was confusing for race fans. Does this move represent a change or a double standard?

Amy: I think NASCAR just inadvertently said modified fans are smarter than everyone else. Seriously, huge double standard. They’ll happily strike wins in modifieds and, I presume, other regional series, but not in the big three.
Summer: Well since it’s not a series that most fans follow all that closely, it really didn’t seem to make a difference. It’s not on TV very often.
Phil: I think that NASCAR only does that with the “national” series, Amy. They’re more likely to break out the DQ in the regional series. Remember when Joey Logano got DQ’d in the Toyota All-Star Showdown?
Summer: The @NASCARHomeTrack Twitter account said that they wanted to be more consistent with national series, but felt whatever Ryan Newman‘s team did crossed the line.
Amy: Lots of things in the national series “cross the line,” too. Seriously, NASCAR needs to get a clue. A major violation in ANY race should mean the win gets tossed, not just mods, K&N etc.
Summer: Not saying I agreed with it, but that’s what was said. Amy, I agree with YOU, actually. They need to be consistent across all series.
Amy: Fans aren’t stupid and would understand if the results changed after inspection. I’m not talking about something like a very minor height violation here, but a major infraction? Heck yeah, take the win.
Summer: Apparently they felt that whatever was done gave them an advantage. So my feelings are if they feel a driver wins with a car that doesn’t meet the rules and it gives them a performance advantage then, yes, strip the win.

See also
Shakedown Session: Shame on You, Kevin Manion & Ryan Newman!

Phil: That brings up a question. What would be considered a “major infraction?” I’ll just use an example from last year. Remember Clint Bowyer‘s 150-point penalty at Loudon for the fender being a few thousandths out of tolerance. Would that qualify?
Summer: What I just said above. Performance advantage.
Amy: Exactly. If it gives an advantage, it’s major. Two-thousandths of an inches probably doesn’t give enough downforce to be an advantage. On the other hand, something like the oil cover on Carl Edwards‘s car last year is pretty major.
Summer: I was going to mention that, but I don’t remember if anyone said it would have given them a distinct advantage or not.
Phil: I don’t believe that anyone stated that it would. That was still a hefty point penalty, though.
Amy: I don’t remember either. If it didn’t give an advantage, the points fine was adequate.
Summer: Which I guess with that heavy of a points deduction, NASCAR felt they were taking the win anyway.
Phil: They’ve done that type of penalty before. 2000 at California, Jeremy Mayfield got docked 151 points for jumping on the roof of his car after the race. Officially, it was a height violation, but everyone knew what caused it.
Amy: That’s the thing. If the points penalties are that harsh, why not take the win? But again, I think you need to draw a distinction between things that give an advantage vs. things that don’t. The roof deal is now moot as NASCAR put a stop to them getting up there.
Summer: Does the “points in only one series” apply to the touring series as well? I guess what I’m asking is did Newman earn points in that series for the win?
Phil: I don’t know. It doesn’t matter now, since it’s like he never entered the race.
Amy: No, he’s ineligible for points.
Summer: Well I know but if they COULDN’T take points away then maybe they just stripped him of the win. OK then, I’d take this a little more seriously if it were a driver eligible for points that NASCAR took the win from.
Amy: Perhaps. I still think they need to take that line with a car found illegal after a race when there is a competitive advantage.
Summer: I tend to agree. If they had a performance advantage that essentially allowed them to win the race, then they shouldn’t get credit for it. And from what I heard, that’s what happened to Newman.
Phil: The regional officials have shown that they’re willing to take wins and/or high finishes away from series regulars in the past.
Amy: They basically bypassed the restrictor plate and allowed more airflow to the engine. That would give a substantial advantage. It does beg the question why they have never been caught or punished before, as Bono Manion basically said that’s the same engine they’ve run for a year.
Phil: Granted, I don’t think the team suspensions that came out of the Newman penalty would have been as harsh for a regular team.
Amy: That’s true, Phil. They do have precedent and that’s a positive thing.
Summer: Meaning that NASCAR doesn’t mind if the big guns race in the lower series, as long as they stay within the confines of the rules just like everyone else. I just hope NASCAR is more consistent with these types of calls in the future.
Amy: Maybe, maybe not, Summer. I don’t think they would have stripped the win if it had been in the Nationwide Series.
Phil: Sure, Manion might have run the engine for a year, but the Whelen Modified Tour is not the ASA National Tour in 2004. They don’t run sealed engines in the series.
Amy: True, but if they’ve run the same spacer, you’d have thought they’d have been caught a few races back.
Phil: Since Loudon is basically Daytona for the modifieds, I’m pretty sure that NASCAR would penalize someone heavily if they tried to skirt the plate. It would almost be as bad as if someone got caught with TC at Martinsville.

Shortly after announcing that they will not return to sponsor Matt Kenseth in 2012, Crown Royal announced that the company had signed on to be the title sponsor of the Brickyard 400. Is that a good move by the company, and is it part of a disturbing trend?

Summer: I never saw how much they actually spent, but I can’t help but imagine it’s cheaper to sponsor one race than be the primary sponsor of a car for most of the season.
Amy: I can’t see how being the title sponsor of one race, especially one that fans have branded as the Brickyard 400, can give them the same return on investment.
Phil: It’s a lot cheaper for Crown Royal to sponsor a single race rather than an entire season on a car. They can sponsor the race with a very expensive deal for a tenth the cost to sponsor the No. 17.
Amy: Cheaper, yes, but to most fans, that race is the Brickyard 400, period. Nobody’s going to remember Crown Royal. It’s also detrimental to the sport as a whole, and it goes back to NASCAR funneling money to all the wrong places.
Phil: I was surprised that Crown Royal ever sponsored a car at all. Before they got with Roush Fenway Racing, NASCAR tried to get them to become the official booze of NASCAR. I would have been fine if Crown Royal stayed on as Richmond’s title sponsor.
Summer: I thought they still were? The “Your Name Here 400” or whatever it is/was?
Amy: Geico is doing the same thing, in essence. They’re the title sponsor at Chicago but haven’t sponsored the No. 13 for 12 races or so this year. It’s a little bothersome to me.
Summer: I agree with you, Amy. I understand the draw to sponsor a race instead of a car. You get a fair amount of exposure at a lower cost.
Amy: I guess I don’t see the huge amount of exposure. We see the name of the race and in most cases, read right over it. Nobody says, “I remember Brand X. They sponsored that race that time.” They say, “Hey, doesn’t brand X sponsor that car?”
Summer: No, I understand what you’re saying, but you still hear the commentators say it about a trillion times before the race even starts. I’m not saying it’s the SAME return on investment, but you still get some of the exposure without as much as the teams ask for for the entire year.
Phil: The “Brand X sponsoring Race Q” effect doesn’t work as well anymore since the networks want the companies to buy these packages in exchange for the channel saying the race name more than four times a race. I tried disputing ESPN on this once in 2009. Let’s just say Ramsey Poston used his crack staff to prove me wrong. Interesting enough, that was the last time Allstate sponsored the Brickyard 400. I wished they had served as a primary sponsor for a team. Maybe done a little more with Kasey Kahne.
Summer: I think in this economy they are trying to get the exposure without the cost and sometimes you have to settle for less.
Phil: If they don’t pony up for the ads, they won’t get the exposure either.
Amy: Allstate used Kahne very well, even if the ads were stupid. I remember them way better than I remember them calling it the Allstate 400. So while it’s cheaper to sponsor a race, it’s not memorable. Car sponsorship, particularly if they use the team and driver right, is memorable. And if nothing else, advertisers want you to remember them.
Summer: Yeah, but now they aren’t paying for the ads AND the race sponsorship AND the space on the car. Again, not saying I disagree with you, but they just might not want to put the money out right now for a race team.
Phil: I think Allstate still has commercials every now and then during races. Kahne doesn’t endorse them anymore. Just for the record, what’s the most memorable recent ad you can think of. Doesn’t have to involve NASCAR in any way.
Summer: I’ve been watching the e-Trade baby commercials on YouTube.
Phil: That’s a good example. Obviously, the e-Trade baby has almost nothing to do with stocks and bonds. But, he is still entertaining.
Amy: Best ad lately for me is racing related; the one with Kurt and Kyle Busch.
Summer: Really, Amy? I think that one is kind of stupid. I always loved the Gillette Young Gun commercials. Before they changed it to include other athletes. Now, the only NASCAR drivers in it are Denny Hamlin and Kyle and talking about all that “ready” nonsense. I thought some of the Sponsafier ones used to be funny. The ones this year, not so much.
Phil: The Kittens and Baby Seals thing became a craze (basically).
Summer: I think Amy is right in that the races don’t provide as much exposure, but it’s also less expensive than the car. So they chose the one with limited exposure and less cost.
Amy: I do see where race sponsorship is cheaper. However, it’s not memorable and provides less coverage than sponsoring a car, even if only for a partial schedule.
Phil: Crown Royal’s going to have to do something crazy to make anyone remember the fact that they’re sponsoring Indy. Still might be some baggage involved from the tire shenanigans of 2008.
Summer: “Drink Crown Royal! It will make the race seem more exciting than it actually is!”

After conceding that ticket sales for this weekend’s race at Indianapolis are down significantly, NASCAR has asked Sprint Cup drivers to participate in an autograph session to help raise walk-up sales. Will this help, and how does this bode for a weekend double with the Nationwide Series next year?

Summer: Is down significantly still in the 100,000 range? Because that is still a lot of people.
Phil: Heck, NASCAR needs to have more autograph sessions during Cup weekends anyway. It’s a plus.

See also
Full Throttle: Heading to Indianapolis

Amy: It might help a little, as in a couple hundred tickets. It’s a band-aid for a severed limb. I agree, Phil, they should be doing it every week and it should be mandatory. But that’s another story.
Summer: I agree with Amy. It will help a little bit, but it won’t be enough for a huge draw. And some of the drivers – the big names – will probably blow it off anyway.
Phil: Last year’s attendance was apparently 130,000 or something and it’s down double digits from that. Not cool.
Amy: True, Summer, it’s not mandatory and I don’t know which drivers will be there. I know Red Bull said Kahne and Brian Vickers will be. And yeah, NASCAR, add another race at a track nobody wants to watch. Great idea there.
Summer: Kahne and Vickers aren’t enough of a draw for even a couple hundred. Because all the teenage girls that want to see Kahne won’t be able to convince their parents to pay for that.
Phil: It’s sad that the Brickyard 400 appears to be dying. Same thing happened to the US Grand Prix, and for the same reason – tires. Michelin actually paid penance and the race was gone two years later.
Amy: It’s not tires. The tires could be perfect and the race would still be boring. The track isn’t designed for stock cars and stock cars aren’t designed for Indy. The tires have made it worse in some races (2008!) but they aren’t the reason the race is boring.
Summer: No, I don’t think the autograph session will help enough with tickets to make up for all the empty seats we’ll be seeing.
Phil: Truth is, the racing isn’t that horrible at Indianapolis. People are going to be able to open up advantages no matter where they race. I think some people wish there was more side-by-side racing there.
Amy: More? Most fans would settle for any. I think the reason for the drop is simple… the prestige of the venue isn’t enough to make up for subpar racing. Kind of like Fontana. Just being in SoCal didn’t make it good.
Summer: Well, it’s a mixture of a lot of things and in this economy you just aren’t going to sell over 200,000 seats. The crowd Indy might have this weekend could easily be a sellout at other racetracks, but it will still look like a ghost town.
Amy: It doesn’t bode well at all for Nationwide ticket sales. Unless the Cup autograph session next year is directly after the NNS race, the stands will be virtually empty, I fear.

The most controversial part of last weekend’s Nationwide Series race just might be the pre-race invocation prayer. Was the invocation appropriate or not, and should tracks seek or avoid at all costs ministers who deliver a prayer outside the proverbial box?

Amy: Personally, I could have done without the sponsor plugs, but appreciated the tone of the prayer. And he accomplished what he set out to do… people listened.
Summer: I don’t know why people are making such a big deal of it. It was all in good fun.
Phil: I’m all for a change from the norm. However, Nelms’s invocation was quirky. It didn’t seem right with the plugs. I’m fine with the Talladega Nights references and stuff like that, though. Admittedly, I’m not a religious person (even though I’m writing about a very religious person as I type this). Pre-race prayers don’t really interest me, but I have to respect what everyone else wants in this case.
Summer: I’m a Christian and I wasn’t offended by it, and I can’t figure out why people were.
Amy: I was fine with the other parts, but the sponsor plugs just seemed out of place. I can’t figure it out either, Summer. God wouldn’t have given us a sense of humor of he didn’t intend for us to use it.
Summer: The sponsor plugs were a little bit annoying, but I’m not sure they told him to do it. I think he’s a race fan and just went with it. People choose to get their panties in a bunch about the simplest things. He loves his wife and thinks she’s beautiful! Big deal!
Phil: There were some angry people. Nelms claims that one guy cussed him out because “Everyone knows that God’s a Chevy fan and you didn’t say anything about them.” Obviously, he wasn’t listening carefully.
Summer: But yeah I’m pretty sure he thanked the good Lord for EVERY manufacturer and the engines inside them.
Phil: And Goodyear and Sunoco, too.
Summer: My favorite part of the whole thing was watching the reactions of the drivers, though. Priceless!
Phil: Carl definitely liked the Boogity part.
Amy: Yeah, that was good. Seriously, though, if it made people listen and laugh and maybe even be thankful for their own smokin’ hot wives, then it’s a good thing.
Summer: Yeah it wasn’t “Shalom and Amen” it was “Boogity Boogity Boogity! Amen!” I agree. Sit back, have a beer and learn to laugh.
Phil: It was a nice change. Let’s hope Nelms doesn’t get sued for that, though. We know who owns the copyright to that term.
Summer: That would be ridiculous, Phil. Not necessarily surprising, but ridiculous.
Amy: Agreed, Summer. I’m not a fan of in your face religion, so I thought it was well done. It used humor to draw people in.
Summer: Yep, it wasn’t in your face. It was pretty well embracing to anyone.
Amy: Personally, I’d like to see more like it and less of the cookie-cutter variety invocations.
Summer: I would, too. Most of the people reading it sound like they memorized it from a Hallmark card. Nelms was clearly enjoying himself and meant what he said. Maybe they can get Jesus to turn water into wine at the next race… as long as Pastor Nelms is there.
Amy: Exactly, Summer. I felt he was sincere, and I don’t always think that of ministers.
Summer: I might go down to Nashville just to attend one of his sermons.
Phil: He’s a local. Apparently, his church is right there in Lebanon with the track.

OK, how about some predictions for Indy?

Amy: I think I’ll go with Kevin Harvick.
Summer: Seriously, he’s not going to continue this supposed “slump” forever. I’ve been saying this for awhile, but J.J. is due.
Phil: I’ll take Juan Pablo Montoya. He’s been tough the last two years, but he’s not going to beat himself this time.

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

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Phil Allaway 21 19 1 7 10
Mike Neff 14 -7 16 1 5 8
Amy Henderson 14 -7 18 1 4 10
Jeff Meyer 11 -10 17 1 5 8
Summer Dreyer 6 -15 10 0 3 3
Tom Bowles 1 -20 2 0 0 1
Brody Jones -1 -22 4 0 0 1
Beth Lunkenheimer -6 -27 7 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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