Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Silly Season, Kurt vs. Jimmie, Road-Course Ringers & More

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)
Summer Dreyer (Tuesdays/Who’s Hot & Who’s Not in NASCAR)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)

Silly Season seems to be winding to an anti-climactic close as Carl Edwards re-signed with Roush Fenway while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya are close to deals to stay with their current teams. Should fans expect any late-season moves and if so, who’s most likely to be at the center of it?

Phil: I don’t really expect anything at this point. We’re already past Aug. 1. That’s basically the deadline for the big stuff nowadays. We’ll see some moves with the smaller teams, though.
Mike: I don’t think there will be any big names moving anywhere. I think the only driver that anyone is really still curious about is Brian Vickers.

Brody: Joey Logano (and possibly David Ragan) would be the two biggest names I see maybe looking for a new job.
Summer: Clint Bowyer is the only other major Silly Season player, and he’s not going anywhere either. And I was about to mention Vickers. I’m curious how that works out. And Mark Martin.
Amy: Exactly, Summer. I can’t see either Vickers or Martin on the sidelines come 2012. You might see a couple of deals done still. There are a couple of good drivers without a seat for next year who I expect to have a ride before Daytona.
Mike: I still think Martin is going to end up as a puppet owner of James Finch’s team.
Amy: Possibly, or perhaps at Stewart-Haas, keeping Danica Patrick‘s seat warm.
Brody: I hope Vickers can latch onto a team somewhere. The guy has talent and marketability, but he’s had awful luck in 2011.
Mike: Who do you think SHR is going to get to sponsor a third car?
Phil: Probably GoDaddy. I don’t think they’re staying on the No. 5 beyond this year. Farmers Insurance is the primary sponsor for the team starting next year.
Summer: And that would all but seal the Danica rumors anyway.
Brody: Plus even with new owners for GoDaddy, they still see Danica as their golden goose. They wouldn’t be dumb enough to cut the golden goose’s head off just yet.
Amy: I agree with Brody. Whether that deal is just for Danica or for another driver to keep the home fires burning like they do in the No. 7 car remains to be seen.
Mike: I thought GoDaddy was sticking around the sport. If GoDaddy goes somewhere, that is where Danica will end up. I just think that would be a better deal for Phoenix than for SHR. Phoenix has people and equipment in place, they just would need the money. SHR would have to put people and equipment in place which would eat up most of that sponsorship.
Phil: Regardless, they’re probably staying on the No. 7 in the Nationwide Series next year.
Summer: I bet they’ll still want that Cup exposure though. Who knows? Maybe Martin and Danica will split the ride.
Brody: Yeah, I think it’s a foregone conclusion Danica’s ticketed for at least one full year of Nationwide competition.
Amy: She should be, Brody. Not ready for Cup yet.
Mike: Definitely not ready for primetime yet.
Brody: I agree totally. Danica does not need to be in Cup for at least another year (maybe two).
Summer: She’s not doing a full schedule. They just talked about a few races.
Amy: Not sure Danica’s people would be happy with a second rate team like Phoenix.
Mike: If Martin is the puppet owner, I would think it would be a better attraction.
Brody: That would be like trading in a Ford Mustang for a Kia.
Phil: Hmmm. Phoenix Racing and GoDaddy. Interesting. Where would that leave Landon Cassill? Off to get a “real job?”
Mike: He’d split the ride with Martin.
Amy: Poor Landon. Still getting screwed for Junior’s driver du jour.
Mike: Phoenix will be all Hendrick, all the time, just wearing the Martin hat.
Summer: I don’t know where Vickers will end up, but I doubt it will be anywhere good. Bowyer isn’t leaving RCR. They’ll work something out. Get Menards on board or something.
Amy: He might not have a choice if RCR doesn’t have a sponsor for him.
Mike: I have no idea where Vickers is going to end up, unfortunately. It won’t be in equipment as good as he’s in right now. Bowyer’s not going to leave RCR.
Phil: Vickers is pretty much forced to wait and see if Jay Frye can get investors. It’s not ideal right now, but not hopeless.
Brody: I could possibly see Vickers in an extra car for a team like RPM or something like that. Just not a lot of room in the NASCAR Inn at the moment.
Amy: That’s a real shame for Vickers; he’s a better driver than some guys with good rides.

Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson got into it at Pocono, rekindling the flames on their old rivalry. Who came out with an edge, if at all after their verbal jabs? Or is the whole thing blown out of proportion?

Amy: Totally blown out of proportion. They bumped a few times and b*tched about it after. There was no wreck, nothing close to a fight.
Phil: I don’t think anyone “won” the argument. Kurt Busch might have the advantage because he finished better. Big deal about a couple of dudes having an argument. At least they didn’t have to pay for the right to have an argument.
Summer: I don’t know who “won” per se, but I agreed with what Busch had to say. That’s just racing.
Mike: I don’t see how you come out of an argument with an edge. I thought Jimmie Johnson swerved down on Kurt which of course set Kurt off. However, I think it is much ado about nothing.
Brody: Busch came out the winner in my opinion, argument-wise. But I think it got blown up bigger than what it was.
Amy: Kurt bumped Johnson a couple of times before Jimmie turned down on him, to be fair. But it wasn’t anything. Both of them could have turned the other and didn’t.
Mike: I think they’ll probably have another altercation before the season is over. I think, if anything, it shows that Johnson is a little more on edge this year than he’s been in the past.
Brody: Jimmie really didn’t do himself any favors with that interview. Stevie Wonder could see he swerved into him.
Mike: I was surprised at Indy that he and Chad seemed to be a little testier with each other than in years past.
Phil: Historically, Busch and Johnson have had more than one issue a year for the past three. They’ll probably have two more before the season ends. They’ll never get into a fracas with each other, but they won’t be pleased with one another.
Amy: They’ve been that way a while. Jimmie’s sick of having to make up positions they lose on pit road before he can race to get ahead.
Brody: I don’t think it’ll matter much come time for the championship. Jimmie’s team is looking awfully consistent right now.
Summer: I think Kurt is more likely to react to it on the track than Jimmie is, though. Jimmie knows how to keep a level head. Post-race was just heat of the moment.
Amy: I agree with Summer, but that’s dangerous to the No. 48 in the Chase because Busch won’t hesitate to wreck them for the points. Sunday, though, was no big thing. Like calling a name-calling match a prize fight to say it was.
Phil: That’s fair. Kurt is the more emotional driver on track, maybe not as much now as compared to when there was the Kurt Busch-Jimmy Spencer thing.
Mike: I thought it would have been a lot more fun if Kurt would have rung that towel out on Jimmie’s head.
Amy: Mike, it would only have been probation if he had, might have been good for a laugh.
Summer: It would have been reminiscent of Milka Duno, Danica and the towel.
Brody: It looked like two angry pre-schoolers fighting over a piece of candy.
Amy: The on-track stuff wasn’t anything, either. Kurt bumped Jimmie, Jimmie shoved Kurt, Kurt shoved back.
Mike: I know. I would have laughed if he’d have told Jimmie to cool down and dumped the water on his head, though.
Brody: That was just racing, bottom line. Milka and EJ Viso are Venezuela’s weapons of mass destruction.
Mike: I don’t know that it was racing but it wasn’t anything overly aggressive or intentional.
Summer: I agree though. Just racing for position in the final laps of the race.
Phil: True. Hard racing and bumping. Big deal. Saw more bumping in the tape-delay of the K&N East New England 125 on Thursday (Aug. 4).
Brody: Heck, I see more bumping at my local short track!
Summer: Yeah. It was no big deal. If Jimmie can’t handle it, he needs to find a new career.
Amy: Yep, just racing. Two guys at an equal level leaning on each other like that I don’t have a problem with. It was no big deal. If it’s a rivalry, it’s not a great one.
Summer: There was nothing wrong with the way they raced each other and I’m glad NASCAR stayed out of it. I’m curious to see if it escalates any further though.
Mike: There should be more bumping at a short track than on a 2.5-mile track, but it wasn’t anything dangerous. It’ll all depend on where they end up on the track, but I would not be surprised to see them close a bunch of the time at Bristol. It is just how racing works.
Brody: It’s going to be interesting who pays who back in the coming weeks.
Phil: Keep a look out this weekend in Watkins Glen. Someone might get the treatment entering turn 1.
Amy: Come Chase time, Johnson won’t do anything unless Busch initiates it. Busch might do something for points during the Chase as he has a history of doing that. But my money says Hendrick and Penske have something to say about it before it escalates.
Mike: I don’t think either one of them will do something during the Chase unless one of them is totally out of it. It’s more likely to boil over before we get to the Chase. Jimmie could ruin Kurt’s hopes if he really wanted to.
Phil: Rick Hendrick has a history of getting to his drivers before stupid stuff goes down.

Once again, teams near the back end of the Top 35 are turning towards road-course ringers to help them produce solid finishes. But after some weak ringer performances the last few years, is it time for teams to stop going for one-hit wonders and keep the rhythm of the full-time drivers they already have?

Summer: YES! Seriously, road ringers have done almost nothing the last few years.
Amy: I don’t think it makes much difference. As we’ve seen in the past, a part-time driver doesn’t usually run to their best potential in a fill-in role.
Phil: I’m not against the teams making use of the ringers. However, the ringers aren’t getting good rides anymore. In fact, the CoT has really hurt ringers, to be honest. Truth is, some of these regular drivers have almost no road racing experience. I don’t know what Ron Fellows is going to do in the No. 36 this weekend.
Amy: The cars aren’t set up for the ringers as they don’t have any real notes for them, so they get a best guess. They’d be better off keeping the regular driver and building some notes.
Mike: I don’t know that it pays off to keep a driver in the car that hasn’t been able to get out of the Top-35 area, although Andy Lally and Robby Gordon are the ones battling on the line and obviously they won’t either be replaced by a road-course ringer.

Amy: Unless the regular driver is so bad at a road course he can’t keep it on the road, they don’t stand to gain much.
Phil: Andrew Ranger could surprise in the No. 32, knowing what he’s done in his Nationwide start.
Mike: Ranger can definitely drive a road course. I don’t know that David Reutimann can drive a road course very well yet.
Amy: It’s a stretch to say Dave Blaney has almost no road experience. He’s been in NASCAR a long time now. But how do they get it if they are constantly replaced?
Phil: I wasn’t really going for Blaney, per se. I was referring more to someone like Cassill.
Mike: They put Terry Labonte in the No. 38, which makes sense. They get experience by driving better so they’re solidly in the top 25 and don’t have to worry about dropping out of a secured spot with a bad road-course race. That and go to Skip Barber school a few weeks.
Phil: I wouldn’t be against going to a driver’s school. It makes a difference. Tracy Leslie ran great in the Busch race at Watkins Glen in either 1993 or 1994 after going to one.
Amy: I think it’s better to leave the regular guy in and learn from it. Run an extra car for a ringer for some prize money if they must.
Mike: I think the other way works better, Amy. Put the regular in another car and put the ringer in your car to make sure the car on the bubble stays in the points. The schools have paid off handsomely for many of the regular drivers in the series who didn’t used to be very good at road racing.
Amy: BTW, totally unfair to the real driver, like in Blaney’s case to have to run the extra piece with the backup crew. Totally crappy thing to do for the guy who’s gotten you that far.
Phil: That is what Ganassi did at Sears Point in 2001. Dorsey Schroeder in the No. 01 while Jason Leffler went into the No. 04. Schroeder ran decently while Leffler DNQ’d.
Mike: Never said he had to run with a backup crew. Just said put the car in the show with the guy who will run better for the points. Gotta look at the big picture. If you fall out of the Top 35 you could miss a race at Michigan. He might be getting a lesser car but he’s getting experience.
Amy: What about the bigger picture and the team’s future? Are you still going to take him out five years down the road running for a Chase spot when he has no road-course experience since he’s been replaced every race?
Mike: Nope. I said earlier, if he’s in the top 25 and not in danger of dropping out you don’t replace him. If you’re in 34th or worse yet, 37th, you have to do whatever you can to get solidly in the Top 35.
Phil: I agree with that, Mike. That’s also why the ringers don’t really have much of a chance to win today. They’re all in lesser equipment. It’s not like Boris Said is going to be driving for a mid-pack team on Sunday.
Mike: Exactly. It is interesting that Lally and Robby Gordon will be battling for the bubble spot. They’re 43 points ahead of 36th, but it will certainly bring them closer to the bubble. Well they could still get in trouble if they crash out. Although it seems like Robby has had the worst luck in the world lately.

After the Nationwide Series race at Iowa, in which Edwards and teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. raced very aggressively, team owner Jack Roush revealed that Edwards will be in the broadcast booth for the series next year. Is this move a logical step for Edwards and what is better for the series – his presence on television, on the track or neither?

Phil: I don’t know if Carl Edwards needs a presence at all in Nationwide.
Amy: It’s good for the series, especially if Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski also run fewer races. Edwards is pretty good in the booth. If they’d replace Rusty with him, it would be an improvement.
Mike: I personally think it is better to have him in the booth for the long-term health of the series. In the near sighted arena of the promoters it will be better if they keep him on the track.
Phil: It sounds like there’s a shakeup coming for ESPN’s Nationwide Series coverage. I don’t know where that would go, but I’m intrigued. Maybe Craven and Schrader will get bigger roles.

Mike: I’d like to see Schrader in the booth more. I know some people don’t like how he sounds but I think he’s great.
Amy: I’d love to see Craven and Schrader in the booth every week. Especially without Rusty.
Phil: I don’t know if Schrader wants to be in the booth every week, though. Heck, he’s going to be back in the No. 32 at Michigan.
Mike: I agree. I know Rusty tries really hard but he just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t think Schrader ever wants to be in the booth, though. I know he’d rather be on a dirt track somewhere.
Phil: Plus, there’s the owning a team in the series factor.
Amy: On the other hand, would traveling back and forth on stand-alone weeks make sense for Edwards as he tries to win a Cup title? And he might not, obviously we don’t have all the details yet.
Mike: I don’t know that he’ll be traveling like that. I am assuming that he’ll just be in the booth for some races.
Amy: In any case, I’ve liked him in the booth when he’s visited this year. He’s well-spoken and knowledgeable and not Rusty.
Mike: He’s certainly well-spoken and relates well to the fans.
Amy: And it gets him out of the race. that’s a win-win right there.

OK, how about some predictions for Watkins Glen.

Amy: I say Marcos Ambrose finally gets one.
Mike: I’m going to take Tony Stewart.
Summer: I’m going with Kyle Busch.
Phil: I would agree with that, but you already picked him. So, I’m going to go with AJ Allmendinger. He was strong at the Glen last year.
Amy: Always a good choice, Mike
Mike: BTW, I was robbed on the Brickyard. I told y’all the week before that I was taking Gordon and then I couldn’t be on the chat the next week.

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:

WriterPointsBehindPredictions (Starts)WinsTop 5sTop 10s
Phil Allaway23211811
Amy Henderson15-8201411
Mike Neff14-916158
Jeff Meyer11-1217158
Summer Dreyer6-1711033
Tom Bowles1-222001
Brody Jones0-235002
Beth Lunkenheimer-6-297000

About the author

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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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