Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Policing Pit Road, Cooling off Keselowski & Playing by Too Many Rules

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
Tom Bowles (Editor-In-Chief; Mondays/Bowles-Eye View & Wednesdays/Did You Notice)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Power Rankings & Wednesdays/Full Throttle)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays/Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)

There’s an old adage that races are won and lost on pit road and they proved the case at Bristol on Saturday night (Aug. 27) as Brad Keselowski was able to use the timing lines to his advantage on the final pit stop. Jeff Gordon complained about the perceived advantage and NASCAR agreed to add more timing loops at the track next year. Is that adequate or does NASCAR need to look at better ways to police pit road speed as Gordon suggested?

Mike: No, more lines will be fine. I was surprised to learn that there were only three lines for all of the pit lane on the front and back. I think, if they double that number they should be fine.
Amy: OK, first off, I had no issues with what happened Saturday as NOTHING illegal went on. But for the life of me I can not see why NASCAR can’t just go to flat speeds and do away with the segments altogether. That’s the only way to ensure fairness.
Beth: That would work for me Amy, but like posting pit-road speeds for everyone to see we know that’ll never happen. That said, no matter what NASCAR does, there are drivers that will use the rules to their advantage. It’s just a matter that some drivers have that technique down while others often get burned by it.
Tom: I used to be really against the concept of speeding between the lines but I do realize drivers are making the most of a gray area. Pushing the limits has been what every sport is about, so I applaud Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth for finding the loophole and exploiting it. That said, yeah, they need more lines.
Amy: I do too, Tom. No issues with them at all.
Phil: Well, it’s clear that NASCAR is using an antiquated system in regards to pit-road speed enforcement. It’s ridiculous that we even have to have this conversation. They have the stupid Tiwi transponders – use them!
Mike: I would personally like to see them utilize the GPS system they have at their disposal and display the speeds for everyone to see. I would love to see that. For some reason NASCAR likes to keep this whole pit-road speed thing some giant secret.
Amy: Yeah, Mike, and I don’t get that. It only makes fans think there is some giant conspiracy at work.
Tom: And here’s the problem, Mike: we live in 2011 in a world of Twitter and Facebook that leaves nothing a secret. Fans want transparency. In a perfect world, they need something inside the car to automatically limit speed. If NASCAR is moving towards technology, like with fuel injection this should be a piece of cake. IndyCar and Formula 1 already have it.
Amy: I’d be OK with a limiter in the cars too.
Phil: I’m against pit-road limiters in NASCAR, but it won’t cost anything to simply use what electronics they already have at their disposal.
Beth: What’s wrong with pit-road limiters in NASCAR, Phil?
Mike: I’m indifferent on limiters. They would help but is there going to be a way to automatically initiate them when the car pulls onto pit lane? If not then there will be all sorts of debate about when they were engaged.
Tom: If they’re not engaged in time, then the car should automatically get a penalty. And, just like in other major sports, NASCAR should make the information public to show why the penalty was made.
Phil: The driver would likely push a button and that would limit the car to whatever speed the limit actually is. That is how it is typically done.
Mike: I agree Tom and Amy, they could display them right alongside the scoring computer screens that all teams see.
Beth: Good point, Mike. You’d have to have something that triggered the limiter or you’d have the conspiracy theorists at it again claiming this guy or that guy used it to his advantage.
Amy: But I still think the best way is to go to real-time speed and clock them the entire length of pit road, essentially the same way Joe Schmoe gets clocked on the highway. More loops don’t eliminate the advantage to some teams if they pit at the back of a segment.
Beth: That would certainly take all of the guess work out of it.
Tom: But there’s still subjectivity there. Rev limiters, you have no such thing. It’s funny, for a sport trying to eliminate as much subjectivity as possible with the CoT and other rules they’re willing to do the opposite when it comes to pit-road speeding.
Mike: I think that would be the best and the technology is already on the cars which makes it seem like it should be a no-brain decision. If you have enough loops that they cover every three pit stalls then there won’t be an advantage to pitting at the beginning or end of a segment.
Phil: I agree, Amy. Anyone got thoughts on the tolerance rules?
Amy: I don’t have an issue with the five-mph tolerance. But if you go to clocking mph and not time on pit road and that thing shows anything over the tolerance, you’re done. Same for everyone, so totally fair. NASCAR likes subjectivity a whole lot more if they can use it to their own advantage.
Mike: If they go to continuous time for the length of the pit lane then there isn’t a need for the tolerance. The tolerance is there to allow for some leeway when cars can’t properly gauge the speed limit off the pace car. That need went out the window with the abacus and the scoring loops.
Amy: I’d argue that Mike, only because they still have an antiquated method of setting their speed. If the pace car is off or if the car is at the back of the line, they could be just a hair off on the tach reading. And nailing a team for being at 35.00002 when they started 43rd far behind the second pace car is a bit much.
Beth: Amy, that’s exactly the reason I don’t have a problem with the tolerances.
Mike: They have more than enough engineers that can tell you the exact rpm reading to the thousandth based on gear ratio. There is no reason to gauge it off of a pace car anymore.
Amy: But as long as that IS the rule, Mike, they have to give a little leeway. Not much, but a little.
Tom: Exactly, Mike. In this situation, NASCAR needs to catch up with the times. Leaving it in the hands of the drivers allows them to exploit any possible loophole. And Garrett was right in his column Monday. At a tight pit road like Bristol, safety comes into play.

For those few seconds, Keselowski and Kenseth are going 60. That’s a much harder hit to a crewman if something funky happens and they lose control.
Mike: I disagree. They know what the rpms should be and they don’t need leeway if they’re going to have continuous timing.
Amy: Disagree, Mike. No way the last car in line has as accurate a reading as the first car in line.
Tom: Again, rev limiters are the answer here. Jeff Gordon has a good point, although I’m sure he’s done the exact same thing Keselowski and Kenseth have in the past. Until they change things, well, Gordon’s going to have to do a good job of qualifying better so he gets those special pit stalls.
Beth: Frankly, I don’t have a problem with what Keselowski and Kenseth did. It’s all a part of their race strategy and until NASCAR changes it, that’s part of the race.
Mike: I don’t hold it against Kes or Kenseth or anyone. They do it every week. It was just amazing they only had two segments on the pit lanes at Bristol.

Brad Keselowski’s third win all but locks him into the Chase as a wildcard. Can Keselowski win the championship from that position?

Beth: I’d argue that anything’s possible, but his Penske teammate is going the exact opposite direction in the standings.
Phil: I don’t know. Ideally, it would be a lot better to gain those 21 points and pip Tony Stewart.
Mike: Sure he can win the championship. If he keeps averaging 1.87 or whatever his average has been since he broke his ankle, he’ll smoke the field.
Tom: What Keselowski has done is nothing short of impressive. A 1.75-average finish for the month of August? Not many people have done that. But championship? I think that’s a bit of a stretch. There’s a guy named Kurt Busch that might have something to say about it on his own team.
Amy: It’s impressive, but in the context of an entire season, he doesn’t deserve the championship. Don’t get me wrong, I really think that Keselowski has been brilliant the last four weeks.
Mike: Oh geez, now we’re going to debate the merits of the Chase again. The rules are the rules and we’re all playing by the same rules. If Keselowski runs for 10 races like he’s run since he broke his ankle, NOBODY can touch him.
Tom: Over the long haul, I just don’t think they’ll be able to sustain this pace. Peaking a bit too early… and keep in mind most of those who have clinched their postseason spots aren’t showing all the cards. Heck, Carl Edwards has been basically pulling Research and Development for a month. Keselowski in comparison has been giving 110%. We know that’s all he’s got. So I find it hard to believe all these other guys aren’t going to magically catch up.
Mike: We’ll see. I believe the No. 48 has run what they have the last two races and Keselowski has beaten them.
Beth: But on the flip side of things, I wouldn’t rule out the chance he’ll make it to the top 10 in the next two races. After all, Stewart isn’t exactly burning up the track lately.
Tom: Great story, though. And you change the question to fifth in points, yeah, I can see it. A fourth victory isn’t out of the realm of possibility, either, especially at Talladega in the fall.
Amy: That’s true, Tom. I think the No. 48 is just now showing their hand now that they finally have a pit crew that can tell their ass from their elbow.
Tom: Interesting little tidbit: Jimmie Johnson had not led the points standings for ONE week this season until just now (tied with Kyle Busch after Bristol). Does that team know what it’s doing or what? The lack of victories should concern them and I agree this Chase is more wide open than any we’ve seen as of late. But Gordon? Kenseth? Edwards? All have significantly more experience than Kes and have been running stronger over a more sustained period of time.
Mike: They might be peaking at the right time. It would seem it might have been a week or two early but, in reality, they had to run like this to make the Chase. I don’t think the No. 2 team can maintain this pace either, but I’m not going to say it is out of the realm of possibility. Everybody else out there, with maybe two exceptions, is trying hard to win races and the No. 2 has been spanking their asses.
Beth: That’s because it’s closer to becoming something that matters, Tom. Leading during the regular season does nothing for a driver.
Tom: It’ll be nice to have a newbie in the Chase though. First time that’s happened in two years.
Amy: I think 7th-10th is about where he’ll land. I really think his momentum will carry him past Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Denny Hamlin has no momentum to speak of, so it should be solid.
Mike: I’m not putting anything past Keselowski. I was one of his most vocal critics when he went to Penske and I admit I was completely wrong.
Tom: Honestly, guys, I still think Hamlin is VERY vulnerable. If Stewart keeps it together, he’s clinging to that final wild card spot because Keselowski takes one. Sure, Denny could win Richmond, but so could Clint Bowyer. And Kasey Kahne could easily win Atlanta and blow by Hamlin in the standings.
Phil: Here’s a thought. If Keselowski gets by Stewart and takes over 10th in the next couple of weeks, who’s the other wildcard along with Hamlin?
Mike: Paul Menard I believe Phil, assuming no one else wins a race. besides people already in the Chase.
Amy: Good question, Phil. Menard is sinking like a rock and David Ragan and Marcos Ambrose aren’t far behind him – four points separation between the three.
Tom: Honestly, the way Hamlin’s running it might be a blessing in disguise for them to miss the Chase. They can work on next year that much quicker. If Kes sneaks in the top 10, well, Hamlin will make it along with anybody’s guess. Really, that race is wide open. I could see about a dozen drivers with a chance. Only Juan Pablo Montoya, Greg Biffle and Mark Martin are out in my mind when you look at 12th-23rd in points.
Mike: Ambrose wins Atlanta and makes the Chase by finishing exactly 20th in points.
Amy: If nobody else wins, you get a two mediocre drivers and a good driver with a mediocre team hashing it out. That looks great, NASCAR.
Tom: See, I disagree Amy. The “wild card” has added drama to what was at times a dud run-up to the postseason. You have more people willing to take more risks, put it all out on the line instead of just calmly racing through September.
Amy: We shouldn’t even have to be talking about 20th-22nd in points battling for the Chase! I’m sorry, but none of those guys deserve to be in it. None of them. They SHOULD have to be in the top 10 AND win to even be considered.
Beth: You can thank Jamie McMurray for that, Amy.
Tom: Neither did the 12th-place points man before! To me, there’s no difference. At least the driver has proved they can win. It’s a sideshow, similar to the battles for the eighth playoff spot in the NBA and NHL. You know those teams probably won’t contend but it keeps you watching during the final week when the big teams don’t really care.
Mike: You can say that Tom, but they used to say a wildcard team would not win the Super Bowl and it has become the norm more than the exception.
Phil: I’m not getting involved in this argument again. Doesn’t do any good.
Mike: The Chase is the problem, not the wildcard. Doesn’t matter to me if they win or not. Score the most points over 36 races and win the title. Everything else is smoke and mirrors and snake oil. It won’t be too long before a wildcard driver wins the Chase and people will lose their mind.
Tom: Yeah, I think Amy and I are going to be on different sides here. But back to the question at hand, we don’t need to worry about a wildcard winning. Not this year. Too many others in front of Kes with a much better track record over the course of a full season and a much better shot.
Beth: Would it really be that awful for a wildcard driver to win the championship?
Amy: Yes. They don’t deserve it. It would be 2004 all over again.
Beth: Neither does the guy running 10th in points right now, but the difference is that the Chase has given that “excitement” to the series whether you like it or not.
Mike: I think it would Beth but I think it is awful for anyone that is mathematically eliminated by race 26 to turn around and win it.
Amy: I like excitement, not “excitement.” The new points system completely does away with any need for further fakery.
Mike: The course of a full season doesn’t matter Tom. It is about who gets hot for 10 races. And if a team, whether it is the No. 2 or another team, can go on a run and win the thing even though they all but had their asses handed to them for 24 regular-season weeks.
Tom: Amy, I just don’t see it. Ten races is a lot more than one game. We’ve typically seen the best teams rise to the top over the course of that time. Keselowski’s been the best team for four. That won’t cut it.
Amy: Can Keselowski win it all? I’d go with a maybe. Whether he gets in the top 10 or not, I just can’t see a team lower than fifth in the standings into September being deserving unless its a crazy year like 1992 where they really ARE that close.
Beth: I’d say the likelihood that the No. 2 team is ready for a championship run is slim, but I don’t see why they can’t put up a good fight for it.

It’s been reported that NASCAR will further tighten its requirements for pre-approval of all parts next year, including any parts that teams and work with. Is this an effective way to curb “creative engineering” or is it taking away strategy and creativity in the garage?

Tom: Hmm. Why don’t we just make everything the same; all parts, pieces and setups should be completely generic. And everyone will spend 500 miles running single-file or barely side-by-side, stuck behind traffic for ages because they can’t pass. Oh wait! We do that now!
Amy: I think it’s ridiculous and ineffective. If they show up with something questionable, confiscate it, make a rule against it and be done with it. Remember that car that Gordon got the crazy penalties for in Sonoma a few years ago? NASCAR had that car in for approval the day before the team left for Sonoma. They took it from R&D to the hauler. Yet NASCAR approved it. And then turned around and slapped them. So I have no faith in the process. Let them build according to the rules and show up to race. If they aren’t in the rules when they get there, make the penalty clear.
Mike: Just taking away more and more creativity. By the time NASCAR approves it there will be 100 people who hear about it through the grapevine and 10 other teams will have it.
Beth: Well it’s really a little bit of both. I mean you take out more of the risk that someone will inadvertently put the wrong part on at the shop, but it takes out some of the engineering that teams can do to better themselves above the competition.
Tom: Putting the wrong part on by accident is part of the game. You should be busted if you make a mistake. They’re eliminating the unpredictability while making it harder for any team, especially the underdogs, to use innovation to make gains on speed. The fewer chances you have to innovate, the more likely it is the trophies and the top-10 finishes go to the teams with the most money, the ones supplying many of those parts and pieces to their very competitors.
Amy: Maybe, maybe not. They didn’t penalize JGR for those oil pans, which were legal in one sense but questionable in another (unapproved weight).
Mike: I still don’t understand what the problem was with those. I thought it was brilliant. I do understand the shape of them was different so they should have been penalized since they weren’t the standard shape.
Tom: Well, again NASCAR is trying to eliminate any possible gray area. I do respect them for that, but there’s a point where you have to draw the line and let some things go. Again, the more NASCAR becomes like IROC, well, what happened to the International Race of Champions? They’re not around anymore.
Amy: I don’t have a problem with NASCAR having rules and following them. I do have an issue with them doing it this way because they’re less than trustworthy, as they showed with the Gordon car.
Tom: Parity is great, but at some point there needs to be enough leeway so teams are capable of running different speeds. Otherwise, there’s no passing and no excitement to boot. Bringing the teams too close together in speed, by the way, was one of the issues that led to the downfall of CART. Surprised NASCAR hasn’t taken a look at that – and the IROC example – when making those decisions.
Mike: I don’t think parity is great at all. I used to love when the teams would whine and complain to get an extra quarter of an inch off of their spoilers.
Amy: Exactly, Tom. Teams have to be able to work somewhere. If they’re cheating, penalize them and move on. Parity is great if it allows the have nots to compete with the haves. It’s not great when it leads to the complete sterilization of the sport.
Phil: I’d argue that cost and team poaching by the IRL really hurt CART more than teams being too close together in speed (which they really weren’t).
Tom: Towards the end of their existence, Phil, the series suffered from exactly zero lapped traffic. It would be just one spread-out parade.
Mike: NASCAR doesn’t seem to learn from others’ mistakes Tom. I’m not sure why that is. I had a discussion this weekend about how the Indy racing folks have brought in everybody who’s ever driven an Indy car to sign autographs this year while NASCAR drivers are getting harder and harder to get an autograph from.
Amy: NASCAR doesn’t learn from their own mistakes. Why would they think outside the box and learn from anyone else’s? Indy does it right on that count, Mike. NASCAR should be taking notes on that.
Mike: Yes they do Amy. And NASCAR used to but now the drivers are becoming more and more inaccessible. Just another thing that is going in the wrong direction. Every driver should be required to sign somewhere accessible by the public for one hour every weekend, period.
Tom: Yeah, that’s a bit off topic. Bottom line is becoming generic has hurt the sport more than it’s helped. Mandating certain parts and pieces only leads us more in that direction.
Phil: If that’s so, what’s the solution? Run what you brung?
Amy: Seriously, though, the teams have the rulebook and they know the consequences of showing up with an illegal part. Let them show up with what they bring and penalize the ones who violate the rules. Let the rest of them work.
Mike: I think the answer to this whole thing is pretty simple. Put the rules in place to have the greenhouse be the same for every car and let the teams have at it. Would there be haves and have nots? You bet your ass! Guess what? This is racing. People with more money have been winning at racing since they raced chariots. Get over it people.
Amy: Run what you brung worked fine pre-CoT. No reason it can’t work fine now.
Tom: Well said.

In Wednesday’s Truck Series race, Kyle Busch ended his own night in a crash with Elliott Sadler and afterward, tried to end Sadler’s night as well. NASCAR shrugged the incident off as part of its “boys have at it” policy, but the incident was not Busch’s first of the season and is one of several over the last couple of years. Other drivers have had ongoing issues as well. Should NASCAR be looking at cumulative incidents within the policy as some drivers have longer records than others?

Beth: There’s gotta be a point when NASCAR steps in and says “You intentionally stayed out just to wreck someone and we have a problem with that.” Especially when it comes to an incident like what happened in the truck race.
Tom: Yes, I think cumulative does matter. They never enforce probation anyways. That said, Kyle Busch was hilarious Wednesday night in not even knowing who Elliott Sadler was driving for. In a way, he embarrassed himself enough and took his own truck out, to boot.
Phil: No one knows exactly what enforcing probation is, so they can say that they are and no one would be the wiser.
Amy: I agree with Tom. One incident, like Stewart and Brian Vickers at Sonoma? Perfect example of how it should work. But for one or two guys to run roughshod on the field in the name of “having at it” is not cool. What disgusts me about Busch on Wednesday is that he’s so sure he’s right he refused to even watch the tape.
Mike: They should definitely look at cumulative history and, even if they hadn’t, staying out just to wreck someone should be a penalty. They should have told him when he pulled in that he was done for the night.
Beth: I agree completely, Mike. But as it turns out, he was done for the night anyway.
Phil: That’s right. Kyle did the same thing there that he did to Keselowski at Bristol last year. He wasn’t parked for that, either, even though the drunks in the nosebleeds knew that it was intentional.
Amy: I agree, Mike. He should have been parked if they fixed the truck. Busch caused that, not Sadler. But that’s typical Kyle Busch attitude: Sadler should have backed out because the waters must part for the Great and Wonderful Kyle Busch.
Beth: You could say the same about other drivers in NASCAR too, Amy.
Mike: Well everyone else told him to check the tape so maybe he had a chance to see it this week. I’ll ask him Friday. I actually thought everything worked as it should have until Busch dumped him. Busch and Sadler got together earlier in the race and went on about their business. Busch tried to muscle Sadler again and he didn’t take it, so Busch took himself out. The staying on the track and dumping Sadler was unnecessary and he should have been parked. That said, if I’m Sadler, I’m not forgetting about it.
Amy: Don’t forget when Edwards flipped Keselowski at Atlanta, either. That was the same: Edwards caused the original crash (and even admitted as much on national TV) then went back out for the sole purpose of wrecking Keselowski.
Phil: Everyone: Odds that Kyle Busch will give a smart alecky answer to Neffy’s question in Atlanta this weekend?
Beth: I wouldn’t bet against it, Phil. I did however think Sadler handled it very gracefully in his post race comments. He pretty much pleaded for Busch to watch the tape and see what really happened. And I don’t blame him. Sadler did nothing wrong.
Mike: Me too Beth.
Amy: I do think cumulative incidents should at least draw long-term probation (rest of the year). Especially if they’re against multiple other people, like Busch has.
Phil: Sadler was simply trying to hold his line.
Beth: Probation is nothing, Amy. You and I both know that. Exactly, Phil. It was the exact same thing that happened between the two earlier in the race.
Amy: True Beth, and NASCAR needs to make it mean something. If you’re on probation for something, ANY violation, related or not, should result in an immediate and very tough penalty.
Mike: Yep, It was all Kyle. And someone on his team should have told him that before he ever got near Sadler again.
Beth: I wish I had been listening to the radio traffic at that point. I’d be interested in what his spotter and other team members had to say when he skipped the entrance to pit road.
Amy: Sadler had nowhere to go.
Beth: Sadler shouldn’t have had to go anywhere. He had that spot on the track, and Busch tried to muscle his way into it. Plain and simple, he took himself out and then felt like he needed revenge. I’m sure part of it was that he’s not even leading owner points like he had hoped, and he was mad about it.
Amy: Is there a difference between guys like Kyle Busch, who have had multiple run-ins with multiple drivers, and guys like Johnson and Kurt Busch, who have multiple incidents but only with each other?
Phil: Yes, I think so. Here’s why. Kyle has shown that he’ll go through anyone to win. As for Johnson and Kurt Busch, they just plain don’t like each other and sometimes bump each other on track.
Amy: I tend to agree. As long as Busch and Johnson leave the rest of the field out of it and don’t do anything REALLY stupid.
Mike: OK, I need clarification because my bias towards Kyle always clouds my vision. What drivers has he had problems with? I know he dumped Kes and Jennifer Jo Cobb and now he’s dumped Sadler.
Amy: Junior at Richmond, Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Sadler, Cobb. Matt Crafton in trucks, though Crafton didn’t take it from him.
Mike: Junior at Richmond was a racing deal. Harvick wrecked him first. Kes and Jennifer Jo were wrong, plain and simple. Harvick had it coming and Junior was a racing deal. But I don’t think that is a long list of people he’s had problems with.
Beth: Part of the consideration should be the safety of other drivers on the track. When he dumped Sadler, it was in front of nearly the entire field. I’m honestly shocked no one else was collected in that spin.
Mike: I agree Beth. I was amazed no one else got collected on Wednesday night.
Amy: But four or five different drivers over two or three years is enough to require a second look by the sanctioning body.
Mike: So technically there are only two incidents where he wrecked someone unprovoked, or at least what a sane person would consider unprovoked.
Amy: Provoked or not shouldn’t matter anyway. Multiple incidents of retaliation should also be looked at. Especially if the retaliation was completely unwarranted.
Mike: Amy, if they did that they’d have to take away six of Dale Earnhardt‘s titles. And the only reason it wouldn’t be all seven is because he totally dominated in the seventh year.
Amy: Honestly, I do think NASCAR needs to consider patterns. Busch is showing a pattern. When Harvick showed one a few years back, he got parked.
Mike: I completely agree that NASCAR should have penalized him Wednesday night. I think the only reason they may not is because his night was ended and Sadler continued. However, it cost Sadler quite a bit.
Phil: Sadler was lucky to get back to ninth. That stupidity crushed Joe Denette Motorsports. They had a legitimate chance to get their first win.
Amy: The sad part was, Kyle tried to pin it on Harvick. Sadler wasn’t being paid by KHI for that race. If anything, it was Busch seeing an opportunity to take a cheap shot at Harvick, not the other way around.
Mike: I don’t know how legitimate their chance was to win. Sadler was maybe a fifth place car before he was taken out.
Beth: I don’t know about that, Mike. He ran pretty well in the opening laps. I’d say they had a chance to win until Kyle decided to rough Sadler up multiple times.
Mike: I am not sure whether Sadler was paid by Dennette or not. It was confusing when Kevin talked about it after the race. It was definitely Joe’s truck but I don’t know if Joe paid Elliott or if Harvick did.
Beth: I don’t know… “He wasn’t even driving for us tonight” is pretty clear Mike.
Mike: Yeah, but before that he said, we may cut Elliott’s check, but he wasn’t driving our truck.
Mike: He said something like we pay Elliott to drive Nationwide and trucks but that wasn’t our truck. Both of those statements confused me as to whether Harvick paid for Sadler to drive or not.
Amy: Does it really matter? It was Busch, not Harvick and not Sadler, who took a cheap shot.
Beth: Though it really doesn’t matter who pays the man. It wasn’t Sadler trying to “get” Kyle like he portrayed it. It was more of a simple thing of Sadler not letting Busch cut off his nose… again.
Amy: Sadler had bumped Busch earlier because Busch cut him off. He didn’t even pretend to try and wreck Busch.
Beth: Exactly, Amy. He simply showed Busch he wasn’t happy about the earlier contact and that was it until later in the race.
Mike: I’ve said through this whole thing. Kyle was wrong to dump Sadler and they should fine him for it.
Beth: There’s gotta be a point where NASCAR draws the line when it comes to retaliation. There’s absolutely no reason for a truck as damaged as Kyle’s to stay on the track just to get revenge before heading to the garage. Instead, Kyle could have handled it like a man and talked to Sadler afterward.
Amy: I do think cumulative incidents need a second look. no driver should be allowed to run all over anyone any time he feels like it and walk away without so much as a warning
Mike: Yeah Beth, it was Scott Speed-esque.
Amy: When has Kyle ever handled it like a man?

OK how about some predictions for Atlanta?

Amy: Hard to pick against BK right now but I think I will go with Kenseth denying the million-dollar bonus.
Mike: I’m going to take Edwards in Atlanta.
Beth: I’m going with Kurt Busch finally figuring out what’s gone wrong the last several weeks.
Tom: My Atlanta prediction is bold: Kahne. I think he steals one.
Phil: Let’s see, Amy took Kenseth, Mike took Edwards, Bowles took Kahne. I’m going to go with Johnson. Why the heck not?
Beth: I almost did that, Phil. Johnson’s not a bad guy to pick at Atlanta. After all, he’s got the best average finish of anyone there.
Mike: Good choice Phil. Earnhardt Jr. is the darkhorse for the weekend.
Beth: You know, that’s really starting to sound like a broken record Mike. Junior’s got a good chance at a lot of tracks, but there’s a point where he NEEDS to back it up.
Amy: Amen.
Mike: Oh I agree Beth. Although I’d love to see him win the title without winning a race, just to cause the entire time/space continuum to fall apart.
Beth: That would be pretty funny, Mike. But then you’d have people screaming about it and we’d have to deal with yet another change to the points/championship system.
Mike: Nah, they’re going to wait another year and change it when Sprint goes away.
Amy: If Sprint going away means no more Chase, I’d be all for it.

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

WriterPointsBehindPredictions (Starts)WinsTop 5sTop 10s
Phil Allaway24241813
Amy Henderson23-1232613
Mike Neff11-1319158
Jeff Meyer11-1317158
Summer Dreyer9-1512044
Tom Bowles1-232001
Brody Jones0-245002
Beth Lunkenheimer-6-307000

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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