Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Cinderella Stories, Talladega Trials & Agitating Adjustments

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 (Mondays/Bowles-Eye View & Wednesdays/Did You Notice?)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Mike Neff (Wednesday/Full Throttle & Friday/Keepin’ It Short)
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays/Tearing Apart the Trucks & Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)

Tony Stewart won for the second week in a row at New Hampshire and took the points lead. Can Stewart sustain it and win the title from 10th place at Richmond, or is someone gearing up to beat the two-time champ in the stretch run?

Phil: Well, if this fuel-mileage tilt holds out, you never know. Tony Stewart has shown improved form lately, regardless of time of the race, though. I think he could do it.
Beth: Actually, I feel like Smoke has a very real chance of being around come Homestead. With eight races remaining, he’s got a combined 12 wins and double-digit top 10s at all but two of those tracks (Homestead and Kansas).
Amy: I agree with Phil. If more races come down to mileage, he’s got to be the favorite. The problem is, I don’t know if Stewart has the speed to compete if mileage isn’t a factor. He has improved over the last month, but not been consistently fast.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: Smoke & Mirrors With a Little Dead Weight Thrown In

Mike: There is no doubt that Stewart could make a run. The thing to note is that the first two tracks of the Chase are the two best for him statistically of the 10. Momentum can certainly play a role and he’s won a title in this format before, but it will be hard to maintain for eight more weeks.
Tom: Not to use a pun, but Tony Stewart in the points lead right now is a “Smoke” screen. He’ll do well, for sure, but absolutely no way in hell he takes home the title. Mark it down.
Beth: I wouldn’t say there’s no way in hell. Think about this: normally Stewart peaks in the middle of the summer and that peak was nonexistent this season. Who’s to say this isn’t the peak time this year, a point when it’ll actually do the No. 14 team some good?
Amy: The thing with Stewart is he runs either hot or cold. He’s hot right now. If he can STAY hot, he can for sure win.
Tom: First of all, if he finishes 29th in Dover again – which is what he did in the spring – he’ll drop right out of the points lead. There’s too many tracks on the schedule where Stewart has struggled the first time out. I believe by after Martinsville, in late October (another awkward track for Stewart, by the way) he’ll drop to about fourth in the standings. And I think that’s about where he’ll finish. Remember, too, at least two of the Hendrick trio in the Chase still have a shot at this thing.
Mike: I will never say there’s no way someone won’t do anything, especially Stewart, but I really think Brad Keselowski is positioning himself to make a real run at it.
Phil: Stewart’s won at a lot of these tracks on the schedule, including Phoenix and Homestead. He’ll definitely be a factor as long as something stupid doesn’t happen.
Beth: Actually, Phil, Stewart has at least one win on every track left in the Chase. I don’t think it’s that far off to think he’ll end up running well for the remaining eight races. Besides, it’s not going to be wins alone that secure the championship. Remember, Jimmie Johnson only had one win in 2006 and last season as well.
Tom: I do agree with that, Beth. It’s not like I’m saying Stewart is going to tank, he’s just not going to win the title.
Amy: I think all but four are out of it if none of the top four get wrecked somewhere. I still say more than 25 out isn’t going to win without a BIG problem for one of the top four and you just can’t count on that happening. I don’t like the idea of Stewart or Keselowski winning, but I think it’s between them, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.
Mike: I don’t think 32 points is too much to overcome. That is four positions a week. Remember when Johnson went on that awesome tear a few years back? He wins four in a row and blows right past everybody.
Tom: Easy question, eliminating answer. As much as the Chevy people looove Danica Patrick, who’s paying those engine and chassis bills for Stewart-Haas? We could be faced with the prospect of Stewart’s biggest rival, Johnson, handing him the engine the No. 14 will use from within the Hendrick organization at Homestead. What do you think might happen there?
Phil: I know what you’re insinuating, Tom. Very hard to prove.
Mike: I know you are always on that bandwagon, Tom, but I think they’re going to get the same equipment they have all year and they’ll do the best with it that they do every week. Including winning the last two.
Amy: It’s harder to make up points now, too. Used to be top fives were worth more points so it was easier to run well and make up points if the other guy ran top 10, top 15. Now you need to win and Stewart needs to finish 20th or worse.
Tom: Well Greg Biffle pulled a similar stunt, starting 2-for-2 in 2008 and ended up third in points. I think that would be a huge success story for Stewart, a Cinderella deal after how awkward his regular season has gone. Right now, though Mike as you said positioning doesn’t matter. I could NOT disagree more with Amy’s opinion only the top four are still in it. Johnson wins Dover, he’s right back in the thick of it. And the guy has led 1,192 of the last 2,000 laps there … who do you think might be in contention Sunday?
Mike: I think Hamlin is the only one that is truly toast at this point. He has absolutely zero shot.
Tom: Agreed. He and Ryan Newman, who never really had a shot to begin with. The other 10? They’re very much alive.
Mike: Johnson is going to win Sunday (Oct. 2). Is it too early to put in my prediction?
Phil: Seems to win Dover every year, anyway. Except for that time he wiped out in qualifying and had to share a pit.
Amy: I wouldn’t pick Jimmie with a 10-foot pole right now. He’s all yours.

See also
Monday Morning Teardown: Pressure is the Name of This Chase Game

Mike: Thanks, Amy. I appreciate you giving me the winner.
Amy: Johnson’s real problem is on top of the pit box right now, and that ain’t going anywhere. My title pick changes weekly, it seems, but I think Harvick will take it over Stewart eventually.
Mike: Wow, Amy just threw Chad Knaus under the bus. Y’all read it here first.
Amy: Yes I did, Mike. Knaus has been satisfied with the status quo, hasn’t made an original pit call in forever and isn’t doing anything different than 15 other teams on pit stops.
Mike: You’re on crack.
Tom: Well, Amy’s reverse psychology has worked five years in a row now, hasn’t it. Don’t expect her to abandon ship now, Mike.
Mike: Well anyways, Stewart is on fire and momentum is huge in this sport. There’s no question that he’ll be in contention all of the way to the end.
Beth: I don’t see why Stewart can’t put together another eight races and challenge for the championship. Am I guaranteeing it? Absolutely not! But I still think he’ll be around come Homestead in November.
Tom: I think Stewart is a nice September story. But winning the Chase? Too much to ask. Just think though, where would the poor man be right now if he didn’t shed all that deadweight? Burger King must be mourning all the business they lost.
Beth: HAHAHA, that’s not what I thought when he said that, Tom.
Mike: Smoke has a Burger King Gold Card. He eats free at any BK, anywhere, anytime.
Amy: How old was that deadweight, anyway? Like 19?
Tom: Amy, I don’t know. I missed NASCAR Entertainment Tonight to find the latest news. Seriously, I’ve never seen Twitter evolve from NASCAR fans into a world of high-school gossip so quickly. That poor Zemken girl, regardless if it’s true – did you see her fan page? People were commenting like crazy.
Mike: I saw her run at Charlotte this spring. She did pretty well. Smoke nipped her on the last lap to beat her.

Kurt Busch’s Dodge was held in pre-race inspection as the rear end was out of tolerance, an issue that was fixed with a track bar adjustment. Should NASCAR limit how far a track bar or other adjustment can go, so that the car could not have gotten outside the tolerance in the first place?

Mike: No. They limit enough crap already. They need to open the box, not close it more. By the way, they better hit Kurt Busch for the F-bomb or Junior Nation is going to go nuts. Although they’ll probably say it was ESPN so it is cable.
Beth: I’m with Mike. I don’t like the idea of NASCAR adding more limitations on what the teams can and can’t do.
Mike: The track bar’s job is to position the rear end. That is what it does. If you take that away, you’re killing the teams.

See also
5 Points to Ponder: A Penske Rebellion? Chase Panic Over Nothing, & the Change We Should Have Seen

Amy: I think they should limit it. Otherwise, what’s to stop that team (or any other team) from adjusting it to illegal proportions for the race and putting it back at the end? I’m all for letting teams adjust within legal limits or for working grey areas not specified in the rules. But to knowingly adjust the car outside published tolerances isn’t working the grey area; it’s cheating.
Tom: I think it’s still open to question what, exactly was wrong in pre-race inspection with Busch’s car.
Mike: It is always open to question what is wrong, Tom.
Phil: As for our question, they technically already do limit the track bar with other rules.
Amy: I’m not saying they should take away the ability to adjust the track bar – just the ability to make the car illegal.
Tom: Good lord. The rules have become so strict already it’s a miracle more teams don’t experience violations every week.
Phil: That used to be the case in the late 1990s with the weekly graveyard of confiscated parts.
Mike: Exactly, Tom. I’m amazed at how they get them through on the first try more times than not.
Tom: Well I think the biggest issue that gets raised from this, for the fans is “How do you let some people fix things and confiscate other peoples’ cars?” There seems to be some inconsistency as to how these “violations” in pre-race inspections are officiated.
Mike: I don’t know what makes things confiscatable and what doesn’t. I’m guessing it is the opinion of the powers that be as to what the problem is.
Tom: Of course, we’re on the one-year anniversary of Clint Bowyer being “outside the tolerances” in post-race inspection and getting slammed with a 150-point fine.
Beth: How can you say Busch knowingly adjusted the car outside tolerances in this case, though? It could have easily been a simple mistake. And it’s not like they took any advantage from it in the race since it was found prior to the green.
Tom: Beth, you made a good point. But let’s take it to the next level. Baseball, football, hockey, basketball, even sailing, someone makes a simple mistake, they pay the consequences. Football, simple mistake equals an interception, points on the board. Baseball, simple mistake with steroids could equal a suspension. It doesn’t equal a slap on the wrist in certain circumstances and a “come to Jesus, back-breaking penalty” in others. I think that’s where most fans have their gripes.
Amy: I agree, Tom. I don’t have a problem with letting teams fix a minor issue and reinspect (as long as all are allowed to do so). But where the issue could be fixed with a simple track bar adjustment, I do wonder how long it stayed fixed once they hit the track. Until the first pit stop?
Beth: Tom, NASCAR IS NOT A STICK AND BALL SPORT! And I truly wish people would quit trying to make those comparisons.
Tom: Yeah, but the same principle of fairness applies here, don’t you think?
Beth: Sure, the same principle of fairness applies, but consider that the team first failed inspection, fixed the problem and passed in time for the green flag. No harm, no foul, right?
Mike: That is why I don’t think NASCAR should have confiscated the car. It was simply out of spec because of an adjustment. It wasn’t manufactured to be out of spec.
Amy: That’s why it does frustrate me when some teams have been allowed to fix infractions and reinspect with no penalty over the years, while others have been heavily penalized.
Beth: Of course it depends on the type of infraction too, Amy.
Amy: A template violation is a template violation.
Beth: From what I’ve read and been told, it was a gauge that says yay or nay to the setup, not so much a template thing.
Amy: Whatever. It was an issue with the body of the car being outside NASCAR’s tolerances. The No. 22 should be darn glad it was caught before the race, or it would have been big after. Just ask Bowyer.
Phil: Was Kurt Busch’s car the “random” yesterday after the race?
Tom: No, Kurt Busch was not the random car in post-race. That’s a very good point, Phil.
Amy: Interesting. It should have been.
Tom: They took Keselowski and Edwards, along with Stewart. So I guess their thought process was to take one of the Penske Racing machines?
Beth: I’m surprised NASCAR didn’t check it out after the race, especially with the violation in pre-race. I guess they figured Kurt didn’t finish as well as Brad so his needed a closer look instead.
Mike: Probably didn’t want to mess with a car that finished that far back.
Amy: In any case, the team adjusted too far. I’d like to see some kind of rule to keep it from happening in the race. One, to keep the teams from knowingly cheating, but also to protect teams from inadvertently adjusting too far and then getting slapped with a huge fine after the race.
Beth: Oh yay, just what I want to see. More limitations (insert rolling eyes here).
Phil: What kind of checking do they do at all after the race if you’re not the random or one of the top finishers? Some of these dudes just pull in and load up.
Mike: For most of the field, they don’t check anything. If you suck, they don’t care.
Tom: Well, NASCAR feels like if you finished 30th there’s nothing to check. It’s not like you gained a competitive advantage; or if you did, it certainly wasn’t helping in the end.

See also
Top 10 Reasons Kurt Busch's Car is Always Late for Pre-Race Inspection

Phil: Well, I guess that’s true.
Mike: Yeah, There’s always the chance you can be the random car so you won’t do something major I wouldn’t think.
Amy: I’d just be happy if body violations were treated the same across the board. And for teams not to be able to cheat.
Mike: I just wish there weren’t body violations and cars looked different.
Phil: Eventually, NASCAR’s going to come up with this crazy setup that will allow inspections to be done in 5% of the time it currently takes.
Amy: Or not to cheat by overadjusting, I should say.
Beth: Amy, the only way to eliminate teams using the gray areas is to mandate an IROC-like system, and we both know how long that lasted.
Amy: Creative engineering has been part of the game for 60 years, but generally once NASCAR finds a new cheat, they make it illegal.
Tom: Well, the problem with body violations is they can be difficult for the common fan to understand. Beyond that, it’s difficult for them to get a copy of the NASCAR Rule Book. The teams, some of us media and garage insiders may have it, but there’s no public way for fans to check on the rules and how they’re applied.
Mike: It is even more difficult for them to UNDERSTAND the NASCAR rulebook.
Tom: And that hurts NASCAR, in the long run because it’s easy to claim inconsistency through a lack of understanding.
Phil: They should do what the NHL and other sports leagues do, post the entire rulebook online and allow the public to access it.
Mike: HAHAHAHAHAHA You make me laugh, Phil. Next you’ll want them to do a filing with the SEC so we can see their books.
Tom: Ladies and gentlemen, Phil Allaway has suddenly disappeared for the rest of this chat. Whereabouts unknown.
Phil: Back to the No. 22. I guess that based on Kurt’s handling early, the “illegal” setup did benefit Kurt. He dropped like a stone with the legal setup.
Amy: NASCAR should have tossed the No. 22’s qualifying time and made them start in back. You know, like they did the last time they found a similar violation between qualifying and the race.
Beth: I couldn’t agree more. That way if there was any doubt about whether the violation gave them an advantage in qualifying, it would have been removed.
Amy: Oh, and immediately suspended Addington.
Mike: I don’t think I would have suspended Addington, but I do think they should throw out the qualifying time.
Tom: Addington would be a little too much. Although, I think with the way Kurt verbally berates him, the poor man would probably beg for one.
Amy: Why? They suspended Knaus. Therefore, they should have suspended Addington.
Tom: I think the two situations are different. But before we start arguing about it, the problem is we don’t know and each scenario is never adequately explained. That creates the inconsistency.
Beth: I’d say an over adjustment on a track bar is significantly less intentional than a device to push out the rear window. You’re comparing apples to oranges, Amy.
Mike: Apples to oranges? She’s comparing apples to steak Tar Tar. Knaus built the car to intentionally deform when an adjustment was made. Busch’s rear end was too tilted to one side. Those are so completely different it is laughable.

NASCAR announced new rules for Talladega to cut down on the two-car draft, including a larger restrictor plate, lower tolerance on the radiator overflow valve and prohibiting using any kind of lubricant on the rear bumper. Were these changes the way to go or should NASCAR have left the racing alone?

Phil: I can’t foresee this rule doing all that much to change the racing. Yeah, they’ll have to switch again. I’d imagine that it would be every 2-3 laps, not every lap.
Amy: Of course NASCAR should have left the rules alone, but when has that ever stopped them before?
Beth: It’s Talladega. Did you really think they were going to just let it go without trying to make changes again?
Tom: Well I think the jury’s still out on ‘Dega changes. Because I think, when we’re all said and done they’ll find a way to keep those two-car tandems going.
Phil: Heck, it took them only a couple of months to figure out how to do it non-stop for 100 miles.

See also
Voices From the Heartland: Sanctioning Body Totally Clueless Again

Mike: The only rule I have a problem with is the no grease on the rear bumpers. I don’t see how that can do anything but make things less safe.
Tom: Well, NASCAR tried to futz with the rules in February and they didn’t make much of a difference. Plus, those two-car tandems … being absolutely locked together like they are becomes the fastest possible way to draft 90% of the time.
Amy: Can they put grease on the front bumpers? Just saying.
Phil: I’m going to say no, Amy.
Tom: I don’t feel like teams are going to give this practice up easily until six engines blow in practice or NASCAR outlaws bump drafting.
Amy: I think the two-car racing is much more exciting than the two-lane parade.
Tom: Mike, can you explain for the fans a little bit more of what they did technically?
Mike: The restrictor plate is opened up a sixty-fourth of an inch. That is going to give about 7-10 more horsepower and a wee bit more throttle response.
Beth: Well, Amy since NASCAR only barred them from greasing the back bumpers, you know someone’s going to try it until they get caught.
Amy: And the radiator valve deal could backfire as well. If they race in the big packs they still draft tight. Lots of blown engines in big packs will equal a wreck-fest. Or, a bigger wreck-fest than usual.
Beth: It’s another grey area they can take advantage of.
Phil: It’ll apparently make the cars a couple of miles an hour faster, but won’t change much.
Mike: The pressure release valve is for the cooling system. It is a closed system that is under pressure and when it gets to a certain point, it will release water. With the lesser poundage on the system the cars won’t be able to get as hot before they push out water. No water, engine go boom.
Phil: I think it’s 25 pounds per square inch now, right?
Tom: With that rule, I think you’re going to see a lot more unpredictability in terms of who makes it to the finish. A lot more engine failures and mechanical problems, to the level we expected to see during the Daytona 500.
Mike: The greasing the bumper thing was to try and keep cars from spinning each other out. If the bumpers grabbed each other, it was easier for the car in front to go around. They put the grease on to make them slide better. Now that they can’t, the possibility exists that cars might get “hooked” more easily.
Tom: Practice is going to be incredibly important down at ‘Dega. A lot of different strategies with the new system. However, even with the “no greasing” rule, the valve, the additional horsepower people have stumbled upon extra speed with this two-car system. You can’t get around it.
Amy: But NASCAR loves the Big One and we all know it. Not that it wouldn’t happen with the greased bumpers, but they aren’t hedging their bets. They know a lot of plate-track “fans” watch for the wrecks.
Mike: No, you won’t get around it until the asphalt ages and that is a couple of years away.
Tom: If NASCAR made this rule the weekend of Talladega, I think we’d see these two-car tandems automatically break up. But they gave big teams plenty of time to create a workaround. Again, it’s a noble effort but until a 10-car draft can overcome this two-car tandem again you’re not going to see it go away.
Mike: They’ll figure something out.

See also
Holding a Pretty Wheel: Fuel Mileage is Part of the Game, Not the Whole Contest

Amy: But I do agree that greasing was a safety deal. They’re still going to bump draft, now they’re just more likely to wreck doing it. At least it won’t be a fuel-mileage race.
Tom: I can’t stand the two-car tandems. But at the same time, unless the plates get removed I don’t see any way around it now that they’ve figured it out. If you try and eliminate bump drafting, well, you’ll get the single-file farce we saw at Talladega a couple of years ago. It’s a necessary evil for me at this point.
Mike: Until the track ages, it will be two cars. Another two or three years probably.
Amy: I love the tandems. They actually race each other.
Mike: I don’t like that you’re so dependent on the guy behind you. But that’s how it works and you do get a lot of coming and going.
Amy: So what if they make partner deals? They had to do that before, too.
Tom: I think the big packs create more strategy. And if you’re running second, you’re not automatically tied to the winner. Teammate relationships aren’t as automatic when you have 10 cars with a chance to win.
Amy: I do think NASCAR should just leave the rules alone. People complain about not letting them race, so let them race.
Tom: Look, the bottom line is there’s no good answer for the racing at Daytona and Talladega, period.
Amy: Well no, Tom, not short of a large amount of dynamite.
Mike: Well, there is, but they don’t want to make the teams develop six-cylinder engines for four races a year.
Phil: You had the option of trying to barge your way in prior to the tandems. Dangerous, but doable. Now, it’s impossible. You’ll lose the pack.
Amy: I think the plate racing has been better to watch for an entire race since the tandems came about. Before, they might as well have just raced 10 laps and gotten it over with.
Mike: Short of putting four-by-eight boards on top of the cars, I don’t know what they can do to make plate racing any better. These rules are just another tweak designed to make Daytona better which is why they did it now.
Tom: I think NASCAR was trying to end the two-car tandems based on the rule changes, I really do. But it’s not going to work with too much time for these teams to prepare. Look for an offseason change to fix it, if at all possible because I think the majority of fans are fed up with that style of racing.
Amy: Why they are, I just don’t get. Maybe some people need to pay better attention to the finish of the last race at Talladega? I don’t recall one like that in a long time, maybe ever.

KHI announced a driver switch for Kentucky, moving Ron Hornaday into the No. 2 truck and Cale Gale into the No. 33. What purpose does this type of switch have and what kind of outcome should fans expect?

Mike: None.
Beth: I’ll tell you exactly what purpose the switch has. Points.
Phil: I have no clue what the point of the change is, except one thing. Sponsorship. Rheem’s on the No. 33 and that’s Cale Gale‘s sponsor.
Amy: At this point, I don’t think it serves any purpose.
Tom: Two reasons. Gale will drive the No. 33 next year and Ron Hornaday is trying to help Harvick win the owners’ title. But I also think it could disrupt Hornaday’s rhythm; he’s actually had a decent second half of the season. Isn’t going to win the title, but darned if he won’t come close.

See also
Fact or Fiction: Post-Race Mistake, Start & Park Problems & Truck Changes?

Beth: Right, Tom. The No. 2 team is leading owner points by 33 over the No. 18 team and given the choice between Gale and Hornaday, Hornaday’s more likely to have a decent finish.
Tom: Sponsorship also has a hand in it, yes Phil I agree. But they could have easily plastered Rheem on the No. 2 truck.
Amy: So why not put Gale in the No. 2 and keep Hornaday with his team? Crappy thing to do to the guy who won you a championship.
Mike: Yeah, the sponsorship deal is not holding much water.
Phil: Wouldn’t be surprised if they swapped the crews for this race to keep Hornaday’s team harmony.
Tom: I think, with Gale driving the No. 33 next year, if they’re trying to keep that organization intact it’s a head start for the Eddie Sharp program, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if every race there’s money for Gale he’s sitting in that No. 33 through November. It also tells me that Hornaday, tied with Harvick is probably not a part of Eddie Sharp’s 2012 plans.
Beth: Which is a shame since he deserves one of those two rides.
Mike: I don’t think Hornaday is part of anyone’s plans.
Amy: Hornaday’s out of the championship picture, but it’s still a crappy way to repay him.
Mike: When he’s in the truck, I’m sure he doesn’t care what the number is on the outside.
Amy: But he might care about the chassis.
Mike: I can’t believe they have the chassis tied to the number. I’m sure they let him have whatever chassis he likes to drive and just paint whatever numbers on them.
Amy: They said that Gale will drive the chassis that Hornaday’s two Kentucky wins came in.
Phil: It’s not like Hornaday’s getting the shaft chassis-wise. The truck he’s driving is very, very competitive. He could win in it without a doubt.
Mike: I may be mistaken, but if I was going to drive a chassis I’d want to be in that No. 2 truck that won five races in a row.
Amy: Just a shabby way to treat Ron.

See also
Tracking the Trucks: 2011 FW Webb 175 at Loudon

Tom: It’s just a shame it’s come to this mess for Hornaday. We’re possibly staring at the end of a career here.
Amy: Exactly, Tom.
Beth: And sadly, it’s not a graceful end of career either, Tom.
Tom: Who’s got a ride for him in Trucks next season? I heard from a source he was contacting everyone at Chevrolet, asking for help.
Mike: Honestly, I hope we are. I really don’t want to see Hornaday driving around in some car that can’t compete.
Beth: That’s why I was hoping he’d end up in one of those two KHI trucks that headed over to ESR.
Mike: I’d rather see Richard Childress put him in a Truck to work with Ty Dillon.
Phil: Hornaday drove for Childress in Busch a few years back. Been there, done that.
Tom: I do think, with six races left for the title you can never give up. Hornaday may be 47 out, but if something random happens at, say Martinsville and the No. 33 racked up a couple of wins you never know.
Beth: I’m with you, Tom. I’m certainly not completely counting him out this season, but it’s a longshot.
Tom: I think the four drivers in front of him – Austin Dillon, James Buescher, Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters – are going to have a heck of a battle hashing it out down the stretch.
Mike: Sauter and Peters could easily get together at Martinsville.
Tom: Shows that Harvick really doesn’t care much about the organization at this point, in my opinion. He said the only reason Sharp wasn’t running the Trucks already was due to sponsor commitments.
Beth: Gale has just one top-10 finish in the Truck Series thus far and the other finishes aren’t all that impressive.
Mike: He’s still competitive.
Amy: After what Hornaday did for Harvick, Tom, seems like he could at least get the same consideration in his last six races, maybe ever.
Mike: I just think Amy reads too much into this number stuff in general. The trucks are still coming out of KHI and the No. 2 has been the best truck in the sport for two months.
Beth: I’m telling you, the swap shows Harvick has more confidence in what Hornaday can do with that No. 2 than what Gale can do. Sure, it’s uprooting a partnership that’s working well together in the latter half of the season, but I’d hope they’ll go ahead and do a one-week crew swap, too.
Mike: So, I personally don’t read anything into the swap. And I do hate that Hornaday is having to beg for a ride.

Predictions for Dover?

Beth: Hmmm, who to pick this week. I’m going with Edwards this time around. He’s got a fantastic average finish at Dover. Only has one win there, but I’ll take the guy with 10 top 10s in 14 starts. Pretty impressive.
Mike: OK, I’ll take Johnson to smoke the field like a cheap cigar.
Amy: Matt Kenseth will beat Johnson, Mike. I’ll take him.
Phil: I’ll go with Mark Martin, just because I can.
Tom: It’s hard to go against Johnson here. He knows what needs to be done, the No. 48 is dominant at Dover, led 207 laps in the spring. All the signs point to Five-Time here.
Beth: Next year, we need a rule that no two writers can pick the same driver. Should make it more interesting.
Mike: I always try and pick people who aren’t chosen already.
Amy: We should also have a rule that if you win with a driver, you can’t use him again.
Mike: OK, NASCAR RaceDay lady.
Phil: I always use that rule, anyway, Beth. I’ve noted it already this season.
Mike: Tom doesn’t really count, though. He rarely participates.
Tom: Hey! I’m on the Martin ’07 schedule. What’s wrong with that?

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

WriterPointsBehindPredictions (Starts)WinsTop 5sTop 10s
Phil Allaway282811015
Amy Henderson25-3272616
Mike Neff14-14221610
Summer Dreyer14-1413155
Jeff Meyer11-1717158
Brody Jones0-285002
Beth Lunkenheimer2-2611123
Tom Bowles-1-393001

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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