Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Let’s Hear It for the Non-Chasers! Official Embarrassment & 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
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)

Both Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson greatly improved their points positions on Sunday (Oct. 2), but Edwards’s last points win came in March at Las Vegas while Johnson’s last trip to victory lane was Talladega in April. Can either of these drivers snap their winless streaks and take the title … or is there a possibility that this year’s Chase could be won without a victory in the final 10 races?

Amy: I think that in order to have a legit chance of winning the Chase, you have to win a race. With that said, I’d love to see it won without a victory to show how ridiculous it is … but I think it will come down to winning.
Phil: I think it’s definitely possible to win the title without winning a Chase race. But the idea of Jimmie Johnson being in a victory slump is laughable. Oh wow, Johnson hasn’t won a race in five months. Big deal. There are plenty of dudes who are on longer winless streaks than that.
Beth: Ultimately, it’s going to take a win to take home the championship. We’ve still got seven races remaining and Johnson isn’t going to go winless forever. Remember, if he hadn’t slipped up on those two restarts, the No. 48 would be the race winner from Dover.
Amy: Right, but in the end, they couldn’t get it done. Again.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: Surviving, Not Thriving, 2 Drivers Miss Prime Opportunity to Cash In

Beth: That one wasn’t so much a “they” as it was a Johnson thing. Restarts are solely in his hands, and he messed it up. Twice.
Mike: I have no doubt that Johnson or Carl Edwards could score second-place finishes in every race from here on out and win the title. Will that happen? Probably not. I think you’re about to see Johnson win four or five in a row and blow this thing out, but I may be full of crap.
Amy: Neither the No. 48 or the No. 99 has shown that they can both dominate races and close the deal in six months.
Phil: It’s really amazing that Johnson has never gone 20 races without a win and he’s in season 10. That’s crazy talk right there. As for whether either Johnson or Edwards could snap their winless streaks over the next seven weeks, the answer is “Heck yes.” It’ll probably happen this weekend, for all we know.
Mike: Johnson gets it done, there’s no question about that. I was surprised Kurt Busch held him off Sunday. Johnson was giving it all he had but couldn’t catch him. I am pretty sure Sunday’s race is going to come down to Johnson vs. Edwards when the laps are winding down, though. It would be cool to see another slide for life by Edwards only to have it stick this time and have them race to the line side-by-side.
Amy: A few people said Johnson was afraid to race Busch and risk getting wrecked. That’s a load of BS.
Beth: He wasn’t afraid to race Busch, Busch just flat out beat him.
Amy: Exactly, Beth. Which comes back to the original issue … the No. 48 hasn’t been able to get it done. Neither has the No. 99, though both have had competitive moments.
Mike: Johnson about lost it five or six times during the closing laps. He was giving it everything the car had.
Phil: Edwards about lost his car as well late in the race.
Amy: Yes. Nobody was laying down to preserve a points finish.
Beth: Edwards shot himself in the foot Sunday. It was a perfect opportunity for him to capitalize on a track that’s shown very strong results for the No. 99 team in the past and he blew it with that pit-road penalty.
Mike: Yes, he did. I was honestly very surprised that Busch didn’t look to be as out of control as the other two did considering how his car had handled earlier in the race. They definitely had it right at the end.
Beth: One thing that really impressed me Sunday was Steve Addington’s ability to adjust the car throughout the race and make it work when the driver needed it the most. That’s something they’ve struggled with in recent weeks and speaks volumes for them.
Mike: Addington is a sharp dude.
Amy: Yeah, especially when Kurt stops yelling obscenities at him long enough to tell him what the car is doing.
Phil: Kurt was certainly able to (more or less) keep his composure. Going nuts doesn’t really help things. They mentioned on the broadcast Sunday that no one who got busted for speeding on pit road during a race has won that event since 2007.

See also
Talking NASCAR TV: Hollywood Hotel's Switch Combines With ESPN's "Switched Up" Show

Beth: But that attitude from Kurt actually helped bring along some wholesale changes that likely helped put them in position to win on Sunday and allowed them to move right back into the title Chase.
Mike: I don’t think clean air is that big of a deal at Dover, by the way. If it were I would think the No. 48 or the No. 99 would have tried to move way up the track at the end.
Amy: No kidding.
Mike: I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the last finish outside the top five for Johnson this season.
Beth: And I don’t doubt that Edwards would have gone to victory lane if he hadn’t had the pit-road penalty. Edwards made his way through the field to third. Imagine what he would have been able to do without fighting for all of those positions back.
Phil: I’m going to side with Beth and say that Edwards beat himself.
Amy: I think they both beat themselves, Phil, that was my point. It wasn’t that Busch was so much better, but that neither could close the deal. That won’t win championships at any level.
Phil: Without the penalty, Edwards probably would have won by three seconds or so and this would probably be a completely Johnson-focused question.
Beth: And on the other side of that, had Johnson nailed his restarts, we’d be focused solely on Edwards.
Amy: Neither the No. 48 or No. 99 has been stellar of late on intermediates and the next two are just that. Neither is likely to win a mileage race and the next two are more than likely going to be mileage races.
Mike: I have a feeling we’re not going to see another fuel-mileage race this year. I am thinking NASCAR is tired of hearing about them and we’re going to see the ol’ debris cautions flying again.
Amy: Yeah, because that would be an improvement.
Phil: NASCAR is perceptive of things (or least, they act like they are). However, fans aren’t stupid. If NASCAR starts throwing yellows because someone needed to use the john, people are going to get suspicious.

Dover played a bit of a wildcard, with four of the top-10 finishers coming from outside the Chase field. Which of these (or other) non-Chasers is most likely to break through with a win in the final seven races and play the spoiler to the Chasers?

Amy: I think that Richard Petty Motorsports, AJ Allmendinger in particular, is poised for a win. But Kasey Kahne is hell on wheels at Charlotte, so he could easily grab a trophy.
Phil: Non-Chasers FTW, eh? Allmendinger’s a good pick and so is Kahne.
Mike: A non-Chaser winning isn’t going to spoil anything for the Chasers. Allmendinger has moments of brilliance but he has not had much going on for awhile before this past weekend. Marcos Ambrose looked like he was going to win on an oval earlier this year but he’s been sucking since his win. Kahne at Charlotte is the best one I think could happen, although Greg Biffle could jump up and win at Talladega, too.
Amy: I’m not ready to count out Biffle or Clint Bowyer, either.
Phil: Kahne definitely has a history of leading laps at Charlotte, but also a history of something stupid happening that kills his chances of winning.
Amy: Anybody could win at Talladega, too. Maybe Dave Blaney will get his redemption from April!

See also
David vs. Goliath: A Low but Costly Body Count for Miles the Monster

Phil: That would be cool. A team like Tommy Baldwin Racing could really use that.
Beth: I’m not ready to count out Biffle. He looked good for a bit on Sunday and I know he’s hungry for a win.
Amy: That would be great. The No. 7 and No. 13 also looked great at Daytona. Either of them would make a great story.
Phil: You’re right. Casey Mears was pretty good, although he was paired with Landon Cassill.
Mike: With the new pressure valve rule, it will probably be a Ford that wins Talladega now that I think about it.
Phil: In that case, we can’t even count out Andy Lally.
Amy: I think it would be great if two or three races were won by non-Chasers. And realistically, they could. Bowyer has looked great since his ride for 2012 is all but announced.
Mike: I think it would be great if all of the races were won by one non-Chaser. It would be fantastic to see Ambrose win the next seven races.
Phil: That would be like a middle finger to the Chase. Interesting.

See also
Fact or Fiction: Cup's Next 1st-Time Winner, Make or Break Moments & Tire Trials

Amy: That would be awesome.
Beth: People forget that these 10 Chase races involve 43 drivers, not just the 12 that are running for the championship.
Phil: Plus, it would substantially rise RPM and Ambrose’s profile, when no one talks about the other 31 during the week.
Beth: And just because they’re out of the champsionship battle doesn’t mean they’re out of contention to win the race. It’d be nice for a change to see them recognized for their efforts as much as the Chaser who’s running 35th is.
Amy: Realistically, I feel like there are four or five teams who could easily grab a win from outside the Chase. And it would be good for the sport if they did.
Beth: Absolutely agreed, Amy.
Phil: I was so close with that David Gilliland pick at Daytona a couple of months ago. Then, he got caught up in that big wreck. Rats.
Mike: I would just love to see how they would explain to non-fans that the guy who won the most races in the series for the season, and the most races in the Chase, was 13th in the points standings at the end of the season.

NASCAR and Goodyear announced a contract that will keep Goodyear as the official tire supplier for the national touring series through 2017. Was this the right move or should NASCAR have explored other options?

Mike: We don’t know if they explored other options or not so I don’t think we can speak to that.
Phil: Well, the fact that this was so quiet confirms to me that they never explored other options. I just don’t know with Goodyear. But Hoosier gets flack all the time for being unable to come up with a good Daytona tire. It’s pretty bad. At least Daytona tires aren’t randomly blowing these days.
Amy: I do think they should have at least explored other options. Why not start the process a year early and run tire tests on other brands for safety and raciness?
Mike: It is smart to have one supplier; I just wish they’d give them some options on tire compounds instead of forcing everyone to use the same tires.

See also
5 Points to Ponder: Ill-Advised Debuts, Hires & Tire Contracts

Phil: Goodyear has the advantage of familiarity with the overall tire dimensions and the CoTs. It might have really hurt the series at this point had they switched.
Amy: I also wish they’d quit using Fred Flintstone’s tires as a prototype. If the tires actually wore out, fuel-mileage races would be a non-issue and the racing would be better.
Phil: These tires aren’t as hard as they could be. I think the tires in 2002 or so were the hardest ever. One-hundred sixty laps at Bristol on them, I think. If they had different compounds, it’d be an excuse for Goodyear to jack up the price.
Mike: Really? Run tire tests at every track that they race on for safety and raciness? Who is going to put that kind of investment out to possibly be considered as the official supplier? Tires cost enough already.
Amy: You don’t have to run at every track. Run a plate, a banked and a flat intermediate, a banked and a flat mile and a short track.
Mike: They use different compounds at every track, Amy. You aren’t going to test all of the different compounds? What if some are racier while others are safer? I say, three tire compounds available for the four different styles of tracks on the schedule. Rather than a unique compound for every track.
Amy: They don’t use different compounds at every track. Some, yes, but is that really necessary?
Mike: My idea would let the teams make decisions about what they want to run during a race. It is just my opinion, but I would like to see them have an option of a tire that would wear out before the fuel runs out and another that would go two full stops.
Phil: That would be interesting. You’re basically suggesting the red and black setup like the Izod IndyCar Series has.
Amy: That type of deal would be great. And there’s the thing. You know NASCAR won’t demand that and it should have been a negotiating point.
Mike: Hell, no, it isn’t necessary. Goodyear has engineered so much crap into this whole thing. There is no reason in the world to need more than three compounds for the entire season. NASCAR has drunk their Kool-Aid and they sell the snake oil of safety to get everyone else to buy in.
Phil: By the way, Goodyear needs to figure out a compound that won’t pick up all the rubber under caution at concrete tracks. It’s weird and can contribute to issues.
Mike: That is exactly what I’m suggesting, Phil.

See also
Side-By-Side: Is It Time For Goodyear to Have Some Competition?

Amy: Right, so someone comes up with 3-5 compounds, you test them at their respective tracks and BAM! You’re done.
Mike: It is more that they need a tire that stays stuck to the surface as it rubbers in rather than a tire that picks it up. It happens on asphalt tracks, too, just not as bad.
Phil: Is it all hardness here, or is something else at play?
Amy: I would just love to see a tire that wore out to the degree they used to at Darlington and Rockingham. It plays a HUGE part in the setup and strategy and virtually eliminates fuel mileage racing.
Phil: That’s not really possible today, except for at Atlanta and possibly Kentucky, Amy.
Mike: Under my idea, you can use them all year, not have to turn crap back in and be charged for tires you never used. So I have no idea what is at play, Phil. I just think it is idiotic that they have unique compounds for every track and sometimes for different races at the same track. Not to mention different compounds for the left and right sides. That is just WAY too over-engineered.
Phil: The tracks themselves play a significant role in wear.
Mike: The whole tire thing at Indy should have been in the teams’ hands instead of throwing the cautions. Let the teams know the tires will start blowing after 10 laps and the teams can do what they want. There were teams that year who didn’t have problems and could have taken advantage of that.
Amy: True, and this repaving all the time is only making the racing worse. Tracks should wear the crap out of cars.
Mike: Every driver talks about the old, worn-out tracks being far better for racing than the freshly-paved tracks.
Amy: Also, open competition for a manufacturer, even if NASCAR had no intention of switching in the end, would force Goodyear to make better race tires.
Mike: I just think tires should wear out more than they do. If a tire comes in showing cords, everyone freaks out. Hell, the best thing they could do is go back to bias plys but they’ll never do that.

In Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Dover, Reed Sorenson pitted early, but NASCAR failed to penalize the No. 32 before the green flag, though they admitted their mistake later and defended the non-penalty. Was this the right call under the circumstances or should NASCAR have done something different?

Phil: That call Saturday was weird as heck. I’m surprised they didn’t find a way to rectify it on a substantial scale. Remember when NASCAR screwed up at Rockingham in 1995 and the 10-lap caution that followed?
Mike: I missed the beginning. Did he come in on the parade laps?
Phil: He pitted when the pits were closed under a caution because he was almost out of gas and sputtering. This yellow came out with 40 laps to go.

See also
Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2011 OneMain Financial 200 at Dover

Amy: He ran out of gas as the caution came out and came down when pit road was closed.
Mike: Ah, I must have missed that. Well if they didn’t penalize him when it happened they could hardly penalize him after they went back to green unless they told him as it was going green.
Amy: NASCAR should have waved off the restart until they had the field sorted. Total no brainer.
Beth: Plain and simple, it should’ve been a tail-end penalty, but since NASCAR didn’t catch it, they benefitted.
Mike: If they went green before NASCAR noticed it then it is a no call.
Amy: From what I understand, all the teams knew with one to go. Hard to believe not one pit road official was notified.
Beth: If they knew with one to go, there was plenty of time to wave off the restart and assess the penalty properly.
Amy: Even the team knew it was a penalty. They should have dropped to the back anyway. The crew chief said he was aware of the early stop and knew full well what the penalty was.
Phil: Yeah, they knew it was a problem, but since NASCAR didn’t tell them to drop back, they didn’t. Would you?

See also
Who's Hot/Who's Not in NASCAR: 2011 Dover-Kansas Edition

Mike: Well if NASCAR knew before the green then I don’t understand why they didn’t assess the penalty. But if they went green and didn’t make him go to the back, more power to Sorenson.
Amy: NASCAR always thinks they’re right. They’d think they were right if they said two plus two was 17.
Mike: That is the mentality of racing, though. If you can do something and not get caught, you get away with it. Happens from time to time.
Phil: This is basically where golf rules come in. There, you’re expected to penalize yourself for any number of violations of code.
Mike: Yeah, unless you try and hit a drive and miss. Then you can just say, oh, nevermind and you don’t have to take a stroke.
Amy: It would have been wrong to penalize the team later.
Phil: Wait, Amy, you’re saying that NASCAR knew about the penalty before the green came out? Did not get that vibe from the ESPN broadcast.
Amy: I’m saying the other teams seemed to know when they lined them up with one to go and it’s hard to believe that none of them complained to their pit-road officials. At which point, the officials should have notified the tower and the tower should have waved off the restart.
Phil: Maybe they did, but race control ignored them like at Loudon during the Izod IndyCar Series race. You might have heard what happened then. By the way, these days NASCAR has an official in every pit. It’s not 10 officials for all of pit road or anything like that. That’s 43 (or by this point in the race, 29 or so) sounding boards.
Amy: I just find it hard to believe that not one pit-road official had any clue with 42 other teams watching and knowing the lineup was wrong.
Mike: I find it hard to believe that if everyone knew it was wrong that no one was screaming at their official. That is pretty standard on pit road. If someone thinks that someone is pulling something, they’ll bend the ear of every official they can find.
Amy: Alternately, they knew just after the restart. Again, they should have thrown the yellow right then and corrected it.
Phil: I would have been fine with throwing an immediate caution to correct themselves. Heck, NASCAR has already successfully corrected a major lineup issue in the Nationwide Series under yellow this season (Mike Bliss apparently was inappropriately docked a lap during one of the Nashville races). However, they also infamously screwed up at Lucas Oil Raceway as well.
Mike: Well, with my personal disdain for Twitter, I’m glad they let them get away with it then.
Amy: It happened at the Cup race at Michigan a couple years back when Junior won. Mark Martin was lined up incorrectly and likely kept Brian Vickers from winning the race. In any case, NASCAR screwed up the call and every possible opportunity to fix it. While it would have been nice for the team to take the high road, they were under no obligation to do so without being told by NASCAR.
Mike: I definitely don’t hold the team responsible at all. They have to do what NASCAR tells them to. I don’t get why NASCAR didn’t do it right away if they knew it happened. More power to the No. 32 boys.
Phil: Sorenson and his team basically found a loophole in the rules to benefit themselves. Power to them. However, NASCAR really made themselves look stupid here.
Amy: NASCAR? Make themselves look stupid? Come on, Phil, that never happens.

How about predictions for Kansas?

Amy: I’m going with Jeff Gordon to take the win to try and put himself back in title contention.
Mike: Johnson.
Phil: Well, I’m going to go with Biffle. He’s a previous winner at Kansas and if something stupid doesn’t happen, he should be right up there at the end.
Beth: Since Amy took my pick and I don’t think Stewart is done winning this Chase, I’m going with Stewart.
Mike: Maybe it will be a fuel-mileage deal and he’ll win it again, Beth.

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via