Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Lesson Learned?, NASCAR Survivor & “Testing” the Waters

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
Amy Henderson (Fridays/Holding a Pretty Wheel)
Vito Pugliese (Thursdays/What’s Vexing Vito)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays/Couch Potato Tuesday & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Mike Neff (Wednesdays/Full Throttle & Fridays/Keepin’ It Short)
Kevin Rutherford (Mondays/Top News)

NASCAR handed down a 10-day suspension to driver Kurt Busch on Monday (June 4) after Busch violated a section of the NASCAR rulebook while on probation for an incident at Darlington. Was NASCAR’s decision the right one and will this punishment ultimately bring about a change to Busch’s behavior?

Phil: Well, I suppose we now know that probation isn’t useless. In the past, it was always regarded as “toothless,” a slap on the wrist.
Kevin: Yes, definitely the right decision. In fact, I kind of see it as a “last straw” type of move. They’ve tried probation and it didn’t work. Now, it’s a suspension. If this punishment doesn’t work either, there could be some really serious consequences.
Mike: I think it is a load of crap but, in today’s politically correct world, I guess they didn’t have a choice.
Amy: NASCAR had little choice for two reasons. One, they’ve been pushed and pushed by fans and media to make probation meaningful. Kurt Busch was on probation, so they were backed into a corner. Also, Busch has a pattern of going off on reporters, though he’s only been penalized twice. That can’t continue.

See also
Kurt Busch Receives 10-Day Suspension for Verbal Tirade While on Probation

Kevin: That was my thinking, Amy. Regardless of what the actual facets of the situation were, the fact that he was on probation was I think what really did him in.
Phil: Remember, Busch almost went after Joe Menzer last fall. My guess is that they thought there was going to be a repeat of that incident with Bob Pockrass.
Vito: I think in this case, it was maybe a bit harsh, but seriously, enough is enough.
Mike: Why? I didn’t see that punishment coming at all. You know, reporters are constantly whining that drivers have no personality and then when one shows some personality, they go off and want him fined or suspended or whatever.
Amy: What does it have to do with PC, Mike? Probation means if you get in trouble again, you pay for it … and interfering with media is a specific item in the rulebook.
Phil: I wrote in my critique that Kurt might still be angry at Pockrass over bringing up Patricia Driscoll (Kurt’s new girlfriend he was dating during a divorce) in a press conference last July in Daytona.
Amy: Yeah, it’s possible; there was a veiled physical threat on Saturday.
Mike: How did Busch interfere? He told him that he’d like to beat his ass, or beat the s— out of him, or whatever, but he couldn’t because he was on probation.
Vito: I’ve been a very vocal supporter of Busch, but something is not right. It’s not like he’s getting sh—y with some hack reporter (i.e., me) or something – he’s been having issues with respected people in the sport, whom he has seen every week for the last 10 years.
Amy: And Bob’s question was 100% legit. I’ve seen it talked about in several venues, and who else could he have asked about driving on probation but the driver who is actually on probation?
Phil: Granted, Pockrass is a trooper. He’s not scared of Kurt Busch. Or threatened. He said that himself on NASCAR Now.
Vito: Really, all Pockrass did was rephrase the same thing Busch said to Jerry Punch five minutes earlier. Even Justin Allgaier when Kurt was walking away tried to stop him and said, “Kurt, don’t do this.”
Phil: It just sounded like Kurt had just had enough. He could have gone about this one differently.
Mike: How did he do anything to violate his probation? If he grabbed Bob by the throat, then I’d agree he violated his probation. I didn’t see anything wrong with what he said.
Amy: He threatened to assault a reporter. Um, yeah, that’s an issue.
Vito: He didn’t threaten him. I almost wonder if since these guys see each other every weekend, if they get a little too comfortable and familiar with each other and speak too freely.
Mike: Good grief, Amy. Busch said, if he wasn’t on probation he’d kick his ass. That is not a threat. And if you think it is, then you’re part of the PC crowd.
Amy: Sure it is. And Busch was fined last year for cussing a reporter out; he knew it was against the rules.
Phil: I think he threatened “battery.” That’s the official term for “opening a can on someone.”
Vito: Threatening is, “Bob, I am on bath salts and going to eat your face off.” Yes, that’s a threat. Making a smartassed remark is not a threat.
Mike: Amen, Vito.
Amy: No, but verbally abusing a reporter is against NASCAR’s rules. You don’t like that, take it up with NASCAR. The pick your nose comment was smartassed. Saying he’d beat you up is over the edge.
Mike: Busch didn’t verbally abuse him. He said, if he wasn’t on probation, he’d beat his ass. That isn’t abusing, it isn’t a threat.
Vito: “It refrains me from beating the f— out of you right now” That is not a threat.
Amy: Depends on your point of view. What he said was rude and uncalled for.
Mike: Again, “Political Correctness.” I promise you, if you were a reporter back in the day, before all of this technical crap that people use now, there were times when reporters were actually physically abused.
Amy: He was asked a legitimate question. Anyone who thinks that question wasn’t legit certainly didn’t take a lot of journalism classes.
Phil: The thing is, even if Kurt wasn’t on probation, why would he say anything like that? What’s the point? Why put the spotlight on yourself like that? Do you want to kick yourself in the jewels?
Vito: “But since I’m on probation, that is improper to say as well.”
Phil: Kurt probably wouldn’t have even gotten a punch in before six dudes broke it up, probably including Allgaier.
Mike: It was rude and uncalled for, but it was not a threat.
Amy: Sure it is. Basically Busch said the only reason he didn’t do it then was probation.
Vito: Kyle Petty said it best – Kurt demands respect from everybody, but shows respect to nobody lately. Whatever.
Mike: I thought the question was legitimate and I thought Kurt’s response was legit. If he didn’t want to answer it, he didn’t have to.
Amy: Right. He should have said “no comment” and walked away like an adult.
Vito: Right, but he’s Kurt, so chances of that happening: 0%.
Mike: Amy, then you’d all jump on him for having no personality.
Amy: Not me. I happen to respect class.
Mike: Well, that is your interpretation that Busch was threatening. Because, again, you’re offended when people are crass.
Amy: You can have personality and still be a class act. Lots of drivers manage to pull that off.
Mike: Yeah and other drivers don’t. And that is why people went to ask Kurt the question. Because they knew they’d get a good quote.
Phil: There’s a difference between being bland and having class.
Vito: I can tell you from a legal point of view, that it is not a threat and if it happened on the street, he would not be charged with anything. Moreover, where are the PR people that should be escorting Busch back to the trailer so he can calm down for 30 minutes? Then again, he swatted away members of his own group at Richmond last year, too, when he ripped up Jenna Fryer’s Dodge Motorsports transcript.
Phil: Remember when Kevin Harvick went after Greg Biffle at the end of that Busch race at Bristol in 2002? You heard people screaming at Harvick to stop and seemingly half his team was trying to keep him from doing anything. Kurt was a lone wolf.
Mike: I can also tell you Busch was approached as he was leaving church service on Sunday morning and asked for comment. The drivers have no down time from this crap so don’t b—- when they’re short with people.
Vito: It isn’t like Kurt has a history of going after guys. He yells and screams. The only physical altercation he’s ever had is getting popped in the nose by Jimmy Spencer and Tony Stewart.
Mike: And tearing up Jenna’s sheet of paper.
Phil: Apparently, the Stewart thing was kept hush-hush. Wasn’t really reported after their practice dustup in 2008.
Amy: I just think that after a race, getting post-race quotes is a journalist’s job. And it’s the drivers’ job to comply or politely decline.
Mike: Or decline however they want to. They just got out of the car and they’re hot and tired and probably upset if you’re going after them for a quote about an on-track altercation. I don’t have a problem with a driver disparaging my family history after a race. That is part of the gig. If you don’t like it, go cover figure skating.
Vito: My biggest thing is that from a guy who’s on the edge like he is and has been, there should be people there to step in to keep things from getting out of control. I used to hate it when Kyle Busch would storm off to his trailer after a Nationwide race, but hey – it was for the best.
Kevin: Really good point, Vito. The lack of PR people keeping him from doing what he does (at least last weekend) kinda astonishes me.
Vito: Actually, they are responsible for him. That’s why they’re paid to escort them away from a guy with a tape recorder.
Amy: And if Busch blows them off, Vito? Were they supposed to lasso him and duct tape his mouth shut? Kurt’s an adult. His PR rep isn’t responsible for his actions.
Phil: Kyle Petty‘s PR Minion kept him from doing an interview after crashing out of the 1993 Daytona 500 to “stop him from saying something hurtful” or something along those lines.
Vito: Busch is clearly at his wit’s end driving a Nationwide car for his brother and an unsponsored car with some Hendrick engines, and he’s got a bit too much pride and it’s going to be his downfall.
Amy: I love the excuses being made for him. No wonder he thinks it’s acceptable to act the way he does.
Phil: I guess he’s got True Speed representation, but Phoenix Racing has typically used Breaking Limits. They don’t always have someone at the track.
Amy: He wasn’t in a Phoenix car; they weren’t responsible for him.
Vito: Had there not been a TV camera there, I hardly think we’d even be talking about this one. Same thing with the Jerry Punch incident at Homestead.
Phil: True. Pockrass would have had to go public, and I don’t think he would do it.
Mike: TV isn’t an excuse. Busch can act however he wants to and as long as he doesn’t physically harm a person, he is free to do what he wants. Welcome to America.
Vito: It’s unfortunate, to say the least. JD Gibbs Monday morning said he’s no longer on their radar after this incident.
Phil: Sorry, Kurt. Looks like another year of image rehab for you. And possibly James Finch’s boot to your tuchis.
Amy: Good for them. Though I’m surprised. Gibbs condones everything, it seems.
Mike: And that is a riot because JGR were nuts to have him on their radar to begin with.

See also
Bowles-Eye View: Badly Branded - YouTube Changing NASCAR's Game for Kurt Busch

Vito: How often do ballplayers get equally sour with reporters? There’s a well known soundbite on the Jim Rome Show of a pitcher calling a reporter a “f—–‘ retard” for asking a question about whether a pitch that got hit for a home run was good or not.
Amy: The sad part in all this Busch stuff is, he’s one hell of a talent and he’s all but thrown it in the dustbin because he can’t control himself.
Vito: I think it’s a little blown out of proportion. I don’t believe they needed to suspend him, but somebody needs an intervention with this guy.
Phil: You’re not the only one who believes that Kurt Busch needs an intervention. Larry McReynolds and Matt Clark said that on RaceHub.
Mike: If I was a driver, I’d answer no comment to every single question anyone asked me for the rest of the year.
Vito: That’s what I was thinking too, Mike. Just give the generic, “Car ran real good, like to thank the boys back at the shop, we’ll get ’em next week” reply, for every question.
Amy: But here’s the thing. NASCAR fined Busch $50,000 for the same offense last year, so the precedent was set as to the rule.
Vito: Busch is one of the few drivers who has a soundbite worth repeating and they’re always memorable. If it was me who asked the question and that was the reply, I honestly probably would have laughed it off and thought it was funny.
Amy: But Busch was on probation. And he broke the rule that was set. NASCAR had to uphold the probation.
Vito: Kurt was a bit right in his reply about people wanting to stir stuff up, but he takes the bait and feeds into it every time.
Mike: NASCAR wants personality, but it comes back to bite them in the ass.
Amy: That’s just stupid. You can give good quotes and show emotion and still not be a jerk. Lots of guys do it every week.
Mike: Maybe they can, and maybe they can’t. Kurt is showing his personality, now and crybabies are calling for his head.
Vito: You could see it coming though in his reply to Jerry Punch, he mentioned fans and people going on blogs and Twitter to say stuff later … I was thinking really? Because you got into Allgaier by accident? Does anybody legitimately care?
Amy: But even so, NASCAR had to draw the line. Now we all know that probation means zero tolerance. Good on them for finally making it clear.
Kevin: Yeah, I’m at least glad probation seems to mean something now. Let’s hope it stays this way.
Mike: It won’t. I think they did it this time because it was on video. If he had done it off camera, they wouldn’t have done a thing.
Amy: Again, you can have a great personality and not act like Busch did. It’s not like you’re either boring or a complete jerk. Most drivers manage to figure that out.
Vito: But it’s cool when Tony does it, I guess.
Kevin: Apparently.
Vito: I just don’t want to see Kurt end up an afterthought, like Robby Gordon, or end up having to race in his stadium truck series because he can’t find a sponsor in NASCAR.

Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, the list of Monster Mile early exits was longer than nearly any other race this season. Was there any reason why this particular 400-miler turned into a game of Survivor and whose Chase hopes were hurt the most by what transpired Sunday?

Mike: They don’t call it the Monster Mile for nothing.
Vito: Valve spring, tires and Tony getting after it. That’s really all it was. Pretty tame race except for that track blocker early in the going.
Amy: Dover has always been tough on equipment and drivers. That’s what makes it a good race.

See also
A New Look, but a Familiar Result for Jimmie Johnson at Dover

Phil: It really hurt Carl Edwards‘s championship quest. Put him right out of the top 10 and he hasn’t looked much like winning lately.
Kevin: That’s who I was gonna mention, Phil. Carl just can’t be feeling good after that race.
Amy: Meanwhile, Stewart’s impatience ended his chances early, so that’s on him.
Mike: The crash happened because it is hard to slow down at that track and the field was still pretty bunched up.
Phil: The track as a whole seemed tougher than normal. Perhaps the new tire played a role. I don’t recall as many engine issues as we had Sunday in recent years at Dover.
Vito: TRD has turned out some TuRDS lately – they’ve had a few engine failures in the last few races.
Amy: Engine failures are going to happen, even to the best teams. But teams don’t fall out of the top 10 because of one race.
Vito: No, they do it when they have meteors fall out of the sky and hit them every week like the No. 24 has.
Mike: I’m surprised someone didn’t drop a chair off of the DuPont bridge onto Jeff Gordon‘s car.
Vito: Forty-first, Gordon: Chair. That will show up in the box score one time this year, I guarantee you.
Mike: On that early wreck, Stewart was racing hard because he was back in the pack. Landon Cassill broke loose before Stewart hit him.
Amy: Cassill did get loose before Stewart hit him. Stewart had to have seen it, and the sensible thing at lap 10 would have been to let him gather it up, not hit him and finish things off.
Vito: It was sort of like the Busch/Allgaier incident from Sunday. Cassill was loose and Stewart just pushed some air under him.
Amy: Cassill and those other guys don’t get to call up Hendrick and get a brand-new championship-quality car delivered to them.
Mike: Right, I’m sure that is exactly what the three-time champion was thinking. This kid who is doing a heck of a job for an underfunded team might win today. I’m going to dump him right here and hope it doesn’t bite me in the ass.
Vito: Smoke probably figured he was going to wash up and out of the way. Regan Smith flying in there didn’t help matters much, either. Even Cassill absolved Stewart of wrongdoing and Smith said he was partially at fault.
Amy: Smith could have been more patient, too. At least he took the blame and didn’t say he “didn’t have the luxury” of being patient.
Vito: Chalk this up to what the King would call, “one of them racin’ deals.”
Amy: I feel bad for the teams who lost 10 or 15 points because a couple of guys with more money got impatient. I feel worse for them than for Stewart or any of the top 10 guys who had bad luck.
Vito: Truth.
Mike: I don’t think there were more than two cars that lost double-digit points. That said, I feel bad for the teams that lost a car when they only have a couple in the shop.
Phil: Yeah. David Gilliland, Reed Sorenson and Casey Mears did not need that mess. Sorenson got back out there and finished 30th, but Mears and Gilliland were out on the spot.
Kevin: Hell, not only Sorenson and Mears, but Scott Speed, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek – teams that usually park – and the like.
Mike: Right, which is why they didn’t lose double-digit points. They would have been out in another three or four laps, anyway.
Vito: Need to give David Stremme and David Ragan an award for slicing through that mess. Ragan just flicked his car up high and missed it; Speed? Not so much.
Phil: I wouldn’t have been surprised if Cassill got another top-20 finish Sunday if he didn’t wreck.
Vito: Speed can’t find a ride worth a damn and then when he does actually qualify for a race, that happens. Makes me wonder if there’s a reason why his wife is selling a bunch of furniture on Facebook.
Phil: Speed’s wife is selling furniture on Facebook?
Amy: They’re moving, Vito.
Vito: Yeah, she’s got a pretty nice couch for sale for $1,500 and a big bed set. You looking for something, Phil? I’ll keep my eyes open if I see anything else.
Amy: As for the top-10 guys, the ones hurt, Stewart, Edwards and Busch, were already in the position where one bad race could have that kind of effect. They’ve underperformed before this point at some races. Dover was the nightmare they didn’t need.

NASCAR said this weekend that they are considering lifting a four-year testing ban at sanctioned tracks for the 2013 season. Is it the right time to make the move or does it need to be made at all?

Amy: I think they should have some testing, but I’d like to see it capped at four or five dates, not seven.
Mike: I think they should, at least for some dates, because they’re going to a new body style. It think it will make the racing better.
Phil: Well, I’m not opposed to lifting the ban. Five tests at scheduled tracks is fine by me.
Mike: I’d vote for five tests. That should help, along with open tests for every track that is repaved. That should get them a couple more tests each year as often as they’re repaving tracks these days.
Amy: If they repave, it should be included in the number or it should be like they’re doing with Pocono and just go a day or two early. It shouldn’t be separate dates.
Vito: They should have open testing towards the end of the season to help prepare for the new car. However, it should not be made a regular habit. It’s too expensive as it is and there’s not exactly a buttload of money flying around.
Amy: Again, it will give the teams that don’t need an advantage an advantage. But so does “not testing” because they get the wind tunnel time, have seven-post rigs, etc.
Mike: There are seven-post rigs available for rent for teams who can’t own one, but it is still an expensive proposition that those kind of teams can’t afford.
Amy: Right, and it’s the same teams that we just talked about before, the BKs and the Germains and the Tommy Baldwins of the world that get screwed by the cost one way or another.
Vito: Have a test at Charlotte, Texas, Daytona, California and New Hampshire. That should provide just about all the data they need.
Mike: I think for repaves, they should go three weeks ahead of time to give the teams some time to adjust and incorporate testing notes. A day early is all but useless when it comes to car setup.
Vito: True. And if it rains …
Mike: I’d replace Texas with Bristol on your list, by the way.
Vito: Yeah, I was thinking that too because of the repave. But I’m sure they’ll have tire tests there, regardless.
Amy: Who’s going to give the teams the quarter million for an extra trip, Mike?
Mike: Who in the hell is spending a quarter of a million dollars to go test?
Amy: Last I read, that’s what a two-day test runs, including cars, fuel, tires, personnel, hotels, etc.
Phil: Tests don’t cost that much. Track rental might be $3,000-$5,000, then tires and fuel. Maybe $85K-$110K, but not $250K.
Amy: I don’t think it matters much, because the teams that need the test time most probably won’t get to take advantage of the opportunity the way the teams that need it the least can. Which is why there’s such a divide in the sport … people like pulling for the underdog, but the underdog has no chance of catching up, let alone getting ahead.
Mike: So what would you propose, Amy? The more you suck, the more you get to test? And the teams who don’t suck subsidize the teams who do?
Vito: That’s where the manufacturers are supposed to step in and filter down the information to the small teams who can’t participate or contribute in a test.
Amy: So keep a smaller amount of tests allowed. Small teams can’t afford seven, maybe, but they might afford four or five, so cap it there. And NASCAR knows who’s repaving, so they can include those tracks in the mix. If, say, Michigan and Pocono repave, two of the tests are there. One is Daytona in January. That leaves one or two up to the teams.
Mike: I think, as long as the teams are testing the same number of times, the bigger teams are going to be gaining on the smaller teams.
Amy: That’s always going to be true, but it could at least be minimized. They’re going to gain anyways, all because of the technology they can afford.
Phil: What about the places that aren’t on the schedule? Would the registered tests be restricted to those tracks on the Cup schedule, include the big three, or even include the K&N Pro Series tracks as well?
Amy: I’m uncertain. But to me, this move takes away the mystique of the sport when you know before the race starts that certain drivers aren’t going to get a top 10.
Mike: I think it is great that the sport has more than five guys who are going to win every week, which is what they had in the years leading up to the 2000s. There were rare years when several drivers won races, but most of the time there were a handful of guys who had a shot any week.
Vito: Hey, Dave Blaney damned near won the Daytona 500. I’d say it’s still pretty unpredictable.
Amy: Yeah, plate races are a crapshoot. But, Mike, I remember lots of races in the 1990s where a lot of different guys got top 10s or even top fives. Now, they have no chance. Just as an example, I was looking at a race I went to in 1999. Kenny Wallace and Wally Dallenbach had top 10s, Rich Bickle was in the top 15. Now, there’s rarely a different face.
Vito: Eh, whatever. Go race Nationwide and Trucks if you want to win. If you want to pull a check and make bank, go finish 30th every week.
Amy: In the 1999 race, there were 17 cars on the lead lap in that race and 38 running at the end. Those guys just had the strategy and beat others.
Phil: I was just looking at old Dover results in the wee hours of Monday morning and noticed that Bobby Hamilton got a top 10 at Dover in 1993 driving for Akins-Sutton in the Cup race. In that particular race, Hamilton was five laps down at the end. And there was a lot of wrecking.
Vito: Like the 1993 Budweiser 500 – six cars on the lead lap.
Phil: Six on the lead lap, three were one lap down, ninth was two down, then Hamilton and Rick Wilson five down.
Vito: Wow, Hut Stricklin, 15th. Whatever happened to that guy?
Phil: Stricklin’s running a salvage yard in North Carolina, last I checked. I think it’s called Hut Stricklin Auto Parts.

The Nationwide Series is off this weekend after a couple of weeks in which we saw a major points shakeup and lots of outsiders in the series. Which NNS regulars should be using the weekend to lick their wounds and whose momentum will be cut short?

Amy: Obviously, the No. 6 needs the break. As for the team I think doesn’t want to see a week off, I’d go with the No. 3 and Austin Dillon. They’ve been inching up in points.
Mike: I’m sure they all need a break after two races in a row. Sheesh, don’t want to wear the boys out.

See also
Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2012 5-hour Energy 200 at Dover

Amy: When it’s going bad, though, Mike, two weeks is an eternity. I think a week to regroup is helpful if you’ve had issues like Stenhouse has.
Phil: Yeah, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has had a pretty bad couple of weeks. On the other side of things, Brian Scott‘s third-place finish Saturday was great, but the rest of the season has been a nightmare.
Vito: At least he won’t get suspended from a Nationwide race.
Phil: Danica Patrick‘s first full season hasn’t been all that great, either. I’m sure they expected her to be better than 11th in points, sitting behind Tayler Malsam.
Vito: I think she’s doing OK. She’s doing better than any of the open-wheel guys were doing when they came over here the first time.
Phil: That’s mainly because she didn’t get thrown to the wolves in Sprint Cup immediately.
Vito: She isn’t super aggressive, but I think she’s trying to maintain equipment, complete races, and not tear anything up.
Mike: I don’t think 11th in points is bad for Danica this far into the season.
Kevin: I think Sam Hornish Jr. needs to use the break to regroup a bit. That team hasn’t been performing poorly, per se, but they really need a win here soon and some more top-five finishes if they want to be considered for the championship.
Vito: One of the saddest things about Penske leaving Dodge: no more Challengers on track in Nationwide. Best-looking cars out there.
Amy: I agree with that, Vito. Those are badass. I do wish Chevy would run the Camaro in that series. Sigh. Back in the day, you could watch a Wallace running in the top five and actually think he might even have a shot to win. Now, you know before the race that will never happen.
Mike: Don’t throw in the towel yet. Whoever ends up with the Dodge emblem in Cup just might run some Nationwide, too.
Phil: Chevrolet didn’t want to compromise the Camaro body style to run it in the Nationwide Series, BTW. If Dodge got RPM back in the fold, they’d have someone (Michael Annett) to run a Challenger.
Vito: The dumbest thing that Chevrolet did was not enter the Camaro in Nationwide.
Amy: Exactly. For example, have you ever looked at a Toyota Camry on the street and thought, “that is one badass car?”
Vito: The sad thing is, a V6 Camry would put a hurting on most American muscle cars from the ’70s-’00s. Those are low 14-second cars at nearly 100 mph. My old 5.0L Mustang GT needed $1,000 in bolt on parts to do that.
Phil: Never thought that about a street Camry. The new 2013 Camrys for Cup are a little more angry-looking, though.
Amy: Back to Nationwide, I do think Dillon was starting to build a little momentum. Hopefully, another week off this month won’t hurt that.
Kevin: I can see Dillon really mounting a charge here in the next few weeks. I wasn’t so sure if he’d be challenging for the championship his first year out in the series, but he’s definitely surprised me.
Vito: I am a bit surprised with Dillon as well. I actually thought he would have struggled a bit more than he has.
Amy: The scary thing is, guys, I think Ty Dillon could prove to be even better.
Vito: Definitely. Ty will prove to be the Kyle Busch between the two. Minus the attitude.
Kevin: Oh, for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Ty ends up better. In fact, I kind of expect it.
Phil: OK, the top 10 in Nationwide points is currently Elliott Sadler, Stenhouse, Austin Dillon, Hornish, Allgaier, Cole Whitt, Annett, Mike Bliss, Nemechek and Malsam. If I had told you that this list would be the top 10 through 12 races in January, would you have been surprised?
Mike: No. As for those “superstars” not listed, like Patrick or the partial schedule of Travis Pastrana you need to know they’re a work in progress. In Pastrana’s case, I don’t expect much more than top 20s with the occasional top 15.
Vito: Pastrana has had 35 concussions. I’m surprised NASCAR allows him in a car. Has night terrors, too.
Phil: It’s essentially driver development over at RAB Racing right now. Kenny’s back in the car in Michigan, last I checked. Maybe a repeat of Fontana is in the cards. As for John Wes Townley, I’d prefer that he sticks to the Camping World Truck Series for now so that he can get the proper development that Zaxby’s seemed bent on denying him years ago.
Amy: The proper development for Townley would be at the local track in late models.
Mike: Proper development for Townley is at The Pit in Mooresville.
Phil: What’s The Pit? I don’t live in North Carolina.
Mike: It is a go-kart facility.
Amy: I know people who work at The Pit. Why would you subject them to the cleanup?
Mike: That is the danger of running a go-kart track.
Phil: Sounds like fun. If I ever get down there, I’d like to take you on at The Pit, Mike.

Pocono Predictions?

Vito: Kurt Bu … oh wait. Brad Keselowski all the way this weekend.
Kevin: Jimmie Johnson over here.
Phil: Easy choice for me. I’m going to go off the board, Joker’s Wild-style and pick Marcos Ambrose for Scalene Triangle Win No. 1.
Vito: Wow. Phil with some 10th-grade Geometry smack! Isosceles triangle didn’t want any of that???
Phil: It’s going to be an interesting race on Sunday. I can’t wait.
Mike: I think the race is going to suck, but that’s just me. No more bumps and the Tunnel Turn is now the easiest corner on the track. It is going to be a parade, led by Jeff Gordon for the victory.
Phil: No more weepers, drainage issues and small holes in the track. Nothing bad about that. By the way, Johnson just seemed right with that afro Sunday. I don’t know why. He just seems like someone who should grow an afro, but I don’t think his hair is curly enough.
Amy: I loved the circus afro at Dover for Johnson. See, you can have a personality and class!

Mirror Predictions 2012

Welcome to our sixth 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

2012 FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks

WriterPickFinishing PositionPoints
Tom BowlesJimmie Johnson1st5
Amy HendersonMartin Truex Jr.7th1
Beth LunkenheimerJeff Gordon13th0
Phil AllawayMatt Kenseth3rd3
Kevin RutherfordCarl Edwards26th-1

Points Standings

WriterPointsBehindPredictions (Starts)WinsTop 5sTop 10s
Kevin Rutherford2310268
Mike Neff19-412158
Amy Henderson18-5131510
Phil Allaway10-1312037
Beth Lunkenheimer9-149123
Matt Stallknecht5-181111
Tony Lumbis1-221001
Tom Bowles3-202111
Jeff Meyer0-231000
Jesse Medford-2-251000
Vito Pugliese-2-251000

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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