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)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/
Phil Allaway “(Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/18439/
Mike Neff “(Wednsdays / Full Throttle-Frontstretch Newsletter / Short Track Coordinator)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/1744/
*What looked like a dominant day for Kyle Busch early went away after a speeding penalty and an untimely caution. Can Busch recover to win a championship, or is even his Chase berth in danger?*
Amy: Here’s the thing with Busch this year. He’s had some bad luck lately but is fast enough to win, and another victory would solidify the “wild card” for him. The thing I still see with Busch is that sometimes you have to back off a notch and be patient to be fast at the end, and I don’t know that he can do that for 10 races. The Chase is just not suited to his style.
Mike N.: His first effort is going to be winning two races to lock into the Chase. One win will probably do it, but two will lock him in for sure. He can certainly make it though and, assuming he wins a race or two en route to the postseason, could have the momentum to win it. It would seem like they’ve finally figured out their engine woe, so assuming the bad luck has run its course for them this year, he could definitely make a run. Winning another race or two has to be first on the list though.
Phil: Busch can easily get in the Chase. However, mistakes like we saw Sunday might keep him out of any real championship contention once he gets there. Those mistakes were his fault on Sunday, not the team’s.
Amy: Getting caught when the caution came out wasn’t his fault.
Phil: No, that’s just rotten luck. But speeding on pit road, sliding through the stall. That’s on Kyle. Kyle Busch is just not patient at all. That’s not really the way he works.
Amy: He can and should win championships, but he hasn’t had the maturity to do that yet.
Mike N.: I agree, but he’s already shown some patience in dealing with the bad luck that has befallen him this year. With a good run up to the Chase he just might finally have a run in the final 10 that gives him a shot.
Phil: Kyle desperately needs to start a Chase well. He never does. Always finds himself in the hole after New Hampshire or Chicagoland.
Amy: And from there, he just can’t seem to get back on track. Obviously, his team needs to find consistency, even if that does just mean consistent luck.
Mike N.: Very true. A good run in the first four races might finally set them up for a good run.
Phil: When you think about it, it;s not that much of a hole to start the Chase with the 2,000 point base. It’s maybe 15 points to the leader in a normal year. That’s not impossible to overcome.
Amy: As it stands now, he’d be nine out.. that is not a big number at all.
Mike N.: Nope. The biggest problem for Kyle has been that tracks in the Chase are not among his best.
Amy: I do think the team will really have to have a 180 turnaround to win it this year. Not that they can’t, but others are running better right now.
Phil: For Kyle, the mechanical issues have really hurt his season to this point. Take that away, and he’d likely be inside the top 10.
Phil: The issues likely hurt Kyle’s confidence. Sunday’s run shows that they do have what it takes to win right now, but everything has to come together.
Amy: And the big thing Sunday was that other than a badly timed caution, the mistakes were avoidable and were driver error. Sadly, Busch has shown that type of pattern in the Chase in the past.
Mike N.: Well, in his defense, Rogers said they miscalculated the pit road speed.
Amy: Still, though those kinds of mistakes are the kind you can’t make in the Chase.
*Brad Keselowski said Friday that NASCAR should consider banning all nutritional supplements as part of the substance abuse program. Should NASCAR take a look at taking this step in the future?*
Mike N.: All supplements is a bit extreme. That said, the drivers know what items are on the list and they are responsible for what goes in their bodies. Period.
Phil: As for Keselowski’s comments, such a thing would be rather tedious, especially since a lot of supplements don’t really have performance-enhancing qualities.
Amy: I don’t think an outright ban is necessary, but I think they should look closer at what’s in some of them. A lot of those things are not FDA approved.
Phil: I think they’re getting to the point of approval, though.
Mike N.: Again, it is the drivers’ responsibility to monitor what goes in their bodies. I have a hard time understanding how a guy whose life depends on the physical fitness of his body and knowing that he’s eligible for random drug tests will just randomly ingest stuff.
Amy: There _is_ a difference between a Flintstones vitamin and some supplement meant to enhance performance that you can’t find an ingredient list for without a massive search. I think NASCAR should look at some common individual ingredients and their intended effects.
Phil: Energy drinks and energy pills. 8-Hour Alert dudes were handing out free samples in Daytona. BTW, that stuff actually works. Took one during the Nationwide race and it kept me awake until 4 AM.
Mike N.: Nice.
Phil: My main thing with the energy drinks is not even what’s in it. It’s the fact that a lot of them appear to be backed by fly-by-night companies. You know who we’re talking about here.
Amy: True, and how careful are they being about safety, etc.? Again, some supplements don’t require FDA approval
Phil: Had a discussion about this one with a friend of mine in Florida. Monster Energy and Red Bull are reputable companies. Companies like Wave Energy Drink are not.
Mike N.: Right. But with the money these drivers are making, they could afford to have these drinks analyzed before taking them.
Phil: Yeah, if I had Brad Keselowski’s big bucks, I would do that. At the very least, I assume that most drivers are going through the ingredients list on things.
Amy: Yeah, but at the same time, if one offers you sponsorship, can you say, “Well, let me get it analyzed first and I’ll get back to you?” I think the company would run from them.
Phil: A company worth their salt would be understanding of such a request. It’s not in any way a refusal.
Amy: Yeah. I think they should possibly do a study to _look_ at these things, the individual ingredients and see if anything performance enhancing or dangerous should be banned.
Mike N.: I agree. A driver saying that they want to make sure it won’t make them violate a drug policy is reasonable.
Amy: I don’t know… it might seem to the company that their integrity is being questioned. In any case, a good hard look at supplements and their individual ingredients would be a good idea.
Phil: Ok. At the very least, these drivers have to be more vigilant about this randomness in supplements. I just don’t think that Brad’s idea is enforceable.
Amy: I agree, and I don’t think NASCAR needs to ban Vitamin C or anything like that. But remember a few years ago with ephedra? That was ok until they found out how dangerous it was. Who’s to say there’s nothing similar circulating now?
Phil: That Stacker 2 stuff had ephedra in it until the substance was banned.
Amy: And the thing is, it was considered totally acceptable for a long time before the danger was known… what else could be like that?
*The Cup Series is off for a week. Drivers were speaking about their plans after the race at New Hampshire and many are travelling outside of the United States. Is it a good idea for the most important member of race teams to be leaving the country in the middle of the racing season?*
Phil: Well, the idea is that there isn’t really anything going on here. I suppose it’s no different than drivers going to the Bahamas to unwind.
Mike N.: I don’t know about the idea of travelling to places outside of the United States. Granted, the security around Jeff Gordon’s trip is going to be insane, especially with President Clinton being with him, but there are some crazy folks in Africa. Add to that the different foods available in different countries that could give people some serious digestive issues and I just don’t think it is a good idea.
Phil: I don’t think Gordon will get the same security detail that Bill Clinton gets. However, he’ll have some.
Amy: I think they obviously need to be careful about getting a bug somewhere, but nothing to be too concerned about.
Mike N.: I don’t have a problem with travelling in the U.S., but I’m thinking going outside of the U.S., during the racing season, is pushing it.
Amy: Really? If I were an owner, I’d rather my drivers go sightseeing in Paris than stay home and go bungee jumping or attempting to jump a motorcycle over 14 haulers or something. You do have to be careful traveling, but if you follow published precautions, I don’t see an issue. If it helps them relax and recharge so they come back focused on racing, then it’s worthwhile.
Mike N.: I just don’t feel comfortable with the security of countries outside of the U.S. I realize that our own security has slackened some in recent years, but I still feel safer in the U.S. than anywhere.
Phil: As for Jeff, this isn’t his first Rwandian trip. He’s done it at least once before. Thankfully, it isn’t 1994 in Rwanda anymore, but I don’t think anything is going to go down over there.
Mike N.: Oh I know Phil, and it is an amazing thing his foundation is doing down there. But I’ve also read stories of some things that have gone on in Rwanda in the past that are terrifying.
Amy: Again, you just have to be careful. And, trips like Gordon’s aside, it’s not like they’re going on trips to dangerous places… Trevor Bayne went to Africa earlier this year as well, and he came back in one piece. He got his nasty bug here in the US last year.
Mike N.: True, and he proved that staying in the U.S. you can get a nasty bug.
Amy: You can’t not live life because you’re afraid to do anything. They have the time, they have the money, I say go for it!
Mike N.: Drivers can travel all they want between the end of the season and mid-January, but once the season is in about to start or in full swing, I just don’t think they should leave the country.
Amy: And if they’re in their own backyard and trip over the dog’s bone and break their leg, their Chase is just as screwed. Should they not walk the dog during the season either?
Phil: I have no problem with doing trips for charitable purposes during the season. Let’s face facts, Rwanda is a haul and it’s not easy to get there. You can’t stop yourself from doing everyday activities just because there’s a threat of injury. We’ve seen drivers get hurt before at home. Doesn’t happen all that often, but it happens.
Mike N.: Anything can happen anywhere, but you have a better chance of being shot by a sniper in Rwanda than you do in Mooresville, NC.
Amy: And it’s not like there are 43 drivers all going to the most dangerous places on earth just to see who survives the ordeal.
Mike N.: Nope, but there are probably 10 or more who left the country.
Phil: Does anything ever happen in Mooresville? Everything I’ve read about the place makes it sound like a very affluent town by Charlotte-area standards.
Amy: Sniper, sure.. drunken guy with a shotgun, well, there are parts of Mooresville… Oo the lake, it’s super wealthy, but the rest of it is average at the most.
Mike N.: I would still take my chances in Mooresville over Rwanda. Mooresville is above average on the west side of I-77. The rest of the town is just small town USA.
*Kevin Harvick had some harsh words for Amber Cope after Saturday’s Nationwide Race at New Hampshire after she held him up in lapped traffic, allowing Brad Keselowski to close on him and ultimately get by. Cope said that she had nowhere to go. Who was right, and can anything be done to prevent this type of incident?*
Mike N.: Sure. Don’t let drivers who haven’t proven they are capable of running at a one-mile track in a Nationwide car run at a one-mile track. Amber had run at Iowa in the NNS before and was a weapon. There is no way she should have been allowed to run at Loudon.
Amy: To be fair, Cope did have a car to her outside. But it was after the photo she posted that Harvick had an issue. He went underneath her and she cut down on him. I agree, Mike. NASCAR needs a stricter policy. No way the Cope twins should be above K&N at this point.
Phil: Based on what ESPN gave us, I’m willing to believe that by the time they picked it up, Amber didn’t have anywhere to go.
Mike N.: The car to her outside was long gone when she turned left. The same thing happens in the Truck series all of the time. Drivers are on the track that have no business being out there, either due to equipment or talent, and they cause some major close calls.
Phil: However, there might have been an escape route before that, even.
Amy: And it wasn’t like she was one lap down or racing that other car in the photos for position. She was more than 30 laps down. While I agree with Cope that it’s a learning series, it’s like high school and she should be in 4th grade.
Mike N.: Actually I’d call it college and she should be in about 8th grade, but the analogy is the same. She simply doesn’t have the talent, and probably not the equipment, to be running in NNS above short tracks right now. I mean, on Saturday she didn’t even take the green flag. I thought you had to take the green to be allowed on the track after that point in time.
Amy: Apparently not, Mike
Phil: NASCAR’s rules appear to be a little different to that of local short tracks. Your car just has to line up on pit road to be eligible to start. I guess SR2 did that, but something happened to cause her to miss the first 24 laps.
Amy: As for Harvick, though… he shouldn’t be racing there either, so he should quit beefing.
Phil: Anyways, both of the Cope twins need more seat time, in anything. I don’t care what the deuce it is at this point. But NASCAR used to have stricter policies…you had to drive short tracks only until NASCAR decided you could move to bigger ones.
Mike N.: Harvick certainly could have bit his tongue. He gave her a door slam and that should have been it.
Phil: True, but it’s Kevin Harvick we’re talking about here. If he’s ticked about something, you’re going to hear about it. Angela has been approved for intermediate tracks. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to do much on them. Blown engines and uncompetitive cars mean that its kinda hard to improve.
Amy: If Harvick had any business being in NNS in the first place, I’d say moving her would have been more than justified; the fact he didn’t showed considerable restraint.
Mike N.: I know Amy. Nick Hoffman had to jump through a bunch of hoops to be allowed to run at Raceway Park two years ago in a Truck.
Phil: Hoffman basically had just turned 18, right?
Mike N.: He had only run a couple of Late Model races before that on asphalt. But he’d run a bunch of dirt races. The Mittler Brothers and Carl Edwards went to bat for him to get him approved.
Phil: I guess Edwards has quite a bit of clout these days. Also, he’s still on good terms with the Mittlers.
Mike N.: BTW Amy, I don’t remember. Did anyone go home from the NNS race during qualifying at \
Amy: I think NASCAR needs to be more selective. I know they’re struggling to fill fields, but letting drivers like Amber Cope run is dangerous.
Mike N.: See, that is part of the problem too. NASCAR wanted to have a full field so they let someone out there who shouldn’t have been. Having a full field shouldn’t put drivers on the track who have no business being there.
Amy: Heck, even Travis Pastrana, while he destroyed yet another racecar, was a danger (if only to himself.
Phil: Both of the Cope twins have a fair amount of experience in racing. The problem is that almost none of it is recent. They race like twice a year. How in the deuce are you ever going to improve when you all but can’t get in a car (or truck, for that matter)?
Mike N.: I didn’t get to see it either. Also didn’t get to see the Modified race because it wasn’t on television.
Phil: Yeah, let’s hope that changes for September.
Amy: That sucks, mike. The Modified race was one for the ages.
Mike N.: That’s what I read Amy. Just another reason SPEED should be sold to someone who actually makes it about racing like it used to be.
Phil: The Northeast is full of drivers with impressive careers that toil in near obscurity. Here in Upstate New York, NASCAR really can’t draw to tracks here. Most of the best drivers never really leave town, no matter how much stuff they win. Anyways, I just hope the Cope twins can get their much needed seat time. Amber is definitely the worse of the two at this point. Maybe some more ARCA races would help.
*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:
+5 – Win
+3 – Top 5
+1 – Top 10
0 – 11th-20th
-1 – 21st-30th
-2 – 31st-40th
-3 – 41st-43rd
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