Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: Head Wrench Head Scratchers, Missing IRP And Buescher’s Title Push

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 “(Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/
Beth Lunkenheimer “(Truckin’ Thursdays & Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/3362
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/
Kevin Rutherford (Wednesday Commentary Writer)

*With only two off weeks on the schedule, was this weekend the best one to use, or is a stretch of seventeen straight races too much for team or fans?*

Mike N.: I don’t know that the stretch is too much, but I’d rather see the off weekend take place after Richmond, before the Chase. It would just be a much more logical time for the break.
Beth: I still think there oughta be an off week right before the Chase. Give teams time to regroup and get ready for that final ten race stretch to the championship.
Amy: I think it should be after Richmond, personally…give team AND fans a chance to recharge for the Chase. I think having it now, while I’m sure it’s welcome for the teams, breaks the summer momentum for everyone.
Mike N.: Not to mention we could be inundated with the ridiculous amount of hype equal to the Super Bowl.
Kevin: I’m going to have to follow the leaders here — week before the Chase is best. Although this break was approximately halfway through, so I don’t think it’s necessary a horrible place either.

Would an off-week before the Chase improve the title run?

Beth: I wouldn’t mind having that hype, Mike. At least there’d be some excitement for the ten race playoff that (with the exception of last year) hasn’t been all that exciting.
Phil: This isn’t even the longest consecutive race stretch ever. I seem to recall a nasty 20 race stretch at one point.
Amy: Honestly, I think the best plan would be to have one now AND one in September.
Mike N.: Assuming they want to have two breaks, I’d rather see them do one after 13 weeks and another before the Chase.
Amy: I like that idea, Mike.
Kevin: Same, that makes enough sense.
Phil: If I weren’t writing for Frontstretch and were just a fan, I don’t think I’d want a week off after Richmond. I think the teams wouldn’t mind, though.
Beth: That sounds like a great plan. Wonder why the powers that be in NASCAR can’t figure out something so simple.
Mike N.: I know there is a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that result in things that make decisions seem dumb to us. I don’t know what they are, and I would think that they should be able to make the decisions seem simpler, but they can’t.
Amy: I think sometimes people, especially businesspeople, get caught in the trap of if it’s that simple, it can’t be that good.
Mike N.: That or they just want to make it seem complicated to justify their existence. (see the Goodyear tire supplier monopoly)
Phil: That’s mainly because some people can’t justify having jobs if stuff is too simple. How is a monopoly “complicated?” Goodyear has no competition. They make tires according to whatever NASCAR requests.
Amy: Personally, I’d say dump the Shootout, move the Daytona 500 back and have three off weeks, but that won’t happen. I also think they need to shorten the schedule to 33 races, but that’s a whole other can o’ worms.
Mike N.: Personally I’d like to see a 40 race schedule with six mid-week races, but that isn’t going to happen either. If they want to have the schedule have two off weeks, they ought to have it after Richmond. In the grand scheme, let ’em run every week.
Phil: Since the NFL threat is not really there anymore, move the Daytona 500 back to President’s Day weekend, then insert another rest week somewhere in the schedule. Free choice, although it might require moving the current mid-summer break around.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s tough for me to say because I’m just watching these on TV and ideally would love something every week. But from a team standpoint it makes sense to have breaks. For now, this system works, but I’d love one before the Chase.
Phil: Still don’t like a September off week, though I’m sure ESPN would like that off-week. Hyping. That is when they’re not talking NFL and college football.
Amy: I think the Chase might be better if the teams had the week off in September.
Phil: Doubt that. It would probably be about the same.

*It has been mostly quiet on the crew chief replacement front this year, with the exception of Bob Osborne stepping down and the 99 and Pete Rondeau being replaced by Todd Berrier at Furniture Row. Which teams do you think SHOULD be thinking about making a move?*

Phil: I’d say maybe RCR with Blickensderfer, but Jeff Burton is marginally better than he was at this point last year, no matter how frustrated he is (and believe me, he is).
Amy: I think the team that comes to mind is Chip Ganassi Racing. Both Montoya and McMurray aren’t up to speed and something needs to give.
Beth: I was just getting ready to say Earnhardt Ganassi Racing needs a shakeup.
Amy: I agree that RCR needs to consider changes at the 31. But SOP at RCR is swapping crews between teams, and I’m not sure that’s needed…and who would swap? The 31 and 27?
Mike N.: I don’t know if anyone needs to be moved around yet. Earnhardt Ganassi has been going through realignment this year with Steve Hmiel being let go last year. They need to have a little more time to work through their changes.
Beth: But what have McMurray and Montoya done this season that’s memorable? And no, Montoya blowing up the jet dryer doesn’t count.
Amy: It’s been six months, and they haven’t shown any improvement
Mike N.: Not much of anything, but when you completely change over your methodology, you can’t just bail on it 20 weeks in.
Phil: If Allmendinger hadn’t gotten busted, I could have argued for Todd Gordon possibly not being a good fit in the #22.
Amy: Gordon is one I _would_ give more time. Remember, he’s a Cup rookie.
Beth: And to be fair, there have been times where Allmendinger got caught up in stuff not of his making. Hard to blame the crew chief for that one.
Amy: I agree with Beth. Gordon is making the car run well. The 22 has had plenty of speed most of the time.
Mike N.: The 22 has had speed….HAHAHA That’s why they don’t have a driver right now.
Phil: Ba-zing. But that’s fair about Gordon. I suppose this was not necessarily the best situation for him to move into Cup for, but he’s almost blameless in the scenario.
Mike N.: The 22 team has had some pretty poor luck. Almost Jeff Gordonesque luck.
Amy: I agree…the 22 hasn’t been finishing where they should
Phil: Here’s a wild card. Do you think Harvick is satisfied with his recent performances in the #29? I feel that if the rest of the season continues like it is, Shane Wilson might get dumped at the end of the year (or swapped out for someone like Luke Lambert).
Amy: I think the issue is more who is available. It’s easy to say “we need a change.” It’s not so easy to find a championship caliber crew chief at midseason.
Mike N.: True Phil. I wonder if Gil Martin might get a shot on top of the No. 29 box.
Phil: I suppose it’s possible if the performances bottom out.
Amy: That kind of swapping happens a lot at RCR. And I think that realistically, that’s the kind of move teams would have to make at this point unless a big name were to get released or step down.
Mike N.: If you look at the top 20, it is right about where you expect to see everyone. Can you really say changing anyone would put a team somewhere you don’t already see them?

*James Buescher grabbed his third CWTS win on Saturday at Chicago, but still sits 35 points behind Timothy Peters in the standings. With the season half over, can Buescher make up that much ground and take home a championship?*

Beth: At this point it could really go either way. I mean Buescher’s No. 31 team is so strong right now, but Peters would have to make some mistakes, something the team seems nearly immune to at this point. And Peters clearly showed Saturday night that he’s got the championship on the brain. He could have just as easily fought Gaughan and Buescher and pushed the issue for the win and wrecked.
Amy: If Peters makes mistakes, yes. But if he runs just a spot or two behind Buescher, it could be much much harder to do. Remember, he not only has to beat Peters every week to gain, but also Ty Dillon and Justin Lofton.
Phil: Sure, he can. But, its harder in general to make up points in the Truck Series with fewer starters.
Mike: Anything can happen in racing, and they still have to run at Bristol and Martinsville. I think Dillon is more of a threat to Peters at this point in time, but Buescher certainly had a championship caliber effort Saturday with the change of the carburetor to come back and win the race.
Beth: That’s my point Mike, and they made a strong run at the championship last year despite missing Phoenix. I’d love to revisit this question after Bristol next month. That should really separate the true championship contenders from the rest of the bunch.
Amy: The hard part for Buescher is that he does have to count on other drivers to make mistakes.
Mike: I know Beth, and anything is possible, but he’ll have to go on a Stewartesque run to have a shot at this point I think.
Beth: I don’t know about that. We’ve still got 12 races left and Peters could just as easily have an issue like Buescher did at Iowa. The interesting thing is that right now, it’s consistency that’s kept Peters out front. And of course that leads us back to the problem that race wins simply don’t mean enough.
Mike: Yes, but Dillon would have to too. I think Lofton has the better chance of stumbling with their sponsorship issues going on.
Amy: It’s not as though Peters doesn’t have a win, though. And his top 5’s blow Buescher out of the water. He has seven to Buescher’s five and nine top 10’s in 10 races. Those are championship caliber numbers.
Mike: Don’t forget Peters one finish outside of the top 10 was an 11th.
Beth: Absolutely. And if Peters faces a similar issue to what Buescher did at Chicagoland and succeeds as well as the No. 31 team did, I’d be more than happy to almost guarantee Peters and RHR their championship. That’s the same thing Ty Dillon has done, Mike, except Dillon finished 12th at Chicago.
Mike: Yes, but he only has two top 5s. If he can go on a run and start notching top 5s like Peters it will be a race.
Amy: Dillon has been pretty stellar as well. And again, Buescher has to beat them BOTH week to week, not just one or the other. And the only way to guarantee that is to win…and Tony Stewart James Buescher ain’t.
Beth: And the easy way to do that is to repeat Chicagoland…though I’m willing to bet the team would be happy to do without the carburetor issues.
Mike: The Truck race to the title will most likely be an exciting one as it is every year, but for Buescher to make it all of the way to the title is going to take a great run and a little luck.
Beth: With 12 races left there’s no reason to believe Buescher can’t make a run at the championship, but they can’t afford to slip when Peters and the 17 team keep outperforming themselves week after week.

*This weekend marks the debut of the Nationwide Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Is this move a step forward for the series?*

Amy: It’s not a step forward for anything. It’s a step in totally the wrong direction. Part of me hope attendance tanks.
Phil: I just don’t know. Almost no one says that it is. I don’t know what attendance will look like. I suppose the cars will be OK there, but it might be a little boring.
Mike: It is a step into the grave; worst move in the history of the series. NASCAR doesn’t understand the fan base in Indianapolis.
Beth: I don’t see why they didn’t just stay at LOR, ORP, whatever you want to call it.
Amy: A LITTLE boring? Saying it will be a little boring is like saying a tornado is a little destructive…
Phil: Let’s face it, they’re not going back there, no matter how much everyone wants them to.
Mike: They didn’t stay there because IMS paid them a bunch of money, even though NASCAR won’t acknowledge it. They’ll go back there Phil, but it will be three or four years.
Beth: I just don’t see the appeal of Nationwide at the Brickyard. Sure, it’s a historical track, but we’re lucky to get a decent Cup race there, so what makes them think NW will be any better?
Phil: We’ve got some part-time teams showing up. Trying to figure out how the heck Ty Dillon ended up in Jeremy Clements’ #51, though. That’s interesting. RCR might be pumping some money into that team for the weekend.
Amy: I touched on this in “Pretty Wheel last week,”:https://frontstretch.com/ahenderson/40597/ but I actually have seen some fans write that it cheapens a Brickyard win. Can’t get one in Cup…just go over and get one in Nationwide instead. Kind of like some of those guys who can’t seem to win a Cup title taking all those NNS titles before NASCAR changed the rules.
Mike: I’m bothered by the fact that they’re pumping up the fact that the winner is going to kiss the bricks. I really don’t like that either.
Amy: I bet there will be at least ten Cup guys in the race,and it will be like all the NNS races at Fontana and Michigan…not exciting and just choose your Cup guy to win. IRP / ORP / LOR was always packed and had good racing; they upstaged the racing at IMS every year. I bet that played a role in NASCAR’s decision too.
Mike: I just hope there are 5,000 people in the stands.
Amy: I agree, Mike, if that. I’d like to see NOBODY show up because they’re over at LOR watching the local boys.
Mike: Yeah, unfortunately Raceway Park isn’t running on Saturday. NASCAR supposedly approached Raceway Park about coming back but they haven’t worked out a date yet.
Phil: I wouldn’t want that. If that were to happen, Amy, yeah they’d ditch IMS, but they wouldn’t go back to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. They’d make it an off-week.
Amy: Or race at Rockingham or somewhere. I don’t think it will be an off week. Then again, I don’t think NASCAR should race Indy, period, but that’s a whole other story.
Phil: As far as I’m concerned, NASCAR’s made it clear (for better or worse) that they don’t want Lucas Oil Raceway. Have they outgrown the place? Doubtful. They might feel that they have, though. Cup would have never worked at the short track because of the screwy pit setup. By the time that was rectified, they already had the deal to race in Speedway.
Beth: They’ve outgrown a place that puts on great racing? Go figure…
Amy: Imagine if IndyCar decided to race at Darlington simply because it’s historic and promote that race as second in prestige only to the Indy 500. It would be ridiculous and everyone knows that
Mike: They haven’t outgrown Raceway Park, their costs have outgrown Raceway Park.
Amy: Exactly, Mike.
Phil: I have no clue what an Izod IndyCar Series race would look like in Darlington. I don’t think many people would go, and it would be really tough to pass. Rockingham might work better because its wider.
Mike: Seriously? An Indy car race at Darlington or Rockingham would be freaking phenomenal.
Amy: But it wouldn’t be equal in prestige to the Southern 500. Indy’s history isn’t NASCAR’s history anymore than Darlington is IndyCar history. Racing there doesn’t make it so. And NASCAR has hyped Indy and made the purse so huge that it has outstripped the Southern 500 in prestige in many people’s minds. I can’t even describe how wrong that is.
Phil: The Brickyard 400 had the largest purse in the history of Cup when it entered the schedule in 1994 ($3.2 million at that time).
Mike: Yes it did Phil. For the first three years I think it was the biggest. Then NASCAR decided that the Daytona 500 had to be the biggest.
Amy: You’re missing my point Phil. IndyCar at Darlington wouldn’t _mean_ anything other than just another race on the circuit. NASCAR at Indy doesn’t MEAN anything other than NASCAR making a pathetic play at a history they never had. And the real shame in that is that the history NASCAR DOES have is special on its own.
Mike: Actually, I think Indy at Darlington would mean something, just like it would at Daytona. Exactly why NASCAR at Indy is special.
Amy: NASCAR in Indy ISN’T special. It’s boring. If it means so much to drivers to win at Indy, they should be racing IndyCar.
Mike: Have you ever been there Amy? Indianapolis isn’t about the racing.
Amy: Thank goodness for THAT, because the racing is awful. Again, if racing at Indy is all that and a bag of chips to you, drive an IndyCar. If I want to see a race at a special place to NASCAR, I can go to Darlington or Martinsville.
Mike: I’ll pay to see Cup and IndyCar at Indy. And I would pay to see Formula 1. But I won’t pay to see Grand Am, Indy Lights or Motorcycles.
Phil: As long as we don’t have tire problems, I’ll be satisfied. In regards to racing, it’s different than almost anything on the circuit. The place obviously wasn’t designed for 3000 pound Nationwide COT’s or Sprint Cup COT’s (then again, I don’t think any track was), but they can race there (unlike in 2008).
Mike: IndyCar racing, prior to this year, was generally not very good there either. The shape of the track doesn’t lend itself to good racing. It is the history of the place that is so amazing.
Amy: But the history of the place IS IndyCar, Mike, NOT stock cars. NASCAR’s history lies elsewhere.
Mike: Yeah, and we don’t race there, except for Martinsville and Darlington, but you still go to those other races. Then what does all of this history talk have to do with anything?
Amy: Because NASCAR threw theirs away to go play with someone else’s, and now they’ve done it again with Nationwide.
Mike: Because that was where the money was. And we all know that is what NASCAR is chasing after. The problem with the Nationwide deal is that I don’t think the money is going to be there. The folks who run Indy might be able to lose their ass once or twice but I can’t imagine they can keep doing that year after year.
Amy: Agreed…and the racing is going to be terrible
Phil: You think the Hulman-George family is going to skimp on the purse for Saturday? I think you’re mistaken, but there isn’t any info on that just yet.
Mike: No Phil, but I think they’re going to crap their pants when 5,000 people show up to watch the race. Followed by 3,000 the next year and 2,500 the following year.
Phil: It’ll look like that many people showed up with 80,000 in the stands.
Mike: Oh no, there were over 80,000 there for the Cup race last year. No chance in hell it will be anywhere close to that. It is going to look like pole qualifying for the 1997 Indy 500.

*OK, how about some predictions for Indy?*

Amy: I’m going with Tony Stewart for number four on the year.
Phil: Well, I’m going to go with Jeff Gordon.
Mike: I’m going to take Jimmie Johnson to put another brick in the trophy case.
Beth: What the heck…put me down for Kevin Harvick.
Mike: By the way, did you realize 29 people have won three or more races at the Brickyard?

*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

*Points Standings*

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Kevin Rutherford 33 14 *2* *9* 12
Mike Neff 27 -6 17 1 7 12
Amy Henderson 25 -8 19 1 7 *14*
Phil Allaway 18 -15 18 1 5 10
Beth Lunkenheimer 5 -28 11 1 2 3
Rick Lunkenheimer 5 -28 1 1 1 1
Matt Stallknecht 5 -28 1 1 1 1
Tom Bowles 3 -30 3 1 1 1
Tony Lumbis 1 -32 1 0 0 1
Jeff Meyer 0 -33 1 0 0 0
Jesse Medford -2 -35 1 0 0 0
Vito Pugliese -2 -35 1 0 0 0

*Connect with Amy!*

“Contact Amy Henderson”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14352/

*Connect with Beth!*

“Contact Beth Lunkenheimer”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14353/

*Connect with Kevin!*

“Contact Kevin Rutherford”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/37802/

*Connect with Mike!*

“Contact Mike Neff”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

*Connect with Phil!*

“Contact Phil Allaway”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/18440/

About the author

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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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