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)
*Sunday’s Pocono race ended in tragedy when a fan was killed by lightning in the parking lot while nine others were injured. The race started after a rain delay of over an hour, and severe weather, with hail, damaging winds, and lightning had been predicted for later in the day. Knowing that the impending storms would likely be severe and that there was little chance of racing the advertised distance, should NASCAR have postponed the race until Monday?*
Amy: Yes, in this case, I think so. It wasn’t like it was 50/50 on the storms; NASCAR knew before the race started that they were going to happen.
Phil:: I was surprised that they were able to get the track dry as fast as they did on Sunday.
Amy: And if there is a severe t-storm warning in the area, the race should be stopped IMMEDIATELY.
Mike: I know that NASCAR always says they won’t start a race unless they feel confident it will run the advertised distance, but they continuously prove that is not the case. Whether the rain was going to be severe or not is irrelevant. The fact is there was no way they were getting the whole race in.
Amy: I agree, Mike. Fine if they’re only going to try to get halfway, but don’t tell fans otherwise. That’s false advertising.
Kevin:: I think postponing the race would have been a great idea, especially if they knew how nasty those storms were. This will probably bring about more cautiousness in NASCAR in that regard.
Phil: Apparently, that will become a rule. If lightning is spotted near a track, the red will automatically come out.
Beth:: That shouldn’t have to become the rule, though. It should be common sense.
Mike: That is usually the case at local short tracks. They won’t run races if there are visible lightning bolts in the area.
Phil: That wasn’t the case once last year at Lebanon Valley. Saw lightning north of the track for a couple of hours during a night of racing. All the stuff stayed north of the track and it never rained. Also, I remember NASCAR racing at Darlington in March, 1999 with lightning nearby. Didn’t stop the race until it started pouring.
Amy: I do think people need to take care of their own safety. Fans were warned of the storms and many chose to stay in the stands or were outside their cars. Inside a car is the safest place to be, not standing outside it. But NASCAR should have halted the race as soon as the storm warning was issued.
Mike: The lightning turned out to be a terrible tragedy, and I understand people being upset with it, but lightning is so completely random that I wasn’t as bothered by that. It can move anywhere. I was just really ticked that there was no way they were going the distance and they started the race anyway. That said, I do feel terrible for the people who were injured and the person who was killed.
Beth: All they need to do is make it to halfway for it be official, Mike. And if NASCAR can at least make it to halfway, they will.
Mike: That is the problem though, Beth. They have always maintained they don’t do that. They say that if they do not think the race will make it the full distance they won’t start it. And yet they have done it repeatedly in their history.
Amy: Right, Beth, but NASCAR always says they won’t race if they don’t feel they can get the entire race in…they need to stop trying to sell that to fans, because it’s simply not true.
Phil: They probably figured that people were going to get angry if they didn’t start the race with bright sunlight.
Amy: I do understand that postponing a race is bad luck for some fans who didn’t plan for that in advance. However, when there is severe weather all around the track all day as there was Sunday (huge t-storms before and after the race), and NASCAR knew they were racing for halfway anyway, they should have postponed until Monday.
Kevin: Yeah, one look at the radar should have told them that this race wasn’t getting in with the full distance, especially with no lights.
Beth: I don’t care what they say, Mike. It’s always better for them to try to run a complete race (just past halfway or the full distance) on race day rather than to postpone it for multiple reasons.
Amy: But in the case of known severe storms, Beth, postponing is just the better option. Otherwise you end up with people hurt or killed.
Beth: And you can just as easily have those storms dissipate before they become an issue at the track. It’s really hard to predict that kind of stuff.
Phil: Mid-summer’s a tricky time to predict the weather.
Mike: I disagree, Beth. It is bad enough that they’re shortening these races so much. If all you’re going to try and do is run to halfway then charge me half price when I buy a ticket.
Amy: If it’s just rain in the forecast, that’s one thing. But if it’s severe storms at as high a probability as there was Saturday, you need to put safety ahead of anything else.
Amy: I also agree with Mike, to a point. I’m not talking about going to Monday if there’s a 40% chance of a rain shower. I’m talking a 90% or more chance of severe wind, lightning, or hail within a couple of hours of the start. That kind of storm also often spawns tornadoes.
Beth: What was the chance of storms by Saturday? I only know for sure what it was on Thursday night. It was a 30% chance of isolated storms for Sunday when I looked on Thursday night.
Amy: By Sunday morning, they KNEW they weren’t going to get the whole race in because of the big storms.
Mike: I’m not saying you call it off on Thursday. But when you are drying the race track, and there is a wall of rain bearing down on you that will be there in two hours, and you haven’t started yet, there is NO chance you’re making the advertised distance.
Amy: There was a severe storm watch the entire afternoon and a warning issued a half hour before NASCAR called the race at pocono. NASCAR was putting revenue before human lives.
Beth: Now that I absolutely have a problem with. I don’t have a problem with them running the race with how unpredictable weather can be, especially during the summer. But what I do have a problem with is NASCAR choosing to continue running the race after a warning was issued. That’s completely unacceptable.
Mike: I don’t blame NASCAR for the people injured or the loss of life, I do blame them for starting a race when it was ludicrous to think there was any chance of it going the full distance.
Amy: I hope that in the future, NASCAR will err on the side of caution. Kids shouldn’t have to lose their daddies because NASCAR doesn’t want to stick around an extra day.
Phil: Checked with Brian Neudorff’s Facebook page. Sunday morning, he gave it a 30-50 percent chance that the race would even start, and less than 30 to get to halfway.
Mike: Is he the NASCAR weather dude?
Phil: Yes, he is. Twin Falls, Idaho-based.
Beth: That forecast changed significantly from the last time I looked at it, Phil. Thank you. And in that case, I don’t see any reason why moving to Monday would have been that big of a deal. It’s not like they’re headed out west for next weekend’s race.
Phil: Today was an excellent day to race.
Amy: If they had raced today, I believe the weather was excellent, and fans would have gotten the 400 miles they paid for.
Mike:: And I realize that only half of the fans would have been there. But it would have been a better overall event and, in hindsight, safer.
Amy: But that’s the chance you take as a fan if you buy a ticket and don’t plan for a rain date. You know going in you could miss the race. Surely most fans aren’t so gung ho that they’d be willing to risk someone’s death to see a NASCAR race?
*Jeff Gordon’s win at Pocono puts Gordon in the Chase with a wild card spot, at least for now. Can Gordon make the Chase…and could he actually win it all?*
Mike:Gordon can certainly make the Chase. I don’t see him winning it but he could easily win this weekend and be all but a lock to get in.
Beth: Can he make the Chase? He’s certainly capable of doing so, but I’m not convinced it would be worth the slot.
Phil: I said last week that Gordon could easily make the Chase and possibly get to 11th by Michigan. He’s only 11 points out of that now.
Amy: I think he can make the Chase, but another win would really make his case. Can he win it all? Well, it’s a huge longshot, but I’m not willing to say no, either. Tony Stewart said last year going in that he wasn’t worth the space, Beth. I don’t think Gordon is any more of a waste of space than any other driver outside the top 10.
Kevin: Gordon totally could get in the Chase… as we’ve discussed here recently, it’s kinda wide open for the wild card spots right now, as long as you can win at least a race. As for win? Gonna take a turn-around of Stewart proportions to do so.
Beth: And the likelihood of seeing such an impressive run like Stewart made in back to back years is slim to none.
Amy: If Gordon ran for a different team, Beth, I’d be more likely to agree, but all four Hendrick teams are hot right now. Gordon won Sunday, but he wasn’t even the best of his teammates. That gives him at least a shot.
Mike: I think another win is almost imperative. Kyle Busch is going to shake off these gremlins soon and Bristol is still on the schedule, along with Richmond. Gordon obviously has history at the Glen and is fast at Atlanta. He really needs to win another one to feel comfortable.
Phil: I don’t know, Mike. Kyle Busch isn’t really looking all that good these days.
Mike:But he’s fast Phil. They’ve just had goofy stuff going on. If they button things up just a little he could win two or three of the remaining races before the Chase.
Phil: I just don’t see Kyle winning between now and Richmond. Yes, he could be strong in a couple of races, but he seems to be good at shooting himself in the foot. The unreliability is also insane.
Amy: I think Busch’s issue is much the same as previous Chases have been for him. He lets issues get to him, and can’t get it done. Sure, he’s got the talent, but does he have the inner fortitude?
Mike:I don’t know that inner fortitude prevents a brake rotor from failing a handful of laps into a race. Gordon hasn’t looked great either Phil, but he just won a race which puts him in the Chase. Another win for Kyle and he leapfrogs Gordon.
Beth: Would we even be talking about Gordon putting his foot down as a possible wild card if the race had run the full distance Sunday?
Phil: I don’t know if Gordon could have won had we gone 400 miles, but he would have gained some points as long as something didn’t go wrong.
Mike:Possibly, Beth, because Johnson and Kahne were both going to have to pit with flat tires.
Amy: That’s always the question with a rain race, Beth, but I’m going to say yes. The Hendrick teams were the class of the field, Gordon was in position to capitalize on Jimmie Johnson’s flat tire, and with the two better Hendrick cars out of the picture, Gordon had a very real shot at the win regardless of the rain delay.
Mike:Don’t forget, there were still 100 laps to go (102 technically) Johnson would have been back in the picture by the end of the deal Sunday.
Phil: I honestly don’t see anyone out of the top-10 winning between now and Richmond with the Glen this weekend as a possible exception.
Mike:I’m not betting against Kyle Busch at Bristol for the foreseeable future.
Beth: Same here, Mike.
Kevin: I’m with you, Phil. Maybe Kyle Busch, but he’s just not looking good lately, so it’s hard for me to put too much stock in him.
Beth: And I see no reason to believe Kasey Kahne can’t snag another one before the Chase begins.
Beth: I guess a runner-up finish at Indy is “not looking good” huh?
Kevin: And one race does not speak for an entire string of races, either.
Beth: Pocono-parts failure; Indy-runner-up; Loudon-caught a lap down with an untimely caution; Daytona-wreck someone else started…need I go on?
Mike:Three engine failures…
Kevin: And who’s to say those won’t continue? I’m not betting against it.
Mike:I will never say Kyle doesn’t bring bad luck on himself from time to time, but this year he hasn’t done it much. Now with that said, hearing some of the radio chatter this weekend doesn’t make is sound like they’re going to be overcoming any problems in the near future.
Phil: I wouldn’t be surprised to find Kyle Busch firewall-deep in the Turn 1 tire barrier like Denny Hamlin from last year.
Mike:Kyle’s got a lot of speed in the cars, they’ve just had some horrific luck. Gordon just overcame his bad luck to get a win, and if Kyle does it in the next few races he scores another win and he’s in the Chase. And while it could be an extremely long shot, don’t forget Carl Edwards runs pretty good at Atlanta from time to time.
Amy: I think that as a whole right now, Hendrick is the better team, and that counts for a lot. Earlier in the year it was Roush Fenway.
Mike: Hell, earlier in the year it was Michael Waltrip Racing. I still can’t believe they’re going to have two in the Chase. That is impressive.
Beth: Jeff Gordon can definitely make the Chase but I’m not convinced he’s ready to make a strong run at the championship. However, I could be completely wrong and he’s gotten all of that bad luck out of the way at just the right time…
Amy: I think that Gordon is one of those drivers, like Matt Kenseth, who you can never count out until the checkers are in the air, so, if his luck has turned around, he is a threat, though I think both Earnhardt and Johnson are still far ahead of him in the likelihood of a championship department.
Kevin: With Hendrick’s recent strong results, I think Gordon’s looking really good to make the Chase, but he needs another win to be sure. Right now, one win can get you in, but I’m not wholly convinced it’ll be that way come Richmond.
Mike:I still hope that it is settled before Richmond so there isn’t anything for ESPN to hype. Just sayin’…
Kevin: Oh man, I can’t imagine what ESPN will do if it’s still not settled, haha.
Mike:It will be non-stop Super-bowlesque hype with a color coded ticker at the top of the screen that requires a PHD to understand.
*Roush Fenway Racing and Penske Racing announced that Penske will run Roush-Yates FR9 engines in 2013. Is this a good move, or should Penske have been converted their engine shop to build their own power plants?*
Mike: I think it is a smart move by Penske just because Roush-Yates has done all of the development and it is a proven power plant.
Beth: Initially, running Roush-Yates FR9 motors is probably the best decision. They’re already developed and proven.
Mike: I wonder what they’re going to do with their engine shop since Roger said he was not going to shut it down? I’m hoping they’ll start cranking out Dodge Late Model engines so that they come down $20,000 in price.
Phil: I suppose this move will save Penske a lot of money in the long term. However, I feel for the engine shop employees there
Kevin: It makes sense to me. Saves money and gives them less of an unknown going into a new year with a new manufacturer. But yeah, I’m definitely curious to see what their old engine shop will do next year, if they’ll even be doing anything in NASCAR.
Beth: Now I wouldn’t be surprised to see them open their own engine shop down the line, but for now, there’s no reason for Penske to do so.
Mike: I just pray for Doug Yates and Jack Roush if Penske cars blow several engines early in the season.
Amy: I feel for the employees and also wonder if Penske wouldn’t be better off in the long run making their own power. So many teams already use Roush Yates engines that you wonder how thin the resources can be spread…and when it comes to the Chase, who’s going to suffer?
Kevin: That’s a good point, Amy. If the resources do indeed spread too thin, it’s not gonna spell good things for Penske’s teams. But that’s only if there’s any issues.
Amy: Remember the speculation that ran prior to 2011 that Stewart-Hass wasn’t getting equal engines during the Chase? And they are more of a satellite team to Hendrick than Penske will ever be with RFR. Not to mention, why do I think the teams that can least afford to be screwed will be screwed? I wonder if Roush Yates will dump Front Row and/or Germain to keep from spreading too thin?
Phil: Front Row and Germain losing out is a real possibility.
Amy: And see, Phil, I’d hate to see that happen to those small teams. They’re really trying to build something, and without the engine program, they would really have to struggle and lose much of what they have gained. Fans say they don’t like the big teams winning all the time, but the fact is, the big teams make it next to impossible for the smaller ones to compete, except for the plate tracks.
Amy: Amy: Wrong. You want to feel like they have an equal chance. In racing, unlike kiddie soccer, everyone isn’t going to get a trophy, but it would sure be nice for the fans of some drivers to think their guy at least had a shot once in a while. And I may be cynical, but the teams I see ultimately getting screwed here are the ones who can’t afford to build their own engines. And I still don’t know that Roush Yates providing engines to a direct rival who is not a satellite team won’t backfire when push comes to shove.
Mike: With the current car configuration, with so much dependence on engineering, and so little dependent on driver ability, parity will not ever happen. If they take so much aero dependence away, then you could occasionally catch lightning in a bottle and have a little team win an actual race.
Amy: Sure, some teams have a shot and some have none, but why make it worse for the teams and fans who already know that the best they might expect is a top 10 on a really good day?
Beth: In the end it’s business…and business isn’t about making friends but rather about making sound decision that benefit the organization as a whole. Unfortunately, that’s how it works, Amy.
Amy: And again, somehow, if anyone really gets the shaft in this, I think it will be Front Row and/or Germain…the ones who can afford it the least.
Mike: I still don’t see Roush or Hendrick or ECR giving their customer’s crap engines on purpose. How is that a good business decision?
Phil: It’s not. Its looney tunes. That stuff is built identically. It’s cheaper to do it that way.
Amy: I do wonder just how many teams an engine builder can make top tier engines for every week. And if all teams are paying the same, they should all get equal stuff, not the smaller teams getting older or R&D stuff. If they are willing to run something old or experimental to cut costs, that’s one thing…but otherwise the stuff should be the same. And does anyone think that David Gilliland or Casey Mears are getting as good of stuff as Carl Edwards, or that they will next year, even if they pay the same as Penske? Call me jaded, because I don’t.
Mike: I try to imagine Front Row paying the same as Penske. Just doesn’t seem like it will happen.
Amy: I don’t know if they are or not…just saying if they are, they better get the same stuff.
Phil: Definitely, Amy. As for Front Row, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were getting slightly older technology at a discount.
Mike: I completely agree. And I would be willing to be the engine manufacturers do their best to ensure that.
Amy: Now, if Front Row, Furiture Row, and Germain all formed some kind of alliance, it could be beneficial for all three
Kevin: Could DEFINITELY work. I don’t think I’d mind seeing that.
Phil: Ryan McGee referred to that as forming a “Rebel Alliance” a few months ago.
Amy: That would be pretty cool if it meant they could give the Death Star a blast or two during the season…
*It was announced Monday that Parker Kligerman has been released from the No. 29 CWTS ride owned by Brad Keselowski…was this a good move? And who is the best candidate to fill that seat long term?*
Amy: I figured it was a matter of time after Penske brought in Ryan Blaney in the NNS car. And I think Blaney will wind up there, at least for the rest of 2012.
Phil: No, it bites. What in the world did Kligerman need to do to keep his ride? As for who will drive the #29, its Ryan Blaney’s ride after Brad does Michigan. BKR is a satellite team to Penske, much like Team 42 was in 2010.
Mike: That is crap. Kligerman has been a great company man and done everything asked of him, and he’s had some great runs.
Beth: Honestly, I was a bit shocked when I read about it. Sure, Kligerman has struggled a bit, but he’s also shown some great strength as well.
Amy: Is it fair? No. And to add insult to injury, Wednesday is Kligerman’s 22nd birthday. Happy Birthday indeed…
Kevin: It’s interesting for sure. Kligerman wasn’t setting the world on fire, but sixth place in points isn’t easy to come by, either. Plus, when has a BKR truck really even ran super incredibly well? Even Brad hasn’t won a race in those trucks.
Mike: I guess, this is racing. If you aren’t winning, you’re losing your job. It is a shame that one of the last guys to make it to the national level on driving talent rather than money ends up losing his job when he’s doing everything the right way.
Amy: With the No 22 open and Hornish moving up a real possibility, Penske sure looks like they’re holding NNS/CWTS auditions. Apparently, Kligerman didn’t pass.
Kevin: I think we could see David Mayhew in the No. 29 at some point too. He’s already driving the team’s second truck in a few races before season’s end, so maybe that number will increase.
Phil: Yeah, I remember it being mentioned on ESPN that he really needed to do well in the STP 300 in Joliet.
Beth: But seriously…what is the reasoning behind the dismissal? It’s not like Kligerman was posting terrible runs all year.
Amy: But they announced two different drivers in the NNS car this year, and who knows if more are on the way? That makes it look like they’re scouting replacements for Hornish and Keselowski in the NNS cars. My guess is they want to try out Blaney some more and the truck was the easiest way to do that
Beth: That excuse doesn’t fly with me, Amy. How many times has BKR gone ahead and fielded the No. 19 when Keselowski wanted to race? They could have done the exact same thing for Blaney.
Phil: Apparently, 7th in that race just wasn’t good enough.
Beth: If a driver who has seven top 10s in 11 starts (plus a trio of 11th-place finishes) isn’t good enough, perhaps BKR needs to reconsider their plans.
Phil: Yeah, I’m not feeling this at all. It’s Bush League, ridiculous.
Amy: What I’m saying is that since BKR is basically Penske Lite, that they were told to replace Kligerman with Blaney if that’s the direction Penske is going. Is it right? No, but it’s racing anymore. Heck, maybe it won’t be Blaney…maybe it’s going to be another buy-a-ride for someone like John Wes Townley with more money than talent.
Mike: From the way I’m reading it, there is a possibility that Kligerman was looking elsewhere and they decided to part ways. I’m sure he would have rather stayed at Penske but it didn’t appear to be in the cards.
Beth: You’ve got a point there, Mike. After all, Kligerman has stated he’s confident he’ll be back on track with a new team by the time the series hits Michigan.
Kevin: Reminds me of when Mike Bliss got canned by James Finch in Nationwide despite being in the top 10 in points and even a win in 2009.
Mike: Hell, John King lost a ride less than 10 races after winning Daytona in a Truck.
Phil: That made even less sense than this move today did, Kevin. Then, Bliss was driving Finch’s #09 within weeks.
Beth: That wasn’t right either, Mike. But we’ve seen RHR do that before….Johnny Benson anyone?
Mike: Yeah, Johnny has been hosed on a couple of different occasions.
Kevin: Seems like a lot of teams just aren’t very patient with talent these days. Then again, money has to play a factor sometimes (I think that was more King’s deal), but it’s hard for me to believe it was an issue with Kligerman.
Phil: In King’s case, he was wrecking a bunch of equipment in addition to not really having any sponsorship. The Consol Energy deal helped slightly.
Amy: Yeah, driving for Red Horse doesn’t exactly mean job security unless you bring money. In any case, I think Kligerman got a raw deal, but I saw it coming two weeks ago.
Mike: I think it is a raw deal but I also don’t know if it wasn’t a mutual agreement.
Amy: If Penske isn’t auditioning NNS drivers for next year, then why sign Blaney and Wallace to do a couple of races? No reason…
Mike: I don’t know why you’d want to leave an organization like Penske, but I also thought Keselowski was insane for leaving Hendrick.
*OK, how about some predictions for Watkins Glen?*
Amy: I think I’m going to go with Tony Stewart this week.
Phil: I’m going with Paul Menard. He’s got a road racing background and I think he’ll be quite competitive this weekend in both races.
Mike: I’ll take Marcos Ambrose. Just because it will make the whole wild card discussion really silly.
Kevin: Juan Pablo Montoya. I think he’ll be competitive. Maybe even back-to-back poles?
Beth: I’m going with Jeff Gordon.
Mike: You know what would be awesome? Joey Logano wins at the Glen to give himself two wins.
*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
Pennsylvania 400 Results